All’s well that ends well for E-ZPassgate. This afternoon, the MTA issued a statement about the long-standing practice of issuing free ride perks to their board members. Said the statement:

In light of Attorney General Cuomo’s opinion, the MTA will amend its longstanding practice of issuing free passes on the agency’s transit network to its current and former board members.

Subject to approval of its Board, the MTA would rescind its policy of issuing free lifetime passes on its operating systems to former board members. Hereafter, pursuant to the MTA’s enabling legislation, active board members may only utilize passes on the transit network to the extent that such use constitutes actual and necessary expenses incurred in the performance of their official MTA duties.

I guess the MTA wasn’t so willing to fight to the death for the right to E-ZPass. Now we can go back to worrying about important issues like bedbugs in the subways.

Categories : MTA Absurdity
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  • Public transit relieving our gas pains · With gas prices climbing well past the $4-per-gallon mark, Americans are feeling the squeeze. But here in New York, we’re feeling it less than others, reports the New York Post. Why? Because of our extensive public transit network, of course. If only other big cities around the country would follow New York’s lead, our country wouldn’t be so vulnerable to ever-climbing gas prices. [New York Post] · (0)

It’s Day Three of E-ZPassgate. Let’s recap.

On Tuesday, the Daily News reported on the free E-ZPasses for life that MTA board members, current and former, received in exchange for their public service. On Wednesday, New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo ordered the MTA to stop, and the MTA magnanimously complied.

Just kidding. The MTA vowed to take the issue to court, and now a state authority and the state’s top lawyer at an impasse.

As details about this ridiculous story have emerged, we’ve developed a clearer picture of the MTA perks. For instance, as William Neuman reports in The Times today, the free E-ZPass rides are valid only on MTA-controlled tolls. The board members have to pay Port Authority tolls out-of-pocket.

Meanwhile, the Daily News noted that public transit perks are included as well. MTA board members receive free lifetime passes for themselves+1 on Metro-North and the Long Island Rail Road and free lifetime MetroCards too. Wouldn’t you want to get your hands on a free unlimited ride MetroCard valid forever?

So all this drama got me thinking: What are some of the other unreported MTA perks? One can only wonder…

Free rush hour crowds for life — If any MTA board members want to experience the joys of a crowded commute, they can use their free MetroCards to ride the subways during rush hour. It’s the experience of getting shoved around a packed subway car, and it’s free!

Free Sauna (Summer Only) — If any board members are feeling the strains of a busy day riding around the MTA bridges and tunnels for free, they could always duck into the subways during the summer for a nice sit in the sauna-like conditions underground. It’s a great way to sweat off a few pounds.

Free Waits – This one’s fairly self-explanatory.

So there you have it. Along with all the free stuff the MTA Board members — some of the most successful real estate barons in New York — receive come some great ancillary perks. The rest of us pay $2 (or less) per swipe for this benefits, but these folks can get them for free. I hope they consider that as they fight tooth and nail for the free E-ZPass benefits.

Categories : MTA Absurdity
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  • MTA Board ready to fight for their right to E-ZPass · This just keeps getting better and better. While Andrew Cuomo wants the MTA to can the free E-ZPass perks for their current and former board members, the MTA, reports William Neuman at The Times’ City Room blog, is ready and willing to fight Cuomo on the issue.

    MTA Chair Dale Hemmerdinger said, “The practice of providing board members free access to the system they oversee dates back at least to the 1950s. We believe the M.T.A. has acted in a manner fully consistent with the 1992 law referred to by the attorney general…But given the newly stated view of the attorney general which is contrary to the M.T.A. position we are going to seek a declaratory judgment and allow a court to determine whether or not this constitutes compensation.” So the millionaires on the MTA Board will use public money to find out if they can keep their free E-ZPass benefits. This, folks, is why people complain about the MTA’s inefficiency and why I have a category labeled MTA Absurdity. · (2)

When I posted on the MTA Board’s free E-ZPass perk yesterday, a few outraged commenters expressed their disbelief at this overwhelming generosity of a public transportation agency encouraging road use by its current and former board members. Second Ave. Sagas readers aren’t the only ones unhappy by the news; New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo wasn’t pleased by the Daily News report, and he wants the MTA to rescind the free E-ZPasses.

Pete Donohue has the follow-up:

State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo moved swiftly Tuesday to end the E-Z life for MTA board members, warning the authority to revoke the free travel perks. Just hours after the Daily News revealed how some 60 past and present board members – many of them multimillionaires – get the free tags for life, Cuomo’s office issued a stern warning that the practice is illegal.

Cuomo also told the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to produce records of any other benefits doled out to board members who are supposed to “serve without salary or other compensation.”

The letter to the MTA, penned by top Cuomo aide Benjamin Lawsky, was titled “Illegal Compensation of Board Members.”

While the MTA has yet to respond to Cuomo’s missive, Straphangers Campaign head Gene Russianoff had some strong words for the agency. “If participation on the MTA board is uncompensated and motivated by public service, then it should be uncompensated,” he said. “If the MTA wants to say thank you, maybe they should give flowers and some chocolates to board members, not an E-ZPass worth many thousands of dollars.”

Hear, hear.

Categories : MTA Absurdity
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Over the past twenty years, New Yorkers have seen their subway fares increase by 100 percent from a base fare of $1.00 in 1988 to the $2.00 we pay today. Meanwhile, fines for breaking the subway rules have stagnated, and a perp caught jumping the turnstile today pays the same $60 today as he or she would have doled out in 1988. Now, considering law-abiding passengers are getting held up for more money, those fines just don’t seem, well, fair.

At least, that’s what New York City Transit thinks, and the agency is trying to increase fines levied on everything from subway vandalism to fare-jumpers and weapons charges. Brooke Naylor and Pete Donohue had more in the Daily News:

Fines for all bus and subway rule violations will likely go up, some doubling to $200, the Daily News has learned. Smoking, littering, vandalism, taking up two seats – you name it – NYC Transit wants the fines to go up since they haven’t risen in two decades.

NYC Transit President Howard Roberts on Thursday said he wants a stiffer penalty for fare-beating to serve as a deterrent. One source said fare-beating fines – now $60 – likely will be upped to roughly $100.

Sources said the authority is drafting higher penalties for all 45 types or categories of violations. Roberts said he’d like to double the maximum penalty of $100 now applied to four offenses: vandalism/obstructing train or bus traffic, committing “harmful acts,” carrying weapons and carrying explosives.

According to Naylor and Donohue, the MTA board will have to approve the higher fines, and some may require legislative action as well. It’s hard to see anyone voting against higher fines for quality-of-life violations in the subway.

While the MTA is doing all it can to draw in more revenue from the limited options available to it, this move seems to me like a no-brainer. And I can only wonder why it’s taken the transportation authority twenty years to act on this issue. After all, $60 in the 1988 is now worth nearly $109. We’re letting fare-jumpers off cheap these days.

Recycled MetroCard artwork photo by flickr user

Categories : MTA Absurdity
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Peter Kalikow may be, thankfully, gone from his post atop the MTA Board, but he’s still irking subway watchers in New York City.

According to a report in today’s Daily News, Kalikow is just one of many current and former MTA board members enjoying free E-ZPass tags for life at the expense of New York City taxpayers. But Kalikow’s case is extra special: He gets tags for eight of his 40 cars so he doesn’t have to switch out tags based on whatever it is the former public transit official is driving.

Pete Donohue reports:

The former chairman isn’t the only member of the MTA millionaires club who takes advantage of the freebie. As of early May, 21 board members held 33 tags, and MTA records show 37 former board members have 62 passes.

Board Vice Chairman David Mack, a real estate magnate, has six of the special E-ZPass tags, which are orange, not white, like those on windshields of paying customers.

Fellow board Vice Chairman Andrew Saul, director of a national chain of apparel stores, has four tags, according to records provided by the MTA under the Freedom of Information Act. Mack has 11 cars, his assistant said. Saul, as is his custom, didn’t return a reporter’s telephone call.

“When riders learn about these free all-you-can-drive passes, they become very skeptical about an MTA board that decides the cost of a MetroCard or how much subway service they get,” said Gene Russianoff of the Straphangers Campaign.

Of course, the MTA board members see nothing wrong with the perks. “Everybody on the board serves for nothing,” Kalikow said. “They do a lot of hard work and it’s a way of saying thank you.”

That’s quite the thank you note.

Now, I can understand giving perks to those people who have served the city in a public transportation capacity. Free MetroCards for life would encourage mass transit use. A singular E-ZPass per board member would seem reasonable if less desirable for the anti-car contingency.

But at a time when the MTA is searching for cash and the agency stands to benefit more from having fewer cars on the road, rewarding multi-millionaires with free E-ZPasses for life for more than one car per person seems a bit excessive to me.

Categories : MTA Absurdity
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  • Know your MTA officials: Gary Dellaverson · Gary Dellaverson, the MTA CFO, has seen his name in print quite a bit lately. When Tishman Speyer pulled out of their Hudson Yards deal, Dellaverson made headlines by proclaiming that he would have another deal in place within a week. Five days later, he had fulfilled that promise. On Friday, Robin Finn and The Times’ Public Lives column paid a visit to Dellaverson. The CFO may be a messy pack rat, but after landing another $1-billion Hudson Yards deal in short order, his celebratory champagne was well earned. [The New York Times] · (0)

The New York Post would like you to know that subway delays are up.

Subway delays are the bane of any New Yorker’s existence. They hit seemingly at random but also only when the trains are crowded and un-air-conditioned and only when one is running late. Or at least that’s how it seems to feel. According to New York City Transit numbers, as shown above, subway delays are actually on the rise this year.

I briefly touched upon this uptick in delays on Friday. Over the weekend, Patrick Gallahue of the New York Post explored just how NYC Transit is planning on addressing these delays. With the average number of delays up 27 percent over the 12 months prior to March compared with the same time period a year ago, the MTA is trying to beef up how it is assessing subway delays and how it responds to them.

The agency is planning to use a system similar to the one that the NYPD employs for statistical analysis of criminal offenses, known as CompStat, to investigate why an increasing number of trains are lagging behind schedule.

“We are undertaking a major effort to categorize all the reasons [for the delays] and try to deal with them on a systematic basis,” NYC Transit President Howard Roberts said [Friday]. “Essentially, we will adopt something very close to the city’s CompStat system for crime and apply it to on-time performance.”

CompStat is an interesting model for the MTA to pursue. Initiated in the early 1990s by William Bratton, then the NYPD head, the program analyzed crime reports in a way that helped police leaders from the chief on down to precinct commanders identify trends and criminal hotspots. It was supposed to be responsible for an improved city response to rising crime rates and helped turn the tide against a crime in the Big Apple.

The only problem is that those assumptions — that CompStat worked and was the driving factor behind a reduction in crime — have been challenged by economists, urban planners and other academics. Steven Levitt of Freakonomics fame wrote an article (PDF) noting that various other factors including increased police presence contributed to the reduction in crime as much if not more than the CompStat reports.

But indisputably, the CompStat approach here will help the MTA. By implementing an analytic software tool, the MTA will be in a better position to note which lines are suffering from which types of delays. As the line manager program expands, the people in charge — the analogous NYPD personnel would be the precinct commander — could address the problematic hotspots along their subway lines. Everyone wins.

Of course, this all seems like common sense, and of course, the MTA will be unable to avoid delays caused by chronic door-holders. But this new system should benefit everyone. As William Henderson, a member of the Permanent Citizens Advisory Committee, said to The Post, “There are probably some delays you can’t do much about. The challenge is to find the delays you can do something about and try to put something in place to reduce those.”

Categories : MTA Technology
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Aren’t three-day weekends the best? Memorial Day certainly ranks up there. It’s the unofficial start of summer, and we’re getting some warm weather.

I’ll be out of town through Monday evening, but if you’re around this weekend, there’s a good subway-related event for you to check out. Ryan, a Second Ave. Sagas reader, e-mailed me last night to tell me that that shooting of Pelham 1-2-3 is out in full force this weekend.

According to Ryan, the NYPD has papered the FiDi with No Parking signs in advance of weekend shooting. The signs are up right now in the vicinity of Beaver and William Streets. If any intrepid readers venture down to the shooting and capture some photos, contact me with the details.

Meanwhile, for those of you spending Memorial Day in the city, service alerts abound. Because of the three-day weekend, most of these service alerts are in place through Tuesday morning 5 a.m. instead of the usual Monday morning 5 a.m. How fun.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, May 24 to 5 a.m. Tuesday, May 27, 1 trains skip 28th, 23rd, and 18th Streets in both directions due to work at Cortlandt Street.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, May 24 to 5 a.m. Monday, May 26, uptown 1 trains skip 103rd, 110th, 116th, and 125th Streets due to track and roadbed reconstruction at 110th Street.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, May 24 to 5 a.m. Tuesday, May 27, there are no 1 trains between 14th Street and South Ferry due to Port Authority WTC-related work at Cortlandt Street. Customers should take the 2 or 3 to travel between 34th Street and Chambers Street. Free shuttle buses are available between Chambers Street and South Ferry.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, May 24 to 5 a.m. Monday, May 26, downtown 12 trains skip 86th and 79th Streets due to station rehab work at 96th Street.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, May 24 to 5 a.m. Tuesday, May 27, 2 and 3 trains run local between 96th Street and Chambers Street due to work at Cortlandt Street. – This is the never-ending, terribly inconvenient service advisory. This Cortlandt St. project can’t finish soon enough.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, May 24 to 5 a.m. Monday, May 26, Manhattan-bound 2 trains run express from Gun Hill Road to East 180th Street due to track and structural work at East 180th Street.

From 11 p.m. Friday, May 23 to 5 a.m. Monday, May 26, downtown 4 and 6 trains run express from 125th Street to Grand Central due to track and roadbed reconstruction at 96th Street.

From 4 a.m. Saturday, May 24 to 10 p.m. Sunday, May 25, Bronx-bound 6 trains run express from Hunts Point Avenue to Parkchester due to track panel work between Hunts Point Avenue and Parkchester. The last stop for some Bronx-bound 6 trains is 3rd Avenue.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, May 24 to 5 a.m. Monday, May 26, there are no 7 trains between Times Square and Queensboro Plaza due to tunnel security work and signal work. Customers should take the N or Q trains and free shuttle bus for alternate service.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, May 24 to 5 a.m. Monday, May 26, there is no C train service. Customers should take the A train instead. The A train runs local between 168th Street and Euclid Avenue. 207th Street-bound A trains run on the F line from Jay Street to West 4th Street. These changes are due to signal work at Chambers Street.

From 8:30 p.m. Friday, May 23 to 5 a.m. Monday, May 26, there are no G trains between Court Square and Forest Hills-71st Avenue due to track chip-out between Roosevelt Avenue and Queens Plaza and switch renewal work between 21st Street-Queensbridge and 36th Street. Customers should take the E.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, May 24 to 5 a.m. Monday, May 26, Brooklyn-bound NR trains rerouted over the Manhattan Bridge from Canal Street to DeKalb Avenue due to rehab work at Lawrence Street.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, May 24 to 5 a.m. Monday, May 26, Q trains are extended to the Astoria-Ditmars Blvd. N station to supplement N service due to work on the 7 line. – Last weekend when this alert was in place, the rollover signs on the Q still said 57th St. How confusing.

From 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, May 24, Manhattan-bound Q trains run express from Kings Highway to Prospect Park due to tree removal adjacent to the Brighton Line right-of-way.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, May 24 to 5 a.m. Monday, May 26, 42nd Street S shuttle train will run overnight to replace 7 service between Grand Central and Times Square.

Categories : Service Advisories
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