After a tragic accident on an LIRR train involving a drunk passenger, the MTA board announced in December that they might consider a ban on alcohol sales on MetroNorth and Long Islrand Rail Road trains. Clearly, commuters looking to take the edge off a busy day at work were none too thrilled about this news.

But all is not what it seems, as the New York Post reported on Tuesday. According to an exclusive report, the board member behind the drive to ban alcohol sales, Mitchell Pally, works for the law firm that represents many of the bars and restaurants in Penn Station. These bars and restaurants would clearly benefit from a ban of on-board alcohol sales on commuter trains.

Long Island Rail Road bartenders, who fear their jobs are on the line, say it was only after Mitchell Pally was hired three months ago to handle “government relations” at the Weber Law Group, a Melville-based firm, that talk of the prohibition began.
“We’ve all been wondering where this whole thing came from, and when we checked the company’s Web site, we thought we may have our answer,” said one LIRR bar-cart attendant, who asked not to be identified.

Other MTA board members say this conflict of interests certainly raises some eyebrows, and they’ll be looking into it before issuing any decision on an alcohol ban.

Categories : MTA Absurdity
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Image from Gothamist.

Gimme shelter, sang the Rolling Stones, and now New York City along with street furniture company Cemusa has obliged.

Alright, alright. Sorry for the cheesy lead. In all seriousness, yesterday, the City and Cemusa unveiled the first of what will be 3300 new bus shelters across the city. As you can see, these shelters are sleeker than the old ones and come equipped with whatever modern amenities one can cram into a bus station. As Gothamist notes, the bus shelters will feature the following:

  • Each bus shelter will include bench seating. The bench is vandal-resistant and designed to prevent reclining.
  • The bus shelters display the name of the bus stop in prominent letters that can be read by approaching passengers. An illuminated interior side panel will display customer service information such as bus route maps.
  • The design of the bus shelter ensures meaningful protection from the elements. Specifically designed to prevent any blind spots, the bus shelter provides excellent visibility for added security.
  • The components of each bus shelter are made from recyclable materials that are free from pollutants and will have minimal impact on the environment.

Sounds good. What else is in it for the City and Cemusa? Money, of course. From Mediaweek:

The shelter and all the new street furniture elements have a simple, contemporary design that blends into the streetscape of New York. In 2007, Cemusa will add more bus shelters, begin to replace City newsstands and build the public toilets.

To start the contract, Cemusa delivered the first $50 million cash payment to the City in June. Under the terms of the agreement, Cemusa will provide the City with $999 million cash and $398 million of in-kind services, including ad space on street furniture elements around the world, which will promote the City as a tourism destination.

So the City gets $999 million in cash and $398 million worth of ad space. Cemusa, on the other hand, gets to keep the rest of the ad revenue they derive from selling space on the bus shelters but must pay for the upkeep of these new shelters. I wonder if the glass is scratchiti-resistant.

After all, a vandal war is just a scratch away.

For more images, check out this (annoying) PDF file from CEMUSA. Why these can’t be JPEG files on site, I don’t know.

Categories : Buses
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So this blog’s title clearly refers to the oft-discussed and never-built 2nd Ave. subway line. This phantom subway line, in the planning stages since the Coolidge Administration, has seen some life over the last few years.

The MTA wants it built to alleviate the congestion on the East Side IRT. The state was hoping to use some federal money from the Sept. 11 relief efforts to improve transportation in the city. And the local politicos have long wanted this new subway line.

Well, now comes the news that the line – potentially New York’s own T line – is one step closer to a reality. As The New York Times reported on Monday, the feds are kicking in a few hundred million bucks for this project. The relevant information please:

After decades of planning and dreaming by officials, two major expansions of the city’s mass transit system took important steps forward yesterday, with the federal government promising to pay billions of dollars for a Long Island Rail Road connection to Grand Central Terminal and for a Second Avenue subway.

Transportation Secretary Mary E. Peters said final approval had been granted to allow $2.6 billion in federal funds to be spent on construction of the Long Island Rail Road link, which will give commuters on the railroad a direct ride to the east side of Manhattan. Speaking at a news conference in the main hall of Grand Central, she said it was the most money the federal government had ever committed to a mass transit project.

She said her department had also approved $693 million for the new subway on Second Avenue. In both cases, the federal money is only a portion of the total costs.

So what does this mean for the future of the subways? Well, for one, according to the article, the Second Ave. Subway funding is “some months short of such a binding commitment.” Peters will ask Congress to provide this money as a down payment, and you can bet the new Democratic-led Congress will be happy to pay back Senator Schumer for his work during the election season.

With the LIRR extension on tap, the Second Ave. subway becomes even more of a hot topic. With many more commuters going through Grand Central instead of Penn Station each day, the East Side IRT will become even more crowded than it already is (if that’s even possible). To alleviate the crush on the 4, 5 and 6, the Second Ave. subway must be built. The system on the East Side simply cannot take many more passengers.

For the first time in decades, it looks like we’ll actually have a Second Ave. subway. While the mantra around New York remains “I’ll believe it when I actually ride on it,” for the first time in a long while, the beginning stages of the multi-billion-dollar funding necessary for these projects to go forward is in place.

P.S. Sorry for the long delay between posts. Life interfered with blogging. But I’m back. So stick around.

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A few short days ago, it seemed as though the 7 line extension project might be scaled back. Well, not only were these cuts scrapped, but the funding for this capital construction project seems to be in place now as well, The New York Post reported today.

The city took its first practical step toward building a subway extension to the far West Side yesterday when investors gobbled up bonds totaling $2 billion for the project, clearing the way for construction to begin in late spring.

“This is definitely going ahead. The money has been raised and construction will begin,” Deputy Mayor Daniel Doctoroff said of the extension of the No. 7 line to 11th Avenue and 34th Street, where will anchor a new business district.

These bond will be repaid by the taxes taken in by the nearly 24 million square feet of office space that should follow the two new stops on the 7 line.

For years, the far West Side in the area around the approaches to the Lincoln Tunnel has resembled a wasteland. Car dealerships and repair shops dot a landscape often choked with cars waiting to get into the tunnel. The bus, never a speedy choice, is the only public transportation option, and the nearest subway stops are at 8th Avenue.

But in a few years, the subways should reach to the far West Side as the 7, immortalized by John rocker, will soon stop at 41st St. and 11th Ave. and 34th St. and 11th Ave. The tracks themselves will extend down to 23rd and 11th, maybe portending a future stop.

With the 7, this area should immediately become more attractive to businesses and potential residents alike. The 7 offers a connection to the Times Square trains; the B, D, F and V at Bryant Park; and the Grand Central trains before heading into Queens. But I have to wonder if that Lincoln Tunnel and the traffic it breeds will be more of a factor than viable public transportation?

For more on the 7 line extension, check out all of the technical documents at the MTA’s Capital Construction Web site. This track image comes from the Scoping Document.

Categories : 7 Line Extension
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Today’s ridiculous MTA story comes to us courtesy of The New York Times. Armrests on LIRR’s and Metro-North’s M7 lines are destroying people’s pants!

Any way you cut it, $102,009.17 buys an awful lot of pants.

That is how much the Long Island Rail Road and the Metro-North Railroad have paid over the last four years to customers who have torn clothing on the notoriously fabric-snagging armrests in a line of cars known as the M7.

The payments range from $1,405.61 for the new Paul Stuart suit that a man ripped on Metro-North last year, to $10 or $20 for minor damage fixed by a tailor.

That’s right: armrests. These armrests, you see, are “are longer and narrower than those on older cars and can slide unobtrusively into a trouser pocket as a passenger sits down — and then snag as he settles into his seat or when he stands up to leave,” reports William Neuman.

This problem, The Times notes, is fairly widespread. Train riders nod knowingly when the tell-tale sound of a tear rings out amid the silence of the morning commute, and the MTA hasn’t been too quick to reimburse the full price of lost clothing. The officials opt instead for the sale price or a depreciated assessment of older pairs of pants and skirts.

So to solve this rather amusing problem that should have been focus-grouped out of existence before the M7s came on the tracks a few years ago, the MTA may invest $1-$2 million in an armrest replacement program. Ah, the luxury of a commuter rail.

For fun, what could we buy with the $102,009.17 that the MTA has given out so far:

  • 1342 30-day unlimited MetroCards.
  • 4250 7-day unlimited MetroCards.
  • 61,083 swipes with a pay-per-ride card (counting the free rides).
  • One fourth of a new bus.
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makeup.JPG Just six days ago, Brooklyn residents had much to celebrate with the news that the G would be making five more stops in the borough. Instead of stopping service on the cusp of the borough’s heavily populated souther half, the G will continue another five stops into Kensington along the IND Culver line. But today’s news may temper that recent announcement.

According to Newsday, those five stops (shown at left, courtesy of amNew York) may exist on the G line only because of construction scheduled for 2008. It seems that the turn-around at the Smith-9th Sts. stop will be undergoing some track work for a time. Thus, the G extension came about more because of necessity than demand.

Beginning in 2008, the G train, which normally stops at Smith and 9th Sts. will continue down the F tracks five more stops to Church Avenue. Rival “hip” neighborhoods of Williamsburg and Park Slope will now be connected with a one-seat ride.

But before riders can rejoice, New York City Transit warns that the service upgrade may be temporary. The G service could be cut again after 2009 once track upgrades near the Smith-9th Sts. stop are complete and trains can use it as a turn-around again.

The G has long been the target of subway and neighborhood activist groups. Since it’s the only direct subway link between Brooklyn and Queens, pols and community leaders in both boroughs have long called for longer trains, more frequent service and farther reaching service. In Queens, for example, the G runs to Forest Hills-71st Street only at rush hour.

With this latest news, it seems that last week’s celebrations may be short lived, but the city badly needs a reliable rail connector between two fast-growing boroughs. Maybe a successful experiment can change some minds.

Categories : Brooklyn
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Dec
04

Poetry advocating motion

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Poetry and the subway go hand-in-hand. The motion of the subways has long been translated into the rhythm and beat of poetry. So the Straphangers Campaign, public advocate of subway riders everywhere, decided to combine the two.

NY1 has more:

“Since the subway is something that people use every day, and so many people complain about it for various reasons, I thought that we could do something much more fun than writing a complaint letter and actually have a community event to have people express what they want to change on the subway,” said event organizer Susanna Zaraysky.

The Straphangers Campaign is sending the winning poems to the MTA and Governor-elect Eliot Spitzer, asking them to address the issues the poems bring up, including issues about air quality, service, station and train conditions.

It’s an interesting way to bring transit problems to the attention of the powers-that-be. Everyone likes a little poetry from time to time. And the winning entries are all online. My favorite is in the Route Diversion winner in category four. It’s about halfway down this page.

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Is there anything more annoying than that person on the Q train during rush hour who whips out a cell phone as the train spends three minutes crossing the Manhattan Bridge? You know who I’m talking about; it’s the person shouting seemingly to themselves as they rush to make a call that could wait until they get off 8 minutes later at Atlantic Ave.

Just think if that person could spend their entire subway commute yapping into their phone. That at least was the plan in 2005. But since then, little to no progress has been made, and The New York Sun reports today that the plan may be dead in its tracks. Here’s what outgoing MTA chair Peter Kalikow had to say:

The chairman of the Metropolitan Transit Authority, Peter Kalikow, said yesterday that he was “not sure” if the agency would complete a deal with one of the four service providers who have submitted bids for the project. “I would hope they’ll come back to use with a revised bid doing it the way we like,” Mr. Kalikow said following an Assembly oversight hearing on the MTA yesterday.

So, Mr. Kalikow, what way might be the way you like? Well, that’s to limit cell phone conversations to the stations only. And why don’t cell companies like that? Money, of course.

Cell phone service providers bidding on the project say wiring stations and not tunnels is cost-ineffective. Phone conversations on subway platforms are too short to bring in any real money.

The cash cow would be the long subway ride that allows for a more substantial use of cell phone minutes.

It would cost millions of dollars to wire the subway stations, and the average conversation would probably last all of two minutes. Luckily, in this case, the economics don’t work, and those riders who just want to find some last solace from the neverending cell phone din can still take refuge in the subways.

Categories : Subway Cell Service
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Today marks the first day of a new feature The Morning Commute, a round-up of some of the top transportation stories from the Big Apple.

  • Peter Kalikow, MTA head, will step down in 2007. Or Governor-elect Eliot Spitzer will fire him. [NY1]
  • Remember those plans to add cell phone service to the subway a la Washington, D.C.? Yeah. Not so much. [New York Sun]
  • Got a real estate windfall? How about a fresh coat of paint for 200 stations? [New York Post]
  • The fare hikes that won’t happen until after 2009? Well, now they’ll happen in 2008 but just not in 2007. [New York Daily News]
Categories : MTA
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As more details about the MTA’s 2007 budget — and long-term financial plans — come out, the news is looking good for the people of the fair borough of Brooklyn. As The Daily News notes, some key Brooklyn lines will see added service next year. Here’s the bullet point:

Increased peak-hour bus service and more frequent L trains during weekday rushes. G line trains travel farther down the F line to Church Ave., Brooklyn.

Currently, the G stops at the edge of Park Slope at 4th Ave./9th St. Under these new plans, the G — the so-called Crosstown line and the only major subway line to avoid Manhattan — will snake all the way down to the Kensington area of Brooklyn. With a switch on the tracks just south of Church Ave., this is the logical starting/ending point for a G extension into the heart of South Brooklyn.

Meanwhile, the L train, one of the more crowded lines during rush hour, will see more service during rush hour. Considering that the MTA was considering service cuts across the board just two and a half months ago, this is certainly good news for straphangers along the BMT’s Canarsie Line.

Categories : Brooklyn
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