Bus-stituting over perfectly functional New York City Transit subway lines is a very Port Authority thing to do. (Click to enlarge)

Bus-stituting over perfectly functional New York City Transit subway lines is a very Port Authority thing to do. (Click to enlarge)

Due to a variety of circumstances — a post-Sandy rebuild, Positive Train Control installation — the Port Authority has had to shut down one of the two trans-Hudson PATH tunnels at various points over the past few years. The agency has come under fire for not providing alternate service, and they rang up quite a bill for ferry subsidies when the WTC tunnel was out of service. Now, with PTC installation coming to the 33rd St. line, service from Hoboken to Midtown will be out every weekend between now and late December.

As part of the service plan, the Port Authority will run free shuttle buses per the map above. Trains will run up 6th Ave. and down 7th Ave. Buses won’t pick passengers up at the new WTC Transit Hub because it’s not really a transit hub, and the buses will mirror existing New York City Transit buses and, of course, the subway. Why, you might ask, is one transit agency bustituting above another transit agency’s perfectly fine service? This is a good question, and it highlights how our region’s separate transit agencies cannot and often do not cooperate.

Allowing PATH riders to transfer to the subway and vice versa is simply an economic exchange. The PA could pay the MTA, and the MTA could provide free transfers. One obstacle is how the MTA can’t exchange PATH’s SmartLink cards, but these are solvable operational problems, not intractable obstacles. I don’t know if the PA approached the MTA for a solution; a press official from the MTA is working on finding this out for me. But for some reason, more buses are going to fill the streets of Manhattan when preexisting transit options are plentiful because the PA and MTA can’t cooperate. It’s simply silly.

These weekend changes are necessary because of capital construction work on the MTA New York City Transit subway system. This work is part of NYC Transit’s ongoing Capital Rebuilding Program aimed at upgrading and maintaining our tracks, stations and signal systems in order to continue to provide our customers with safe and reliable service. For more information on the 2015-2019 Capital Program log on to www.mta.info/capital. Customers who rely on these lines should allow for additional travel time.

Meanwhile, we have subway changes for this weekend. These come to me from the MTA and are subject to change without notice. Check signs; listen to announcements. Everything is listed after the jump. Read More→

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The R-17, shown here in operation as the Shuttle in 1982, was the first subway car outfitted with air condition. (Photo via Steve Zabel at NYCSubway.org)

Needless to say, it’s been a wee bit hot out in New York City. As the heat wave finally crests so that temperatures are a cool 80 degrees as I write it, the heat has settled into the city like an unwelcome house guest. It fills every nook and cranny with uncomfortably stale air and the smells of New York in the summer. It is indeed a pity the days can’t be like the nights.

New Yorkers though have a special dread of summer. It’s hot outside, but it’s worse underground. The heat traps of the subway system, made even warmer with the exhaust from subway cars pushing the mercury up higher, create unpleasant rides on a good day. At least, we think, the air conditioned subway cars offer a respite from the warmth. But what if it all goes wrong?

For a while on the site, when summer dawned, I would dive into the history of bringing air conditioners to the subway system. We haven’t yet solved the platform problem (although new deep-bore stations offer climate control), but after three decades of starts and stops, the MTA introduced a fully air conditioned fleet of subway cars by the mid-1980s. The ceiling fans seen in the old rolling stock at the Transit Museum seem simply quaint these days.

Lately, though, certain air conditioners have begun to fail. Most notably, the single-compressor units in the R62A cars — what you might know as the 1 and 6 trains — have been plagued with outages. The problems began in bits and spurts a few years ago, but with the sustained heat, the issue has exploded in a wave of Tweets directed toward @NYCTSubway, and a transit agency that can’t do too much more than acknowledge the problem.

Kate Hinds at WNYC has covered this story tirelessly this summer because she, like the rest of us, is wary of getting into the so-called hot cars. In late July, when she first wrote about the problem, the MTA explained that they field reports via social media, log them and try to figure out when to address them. The R62As are particularly prone to outages. These 30-year-old cars are due up for scheduled maintenance and have one compressor rather than multi-unit HVAC systems which are easier to repair. They’re old; they break.

But the problem has been the repeat offenders. Hinds revisited the story this week, and either the problem is growing or people are paying more attention. The MTA, which still claims only around 12 reports today, has fielded upwards of 30 air conditioner complaints on Twitter each day this week, and may cars are repeat offenders with early reports stretching back to mid July or even early June. Simply put, the problem is not going away.

Again, these issues are two-fold. First, the MTA doesn’t have the leeway to take one car out of service. Due to the way trainsets are coupled, removing one car from service basically torpedoes half of a ten-car train set. If the MTA took all of the problematic cars out of service, it wouldn’t have nearly enough rolling stock for peak hour demand. (By my count, at this point, around 40 or more different 1 and 6 train cars have been flagged for AC outages. I’m sure more hot cars are out there that haven’t been reported yet.) Second, while the MTA acknowledges that the R62As need scheduled maintenance, the SMS process can take nearly two years. These cars aren’t getting fixed overnight.

It’s bad solution to a design problem that isn’t getting fixed any time soon. We’re going to be hearing about hot cars until the R62As all undergo scheduled maintenance, but it would behoove the MTA to be upfront about this. Right now, they’re asking New Yorkers to report hot cars but are essentially saying that we have to keep riding them until the agency can find a solution. Beware then those emptier cars in an otherwise crowded train. It’s going to be hot in there.

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The MTA's mitigation plan involves city cooperation, but will the mayor collaborate ahead of the L train shutdown? (Click to enlarge)

The L train shutdown gives the city a chance to right some transit wrongs, if it so chooses. (Click to enlarge)

As a seemingly endless heatwave bathes New York City in the ennui of August and the mercury underground continues to climb, a haze of nothingness has settled over the Big Apple. The trains are running, but the MTA is on vacation. With no board meetings this month, we’re waiting until September for an update on the Second Ave. Subway, and instead of immediate concerns, we have pieces on the long-term issue casting a pall over Brooklyn. Despite the apocalypse still 29 months off, it has been the summer of the L train’s discontent.

On Monday, The Times ran an Emma Fitzsimmons’ piece with an incendiary headline aimed at the nattering nabobs of L train negativism. Those New Yorkers who live in transit deserts have no sympathy for L train riders. “Suck it up!” Philippe Pierre, a resident of Rosedale, Queens, said at first. After months of hearing L train riders complain, you can understand why New Yorkers who have to take dollar vans to a two-seat subway ride may not be so sympathetic to the L train riders’ 18-month plight.

But to be fair to Pierre, that’s not really what Fitzsimmons’ piece was about. Rather, it was about the alternate ways upon which New Yorkers without easy subway access rely to get around, and it’s instructive as the MTA and, hopefully, the city look to solve the problems the L train shutdown will cause. Mostly, these alternate routes and so-called transit deserts involve the bus, a perfectly valid mode of transit often accorded second-class status exactly because people seem to equate areas with bus service with transit deserts. Still, the buses are open, as Fitzsimmons notes:

Many New Yorkers who do not live near the subway use the bus, even though bus ridership is declining — a trend transit advocates attribute to poor service. Complaints abound: Buses move slowly in traffic; riders are not familiar with the routes; buses are not spaced evenly. A report released last month by several transit groups offered recommendations to improve the bus system, such as installing additional dedicated bus lanes and redesigning routes.

The ability to move around efficiently often plays an important role in economic well-being: New Yorkers with poor transit access tend to have lower incomes and higher rates of unemployment, according to a recent report by the Rudin Center for Transportation at New York University. Residents who could economically benefit from a shorter commute are often unable to afford to live in places with good transit access because housing costs are usually higher. “It is a perpetuating cycle because rents are closely correlated to transit access,” said Sarah M. Kaufman, the assistant director for technology programming at the center, adding that people with long commutes often face hardships like higher child care costs because they get home later…

Many New Yorkers who rely on buses have plenty of advice for L train commuters about what lies ahead. “You never know what’s going to happen with the bus; I suggest leaving early,” said Harvinder Singh, 19, a finance student at Queens College, who takes two buses to the Flushing campus from his home in South Ozone Park, Queens.

Mr. Singh, whose commute is about an hour each way, did offer praise for the dedicated bus lanes that have been expanded as a way to improve service. “That’s a great way to make them faster during rush hour,” Mr. Singh said as he rode a campus shuttle on a recent weekday, pointing out the window at a Q44 bus lane.

It seems abundantly clear then from Fitzsimmons’ article and the people she spoke with that, while “suck it up” sounds good, most people without access to the subway simply want better bus service. They want better, more frequent bus service with vehicles that are prioritized accordingly in dedicated lanes so that they operate faster and can cut costly commute times. They want to be afford first class status.

Along the L train, “suck it up” is a particularly bad piece of advice. New Yorkers from Williamsburg to Canarsie pay a premium to live along the L train because it’s a fast route into Manhattan. They don’t have to sit through multiple transfers on unreliable modes of transit. Commuters, family members, children going to school, New Yorkers from other neighborhoods, visitors and tourists all use the L train to get around, and the shutdown will have a negative impact on New Yorkers across income levels, professions and socioeconomic statuses. They can’t just suck it up; life in a city in which an island holds our focus economically doesn’t work like that.

The L train shutdown is a unique opportunity for the city to reprioritize public space. Those most affected by the 18-month L train outage are often the loudest online and in the media, and the complaints will be heard. It will give the city the opportunity, if it opts to take it, to reimagine 14th Street into a bus/bike/pedestrian space. It will allow buses to pick up some of slack. It will legitimize a form of transit that’s been struggling. And that’s the right answer to this problem. No one should have to suck it up; rather, the city and the MTA should design infrastructure that moves people on public transit faster and more efficiently than our network does today, L train shutdown or not.

Categories : L Train Shutdown
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In the annals of MTA press releases, the one the MTA sent out late last week is certainly one of the stranger ones. The MTA, the press release noted, is going to clean subway tracks. You might think this would come with the territory, but track cleanliness — and resulting fires — has beguiled the MTA for decades. These fires aren’t the problems they once were in the 1970s and early 1980s, but we’ve all seen piles of garbage growing in the tracks.

The MTA is calling this effort MTA Track Sweep, and the video above gives an introduction to the program. It is, MTA head Tom Prendergast said, part of a renewed focus on the station environment. “Operation Track Sweep is a critically important part of our overall effort to create a transit system that’s faster, more efficient, and more customer-friendly,” he said. “There’s no question that a concerted and sustained effort to limit trash on subway tracks will have a significant impact on the efficiency of subway service…Just as importantly, this initiative will also have a positive effect on how people feel about their daily commute. When there’s less debris, the entire station looks and feels cleaner, and the ride is more enjoyable.”

So what are they doing? First, the agency expanding its cleaning schedule. The number of station tracks that are cleaned every two weeks jumped from 34 to 94. Second, in mid-September, the MTA will being a two-week system-wide blitz involving 500 workers who will remove trash from tracks at every station. This is an effort that involves cleaning more than 10 miles of track, and the work will take place largely at night. The crews will post signs at each station noting when the clean-up efforts were completed. It’s not clear though when the MTA will again engage in such a concerted clean-up effort.

On a long-term basis, the agency is working to procure two more portable vacuum systems that can quickly scoop up garbage along the tracks near stations. These systems are expected to arrive before the year is over. Finally, the MTA will procure three new vacuum trains that will arrive in 2017 and early 2018. These trains can hold up to 14 cubic yards of trash — a mole hill compared with the volume of trash the MTA has to remove from its system.

It’s not entirely clear what’s pushing this effort. A few politicians have called upon the MTA to improve its trash-collection practices over the past few years as concerns about rodents and general cleanliness have taken center stage, and a Comptroller’s report last year highlighted the MTA’s trash collection failures. The MTA, Scott Stringer’s report found, simply could not keep up with the volume of trash that built up on subway tracks or its aggressive collection schedule.

So this new effort is a response to constant criticism, and it’s supposed to improve the passenger experience. It is notably not an effort to clear or beautify stations but rather is focused on tracks which should improve train service. We’ll see in a few months how it plays out, but as one MTA official noted, riders bear some responsibility too. “We’re approaching this as a sustained effort to get the tracks clean, and keep them as clean as possible over the long haul,” NYC Transit President Ronnie Hakim said. “Even as we redouble our efforts, it’s important for everyone to realize that riders have a critically important role to play as well – keeping the tracks clean means that everyone has to pitch in by disposing of trash properly.”

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Robert Kiley, shown here in his days as head of the MBTA, was the longest-tenured MTA Chair.

Robert Kiley, shown here in his days as head of the MBTA, was the longest-tenured MTA Chair.

In the popular history of New York City’s transit renaissance that stretches over the past 35 years, Richard Ravitch gets the lion’s share of the credit. He inherited a complete and total mess at the MTA and led the subways out of the depths of the dark ages and into the early 1980s. He left his job after securing a multi-billion-dollar capital commitment from the state legislature, and Robert Kiley stepped in as his replacement. Kiley served as the agency’s longest running chairman, setting in motion many of the improvements we know today. A veteran of three transit agencies and respected throughout the transit world, he passed away on Tuesday at the age of 80, due to complications from Alzheimer’s disease.

“Bob’s leadership helped the MTA focus on dramatically improving the safety and reliability of the network, led directly to the record ridership levels we see today and was central to the State’s increased growth and prosperity,” current MTA Chairman and CEO Tom Prendergast said in a statement. “He assembled a team and created a vision that brought the transit system back from the brink of disaster and under Gov. Mario M. Cuomo helped rebuild our region’s economy. We remember his service with fondness and gratitude and send our deepest condolences to his family in this difficult time.”

Kiley was a big of a giant in his field. He over Boston’s MBTA for four years in the 1970s, ushered in a variety of improvements in London (including the introduction of a congestion charge) and led New York’s subways into a new age. He brought in his fellow Massachusetts native Bill Bratton to oversee policing in our beleaguered transit system, erased graffiti from the city’s subway cars and launched the program that eventually led to the Metrocard.

The Times, in its obituary, told a bit more about Kiley’s accomplishments:

Inheriting a windfall $8.5 billion capital program wangled from the State Legislature by his predecessor at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, Richard Ravitch, Mr. Kiley presided over the replacement of hundreds of decrepit subway cars and buses, modernized stations, and improved on-time performance in a system that had been woefully neglected. Annual subway ridership, which in 1982 had dipped below one billion for the first time since 1917, rebounded by 1994 to the highest weekday average in two decades, 1.08 billion.

Mr. Ravitch, a native New Yorker, had been a vigorous advocate for mass transit, equally adept at wooing labor leaders, legislators and opinion makers in a campaign to generate the billions of dollars required to begin reversing the system’s decline. Mr. Kiley, a Minnesota native who arrived in New York by way of Boston, was more of a nuts-and-bolts manager, and he took longer to acclimate himself to the idiosyncrasies of local politics. “It’s kind of like following after Lou Gehrig,” Ralph L. Stanley, the federal urban mass transit administrator, said of the transition.

Mr. Kiley managed to win another $8 billion infusion for the authority’s capital program, recruited competent managers, and wrought concessions from organized labor, which incongruously represented most transit supervisors as well as rank-and-file workers.

Kiley’s arrival in New York City was not a foregone conclusion. In the early 1980s, he was toying with a run for mayor of Boston when one of then-Gov. Mario Cuomo’s aides courted Kiley by taking him to a Red Sox game. It happened to be Yaz Day at Fenway, and as the Red Sox celebrated Carl Yastrzemski, Kiley heard the New York pitch. Once it became clear he wouldn’t be mayor, he and Cuomo engaged in intense negotiations, and Kiley landed in New York.

As WNYC related in a replay of a late 1980s interview, Kiley had to step on some toes to get to where he needed the MTA to be. The story is worth a read (and there is a corresponding audio interview with Kiley). It delves into the need for fare hikes and the need to improve management by “jettisoning civil service and collective bargaining rules.” These were controversial moves then and would be again today.

Kiley left in the 1991 and was replaced by Peter Stangl. He eventually landed in London where he opposed the disastrous public-private partnership for certain Tube line operations that Transport for London eventually had to unravel. Yet, Kiley largely had his way, and as a 2004 New Yorker article detailed, Kiley is credited with saving the Underground. With three successful tenures leading transit agencies, Kiley was a singular leader in the transit space with a long and lasting legacy.

Categories : MTA
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Spend your weekend designing your own NYC subway map. This site’s been this week’s transit phenomenon, and it’s easy to see why. Correct the wrongs of the NYC subway or build new subway lines faster than the MTA can. It’s quite the addictive site, and you can read all about how it’s inspired by Robert Moses, not exactly a transit booster, in this essay describing the idea. If you’re so inclined, share your results via the Second Ave. Sagas Facebook page. I’d love to see everyone’s ideas.

Anyway, you know the drill: These come from the MTA and may change without notice. Check signs; listen to announcements. Do your thing.


From 11:30 p.m. Friday, August 5, to 5 a.m. Monday, August 8, service is suspended between 14 St and South Ferry. Take 2/3 or free shuttle buses.

    Uptown trains skip 18 St, 23 St and 28 St.
  • Downtown trains skip 28 St, 23 St, and 18 St during days and evenings.


From 3:45 a.m. Saturday, August 6, to 10 p.m. Sunday, August 7, downtown trains run express from 242 St to 215 St. For service to bypassed stations, take the Bx9 bus.


From 6:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturday, August 6, and from 9:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday, August 7, trains run every 16 minutes between 137 St and 242 St. Some uptown trains terminate at 137 St.


From 3:45 a.m. Saturday, August 6, to 10 p.m. Sunday, August 7, service operates in two sections:

  • Between Flatbush Av and E 180 St, and via the 5 to/from Dyre Av.
  • Between E 180 St and 241 St.


From 3:45 a.m. Saturday, August 6, to 10 p.m. Sunday, August 7, E 180 St-bound trains run express from 241 St to E 180 St.


From 11:30 p.m. Friday, August 5, to 5 a.m. Monday, August 8, trains run local between Chambers St and 34 St.


From 11:30 p.m. Friday, August 5, to 5 a.m. Monday, August 8, service is suspended between Utica Av and New Lots Av. Trains operate all weekend between 148 St and Utica Av. Free shuttle buses make all stops between Utica Av and New Lots Av.


From 11:30 p.m. Friday, August 5, to 5 a.m. Monday, August 8, trains run local between Chambers St and 34 St.


From 11:45 p.m. Friday, August 5, to 5 a.m. Monday, August 8, service is suspended between New Lots Av/Utica Av and Bowling Green. Take the 2/3 or free shuttle buses instead.


From 3:45 a.m. to 7:30 a.m. on Saturday, August 6, and from 9:45 p.m. Saturday, August 6, to 9:30 a.m. Sunday, August 7, 5 shuttle service is replaced by the 2.


From 7:45 a.m. to 10 a.m. on Sunday, August 7, service is suspended between Dyre Av and 149 St-Grand Concourse. Take the 2.


From 6:45 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturday, August 6, Manhattan-bound trains run express from Willets Point to Queensboro Plaza, stopping at 74 St-Broadway.


From 11:45 p.m. Friday, August 5, to 5 a.m. Monday, August 8, trains run via the f in both directions between W 4 St and Jay St-MetroTech.


From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, August 6, to 5 a.m. Monday, August 8, trains run local in both directions between W 4 St and 59 St. Downtown trains run local from 125 St to 59 St.


From 6:30 a.m. to 11 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, August 6 and 7, trains run via the F in both directions between W 4 St and Jay St-MetroTech.


From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, August 6, to 5 a.m. Monday, August 8, downtown trains run local from 125 St to 59 St.


From 11:45 p.m. Friday, August 5, to 5 a.m. Monday, August 8, trains run via the F in both directions between 21 St-Queensbridge and W 4 St. Free shuttle buses run between Court Sq-23 St and 21 St-Queensbridge, stopping at Queens Plaza.


From 11:45 p.m. to 6:30 a.m., Friday to Sunday, August 5 to 7, and from 11:45 p.m. Sunday, August 7, to 5 a.m. Monday, August 8, Jamaica Center-bound trains run express from 21 St-Queensbridge to 71 Av.


From 11:45 p.m. Friday, August 5, to 5 a.m. Monday, August 8, Jamaica Center-bound trains skip 75 Av and Briarwood.


From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, August 6, to 5 a.m. Monday, August 8, Manhattan-bound trains run local in Queens.


From 11:45 p.m. Friday, August 5, to 5 a.m. Monday, August 8, Jamaica-bound trains skip 75 Av, Briarwood, and Sutphin Blvd.


From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, August 6, to 5 a.m. Monday, August 8, Brooklyn-bound trains run local in Queens.


From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, August 6, to 5 a.m., Monday, August 8, trains run via the N in both directions between Canal St and Atlantic Av-Barclays Ctr.


From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, August 6, to 5 a.m., Monday, August 8, trains run via the R in both directions between Canal St and DeKalb Av.


From 6:30 a.m. to midnight, Saturday and Sunday, August 6 and 7, Forest Hills-bound trains run express from Queens Plaza to 71 Av.

Categories : Service Advisories
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The MTA launched a 90-day pilot bringing these countdown clocks to eight stations in Manhattan.

The MTA launched a 90-day pilot bringing these countdown clocks to eight stations in Manhattan.

Among the transit cognoscenti, the promise of countdown clocks on the B Division has always seemed frustratingly out of reach. While the A division — the numbered lines — received countdown clocks as part of a signal upgrade a few years ago, the upgrades for the lettered lines are still decades away. Meanwhile, every few months, the MTA would promise some sort of interim solution in “three to five years.” Well, three to five years may finally have arrived as the MTA and Governor Cuomo announced a Bluetooth-based, eight-station 90-day pilot program for B Division countdown clocks.

The pilot — along the BMT Broadway line (N, Q, and R trains in Manhattan) — will feature to-the-minute countdown clocks with similar information as the ones on the A Division share but a different design. The information will be delivered from data transmitted by Bluetooth receivers on the trains to those on the platform and then fed into the digital displays. The countdown timers won’t be based off of data received while trains are in between stations so precise train location will still be an unknown, but the data should be reliable enough that passengers won’t know the difference.

Here’s how the press release described the technology:

The new clocks rely on technology that is straightforward, cost effective to deploy, and does not require large infrastructure. The system uses the existing wireless network in the stations and cloud computing, and involves four Bluetooth receivers placed in each station, two at each end of the platform. These receivers communicate with four Bluetooth devices that have been installed in the first and last cars of each train set running on the line. As the train enters and leaves a station, the system uses its arrival and departure time to estimate the time at which the train will reach the next stop in the line, and display the arrival times on the two LCD display screens that have been installed at each station.

The new displays, as you can see from the photo above, will feature the countdown timers but can also show PSAs and other contents (such as ads) concurrently, solving a major design flaw inherent in the current two-line displays. Now, when the MTA wants to issue a not-so-important message from the NYPD, it can do so on the portion of the screen that doesn’t include the countdown information.

“These actions,” Cuomo said in his press release today, “are the latest steps toward rebuilding and transforming the MTA into a unified, state-of-the-art transportation network that will meet the needs of current and future generations of New Yorkers. With this new and updated technology, we’ll help ensure riders have the information they need to get where they need to go.”

As part of the 90-day test, the system will be in use at the N/Q/R stations at 23rd Street; 28th Street; 34th Street; 42nd Street; 49th Street; 57th Street; 5th Avenue/59th Street; and Lexington Avenue/59th Street. During the evaluation period, the MTA says it will “identify and correct any issues with the new system. The goal is to evaluate the accuracy of location data, performance of Transit Wireless infrastructure, performance of the LCD displays, physical and network security of Bluetooth devices, security of data being transmitted, and internal access and use of data being generated.”

The governor says these clocks will ultimately be installed at all 269 stops along the lettered lines, but it’s not clear on what timeline these could be rolled out or at what cost. It is markedly cheaper than the CBTC upgrades, but unlike the CBTC upgrades, Bluetooth-based countdown clocks don’t increase service. They are a customer satisfaction measure through and through, one that both is welcomed and shouldn’t have taken so long to realize. But with Cuomo’s push to roll out Transit Wireless at all underground stations by the end of the year, this style of countdown clock became feasible. It is not yet clear how these could be deployed in stations that are above ground.

Still, the MTA appears committed to this way forward, and although I don’t always agree with the Governor’s transit priorities, he deserves praise for finally getting the MTA to move forward with technology projects that had been stalled for years. “Governor Cuomo challenged the MTA to develop an aggressive approach to putting countdown clocks on the lettered lines, and our technology team’s response has been phenomenal,” MTA Chairman and CEO Thomas F. Prendergast said in a statement. “In very short order they developed an easy to deploy, cost-effective system that we think will play a central role in bringing this essential service to more and more of our customers. We look forward to learning from this test, as well as to developing a roll out plan based on our findings.”

Categories : MTA Technology
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The MTA's mitigation plan involves city cooperation, but will the mayor collaborate ahead of the L train shutdown? (Click to enlarge)

The MTA’s map of potential service during the L train closure highlights how increased subway service, buses and ferries will help mitigate the effects of the 18-month shutdown. (Click to enlarge)

For better or worse, the L train shutdown is going to dominate the news coverage for the next few years as it has been for the past seven or eight months. Last week, after months of outreach and public meetings, announced the inevitable and said that a full 18-month shutdown was the choice as “the least risky way” to perform the work. And Mayor Bill de Blasio decided this was a good way to dig in on his fight with Gov. Andrew Cuomo at the expense of a prime opportunity to lead.

After both deputy Mayor Anthony Shorris and de Blasio issued statements regarding the 18-month shutdown — “we are deeply concerned that it would announce an 18-month shutdown of this critical service without a clear plan or a commitment of resources for mitigating the impact of this closure,” Shorris said — de Blasio decided to double down on criticism. In comments on The Brian Lehrer Show on Friday, the mayor questioned the need for a full 18-month shutdown and immediately cast doubt upon the idea of a 14th Street Peopleway. He is taking a crisis and doing the most to lose on all issues.

Dana Rubinstein summed up the mayor’s views:

Mayor Bill de Blasio said Friday he’s still dubious that the MTA actually needs to shut down the L train tunnel for a year and a half to repair the damage wrought by seven million gallons of Hurricane Sandy-induced flooding. “It’s a long time,” said the mayor, during his weekly appearance on the WNYC’s “Brian Lehrer Show.” “And we’re certainly going to push hard to see, does it it really have to be so long? Is there any other way to go about this?”

…Some worry the communication disconnect between de Blasio and the MTA, which Gov. Andrew Cuomo effectively controls, is evidence that the apparently never-ending de Blasio-Cuomo feud might interfere with L train mitigation efforts.Jon Orcutt, the advocacy director at TransitCenter is, for one, convinced of the need for the prolonged shutdown. “Yeah, I mean, the work has to happen,” Orcutt said. “It’s not optional.”

De Blasio seems somewhat less certain, even as he acknowledged that he’s “sure” the decision “has a practical, underlying rationale.” “Most important point here is that we have to push the MTA to confirm, do they really need to do it that way, are there better alternatives, and what are they going to do to maximize the alternatives that they can provide…for those riders,” he said…

One of the mitigation proposals advanced by advocates is a closure of 14th Street to personal cars.
De Blasio’s not yet convinced of the need for that either. “It’s not one that, on first blush, sounds to me easy, given how important 14th Street is. But we’ll look at everything and anything we can do,” he said. He also noted that his citywide ferry service will have launched by the time the closure goes into effect in 2019, though he has also said, in the past, “we’re going to need a lot more than that, obviously.”

Promoting the ferry network — his idea and a necessary one but also one that helps only those in Williamsburg close to the water — while throwing cold water on other people’s proposal to turn a crosstown street over to transit and buses is a very Bill de Blasio move. de Blasio, a car guy who gets driven 13 miles to his gym every morning, thinks 14th St. is important because it’s a popular motorist route. He doesn’t seem to understand the 14th Street is “important” because so many people use it as a transit corridor (and he doesn’t seem to understand how turning one single crosstown street into a so-called peopleway could be a new front in his half-hearted Vision Zero initiative).

In subsequent comments on the Brian Lehrer Show, de Blasio dug in: “Most important point here is that we have to push the MTA to confirm — do they really need to do it that way? Are there better alternatives? And what are they going to do to maximize the alternatives that they can provide — buses and other things they can provide — for those riders?” As Streetsblog noted, it’s a disingenuous argument as the MTA has been talking about a shutdown for eight months, and de Blasio’s own DOT Commission is on the MTA Board and has recognized the need for city-state cooperation.

The mayor, meanwhile, isn’t winning any friends at the agency with which he will have to collaborate. Take a look at this statement, via Tweet, from MTA spokesperson Beth de Falco.

The mayor has a few options here. He can dig in against the MTA and fight an inevitable and unavoidable shutdown that has been particularly well planned and well presented to the public. He can avoid collaborating and ensure that DOT resources — a necessary part of any shutdown as DOT controls the streets any bustitution plan will require — aren’t used to help mitigate the L train shutdown. Or he could put this element of his dispute with Cuomo to one side and help plan a real solution to the L train shutdown. He could be a leader on street space and safe streets while working to help New Yorkers avoid, as much as possible, 18 months of transit pain. Can he rise above the bickering with Cuomo or will L train riders, already stranded by damage from Sandy come 2019, be left out in the cold by their mayor as well?

Categories : Superstorm Sandy
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Cubic may combine London's contactless approach with Chicago's Ventra card to bring a new fare payment system to NYC.

Cubic may combine London’s contactless approach with Chicago’s Ventra card to bring a new fare payment system to NYC.

As the MTA finally for real this time gears up to replace the Metrocard, the global politics behind contactless fare payment technologies took an interesting and intriguing turn a few weeks ago as Transport for London announced a licensing arrangement with Cubic. In an arrangement that will allow London to monetize its contactless fare payment system and permit Cubic to bring a ready-for-market system to its customers around the world, TfL will license its current contactless fare payment system to Cubic. The deal was announced the week the responses to the MTA’s new fare payment system RFP were due, and although we won’t know the results of that RFP for a few months, the Cubic/TfL deal certainly made it seem as though New York is heading for a system similar to London’s current contactless system.

“Contactless payments have completely transformed the way people pay for travel in London and this deal will allow other world cities to benefit from the hard work we put into making the system work for our customers,” TfL’s CTO Shashi Verma said.

This deal allows Cubic to bring London’s best-in-class contactless fare payment system to the rest of the world. London adopted the technology for buses in 2012 and Tube and rail services in 2014 (which gives you an indication just how far behind the MTA is in the fare payment game). In the intervening years, TfL and Cubic have recorded over 500 million journeys off of 12 million unique debit and credit cards from 90 different countries and mobile devices. Gone is the need for a costly proprietary fare payment system (such as, say, a Metrocard).

Cubic, which does provide the backbone for the Metrocard system, also provides smartcard-based fare payment in a variety of other cities, including Chicago and Vancouver, and the company feels this combination of London’s technology and its marketplace expertise can help as transit companies look for a more agile and versatile fare payment system. I spoke with Matthew Cole, the president of Cubic Transportation Systems, shortly after the deal was announced, and he discussed with me how the company has combined what they feel are the best elements of these systems for the MTA’s bid. (In other words, one of the big motivators behind this deal was to position Cubic as the lead contender for the Metrocard replacement effort.)

Cole couldn’t discuss the ins and outs of the company’s proposal to the MTA; it is, after all, still under the MTA’s confidentiality agreement. But he spoke about how NYC’s system could potentially use contactless bank cards as London does while supporting a system similar to Chicago’s Ventra card. Ideally, a new system would support a smart phone payment system. “It’s great,” Cole said, “for people who don’t want to segregate their money and have a separate transit card with separate balance on it.”

In terms of performance improvement, an open system obviates the need to maintain a proprietary fare payment system. While a transit agency can still issue its own fare cards for those who don’t have bank cards or don’t want to tie a credit or debit card into a transit agency payment system, the option exists, but at a much lower cost to the transit agency as an account-oriented system significantly reduces the per-transaction cost of maintaining a proprietary system.

Additionally, a contactless, open payment system is, as Cole put it, “more future-proof” than the Metrocard in that the system is designed to change with the times. On the other hand, the Metrocard doesn’t involve and essentially runs on the same system with the same technology today in 2016 as it did in 1994. And the Cubic/TfL/Ventra system can still support time-based purchases (e.g., a 30-day card) or bulk purchase discounts as the current Metrocard can.

As the world of fare payment technologies go, this licensing agreement gives London’s technology an edge globally, and New York City could be the first test case. If Cubic earns business, we’ll find out how this newish contactless system works in an agency adverse to technology change. It could be a real test and a potential game-changing in moving forward on a Metrocard replacement project that has been stuck in neutral for nearly a decade.

Categories : MetroCard
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A little late on these, but better than never. As always, these come to me via the MTA and are subject to change without notice. Check signs in your local station and listen to all on-board announcements.


From 3:45 a.m. Saturday, July 30, to 10 p.m. Sunday, July 31, trains operate in two sections: between Flatbush Av-Brooklyn College and E 180 St, then via the 5 to/from Eastchester-Dyre Av, and between E 180 St and Wakefield-241 St. To continue your trip, transfer at E 180 St.


From 3:45 a.m. Saturday, July 30, to 10 p.m. Sunday, July 31, E 180 St-bound trains run express from Wakefield-241 St to E 180 St.


From 11:45 p.m. Friday, July 29, to 5 a.m. Monday, August 1, 3 service operates to/from New Lots Av, replacing the 4 in Brooklyn.


From 11:45 p.m. Friday, July 29, to 5 a.m. Monday, August 1, service is suspended in both directions between New Lots Av/Crown Hts-Utica Av and Brooklyn Bridge-City Hall. For service between Manhattan and Brooklyn, take D/N/Q/R. Transfer between 4/6/N/Q/R at 14 St-Union Sq or Canal St. Transfer between 2/3/D/N/Q/R at Atlantic Av-Barclays Ctr. For service to/from Wall St and Bowling Green, use the R. For service to/from Fulton St and between Borough Hall and Franklin Av, take 2/3. For service between Franklin Av and New Lots Av, take the 3.


From 11:45 p.m. Friday, July 29, to 5 a.m. Monday, August 1, trains run local in both directions between 125 St and Brooklyn Bridge-City Hall.


From 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday, July 30, and from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday, July 31, service is suspended in both directions between Bowling Green and Grand Central-42 St. For stations between Grand Central-42 St and Brooklyn Bridge-City Hall, take the 4 or 6. Transfer between 5 and 4 or 6 trains at Grand Central-42 St. For service to Fulton St, Wall St, and Bowling Green, use nearby r at Cortlandt St, Rector St, or Whitehall St. Transfer between 4/6 and R trains at Canal St, or transfer between 4 and r trains at 59 St-Lexington Av. As a reminder, 4 service is suspended in both directions between Brooklyn Bridge-City Hall and New Lots Av all weekend, until 5 a.m. Monday, August 1.


From 3:45 a.m. to 7:30 a.m. Saturday, July 30, and from 9:45 p.m. Saturday, July 30 to 9:30 a.m. Sunday, July 31, 5 shuttle service is suspended in both directions between E 180 St and 149 St-Grand Concourse. Take the 2.


From 11:45 p.m. Friday, July 29, to 5 a.m. Monday, August 1, trains are rerouted via the F in both directions between W 4 St-Wash Sq and Jay St-MetroTech. To/from Spring St, Canal St, and Chambers St, take the E via transfer at W 4 St. To/from Fulton St, take the J via transfer at Delancey-Essex Sts. Or, use the E at nearby World Trade Center station; transfer between trains at W 4 St-Wash Sq. To/from High St, use the nearby York St F station.


From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, July 30, to 5 a.m. Monday, August 1, trains run local in both directions between W 4 St-Wash Sq and 59 St-Columbus Circle.


From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, July 30, to 5 a.m. Monday, August 1, downtown trains run local from 125 St to 59 St-Columbus Circle.


From 6:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday, July 30, and Sunday, July 31, trains are rerouted on the F in both directions between W 4 St-Wash Sq and Jay St-MetroTech.


From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, July 30, to 5 a.m. Monday, August 1, Coney Island-Stillwell Av bound trains run local from 125 St to 59 St-Columbus Circle.


From 11:45 p.m. Friday, July 29, to 5 a.m. Monday, August 1, trains are rerouted via the F in both directions between 21 St-Queensbridge and W 4 St-Wash Sq. Free shuttle buses run between Court Sq-23 St and 21 St-Queensbridge, stopping at Queens Plaza.


From 11:45 p.m. Friday, July 30 to 6:30 a.m. Sunday, July 31, and from 11:45 p.m. Sunday, July 31 to 5 a.m. Monday, August 1, Jamaica Center-bound trains run express from 21 St-Queensbridge to 71 Av.


From 11:45 p.m. Friday, July 29, to 5 a.m. Monday, August 1, Jamaica Center-bound trains skip 75 Av and Briarwood.


From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, July 30, to 5 a.m. Monday, August 1, World Trade Center-bound trains run local in Queens.


From 11:45 p.m. Friday, July 30, to 5 a.m. Monday, August 1, Jamaica-bound trains skip 75 Av, Briarwood, and Sutphin Blvd.


From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, July 30, to 5 a.m. Monday, August 1, trains run local from Forest Hills-71 Av to 21 St-Queensbridge.


From 11:30 p.m. Friday, July 29 to 5 a.m. Monday, August 1, trains are rerouted via the d line from Coney Island-Stillwell Av to 36 St in both directions.


From 6:30 a.m. to midnight, Saturday and Sunday, July 30 and July 31, Forest Hills-71 Av bound trains run express from Queens Plaza to Forest Hills-71 Av.


From 11:30 p.m. Friday, July 30 to 6:30 a.m. Sunday, July 31, and from 11:45 p.m. Sunday, July 31, to 5 a.m. Monday, August 1, 36 St-bound trains stop at 53 St and 45 St.

Categories : Service Advisories
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