• At what cost dignity? · I’ve never really wondered how much it would take to get me to lick a subway pole. $100? $1000? I probably wouldn’t do it for even that much. But someone did it on Long Island Rail Road train for just $20. Via New York City Metblogs, comes this lovely video. It’s not for subway squeamish or the germaphobes among us.

    Do you think he kisses his mother with that mouth? [NYC Metblogs] · (2)

The MetroCard is looking a little green lately. (Click the image for a larger view)

Solar-powered subways cars sound similar to that great gag gift the solar-powered flashlight. After all, how could a subway — a train that is, by definition, traveling underground — rely on the sun for power? It doesn’t make sense.

Yet, that’s just what the MTA is trying to do. As part of agency’s green initiatives announced on Monday, the MTA will be increasing its use of renewable energy resources, among other efforts. Yesterday afternoon, Gov. David Paterson, MTA CEO Elliot “Lee” Sander and MTA Chairman Dale Hemmerdinger gathered to announce the MTA’s new sustainability program. This announcement came on the heels of a sixth-month study conducted by Jonathan F.P. Rose and the Commission on Sustainability and the MTA.

“Sustainability is one of my top priorities for the MTA and I am delighted that the Commission has chosen to look at every area of our operations, and even beyond,” Sander said. Public transportation can play an important role as society works to achieve greater energy efficiency and smaller environmental impacts, and these far-reaching recommendations show how we in transportation can do even more.”

Foremost among the initiatives are a lessening of the agency’s carbon footprint. To that end, the MTA will look to draw seven percent of its energy needs from renewable sources — such as solar, wind and hydroelectricity — within the next seven years. The MTA is looking to make the Roosevelt Island subway stop powered, in large part, by tidal energy, and their solar goals of six megawatts would make it the largest solar project in New York history. William Neuman writes that the plans for solar power include various MTA buildings, bus depots and a bus-washing center.

Beyond energy use, the MTA is looking to encourage transit-oriented development in the metropolitan area suburbs. Their goals are to encourage both commercial and residential development within walking distance to Metro-North and Long Island Rail Road stations in an effort to keep commuters out of cars.

“The MTA already makes an irreplaceable contribution to sustainability simply by taking 8.5 million people each day out of their cars and onto public transportation. We are now taking the opportunity to go even further and lead by example,” Hemmerding said, levying a veiled jab at a New York Assembly too afraid of change to lead by example last week.

But — and there’s always a but — the amNY Subway Tracker blog picks upon a non-sustainable part of the MTA’s environmental campaign: the green MetroCards you can see above. The MTA will introduce five million of those MetroCards as a special tie-in to the campaign. But the cards are not biodegradable and will be around long after the subways stop running. Oh, the irony.

The MTA, I’ve written in the post, is already a green organization simply because it gets so many cars off the rode. Now, the agency is trying to do even more for the environment, and in our post-congestion pricing city, for that, they should be applauded.

Categories : MTA Politics
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It’s the Return of the Fulton St. Transit Hub! Nearly a month to the day since the MTA promised to build something at Fulton St., we have another round of Fulton St. Transit Hub news. How fun.

Toward the end of last week, while we were mourning the death of congestion pricing, word leaked out that the Empire State Development Corporation had proposed combining two long-delayed Lower Manhattan projects — the Fulton St. Hub and the performing arts center slated for the World Trade Center site — into one mega-project in an effort to get the ball rolling. Representatives from both the Joyce Theater, the site’s future tenants, and the MTA expressed lukewarm supprt, at best, for this proposal.

“We have to look at any possibility, but we are still committed to being part of redevelopment at the World Trade Center site,” she said to The Times. “The reason we were selected in the first place still stands: to be part of a performing arts center that was going to activate and animate the area.”

The Alliance for Downtown Manhattan was less diplomatic:

Elizabeth H. Berger, president of the Alliance for Downtown New York, a business group, said she was dismayed by Mr. Schick’s proposal. “We want what was promised — which was an architecturally distinctive, above-ground transit hub with retail — and we want it built now,” she said. “To change the design and the purpose of the building will cause substantial delays.”

Ms. Berger said the station’s function as a “commercial crossroads” would make the site problematic for a performing arts center…“You have 250,000 people coming in and out of that station every day, and it will be 300,000 after the connectors are built,” she said. Ms. Berger added that it would be difficult for trucks carrying scenery or remote broadcasting equipment to navigate the surrounding side streets, which are narrow.

The MTA’s architects at Grimshaw weren’t too pleased with the proposal either. “Transportation infrastructure makes lots of noise and vibration,” Andrew Whalley, director of the firm in New York, said. “A performing arts center requires a certain amount of acoustical isolation. They’re not natural bedfellows.”

Meanwhile, as the arts and subway debate goes on — there’s a 30-day study in the works — the MTA says that they’re making progress even as the estimated completion date is now 12 to 18 months later than originally scheduled. They also think that they’ll be able to build the whole hub as planned but that it will cost more. And I know a great deal on a bridge available for sale.

Categories : Fulton Street
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Last week, on Friday, The Times, as I noted, examined the confounding state of weekend subway service. Clyde Haberman attempted to make sense of the array of service change posters that dot the subways every weekend.

While many New Yorkers are perplexed by weekend service changes, there are ways — other than this handy weekly post — to get the subway service changes in your e-mail before the weekend. Enter the MTA’s Subway Service Advisory E-mail Notification Program or, as they like to call it, Know Before You Go.

The MTA revamped the e-mail advisory program late last October, and it’s been a big hit among straphangers. As of March 21, according to NYC Transit numbers, the program had 75,266 subscribers, one of whom is I. Of those subscribers, around 64,417 get the weekend bulletins; 10,849 receive the oft-overlooked weekday advisories; and 9,697 are 100 percent in-the-know with both weekend and weekday e-mails. So be confused or be prepared.

On with the service advisories:

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, April 12 to 5 a.m. Monday, April 14, there are no 2 trains between Atlantic Avenue and Chambers Street. Uptown 2 trains replace the 5 from Bowling Green to 149th Street and uptown 5 trains replace the 2 from Chambers Street to 149th Street. These changes are due to several projects, including station rehab at Chambers Street and tunnel lighting in the Clark Street tunnel and Wall Street.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, April 12 to 5 a.m. Monday, April 14, there are no 3 trains running. The M7, M102 and free shuttle buses replace the 3 between 148th Street and 135th Street. Downtown 2 trains replace the 3 from 135th Street to Chambers Street. Uptown 5 trains replace the 3 from Chambers Street to 135th Street. The 4 trains will make all 3 stops between Atlantic Avenue and New Lots Avenue in Brooklyn. These changes are due to third rail work at 145th Street.

From 4 a.m. Saturday, April 12 to 10 p.m. Sunday, April 13, Bronx-bound 4 trains skip 170th Street, Mt. Eden Avenue, and 176th Street due to track panel installation between 167th Street and Burnside Avenue stations.

From 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday, April 12, Manhattan-bound 6 trains run express from Parkchester to Hunts Point.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, April 12 to 5 a.m. Monday, April 14, there is no C train service. Customers should take the A instead. A trains run local between 168th Street and Euclid Avenue. Free shuttle buses replace A trains between 168th Street and 207th Street. Transfer is available between the Broadway or Ft. Washington Avenue shuttle buses and A trains at 168th Street. These service changes are necessary due to station rehab work at 47th-50th Sts/Rockefeller Center station and tunnel lighting between 168th and 207th Street.

From 11 p.m. Friday, April 11 to 5 a.m. Monday, April 14, free shuttle buses replace A trains between Far Rockaway and Beach 90th Street due to track tie replacement work from Beach 67th Street to Far Rockaway.

From 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Saturday, April 12 and Sunday, April 13, Bronx-bound D trains skip 182nd-183rd Streets due to station work between Tremont Avenue and Bedford Park Blvd. stations.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, April 12 to 5 a.m. Monday, April 14, downtown D trains run on the A line from 59th Street to West 4th Street due to station rehab work at 47th-50th Sts/Rockefeller Center station.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, April 12 to 5 a.m. Monday, April 14, D trains run in two sections due to station rehab work 47th-50th Sts/Rockefeller Center station:

- Between 205th Street and Broadway-Lafayette and
- Between Broadway-Lafayette and Coney Island-Stillwell.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, April 12 to 5 a.m. Monday, April 14, Queens-bound E trains skip 74th Avenue due to ADA upgrade work and installation of steel and platform edge work at Union Turnpike station.

From 11 p.m. Friday, April 11 to 5 a.m. Monday, April 14, the last stop for some Coney Island-bound trains is Kings Highway due to installation of a metal deck at Coney Island-Stillwell Avenue RTO Facility.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, April 12 to 5 a.m. Monday, April 14, Queens-bound F trains skip 75th Avenue due to ADA work upgrade and installation of steel and platform edge work at Union Turnpike station.

From 8:30 a.m. Friday, April 11 to 5 a.m. Monday, April 14, there are no G trains between Forest Hills-75th Avenue and Court Square due to communications installation. Customers should take the E or R trains instead.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, April 12 to 5 a.m. Monday, April 14, free shuttle buses replace J trains between Essex and Chambers Streets due to station rehab work at Chambers Street station.

From 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, April 12 and Sunday, April 13, L trains run in two sections due to switch work south of Broadway Junction station:

- Between 8th Avenue and Broadway Junction and
- Between Broadway Junction and Rockaway Parkway (every 24 minutes)

From 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday, April 12 and Sunday, April 13, Astoria-bound N trains skip 39th Street, 36th Street, Broadway and 30th Street due to rail work near Queensboro Plaza station.

From 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, April 12 and Sunday, April 13, Q trains run in two sections due to rail work between Brighton Beach and Coney Island-Stillwell Avenue:

- Between 57th Street and Brighton Beach and
- Between Brighton Beach and Coney Island-Stillwell Avenue

Categories : Service Advisories
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While the Bush Administration doesn’t have many fans in the New York area, without the Federal Transit Administration, an arm of the federal Department of Transportation, the current MTA capital plan would be flailing for funding. The FTA is footing the bill for a significant portion of the Second Ave. Subway and the LIRR East Side Access plan, among other non-MTA projects in the area.

But the FTA chief had a warning for New York City yesterday: Don’t count on that funding to continue forever. Speaking in the City for the first time since the congestion pricing defeat earlier this week, James S. Simpson, the FTA chief, criticized Assembly Democrats for what he called the “disappointing” and “short-sighted” decision to kill congestion pricing. At the same time, he warned city leaders that the FTA’s money source — the Highway Trust Fund — is running low.

“It’s hard to imagine we’re going to be able to make any real progress without trying new things, like congestion pricing, high-speed electronic tolling and public-private partnerships that shift some of the costs and risks involved in designing, building and operating transit systems to the private sector,” he said, according to Patrick Arden’s story in Metro.

But while that sounds like something of a vague threat, City Room had more detailed comments from Simpson:

“All of these projects are tremendously important, but they pose significant challenges going forward. First, only a limited number of firms have the capacity required to bid and construct these projects. That raises concerns for us about limited competition, which has implications for how jobs are priced. Second, we’re concerned about how difficult it is to create accurate cost and performance estimates for these complicated, multiyear transit projects, given the continued escalation of commodity prices. The risk of underestimating costs — and incurring additional debt obligations — is very real. And third, we’re concerned — and the region’s business and political leadership should also be concerned — about the massive new transportation projects on the horizon — including the Tappan Zee bridge, a new Lower Manhattan rail link and the second phase of the Second Avenue subway. Are there sufficient resources and capacity available to see these projects through?”

New York, it seems, can no longer expect the Feds to help out the budget deficit.

Now, on the one hand, this is very much a matter of partisan politics, something I’ve tried to overtly avoid on this site. The Bush Administration has been rather hostile toward public transportation and would rather not see cities relying on the federal government to fund their projects.

On the other hand, a healthy urban transportation system in the New York City area is vital to our nation’s economy. As New York-centric as that sounds, it’s the truth. With a change in the White House coming in November, it’s possible that New York could find itself with a more urban-friendly and transit-friendly administration in place come 2009. At that point, the FTA may just have some more funds for us.

For now, the MTA must move forward without that safety net from the FTA. But who knows? Ten months down the road, the Feds and the City could be singing a different tune. Can we afford to wait that long?

Categories : MTA Economics
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  • How long until the next fare hike? · As the MTA struggles to find billions of dollars to fund its capital plan, MTA COE and Executive Director Elliot “Lee” Sander is turning to the one place over which has control: the fare box. According to the New York Post, Sander said yesterday that the MTA would consider raising fares to fund their capital campaign if Albany doesn’t come through with more money. Just remember, folks: Sheldon Silver is the one to blame for the next fare hike. There’s no doubt about it. [New York Post] · (5)

Residential parking permits are but one way to curtail traffic and fund the MTA. (Photo courtesy of Streetsblog)

As the congestion pricing blame game swirls around New York State politics, the MTA is picking itself up, dusting itself off and starting all over again. With a while to go before 2009, the agency is looking, with the help of the state, at ways to fund its next five-year capital campaign, and I have a few not-very-groundbreaking suggestions that could bring in more money and curtail traffic in the city too.

But first, the news: Gov. David Paterson announced on Tuesday the creation of a panel to study alternate means of funding the MTA’s capital campaign. Richard Ravitch, the one-time head of the MTA who brought the agency out of the disastrous 1970s, will head the panel. The New York Times offers up a bit more information:

In a speech in Manhattan at a breakfast of the Association for a Better New York, the governor said the commission would examine ways to finance capital spending for transit that included “a broad balance of taxes for businesses and the rest of the public.”

He also said the commission would take another look at “the elements of Mayor Bloomberg’s plan that all of us like, and that perhaps we can still weave them into the process,” according to a text of the speech.

In another piece in The Times, Straphangers Campaign chief Gene Russianoff writes about alternate ways to fund the MTA. Well, gosh, that sounds familiar. I hope Mr. Ravitch invites Mr. Russianoff to his panel.

Meanwhile, I’m going to offer up my two suggestions for revenue streams, and both of them involve charging drivers. The drivers who find this site won’t like that, and they’re a feisty bunch. But in my opinion, the free parking literally has to stop.

First up are residential parking permits. Originally pushed as part of the congestion pricing package, residential parking permits are as they sound. The city marks off residential neighborhoods into zones, and the only way to park in a zone is to pony up cash and prove that you live there.

While the original plan called for a minimal outlay of $10, why not push a plan based on economics? The higher-demand zones — those closer to the Central Business Districts in each borough — and the higher-rent areas will cost more. Like tax breaks, permit fee relief is available for those who qualify, but the city should start capitalizing on its street revenue. Charge a few hundred bucks for the year and kick this money back into the MTA’s coffers. For those people who move to New York and don’t switch their registration, charge more.

A similar program has worked in DC, and the Nation’s Capital now plans to spend the permit revenue on livable-streets programs. New York could institute a similar plan throughout the five boroughs and spend the money on subways.

At the same time, the city should up the prices on the parking meters. Charging $1.50 to park for an hour is well below market rate. Garages charge up to $21 an hour depending on their location, and the city could easily charge $4 an hour or more to park at meters. This move would serve to decrease traffic while funding whatever the city wants to fund with more parking revenues.

Right now, these two moves make a lot of sense for a city leadership reeling from a congestion pricing setback. Beneficially, the city can institute these programs without approval from Albany. Of course, most politicians are unlikely to support a parking permit program that would charge all car-owning New Yorkers a fee to park, but as the city’s options were narrowed for them this week, the least desirable courses of action politically may be the way to go.

Categories : MTA Economics
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MTA service with a smile

By · Comments (3) ·

MTA employees never look this cheerful.

MTA station employees do not enjoy a very good reputation on the Internet. As Chris has documented, people tend to notice them most when they’re literally falling asleep on the job. But what if the MTA had service with a smile?

A group of young women calling themselves Boring, Inc., decided to find out recently. They’ve started a full-service group called MTA Service Specialists in an effort to promote hospitality on the subways, one of New York’s bastions of inhospitable behavior. Alex Nathanson at the Independent Media Center had more on their efforts to spruce spruce up the subways:

Four women, members of Boring Inc., have taken it upon themselves to increase customer service on New York City subways. Dressed in matching uniforms complete with heels, pill box hats, and of course, a snack cart, this past Saturday, Kae Burke, Lauren Larken, Anya Sapozhnukova, and Kristine “Kiki” traveled around New York offering help, snacks, and smiles.

“Commuters deserve helpful, courteous service with a smile while riding the erroneous MTA,” says Kae Burke, the organizer of the MTA Service Specialists project.

The performance is a response to the MTA’s fair hikes. It has been more than a month since the fair hike and the MTA has yet to improve their overall service including extended evening hours and additional train routes.

I’m not going to complain about this one. That’s for sure. If four women dressed as airline stewardesses for the subways want to pass out snacks and advice to subway riders in need, who are we to stop them? The subways could use a little more pizazz anyway.

The Post had a few great quotes from those participating and those observing the young women in action. “The MTA should have some customer service,” Kae Burke, one of the service specialists, said. “People listen to humans a lot more than outdated messages, especially when we look this good.”

“With these girls, I’d be on the train all day. You’d have 1000 percent ridership,” Steven Faria, a rider, said. Maybe attractive young women are the secrets to the MTA’s woes. As they say, sex sells, and the subways sure could be a whole lot sexier.

Categories : MTA Absurdity
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The G train activists are so sincere. They have a website and blog devoted to their cause, and they’re working really hard to push the G train connection to Atlantic Ave. The only problem is that their efforts are coming at what is probably the worst time for rider activism in the city.

Yesterday, one day after the MTA learned it wouldn’t have congestion pricing revenues for their coffers, G train activists took their case before the sympathetic City Council. Good ol’ John Liu and the transportation committee were more than willing to take the MTA to task for neglecting the only subway that connects Brooklyn to Queens without traveling into Manhattan. Raanan Geberer from the Brooklyn Daily Eagle tells us more, but it’s nothing all that new:

Brooklyn officials and activists told horror stories and demanded better service on the much-maligned “G” train, while the MTA, in effect, pleaded poverty based on today’s economic situation…

Current MTA plans for the line, which has suffered serious cutbacks since late 2001, involve what could be interpreted as “giving with one hand and taking from the other.” This would involve extending the line from the awkward Smith-9th Street southern terminal in Red Hook down to Church Avenue, adding five well-used stops.

But in return, the permanent northern terminal would become Court Square, near Long Island City. Cutbacks from a Forest Hills terminal to Court Square were what started the G protest rolling back in late 2001 – nowadays, the G only goes to Forest Hills on the weekends and late at night, and when track work ensues, it doesn’t even run then.

There’s nothing like City Council members grandstanding on an obvious issue either. “Many people call the G train the stepchild of the transit system, but I call it the abused child, the abandoned child,” Councilmember Letitia James said. “When I was a girl, when I got a `G’ on a paper, it meant “good.” But in the case of the G train, `G’ means God-awful, and it means the train is running like it’s in a ghetto.”

Said Joanne Simon, “Rider consensus is that the route serves too few stations, that the stations have suffered significant neglect, and the service is inadequate.”

Of course, none of these charges are new, but what’s the MTA to do? They have to balance the demands of the service with the volume in the Queens Boulevard tunnel, the track work on the Culver Viaduct and their currently bleak financial situation. The MTA has already withdrawn plans to add cars and more service to the G line, and they still don’t know if the Church Ave. extension will be permanent or temporary.

Meanwhile, while it’s reasonable for G train advocates to ask for better service, some of their demands — like an underground connection to Atlantic Ave. — are just flat-out absurd. An above-ground free transit would be appropriate, but sinking hundreds of millions of dollars into a 600-foot tunnel will never be the best use of MTA funds.

The G train activists have their point: The G line has become a vital subway line for communities along its path and an important connector for folks wishing to avoid the long trip from Queens to Brooklyn via Manhattan. When the money is there, G train upgrades are seemingly on the top of the MTA’s list. But right now, with congestion price hopes dashed and a nation on the brink of a recession, the G train activists are simply fighting for the right causes but at a very wrong time.

Categories : Brooklyn, Queens
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