I’m out of town for the long weekend, and most people are too busy BBQing on Friday to worry about transit news. So without further ado, let’s jump into the weekend.

On Friday, July 4, NYC Transit will be running trains on a Sunday schedule. For information on viewing the fireworks, click here. Once the fireworks are over, NYC Transit will run extra trains on the C, F, L, 3 and 5 trains as well as the 42nd St. Shuttle.

From 12:01 a.m. to 7 a.m. on Saturday, July 5, from 12:01 a.m. to 8 a.m. on Sunday, July 6, and from 12:01 a.m. to 5 a.m. on Monday, July 7, uptown 1 trains skip 103, 110, 116 and 125 Sts. For service to these stations, transfer to a downtown 1 train at 125 St.

From 12:01 a.m. on Friday, July 5 to 5 a.m. on Monday, July 7, Manhattan-bound 2 trains run express from Gun Hill Road to East 180 St. For service to stations in between, transfer to a Wakefield/241 St.-bound 2 train at East 180 St.

From 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturday, July 5 and Sunday, July 6, 3 trains run in two sections:

  1. Between 148 St. and Utica Ave.
  2. Between Utica and New Lots Avs

From 12:01 a.m. on Friday, July 4, to 5 a.m., Monday, July 7, there are no 5 trains between 149 and East 180 Sts. For service to stations in between, take the 2 train instead.

From 12:01 a.m. to 5 a.m. on Saturday, July 5, Manhattan-bound 6 trains run express from Hunts Point Ave. to Third Ave. For service to stations in between, transfer to a Pelham Bay Park-bound 6 train at Third Ave.

From 12:01 a.m. on Saturday, July 5 to 5 a.m. on Monday, July 7, Flushing-bound 7 trains skip 82, 90, 103, and 111 Sts. For service to these stations, transfer to a Manhattan-bound 7 at Willets Pt-Shea Stadium.

From 12:01 a.m. to 5 a.m. on Sunday, July 6 and Monday, July 7, Manhattan-bound F trains run on the A from Jay to West 4 Sts. For service to stations in between, transfer to a Brooklyn-bound F at West 4th St.

From 8:30 p.m. on Friday, July 4 to 5 a.m. on Monday, July 7, there are no G trains between 71-Continental Avs and Court Sq. Take the E or R instead.

From 12:01 a.m. on Saturday, July 5, to 5 a.m. on Monday, July 7, Brooklyn-bound N trains make all local stops from 57 St, Manhattan to 59 St, Brooklyn.

From 12:01 a.m. on Saturday, July 5 to 5 a.m. on Monday July 7, Manhattan-bound N trains run on the D from Stillwell Av to 36 St. For service to stations along the N line, transfer to a Coney Island-bound N train at 36th St.

From 12:01 a.m. on Saturday, July 5, to 5 a.m. on Monday, July 7, all Q trains run local between 57th and Canal Sts.

From 12:01 a.m. on Saturday, July 5, to 5 a.m. on Monday, July 7, Manhattan-bound R trains run on the V from Queens Plaza to Broadway-Lafayette St, then over the Manhattan Bridge to DeKalb Ave.

Categories : Service Advisories
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High gas prices are pushing more commuters onto mass transit options. (Gas $4.37 by flickr user 54east)

As Americans prepare to hit the road later today for their Fourth of July weekend travels, gas prices are at an all-time high. The national average cost for unleaded regular gas checks in at $4.092 per gallon while New Yorkers are paying an average of $4.297 per gallon. These numbers, to Americans, are astronomical.

In New York City, however, the law of unintended consequences has taken over. As high gas prices drive Americans out of their cars, a few analysts are noting that the traffic-mitigation effects of the $4.30-gallon are mimicking, to a lesser extent, Mayor Bloomberg’s failed congestion pricing scheme. In a very well done article in The Times today, William Neuman explores how traffic volume is decreasing as gas prices increase.

The gist of it is as follows: As gas has climbed well past the $4-per-gallon mark, the MTA and the Port Authority have been reported decreases in traffic through their toll booths of around 4.2 to 4.7 percent. Meanwhile, subway ridership was up 6.5 percent over the same time period with smaller but noticeable increases on Metro-North (4.3 percent) and the Long Island Rail Road (5.5 percent). The PA’s PATH trains saw a jump in ridership of nine percent. Even parking garages in the area are reporting fewer cars.

In a way, then, the city isn’t too far from temporarily achieving Mayor Bloomberg’s goals of reducing congestion. Of course, as Neuman points out, the goal of congestion pricing was to reduce traffic at peak hours, and this current reduction is more spread out. Meanwhile, it’s clear that drivers who are opting not to drive will slip behind the wheel as soon as — or is that if? — gas prices dip again. So on the flip side, high gas prices aren’t at all like the congestion pricing plan, and a few traffic consultants believe that this is a questionable decrease as many drivers, looking to save all they can, are opting for free bridges instead of toll roads. The decrease in volume could be as little as two or three percent.

There is, of course, another catch as it relates to mass transit. The analysis is Neuman’s:

Gas price-induced traffic reduction might have a downside. Mr. Bloomberg’s plan was intended, among other things, to raise hundreds of millions of dollars a year for mass transit improvements by charging cars an $8 fee to enter the area of Manhattan below 59th Street. The plan was defeated in April when legislative leaders in Albany refused to bring it up for a vote.

In contrast, the current reduction in traffic at bridges and tunnels could actually take money away from transit, because a large portion of the tolls collected at the transportation authority’s crossings helps to finance the subways, buses and commuter railroads. In May, toll revenues were more than $4 million below budget projections, and Gary J. Dellaverson, the authority’s chief financial officer, said that June toll revenues appeared to be down even further.

So far, the drop has been more than offset by an increase in fare collections generated by higher transit and rail ridership, but Mr. Dellaverson said that the combination of slipping toll revenues and the increased cost of fuel for the authority’s buses and trains could eventually outpace ridership revenue gains.

In the end, then, it’s the same old story for the MTA. A lack of dedicated revenue not tied into market forces is forcing the agency into a corner. For our city’s air, for our roads, it’s encouraging to see traffic dipping as gas prices go up. But for the health of the MTA, this artificial free-market quasi-congestion pricing impact will only serve to deprive the agency of toll revenue while taxing train lines already at or near capacity without offsetting these increases with more revenue. And that is a recipe for disaster.

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  • Cement-truck drivers strike stalls Second Ave. Subway · Yesterday afternoon, news broke that the city’s cement-truck drivers had initiated a strike. Now, we learn that this strike’s impact reaches underground. Because no major construction projects in the city can proceed, the strike has halted work on one Second Ave. Subway line. In the end, this one-week delay, the expected duration of the strike, probably won’t impact the completion date of a project already two years behind schedule. · (1)
  • The cutest illustrated story about the subways you’ll ever see · Christopher Neimann, award-winning illustrator and former New York resident, has started a blog on the New York Times Web site this week. For this first post, he drew a 13-panel story about his two sons, ages three and five, and their love affairs with the New York City subways. It is, by far, the best and cutest subway-based illustrated story you’ll ever see. [The Boys and the Subway] · (2)

This sign is more permanent than anyone would prefer. (Cortland St Station by flickr user vanillarose20)

A few weeks ago, New York City reached a milestone most politicians — and especially the Port Authority — would prefer to ignore. It’s now taken more time to figure out how long it will take to complete rebuilding Ground Zero than it did for the original construction of the Twin Towers. Just 6 years, 7 months, 30 days elapsed between the groundbreaking and the ribbon-cutting ceremonies in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Meanwhile, the Towers fell 6 years, 9 months, 21 days ago and counting.

For Lower Manhattan, the news got worse this week. On Monday, the Port Authority released a 34-page report (PDF) that explained how reconstruction at Ground Zero is well over budget and well behind schedule. And, hey, the MTA isn’t even running this show.

On Tuesday, the news took a turn toward transportation. As the Port Authority’s original report noted, Port Authority’s WTC Transportation Hub featuring Santiago Calatrava’s retractable roof/porcupine-type building was well over budget and — here’s the kicker — the final design had not yet been chosen. As The Times reports today, gone are the retractable panels, and the final design may be drastically reduced.

Now, to anyone following recent construction trends in the city, these announcements are not unexpected. In fact, the Port Authority — the only agency that has a worse time with construction timetables than the MTA — had already announced a delay in the Hub’s completion date six months ago. But this time, two key subway stations in Lower Manhattan will be impacted indefinitely by this announcement.

Both of the Cortlandt St. station stops — one on the BMT Broadway line that would service the N, R and W trains; one on the West Side IRT that would serve the 1 train — will remain closed indefinitely. According to the Port Authority, one of the many challenges they face in rebuilding at Ground Zero is doing so “while ensuring the continued uninterrupted operations of the MTA #1 and R/W subway lines.”

Worse still, though, is the indictment of the MTA in the Port Authority’s report. Difficulties with the Cortlandt St. project and the oft-delayed Fulton St. Hub are negatively impacting work at Ground Zero. Writes the PA:

The MTA is planning to rebuild the Cortlandt Street subway station, but there are design and construction issues that first need to be coordinated and agreed upon between the MTA and the Port Authority. Among the issues to be resolved include: the substantial duct work required for the MTA construction interferes with utilities on Greenwich Street; funding needs to be identified for the MTA project; the construction staging needs to be determined and an expedited schedule needs to be developed to assure that Greenwich Street can be ready in time to serve all the other projects – the Memorial, the WTC Towers, etc.

It’s so dry, yet so illuminating. The MTA isn’t sure what’s happening at Cortlandt St. while delays in the overall work at the Ground Zero make the point moot because these stations, once set to reopen in 2006 (hah!), will remain closed for indefinitely.

amNew York’s Matthew Sweeney notes that the stop on the IRT “remains as an unadorned box waiting for reconstruction.” For now, it seems, that’s the best we’ll get as that construction clock ticks ever upwards.

Categories : PANYNJ
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I’ve had a busy few days at the good ol’, bill-payin’ day job. So I had no chance to draw your attention to a lovely story yesterday morning in the New York Post proclaiming subway delays up 44 percent. Now, on the one hand, that’s a shocking number, but on the other hand, as anyone who ever rides the subways on a regular basis could tell you, this is about as big a “duh” story as one could find these days.

According to this nifty graphic, track work — with 4,117 citations — is the leading cause of train delays, and that number has nearly doubled from 2007′s 2,093 delays. While people holding doors — the number two cause — will always be a subway scourge, this news reflects nothing but the latest facts about the MTA. As budgets sag, construction projects get held up and that elusive state of good repair slips away.

The story in the Post doesn’t get into the why of construction-related delays. It similar features some rote comments from MTA officials unhappy with their numbers and unhappy with what Board member Mark Lebow termed a “lack of supervision of what goes on underground.” Outrageous as these numbers might be, breaking news it ain’t.

Categories : MTA Absurdity
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  • Assessing the BRT debut · Yesterday morning, Bus Rapid Transit service in New York City made its long-awaited and highly anticipated debut. While we won’t enjoy camera-enforced dedicated bus lanes thanks to this absurd Representative from Rochester, I received a few missives from readings clamoring to find out how day one went. To that end, both The Times and Streetsblog covered it on the big day.

    The short of it is that riders were slightly confused at first by the new pre-boarding fare options while the service itself is being praised. But the long of it is that, just as how a one-week stretch is too small a sample size in, say, baseball to assess a player, so too is one day of BRT service too small a sample to analyze the lasting impact of this new bus service on transportation in New York City. The City does, since it refused to build physically separated bus lanes, need to address the problem of people parking in what are supposed to be dedicated bus lanes sooner rather than later. [Streetsblog, The New York Times] · (1)

Pardon me while I leave the underground world of transportation and visit the devoted straphanger’s sometimes-nemesis, sometimes-friend: the taxi cab.

I’ve long been fascinated with New York City taxis in a more academic way than I am with the city’s subways. More specifically, I’ve watched with interest as the city has pioneered a radical plan to convert its entire taxi fleet from fuel-guzzling Ford Crown Vics to green hybrids of all shapes and sizes.

The root of my interest began in the spring of 2004 as hybrids were slowly becoming a popular item. I was enrolled in a class on the political economy of the automobile, and for one of my term papers, I proposed that the City of New York should convert its entire fleet into hybrids. Little did I know how prescient I would be.

The gist of the paper — which you can find here as a Word document — was that cab drivers would see significant fuel savings by switching to hybrids designed for optimal use in the stop-and-go traffic environment of New York City. Hybrids, in most cases, get fuel mileage in city traffic two to three times greater than the old Crown Victoria taxis do. While some passengers would be inconvenienced by the smaller trunk space and decreased leg room in the hybrids, the social benefits, ranging from a cleaner air to the city’s place as a model taxi fleet, would far outweigh the downsides.

While that is a fairly simple argument, I think it’s held up over time. Since I wrote that paper, the city has indeed embarked on a landmark program to convert its entire fleet to hybrids, and beginning this year, only hybrid cars may be registered as taxis. Considering that the entire taxi fleet turns over every three-to-five years, the clock is ticking for the 15 city miles-per-gallon Crown Victorias, a relic of the day when we worried too little about gas prices and paid too little at the pump for our gas-guzzling ways.

But of course, cab owners aren’t too happy about the switch, and they’re voicing their displeasures. Via Sally Goldenberg in the Post:

Owners cite a shortage of hybrids and argue that they’re also not as safe as the standard, heavy Crown Victorias. Ronald Sherman, a fleet owner and president of the Metropolitan Taxicab Board of Trade, said major hybrid providers Ford and Toyota can sell only a fifth of the number required to meet the directive. “Clearly, there will not be enough to sustain this mandate,” Sherman said. “The numbers simply don’t add up.”

In a letter to Matthew Daus, chairman of the city Taxi and Limousine Commission, he asked that the city push back the deadline due to a “nationwide hybrid car and parts availability crisis.”

“Crown Victorias are 5-star, across-the-board crash-rated vehicles that withstand severe accidents,” he wrote.

The Post also mentions that Sherman has long been a critic of hybrid taxis and testified against the Ford Escape hybrid earlier this year. That car has since been cleared by auto safety experts.

I can’t really explain Mr. Sherman’s opposition to the hybrids. While he is concerned about black-market cabs with more trunk space stealing the yellow cab businesses when the smaller trunks are prevalent, anyone who’s ever hailed a cab in New York will be quick to dispute this point with Sherman. The vast majority of people aren’t taking taxis with suitcases, and those who do will find a way to fit their suitcases into the back of a taxicab.

In the end, it’s all about an auto industry voice resisting change for the better. While not as egregious as various promotions celebrating subsidized gas for two years, Sherman’s voice is yet another trying to stem a tide that will help out the city environmentally and cab drivers financially. Trade reps should be encouraging these developments; they should work with the Bloomberg Administration to ensure a smooth transition. In 2008, with gas prices high and global climate change an accepted reality, Sherman’s words seem remarkably out of touch with the times.

Categories : Taxis
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