Building out just a small sliver of the proposed Triboro RX route could do wonders for mobility and transit access in Brooklyn. (Via Cap’n Transit)

When the MTA unveils its next five-year capital plan later this fall, the biggest ticket item will likely be a significant investment in Phase 2 of the Second Ave. Subway. It likely won’t, as I’ll discuss later this week, include funding for Staten Island projects that have been on various planners’ and advocates’ wishlists for years, and it won’t include any money for Triboro RX, that circumferential line proposed nearly 20 years ago by the RPA and talked up extensively by Elliot Sander six years back. These are projects without the right champions, but what if we took the Second Ave. approach?

For better or worse, the Second Ave. Subway is a multi-phase project, broken into bite sized pieces due to the whims of politicians who couldn’t stomach a $20 billion price tag for the full line. Instead, we have four phases — only two of which are useful together. Phases 3 and 4, the southern extensions south of the connection to the 63rd St. Tunnel, wouldn’t work independently whereas Phase 1 on its own would be successful and Phase 2 an added and much needed northern bonus. The multi-phased approach leads to higher costs and redundant work, but it also means parts of the subway line will come into service much sooner than otherwise expected.

As New York City struggles to expand its high speed, high capacity transit network, I wonder if the phased approach could work elsewhere, and I’m not alone. Cap’n Transit has picked up in this thread, in a way, in some posts on the Triboro RX line. What, he asked in a recent post, could be done now with a minimum amount of newbuild? The answer is plenty.

Reviving a 1969 plan the MTA put out during its infancy, the good Cap’n advocates for an O train that would use some of the Triboro RX right of way but would be a more feasible route. He writes:

Under this proposal, the L train would be split into two routes. At Broadway Junction (or maybe Halsey Street) they would diverge, with one continuing to the L current terminus in Canarsie. The other branch, which I’ll call the O train, would travel parallel to the L within the right-of-way of the Bay Ridge Branch, skipping a few stops but connecting to the 3 train at Junius Street. It would then follow the Bay Ridge Branch west through past Brooklyn College (with a transfer to the 2 train), terminating at the Brighton Line with a transfer to the Avenue H station.

This is only one possibility. Another way to handle it would be to run the B trains 24/7, turning them east on the Bay Ridge Branch to Broadway Junction – although riders in Brighton Beach and Sheepshead Bay would probably complain about losing express service. A third would be to have the O and B trains overlap, providing more frequent service.

That seems to be all that can reasonably be done with the existing trackage without sharing tracks with freight trains or pouring lots of concrete. There is a four-track section between Broadway Junction and Fresh Pond Yard, but there’s not much reason to send L (or J or C) trains up there. If you’ve ever taken the M to the end of the line you’ll understand why – it’s not much of a destination.

Running trains on this section would bring train service to a large section of Brooklyn that currently has none, and provide access to potential sites for new housing in these areas. There is no need to wait for a full build of the “TriboroRx” line – that was just somebody’s idea. It should be explored now.

Building out new stations and retrofitting existing ones for a parallel train service wouldn’t come cheap; you can take a look at the state of the ROW in an old Forgotten NY post. But then again, neither will building out the entire Triboro RX, and the political and economic barriers currently preventing any real planning work will exist into the foreseeable future.

But by chopping this project up into pieces, it’s easier for local champions to carry the torch, and it’s easier to find the money to make it one step closer to a reality. As Cap’n Transit noted, there’s no need to wait until some faraway time when Triboro RX becomes a priority (because that time is, more likely than not, never). Let’s start working on smaller pieces today.

Categories : Triboro RX
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In a little bit more than a week, G train service between Queens and Brooklyn will resume. Riders won’t notice many changes, but the MTA wants its customers to know what work is proceeding apace. The agency released this video yesterday to highlight the construction. Take a peak. The rest of this weekend’s light service changes follows.


From 11:00 p.m. Saturday, August 23 to 6:00 a.m. Sunday, August 24, and from 11:00 p.m. Sunday, August 24 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, August 25, New Lots Av-bound 4 trains run local from 125 St to Grand Cantral-42 St due to CPM cable work south of 125 St.


From 11:45 p.m. Friday, August 22 to 4:00 a.m. Monday, August 25, Pelham Bay Park-bound 6 trains run express from Hunts Point Av to Parkchester due to MOW track tie block renewal south of Whitlock Av and track panel installation north of Elder Av.


From 7:30 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. Saturday, August 23 and from 11:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. Sunday, August 24, 6 trains run every 16 minutes between 3 Av-138 St and Pelham Bay Park due to MOW track tie block renewal south of Whitlock Av and track panel installation north of Elder Av. The last stop for some 6 trains headed toward Pelham Bay Park is 3 Av-138 St.


From 11:45 p.m. Saturday, August 23 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, August 25, Inwood-207 St-bound A trains are rerouted on the F line from Jay St-MetroTech W 4 St Wash Sq, then run local to 59 St-Columbus Circle due to CPM air quality testing and preparation for Hurricane Sandy Work.


From 6:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. Sunday, August 24, 168 St-bound C trains are rerouted on the F line from Jay St-MetroTech W 4 St Wash Sq, due to CPM air quality testing and preparation for Hurricane Sandy Work.


From 11:45 p.m. Friday, August 22 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, August 25, Coney Island- Stillwell Av-bound D trains are rerouted on the N line from 36 St to Coney Island-Stillwell Av due to MOW rail and plate renewal south of 36 St.


From 12:30 a.m. Saturday, August 23, to 5:00 a.m. Monday, August 25, E trains run local in Queens due to CPM signal modernization at Forest Hills-71 Av and Kew Gardens-Union Tpke, and MOW track maintenance and rail repairs between Queens Plaza and 65 St.


From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, August 23, to 5:00 a.m. Monday, August 25, F trains run local in Queens due to CPM signal modernization at Forest Hills-71 Av and Kew Gardens-Union Tpke, and MOW track maintenance and rail repairs between Queens Plaza and 65 St.


From 11:45 p.m. Friday, August 22 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, August 25, N trains are suspended between Lexington Av/59 St and Queensboro Plaza due to MOW track and plate work in the 60th Street Tube, chip and pour south of 5 Av/53 St, and switch work south of Queensboro Plaza. Take the 7 train for service between Manhattan and Queens.


From 11:45 p.m. Friday, August 22 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, August 25, Coney Island-bound Q trains run express from Kings Hwy to Sheepshead Bay due to MOW track work at Sheepshead Bay.


From 11:45 p.m. Friday, August 22 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, August 25, Q trains are suspended between 57 St-7 Av and Times Sq-42 St due to MOW track and plate work in the 60th Street Tube, chip and pour south of 5 Av/53 St, and switch work south of Queensboro Plaza. Take the NR instead.


From 6:30 a.m. to 12 midnight Saturday, August 23, and Sunday, August 24, R service is extended to Jamaica-179 St due to MOW Jamaica Yard lead switch reconstruction.


From 6:30 a.m. to 12 midnight Saturday, August 23, and Sunday, August 24, R trains are rerouted on the F line both directions between Manhattan and Queens due to work in the 60th Street Tube, chip and pour south of 5 Av/53 St, and switch work south of Queensboro Plaza.

Categories : Service Advisories
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Thanks to some messed up mid-day headways on the IRT express on Wednesday, I had a few minutes to kill at Chambers St. following some meetings downtown. As I waited for the next uptown train to arrive, I had the opportunity to soak in the sights at a key transfer point between the express and local trains. Tourists tend to congregate there to and from Battery Park City, and Tribeca is directly overhead.

At the northern end of the uptown tracks, the wall is a mess. That’s what the photo atop this post shows. From a combination of runoff, water damage and who knows — or wants to know — what else, the wall has taken on a mulit-hued tone nearly reminiscent of art. If the MTA slapped a brass plaque on the wall, you could confuse this mural for an Arts for Transit installation, but the damage to the old mosaics showing Kings College as it used to be are a dead giveaway.

Over the years, I’ve seen these walls go from bad to worse, and today, it’s hard to find a patch of white tile untouched by the destructive elements. Unlike the long patch of black soot that remains on Grand Central’s ceiling as a reminder of what once obscured the majestic mural, this damage is simply a matter of the never-ending battle to achieve a State of Good Repair. Until the tiles fall off the wall, the damage is merely cosmetic and doesn’t interrupt transit operations, but there’s something to be said for a clean presentation.

Today, Chambers St. is a strange of amalgam of a station. The mezzanine level, replete with ADA-compliant elevator ramps and an open view of the trains entering and leaving the station from the south, is a gem, and the floor exists as part of a long-forgotten 2009 pilot program to combat the scourge of gum spots. It was to be cheaper and easier to maintain, but after five years, only one station has ever seen the floor arrive. The platform levels though haven’t been renovated in some time, and the wall shows its age.

In a sense, presenting a nicer station is akin to the Broken Windows theory of transit ops. Tiles are purely aesthetic but serve as signals to passengers. If the station looks nice, maybe riding the rails won’t seem to be as much of a burden as many New Yorkers make it out to be. Maybe they’ll be kinder and gentler to the subway system. For now, though, it makes for a dramatic photo. State of some repair indeed.

For more scenes from our subway system and more, check out Second Ave. Sagas on Instagram, and give me a follow there.

Every few years, politicians from Rockland County drum up some outrage over their inclusion in the MTA, and every few years, they demand something — usually more — while bemoaning having to pay more. It’s an odd little dance that isn’t entirely without a sound basis in fact, but it also underscores the inherent contradictions in New York State politics and how no one is ever held responsible for them.

The latest come to us from Rockland County Legislative Chairman Alden Wolfe and Legislator Harriet Cornell who is the Chair of the Special Committee on Transit. As part of the MTA Every One Has a Pet Project Commission Reinvention Commission, the two sent comments with their views on reinvention. Wolfe’s words were fairly neutral. “Rockland has documented for years the disparity in the tax revenues generated from Rockland,” he said, “which far exceed annual expenditures made by the MTA to serve the County: it’s a $40 million value gap.”

I delved into that study back in 2012 when Rockland started making noises about leaving the MTA. It was not without merit, and SAS commenters found it to be at least discussion-worthy. I thought it didn’t quite account for the positive benefits of regular, if sporadic, train service.

Cornell used her statement as a soapbox. “Institutional, intergovernmental and jurisdictional barriers are at the heart of MTA’s insufficient attention to Rockland’s transit needs,” she said. “Rockland on the west side of the Hudson is a transportation orphan, long overdue for substantial new investment in our transportation infrastructure. The MTA has not met customer needs!”

Most New Yorkers west of the Hudson would love to be as “orphaned” as Rockland which, as I noted, has regular, if sporadic, service. But maybe Rockland deserves an improvement. Let’s see what happened when the state last tried to raise revenue for transit service. If you guessed “complain about the payroll tax,” well, you’re the next contestant on “The Gripe Is Right.”

In 2009, when the state approved the MTA Payroll Tax as a funding measure for the cash-starved MTA, the same two Rockland County legislators complaining this week led the charge to oppose the payroll tax and agitate for withdrawal from the MTA, a threat that seems to disproportionately impact only themselves. Perhaps Rockland needs to learn a lesson in politics: Sometimes you have to give first if you want to receive later.

Ultimately, Rockland does seem to draw a shorter end of the straw than the rest of the MTA counties, but moaning about improvements on the one hand while objecting to funding schemes five years earlier isn’t productive policymaking. It is though business as usual when it comes to transit politics in New York. How frustrating.

Categories : MTA Politics
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In 2014, this brightly lit G train covered in fake graffiti is what passes for a view of 1980s New York. (Photo via Shavon Meyers/Facebook)

For those New Yorkers of a certain age and certain background, the concept of an “authentic” city experience always seems just out of reach. We live in the era of super-tall buildings with $50 million apartments, brownstones in Bed Stuy that trade for $2 million, and a designer clothing store inhabiting the former home of the Ramones, Talking Heads and Misfits. Immigrants dressed as superheroes and cartoon characters are a far cry from Times Square’s halcyon days of strippers and drug addicts, and the East Village embodied by Jonathan Larson’s Rent is a distant memory. The Bronx is booming, not burning.

For long-time New Yorkers, the city has lost some of the je ne sais quoi that made it special. Sure, it’s safe, and anyone who bought an apartment 30 or 40 years ago is sitting on a valuable investment indeed, but the grittiness of Old New York is no longer with us. It’s too safe; it’s too sterile; it’s too much of a playground for the rich. The cleanup efforts that started under Rudy Giuliani culminated in a 12-year Bloomberg mayoralty, and today, New York is a big booming city that’s pushing gentrification into areas that, 10 of 15 years ago, seemed impregnable and immune to the coffee shop-and-kale expansion.

Nothing quite encapsulates New York’s rebound from the depths of Drop Dead 1970s quite like the subway. Today, nearly 6 million people per day ride the subways, but in the nadir of the 1980s, Crime — not of the “Showtime!” variety — breakdowns, track fires and derailments were the norm. The Bernhard Goetz shooting came to symbolize an era of unrest when subway ridership was sparse, and on one would ride late night through certain neighborhoods. Ridership in 1982 was 938 million; ridership in 2013 was 1.708 billion. We ride at 2 a.m. without thinking; thirty years ago, this was unimaginable.

For younger New Yorkers, for transplants, for children of the late 1980s who came to New York for that authentic experience, it’s gone. The L train has new rolling stock and is packed to the gills 24/7. The J and Z trains ride through some gentrified and gentrifying neighborhoods, and a trip through East New York is simply a means to get to JFK or the beaches in the Rockaways. This is the New York of the 2010s; this is not New York of the movies. Kurt Russell escaped, and the city hasn’t been the same.

Still, that desire for authenticity persists which leads me to Shaina Stigler, a 25-year-old performer who, according to reports, moved to New York in 2007 and this past weekend tried to recreate an era for which she wasn’t alive. When the Daily News first reported on the 1980s recreation set for a G train on Friday, I was inherently skeptical. While I’m no fan of the bank-ification of Manhattan real estate, development and growth should be encouraged, and for many reasons, I find fetishizing nostalgia highly problematic. It focuses on the image of grittiness without exploring what were deep-rooted crises and social ills plaguing the city.

Stigler’s piece though was ostensibly art and a means for self-expression. In one sense, that drive to create and perform has been a part of New York through good times and bad and will always be an undercurrent in the life of the city. And yet, in reading, Sarah Goodyear’s wrap up of the subway takeover, I had the distinct sense that this was the 1980s through the lens of the privileged class of 2014 New Yorkers. Stigler claimed she wanted to recreat what Goodyear termed the “grimy, traumatic, and glorious ’80s,” but from the photos, this was heavy on the glorious, low on the grimy and traumatic.

To recreate the scene, Stigler decked out a car in plastic wrap and had a graffiti artist create the illusion of a tagged car. They even enjoyed the company of old Guardian Angels, though none of them faked any crimes on Friday. It seems and sounds surreal. “My generation romanticizes that time,” Stigler said to Goodyear. “I think as artists in particular, we are definitely feeling a lack of authenticity in the city. As it gets cleaned up and made more beautiful, it’s lost a lot of what made it great to begin with. Back then it was more of a life or death thing. It was, How much are you willing to risk to be an artist or whatever you want to be? Through that adversity and through that struggle, amazing, beautiful things can happen.”

The 1980s in New York were not a rough time for everyone, but the adversity that Stigler mentions today involves waiting a few extra minutes for a G train that, thirty years ago, the crowd celebrating on Friday would never have ridden. The adversity of the 1980s included a crack epidemic and the AIDS crisis. It featured parents so overly concerned for their kids’ safety that some of my friends — native New Yorkers at that — took their first ever subway rides when we went to Yankee Stadium to celebrate my 10th birthday. This ain’t no party, David Byrne once sung, and it wasn’t.

But we can remember through nostalgia too and hold onto parts of forgotten New York that made people want to come to the city in the first place. If we forget, do we lose that part as well? Dwelling on the negative without celebrating the positive will make us forget why we’re here and why so many people wanted to be here. Authenticity is ultimately what each person makes of it, and it’s a balancing act. Maybe there is no authentic New York and maybe there never was. Maybe authentic New York is what each person makes of it every day.

Categories : Subway History
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At some point, I halfheartedly expect Staten Island voters to wise up to the ways of their politicians and stop reelecting them. But then I always remember that I value transit support more than most city voters. There is no hope, and Staten Island representatives are free to, say, take away Select Bus Service indicators on the one hand while whining about lack of transit improvements on the other. It’s a time-honored tradition like no other.

The details behind Senator Andrew Lanza’s recent comments almost don’t even matter. He’s complaining that the MTA eliminated a bus a few years ago that had around 700 riders per Saturday and 400 riders per Sunday — lowest among all SI buses. A bunch of Staten Island representatives gathered to protest the MTA’s decision not to restore the bus, and with the recorders on, Lanza went to town:

Senator Andrew Lanza and Assemblyman Michael Cusick joined Matteo, alongside the Amalgamated Transit Union at Saturday’s press conference, held at the corner of Manor Road and Croak Street. In the only borough without a subway system, Cusick (D-Mid Island) stressed the importance of bus availability, saying, “We need safe, reliable bus service here on Staten Island.”

Lanza (R-Staten Island) slammed the MTA for continuously “forgetting” about Staten Island and thanked Matteo for taking up the S54 issue.

“When it comes to transportation on the Island, we’ve been forgotten by the MTA,” Lanza said. “No where has the MTA failed more miserably to provide adequate public transportation than here on Staten Island. The message today is very simple: MTA, do your job.”

Even if you feel the S54 should be restored, these statements are rich comedy from Lanza. As you may recall (or can’t forget), Lanza used Tom Prendgerast’s confirmation hearing in 2013 to rail about transit improvements for six minutes without pause. He spoke for longer than the candidate, and he dismissed MTA promises to cut seven minutes off bus commutes. He has since vowed to attempt to roll back dedicated bus lanes on Staten Island.

Meanwhile, Lanza’s petulance has a city-wide impact too. Once upon a time, Select Bus Service vehicles had flashing blue lights that easily distinguished them from a distance from local buses running the same routes. But Lanza, who was somehow offended by these lights, discovered they violated a state law, and he essentially ordered the MTA to shut them off. He hasn’t permitted movement on a bill that would allow the MTA to use purple lights instead, and it’s been 20 months since the lights on the SBS buses last were on.

So it’s easy for a politician to believe past actions won’t come back to haunt him. More Staten Islanders feel the MTA “failed…Staten Island” because there’s no subway, but there’s no subway because politicians like Senator Lanza have never believed in funding the MTA or working to support incremental and important improvements. They want more now and they don’t want to pay for it. This is the behavior of a spoiled child, and Lanza continues to be the figurehead for Staten Island’s transit problems.

As an endnote, a few weeks ago, the New York State Assembly hosted a hearing on transit for Staten Island, Brooklyn, and Queens. amNew York reporter Dan Rivoli was on the scene and offered up this take:

Need I say more?

Categories : Staten Island
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There’s a whole slate of weekend work ahead of us, but before we delve in, let’s take a second to discuss MetroCard Vending Machines. From 1 a.m. until 9:30 a.m. at the latest, MetroCard Vending Machines will not take credit or debit cards. The MTA is performing routine maintenance, and any fare transactions will be cash only. This should be great fun for those drunk riders trying to get home without a valid MetroCard. By Saturday morning, the system will be up and running, and Mayor de Blasio can continue to not pay his fares.

On to the next…


From 11:30 p.m. Friday, August 15 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, August 18, 1 trains are suspended between 96 St and Van Cortlandt Park-242 St due to CPM Brick Arch Repair at 168 St and 181 St, and repair work in the area of 125 St. AC trains, M3 and free shuttle buses provide alternate service.


From 11:00 p.m. Saturday, August 16 to 6:00 a.m. Sunday, August 17, and from 11:00 p.m. Sunday, August 17 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, August 18, New Lots Av-bound 4 trains run local from 125 St to Grand Cantral-42 St due to CPM cable work south of 125 St.


From 11:45 p.m. Friday, August 15 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, August 18, 5 trains are suspended between Eastchester-Dyre Av and E180 St due to CPM Signal Modernization on the Dyre Ave Line. Free shuttle buses operate between Eastchester-Dyre Av and E180 St all weekend.


From 11:45 p.m. Friday, August 15 to 4:00 a.m. Monday, August 18, Brooklyn Bridge-bound 6 trains run express from Pelham Bay Park to Parkchester due to station rehabilitation work at Buhre Av and Zerega Av, and platform edge and canopy work at Pelham Bay Park.


From 11:45 p.m. Friday, August 15 to 4:00 a.m. Monday, August 18, Pelham Bay Park-bound 6 trains run express from Hunts Point Av to Parkchester due to MOW track tie block renewal south of Whitlock Av and track panel installation north of Elder Av.


From 7:30 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. Saturday, August 16 and from 11:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. Sunday, August 17, 6 trains run every 16 minutes between 3 Av-138 St and Pelham Bay Park due to MOW track tie block renewal south of Whitlock Av and track panel installation north of Elder Av. The last stop for some 6 trains headed toward Pelham Bay Park is 3 Av-138 St.


From 11:45 p.m. Friday, August 15, to 5:00 a.m. Monday, August 18, A trains are suspended between Ozone Park-Lefferts Blvd and Rockaway Blvd due to CPM 88 St station rehabilitation. Far Rockaway-Mott Av-bound A trains skip 88 St and Rockaway Blvd. Free shuttle buses operate between 80 St and Lefferts Blvd, stopping at 88 St, Rockaway Blvd, 104 St, and 111 St.


From 11:45 p.m. to 6:30 a.m. Friday, August 15 to Sunday, August 17, and from 11:45 p.m. Sunday, August 17 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, August 18, Inwood-207 St-bound A trains run express from Canal St to 59 St-Columbus Circle to due to CPM preparation for Hurricane Sandy Work.


From 11:45 p.m. Friday, August 15, to 5:00 a.m. Monday, August 4, A trains are suspended in both directions between 168 St and Inwood-207 St due to MOW track tie renewal near 181 St. Free shuttle buses provide alternate service.


From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, August 16 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, August 18, Queens-bound A trains run local from 168 St to 59 St-Columbus Circle due to MOW track maintenance and rail work north of 59 St-Columbus Circle.


From 6:30 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. Saturday, August 16, and Sunday, August 17, 168 St-bound C trains run express from Canal St to 59 St-Columbus Circle to due to CPM preparation for Hurricane Sandy Work.


From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, August 16 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, August 18, Coney Island- Stillwell Av-bound D trains run local from 145 St to 59 St-Columbus Circle due to MOW track maintenance and rail work north of 59 St-Columbus Circle.


12:30 a.m. Saturday, August 16, to 5:00 a.m. Monday, August 18, E trains run local in Queens due to CPM signal modernization at Forest Hills-71 Av and Kew Gardens-Union Tpke, and MOW track tie renewal at 65 St.


From 11:15 p.m. Friday, August 15, to 5:00 a.m. Monday, August 18, Coney Island-bound F trains are rerouted via the M line from Jackson Hts-Roosevelt Av to 47-50 Sts Rock Ctr due to Second Avenue Subway construction work.


From 11:45 p.m. Friday, August 15 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, August 18, Jamaica 179 St-bound F trains are rerouted via the A line from Jay St-MetroTech to W 4 St-Wash Sq due to CPM preparation for Hurricane Sandy work.


From 12:30 a.m. Saturday, August 15, to 5:00 a.m. Monday, August 18, F trains run local in Queens due to CPM signal modernization at Forest Hills-71 Av and Kew Gardens-Union Tpke and MOW track tie renewal at 65 St.


From 6:30 a.m. to 12 midnight Saturday, August 16, and Sunday, August 17, R service is extended to Jamaica-179 St due to MOW Jamaica Yard lead switch reconstruction.

Categories : Service Advisories
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As a general disclaimer, I’m on the board of the Riders Alliance. I don’t allow that position to cloud my views and judgment. Make of it what you will.

Over the past few years, since John Raskin’s Riders Alliance entered the scene, the grassroots organizing advocacy group has gotten the attention of the MTA in some unique ways. Along with strong support from Daniel Squadron, the Alliance has convinced the MTA to conduct targeted line reviews for individual subway routes, and so far, the F, G and L have all seen concrete analyses and improvements as a direct result.

A few months back, during his MTA confirmation hearing, Tom Prendergast let slip that he would consider full line reviews for the entire system. In a sense, this was a surprising thing to say off the cuff because Prendergast was essentially committing significant MTA resources to around 20 individual line reviews. In another sense, it seemed shocking that regular internal studies of subway lines wasn’t already a part of the MTA’s operational handbook. Nothing really came of it, and a few months ago, Squadron sent a letter asking for an update.

Quietly, the MTA has tried to distance itself from the full line review, and in a larger Gotham Gazette piece about the Riders Alliance, the MTA went on the record in downplaying Prendergast’s comments. Read the entire piece for a deep dive into current advocacy efforts, and I’ll excerpt the key parts on the line reviews.

Chairman of the MTA Thomas Prendergast has said in the past that he supports an eventual full-line review of every line in the system and many activists have encouraged the chairman to make that happen. However, MTA spokesperson Kevin Ortiz told Gotham Gazette that each full-line review is a massive long-term undertaking. Ortiz said the reviews require a significant number of staff and good deal of money. Those staff come from both the MTA’s planning and operating units, financing is always a major challenge, and the reviews can not be performed quickly. “The A and C line review is something that will take some time. We can’t start that right away, so it will probably get completed at some point in 2015,” said Ortiz.

Ortiz added that the cost alone would prevent any comprehensive review of all subway lines in the immediate future. “That’s just not going to happen,” he said. Explaining that a full-line review requires the MTA to examine every aspect related to a line’s operation, Ortiz detailed that this includes ridership, infrastructure, scheduling, and service design down to the efficiency of shared trackage with another line…

MTA’s Ortiz notes, too, that despite the exhilaration activists and politicians may feel over improvements brought by full-line reviews, some of the more lasting improvements, such as the dramatic uptick in train frequency along full-line review veteran, the L line, were in fact due to multi-million-dollar investments in new infrastructure.

As Cody Lyon details, that multi-million-dollar investment concerns communications-based train control which allows the MTA to significantly ramp up capacity along individual subway lines. It is, in fact, the key driver behind capacity increases along the L line, but it’s a significantly large investment with no clear future throughout the city or funding sources.

To me, though, this shouldn’t be an either/or proposition. Out of the line reviews came common sense upgrades that improved train service and customer-facing relations. The MTA should figure out a way to assess its system every few years without the urgings from politicians. If that’s no way to make that a part of a $13 billion operating budget, I worry for the future of rationalized and convenient transit designed to meet demand.

Furthermore, the big-ticket items need funding and support as well. The line review can only go so far before the need to spend millions or billions on signal and communications upgrades kick in. As stewards of the subway, though, it’s up to the MTA to do both, and right now, they seem to be struggling with this mandate.

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New neighborhood maps designed by Pentagram are centered around the station in which they hang. (Photo via New York City Transit)

New neighborhood maps designed by Pentagram are centered around the station in which they hang. (Photo via New York City Transit)

Massimo Vignelli’s original vision for subway wayfinding involved three pieces — a schematic map, a guide to subway service and a geographically accurate neighborhood map for immediate navigation aboveground. At various points in time, these elements all caught on but not at once when the late designer introduced the concept in the early 1970s. Today, in my opinion, the MTA’s neighborhood maps, complete with nearby landmarks and subway staircase location, are the most useful of the various guides and maps the agency offers, and this week, Transit formally announced a redesign in conjunction with NYC DOT’s WalkNYC wayfinding initiative.

“This partnership with the MTA allows for consistent maps above and below ground, making it easier for users to reach their destinations,” NYC DOT Commissioner and MTA Board Member Polly Trottenberg said. “We’re excited to provide this resource to New Yorkers and tourists to find their way in the city.”

For over two decades, the MTA has maintained neighborhood maps through shifting subway service patterns and changes above ground. Currently, the agency has 68 maps in all 468 subway stations, each with a radius of around 15-30 blocks. The current iteration is imprecise as the same map you’ll see in, say, Union St. is the same as the one hanging at Grand Army Plaza or 15th Street-Prospect Park stations. The new Pentagram-designed maps will instead be centered around the station in which they hang and incorporate the design of the WalkNYC wayfinding maps but with more information relating to other transit options included local, express and SBS lines. The new maps will focus on around only 12 blocks instead.

“Though we’ve kept the MTA’s neighborhood maps up-to-date, this is the first redesign since the original set created more than 20 years ago and will be extremely helpful to subway customers as they leave the system and look for neighborhood points of interest,” Paul Fleuranges, the MTA’s Senior Director of Corporate and Internal Communications, said. “With this new map, everyone will rely on one way-finding system, both above and below ground.”

The station schematics in the neighborhood maps will remain in the new versions.

The station schematics in the neighborhood maps will remain in the new versions.

To me, as I noted, the best part of the current maps are the station footprints. These maps are generally displayed in the fare control areas with diagrams showing exactly where, aboveground, staircases lead. It’s convenient for exiting and even more so for entering at unfamiliar stations. When I first saw the new maps, I thought this vital cog had been removed, but upon closer examination, and with a confirmation from the MTA, I learned this was not only not the case but a real reason why the maps will be slowly rolled out throughout the city. “Of course the new neighborhood maps contain subway stairway info,” an MTA spokesman said to me. “That was actually one of the time consuming things as station shapes and entrances are not in the DOT’s database of information.”

The new signs are currently in five stations that all intersect the SBS B44′s route. The list includes Bedford-Nostrand on the G, the Nostrand Ave. stations along the 3 and A/C, and the 2 and 5 trains’ President and Sterling St. stations. It’s a subtle, but positive, improvement for the benefit of customers.

Categories : Subway Maps
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Tomorrow I should have something more on the new neighborhood maps the MTA is slowly unveiling throughout the city as part of NYC DOT’s WalkNYC, but for now, you’ll have to wait. I have an inquiry in concerning a certain feature that likely is still in place in a diminished form, and I’d like to get out to Crown Heights to snap some photos. Sit tight. Tonight, instead, I have a news round-up.

Bed bugs found on — and now gone from — the N train

It’s been a while since we’ve had a good old fashioned bed bug scare in the subway. The last one, in fact, dates from the height of the bed bug infestation in 2008 when wooden subway benches seemed to provide a safe haven for the cimicid insects. The problem came roaring back into the headlines last week when a few N trains were taken out of service due to reports of insect sightings. The infested cars — and the rest of their trains — were fumigated, and the R160s were placed back in service. While the Daily News reported of a bed bug sighting on the 5 over the weekend, the MTA has said that its trains, as far as agency personnel know, are now free from these bugs. I wouldn’t have had much of an occasion to ride the N train since the infestation first hit the news. Have you?

Transit testing track detection system at Rector St. unidentified station

As the MTA responds to last year’s brouhaha over subway/passenger collision deaths, the agency has moved forward with plans to test a track intrusion detection system. Pete Donohue had the opportunity to tour the setup at the unidentified station as part of a Daily News exclusive, but as the MTA allowed photos, it soon because obvious which station is hosting this pilot. As a few astute Subchatters posited, it appears as though Rector St. — which these days sees limited service due to the Sandy-related R train closure — is playing host to the system. Without 24/7 R service, the MTA can test the system without interrupting live train service. Donohue had more details:

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority has been testing several “track intrusion” detection systems at a secret location — featuring thermal imaging cameras, laser-beam transmitters and other high-tech tools intended to alert the motorman if someone falls on the tracks. The tests have gone so well, transit executives now expect to begin installing one or more of the systems in subway stations during the 2015-2019 capital program, officials told the Daily News. “It’s not going to happen at 468 stations overnight, but once we determine the best technology, and identify funding sources, we can go out and start deployment,” MTA spokesman Adam Lisberg said…

Konal Kumar, an associate project manager, lowered a large inflated rubber ball, wrapped with thin cable, from the platform. The breach was detected by laser beams scanning the platform edge. Automatically, diamond-shaped signals, which instruct motormen to slow down, began flashing along 300 feet of track that leads into the station. Closed-circuit television cameras, meanwhile, transmitted live video feeds to a monitor set up in the station for the demonstration. When fully implemented, video will be displayed on dispatchers’ screens in the Rail Control Center in Midtown, along with schematics showing exactly where along the platform the track intrusion occurred, a detail that will help first responders.

Train operators won’t immediately slam the brakes. They will slow down but only halt if they see someone on the tracks, or are directed to stop completely by a dispatcher, Bienstock said.

According to Donohue, the system could cost between $50,000 and $500,000 per station — a huge range that could lead to massive costs for the MTA. Would platform edge doors, similar to those found in Tokyo, be a more affordable solution? MTA estimates say no, but either way, a systemwide solution will be costly and ultimately imperfect. The lives saved over the course of the system’s useful life will though likely be worth it.

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