Although this site is largely focused on New York City transit, it’s hard to ignore New Jersey’s impact on the region. I don’t quite follow the daily ins and outs of New Jersey’s transportation scene as I do New York’s as that is a frustratingly Sisyphean, but as the state with the fifth greatest number of unlinked transit trips in the nation — and one that feeds directly into New York City — we can’t just ignore it under a more transit-friendly administration is in place. These days, we’re talking fare hikes.

The scandal of the week from the Garden State involves Exxon. The state had sued for over $8 billion in environmental damages, and the suit was headed to a damages determination when Gov. Chris Christie opted to settle for $225 million, cents on the dollars. From news stories to Op-Ed columns, The Times has covered this environmental and taxpayer scandal closely since breaking the story last week, and it’s worth paying attention here as it reverberates from a local to a national level. But that’s hardly the only story at play.

Yet again, New Jersey Transit is gearing up to raise its fares, and the hike — designed to cover an operating budget gap — could be by as much as 25 percent. Larry Higgs had the story:

NJ Transit commuters should brace themselves for possible fare hikes of 25 percent or more in addition to service cuts, a transit advocate warns, as the agency struggles to close an $80 million budget gap.

And while NJ Transit officials insist a fare increase would be lower than 2010’s fare hike and is on the table only as a “last resort,” the last time the agency faced an $80 million budget gap, in 1981, it jacked fares by 50 percent over three years and introduced significant service cutbacks. “It’s a safe assumption it will be greater than 25 percent by the amount of revenue needed to fill the hole,” said Veronica Vanterpool, Tri-State Transportation Campaign executive director. “The funding structure for NJ Transit is broken. What we need is a new funding structure.”

Other factors that could affect a fare increase include the cost to settle expired contracts with 20 unions, which make up more than 9,000 of NJ Transit’s 11,000 employees. Many of those contracts expired five and six years ago. However, any fare increase under consideration will include those contract costs, said Nancy Snyder, an NJ Transit spokeswoman. “We recognize the 2010 fare adjustment was a serious burden on customers,” Snyder said. “We would not repeat that level of adjustment, which was required because of years of refusing to make tough choices including retraining costs and adjusting fares to meet needs.”

New Jersey Transit, as we know, hasn’t been a paragon of a well-run transit agency. Their utter lack of emergency flood preparedness cost them a few hundred million dollars in damage due to Hurricane Sandy, and Gov. Christie’s decision to kill ARC without a potential replacement has saddled the agency with the same operations challenges it has faced for decades. The sources of the $80 million gap, as others have noted, are numerous and include raising costs and increased spending on labor. The fare hikes to cover this gap will be steep.

Meanwhile, it’s worthy pondering how and why New Jersey’s drivers get off so easily. Even as hundreds of millions of transit riders pass through the Garden State’s transit network, drivers haven’t seen a corresponding increase in the gas tax in 25 years. The imbalance affects us all as it leads to more cars on the road and less money to maintain or even expand the transit network. It’s a strange and uncomfortable situation that isn’t going to change any time soon.

Categories : New Jersey Transit
Comments (50)

At least someone out there is fighting for better Staten Island transit. (Source: SIEDC)

It’s not a good time right now to be angling for projects that are in the MTA’s 2015-2019 Capital Program. Agency head Tom Prendergast has started to discus prioritization in the face of a $15 billion funding gap, and the MTA is — painfully, rightfully — going to prioritize system maintenance and modernization over expansion. This is a very costly decision as institutional memory and lessons learned from recent expansion projects will fade away as the MTA’s network doesn’t expand to meet growing demand. We could see a future without more phases of the Second Ave. Subway, B Division countdown clocks and other growth options unless Albany makes some tough but necessary decisions.

For those who want something not in the MTA’s capital plan (and who aren’t named Cuomo), times are even tougher. The MTA isn’t exactly receptive to ideas they haven’t put forward, and the agency is especially unwilling to look at plans without political backing and money behind them. Still, that’s not stopping the Staten Island Economic Development Corporation for continue its uphill fight for West Shore light rail.

Over the past few years, in fits and starts, Staten Island’s transit options have come under scrutiny. The MTA and NYC DOT have tried to bring Select Bus Service to the isolated borough, but politicians have pushed back hard on everything from dedicated bus lanes to flashing lights. Meanwhile, the MTA has examined reactivating the North Shore right-of-way, but the alternatives analysis disappointing picked a BRT option over light rail. Still, those fighting for more transit are eying the West Shore for light rail, and they’re not giving up.

Vincente Barrone of the Staten Island Advance has the latest:

With huge development anticipated for Staten Island’s West Shore, the Staten Island Economic Development Corporation (SIEDC) refuses to let its West Shore light rail proposal die. Steve Grillo, the SIEDC vice president, has been championing the service over the past decade, garnering support from virtually every local politician without successfully finding a financial sponsor. “It’s been really good in terms of support,” he said. “We recently had the letter of support from [U.S. Senators] Gillibrand and Schumer’s office. So that’s great having both senators on board. All local elected officials have supported this. So right now the obstacles are the transportation agencies.”

…The rail line would run a 13.1-mile route along the Island’s West Shore, with stops from Richmond Valley to Elm Park. The proposed line would carry Island commuters to the Bayonne Bridge to connect with New Jersey Transit’s Hudson Bergen Light Rail Line. Currently, the SIEDC needs $5 million to conduct an alternative analysis study. A necessary step to receive any federal funding, the study would offer a comprehensive look at the proposal that would determine the most feasible mass transit options for the corridor…

Grillo has talked about the plan with the state and city transportation commissioners in the past to no avail. He’s also spoken with high-ranking officials at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), which is currently dealing with its own funding quagmire…MTA’s Island board member Allen Cappelli says that the MTA should be able to find money for the study. “The funding needed is pittance,” said Cappelli. “We’re talking spare change that fell into the MTA’s sofa, which is why it’s so appalling that it hasn’t been picked up.”

The problem, as I’ve said before, concerns a champion. This West Shore line has no political champion. It has no one opening up the wallet to find money for a study, and it’s coming out at a time when the MTA is fighting for itself first and other projects second. It’s certainly worthwhile and deserves more of a look that anyone in the city seems willing to give, and that’s a shame.

Grillo, meanwhile, isn’t afraid to call a spade a spade. In the piece, he calls Select Bus Service “bus rapid transit light, at best” and expresses his desire for better Staten Island transit. “We need 21st century solutions for 21st century problems,” he said. “What we’re getting from our agencies are out-of-date ideas.” Out of date and out of money.

Categories : Staten Island
Comments (63)
  • Reminder: ‘Problem Solvers’ on Sandy recover set for tomorrow · Just a reminder that my next “Problem Solvers” event at the Transit Museum — the first since last spring’s session on the MetroCard — is set for tomorrow night. The topic is the MTA’s post-Sandy Fix & Fortify program, an ongoing effort to recover from Superstorm Sandy and work to alleviate the affect another hurricane or similar storm could have on the region and its transit network. I’ll be interviewing John O’Grady, an engineer with over 25 years’ experience at the MTA and in capital construction who currently serves as a vice president for infrastructure and facilities. The talk will start at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, March 3.

    It’s hard to believe the storm swept through well over two years ago, and as we know, the MTA’s challenges are immense. The new South Ferry station, totaled by the storm surge, isn’t expected to reopen until mid-2017 or even early 2018, according to the latest MTA materials, and although the Montague St. Tunnel has reopened following 14 months’ of repairs, the MTA has to address saltwater damage in many of the other East River Tunnels. During the talk tomorrow, we’ll discuss the work that went into the Montague Tube repairs and the way the MTA is managing the project. We’ll touch on some flood-remediation efforts and the MTA’s attempts at ensuring the next big storm isn’t nearly as disruptive or destructive to the subway system.

    As noted, the festivities start at 6:30 p.m. at the Transit Museum in Downtown Brooklyn. As the Museum would like to better support its programming, the event carries with it a modest $10 charge (though museum members still get in for free). As a bonus, though, at 7:30 p.m., the Museum will put Sandy artifacts on display and discuss the process of retrieving and cataloging these items. Most of the public saw only the photos, but the destruction wrought by the storm was substantial. Pick up your tickets right here. Hopefully, I’ll see you tomorrow. · (3)

It’s a light weekend! From the MTA, the service advisories:

From 11:45 p.m. Friday, February 27 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, March 2, 3 service operates to/from New Lots Av all weekend, replacing the 4 in Brooklyn. 3 trains run express in Manhattan.

From 11:45 p.m. Friday, February 27 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, March 2, 4 trains are suspended in both directions between Brooklyn Bridge-City Hall and New Lots Av. Take the 23NQ or R instead. For service between Manhattan and Brooklyn, take the NQ or R and transfer between the 46 and NQR at 14 St-Union Sq or Canal St. For service to/from Wall St and Bowling Green, use the R at nearby Rector St or Whitehall St. For service to/from Fulton St and between Borough Hall and Franklin Av, take the 2 or 3. For service between Franklin Av and New Lots Av, take the 3 instead.

From 11:45 p.m. Friday, February 27 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, March 2, 5 trains are suspended in both directions between Eastchester-Dyre Av and E 180 St. 5 service operates every 20 minutes between E 180 St and Grand Central-42 St, days and evenings only. 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 6:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. Saturday, February 28, and from 8:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. Sunday, March 1, 5 service is suspended in both directions between Grand Central-42 St and Bowling Green. Take the 46 or R instead. Trains run every 20 minutes between E 180 St and Grand Central-42 St.

From 6:45 a.m. Saturday, February 28 to 7:00 p.m. Sunday, March 1, Brooklyn Bridge-City Hall bound 6 trains run express from Parkchester to Hunts Point Av.

From 12:30 a.m. Saturday, February 28 to 4:30 a.m. Monday, March 2, 7 trains are suspended in both directions between Times Sq-42 St and 74 St-Broadway. Use EFN and R trains for service between Manhattan and Queens. E trains operate more frequently between Manhattan and Queens. The 42 Street S shuttle operates overnight. Free shuttle buses operate along two routes:

  • Between Vernon Blvd-Jackson Av and Queensboro Plaza, stopping at Hunters Point Av, Court Sq, and Queens Plaza.
  • Between Queensboro Plaza and 74 St-Broadway, stopping at 33 St, 40 St, 46 St, 52 St, 61 St-Woodside, and 69 St.

From 10:45 p.m. Friday, February 27 to 6:30 a.m. Sunday, March 1, and from 10:45 p.m. Sunday, March 1 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, March 2, Queens-bound A trains run express from 168 St to 125 St.

From 6:30 a.m. to 12 midnight Saturday, February 28 and Sunday, March 1, Euclid Av-bound C trains run express from 168 St to 125 St.

From 3:45 a.m. Saturday, February 28 to 10:00 p.m. Sunday, March 1, Coney Island-Stillwell Av bound D trains are rerouted via the N line from 36 St to Coney Island-Stillwell Av.

  • For Service 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 Coney Island-Stillwell Av and transfer to a Manhattan-bound D train.
  • For Service From these stations, take a Manhattan-bound D train to 62 St-New Utrecht Av or 36 St and transfer to a Coney Island-Stillwell Av bound D train.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, February 28 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, March 2, D trains run local in both directions between W 4 St-Wash Sq and 34 St-Herald Sq.

From 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Saturday, February 28 and from 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Sunday, March 1, E trains operate more frequently between Manhattan and Queens. E customers traveling to Jamaica-Van Wyck, Sutphin Blvd (AirTrain JFK), and Jamaica Center please note that some E trains traveling from Manhattan are rerouted to the Jamaica-179 St F station. Please check destination signs and listen to announcements.

42 St Shuttle
From 12:01 a.m. to 6:00 a.m. Saturday to Monday, February 28 to March 2, the 42 St S Shuttle operates overnight.

Categories : Service Advisories
Comments (5)

The Second Ave. Subway station at 86th St. is beginning to look like a real subway stop. What happens with Phase 2 is anyone’s guess. (Photo: MTA Capital Construction / Rehema Trimiew)

Earlier on Wednesday, while browsing MTA news, I came across an interesting AP piece published on Crain’s New York with quite the inflammatory headline. “Why the Second Ave. subway could be delayed—again” the article said. With news of delays on the 7 line extension — this month due to emergency radios, last time due to elevators, escalators and vent plans — my first thought was that the December 2016 revenue service date was just a mirage. As I read closer, though, I realized this was about the next phase of the Second Ave. Subway and not the current one.

Phase 1 of the long-aborning subway — north from 57th St. and 7th Ave. to 96th St. and 2nd Ave. — is fully funded. Work may stretch into next year, but the money is in place. At this point, the only delays will arise if (or perhaps when) the MTA can’t get the project across the finish line, and those won’t come into view for another 18-20 months. Phase 2, despite a lack of concrete price tag, was included in the 2015-2019 capital plan, and as we know, that capital plan remains very much a work in progress.

Earlier on Wednesday during the MTA Board meeting, agency head Tom Prendergast spoke about the affect a lack of funding could have on expansion plans. It’s a good 18 months until the MTA has to face this reality, and in the past, New York has come up with interim measures to keep capital programs moving on a two- or three-year basis. But the threat of a work slowdown at a time when the city is finally re-learning how to build new subway lines looms large.

Benjamin Mueller of The Times summarized the state of the capital program with the funding picture hazy at best:

The chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority on Wednesday sought to reassure New Yorkers that the agency would secure the necessary funding to forestall what transit experts were warning about — a slump in service, overflowing subway trains and more frequent delays. The sense of alarm has been occasioned by a $15 billion gap in the agency’s five-year capital plan, which is meant to finance long-sought repairs and improvements to the city’s transit system. Transit officials and elected leaders are currently in discussions about how to fill that gap or, alternatively, to pare down costs.

But the authority’s chairman, Thomas F. Prendergast, warned that future stages of major construction plans and renovations for the overtaxed system were at risk if officials were unable to come to an agreement. The full five-year plan calls for $32 billion.

“For a period of time, maybe a year or two, we’re O.K.,” Mr. Prendergast said after a board meeting. “But as you start to get down that path, we get to the point where if we don’t have money we can’t award design contracts, we can’t award construction projects.”

We could quibble for hours over whether the “or, alternatively” at the end of the firs excerpted paragraph should just said “and,” but the truth remains that the capital plan funding question is very much up in the air. Already a long, drawn-out affair, the Second Ave. Subway could very much be a casualty of politicking and lukewarm support for transit from the Governor.

Meanwhile, the Mayor went to Albany and did a great imitation of the pot calling the kettle black “”The State must do more to fund the MTA’s capital plan – a situation that is reaching crisis levels,” Bill de Blasio said. “The current MTA capital plan is woefully underfunded. The State’s investment has steadily declined over the last 14 years.”

So too, de Blasio declined to mention, has the city’s investment. They contribute the paltry sum of $100 million a year to a multi-billion-dollar capital plan, and de Blasio has proposed trimming that figure by 60 percent. Transit advocates, such as the Straphangers Campaign, were not impressed. “We need the Citiy’s leadership to press the State to do much better for the MTA’s millions of riders,” Gene Russianoff said in a statement.

There are only so many times we can say the same thing about the capital plan, but it’s hard to underscore the needs. The subways are more crowded that ever, and to keep up with demand, the system has to be able to sustain more frequent service in more areas. With the billions of dollars requested, the alternative is a scary one indeed.

Regular readers of this site have long cast a skeptical eye toward Gov. Andrew Cuomo and his distain for transit. His ideas — an AirTrain to LaGuardia via Willets Point — come out of nowhere and don’t align with transit needs or best practices. He’s thrown weight and tax dollars behind the stridently anti-transit QueensWay while ignoring the voices arguing for rail reactivation, and he’s done nothing to address the MTA’s $15.2 billion capital budget hole.

New York City, meanwhile, is sagging under the weight of record high subway riders. Yesterday, the MTA reported a total of 29 days in 2014 with over 6 million riders, and delays due to aging infrastructure — signal problems, rail conditions — seem rampant. That’s what the $15.2 billion is designed to address. While Cuomo is running away from, or at least ignoring, the problem, other groups such as the Move NY are thinking about the funding and traffic problems. It all might come to a head at some point.

My tiny corner of the Internet isn’t the only part taking note of the politicking though, and in yesterday’s Times, the paper’s editorial board called upon the Governor to, well, do something about it:

The state and city would seem obvious sources for much of this support. Mr. Cuomo, however, rejected the M.T.A. plan as “bloated” soon after it was submitted, even as some mass transit advocates regarded it as barely adequate. The governor’s latest budget gives the M.T.A. about $1.15 billion for these big projects over five years. Mayor Bill de Blasio has offered only $40 million a year as the city’s contribution, far lower than the usual $100 million.

These responses seem miserly when measured against the needs of a system that is already stuffed with passengers and expects at least one million more in the next 10 years. The requirements go beyond new cars; the M.T.A. proposes to replace more than 80 miles of track and a subway signaling system that is more than a half-century old and needs a $3 billion upgrade.

In the end, it is Mr. Cuomo who will have the most to say about whether this vital network thrives or deteriorates. He should help create a five-year capital plan that gives the M.T.A. some confidence about how to expand and maintain itself while he also finds the matching funds that upstate legislators will inevitably demand for bridges and roads in their constituencies. A short-term fix of a year or two is little more than a Band-Aid.

The Times highlights Move NY’s traffic pricing plan and a proposal by Richard Ravitch to raise the gas taxes. Either could address the funding gap, but so too, as the paper points out, would fare hikes, the last gasp for the MTA and a measure it can implement as it so chooses. As The Times notes, if the MTA is forced to “fall back on fare increases … those increases would have Mr. Cuomo’s name on them.” Best we not forget that.

Comments (60)

Cortlandt St., seen here on September 28, 2001, is still a few years away from reopening. (Photo: MTA New York City Transit)

It’s hard to believe, but an entire generation of New Yorkers have come of age or come to a city without a Cortlandt St. subway station on the 1 train. For decades, Cortlandt St. fed Radio Row and then served as the West Side’s best access point to the World Trade Center. The station, though, was destroyed on September 11, 2001 and, as work has consumed Lower Manhattan over the past 14 years, it has remained closed since then. Based on recent MTA documents, it may still be a few years yet before the station reopens.

In this month’s Board materials, the immediate fate of the Cortlandt St. station makes an appearance, and no, the MTA isn’t considering keeping it closed. As buildings grow at the World Trade Center site, the 1 train’s pass through Lower Manhattan remains a key access point for thousands of West Side and Staten Island commuters who will need transit service to their offices.

The news concerns the MTA’s assumptions of a Port Authority contract for work at Cortlandt St. The details of the politicking are rather mundane. Essentially, Cortland St. had to remain closed while the Port Authority rebuild the Ground Zero site, but the MTA and Port Authority have struggled to coordinate work and finalize cost-sharing arrangements for the repair of the subway stop. A few years ago, the Port Authority issued an RFP a key construction contract with the work split into two phases. Judlau won the bid, but it’s been slow going.

Phase 1 was the easier part. It was a $20 million for structural and demolition work, and it’s nearly complete. Phase 2 was supposed to be around $69 million, and it included a variety of systems work and a complete station fit-out. Work hasn’t begun, and now the MTA is going to assume it from the Port Authority with an expanded scope, more dollars and a longer timeline. The Board’s Transit Committee will vote tomorrow.

In fiscal terms, the MTA will increase the Phase 2 work to a total of $100 million; the money is accounted for in the 2010-2014 and 2015-2019 capital plans. The bad news is that this contract is set to last 36 months now. It’s possible the station could be back in revenue service before Phase 2 wraps, but it seems likely that Cortlandt St. will remain closed for the time being. All in, the station won’t reopen until over 15 years after 9/11. For such a key link to the World Trade Center site, that’s a big gap in service that won’t be restored yet.

Categories : Manhattan
Comments (10)


Have you seen the latest from Massimo Vignelli’s former associates? To carry on his memory, some of Vignelli’s friends and co-workers have started a new design shop called SuperWarmRed through which they are selling prints of his maps. The current designs involve six detail posters highlighting the Vignelli map’s design around six stations throughout the city. The posters look great, and the full set of six will run you $300.

Meanwhile, on to the weekend service changes. The MTA canceled the 1 train work on account of the cold today and generally bad weather predicted for the weekend, but everything else remains in place.

From 11:45 p.m. Friday, February 20, to 5 a.m. Monday, February 23, trains replace 4 service in Brooklyn. 3 trains run express in Manhattan.

From 11:45 p.m. Friday, February 20, to 5 a.m. Monday, February 23, service is suspended between Brooklyn Bridge and New Lots Av. As alternatives, take the 2, 3, N, Q or R.

From 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday, February 21, and from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday, February 22, service is suspended between Grand Central-42 St and Bowling Green. As alternatives, take the 4, 6 or R.

From 6:45 a.m. Saturday, February 21, to 7 p.m. Sunday, February 22, Brooklyn Bridge-bound trains run express from Parkchester to Hunts Point Av.

From 11:45 p.m. Friday, February 20, to 5 a.m. Monday, February 23, service is suspended between Lefferts Blvd and Rockaway Blvd. Free shuttle buses provide service via 80 St.

From 11:45 p.m. to 6:30 a.m., Friday, February 20 to Sunday, February 22, and from 11:45 p.m. Sunday, February 22, to 5 a.m. Monday, February 23, 207 St-bound trains run express from Canal St to 59 St-Columbus Circle.

From 6:30 a.m. to 11 p.m., Saturday, February 21 and Sunday, February 22, 168 St-bound trains are rerouted via the F from Jay St-MetroTech to 34 St-Herald Sq and then via the D to 59 St-Columbus Circle.

From 5:30 a.m. to 8 p.m., Saturday, February 21 and Sunday, February 22, service is suspended between Coney Island-Stillwell Av and Bay Pkwy. As alternatives, take the F or Q, or the B1, B64 or B82.

From 11:45 p.m. Friday, February 20, to 5 a.m. Monday, February 23, Jamaica Center-bound trains run express from Canal St to 34 St-Penn Station.

From 11:45 p.m. to 6:30 a.m., Friday, February 20 to Sunday, February 22, and from 11:45 p.m. Sunday, February 22, to 5 a.m. Monday, February 23, World Trade Center-bound trains run express from 71 Av to Queens Plaza.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, February 21, to 5 a.m. Monday, February 23, Jamaica Center-bound trains run local from Roosevelt Av to 71 Av.

From 11:45 p.m. Friday, February 20, to 8 p.m. Sunday, February 22, Coney Island-bound trains run express from Smith-9 Sts to Avenue X.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, February 21, to 5 a.m. Monday, February 23, Jamaica-bound trains run local from Roosevelt Av to 71 Av.

From 11:45 p.m. Friday, February 20, to 5 a.m. Monday, February 23, service is suspended between 8 Av and 14 St-Union Sq. As an alternative, take the M14 bus.

From 5:30 a.m. to 8 p.m., Saturday, February 21 and Sunday, February 22, service is suspended between Coney Island-Stillwell Av and 86 St. As alternatives, take FQ, B1 or B4 buses.

From 11:15 p.m. Friday, February 20, to 5 a.m. Monday, February 23, Coney Island-bound trains run express from Prospect Park to Kings Hwy.

From 5:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday, February 21, and Sunday, February 22, Bay Ridge-bound trains run express from 71 Av to Queens Plaza.

Categories : Service Advisories
Comments (6)
Could this be the plan that saves the MTA's capital budget? (Source: Move NY)

Could this be the plan that saves the MTA’s capital budget? (Source: Move NY)

Flippant headline aside, someone — or a group of someones — is thinking creatively about the MTA’s capital funding problem. It’s been a long time coming, but Sam Schwartz and the Move NY coalition unveiled their restructured traffic pricing plan on Tuesday. If implemented properly, it could generate $1.5 billion that the group says could be bonded out to support the MTA’s capital plan. It may kick the debt can even further down the road, but it’s the most promising proposal we’ve seen at a time when Gov. Cuomo has seemingly left the MTA out to dry.

The details of the plan — now being called the Move NY Fair Plan — contain a mixture of new revenue streams in the form of East River bridge tolls and givebacks in the form of reduced current tolls that should appease everyone. No one will be double-tolled, and all money would be collected electronically so toll gates and the alleged traffic they could cause will be a non-factor.

The plan, in a nutshell, is simple, and I’d urge you to read Streetsblog’s primer. Essentially, tolls on current MTA bridges would drop while the currently-free East River bridge crossings would carry a charge, restoring a 104-year-old wrong. The money would go toward transit, and the corresponding drop in clogged streets would be a major boon for all New Yorkers. The plan would see a new taxi surcharge as well as congestion pricing for automobile trips south of 60th St. in Manhattan, and off-peak tolls would be cheaper than rush hour charges.

In return, Move New York promises massive transit investments. In their report [pdf], they highlight how the MTA would have a steady revenue stream that would lead to implementation of the agency’s capital plans. The coalition believes the MTA would have the money to restore bus service cut in 2010, reduce the City Ticket fares on Metro-North and LIRR, speed up SBS and BRT implementation, and address the subway system’s technological and physical issues that come with age and the need for modernization. All in all, it sounds good.

Interestingly, while as Dana Rubinstein astutely noted, Gov. Cuomo and the MTA were silent on the plan yesterday, it’s drawn support from unlikely sources. Mark Weprin, a City Council member who opposed then-Mayor Bloomberg’s congestion pricing plan, voiced his support as did Ydanis Rodriguez, chair of the Council’s transportation committee. The prospects for a home-rule message though remain murky as the New York State Senate GOP, with no better ideas or funding solutions, has come out against the plan. Without acknowledging that no funding solution will lead to less service and drastically higher fares, a State GOP spokesman said, with a straight face, “Hardworking New Yorkers are paying enough already.” Talk about obliviousness.

Anyway, I digress. The editorial boards for The Post and Crain’s New York, two of the tougher constituents to impress here, voiced their support, and real estate and business interests may actually line up behind this plan. Streetsblog again explored the changing political dynamics behind the Move NY Fair Plan, but as Stephen Miller noted, “The key to the plan, though, is Governor Cuomo.” If the Governor supports this idea, it will become reality; if he doesn’t, the MTA is up a $15.2 billion creek with fare hikes and service cuts as their only paddle. Make of that what you will.

Categories : Congestion Fee
Comments (112)

As MTA jobs go, a bus driver may have it the worst. Until recently, drivers had no protection from unruly passengers and were tasked with keeping passengers in line while attempting to collect fares. They have to compete with the city’s streets and other drivers who are seemingly always in it for themselves. It’s a stressful job made slightly easier and safer by partitions in newer buses, but the threat and reality of violence from passengers has always loomed large in the minds of drivers.

Bus drivers though have a responsibility to everyone else around them as well. They drive very big, very heavy, often plodding vehicles up and down the city’s busiest streets. The city’s buses tower over the streets and loom large as a threat to pedestrians, bikers and other drivers. They help get cars off the streets, but they present a separate set of dangers in and of themselves.

Last week, not for the first time, this situation came to a head when a 15-year-old crossing the street with the right of way in Williamsburg was struck by a bus whose driver claimed he did not see the girl. She remains at Bellevue and may lose her left leg. Francisco de Jesus, the bus driver, was booked on a misdemeanor for violating the city’s relatively new Right of Way law. He faces a $250 summons and up to 30 days in jail — though no first-time offenders have been given a jail sentence. The law is part of the Vision Zero plan that is supposed to protect pedestrians from the dangers of vehicles in a dense urban area.

The injury is horrific; the aftermath to the incident has been ugly. A few days before the incident, three City Council members, under intense lobbying from union officials, had introduced a bill to exempt bus drivers from the Right of Way law, and nearly immediate, TWU officials denounced the arrest. “We drive for a living on the busiest streets in America,” J.P. Patafio, a TWU spokesman, said. “The law of averages has it we’re going to get into an accident.”

Over the weekend, TWU President John Samuelsen threatened — if one can call vowing to drive safer a threat — to slow down buses in the name of the safety:

The incidents this past Friday and several weeks ago in which two Bus Operators were arrested for “failure to yield” and “failure to exercise due care” are both heartbreaking tragedies. But they were accidents, not the result of “criminal” reckless driving. Yet, our Operators were treated as if they were criminals by the Highway Police, and they face TA discipline as a result of the arrest. To add insult to blatant injustice, there are some misguided people out there applauding the criminal treatment of our Bus Operators.

Now we must respond appropriately, recognizing that we are being disgracefully and unfairly scapegoated and targeted. It is imperative that we immediately move to defend our livelihoods and protect ourselves against these attacks. Therefore, we MUST Yield/Stop “when a pedestrian or bicyclist has the right of way.” If there is a pedestrian in the crosswalk, Yield/Stop your bus until they are on the sidewalk. We must exercise extreme caution at intersections and on roadways.

Do not move your bus until all is clear. It you do not make your schedule, so be it. If traffic backs up as you await the ability to make an unquestionably “safe” left turn, so be it. If the bosses are displeased, so be it. Do not jeopardize your future for the sake of NYC Transit’s on time bus performance. And if you are pressured or threatened by supervision for taking these necessary steps, notify your union representative immediately.

Samuelsen’s comments intimate that MTA bus drivers are encouraged by supervisors to put speed over safety. An MTA spokesman vehemently denied that characterization. Meanwhile, along the fringes, the sniping has continued. Pete Donohue wrote an incendiary column accusing advocates fighting for sensible street designs and laws aimed at protecting pedestrian safety of having “zero common sense” while the person operating the TWU’s Twitter feed on Saturday and Sunday tried to turn the debate into class warfare. (Gothamist captured some of the comments, but it was a stunning display of how not to run a P.R. campaign.)

The issue is not about class or about online fighting. It’s not about which advocate — those who must protect union members or those who are trying to protect pedestrians — can be the most zealous. This is about an all-encompassing push for safety. It shouldn’t take an arrest for the TWU to promise to allow pedestrians the Right of Way, and driving in New York shouldn’t inherently involve some number of pedestrian casualties or fatalities. The law should apply to everyone driving a vehicle, and it should recognize the power a huge vehicle has over a person. The person will always lose.

In a reasonable world, the union would have looked at Friday’s tragedy as an opportunity to gain the upper hand in this debate. Samuelsen could have ordered the same slowdown but under the guise of promising to work together with city leaders who have prioritized Vision Zero initiatives and want to stress safety. The TWU could have demanded that de Jesus receive a fair trial but stressed that the union will not tolerate members who do not stress safety or follow the laws. Instead, we have a mess and one that highlights the real physical risks that people walking face everyday. A teenager losing a leg shouldn’t be dismissed as the cost of doing business in New York City.

Categories : Buses
Comments (71)
Page 5 of 503« First...34567...Last »