The Henry Hudson Bridge, a Robert Moses project, provides the northern-most escape off the island of Manhattan. (Courtesy of flickr user King Coyote)

Let me leave the subways behind for a minute and talk instead about a lesser-known branch of the MTA: MTA Bridges and Tunnels. Once the various authorities headed by Robert Moses, the MTABT came about under the consolidation of those authorities when the MTA came into existence in the 1960s. MTA Bridges and Tunnels is the largest such public authority in the nation.

While not nearly as interesting or as environmentally friendly as the subways, every now and then something Bridge and Tunnel-y comes along that strikes my fancy. The recent news about the road work on the Henry Hudson Bridge is such a story.

The bridge at the north end of Manhattan spanning the waters known as the Spuyten Duyvil Creek and I go way back. Heading to high school, I would cross that bridge every day. Leaving the city from my home on the Upper West Side, I would cross that bridge. And of course, heading back into Manhattan, I would cross the lower level of that bridge, and it would feel like riding over some rugged, back-country dirt road.

Well, no longer will that road test your car’s shocks because the MTA is going to start a three-year construction project on the original roadbed of the 70-year-old bridge. The Associated Press has more:

Crews have begun preliminary work to replace the original Depression-era lower-level deck of the Henry Hudson Bridge as part of an $84 million rehabilitation project, transit officials said Thursday.

The project will replace the four-lane lower deck of the bridge and rehabilitate the approach…The work is expected to be finished in the spring of 2010, said the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Bridges and Tunnels division, which operates the city’s major bridges and tunnels. It will be done in four stages as each lane is replaced, the agency said.

As anyone who has recently driven across that lower level knows, this is a project years overdue. But interestingly enough, this is the first such deck replacement since the bridge opened on Dec. 12, 1936. The upper level, as I think back to the traffic jams, had its deck replaced in 1998.

Traffic will be bad crossing this span as they tackle a lane at a time, but in the end, it will be well worth it. After 70 years of service, this bridge needs a new lower level.

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Apr
02

New York pols worried about MTA debt levels

By · Published in 2007 · Comments (1) ·

Will City Hall be willing to cover some of the MTA’s debt? (Image courtesy of flickr user rezendi)

The MTA’s current debt problems are no secret. For starters, I’ve written about it here, here and here over the last few months. But now New York City and state politicians are beginning to voice their concerns, according to recent reports.

The MTA’s massive debt comes from a confluence of largely historical circumstances. Poor management decisions and the decision to maintain a five-cent fare against the rate of inflation for decades combined with Robert Moses’ anti-subway policies and the financial collapse of New York City in the 1970s left the MTA with no money. With a need to maintain and upgrade the system, the MTA has pushed ahead with renovations by borrowing the money. We don’t, after all, want to end up with the problems the L is suffering through in Chicago.

But now the big ticket items are coming home to roost. With the Second Ave. subway groundbreaking set for April 12, the West Side extension for the 7 line on tap and the East Side LIRR connection on the horizon, New York politicians are concerned that broken promises by the federal government could leave the MTA looking at a debt problem. The Queens Courier had more last week:

Projected deficits and sudden borrowing by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) have elected officials worried, with City Councilmember John C. Liu and State Senator John D. Sabini taking action to improve security and service without fare increases…

“It is irresponsible for the federal government to renege on their commitment to protect Americans, including those of us in New York on the front lines in this war against terrorism. The MTA’s unexpected and substantial borrowing also calls into question the adequacy of the Authority’s budgetary planning and its accountability in borrowing such huge sums. Ultimately, the riders will be forced to pay for this through sooner-than-necessary fare increases and that’s wholly unacceptable,” [Liu, Transportation Committee chair, said.]

While some of the council’s words can be seen as political posturing, I’m fully on board with their efforts to secure more funds for security from the federal government. The Department of Homeland Security doesn’t seem to understand the vulnerability of the New York City subways and regional rail system. With nearly 10 million riders a day on Metro-North, the LIRR and the city’s subway system, the MTA’s holdings are strategically vital aspects to the New York City — and thus, the entire US — economy.

In reality, the MTA should not be expected to saddle the burden of security when we have a government agency established for just that purpose. With necessary capital construction plans under way, the Feds need to step up their contributions to security. Hopefully, Liu and Sabini will continue their vocal cries for more resources devoted to rail security.

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Mar
30

You can’t take the A train if you want to leave Brooklyn

By · Published in 2007 · Comments (1) ·

If you’re on the A or C line in Brooklyn, everything is messed up this weekend. The MTA has to replace a 71-year-old piece of railbed, and that means major service disruptions.

First, there is no C service at all, and the A trains are running local. Except Jay St.-Borough Hall and Utica Ave where shuttle buses will operate. Take the L, says the MTA. For more on that, check out the MTA’s site.

Meanwhile, the rest of your subway service advisories are much the same as they have been. No 7 service; weird West and East Side service on the IRT; yadda, yadda, yadda.

But to get you through your weekend subway blues, Second Ave. Sagas presents yet another trip down memory lane. In this classic clip from 1970s TV staple The Electric Company, Morgan Freeman – yes, The Morgan Freeman – bemoans that “nobody loves the subway.” It’s brilliant.

Categories : Service Advisories
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Mar
30

Sander nominates Howard Roberts to head NYCT

By · Published in 2007 · Comments (3) ·

For the last 11 months, New York City Transit has been under the leadership of interim president Millard “Butch” Seay. Since Lawrence “I have no nickname” Reuter stepped down last April, no permanent replacement had been named. But now reports say that MTA CEO Elliot “Lee” Sander is ready to name a new NYCT head.

This new president will be one-time NYCT VP and former Deputy GM of the SEPTA Howard H. Roberts. According to a report in the New York Post, Sander will soon make this an official appointment, and the MTA board will have to approve the selection.

Howard H. Roberts, 67, who was a vice president for New York City Transit buses in the 1980s when Sander worked in the division, is likely to become the next president of NYC Transit, sources said…

Roberts has since worked at the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority in Philadelphia, where he is credited with helping to improve safety and security of the system, and most recently as a transportation consultant. He also is a former Citibank vice president.

Transportation advocates contacted by the Post believe that Roberts will be a fine choice. I’ll have more on the once and future MTA employee as the appointment becomes official.

Categories : MTA Politics
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Mar
29

Kalikow not quite ready to leave MTA post

By · Published in 2007 · Comments (3) ·

Remember away back in November when MTA Chairman Peter Kalikow announced he would step down? It sure does seem like a long time.

Four months ago, Kalikow was ready to step down “by the second quarter of 2007,” according to the reports. The new Democratic Governor Eliot Spitzer clearly wanted someone in the MTA chairmanship with whom he could work well, and Kalikow was amenable to leaving as long he could secure funds for the Second Ave. subway and the LIRR-East Side rail link.

Now, with the Second Ave. subway groundbreaking set for April 12, Kalikow is in no hurry to leave. Metro New York has more:

Speculation has returned over when Kalikow will step down. He had previously said that might come as soon as the second quarter of this year. But yesterday Kalikow was in no hurry to leave. “Not yet,” he said. “I have not spoken to the governor about it. It’s on my mind.”

Of course, no one likes to leave his position or power, but it’s probably in the best interests of the MTA if the governor and the chairman of the state’s transportation authority got along well.

Meanwhile, within the same article, word comes that the tunnel at 99th St. in “pristine condition,” according to Elliot Lee Sander, MTA CEO. I for one am glad to hear that a decades-old tunnel left abandoned since funds ran out on the project last time is still in great shape. Skepticism, anyone?

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Mar
29

MTA entering the real estate biz for Second Ave. residents

By · Published in 2007 · Comments (3) ·

cardboardbox.jpg

Hopefully, you won’t end up in that when the MTA can’t find you anything on Craigslist.

So last summer, when I moved back home to NYC after a few months away, I had to go through the joys of finding affordable housing in a city in which the vacancy rate is less than 1 percent. Now, less than 1 percent of a few million is still a significant number, and it’s not impossible to find somewhere to live. Just try finding a rent controlled apartment.

Ok, ok. Funny joke. Rent-controlled apartment. Ha ha ha. Stop laughing now because that’s just what the MTA has to do for those unfortunate souls living in the path of the Second Ave. subway. What makes this difficult task — finding affordable and comparable housing on the Upper East Side — even harder are the 60 rent-controlled apartments set to be demolished to make way for the new subway line. NY1’s transit reporter Bobby Cuza has more:

That’s right, the MTA is going apartment-hunting, trying to score cheap housing on the Upper East Side, the idea being to hold the apartments, then eventually hand over the keys to residents being displaced by the Second Avenue Subway.

“We are obligated to relocate most of these tenants – in fact all of the tenants,” said MTA Director of Real Estate Roco Krsulic. “We have to find them replacement housing. The rules are rather specific, that we have to find them comparable housing, and preferably in the same community board.”

Well, as a veteran of this process, I must suggest that the MTA start looking here on Craigslist but beware those finders fees. Another good place is The Times’ Real Estate listings, and this time, look out for photos and places that seem too good to be true. It’s a trap.

All joking aside, Krsulic’s department faces a daunting task. Metro’s coverage of this news was decidedly pessimistic. “Given the paucity of affordable housing in Manhattan, and especially on the Upper East Side, the Real Estate Department and our relocation consultants will be seeking potential replacement dwellings,” Krsulic said. “The possibility is we may not be able to find any.”

And that spells doom for a smooth start to this long and arduous subway construction plan.

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Mar
28

April 12 set as Day 0 for the Second Ave. subway

By · Published in 2007 · Comments (3) ·

By and large, most New Yorkers won’t believe the Second Ave. subway is here until they set foot on a platform and board a train that heads up or down the avenue. But the City is doing its best to make it happen sooner rather than never, and April 12 is the first physical set in the plan to bring the Line that Almost Never Was to the city.

The official groundbreaking ceremony for the Second Ave. subway is set for Thursday, April 12, according to NY1.

It has been in the works for decades and now there is finally a date attached to construction of the Second Avenue subway.

The MTA said Wednesday that a groundbreaking will take place April 12th in a tunnel under 99th Street.

While residents are still concerned about the impact the construction will have on the neighborhood, the MTA claims disruptions will be kept to a minimum. Soon, we’ll know who’s right.

April 12 will be an exciting day for the city. Construction will start on the first new subway line in decades, and the East Side will get some badly needed subway relief. I can’t wait.

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Mar
28

Hail me some subway improvements instead

By · Published in 2007 · Comments (5) ·

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It’s easier to hail a Lego taxi in the outer boroughs than a Yellow cab. (Courtesy of Lego Certified Professional Sean Kenney)

The Internets were a-twitter yesterday with news of the City Council proposal to try out ten yellow taxi stands in the Outer Boroughs. For “about $5 million over three years, not to mention capital and other expenses,” the denizens of Queens, Brookly, the Bronx and Staten Island would have the pleasure of knowing that a yellow cab would be waiting for them somewhere.

Now, as anyone who’s ever tried to hail – or simply take – a cab from Manhattan into the not-so-far reaches of the city’s other four boroughs knows, cab drivers are beyond hesitant to venture away from the island that makes up New York County. And as Matthew W. Daus, Taxi and Limousine Commission chairman, noted during the debate, only a meager eight percent of taxi trips do not involve Manhattan or the airports.

But why bother sink money into taxi stands that aren’t necessary? Daus, a Bay Ridge resident, noted that car services and the so-called gypsy cabs that operate outside the realm of the law seem to suit the needs of non-Manhattan residents better anyway. The four borough presidents took exception to this statement, noting that gypsy cabs are illegal and unreliable and that car services tend to bilk unknowing passengers out of their hard-earned money. In the end, though, Daus and the City Council shot down the bill, and even Mayor Bloomberg urged folks to use the “black cars” instead of waiting for a medallioned taxi.

So things look bleak for the outer borough crowd. But that’s where Second Ave. Sagas comes in. The city was all set to spend at least $5 million for these taxi stands, but the Council nixed that idea. Let’s turn around and invest that $5 million into subway service for the outer boroughs.

The city could add some more cars to a few of the neglected trains lines. They could beef up G service or extend the V through Brooklyn. They could invest in some more track work to maintain the system or invest in some badly-needed station rehabilitation projects.

According to the MTA’s Capital Program budget numbers, $5 million could rehab a station or double the track replacement budget. While not a massive contribution, every little bit helps the MTA in an effort to provide subway service to everyone in New York.

“You have a better chance of seeing God than seeing a yellow cab,” Councilman Vincent M. Ignizio, from Staten Island, said during the debates. Well, maybe God wants us to take the subway instead.

Categories : MTA Economics, Taxis
Comments (5)
Mar
27

NYPD negotiating the fine line of subway ‘crime’

By · Published in 2007 · Comments (12) ·

You don’t want to go there. (Courtesy of flickr user Joshua S)

Did you know that it is illegal to move in between subway cars unless instructed to do so? Did you know that the police will ticket you for this offense? Well, if you were a reader of mine on March 5, you knew that.

But based on the number of search hits I get for people looking for information on subway summons, odds are you didn’t know that.

Well, it’s true; the police can – and do – ticket straphangers who are moving between cars, and they are, Chuck Bennett reports, issuing more summonses this year than before.

Transit cops are busting more subway predators on the prowl, leading to a 27 percent jump in the number of arrests this year.

That’s because NYPD brass have ordered subway cops to crack down on quality of life offenses like walking between cars, smoking and jumping turnstiles. That sweep is leading police to more serious criminals, turning up weapons and people with outstanding warrants.

According to NYPD figures, cops have given out 1953 summonses this year; each carry a fine of $75. That’s a quick way to collect $146,475.

The MTA and the NYPD outlawed moving between cars in December of 2005, and last year, cops issued 3600 summonses. Through the first three months of 2007, subway riders are on pace to receive nearly 6000 tickets this year for what the MTA calls “outside riding.”

So check your surroundings before moving in between cars. You never know who’s on the other side (or in plain clothes) waiting to slap you with a $75 ticket.

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Mar
27

Service Alert: Building collapse disrupting IRT trains

By · Published in 2007 · Comments (0) ·

Bad news for folks commuting today on the IRT: A building collapsed at 116th St. and Lexington, disrupting subway and MetroNorth service in all directions. The MTA’s service alert page has the info, but for your convenience, here we go.

Due to a building collapse at 115th Street:

There is no service on the 6 train between the 3rd Avenue-138th Street Station in the Bronx and the 86th Street Station in Manhattan. Also, there is no service on the 4 train between the 86th Street Station in Manhattan and the 149th Street Station in the Bronx. In addition, there is no service on the 5 train between the Bowling Green Station in Manhattan and the 149th Street Station in the Bronx. These service diversions are in effect in both directions.

Shuttle bus service has been provided on the 6 line between the 149th Street-3rd Avenue Station and the 138th Street-3rd Avenue Station.

Please expect delays in service on the 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 trains. If possible, customers should utilize the lettered lines.

Good luck getting around this afternoon. It’s going to be slow riding.

Update at 5:17 p.m.: The MTA reports service on the East Side IRT has been restored. Trains are running slower than normal so be patient.

Hat tip to amNY Subway Tracker.

Categories : Service Advisories
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