Almost two weeks ago, we first met Elliot “Lee” Sander, the new MTA chief. Sander has stayed in the news since taking over the reins of the MTA, and this week, he is saying all the right things. Labor relations, service improvements and aesthetic changes are all high on his to-do list.

New York 1 caught up Sander to discuss his plans:

[Sander] says he’ll tackle overcrowding on certain transit lines, and he’ll make it a priority to change inaudible announcements into something more understandable on the subway PA systems.

He also says he’s put together a panel to examine labor relations and plans to bring in new management.

Already, Sander has been quick to act on one of his goals. He had lunch with Roger Toussaint at the Old Homestead this week. Toussaint, the somewhat embattled head of the transit workers union, came away pleased from this lunch, The Times reported.

“We discussed the relations between the T.W.U. and the M.T.A. and how to move the relationship to a better place. It was a very constructive conversation,” Toussaint said to reporter William Neuman.

In terms of his second goal, I would suggest that Sander find a way to free up some money for more trains. Nothing solves overcrowding that frequent service along perennial crowded lines, such as the L.

Meanwhile, a Representative Anthony Weiner issued a call for bomb-proof trash cans similar to the ones in the D.C. Metro to be installed in the subways, Sander also pledged to examine security in the subways. As the MTA examines the trash cans to make sure they work in the smaller enclosed spaces of the New York subways (as opposed to the cavernous D.C. stations), Sander noted that the MTA will work with the TWU to train subway workers as first responders in case of emergency or terrorist attack.

All in all, it’s a good start for someone who will play a big role in setting subway policy over the next few years.

Categories : MTA Politics
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Subway signs enterting the 1990s

By · Published in 2007 · Comments (3) ·

It was a big weekend for the New York City subway as the MTA finally figured out that the 1990s started seventeen years ago. No longer will passengers be forced to stand at the platform’s edge peering into dark tunnels searching in vain for the faint glimmer of the headlines of an approaching train.

Instead, New York has finally caught up to London, Washington, D.C, and the vast majority of the world’s subway lines as they unveiled the first of what promises to be many boards notifying passengers just how far away that next train is.

As The Post noted over the weekend, these signs, pictured above, debuted on the L train a few days ago and should be “fully operational” in February. Considering that these other subway systems had long featured train notification, we should be more skeptical of the MTA and less celebratory.

But maybe the celebrations have been met with the appropriate levels of New York cynicism. As with all things MTA, the debut of these signs has been far from smooth. First, these signs were supposed to be unveiled last July, but as another who lived through the reconstruction of the 41st St. Times Square tunnel recontruction, MTA timetables are notoriously terrible.

More notable, however, was The Sun’s examination of the new signs after a few days of use.

The screens, which display departure times for two scheduled trains in each direction, regularly overestimated the time until a train’s arrival or else announced only a “Delay.” At some stations, the screens were not working at all, and displayed just one generic message: “This is a test. May not be accurate.”

The Sun also notes that these signs will only go up on the old IRT lines. So while the numbered subway lines, the city’s most popular routes, will get technology of, well, the past, the lettered subways of the city’s old BMT and IND lines still won’t run too frequently and passengers still won’t know when the next train is due in at their station.

Image courtesy of thelexiphane at Flickr.

Categories : MTA Technology
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MetroCard payments getting EZ-er

By · Published in 2007 · Comments (4) ·

While not the most exciting of news especially after Monday’s fun with condoms, now, subway riders won’t end up harming their naughty bits with the EasyPay XPress MetroCard, a balance replenishing system that works much like the EZ-Pass program.

Using super-advanced technology – no wait, basic computer technology – the MTA has finally figured out a way to tie your MetroCard into your bank account, reports The Daily News. So says the newspaper:

The EasyPay XPress MetroCard, which is good for two years, works like the popular EZPass system. When the card’s balance dips to $25, it’s replenished with a $50 infusion.

Although EasyPay XPress MetroCards were designed with express bus riders in mind, subway and local bus riders can also use them, officials said.

“Initiatives like EasyPay XPress are designed to make it as easy and convenient as possible for our customers to access MTA services,” Metropolitan Transportation Authority Executive Director and CEO Elliot Sander said.

Except for those of us who have done the economics and prefer the unlimited options, never again will unsuspecting straphangers bang into the turnstile bar without noticing the Insufficient Fare sign light up. Instead, the MTA will just suck the money out of your bank account, $2 at a time.

Edit: One commenter asked if the pay-per-ride discount applies. It does. If you buy $20 worth of rides, you get a $24 MetroCard. Likewise, when the MTA charges your bank account $50, you get $60 on your MetroCard.

Old-school blue MetroCard picture courtesy of

Categories : MetroCard
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Condoms a la NYC Subways

By · Published in 2007 · Comments (28) ·

With the Disney-fication of Times Square, the closing of the city’s numerous sex shops and the lower presence of prostitution, it was only a matter of time before safe sex became the agenda du jour of City Hall. While the rest of the country struggles with the idiocy of abstinence-only education, Mayor Bloomberg will soon unveil New York City condoms wrapped in the colors of the New York City subway lines, says The Post.

The condoms, produced by LifeStyles, will be wrapped in colored foil corresponding to one of the MTA’s distinct subway lines. “The condom packets will be modeled after the New York City subway system. Every foil will have a color,” said Carol Carozza, spokeswoman for Ansell, LifeStyle’s parent company, told The Post.

Now, while promoting safe sex is a noble venture, especially in the city that leads the nation in AIDS cases, I have to wonder just how closely tied in to the subway lines this promotion will be. And so I bring to you condom styles based on the subway lines.

The G Condom Condoms wrapped in the familiar lime green of the ever-unreliable G train are for the man in your life who takes a while. Generally, you have to wait a long time for the train to come, and when it does, it’s usually a short one.
The 6 Condom As the 6 was once again rated the best subway line in the city, by the Straphangers Campaign, the 6 condoms, wrapped in vibrant green, are for great sex. Ribbed for her pleasure, perhaps?
The 7 Condom Ah, the 7 train. In the immortal words of John Rocker, it’s home to “some kid with purple hair next to some queer with AIDS right next to some dude who just got out of jail for the fourth time right next to some 20-year-old mom with four kids.” But it’s also the dirtiest train in the city with just 55 percent of the cars passing the Straphangers’ cleanliness test. But 89 percent of the time, the 7 is on time. So I guess this one’s quick and dirty.
The Shuttle This one just goes back and forth. Back and forth. Back and forth.
The M Condom A lovely shade of brown, the M train condoms will mirror the Nassau Street Local. It doesn’t come to frequently; it’s pretty empty; and it breaks down a lot. Maybe it needs some Viagra?
The 1 Condom And last but not least, we get the 7th Ave. Local. It keeps itself clean with frequent, on-time service, but it’s tough to find a seat. It also stops everywhere. So this is the condom for the man with less-than-discriminating taste and an unsatiated appetite for sex.

Yes, the K train was a real subway line in New York. It ran on various routes in the city, most recently as the 8th Ave. Local. The last K train rode off into the sunset on December 10, 1988. Read more at Wikipedia.

Categories : MTA Absurdity
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Sander, new MTA CEO, to make first key appointment

By · Published in 2007 · Comments (1) ·

Elliot “Lee” Sander is a big player in the transportation scene in New York. A professor at NYU, Sander has a wealth of academic and professional experience under his belt. Most recently, he served on the TLC’s Board of Commissioners. But now, he faces a high-profile position as Governor Eliot Spitzer has tapped him as the MTA’s newest executive director and chief executive.

As Spitzer has long pushed for an overhaul at the MTA, from Chairman Peter Kalikow on down, Sander will play an important role in shaping the future of transportation and transportation policy in New York. He’ll get to flex his muscles nearly immediately as Lawrence G. Reuter, the president of New York City Transit, announced his resignation. He’ll leave to, coincidentally, join the engineering firm that designed New York City’s IRT line 122 years ago. It now falls on Sander’s shoulders to find a suitable replacement for the man in charge of the city’s buses and subways.

Under Reuter, the city’s transportation system experienced a massive growth in ridership. As The Times reported, “Annual subway ridership reached 1.45 billion trips in 2005, the highest total since 1953 and a 31 percent increase over 1996, when Mr. Reuter took over the agency. Annual bus ridership rose by 53 percent, to 736 million trips, in the same period.”

For us subway and transportation buffs, this is a Big Deal. It’s Spitzer’s and Sander’s chance to put a real stamp on the future of the subways. Will they pick a visionary who could guide New York City Transit in its efforts to land the funds and will to build the needed subway lines? Will they find someone who can adequately address the potential of terrorism and the subways? Can they find someone who will partake in Mayor Bloomberg’s NYC2030 plan to clean up and renovate every subway station in the next 23 years? I hope so.

In other Sander news, the new MTA director announced earlier this week that he would try to ride “many” of the subway lines so that he can understand his job. Um, well, that’s a relief. I sure hope the MTA is headed up by someone who might ride the subway now and then and actually understand what he’s supposed to be doing. Now, if only they’ll start talking about that Second Ave. subway.

Image courtesy of

Categories : MTA Politics
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Six friends break subway record

By · Published in 2007 · Comments (4) ·

Friday was a record-breaking day for the New York City subway. Six friends, all grads of Regis High School, broke the record for fastest per-navigation of the New York City Subway on a single fare.

Headed by New York City transit buff Bill Amarosa, the group completed their Rapid Transit Challenge more than 90 minutes faster than the previous best. Here’s what New York 1 had to say:

“It was a unique experience it was definetely worth ten years of waiting for,” said Amarosa. “It is probably something I won’t do again in the immediate future; but it was great to spend a day on the subway with other New Yorkers, with my friends and classmates. It was just an awesome experience.”

“I was really proud because he was planning this for a long time and when he said he was actually going to do it, it was great, really great,” said Carol Amarosa, Bill’s mother. “He’s wanted to do it for 12 years.”

The group started out at 3:30 Thursday afternoon at the Rockaway Park station in Queens and they made it to the 241st Street station in the Bronx by 4 p.m. Friday.

By starting at Rockaway Park in Queens, the group of friends made sure to cover the hardest-to-reach stations first. They started on the outskirts of the New York City subway and made their way eastward (with some backtracking during the day).

The group included their 125 favorite photos from the day on their website. It will still be a while before the Guinness Book of World Records certifies this new run as the official world record.

Image from Rapid Transit Challenge.

Categories : MTA Absurdity
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Post: Bar ban presenting a potential conflict

By · Published in 2006 · Comments (1) ·

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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Feds ride to the 2nd Ave. subway rescue

By · Published in 2006 · Comments (3) ·

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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7 extension funding in place

By · Published in 2006 · Comments (0) ·

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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