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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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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Two days ago, word leaked out that the Fulton Street plans had changed due to cost concerns. Specifically, it seemed as though the free transfer from the R/W Cordlandt St. stop to the E at the World Trade Center would be cut.

Well, worry not, Wall Street workers. According to today’s reports, the free transfer ain’t going anywhere. The Gray Lady reports:

An underground walkway connecting the R and W subway lines to the E line in Lower Manhattan will be built along with a new downtown subway hub, the chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority said yesterday. But it was not clear what would be cut from the station project to free up the $15 million needed for the connector.

The authority’s chairman, Peter S. Kalikow, revived the half-block connector between the E line and the two other lines two days after members of the agency’s board complained that it was being left out of plans for the Fulton Street Transit Center, which includes an architecturally ambitious glass building with a conical roof.

That’s good news for Fulton Street as it strives to become the biggest transfer point in the New York City subway system. As for the $15 million, I can’t help but think that maybe some of the $50 million surplus from 2005 that was doled out as that ridiculous holiday discount could have been put to better use.

Categories : Fulton Street
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Once upon a time, the planned extension of the 7 line was all the rage. Serving the far West Side, the new 7 stops at 41st and 10th Ave. and 34th and 11th Ave. were going to usher in a new age of residential life for those people who may one day live on the current Hudson Yards site.

And oh yeah, that 7 line extension was supposed to serve the most ill-fated of ill-fated ideas: the Jets’ stadium on the West Side. When the stadium went down in flames, the plans to extend the 7 line went with it. In fact, earlier this year, one transportation advocacy group wondered whatever happened to the 7 line extension plans.

Well, according to amNew York, the costs of the project are on the rise, and one of the two planned stations may need to be axed:

The MTA estimates it will need an extra 110 subway cars to go along with its planned No. 7 extension, according to agency documents.

Those new cars — which could cost $176 million — will not be paid for by City Hall under its agreement to fund the No. 7 extension, Metropolitan Transportation Authority spokesman Tim O’Brien said yesterday.

But the cost rises are hardly the compelling story here. According to amNew York, a dubious source at best, one of the planned stations has been officially cut from the plans:

Most vexing to some MTA members is the 10th Avenue station has been officially axed.

“The smart thing to do is finish the station at 10th and 41st,” said Barry Feinstein, the longest-serving MTA board member and chairman of the New York City Transit committee on Monday. “[But] we don’t have money in the the capital plan to do that…”

“It’s crazy,” said Andrew Albert, a rider representative on the MTA board, who promised to keep fighting for the 10th Avenue station.

Right now, amNew York is the only paper of note to pick up this story that I’ve found. It’s hard to believe that if the tales of the 10th Avenue station being dropped were completely accurate, no one else would cover it. For now, take it with a grain of salt. But as the costs of all the other recent MTA capital improvement plans have continued to rise, can this story really be that far off the mark?

Categories : 7 Line Extension
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Good news for those of us who ride the buses and subways today: The MTA won’t be raising fares next year and could hold off on fare hikes until after 2010.

Here’s what The Daily News had to say:

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority is finalizing its 2007 budget and plans to vote by Christmas on a spending plan that holds the line on bus and subway fares, board sources said last night.

The final financial package, expected to be unveiled today and approved next month, also holds steady ticket prices for Metro-North and the Long Island Rail Road, as well as tolls for the MTA’s bridges and tunnels, the sources said.

MTA Chairman Peter Kalikow said this year he didn’t believe the $240 million in hikes – which had been on the books – would be needed because the economy, particularly the real estate market, was doing better than expected. The agency gets revenues from real estate transactions.

Coupled with the lack of fare hikes comes better news about the $20 million in proposed service cuts originally announced in September. According to MTA board sources, those cuts are off the table, The Daily News also reports. Originally, these cuts were planned as follows, according to The Times:

The cuts would add one to five minutes to wait times on many subway lines and local bus routes during off-peak periods. For subways, it would mean that on weekdays, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., all trains would run every 10 minutes, according to authority budget documents. Evening and late-night waiting times would be from 10 to 20 minutes.

Somehow, the money will flow in anyways, but now we the riders won’t be forced to wait longer or pay more.

Categories : Fare Hikes, Service Cuts
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As part of the plans for rebuilding and redeveloping Lower Manhattan, the MTA has invested nearly $900 million in their plans to build a transportation hub at Fulton Street. With plans for 12 subway lines to be connected through the hub, the new Fulton Street will become the largest connecting station in the system, beating out the 10 trains that run through Times Square and the Atlantic Ave.-Pacific Street stop.

But as with any capital improvement campaign, the Fulton Street construction efforts have not gone smoothly, The New York Times noted today. With real estate costs exceeding expectations by nearly $100 million, some of the more ostentatious aspects of the Fulton Street hub may be scaled back. In particular, the showy dome that is supposed to cover the grand entrance may not be as showy as the original plans called for it to be:

The dome, intended to maximize the natural light entering the complex, would sit atop a 50-foot-high glass-enclosed building designed by the British architectural firm Grimshaw. The dome, which is called an oculus, was initially designed to be 50 feet high, taking the total height to about 100 feet, Mr. Nagaraja said, but it has already been scaled back to about 20 feet.

While it would seem obvious to cut back the size of the dome, which serves no function beyond aesthetics, some at the MTA wanted to scrap the planned underground connection to the R and W at Cortlandt Street and the E at the World Trade Center. But the MTA board would have none of that:

Yesterday, the authority’s board members landed firmly on the side of function over form, saying they would gladly sacrifice architectural beauty if it meant that subway riders could transfer between trains more easily.

“I won’t support a project like this that is going to discombobulate tens of thousands of passengers a day because you want to have a fancy roof,” said Barry L. Feinstein, a board member.

So as the Fulton Street hub stumbles toward its late-2009 completion, it does seem as though form of some sort will win out over the style. The Daily News notes that some connector tunnels may not be built because cash is tight, but somehow, I think the New York pols will find a way to dig up some more money for this project. We already have to wait two years beyond the original target date for completion. What’s a few more million dollars as well?

Categories : Fulton Street
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