Tax revenues are down; construction costs are up; and all of a sudden, the MTA is facing a potential $3-billion budget gap in funding for its current capital plan. Could this spell the temporary lessening of weekend service changes?

amNew York’s Matthew Sweeney has more on this tale of financial woe:

Rising construction costs have eaten away at the MTA’s current capital budget, leaving a gap of up to $3 billion for basic repairs and service, officials said Wednesday.

“The program has some shortfalls in it,” Metropolitan Transportation Authority CEO Elliot Sander said at an agency board meeting. “We will not be able to fund all projects in it.”

The MTA is currently working out details on the amount of the shortfall and where potential cuts will come, Sander said. While mega-projects like the Second Avenue subway are not affected, the “nitty-gritty” work of station repairs and upgrades, signal replacements, or purchase of new cars could suffer, said MTA spokesman Jeremy Soffin. Nothing will be impacted before summer.

On top of this bad news, real estate tax revenues were lower than expected for the third straight month. The MTA, to put it bluntly, is on the precipice of financial trouble. I hope Sheldon Silver is happy.

Meanwhile, weekend work continues apace until the money dries up.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, May 3 to 5 a.m. Monday, May 5, uptown 1 and 2 trains skip 79th and 86th Streets due to station rehabilitation at 96th Street.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, May 3 to 5 a.m. Monday, May 5, Manhattan-bound 2 and 5 trains run express from East 180th Street to 3rd Avenue-149th Street due to track replacement at East 180th Street station.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, May 3 to 5 a.m. Monday, May 5, downtown 2 trains replace the 5 from 149th Street-Grand Concourse to Nevins Street and downtown 5 trains replace the 2 from 149th Street to Chambers Street. These changes are due to several projects, including station rehab work at Chambers Street and Wall Street and tunnel lighting work in the Clark Street tunnel.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, May 3 to 5 a.m. Monday, May 5, there are no 3 trains running between 14th Street and New Lots Avenue due to tunnel lighting work in the Clark Street tunnel. Customers should take the 4 train between Nevins Street and New Lots Avenue and the downtown 5 or uptown 2 between 14th Street and Nevins Street.

From 4 a.m. Saturday, May 3 to 10 p.m. Sunday, May 4, Bronx-bound 6 trains run express from Parkchester to Pelham Bay Park due to switch replacement south of Pelham Bay Park station. The last stop for some Pelham Bay Park-bound trains is 3rd Avenue.

From 4 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday, May 3, Flushing-bound 7 trains run express from Queensboro Plaza to Willets Point due to track panel installation near 74th Street station.

From 11 p.m. Friday, May 2 to 5 a.m. Monday, May 5, free shuttle buses replace A trains between Far Rockaway and Beach 90th Street due to track panel installation between Beach 67th Street and Far Rockaway-Mott Avenue stations.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, May 3 to 5 a.m. Monday, May 5, there are no C trains running. A trains run local between 168th Street and Euclid Avenue. However, note that Manhattan-bound A trains run express from Utica Avenue to Hoyt-Schermerhorn Sts. Free shuttle buses replace A trains between 168th Street and 207th Street. Customers may transfer between the Broadway or Ft. Washington Avenue shuttle buses and the A train at 168th Street. These changes are due to several projects including electrical work, track panel work south of Hoyt-Schermerhorn Sts., tunnel lighting between 168th and 207th Sts. and roadbed replacement at 175th Street.

From 12:01 a.m. to 5 a.m. Sunday, May 4, Queens-bound trains run express from Roosevelt to 71-Continental Aves.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, May 3 to 5 a.m. Monday, May 5, Brooklyn-bound F trains run on the A line from West 4th Street to Jay Street due to electrical work.

From 8:30 a.m. Friday, May 2 to 5 a.m. Monday, May 5, there are no G trains between Forest Hills-71st Avenue and Court Square due to track panel work between Bergen and Hoyt-Schermerhorn Sts. Customers should take the E or R trains instead.

From 11 p.m. Friday, May 2 to 5 a.m. Monday, May 5, there are no G trains between Hoyt-Schermerhorn and Smith-9th Sts. due to track panel work between Bergen and Hoyt-Schermerhorn Sts. Customers should take the A to Jay Street and transfer to the F.

From 11 p.m. Friday, May 2 to 5 a.m. Monday, May 5, G trains run in two sections due to track panel work between Bergen and Hoyt-Schermerhorn Sts.:
- Between Court Square and Bedford-Nostrand Avenues and
- Between Bedford-Nostrand Avenues and Hoyt-Schermerhorn Sts

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, May 3 to 5 a.m. Monday, May 5, Jamaica-bound J trains skip Kosciuszko Street, Gates Avenue, Halsey Street and Chauncey Street due to track panel work between Myrtle Avenue and Broadway Junction.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, May 3 to 5 a.m. Monday, May 5, there are no L trains between 8th Avenue and Union Square due to concrete chip-out between 3rd Avenue and Bedford Avenue stations. Customers should take the M14 bus instead.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, May 3 to 5 a.m. Monday, May 5, L trains run in two sections due to concrete chip-out between 3rd Avenue and Bedford Avenue stations:
- Between Union Square and Bedford Avenue every 16 minutes, skipping 3rd Avenue in both directions and
- Between Bedford Avenue and Rockaway Parkway every 8 minutes (except from 11:25 p.m. Friday to 1 a.m. Saturday when they will run every 30 minutes.)

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, May 3 to 5 a.m. Monday, May 5, Manhattan-bound NR trains are rerouted over the Manhattan Bridge from DeKalb Avenue to Canal Street due to subway tunnel lighting between Whitehall and DeKalb Avenue.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, May 3 to 5 a.m. Monday, May 5, downtown trains skip 28, 23, 8, and Prince Sts.

From 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, May 3, trains run in two sections:
- Between 57 St and Brighton Beach
- Between Brighton Beach and Stillwell Ave.

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As the start date for the Culver Viaduct rehabilitation project nears, more architectural renderings of the proposed changes to the Smith-9th Sts. station are finding their ways to the Internet. Above is rendering posted on Curbed yesterday, and frankly, it’s tough to guess what the MTA’s construction folks were thinking with this one.

My biggest problem with this proposed redesign is that this weird, metallic thing looks absolutely nothing like anything else in the subway system. Sure, the MTA should be keeping an eye on the future, but the original designs are at least evocative of the subway. This looks more like an installation at the New Museum than a subway stop. If the intentions here were to build a structure reminiscent of the Gowanus area’s industrial past, I don’t think this hair dryer, as someone on Curbed called it, is the right way to go.

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My nabe, done up Vignelli style. (Courtesy of Vignelli Associates via Men’s Vogue)

The Massimo Vignelli subway map is back and better than ever. As part of a charity project for Men’s Vogue, Vignelli, famous in New York for his much-maligned 1972 reinterpretation of the subway map, has updated his famous and infamous map to reflect subway realities in 2008, and his map remains a beautiful work of art.

Vignelli’s map, as I’ve discussed in the past and Tina Kelley explored yesterday on City Room, was controversial from the moment it made its its debut in the 1970s. Visual Complexity, a site on the design of complex systems, describes the beauty:

It was a marvelous conceptual map, and it was easy to read. It was a tool for navigating the subways, although not one for navigating the city streets. Out with the complicated tangle of geographically accurate train routes. No more messy angles. Instead, train lines would run at 45 and 90 angles only. Each line was represented by a color. Each stop represented by a dot. There was an obvious influence from the London Underground map, originally created by Harry Beck in 1933, however, Vignelli took it one step farther, in creating the now-famous intertwined wiring-diagram map of New York’s vastly complicated subway lines.

Kelley, writing for The Times’ website, discusses the drawbacks:

With its 45- and 90-degree angles and one color per subway line, the 1972 subway map by Massimo Vignelli was divorced from the cityscape, devoid of street or neighborhood names. It was criticized because its water was not blue and its parks were not green. Paul Goldberger called it “a stunningly handsome abstraction” that “bears little relation to the city itself.

…It was accurate in the same way a poem could describe a playground in March. Descriptive and accurate. But sometimes puzzling. People got lost using it. (The 50th Street and Broadway stop, for example, was east of 8th Avenue instead of west.)

Vignelli himself was never apologetic for this shortcomings. “On purpose we rejected any visual reference to nature or landmarks,” he said to Men’s Vogue.

He was aiming instead to duplicate the feel and style of the Underground maps from London. “People expected a map instead of a diagram. But diagrammatic representation is common practice around the world since the London Underground map of the thirties,” he said.

Meanwhile, in the intervening years, designers have attempted to rebel against the relatively bland MTA-issued Map. Eddie Jabbour’s Kick Map evokes Vignelli’s original map but with a few more details.

Vignelli’s new map is a return to the simplistic beauty of his 1970s creation. The colors of the subway lines matchup as they should, and the white-on-light-blue background forces you to examine the subway system outside the reality of New York City. The map celebrates the subway system as its own unique entity seemingly divorced from the subway. You can’t navigate around the city with this map, and admittedly, it’s probably tough to find your way to the right stop at times.

While we won’t see this Vignelli map replace The Map anytime soon, it was available for sale through Men’s Vogue for $300 with all money going toward the Green Workers Cooperative. The print run of 500 sadly sold out on May 1, but you can already find one on eBay. I envy those of you who had a chance to buy one of these unique prints. It is a collector’s item indeed.

For more close-ups of this one-of-a-kind map, Men’s Vogue has a slideshow.

  • The Taking of Grand Central Terminal · While we last saw Denzel Washington running around above ground during the filming of the remaking of The Taking of Pelham 1-2-3, amNew York’s Urbanite blog found the film crews prepping an underground station for some subway scenes. Check out these pictures of the crews setting up on the 7 platform at Grand Central. Perhaps the hijackers are taking the train west to the Hudson Yards stop that doesn’t yet exist at 34th St. and 11th Ave. [Urbanite] · (3)

The MTA really likes its surveys these days. The survey-love started out with the subway rider report cards. That project has since taken to the buses as well. And on Wednesday, word came down that the MTA will begin yet another customer survey.

According to this authority’s press release, this latest survey will be distributed to 170,000 residents from around the city and will aim to assess New Yorkers’ travel patterns. From the release:

A randomly selected sample of 170,000 residents will receive letters asking for their participation in the survey. Soon after, an independent survey firm, NuStats / PTV DataSource, will make follow-up phone calls to ask them questions about their use of transit and other modes of travel. The MTA hopes all New Yorkers who receive the packet will participate — even if they do not take transit or travel much — as the findings will help MTA plan future transit service improvements and infrastructure enhancements. A copy of the questionnaire will accompany the letter so New Yorkers who do not have a landline telephone or have an unlisted number can fill it out and mail it back, postage paid. They can also choose to call a toll free number to take the survey over the phone…

The survey takes approximately 15 to 20 minutes to complete over the phone. Questions include: “Where and when did your trip originate?”; “Where and when did it end?”; “Did you make intermediate stops?”; “What was the purpose of your trip or trips?”; “What mode of transportation did you use?” The survey will also ask New Yorkers demographic questions, such as their age and how many automobiles they own.

MTA officials meanwhile encouraged everyone to participate. “The information we’re asking for,” Lawrence Fleischer, MTA’s Chief of Metropolitan Planning, said “will be kept confidential and will assist us in understanding how New Yorkers travel and how we can better meet their transportation needs.”

If that isn’t encouragement enough, the MTA is also resorting to the age-old survey trick of bribery. The Authority will be making good use of its currently precarious financial situation by handing out $500 to one lucky survey participant each week that the survey is open.

On the surface, the MTA is going to find out the same information they discovered following the rider report cards: Every subway rider will demand more frequent service for the lines he or she uses most. Every subway rider will note that rush hour overcrowding is a problem no matter the line, and every rider will bemoan the PA system and general state of the underground stations. Why then does the MTA need to conduct yet another survey?

Well, the answer, it seems, lies in a few obligations the Authority has to fulfill in order to secure federal capital funding for the Second Ave. subway and the East Side Access plan. The MTA is required to build a ridership profile and will do so using these survey results and the findings from similar questionnaires distributed to riders on their regional rail system as well. That’s all well and good, but we already know what the findings will be.

Categories : MTA Politics
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A SubTalk change, in verse

By · Comments (4) ·

There once were some placards with rhyme
To destroy them would be quite a crime.
But the MTA
They did say
Poetry in Motion simply ran out of time.

After 15 years of verse in our heart,
SubTalk will now turn to history and art.
E.B. White and Galileo
Don’t flow quite like Longfellow.
But now we’ll know more about Descartes.

Train of Thought this new program is called.
Alicia Martinez hopes riders will be enthralled.
The Director of Marketing and Corporate Communications
really enjoys these new creations,
and this week they will all be installed.

These new excerpts will come in twos
Every three months you’ll have more to peruse
And with funding from Barnes & Noble,
a much better company than ExxonMobil,
it’s more educational than television news.

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Lucky Chicago. They aren’t afraid of change and progress, and now the Windy City is getting what should be ours if it hadn’t been for Sheldon Silver and his crony of cowardly representatives.

When New York decided not to adopt congestion pricing, the City forfeited around $354 million that would have gone toward anti-congestion measures as part of the new National Strategy to Reduce Congestion. Since our wonderful leaders don’t seem too concerned with reducing congestion, the feds instead decided to dole out $153 million to Chicago. That city will implement a bus rapid transit system with dedicated lanes and ramped-up enforcement as well as variable-rate parking meters.

Los Angeles — the king of congestion — will receive over $200 million that will go toward implementing a tolling system designed to encourage car-pooling and other high-occupancy vehicle commuting. I prefer Chicago’s plan, but the one in Los Angeles is not without merit.

Catrin Einhorn of The Times has the story:

In Chicago, officials said Tuesday that they planned to use $153 million for projects like creating the first 10 miles of lanes dedicated to faster buses that make fewer stops and set off sensors that lengthen green traffic lights and shorten red ones. To discourage driving downtown, meters and parking lots there would charge more during peak traffic times.

In Los Angeles, which would receive $213 million, officials said high-occupancy vehicle lanes would be converted to toll lanes. Cars with three or more people would be exempt from paying. The federal money would also finance bus service in the new toll lanes.

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg of New York, through a spokesman, applauded the efforts of both cities.

“While it’s sad that Washington, which most Americans agree is completely dysfunctional, is more willing to try new approaches to long-standing problems than Albany is,” Mr. Bloomberg’s press secretary, Stu Loeser, said, “we’re glad other places aren’t as allergic to innovation.”

Mayor Bloomberg is clearly still smarting from the defeat of his groundbreaking (in the U.S., at least) congestion pricing plan. He’s not the only one. “We’re disappointed that New York didn’t get it,” Tyler D. Duvall, acting under secretary for policy for the Department of Transportation, said to The Times, “but we’re extremely happy to have the opportunity to work with L.A. and Chicago.”

For New York, the blow stings a bit. Chicago, in particular, is adopting measures that New York really needs and should have. At a time when many are noting that our own BRT system may be delayed a few years, Chicago’s gain is New York’s loss.

We could have had BRT money; we could have had funds for traffic reduction programs and public transit expansion. Instead, we have risk-averse politicians who wouldn’t even put the plan up for a floor vote, and we get to sit back at Chicago enjoys the money that could have been ours. That’s some example to set as a global city in 2008.

Categories : Congestion Fee, CTA
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Live from the subways, it’s The Remaking of Pelham 1-2-3. New York’s seminal subway movie from the 1970s, The Taking of Pelham 1-2-3 stands a classic view of both the subways and the city frozen in a moment of time. Today, Tony Scott is remaking the film with Denzel Washington, John Travolta and James Gandolfini. I’m not so optimistic that this remake will have the charmed and humor of the original, but, hey, we’ve got pictures of the site.

As you can see, Denzel Washington, an MTA employee with a gun up there, doesn’t look too amused, and I’m just terrified of the idea of a friendly MTA station agent packing heat. Whudat and WireImage have some more pictures for your viewing pleasure.

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Get ready to smile for your MTA overlords. Over a year after the MTA first started grumbling about putting security cameras in subway cars, the security plan may get off the ground sometime this year. Or maybe next year. No one really knows yet.

What we do know is that the MTA will begin one of their pilot programs that will see suveillance cameras in subway cars. This program isn’t about terrorism; it’s about subway security and vandalism, plain and simple. New York 1 has more:

An initiative to put surveillance cameras onboard subway cars took another small step forward Monday as the MTA announced a pilot program to install cameras on two subway cars.

The prototype cars will be the new R160 model, now in service on the L, N, J, M and Z lines.

Transit officials say there is no timetable in place yet, but that the pilot could be underway late this year or early next.

A similar pilot is already underway on buses. About half the Manhattan bus fleet has been outfitted with cameras as part of a $5 million pilot program, which officials say has been successful in combating vandalism.

Now, that’s quite the pilot program. Installing cameras in two subway cars should have the same deterrent effect as asking shouting an empty car while its alarm is going off for 50 minutes in a row. But joking aside, it’s about time.

At first, when the MTA announced their desires for security cameras in the subway, I wasn’t too thrilled with the idea on privacy grounds. Did we really want someone spying on us at all hours of the day as we ride the subways?

But as more and more officials spoke about the need for cameras, I warmed up to the idea. As it is, the city is awash in surveillance cameras, and placing cameras on the subways should make potential perps think twice about the crimes they may commit. Hopefully, cameras would cut back on subway vandalism and incidents of harassment on trains simply by their virtue of existence.

Civil libertarians concerned with privacy have reason to object, but I feel the good of the cameras far outweighs the bad. And besides, no one is going to track down hours of worthless tape for the sake of spying. The videos instead should be used as a review mechanism for crimes committed.

It is of course a bit dismaying that this pilot program won’t get off the ground for months and that it will encompass few cars. In Washington, D.C, and London, the Metro and the Underground have long been outfitted with cameras. While we could argue long and hard about the successes and failures of the cameras in those two cities, the fact that the surveillance programs even exist should be enough for the MTA to roll out more than a two-car test run. As is it, this is an idea long past due.

Categories : Subway Security
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