Rare are the days when I, as a blogger, venture into the world of partisan politics. Those grounds are covered by people with more time for blogger than I have, and I like to keep my focus on news and views from the subway. Sure, most regular readers have probably picked up my liberal leanings, but in New York, we operate in our own political world.

So pardon my intrusion while I look across the country to Denver where, in a few days, a train man will accept the Democratic Party’s nomination for vice president. On Wednesday night, Sen. Joe Biden from the great state of Delaware will issue that evening’s speech, and while his love of and reliance on commuter trains may not make it into his introductory remarks this week, it’s sure to come up between now and Election Day.

Biden, you see, is a bona fide commuter like the rest of us — or almost like the rest of us. The Senator travels back and forth from Washington, DC to Wilmington, Delaware, every day during the Senate sessions. While some people may opt to make that round trip via a chauffeured car, Senator Biden relies on Amtrak for his round trips. His monthly ticket costs over $1000, quite a bit more than our Unlimited Ride Metrocards with or without another fare hike, but it’s still rail travel.

So then as rail fans and transportation-minded writers everywhere are excited about Biden’s potential rail advocacy, we can play the “What If?” game for New York. What if Biden, via the Obama ticket, earns his spot in the next presidential administration? What sort of transportation gains can we expect?

Well, on the surface, the gains will be tough to achieve. As with any politically-oriented goal, Congress will have to approve an effort by Vice President Biden to increase funding for, say, Amtrak or Amtrak-oriented development. But perhaps Biden would begin to push for more money for the beleaguered national rail company. Perhaps, we’ll see funds heading our way for the ever-planned Moynihan Station. Perhaps other rail-oriented efforts will earn more respect — and funds — from the federal government.

In the end, it is of course far too early to speculate on the transit advances that should come out of Washington, DC, when the next administration takes over. But any rail fan should think long and hard about supporting the Obama-Biden ticket. It is, after all, the one with the rail-friendly fellow running for Vice President.

Comments (5)

A reader writes:

Need your help, want to get a gift for my Friend’s dad. He worked for MTA and in the 50’s and 60’s rode the #5 Dyre Ave line to his Aunts. Would you know what model subway ran that line. Was it the Lo-V’s or the R26…They have models of these cars and I want to make sure I get the right one. Hope you can help. Thanks.

Anyone know the answer to this query?

Comments (2)

In last week’s issue of the Downtown Express, Laura Latzko examined handicapped access and the subways. As we know, many subway stops aren’t very handicap-accessible, and Latzko’s story highlights how many key hubs are lacking in amenities and how handicapped riders have to change their routes to get around the city.

More important, though, is Latzko’s hints at things to come:

By 2020, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority has promised to make 100 key stations accessible, as part of a plan it developed after the Americans with Disabilities Act was adopted in 1990…

Funding issues also contribute to the system’s inaccessibility. [NYC Transit spokesperson James] Anyansi said that it costs on average $5 million to $7 million to put an elevator in a subway and $15 million to $20 million to make a station accessible, with mezzanine and street elevators.

So therein lies the rub. The MTA knows its system is not handicap-friendly, and the authority knows that every time it renovates a station, it must make that station ADA-compliant. But adhering to those ADA measures costs up to $20 million. It is, in other words, cost-prohibitive for the MTA to make its system handicap-friendly.

Over the next decade, come funding hell or high water, the MTA will overhaul a bunch of key stations. This set of stations will include the Broadway-Lafayette/Bleeker St. hub with the B, D, F, V and 6 all merging at a common point. The agency will also try to work out their handicap-accessibility at many other key stations.

But again, this is an issue that relies on funding. Until the MTA can receive adequate funding, yet another sub-population in New York City will be left with sub-par subway access. This sounds like a very common refrain these days, and hopefully, one day soon, our elected representatives will begin to tackle these funding problems. I am not holding my breath.

Comments (2)

What happens when the subway ends? That’s what Andy Newman wonders in The New York Times today. Newman journeyed to the ends of every subway line, and what he finds is a complex study in the people and places that make New York City tick. The resulting article is a great piece of New York City journalism, and the accompanying interactive feature is just as fascinating. For those of you interested in whatever lies beyond New Lots Ave. or Dyre Ave. in Eastchester, this is your chance to find out.

The Overhead Wire notes that the Obama/Biden ticket seems to be the best transit-oriented choice for 2008. What that means for New York City and its beleaguered MTA, however, is entirely up for the grabs. I don’t think anyone should expect the Feds to bail out the MTA, and I’m not so sure a third Bloomberg term would be the way to go either.

Finally, the Launch Box has another round of images from the construction site along Second Ave. Just six more years until Phase 1 of the Second Ave. Subway is complete!

Comments (3)

Weekend service advisories

By · Comments (2) ·

You know the drill. The trains are runnin’ wacky this weekend. Subway Weekender has your maps.

1 trains run in two sections:

  1. Between 242 and 137 Sts
  2. Between 137 St and South Ferry

Aug 23 – 25, 12:01 AM to 6 AM Sat,
12:01 AM to 7 AM Sun, 12:01 AM to 5 AM Mon

Uptown 1 and 2 trains skip 79 and 86 Sts
Aug 23 – 25, 12:01 AM Sat to 5 AM Mon

Free shuttle buses replace 2 trains between 241 and East 180 Sts
Aug 23 – 25, 12:01 AM Sat to 5 AM Mon

Free shuttle buses replace 4 trains between Woodlawn and Bedford Pk Blvd
Aug 23 – 24, 4 AM Sat to 10 PM Sun

Uptown 4 trains run express from Grand Central to 125 St
Aug 23 – 24, 12:01 AM to 5 AM Sat and Sun

No 5 trains between 149 and East 180 Sts
Take the 2 instead
Aug 23 – 25, 12:01 AM Sat to 5 AM Mon

5 trains run in two sections:

  1. Between Dyre Av and East 180 St
  2. Between Bowling Green and 149 St-Grand Concourse

Aug 23 – 25, 12:01 AM Sat to 5 AM Mon

Uptown 6 trains run express from Grand Central to 125 St
Aug 23 – 24, 12:01 AM to 5 AM Sat and Sun

Manhattan-bound A trains run on the F from Jay to West 4 Sts
Aug 23 – 25, 12:01 AM Sat to 5 AM Mon

Downtown A trains run local from 168 St to Euclid Av
Aug 23 – 25, 12:01 AM Sat to 5 AM Mon

Uptown A trains run local from West 4 to 168 Sts
Aug 23 – 25, 12:01 AM Sat to 5 AM Mon

No C trains running
Take the A instead
Aug 23 – 25, 12:01 AM Sat to 5 AM Mon

D trains run local between 36 St and DeKalb Av
Aug 23 – 25, 12:01 AM Sat to 5 AM Mon

Manhattan-bound F trains run on the V from Roosevelt Av to 47-50 Sts
Aug 23 – 25, 12:01 AM Sat to 5 AM Mon

Jamaica-bound F trains run local from 21 St-Queensbridge to Roosevelt Av
Aug 24, 12:30 AM to 5 AM Sunday

Manhattan-bound F trains run local from Roosevelt Av to 21 St-Queensbridge
Aug 23, 12:01 AM to 5 AM Saturday

No G trains between 71-Continental Avs and Court Sq
Take the E or R instead
Aug 22 – 25, 8:30 PM Fri to 5 AM Mon

G trains run every 20 minutes between Court Sq and Smith-9 Sts
Aug 22 – 25, 11 PM Fri to 5 AM Mon

J trains run in two sections:

  1. Between Jamaica Center and Essex St
  2. Between Essex and Chambers Sts

Aug 23 – 25, 1 AM Sat to 5 AM Mon

Free shuttle buses replace M trains between Metropolitan Av and Myrtle Av-Broadway
Aug 24, 6 AM to 6 PM Sunday

Manhattan-bound N trains run on the D from Stillwell Av to 36 St
Aug 23 – 25, 12:01 AM Sat to 5 AM Mon

N trains run on the R from Canal St to DeKalb Av
Aug 23 – 25, 12:01 AM Sat to 5 AM Mon

Q trains run in two sections:

  • Between 57 and Pacific Sts
  • Between Atlantic and Stillwell Avs
  • To continue your trip, walk through the passageway between Pacific St and Atlantic Av
    Aug 23 – 25, 12:01 AM to 5 AM Sat to Mon

    Categories : Service Advisories
    Comments (2)

    I angered the Subway Gods yesterday. When I wrote last night about my fast, efficient and painless rides between Manhattan and Brooklyn, someone up there — one of those subway watchers in the sky — decided to enact some vengeance, and when retribution came on Thursday, it was slow and painful.

    On Thursday morning, during the tail end of rush hour, I had to venture again from Grand Army Plaza to Yankee Stadium/161th St. in the Bronx. This two-borough, two-subway ride usually isn’t too terrible. I find the 2 or 3 arrive fairly frequently, and switching to the 4 at Nevins St. is about as painless as it can get. But yesterday, my experiences on the 4 were dreadful.

    The first part of the ride — the transfer — went about as smooth as can be. I caught a Manhattan-bound 2 as it arrived at Grand Army Plaza and made it to Nevins St. five minutes later. While the first train that pulled up on the express tracks was a rush hour 5 making stops in Brooklyn, the train right behind it was a 4. Little did I realize the trouble that 5 would present.

    Since I didn’t feel like switching again at 149th St.-Grand Concourse for a Woodlawn-bound 4, I let the 5 pass me and boarded the 4 well ahead of the time I need to get to the Stadium. The 4 swiftly traveled to Borough Hall and then utterly crawled from Borough Hall through the Joralemon St. Tunnel and up the supposed express tracks underneath Lexington Ave. At no point did this rush hour 4 train seem like an express, and in fact, I could have taken the 6 from at least 86th St. — and probably 59th St. — and still beaten my 4 to 125th St.

    At every station, the automated male voice would announce that the train was moving slowly “due to train traffic ahead of us.” Every five minutes, the automated announcer would “apologize for the unavoidable delay.” As the minutes ticked by, I sat there silently fuming, knowing that my ride was taking a good 10 minutes longer than it should have.

    While Wednesday’s rides showed how the subways could be if the trains ran so frequently as make waiting times seem negligent, today’s rides showed what happens when subway lines are running trains at capacity. The East Side IRT lines are, by far, the most crowded lines in New York. That is, after all, why the MTA is working to build that ever-promised Second Ave. Subway. To address the crowds, the MTA has added train after train until we arrived at our present situation: a subway line packed with trains.

    While completely saturating the Lexington Ave. Express line makes for a slightly less crowded commute, it also makes for the most sluggish express ride you’ll ever take. It makes for an express ride so slow that the local trains seem to be zooming by. While yesterday I had to urge more funding for trains, today, I have to wonder if the MTA has overdone it on the East Side IRT. Is it better for passengers, psychologically, to be on trains that actually go at express speeds or is it better for them to have the illusion of space at rush hour?

    Thursday’s ride also, for me, highlighted the need for the proposed flip seats that would be in the up position during rush hour. If these flipped seats allow New York City Transit to decrease the train load on the IRT in order to speed up the trains, I’m all for it. Otherwise, the trains will fill up with passengers frustrated by one too many unavoidable delays.

    Comments (13)

    On Wednesday, I took two subway trips along the same lines that illustrated to me how the subways work when everything is perfectly in sync. I can’t help but wish the subways would always be so obliging.

    My first trip took me from Grand Army Plaza in Brooklyn to the Brooklyn Bridge-City Hall stop in Manhattan. At around 20 to one, I sauntered down the stairs at Grand Army Plaza and had just enough time to make my way to the back of the train when a Manhattan-bound 3 pulled in. Three stops later, at Nevins St., I had to wait all of a minute before a 4 arrived.

    By 1:05 p.m., I had reached my destination at Foley Square. It was a stress- and wait-free subway ride, and I couldn’t help by tip my cap to the Subway Gods who seemed to be smiling on me. Little did I know that they would pay a repeat visit a few hours hence.

    Five hours later and running a few minutes late, I again sauntered down those very same steps at Grand Army Plaza, hoping for a train to start me on my way to Astor Place. This time, the 2 pulled in before I had a chance to reach the platform, and again, I was off. At Nevins St., the 4 again came after a barely-noticeably wait, and as I stode on the platform at Brooklyn Bridge-City Hall, the 6 obligingly showed up on time. When another 6 pulled in on the other side of the loop, I knew we would not be long for the terminus, and two minutes later, that Bronx-bound 6 pulled into Canal St.

    I would arrive at Astor Place less than 25 minutes after I boarded at Grand Army Plaza the first of three trains I would need to take. It was a subway trip from heaven, and too rarely does that happen in New York.

    As I contemplated this ideal day of subway travel, two thoughts filled my head. The first was on the inherently selfish nature of New York City subway riders. We’re happy only when we don’t have to wait at all for a subway ride, but if that train takes three or five or eight minutes to arrive, passengers grow irritable and impatient. New Yorkers are happy to arrive at movie theaters a full 40 minutes before show time, but heaven forbid that we wait ten minutes for our $2-per-ride subway train.

    But I also thought about the nature of our subway system and not just the people who ride the subways. My trips yesterday were as the subways should always be. I didn’t have to wait longer than two minutes for a train, and the connections were smooth and quick. I know I was riding along the popular IRT lines during peak hours, but should that excuse the relatively poorer service along other lines? Should that excuse sluggish late-night service and inconsistent weekend service?

    As always, these desires boil down to funding. If the MTA had access to limitless monies, we could enjoy a subway system that runs as often as Transport for London can run the Tubes. At 11:45 p.m., we could see trains come through the tunnels every five minutes instead of every fifteen minutes. But the money isn’t there, and the will to produce more money to simply maintain the current state of the system doesn’t seem to be there either.

    Maybe one day, we’ll have the transit system we need and deserve. For now, I’ll just keep riding the trains during the day and thinking about how blissful life is underground and how quick the subways are when I don’t have to wait long for the trains. It’s always nice to dream.

    Comments (15)
    • Paterson appoints MTA skeptic to fill Board vacancy · When Francis H. Powers passed away in June, Gov. David Paterson received the opportunity to appoint someone to the MTA Board. Yesterday, he named Allen P. Cappelli, lawyer and longtime Democratic supporter, to fill the vacant seat.

      Cappelli, as William Neuman reports in The Times isn’t an unbiased observer. “I have been very mistrustful of the M.T.A. as an agency,” he said. “Dealing with straphanger groups and commuter groups over the years, and citizens with their complaints — whether it be with unsafe conditions, cleanliness issues, cost of the system, increases in fares — I’ve become very skeptical of the M.T.A.’s operations.” I think that’s a good sign. Maybe. · (0)

    Yup. Chris’ image is still relevant despite what Sheldon Silver will have you believe.

    Turn the dial on your Wayback Machine to April. Back then, the skies were blue, the grass was green and Speaker of the New York State Assembly Sheldon Silver killed congestion pricing. At the time, Sheldon Silver’s role in the demise of Mayor Bloomberg’s ambitious plan was not up for debate.

    Well, someone should remind Mr. Silver of this inconvenient truth. Yesterday, in an interview with the Downtown Express, Silver blamed the MTA for the demise of congestion pricing. This is a stunning revision of recent history.

    Streetsblog first reported this audacious piece of news yesterday, and Brad Aaron quoted the vital parts:

    This week, he repeated his reason for not bringing it to the floor — the Assembly opposition was overwhelming. He said there were about 15 supporters, and if he had applied pressure, he thinks he could have gotten the number up to 20 — far short of the 76 votes needed.

    He said outer borough Assemblymembers did not support the plan because “the M.T.A. lost its credibility.” After so many broken promises, no one believed the Metropolitan Transportation Authority would direct the congestion pricing revenue to mass transit expansion, Silver said.

    This interview by Silver is flat-out absurd. The Downtown Express is paying attention to him right now because, for the first time in over two decades, the incumbent Assemblyman is facing a primary challenger. And that challenger came about largely because Silver allowed congestion pricing to fail. Silver now claims that, when Richard Ravitch issues his report in a few months, “you’ll see this” — the MTA’s financial woes and the fate of congestion pricing — “start to get straightened out.”

    Of course, that doesn’t explain why Silver forgot that he let hundreds of millions of dollars in government funding slip through New York’s fingers or how he forgot that his maneuverings insured that congestion pricing wouldn’t even hit the Assembly floor in the first place. That he is now blaming the MTA just shows that Silver is still trying to come up with something, anything, that the public would believe. He can’t quite come out and say that he didn’t believe in the plan. So why not blame an organization many believe to be inept and financially irresponsible? It certainly sounds better that way, reality be damned.

    If there were any justice in New York State politics, Silver would lose this primary, and congestion pricing would become a reality. But as this is New York State and we’re talking about New York politics, Silver will probably win, and congestion pricing — and a fully-funded MTA — will remain a pipe dream. Once again, until our politicians wake up to the reality of funding the MTA — we can’t get something for nothing — we’ll be stuck with pandering politicians who are more interested in protecting their incumbency than they are in passing responsible social, environmental and economic policies. It’s just business as usual for Sheldon Silver and New York State.

    Categories : Congestion Fee
    Comments (8)

    In Saturday’s New York Times, Jeffrey Zupan of the Regional Plan Association penned an excellent op-ed column on the state of public transportation in New York City. The arguments he makes in his column are pretty much right in line with what I’m trying to do with Second Ave. Sagas.

    He writes:

    What do we want our public transit system to look like? We want riders to prefer it to driving, rather than viewing the system as something to be avoided at all costs or begrudgingly accepting it as a necessary evil. We want it to be reliable and safe. We want it to be fast, frequent, nearby and uncrowded. We want it to take us to our three major airports and to emerging job centers like Downtown Brooklyn and Jamaica, Queens, and to our neighbors in White Plains, Jersey City, Newark and Stamford, Conn.

    The projects that can make this happen are not fanciful or futuristic. They are measures that are within our grasp. They include new ways of thinking (like ferries in places where ground routes are circuitous and time-consuming), but also common-sense ideas that have long been needed (like buses, with lower floors to make boarding faster and easier, in lanes that are separated from traffic).

    There are small things that would alleviate daily frustrations, like electronic signs that would tell us, in a way we can understand, exactly when the next bus or train is arriving. But there are also big things that would expand the capacity and usefulness of our transit system….

    A well-functioning transit system is vital to our economy. Everyone — not just transit riders — should help pay for it, because everyone gains from it. Fare hikes may be necessary, but so are taxes. Car drivers see less traffic. Business owners and workers receive more profits and more jobs. And everyone else breathes cleaner air.

    There has never been a more important time to improve public transit. The right question is not how we can afford a better system, but what will happen if we fail to pay for one?

    This is why we fight for recognition for the transit system. This is why we fight for more funding and sensible congestion measures. This is why we want the MTA to improve its public image and why we want politicians and the public to understand that, while we all want a better transit system, it’s not going to come without its costs. This is why I write this blog everyday.

    Comments (1)
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