• 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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  • MTA looks to wire 44 stations for PA service · While services are facing the budget cut, the MTA is hoping to bring some more stations up to date. According to the Daily News’ Pete Donohue, the transportation agency has filed a draft amendment to its capital plan that “includes funds to upgrade communications in 44 subway stations, repair some of the worst station stairwells and platforms, and seal up the most flood-prone subway tunnels.” These are, of course, vital projects intended to keep the subway system in operation during emergencies both weather-related and not. [The Daily News] · (2)

A state of _____ repair

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The 7th Ave. station along the Culver line in Brooklyn has seen better days. (Photo by Benjamin Kabak)

A state of good repair. The MTA tosses that phrase around a lot these days, but no one really knows what it means.

New Jersey Transit defines it as follows: “‘State of Good Repair” is achieved when the infrastructure components are replaced on a schedule consistent with their life expectancy.” The MTA’s definition is, for all intents and purposes, the same.

In New York over the last twenty five years, the MTA has been fighting an uphill battle to return the subway system to a state of good repair. They’ve overhauled track beds and switches; they’ve purchased new rolling stock. And when time and money allows, they’ve attempted to redo stations, but it is here that we run into differing opinions over what exactly a state of good repair entails.

Over the weekend, Times reporter Javier C. Hernandez ventured out into some of the 19 stations that will see their renovation plans deferred. As expected, commuters who frequent those stations aren’t too pleased to hear that the MTA is forgoing outer-borough renovations yet again:

In the distance is one of the city’s most stunning views: the Statue of Liberty, Manhattan skyscrapers and a pristine New York Harbor. But the trip to the top of Brooklyn’s Smith-Ninth Street subway station, the highest in the city, is not so appealing.

Inside the station, scraps of paint fall from the ceiling as commuters make their way up cracked, rusty steps. “I’ve been waiting so long for things to change,” said Steven De Jesus, a contractor who commutes by train. He pointed to the peeling walls. “It’s horrifying and despicable right now.”


The authority has said that the stations, which sit above ground on the D, N, F and G lines in Brooklyn and the No. 6 line in the Bronx, were in good condition and posed no safety risks. But commuters say the stations urgently need attention. At some stations, stairways are crumbling, water is leaking through the ceilings and outdoor roofs, and gaps between wooden planks are widening.

Therein lies the rub. The stations may post no safety risks, but anyone who subscribes to the City Beautiful notion of public works won’t be too pleased.

Above this post is one of a set of five photos I snapped a few weeks ago in the 7th Ave. station on the Culver line; one, two, three and four are all available on flickr. The truth is that this station — and many like it — is not in a state of physical repair. Dirty water has corroded station tiles, and streaks of something run down the walls. In some spots, the tiles are gone; in others, they’re buckling. It’s generally not very nice.

But when funds are tight, the station renovation plans get the axe, but these superficial appearances don’t matter nearly as much as modern signals and solid track beds. In the end, the MTA will face more complaints from people dismayed with the state of their surroundings, and as the stations grow grimier, they take on the appearance of something less than desirable in any neighborhood. But until money flows the MTA’s way, that physical part of the state of good repair will be the first thing to go when the budget crunches arrive.

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Before I jump into the service advisories for the weekend, I wanted to remind you all of the importance of June 30. After Monday, all One-Day Unlimited Ride Metrocards purchased prior to the fare hike will expire.

For those who stockpiled MetroCards, this month was the drop-dead point. Thirty-day cards had to be activated by June 1; seven-day cards had to be swiped by June 24; and the one-day Fun Passes must be used by the end of the day on Monday. So if you have one-day passes lying around the house, take a few subway rides this weekend.

But worry not if your cards go unused. Refunds will be available to those customers who have unused pre-fare hike Unlimited Ride MetroCards. Ask your nearest friendly station booth worker for an envelope, mail it off to the MTA and wait a few weeks. You will get a refund. I’ve done it before; it actually works.

And now on to the weekend service advisories.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, June 28 to 5 a.m. Monday, June 30, there is no 1 train service between 14th Street and South Ferry. Also, 1 trains skip 18th, 23rd and 28th Streets in both directions. Customers may take the 2 or 3 trains between 34th and Chambers Streets. Free shuttle buses are provided between Chambers Street and South Ferry. These changes are due to Cortlandt Street Underpinning.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, June 28 to 5 a.m. Monday, June 30, Manhattan-bound 2 trains run express from Gun Hill Road to East 180th Street due to signal and structural work at East 180th Street. Also, 2 trains run local between 96th and Chambers Streets because of Cortlandt Street Underpinning.

From 12:01 a.m. to 5 a.m. Sunday, June 29, Manhattan-bound 2 and 4 trains skip Eastern Parkway,
Grand Army Plaza, and Bergen St.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, June 28 to 5 a.m. Monday, June 30, 3 trains run local between 96th and Chambers Streets due to Cortlandt Street Underpinning.

From 12:01 a.m. to 5 a.m. Saturday, June 28, Manhattan-bound 4 trains run express from Utica Ave. to Atlantic Ave.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, June 28 to 5 a.m. Monday, June 30, there are no 5 trains running between 149th Street-Grand Concourse and East 180th Street due to signal and structural work at East 180th Street. Customers should take the 2.

From 11 p.m. Friday, June 27, to 7 a.m. Saturday, June 28, from 11 p.m. Saturday, June 28, to 8 a.m. Sunday, June 29, and from 11 p.m. Sunday, June 29, to 5 a.m. Monday, June 30, downtown 6 trains run express from 125th St. to Grand Central.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, June 28 to 5 a.m. Monday, June 30, there are no C trains between 168th and 145th Streets. Also, free shuttle buses replace A trains between 168th Street and 207th Street. Customers may transfer between the Broadway or Fort Washington Avenue shuttle buses and the A train at 168th Street. These changes are due to structural work and track and roadbed replacement work between 168th Street and 207th Street.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, June 28 to 5 a.m. Monday, June 30, the last stop for some Coney Island-bound D trains is Bay Parkway due to track panel work between 8th Avenue and 86th Street.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, June 28 to 5 a.m. Monday, June 30, Manhattan-bound F trains run on the A line from Jay Street to West 4th Street due to infrastructure work.

From 8:30 p.m. Friday, June 27 to 5 a.m. Monday, June 30, there are no G trains between Forest Hills-71st Avenue and Court Square due to track chip-out between 36th Street and Roosevelt Avenue. Take the E or R instead.

From 4 a.m. Saturday, June 28 to 10 p.m. Sunday, June 29, free shuttle buses replace J trains between Crescent Street and the Jamaica-Van Wyck E station. (There are no J trains between Crescent Street and Jamaica Center-Parsons/Archer.) This is due to track panel installation between Cypress Hills and Jamaica Center-Parsons/Archer.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, June 28 to 5 a.m. Monday, June 30, Manhattan-bound N trains run on the D line from Coney Island-Stillwell Avenue to 36th Street due to track panel work between 8th Avenue and 86th Street.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, June 28 to 5 a.m. Monday, June 30, Brooklyn-bound NR trains are rerouted over the Manhattan Bridge from Canal Street to DeKalb Avenue due to track roadbed work between Prince and Whitehall Streets.

Categories : Service Advisories
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