Litter may stop here, but is anyone around to clean it up?

Having spent so much time traveling over the past few months, I’ve missed some key bits of subway news. While the broad strokes — a still-unopened 7 line extension, a renewed focus on opening the Second Ave. Subway on time, no action from Gov. Cuomo on the MTA’s capital funding gap — haven’t escaped my attention, some important items that deserve a post slipped by. One of those items was a May report from Scott Stringer’s office on the MTA’s inadequate cleaning efforts.

Over the past few years, the MTA has faced mounting criticism over trash and rats. One thing I noticed while traveling abroad is how utterly devoid other subway systems are of garbage on the tracks, garbage on the platforms, garbage bags sitting around. On the one hand, that’s because these systems shut down at night which give crews the ability to clean without disrupting service. On the other, keeping stations cleaner seems more ingrained in the cultural norms surrounding transit ridership. (Subway car cleanliness is a different beast.)

In New York, the MTA has tried to eliminate garbage cans from certain stations to encourage riders to take trash out of the system, and constant announcements remind us that trash can cause track fires and, thus, delays. Without an equal effort on the MTA’s part to actually clean, though, asking nicely won’t amount to much, and in that regard, according to the New York City comptroller, the MTA’s efforts are lagging woefully behind.

“The MTA is constantly reminding riders to clean up after themselves, but they’re setting a poor example by letting piles of trash on the tracks fester for months on end,” Stringer said. “Our auditors observed rats scurrying over the tracks and onto subway platforms, and it’s almost as if they were walking upright – waiting to take the train to their next meal. This is a daily, stomach-turning insult to millions of straphangers, and it’s unworthy of a world-class City.”

The report — available here as a PDF — paints a rather unflattering picture. Noting that the MTA has stressed Fastrack as a way to improve station and system cleanliness, Stringer highlights just how far its own goals the MTA is, especially considering the $240 million per year the MTA spends on cleaning and maintenance. For instance, the MTA wants its stations cleaned once every three weeks, and Stringer’s team found during its one-year audit that only seven stations were cleaned that frequently. Most underground stations were cleaned around 3-6 times per year while some were cleaned just once. One station — 138th St. on the Lexington Ave. IRT — wasn’t cleaned at all.

Meanwhile, as far as track cleanliness goes, the MTA aims to clean all tracks twice a year, but Stringer’s team found that the agency’s vacuum trains aren’t up to the task. One of the two trains was out of service for nearly the entire 12-month audit period while the functioning train picked up only around 30% of the debris. “Virtually all of the same trash,” the report noted, “remained in the roadbed after the vacuum train was employed to clean it up.”

For its part, the MTA didn’t dispute Stringer’s findings too aggressively and, in fact, agreed with most of them. The agency is buying three new vacuum trains that should be better than the two currently on hand, and they are working to better deploy cleaning crews to dirtier areas. But ultimately, these problems are economic and systematic. The MTA needs to — and should — budget more for cleaning crews. Stations are the most customer-facing part of the system, and they should be viewed as the visual presentation of the system. Riders take cues from their environment, and right now, the environment screams “garbage.” With the money to clean — and perhaps some flexibility on who can clean from the union — the system overall would look and feel much more inviting.

“Fares keep going up, but anyone who takes the trains can tell you that we haven’t seen a meaningful reduction in rats, garbage and peeling paint,” Stringer said. “New York City Transit management needs to get its priorities straight and start deploying its resources to help improve conditions underground.”

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I’ve written extensively about Governor Cuomo’s attitude toward the subways. A self-proclaimed car guy, Cuomo doesn’t seem to understand the importance a healthy transit network plays in the growth and sustainability of New York City and its effect on the New York State economy. And so Cuomo has been unwilling to listen to advocate call for solutions to the MTA’s capital funding gap, and the fear of massive fare hikes or service cuts loom large while low-hanging fruit, such as the Move New York plan, are left in limbo.

To draw attention to the MTA’s funding plights and the pressure record ridership is placing on the system, the Riders Alliance has previously invited Cuomo for a rush-hour subway ride, and the governor has met the invitation with silence. So the advocates took matters into their own hands and dragged Cuomo — or at least a facsimile of him — onto the subway. Take a look at Streetsfilm’s accompanying video. It is an excellent piece of theatrical advocacy. If only the real Cuomo were paying any attention.

Meanwhile, there are weekend changes on every line except the Shuttles and the G train. They follow after the jump. Read More→

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So it’s been quite a whirlwind spring and early summer for me. Since early May, as many of you, especially those who follow me on Instagram, know, I’ve been to Berlin, Stockholm, Chicago, Boston and Paris, with my own wedding in between. I’ve ridden high-speed trains through France and Sweden, and I’ve had the opportunity to ride subways or Metros in six different cities including New York. It’s eye-opening to see what other cities are doing that we’re not and what works and what doesn’t.

Over the next week, while also exploring local issues such as the MTA’s trash problems and potential sources of Second Ave. Subway delays, I’d like to offer some observations regarding these other transit networks. I don’t think everything outside of New York is perfect, but there are certain practices the MTA could easily adopt that would improve everyone’s rides. First among those are open gangways — something I wrote about in April. Trains in Berlin, Stockholm and Paris all enjoyed open gangways, and it’s a marked improvement in terms of access and crowding.

The other real revelation concerns integration between various different modes of transit through city centers. In both Berlin and Paris, the more suburban-focused rail lines — the S-Bahn and the RER, respectively — operate essentially as Metros through the city center. They both run on subway-like frequencies, and fare structure for intra-city travel is the same as it would be on the U-Bahn or Paris’ Metro. Such operational practices improve mobility and, again, reduce crowding.

I’ll delve more in depth on these topics later, but needless to say, not everything is perfect. These systems do not run 24 hours a day, and the absence of air conditioning was a major drawback last week in Paris when temperatures outside were hovering at the 100-degree mark. And the routing of Paris’ Metro lines was apparently put to paper by a guy half asleep drawing semi-circles and meandering lines around the city. But again, more on that later. I’m still battling jetlag so I’ll be brief tonight. There’s plenty more to come.

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Since the MTA and New York City’s DOT debuted Select Bus Service in 2008, I haven’t been particularly impressed by the program or the rollout. Heralded as the next best thing in buses for New York City, it’s barely BRT-lite, and it’s taken nearly a decade for the city and MTA to identify and plan only a handful of best-practices improvements to local bus routes. If anything, adding bus lanes that aren’t physically separated with only the bare minimum of lane enforcement along with pre-boarding fare payment (and fare checks that, at the start, slowed down service) should be standard on nearly all local bus routes. That we’re still waiting on something as basic as signal prioritization is telling.

Meanwhile, while most countries with real bus infrastructure would view these upgrades as laughably modest, in New York City, they become somehow controversial. Take a lane away for parked cars or moving personal automobiles? You may be better off invading a small country. Suggest camera lane enforcement? Add flashing lights to a bus to distinguish service? Beware the wrath of know-nothing State Senators. (The MTA has finally introduced new destination signs that flash the words “+SELECT BUS” in amber on a blue background as subpar replacements for the blue lights. More on those soon.)

And yet, despite my skepticism, these SBS upgrades are real, if incremental, improvements, and if implemented properly, they ideally will help bolster ridership on city buses while cutting down on travel times. Thus, we as a city should embrace bus infrastructure and treat it as we would something positive. You try telling that to whoever’s responsible for this mess:

As you can see, Doug Gordon spotted this during his bike ride home on Tuesday. The SBS M15 stop near the Bowery Whole Foods is completed inundated with someone’s garbage bags and one of the fare payment machines is inaccessible as well. After some questioning, Whole Foods said to me that those bags weren’t theirs and instead belonged to the residential building above the store. I haven’t been able to reach the building yet, but Gordon tells me this is far from an isolated incident. It’s no way to treat a bus stop, let alone one that’s supposed to be a key stop on a flagship Select Bus Service line.

But that’s not the only way Select Bus Service is under attack. In a Gotham Gazette piece that follows months of anti-Select Bus Service writings, Allan Rosen, a former MTA planner and long-time reader and commenter on this site, claimed that the Woodhaven BRT plan could jeopardize the Second Ave. Subway. His rationale is that since the second phase of the Second Ave. Subway, estimated at around $4.5-$5 billion will compete with the $230 million BRT for New Starts funding, federally funded BRT could foreclose federal funds for the Second Ave. Subway.

This, of course, isn’t how the New Starts program works. The feds end up contributing money to nearly all projects deemed worthy, and they have, over the years, held up the Second Ave. Subway as the gold standard for worthiness based upon projected ridership. Meanwhile, the scale is off as Phase 2 of the Second Ave. Subway is far, far more likely to be delayed by inaction from Albany than by an alleged fight over a few hundred million dollars.

If we dig into the history of Phase 1 of the Second Ave. Subway, we see diverse funding sources. Of the approximately $4.86 billion the feds say Phase 1 will cost, $1.3 billion comes New Starts and around $50 million originates out of other federal programs. The remainder breaks down as follows: $450 million from the 2005 State Transportation Bond Act and over $3 billion from MTA dedicated sources and PAYGO operating funds. The New Starts money that could go to either SAS Phase 2 or Woodhaven BRT is a drop in the bucket, and it certainly isn’t the bus upgrade’s fault that a northward extension of the Second Ave. Subway may be delayed.

It’s ultimately an indictment of New York City’s willingness to mimic that buses and bus upgrades can come under attack from all corners. We live in a very dense city that relies on its transit network, and yet simple improvements take years to introduce and engender unnecessarily emotional debates over priorities and street space. If New Yorkers are serious about transit upgrades, it’s time to take the buses — BRT, Select Bus Service, whatever you want to call it — seriously. That starts with taking care of bus stops and continues with honest discussions over proper funding mechanisms. Right now, we’ve seen none of that.

Categories : Buses
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The A/C train’s Cranberry Tube was flooded during Superstorm Sandy. Repair work begins in July. (MTA New York City Transit / Leonard Wiggins)

As major events go, for many New Yorkers, Superstorm Sandy is beginning to feel like ancient history. The storm swept through the region in late October of 2012, and while we shouldn’t overlook those communities still rebuilding and recovering, large parts of the city were untouched by the storm’s destructiveness. Thus, there is no small bit of cognitive dissonance that arises when something major happens in the name of Sandy repairs.

One of the ways in which Sandy has affected many New Yorkers who never saw the flood waters take out their homes and neighborhoods is, of course, via the subways. We’ve seen the images of flooded tunnels, and Brooklynites in particular have lived through R and G train shutdowns for repairs. Lately, though, other than work piggy-backed onto the 7 line weekend shutdowns for CBTC installation, it seems as though Sandy repairs in the tunnels have come to a standstill. (Other Fix & Fortify work not visible to riders has continued apace.) In April of 2014, we learned that the A and C trains’ Cranberry Tube would be the next to undergo repair work, and as late as November, the MTA had planned to do the work on 40 weekends throughout 2015. Well, here we are in late June with nary a sign of work on the 8th Avenue line.

That’s about to change as the Daily News reports that Fix & Fortify work will begin on the Cranberry Tubes on July 11 and run for 40 non-consecutive weekends over the next 16 months. That means work on the A/C lines won’t end until the fourth anniversary of Sandy, and the MTA will still need to address damage to the F train’s Rutgers Tubes, the IRT’s Clark St. and Joralemon St. tunnels and, of course, the L train work, which might begin before the decade is out.

For the MTA, the slow pace of construction isn’t a new problem. As we’ve seen with other capital projects, the agency can move only so fast, and during my Problem Solvers in March, John O’Grady spoke about the challenges the MTA faces. From the logistics of organizing various crews from various contractors to the difficulties of getting heavy machinery into tunnels built before the era of heavy machinery to the fact that it just takes a long time to move equipment into mile-long tunnels to the reality that only so many contractors are qualified for this work, the MTA can’t spend money as fast as it wants or we want.

Recently, the city’s Independent Budget Office issued a report on the slow pace of MTA spending, and they concluded that the delay in Albany’s addressing the capital budget doesn’t matter because the MTA doesn’t really start spending that money right away anyway. They still have cash on hand — and projects to complete — from previous years’ capital programs. (We still need Albany to act, but that’s another matter entirely.)

The report touched upon Sandy recovery work as well. By the end of 2014, the MTA had committed just 16 percent of Sandy recovery funds — $1.6 billion out of $9.7 billion — to actual work. The rest are in the design and planning stages, and a quick glance through the latest CPOC Board book shows work yet to be done. The MTA, of course, wants to spend money and build, but something — institutional, structural, bureaucratic — slows the pace.

Sandy repairs are going to pick up again and again, but it’ll years until the system is healed. So long as another storm doesn’t sweep in while the MTA is fixing and fortifying, New Yorkers will adjust to the headaches of service diversions as we have regularly on the weekends for years. But don’t be surprised to hear New Yorkers express their own surprise that repairs in late 2016 or 2017 or even 2018 are related to Sandy. Time clears the memory of just what those floodwaters did.

Categories : Superstorm Sandy
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Later this week, when I head off to France for my honeymoon, I’ll have a second opportunity in as many months to walk through one of the Archer Ave. Line stations in Jamaica. The E train will take me from Midtown Manhattan to Sutphin Boulevard on a schleppy ride that woulda-coudla-shoulda been faster had the Super Express plan every materialized, and I’ll head off to the AirTrain by strolling through a station that opened in late 1988 but somehow, less than three decades later, looks post-Apocalyptic. Somehow, we’re okay with ushering tourists into the New York City Subway by showcasing a station with water-stained walls, visibly dusty ceiling panels and inadequate exits.

In one sense, the Archer Ave. subway lines is a quirk of history. It was designed to be part of a large-scale ambitious late-1960s system expansion that the city still badly needs. Very few pieces of that plan survived, and the Archer Ave. subway line was one of them — mostly due to the fact that Jamaica residents wanted to get rid of the elevated lines running through their neighborhood. Thus, the then-newly born MTA prioritized Archer Ave., and what opened in 1988 is a sign of the agency’s struggles to build anything on time, on budget and with any sense of aesthetics.

In another sense, though, the Archer Ave. line is a clear sign that history is repeating. By delving into the archives of news coverage surrounding this subway line, we see some very clear patterns emerge. On October 23, 1973, work began on the Archer Ave. line — a three-stop extension of preexisting subway lines — and the MTA expected work to be completed by 1980 or 1981. Initially, the agency held firm on that 1980 projected revenue service date, but by the late 1970s, the date kept slipping. First, the MTA expected to open the line in 1983, and then, as the city struggled with its finances throughout the mid-to-late 1970s, the agency had to push back the opening date to 1985 or 1986.

By the mid-1980s, the MTA and the feds were at odds over construction progress and quality. The federal Urban Mass Transportation Administration temporarily cut off MTA funding for both the 63rd St. tunnel and Archer Ave. extension over concerns related to leakage — a common theme in recent years — and concrete delivery issues. By then, it was clear that the opening for these new projects would be delayed again.

Eventually, the Archer Ave. line opened in late 1988, and no one was impressed. News coverage focused on how Archer Ave. was a tiny part of a larger, unfulfilled plan and one that didn’t solve the region’s transportation issues as it went nowhere. The Times editorial board thought the MTA had overplayed its announcements of new service, and residents told the agency to stop tooting its own horn. Today, these stations are hardly crown jewels of the subway system.

But what can we learn from Archer Ave.? Obviously, the need to invest system-wide in expansion and not just in piece-meal projects should be lesson number one. But lesson number two is that the system should not be starved of money for expansion simply because a project doesn’t open on time. We can look bad and sigh at this history, but when I ride the E to the AirTrain on Wednesday, I won’t really care that Sutphin Boulevard opened in 1988 instead of 1981. That’s ancient history to me and millions of New Yorkers who can enjoy the benefits, albeit limited, of construction from decades past.

All of which is a 600-word parable to get us to today. At both Second Ave. and Hudson Yards, the MTA is struggling to meet deadlines. The 7 line extension is likely to open 20-22 months late, and the MTA is working furiously to fulfill a promise to open Phase 1 of the Second Ave. Subway by the end of 2016, already years late. Politicians are starting to notice as the delays garner more headlines and lead to grumpy constituents, but their responses are more worrisome than anything else.

While speaking of the Second Ave. Subway last week, Councilman Ben Kallos had words about the neighborhood. “The businesses simply can’t survive, our constituents can’t survive an entire decade of construction,” he said. He’s not wrong, but the unsaid “or else” is more concerning. If no one can survive long construction projects, then any other future subway expansion is doomed. The MTA can’t use cut-and-cover construction so capital expansion efforts will require years of work. The 8 or 10 years on the East Side is less than the 15 it took to build Archer Avenue, and that just might be part of the cost of an expanded subway system.

At Hudson Yards, where relatively few people have felt the direct effect of construction, Councilman Corey Johnson essentially threatened future funding. “It doesn’t inspire confidence of the city putting money into these projects if they’re not going to get done in time,” he said to NY1. Johnson’s comments underscore how politicians view capital projects not as long-term benefits but as ribbon-cutting opportunities. Here, the subtext is that if those who find funds aren’t in office to enjoy the headlines, they won’t deliver, future growth of the city be damned.

I’ve said this before, but ultimately, the opening date of these projects doesn’t matter in the long run. In the short run, the city and MTA should better respond to concerns of residents and businesses suffering from the effects of life in a 10-year construction zone. But in the long term, the city should continue to fund growth. In 28 years, much like I won’t care on Wednesday about when Archer Ave. opened in the 1980s, no one on the Upper East Side will care that the first stops under Second Ave. opened a few months or a year later than expected. Starving our future over that delay is particularly short-sighted at a time when no one is leading on transit growth.

Categories : Subway History
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If you read one thing this weekend, check out the service advisories from the MTA. If you read two things, make sure to check out Cap’n Transit’s post tying together Select Bus Service flashing lights and the TWU’s response to the failure-to-yield law. It’s an important piece of analysis on a debate that’s been dividing potential transit allies.

Meanwhile, service advisories:


From 11:30 p.m. Friday, June 19 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, June 22, 1 trains are suspended in both directions between 14 St and South Ferry. Take 23 trains and free shuttle buses instead.

  • Uptown trains skip 18 St, 23 St, and 28 St.
  • Downtown trains skip 28 St, 23 St, and 18 St, days and evenings.
  • Free shuttle buses provide alternate service between Chambers St and South Ferry. Transfer between 2 and 3 trains and shuttle buses at Chambers St.


From 11:30 p.m. Friday, June 19 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, June 22, 2 trains run local in both directions between Chambers St and 34 St-Penn Station.


From 6:30 a.m. to 12 Midnight, Saturday, June 20 and Sunday, June 21, 3 trains run local in both directions between Chambers St and 34 St-Penn Station.


From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, June 20 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, June 22, Woodlawn-bound 4 trains run local from Grand Central-42 St to 125 St.


From 7:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. Saturday, June 20, and Sunday, June 21, 5 trains run every 20 minutes between E 180 St and Bowling Green. Eastchester-Dyre Av bound 5 trains run local from Grand Central-42 St to 125 St.


From 11:45 p.m. Friday, June 19 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, June 22, 5 trains are suspended in both directions between Eastchester-Dyre Av and E 180 St.

  • Free shuttle buses operate all weekend between Eastchester-Dyre Av and E 180 St, stopping at Baychester Av, Gun Hill Rd, Pelham Pkwy, and Morris Park.
  • Transfer between trains and shuttle buses at E 180 St.


From 11:45 p.m. Friday, June 19 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, June 22, Pelham Bay Park-bound 6 trains run express from Parkchester to Pelham Bay Park.


From 11:45 p.m. Friday, June 19 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, June 22, Flushing-Main St bound 7 trains run express from Queensboro Plaza to Willets Point.


From 11:45 p.m. Friday, June 19 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, June 22, A trains are suspended in both directions between Ozone Park-Lefferts Blvd and Rockaway Blvd. Brooklyn-bound A trains skip 88 St. Free shuttle buses provide alternate service via 80 St.

  • Free shuttle buses operate between 80 St and Ozone Park-Lefferts Blvd, stopping at 88 St, Rockaway Blvd, 104 St, and 111 St.
  • Transfer between shuttle buses and A trains at 80 St.


From 11:45 p.m. Friday, June 19 to 6:30 a.m. Sunday, June 21, and from 11:45 p.m. Sunday, June 21 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, June 22, Inwood-207 St bound A trains run express from Canal St to 125 St.


From 6:30 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. Saturday, June 20 and Sunday, June 21, 168 St-bound C trains run express from Canal St to 125 St.


From 11:45 p.m. Friday, June 19 to 6:30 a.m. Sunday, June 21, and from 11:45 p.m. Sunday, June 21 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, June 22, Coney Island-Stillwell Av bound D trains run express from Atlantic Av-Barclays Ctr to 36 St.


From 3:45 a.m. Saturday, June 20 to 8:00 Sunday, June 21, Norwood-205 St bound D trains are rerouted via the N from Coney Island-Stillwell Av.

  • To Bay 50 St, 25 Av, Bay Pkwy, 20 Av, 18 Av, 79 St, 71 St, 55 St, 50 St, Fort Hamilton Pkwy, and 9 Av, take the D to 62 St-New Utrecht Av or 36 St and transfer to a Coney Island-bound D or N.
  • From these stations, take a Coney Island-bound D or N to 62 St-New Utrecht Av or Stillwell Av and transfer to a 205 St-bound D.


From 12:30 a.m. Saturday, June 20 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, June 22, E trains run local in Queens due to.


From 9:45 p.m. Friday, June 19 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, June 22, Jamaica-179 St bound F trains are rerouted via the M line from 47-50 Sts-Rockefeller Ctr to Roosevelt Av.


From 12:30 a.m. Saturday, June 20 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, June 22, Jamaica-179 St bound F trains run local in Queens.


From 11:45 p.m. 5:00 a.m. Monday, June 22, Coney Island-bound F trains skip 23 St and 14 St.


From 7:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Saturday, June 20, and Sunday, June 21, L trains operates in two sections.

  • Between 8 Av and Broadway Junction.
  • Between Broadway Junction and Canarsie-Rockaway Pkwy, every 24 minutes.
  • To continue your trip, transfer at Broadway Junction.


From 11:45 p.m. Friday, June 19 to 6:30 a.m. Sunday, June 21, and from 11:45 p.m. Sunday, June 21 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, June 22, Coney Island-Stillwell Av bound N trains run express from Atlantic Av-Barclays Ctr to 36 St.


From 11:45 p.m. Friday, June 19 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, June 22, Coney Island-Stillwell Av bound N trains are rerouted via the D line from 36 St to Coney Island-Stillwell Av.


From 11:15 p.m. Friday, June 19 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, June 22, Coney Island-Stillwell Av bound Q trains run express from Prospect Park to Kings Hwy.


From 6:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. Saturday, June 20 and Sunday, June 21, Bay Ridge-bound R trains run express from Atlantic Av-Barclays Ctr to 59 St.


From 11:45 p.m. Friday, June 19 to 6:30 a.m. Sunday, June 21, and from 11:45 p.m. Sunday, June 21 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, June 22, Bay Ridge-95 St bound R trains skip 45 St and 53 St. 36 St-bound R trains stop at 53 St and 45 St.

Categories : Service Advisories
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Thanks to a confluence of circumstances — including some holdover appointees and others schedule to expire — this week witnessed a flurry of MTA Board appointees. While none have been announced officially, it’s clear now who Mayor de Blasio and Governor Cuomo have tabbed for the board, and their appointees betray a transit divide.

Early in the week, Gov. Cuomo nominated his buddies. He named former aide Lawrence Schwartz and Peter Ward, head of the New York Hotel & Motel Trades Council, to the Board. Neither have any transit experience to speak of, but both are what some with less diplomacy might call cronies of the governor. Much as he did with the Port Authority, the governor has appointed his friends and allies to a board with particular importance to the region’s transit system.

Meanwhile, although Bill de Blasio hasn’t seemed to grasp the importance of transit to New York’s success and, in particular, his affordable housing initiative, he at least has people whispering sweet somethings about MTA Board appointees. The Mayor named City Council Transportation Committee Chairman Ydanis Rodriguez, the Tri-State Transportation Campaign’s Director Veronica Vanterpool and community leader David Jones to the Board.

So who are all of these appointees replacing? de Blasio’s picks will fill one vacant seat and replace John Banks and Jeffrey Kay, two holdovers from the Bloomberg Administration, giving the mayor control over his four seats. The governor’s men have earned a more skeptical look from the transit-erati as Ward is replacing Allen Cappelli. The Staten Island native, and one-time Carl McCall campaign guru, has been an outspoken supporter and defender of transit. He understands the need to fund the capital campaign and, as a Paterson appointee, hasn’t fallen in line with the Cuomo party line of seemingly pretending not to know what the MTA is. Cappelli says he wanted to be appointed, and Staten Island pols say that, contrary to tradition, they weren’t consulted. But them’s the politics these days. When the MTA Board meets next, it will look quite different indeed.

Categories : MTA Politics
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So two pieces of news — one big and one small. First, the big. I’m getting married this weekend! 

Second, this is the weekend the MTA is extending weekend J train service to Broad St. For riders of this line, the weekend extension provided a connection to Fulton St. and its slate of trains. It also eliminates a transfer at Chambers St. for access to Lower Manhattan. It’s ultimately not clear how many passengers will benefit from the service. The MTA claims 14,000 weekend riders will enjoy this service, but even if that’s high, sending the J a few stops further south is a low-cost customer-friendly improvement that will help those who need and use it. 

Anyway, it’s a light weekend of service changes. Travel safe. I’ll see you on the other side of getting married. 


From 12 noon to 5:00 p.m. Saturday, June 13, the 116 St station is EXIT ONLY. Use the 110 St or 125 St stations instead.


From 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. Sunday, June 14, the 77 St station is EXIT ONLY. Use the 68 St or 86 St stations instead.


From 11:45 p.m. Friday, June 12 to 6:30 a.m. Saturday, June 13, Inwood-207 St bound A trains run express from 59 St-Columbus Circle to 125 St.


From 12:01 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Saturday, June 13, Queens-bound A trains run local from 168 St to 59 St-Columbus Circle.


From 6:30 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Saturday, June 13, 168 St-bound C trains run express from 59 St-Columbus Circle to 125 St.


From 5:45 a.m. to 8:00 Saturday, June 13, Coney Island-Stillwell Av bound D trains are rerouted via the N from 36 St to Coney Island-Stillwell Av.

  • To 9 Av, Fort Hamilton Pkwy, 50 St, 55 St, 71 St, 79 St, 18 Av, 20 Av, Bay Pkwy, 25 Av, and Bay 50 St, take the Coney Island-bound D to 62 St-New Utrecht Av or Stillwell Av and transfer to a Manhattan-bound D.
  • From these stations, take a Manhattan-bound D to 62 St-New Utrecht Av or 36 St and transfer to a Coney Island-Stillwell Av bound D or N.

From 12:01 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Saturday, June 13, Coney Island-Stillwell Av bound D trains run local from 145 St to 59 St-Columbus Circle.


From 12:30 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Saturday, June 13 Jamaica Center-Parsons/Archer bound E trains run local from Queens Plaza to Forest Hills-71 Av.


From 12:30 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Saturday, June 13 E trains run local between Forest Hills-71 Av and Roosevelt Av.


From 12:30 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Saturday, June 13, Jamaica-179 St bound F trains run local between 21 St-Queensbridge to Forest Hills-71 Av. Coney Island-Stillwell Av bound F trains run local from Forest Hills-71 Av to Roosevelt Av.


From 11:15 p.m. Friday, June 12 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, June 15, Coney Island-Stillwell Av bound Q trains run express from Prospect Park to Kings Hwy

Categories : Service Advisories
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It’s no secret that the MTA has long struggled with opening dates for their capital projects. From staircase replacement projects to supposedly normal state-of-good-repair work like the Culver Viaduct rehabilitation to the 18 month-and-counting drama at the site of the 7 line’s future 34th St. terminus, the MTA simply cannot deliver on time. Whether it’s due to union featherbedding, contractor corruption, or the complexity of large-scale infrastructure work, the problem affects the agency’s credibility and New Yorkers’ collective ability to enjoy a subway system.

Along the Far West Side, the MTA’s troubles with getting the 7 line extension past the finish line and more comical than anything else. No one lives there yet so lives haven’t been disrupted and promises that were broken were made originally only to convention goers. The real estate interests constructing the Hudson Yards development will have their subway long before the buildings are complete.

The Upper East Side though is a horse of a different color. The MTA originally hoped to finish Phase 1 of the Second Ave. Subway in 2011 and then planned for a mid-2015 debut. As early as 2009, the agency had to push back the projected completion date to 2016 with a threat that work would continue into 2017. For Upper East Side residents who have lived with construction for nearly a decade already, further delays now would be infuriating.

Meanwhile, in 2009 and again in 2011, the Federal Transit Administration disputed the MTA’s timeline. While the agency pledged to open the $4.4 billion Phase 1 project by the end of 2016, the feds viewed a $5.5 billion extension opening in early 2018 as the most likely scenario. Over the past five years, the MTA has doubled down on the 2016 date while New Yorkers, rightfully skeptical of the lessons learned (or not learned, as the case may be) from the 7 line, still aren’t surprised by the feds’ timeline.

Yesterday, in prepared remarks first identified by Andrew Siff of NBC 4 and later in questions posed by the House Oversight Committee, FTA officials first doubled down on the 2018 timeline but then later walked it back. Federal officials acknowledged that the MTA’s 2016 revenue service date is achievable, but both the MTA and FTA seemed to agree tacitly that it will take a concerted oversight effort by agency officials to realize this earlier date.

The FTA’s pre-printed statement is decidedly less optimistic than the FTA’s subsequent comments during the hearing. Matthew Welbes, executive direct of the Federal Transit Administration, had this to say in his prepared remarks [pdf]:

In February 2015, FTA and the MTA executed an amended FFGA for the Second Avenue Subway Phase I project reflecting the changes in cost and schedule to the project. The amended FFGA includes a cost of $5.57 billion, and a revenue service date of February 28, 2018. As in the original FFGA, the amount of Federal Capital Investment Grant funding remains unchanged, with the local project sponsor covering the cost overruns.

In government-speak, that paragraph means the Full Funding Grant Agreement between the FTA and MTA acknowledged significantly higher costs and a delayed opening date. The MTA — or in this case, New York State — will foot the bill on cost overruns.

During subsequent question by Rep. Carolyn Maloney, Welbes walked back some of the FTA’s statements. When asked about the differing timelines, he provided the following explanation:

“When we executed the revised Full Funding Grant agreement in March, the schedule is that the project is supposed to open by by February of 2018. And that was based on what we agreed to with the MTA. If the MTA can deliver the project sooner, we would be proud to see that happen. It looks like the project is trending, based on our data, toward an opening of closer to, maybe early in, sometime in 2017. So the truth is probably somewhere between December of 2016 and our February of 2018 opening date. If the MTA does some of the aggressive schedule management steps that they have planned, they may very well achieve that December date.”

A revenue service start date early in 2017 wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world for the MTA. True, the feds’ outcome means a 30-block, $5.5-billion subway that takes nearly a decade to construct. True, those costs are higher, on a per mile basis, than any other comparable project. But for the MTA, a delay of only a few months would represent a significant improvement over its experiences on the West Side.

The MTA in response, meanwhile, defended its own timeline. “?The MTA reports our projections for megaproject cost and completion every month based on our own understanding of the work done so far and our best estimates of the work still to be done,” the agency said in a statement. They insist that the Second Ave. Subway’s first riders will be able to ride a 96th Street-bound Q train before the year is out.

For her part, Rep. Maloney urged the FTA and MTA to find a way to get this project completed by the end of next year. “I think,” she said, “that would build up a lot of credibility by everyone.” That’s no small point considering the MTA’s lobbying for nearly $15 billion in additional capital spending right now, but the concern is a missed deadline. Do you believe the MTA or the feds? And what happens when the Second Ave. Subway doesn’t open by the end of December of 2016? It’s a future no one wants to contemplate but one that isn’t too far off right now.

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