• Just avoid Midtown altogether today · With the MLB All Star Game parade upon us, Sixth Ave. from 42nd St. to 59th St. is closed, and the surrounding area is a mess. The MTA has tossed up a bunch of service alerts mostly relating to bus service along crosstown routes and up Sixth Ave, but certain subway entrances at Times Square, Bryant Park and 57th St. (on the F) are closed as well. These changes are in place until 6 p.m. tonight, and travelers are better avoiding what will be a very crowded area of town today. · (0)
Jul
15

Ads, ads, everywhere ads

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The MTA hasn’t started advertising on its (non-existent) straps as they do in Seoul. (Photo by flickr user Queenbean79)

As the talk of the MTA’s budget problems has grown, we’ve heard stories, on and off, about the agency’s efforts to attract more advertising dollars. In April, I warned riders that more ads were soon to be a reality, and in May, word leaked of MTA plans to brand the outside of rail cars.

Today, we find out that the MTA wants to add even more advertising streams, including the ever-popular in-tunnel, flip-book style advertising found in both the Boston T and the Washington Metro. Pete Donohue has more:

Ad-generated income totaled $106 million last year, up from $90 million the previous year, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority said.

That figure is expected to top $110 million this year as the MTA continues to test new strategies to capture the attention of riders – including projecting commercials onto subway station walls in the line of vision of passengers standing on platforms.

After years of consideration, the MTA this year also will test the placement of ads on tunnel walls between stations that would unfold like a flip book or silent movie as a train rolls by, officials said. “It’s high priority of ours,” MTA CEO Elliot Sander said. “We’ve made strong progress in generating new revenues, which is critical, given the MTA’s challenging financial circumstances. We’ve done a very good job with this.”

While suggesting expanding subway advertising always seems to spark a debate, it’s hard to fault the MTA for this one. The agency needs money, and they certainly have a lot of space that could be turned over to advertising. It’s easy to ignore ads, and it’s a lot better to be subjected to more ads than another fare hike.

I do wonder if the MTA couldn’t coax more than four million additional dollars out of an expanded advertising program. The opportunities are out there; someone just has to sell it.

Categories : MTA Economics
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  • SAS safe from cuts, for now · While Phase I of the Second Ave. Subway may not be on schedule or at budget, the project seems safe for now simply because the Feds keep sending money its way. As NY1 reported late last week, Sen. Schumer is one step closer to securing more funds for the project, and while looked at how looming cuts could impact MTA expansion projects, the consensus seems to be that the LIRR Third Track project will draw the short straw. Too much work and too much money has already been put into the SAS, the 7 Line Extension and the East Side Access project to can them now while the Third Track is still just in the planning stages. · (5)

With the number of delays caused by track files mounting by the year, New York City Transit is stepping up awareness efforts aimed at combating litter in the subways.

The new public service campaign — built around a fake newspaper this time instead of a real one — uses the Subway Gazette, a creation of NYC Transit, to stress the point that service delays caused by litter are completely preventable. In the ad, a rider of the 42nd St. Shuttle is seen reading the ad, and we the viewer just so happened to be engaged in that age-old subway tradition: We’re reading the newspaper over that paper’s owner’s shoulder.

The text of the Subway Gazette article is fairly technical. Using much of the same information contained in NYC Transit’s press release, the article is designed to draw attention to the mounting problem of track litter. As per the MTA:

The initial run highlights all of the problems that can arise when careless customers discard of trash improperly. When riders fail to hit that easy lay-up into platform trash receptacles, trash often ends up on the platform and then gets blown onto the roadbed by passing trains. Once on the tracks, trash can help spark track fires or clog drains along the roadbed and that can lead to flooding. Smoke conditions and flooding can and do lead to delays in train service and, in the case of fires, they can be downright dangerous.

The poster itself says, “Litter causes track fires. That’s bad news. Please put newspapers and other refuse in trash cans.” Seemingly in conjunction with this poster, the automated announcements on the newer subway cars have ramped up their anti-trash messages as well.

But with this campaign, many are wondering just how effective NYC Transit’s “Your Litter” ad campaign has been. As Sewell Chan noted on City Room, the MTA has been pushing this message since January, and track fires caused by litter are on the rise yet again. In fact, these types of delays have skyrocketed by 73 percent since 2003.

If the MTA is very concerned with these track-fire problems — and they are a legitimate problem — I have a solution that goes beyond PSAs and touches down in the realm of the draconian. Down in Washington, D.C., the WMATA does not allow eating or drinking in the Metro. They were able to implement and effectively enforce these rules through a few high-profile and unpopular incidents, including one involving a teenage girl and a basket of French Fries. It was an unpleasant PR nightmare, but it worked. No longer do people eat or drink on the Metro.

If the MTA and the NYPD were to collaborate on a litter-based sting — not involving 12-year-old girls — people would start to get the message. The MTA would take its flack for a few days, but how is that any different from the rest of the week? If it meant less litter, cleaner subways and track beds safe from the threat of smoke and fire, it would be tough to turn that offer down.

Categories : MTA Absurdity
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It’s after midnight on Saturday morning, and the service advisories are already in place. So without further ado, let’s get right to ‘em.

First up, we have the Bon Jovi Concert service alert. With Jon Bon Jovi in town to perform a free concert as part of Major League Baseball’s All Star weekend, the MTA is running additional service along Central Park West. The A and D will make all local stops before and after the concert. Revelers are instructed to enter the park at 59th St.

Also, baseball-related comes the news that the MTA will run additional bus service to the Javits Center this weekend. As part of MLB’s green initiatives, the MTA will run only hybrid buses along the M42 line to MLB All Star FanFest, and those buses will run every 15 minutes.

Otherwise, we’ve got a pretty busy weekend for service advisories. Who knows how reliable they really are?


From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, July 12 to 5 a.m. Monday, July 14, uptown 1 and 2 trains skip 79th and 86th Streets due to station rehabilitation at 96th Street.


From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, July 12 to 5 a.m. Monday, July 14, downtown 2 trains replace the 5 from 149th Street-Grand Concourse to Nevins Street and downtown 5 trains replace the 2 from 149th Street-Grand Concourse to Chambers Street.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, July 12 to 5 a.m. Monday, July 14, downtown 5 trains replace the 2 from 149th Street-Grand Concourse to Chambers Street and downtown 2 trains replace the 5 from 149th Street-Grand Concourse to Nevins Street. This is due to the Clark Street tunnel lighting project.


From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, July 12 to 5 a.m. Monday, July 14, there are no 3 trains between 14th Street and New Lots Avenue due to Clark Street tunnel project. In Manhattan, take the downtown 5 or the uptown 2. In Brooklyn, take the 4 instead.


From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, July 12 to 5 a.m. Monday, July 14, the last stop for some Bronx-bound 6 trains is 125th Street due to track chip-out north of East 143rd Street.


From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, July 12 to 5 a.m. Monday, July 14, there are no C trains. A trains run local between 168th Street and Euclid Avenue. Free shuttle buses replace A trains between 168th and 207th Streets. 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 between 168th Street and 207th Street.


From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, July 12 to 5 a.m. Monday, July 14, Queens-bound F trains run on the V from 47th-50th Sts.-Rockefeller Center to Jackson Heights-Roosevelt Avenue due to fan plant rehab in the 63rd Street tunnel.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, July 12 to 5 a.m. Monday, July 14, F trains run between 179th Street and Jay Street, then on the C between Jay Street and Euclid Avenue due to station rehab and construction of underground connector at Jay Street. Customers for Coney Island must change at Hoyt-Schermerhorn Sts. and take the G which will make all local stops to Coney Island-Stillwell Avenue.


From 8:30 p.m. Friday, July 11 to 5 a.m. Monday, July 14, no G trains between Forest Hills-71st Avenue and Court Square. Take the E or R trains instead.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, July 12 to 5 a.m. Monday, July 14, G trains replace the F between Hoyt-Schermerhorn Sts. and Coney Island-Stillwell Avenue.


From 4 a.m. Saturday, July 12 to 10 p.m. Sunday, July 13 (and the following weekend July 19-20), there are no J trains between Crescent Street and Jamaica Center-Parsons/Archer. Free shuttle buses replace trains between Crescent Street and the Jamaica-Van Wyck E station due to track panel work.


From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, July 12 to 5 a.m. Monday, July 14, Coney Island-bound N trains run on the D line from 36th Street (Brooklyn) to Coney Island-Stillwell Avenue due to replacement of the 20th Avenue Bridge.


From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, July 12 to 5 a.m. Monday, July 14, Manhattan-bound N and R trains rerouted over the Manhattan Bridge from DeKalb Avenue to Canal Street due to tunnel rehab between Whitehall Street and DeKalb Avenue and station rehab and construction of underground connector near Lawrence Street.

Categories : Service Advisories
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When last we checked in on the MTA’s escalator problem in May, a few local New York papers had documented rampant elevator outages throughout the subway system, and The New York Times had issued a stunning indictment of the MTA’s escalators and elevators. The Straphangers Campaign jumped on the bandwagon, urging New York City Transit to audit their escalators.

While the MTA shouldered much of the blame for the escalator outages, as the news came out, reporters discovered that a lot of the fault fell on the supposed operators of these escalators: the owners of the buildings. You see, when the MTA and private developers get together on real estate deals above subway stations, the MTA stipulates that the management companies are responsible for maintaining the subway entrances and the methods of egress. That includes escalators as stations such as, oh, Union Square.

That Union Square escalators — next to the Food Emporium on 14th St. — were the proverbial eye of this perfect storm. The escalators have long been out of service, and the people in charge of Zeckendorf Towers are supposed to be maintaining it. But as Curbed told us in April, the Buildings Department shut down the escalators last summer, and the Zeckendorfs have opted to do nothing about it. Until today.

This afternoon, Curbed posted the below photo:

That’s right; the Zeckendorfs are doing something. They’re taking what should be a perfectly functional escalator or at the very least a staircase and turning it into an entombed nothing all because they don’t want to invest the money to fix it. At the very least, they could turn the escalators, as one Curbed commenter suggests, back into a staircase. Then, straphangers wouldn’t be faced with a giant slide.

As far as I know, the MTA could probably file a breach of contract complaint. The management company is, after all, supposed to maintain and not close their escalators. Otherwise, we’d have a regular, full-sized entrance at the one of the subway system’s most popular stations. But then again, that would be a proactive solution to something plaguing the system.

And in a way, isn’t this symptomatic of the overarching problems plaguing the MTA? When faced with a problem in which even the law is on their side, the MTA hasn’t responded as they should. When these escalators when out of service, the MTA should have used their leverage to force the Zeckendorf Towers management to fix it. Instead, these escalators are just permanently out of service, another sign of an agency — this one private — taking the MTA for a ride.

Categories : MTA Absurdity
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New York City Comptroller William Thompson holds forth on the MTA as Gene Russianoff, left, and firefighters union head Steve Cassidy, right, look on. (Photo from the Comptroller’s Office)

William Thompson, New York City’s Comptroller, has launched the latest salvo in the ongoing battle between New York officials and the financially-beleaguered MTA.

Speaking Wednesday in the subway station at 14th St. and 8th Ave., Thompson urged the MTA to delay passing its revised capital program amendment featuring millions of dollars of cuts until Richard Ravitch’s commission issues its report on funding the MTA later this year.

“I understand the severity of the MTA’s current financial crisis. Operating budget shortfalls are projected to run into the billions of dollars…The cost of capital projects has mushroomed,” Thompson wrote in a letter to MTA Board Chair Dale Hemmerdinger (PDF). But the MTA should not jump the gun by putting off vital projects before Chairman Ravitch and his colleagues examine the funding situation and issue their recommendations.”

To further stress his point, Thompson invited Steve Cassidy, the president of the Uniformed Firefighters’ Association, to stand with him in the subway yesterday morning. Cassidy leads the firefighters union, and the city’s comptroller is concerned that some of the MTA’s deferred capital improvements could impact firefighters’ safety underground.

“Every one of the New York City Transit projects proposed for deferral — signal upgrades, new buses and subway cars and station rehabilitations — is important,” he wrote. “However, I am especially concerned about the proposal to delay at least $366 million in fan plant projects. Delaying fan plant projects jeopardizes rider, worker and firefighter safety. In its own project descriptions, MTA New York City Transit notes that ‘fan plants enhance safety, especially in the post 9/11 environment’ and that they are vital for the ‘life safety’ of passengers.”

Cassidy support Thompson’s pleas. “Safeguarding riders on the New York City Subway is the responsibility of the MTA and FDNY,” he said. “It is imperative that these upgrades to the emergency ventilation system are carried out immediately to ensure both public and firefighter safety.”

The MTA, however, had a bone to pick with Cassidy and Thompson, long one of the MTA’s most vocal critics on issues concerning both the secrecy surrounding its bookkeeping and the state’s and city’s shirking of their respective financial duties to the transit authority. In a statement issued Wednesday afternoon, the MTA defending itself from these charges.

“Every project in the capital program is important, but the proposed deferrals, including several fan plants, are projects that were chosen because they can be delayed without impacting the safety of the system,” read the statement. “All of the MTA’s underwater tunnels are protected with new fan plants in case of emergency, and the MTA continues to invest in other initiatives to significantly reduce the risk of fire and smoke. The MTA’s transportation network is safer than ever, and none of the proposed deferrals put that safety record at risk.”

Meanwhile, the MTA also noted that “delaying the current capital program amendment will force the MTA to halt work on critical projects currently in the plan.” Those projects, of course, include our beloved Second Ave. Subway, the East Side Access Plan, and station renovations throughout the system.

I don’t know the answer to this one, but I have to hope the MTA would not put its passengers and those working to keep New Yorkers safe in danger through capital program deferrals. I do know that the MTA’s financialy doomsday clock continues to inch closer to midnight, and while Thompson may be right in urging the MTA to wait until Ravitch’s report arrives in December, that five-month delay could be too long for an agency so vital to New York’s economic health and so close to its own economic disaster.

Categories : MTA Economics
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In a secluded and idyllic corner of Brooklyn, where South American taco vendors mingle with Fairway-bound foodies, a giant blue box recently opened its doors, and with it came an interesting experiment in public transit.

Just over three weeks ago, the highly-anticipated New York City Ikea opened its doors on the waters of the New York Harbor in Red Hook, New York. Red Hook has escaped the gentrification that has run rampant over the rest of the western sections of Brooklyn largely because the nearest subway stop is a mile away and the buses are never too reliable. But with the Ikea came more public transit options to the area.

As part of their efforts to attract customers while encouraging New Yorkers to avoid driving, Ikea is running free shuttles to various transit-accessible parts of Brooklyn and Water Taxi ferries to and from Lower Manhattan. Well, as New Yorkers — Ikea-bound and otherwise — are rather resourceful people, residents of Brooklyn have taken a liking to the free transit options. Jeff Wilkins of The Daily News explains:

Countless commuters are taking advantage of Ikea’s free bus and ferry – without ever setting foot inside the giant Swedish furniture store that opened last month in the waterfront neighborhood. The posh, coach-style shuttle buses, equipped with footrests, reading lights and music, are quickly becoming popular with travelers tired of shelling out $2 for overcrowded – and, by comparison, uncomfortable – city buses …

The free bus service transports passengers from Red Hook to stops on Court St. and to subway stations at Fourth Ave. and Smith and Ninth Sts. every 15 minutes during store hours.

Thrifty bus riders aren’t the only ones taking advantage of Ikea’s services. City residents are also saving $6 each way and taking the store’s free water taxi to and from Wall Street. “It’s such a nice ride, I’d almost be happy to pay for it,” said Steve Riley, 40, who lives in Park Slope, takes the Ikea bus and then transfers to the Ikea water taxi for his job in SoHo.

Wilkins writes that only eight of the 19 riders on the first shuttle of the day last week were bound for the Swedish furniture store. Two of those folks were employees.

So what does this mean for public transit in New York? Well, at a time when the MTA is increasingly coming under attack from politicians and the public, this news does nothing to bolster the MTA’s case. But is it a call for privatization? Some time this week or next, I’ll have a long post about the future of the MTA, but I’m not sure privatization is ever the way to go. It didn’t work in London; it hasn’t really worked anywhere mainly because public transit doesn’t really turn a profit. The aims of private companies and the goals of public transportation systems are rarely in line with each other.

Rather, the MTA could take a lesson from the comfort and ease of the Ikea Shuttle. Riders want to like their public transit options. They want to be ferried or bused in relative comfort with enough space to sit. They want a reliable and steady schedule, and from the sound of it, they’re willing to pay for that privilege. Perhaps the MTA could use the lessons of the Ikea Shuttle to improve bus service; perhaps the Ikea Shuttle will remain unique among the city’s transit options. Either way, it’s certainly an interesting case study in unintended consequences.

Photo above of the Ikea Shuttle by flickr user the real janelle.

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