In need of dough? How about delinquent bus fares?

By · Published in 2007 · Comments (6) ·

So the MTA may need some money for that whole Second Ave. subway thing. Maybe they should start enforcing bus fare collection.

According to reports released on Monday, bus fare hopping is becoming a growing problem in the City. The Post tracked down some delinquent bus riders and interviewed their drivers on Monday.

Grandparents, baby boomers and even mothers with carriages are becoming the city’s new scofflaws by using the rear exit doors on buses to get a free E-ZPass aboard. “It’s out of control!” said one 44-year-old Brooklyn driver who operates the B41 bus along Flatbush Avenue…

The Post recently saw dozens of kid-toting, shopping-bag-carrying folks aggressively hopping onto crowded buses through rear doors at the busy Fordham Road and Webster Avenue stop – sometimes preventing passengers from getting off.

One well-dressed, 57-year-old office worker and grandmother of two told The Post as she sneaked onto a bus that she does it because “everyone else is doing it.”

So, grandma, if everyone jumped off the Brooklyn Bridge, would you do that, too?

The MTA had little information about the problem because they can’t really track the fares they don’t collect. The NYPD is in the same boat. While the police have stopped over 205,000 turnstile jumpers since 2005, the Boys in Blue have ticketed a whopping 21 people for ducking out on their bus fare.

According to Transit Spokesman Charles Seaton, fare-cheaters are common at busy stops and on the long accordion buses where the driver doesn’t have a very good view of the back door.

While any effort to ticket fare-jumpers on the bus system would probably cost more to implement than it would draw in, it’s just not cool to avoid paying for the bus. So don’t do it. Pay up, man. The MTA, after all, needs that money to build a new subway line.

Categories : Buses, MTA Absurdity
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Hey, where is the money?

By · Published in 2007 · Comments (1) ·

With apologies to Nelly for the pun-derful headline, money was on the mind last week at the Second Ave. subway groundbreaking. For starters, there isn’t enough of it yet for this new subway line, and officials with the Transit Chapter of the Civil Service Technical Guild don’t think the money the MTA has is being spent wisely. Who woulda thunk it?

We start with the issue of funding, as reported by Reuters. According to the wire service’s reports, the MTA is still $800 million short, and Federal Transit Administration Administrator James Simpson called for some public-private partnerships. Not everyone was too thrilled with this idea, Joan Gralla reported.

Spitzer reacted noncommittally to Simpson’s proposal. Asked if New York should use public-private partnerships like Texas, which has the biggest U.S. program, Spitzer said: “Nobody is talking about that for the New York City subway.”

Chicago two years ago spurred states and cites to explore these partnerships — which are common overseas — when it got $1.83 billion by leasing its Skyway commuter toll bridge. But some fiscal monitors have bashed Chicago’s model, saying the city got too little for its 99-year lease, and gave up its right to share any extra tolls with the two companies — MIG, run by Australia’s investment bank, Macquarie Bank Ltd, and Cintra, part of Spanish construction giant Ferrovial.

In the same article, Mysore Nagaraja, the head of MTA Captial Construction, noted that the project would be finished in 2021 if funding held up. Wait a second, Mysore. I thought the the original end date was set for 2020. So we’re already a year behind schedule and nothing has happened yet. Uh oh.

Meanwhile, People’s Weekly World, a Union newspaper descended from the Daily Worker, questions the MTA’s decision to contract out some of the work for the construction of the Second Ave. subway.

The Metropolitan Transit Authority-NYC Transit contract calls for the private firm to do engineering work on the planned Second Avenue subway line, work that the union contends could be done more efficiently by in-house engineers.

It is estimated that some $384 million of the project’s anticipated $3.8 billion budget would be absorbed by this contract. This amounts to approximately $51 million for each year of the seven-year project. Union leaders report that their members could do the same work for only $8 million per year, resulting in a savings of more then $300 million over the life of the project.

Right now, I’m in no position to comment on the validity of the arguments set forth by the Civil Service Technical Guild as reported by PWW. But if the claims are accurate, I think I just found some of that missing $800 million for Phase 1 of this four-tiered project.

Sounds like we’re in for a fun ride over the next few years as the MTA gets to juggle a multi-billion-dollar public works program with a tortured history. Hold on, folks.

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One of the nicer aspects of the New York City subway stops are the way they blend into the city. The entrances are clearly marked with the tell-tale green/red light globes and a familiar-looking staircase. Whether you’re in Park Slope or near Central Park West, the subways look the same.

Now along comes this interloper. It’s a new fancy-shmancy subway line, and the MTA wants to make it look ostentatiously ridiculous. These new entrances, as shown above, really announce the subway. Instead of fitting in with the densely-populated residential neighborhoods on the East Side, that entrance — a sample mock-up of a planned Second Ave. subway entry — announce themselves in a loud and practically obnoxious way.

In fact, this entrance looks amazingly similar to the new entry canopies recently installed in Washington, D.C. (pictures opens in new window). When I lived in D.C. in 2005-2006, these canopies were just being installed, and they are, to put it kindly, hideous. They obscure the neighborhoods in which they are installed and are a huge eye-sore. While they are designed as weather protection for the escalators in the Metro, as visual components to a public works system, they simply do not work.

Meanwhile, some critics of the New York City subway system may appreciate these new entrances. After all, if you don’t know where the subway entrance is, it’s nearly impossible to find it in some neighborhoods. Ever try locating that Spring St. stop on the C or E? These entrances sure do announce themselves.

Not everyone is as opposed to these entry behemoths as I am. SUBWAYblogger seems to disagree, but he does raise some valid questions. Why is the MTA releasing these photos five to ten years before the stations actually open? Why would they spend so much on an aspect of the project that’s purely for show?

Personally, I do not endorse these preliminary designs, but the MTA works in mysterious ways sometimes. And hey, 2013 is a ways off. Maybe the designs can change for the better.

For more pictures of the planned designs, click the more link below or click here for a bigger view. (Opens in a new window.)

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Have you ever seen the rain, coming down in the subway?

By · Published in 2007 · Comments (0) ·

When John Fogerty wrote the song Have you ever seen the rain? for Creedence in 1970, I don’t think he was talking about the subway. But it sure works as a misheard lyric and couldn’t be more appropriate considering what’s heading our way.

To sum it up: New York is facing the Storm of the Year this weekend. While it will be thankfully warm enough to avoid snow, we’re looking at heavy rains and strong winds for Sunday. In fact, 36 hours before the storm should hit, the National Weather Service has already issued a Coastal Flood Watch and a Flood Watch for New York City and the surrounding areas. As SUBWAYblogger noted, the weather tends to wreck havoc with the subways. So plan accordingly.

Meanwhile, the ever-prepared MTA is trying its best to batten down its hatches. They have un-suspended the J service for Sunday but you folks in Brooklyn the A are out of luck for now.

Full weekend service alerts can be found here. I’ll catch you on Monday with more from all aspects of this Second Ave. subway line. Stand clear of the closing doors.

Categories : Service Advisories
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Dignitaries head to a groundbreaking inside the tunnel for which ground was supposed to be broken. Or something like that. (Jeremy M. Lange for The New York Times).

So is it still a groundbreaking ceremony on the fourth try? Should we celebrate and pat ourselves in the back? Well, of course, we should! This is New York. This city lives on glitz and self-congratulatory ceremonies.

In other news, today was the groundbreaking ceremony for the fourth attempt at building the Second Ave. subway. If you haven’t already read about this here, here, here or here, well, then all of this is new to you. (If you’ve already read about it, just pretend, ok? Make me feel good. And check back later for some pictures of planned station entrances.)

So on a rainy Thursday morning, a veritable Who’s Who of New York politics marched their way downstairs to a tunnel that has sat largely abandoned for thirty years to kick off what should be the first successful attempt to build the Second Ave. subway. The politicians patted each other on their respective backs and promised Big Things to Come for the residents of the East Side who will, in MTA time, soon be enjoying a new subway line.

The MTA bigwigs certainly were proud of themselves. “This time it’s for real. At long last, we will build the Second Avenue Subway,” said MTA Executive Director and CEO Elliot “Lee” Sander. “Second Avenue is the most important mass transit project in the United States. It is critical to support the region’s economic growth and environmental health for the next generation.”

“Today’s groundbreaking is a salute to the many people who have fought for the Second Avenue Subway over the years,” said at-some-point-outgoing MTA Chairman Peter S. Kalikow. “This day was hard to imagine ten or twenty years ago, but the start of this project highlights the rebirth of the region and the resilience of the great State and City of New York.”

Never before have so many politicians said so much and yet so little. These quotations, as provided by the MTA’s press shop, illuminate the pageantry and shallowness behind a groundbreaking ceremony.

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How do you break ground when it’s already been broken? (Courtesy of The New York Times)

I know. I know. We’ve beaten this topic to death lately. But hey, this is after all Second Ave. Sagas. I can’t just ignore the Groundbreaking as the ceremony is just a few hours away.

So today’s the day. Part of me is surprised. I grew up in the City in an age when the subways were unsafe and dirty. No one dreamed of expanding the subways because New York didn’t even have the money to maintain their current maze of subway lines and stations.

But by the time I was in high school, taking the 1 (or the now-defunct 9) back and forth to the Bronx ten times a week, times had changed for the New York City subways. They were graffiti-free and safe. While no one will ever mistake the subways for clean, their current level of grubbiness is indicative of widespread use and popularity. It’s hard to clean a system that never sleeps.

In November, when I started this blog, I had a feeling that we would be seeing the Second Ave. subway sooner rather than later. While my dad — a lifelong New Yorker — will not accept the reality of this new subway line until he actually rides on it, guardedly, I can now say that we will have the long-awaited line running down Manhattan’s East Side. It’s not a line that runs from Brooklyn through Manhattan and up to the Bronx, but it’s a start.

And we’re just getting started here. In the city that depends on the subway for so much of its transportation needs, not a day goes by without MTA news. So stick around for the ride. We’re in for the long haul.

Meanwhile, if you’re interested in watching the fourth groundbreaking ceremony for the Second Ave. subway, you’re in luck; NY1 will carry the ceremony live at 10:30 a.m. today.

“The groundbreaking for Second Avenue Subway is a historic moment in the life of New York City, and we’re thrilled that everyone will be able to see it live,” said MTA Executive Director and CEO Elliot G. Sander. “I hope that many people will join us at MTA headquarters for this special day.”

At some point, we’ll have to stop having ceremonies honoring a subway line that should have been built decades ago. But I’ll take it. It’s a much-needed sign of progressing for the albatross that’s been hanging around the subway’s neck since the 1930s. Next stop: 2nd Avenue.

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Unsurprisingly, Roberts tabbed for NYCT head

By · Published in 2007 · Comments (0) ·

In a move that shocks no one, MTA CEO Elliot “Lee” Sander named Howard Roberts the new head of New York City Transit. Roberts’ nomination became official after rumors, reported here on March 30, emerged that Sander was looking to pick his old boss for this position.

“We interviewed many exceptional candidates from around the world and within the MTA family, but Howard’s experience, leadership and management style made him the clear choice,” Sander said in a statement prepared for the press. “I have seen Howard’s unique ability to lead people first hand and expect great things from NYC Transit under his leadership.”

During the press conference announcing Roberts’ arrival, the new head of NYCT gave lip service to all the right issues, as amNY’s Chuck Bennett reported. “Safety and security absolutely have to come first,” Roberts said. “And then from a distance, I would really like to tackle both improving customer satisfaction with the system and the state of labor relations.”

If you’re looking for more information on Roberts’ SEPTA and military background, look no further: I explored his history a few days ago. While some readers of Second Ave. Sagas voiced their skepticism over the Roberts, he has the blessings of the Straphangers campaign for now.

Of course, only time will tell how Roberts fills the shoes left vacant nearly by Lawrence Reuter. Here’s to hoping the trains run on time today for Roberts’ first day in his new job.

Categories : MTA Politics
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Sunnyside residents worried about East Side Access impact

By · Published in 2007 · Comments (1) ·


Tunnels for the East Side Access project will run through the Sunnyside neighborhood in Queens. (Map courtesy of MTA Capital Construction)

Unhappy residents make poor political partners and, as the MTA is learning, excellent stories for journalists. While Second Ave. residents have expressed their collective dismay over a looming eviction, some New Yorkers across the East River aren’t too happy with the plans for the East Side Access project.

According to a story last week in the Queens Chronicle, Sunnyside residents are concerned that the increased rail traffic will mean a corresponding increase in noise for the neighborhood. Jennifer Manley of the Chronicle has more:

According to Metropolitan Transportation Authority employees familiar with the plans, two new sets of train tracks will be laid parallel to the LIRR main line, one to the north and one to the south. A loop track tunnel will also be built below ground to run empty trains to a new storage yard…

At the Sunnyside Towers, a six-story co-op building on Barnett Avenue, some upper-floor residents have learned to live with the rumble of passing trains, but are not pleased with the prospect of more. “When you live right here, you are getting the screech of metal hitting metal, and it’s sickening,” complained Ayne Horyn, who lives on the fourth floor…Estimates are that train activity could increase between 30 percent and 50 percent, with an additional 24 trains a day, and as many as 19 more trains during peak hours.

While some residents are working with MTA on noise-dampening solutions, others are resigned to the fact that these transportation upgrades will bring a decrease in the quality of life for some Queens dwellers.

It’s been a rough week for the MTA and its public relations image. The Second Ave. residents are garnering sympathy because no one thought this subway line would actually end up a reality. And while Queens residents will soon have their chance to air their concerns with MTA CEO Elliot “Lee” Sander, an air of inevitability permeates these capital construction projects. Once the money starts flowing and the wheels start turning, it’s tough to stem that impending tide.

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We’re just two days away from the Second Ave. subway’s third groundbreaking ceremony. While those of us rooting for another subway line are celebrating, those living in the path of the MTA’s plans are facing eviction. Needless to say, these New Yorkers are unhappy campers.

Over the weekend, The Daily News caught up with some of the residents who will be eminent-domained out of their Upper East Side apartments.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority informed [the retired Giorgio]Costa and his neighbors of the plan in 2004. They were greatly concerned but the panic was tempered by the knowledge that politicians and transit types had been promising to create the new subway line for decades without success.

The reality has finally sunk in.

Costa pays $605 a month in rent – far below the market rate in the neighborhood, where an influx of young professionals has driven rents beyond what most retirees can afford. MTA officials said Costa’s five-story building on the corner of E. 69th St. and Second Ave. must be demolished to make room for station exits and equipment. Thirty buildings will be knocked down for the $17 billion project, the MTA said.

Tamer El-Ghobashy’s article is fairly grim. While the MTA has acknowledged that, under federal law, it must find comparable replacement apartments, nearly everyone in New York knows just how tough the real estate market is. One representative from the Corcoran Group says the MTA won’t be too successful replacing these 400 units unless they can find “friendly landlords” which to me sounds something like a New York City oxymoron.

While some of the tenants facing eviction plan to move from Manhattan, a part of me has to wonder about the East Siders’ complacency. The MTA told them in 2004 that this subway line would be built this time; it’s been pretty much a reality since then. These residents chose not to find housing on their own and are now up a creek without a paddle. I’m sympathetic to their plight, but at the same time, they had three years to find suitable housing.

Later today, I’ll check in with Queens where some Sunnyside residents are less than happy with the East Side Access plans. It’s been a rough week as the MTA has learned that, in your efforts to please some of the people all the time, you’ll offend others all the time too.

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Papers get nostaligic as groundbreaking nears

By · Published in 2007 · Comments (1) ·

This groundbreaking for the Second Ave. Subway took place in 1972. It was the first of what will be at least three such ceremonies for this ill-fated line. (Courtesy of Neal Boenzi/The New York Times)

Thursday is fast approaching, and those of us eagerly expecting the Second Ave. Subway can rejoice for Thursday is Groundbreaking Day. Or the third groundbreaking day, if historical accuracy is your thing.

So with this momentous day for the city’s subway system fast approaching, the newspapers are starting to get all nostalgic on us with retrospectives on the other groundbreaking ceremonies for the Second Ave. Subway line.

The Times started things off today with a giant A1 article on the history of the line and the groundbreaking ceremonies. It’s a must-read if you want a succinct history of the Line That Almost Never Was. The best part is a tongue-in-cheek take on this week’s ceremony:

Gov. Eliot Spitzer and a host of dignitaries will descend through a sidewalk hatch at Second Avenue and 102nd Street, a block south of the spot where Gov. Nelson A. Rockefeller and Mayor John V. Lindsay held a groundbreaking in October 1972. They will go into a never-used section of a three-decade old subway tunnel, stretching from 105th Street to 99th Street. The governor will give a speech, hoist a pickax and take a few cracks at the concrete wall, symbolically beginning the construction where it left off in the 1970s.

As Times reporter William Neuman notes that the project may actually be completed this time, former Mayor Ed Koch shared the best quotation of the day. “I have no recollection of that day,” Koch said. “I do have a recollection that the Second Avenue subway — the first shovel went into the ground when God created the earth.”

Over in the tabloids, The Daily News investigated the remnants of the first attempt at building this subway line. A five-hundred-yard stretch of tunnel from 99th to 105th Streets has lain dormant and forgotten since the early 1970s, but soon, it will again see life. As Pete Donohue wrote:

All but forgotten for two decades, the 99th St. tunnel had fallen into disrepair in the early 1990s because of a lack of ventilation and water damage. The MTA has spent about $15million to rehab the tunnel and install ventilation systems.

So as we look back with nostalgia on a project barely started and never completed, feelings of optimism are permeating the air. It’s an exciting time for subway buffs and transportation wonks.

But don’t worry: Politicians will still be politicians. And as with any ceremony bathed in pomp, the people that don’t get invited will complain and make a big stink. New Yorkers wouldn’t have it any other way.

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