Construction on the Second Ave. Subway‘s 72nd St. station, shown here in a rendering, may delay the project’s opening date. (Via MTA)

Unfortunately, for the MTA and its contractors working underneath the Upper East Side, time is marching inevitably forward toward December. As the agency is facing mounting pressure both internally and externally to deliver Phase 1 of the Second Ave. Subway by the end of the year, we are receiving monthly updates in the form of MTA Board meeting materials on the project, and each month the story is the same: The MTA’s work schedule is aggressive and not being met with the usual suspects looming as issues. Last month, I detailed how escalators and elevators may again delay the opening of a major MTA project, and this month, we hear more of the same.

The latest is found starting on page 48 of the MTA Capital Construction pdf that the MTA’s oversight committee will discuss later this morning. The short of it is that one station — 72nd Street — may gum up the works for the rest of Phase 1, and overall, escalator and elevator installation efforts are falling behind schedule. Right now, four of seven key milestones at 72nd Street are behind schedule. These involve elevator and HVAC installation and tunnel vent fans. At both 86thand 96th Streets, escalator and elevator installation is a few weeks behind schedule. All work at 63rd St. remains on schedule even as half the station continues to serve F trains.

In each case, the MTA claims the delayed timelines will not affect the projected December 2016 revenue service date, but the agency’s independent engineering consultant isn’t as confident. First, the IEC notes that only 70 percent of tracking milestones met in March were met and that the lack of improvements at 72nd St. mean that the problems with escalator and elevator installation “remain close to impacting the target [revenue service date].” As they have done so in past months, the IEC again warns that the MTA’s testing schedule is “highly compressed which maximizes the demand on NYCT staff.” But this is an all-hands-on-deck effort right as the MTA is engaged in what is essentially an eight-month sprint, but demand on staff is an ancillary concern at best.

Ultimately, the IEC is worried, and they sum up their concerns succinctly:

  • The work effort at the 72nd Street Station site has not reached the level necessary to support the accelerated schedule.
  • Late design changes have continued through March and the backlog of changes may present a risk to the scheduled completion of the testing program.

In response to this development that one of three stations could hold up the entire project, a few readers have asked me if the MTA could open Phase 1 but keep 72nd Street closed until elevator and escalator installation is completed. As of now, this isn’t a particularly likely scenario and may present a challenge to the way the MTA operates. For now, MTA Capital Construction, a distinct agency under the MTA umbrella, has control over the entirety of Phase 1 of the Second Ave. Subway, and when all systems are completed, tested and accepted, they’ll turn over the project to MTA New York City Transit, a different agency under the MTA umbrella. (For the 7 line extension, MTA CC didn’t turn over the reins until shortly before the ribbon-cutting on the station, and even now, remediation work is ongoing.)

MTA CC can’t turn over part of the project while retaining control over another part, and the MTA can’t get certified to open the station with, say, only escalators and no elevators due to ADA compliance issues. It is essentially an all or nothing proposition. So everyone is holding their collective breaths as December ticks closer. We’ll get another report in May, but the key updates will arrive in June when the testing schedule must come into focus to meet the December revenue service date. We won’t know until very late in the year if the project will be delayed, but the warning signs are there. Anyone betting on the actual opening date?

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The “inside baseball” news this week is that the MTA has pulled out of American Public Transportation Association, a non-profit that ostensibly represents all of America’s public transportation agencies. This is a pretty big deal, and the MTA didn’t make this decision lightly. In fact, the letter detailing the decision is a seven-page enumeration of grievances, and I’m almost surprised APTA didn’t respond with a duel challenge.

The short of it is that APTA hasn’t adequately represented the MTA, and the leadership has been essentially non-responsive to the concerns of what is by far its largest constituent transit authority. Whether the rest of the country likes to admit or not, the MTA is responsible for a large percentage of the nation’s transit ridership, and in fact, the US’ overall transit ridership growth over the last five years stems nearly entirely from the MTA’s various sub-agencies. The membership wasn’t worth it. To read more on what this means for APTA and the MTA, check out this Transit Center post. I’ll explore these issues in depth. Despite the fact that this is very much an industry move, it’s not one to be glossed over.

From 11:30 p.m. Friday, April 15, to 5:00 a.m. Monday, April 18, 1 service is suspended in both directions between 14 St and South Ferry. 1 trains skip 18 St, 23 St and 28 St in both directions. Free shuttle buses operate between Chambers St and South Ferry.

From 4:45 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. Sunday, April 17, Flatbush Av-Brooklyn College-bound 2 trains skip Jackson Av.

From 11:30 p.m. Friday, April 15, to 5:00 a.m., Monday, April 18, 2 trains run local in both directions between Chambers St and 34 St-Penn Station.

From 11:45 p.m. Friday, April 15, to 5:00 a.m. Monday, April 18, 3 service will operate to/from New Lots Av all weekend replacing the 4 in Brooklyn.

From 11:30 p.m. Friday, April 15, to 5:00 a.m. Monday, April 18, 3 trains run local in both directions between Chambers St and 34 St-Penn Station.

From 11:45 p.m. Friday, April 15, to 5:00 a.m. Monday, April 18, 4 trains are suspended in both directions between New Lots Av/Crown Hts-Utica Av and Brooklyn Bridge-City Hall. Take the 2, 3, D, J, N, Q or R instead. 4 service operates between Woodlawn and Brooklyn Bridge-City Hall, making local stops.

From 11:30 p.m. Friday, April 15, to 5:00 a.m. Monday, April 18, 5 service is suspended. 24 trains and free shuttle buses provide alternate service. Shuttle buses operate between Eastchester-Dyre Av and E 180 St stopping at Baychester Av, Gun Hill Rd, Pelham Pkwy, and Morris Park.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, April 16 to 4:30 a.m. Monday, April 18, 7 trains are suspended in both directions between Times Sq-42 St and 74 St-Broadway. EFNRS trains and free shuttle buses provide alternate service. 7 trains will run between Flushing-Main St and 74 St-Broadway, and between Times Sq-42 St and 34 St-Hudson Yards, every 15-20 minutes. Free shuttle buses operate along two routes:

  • Between Vernon Blvd-Jackson Av and Queensboro Plaza, stopping at Hunters Point Av, Court Sq, and Queens Plaza.
  • Between Queensboro Plaza and 74 St-Broadway, stopping at 33 St, 40 St, 46 St, 52 St, 61 St-Woodside, and 69 St.

From 11:45 p.m. Friday, April 15, to 5:00 a.m. Monday, April 18, A trains are rerouted via the F line in both directions between W 4 St-Wash Sq and Jay St-MetroTech.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, April 16, to 5:00 a.m., Monday, April 18, A trains run local in both directions between W 4 St-Wash Sq and 59 St-Columbus Circle.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, April 16 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, April 18, Manhattan-bound A trains run local in both directions between 125 St and 168 St.

From 6:30 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. Saturday, April 16 and Sunday April 17, C trains are suspended in both directions between 145 St and 168 St. Take the A instead.

From 6:30 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. Saturday, April 16 and Sunday April 17, C trains are rerouted via the F line in both directions between W 4 St-Wash Sq and Jay St-MetroTech.

From 5:45 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Saturday, April 16 and Sunday April 17, Norwood-205 St bound D trains skip Bay 50 St and 25 Av.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, April 16 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, April 18, D trains will stop at 135 St in both directions.

From 12:15 a.m. Saturday, April 16 to 7:00 a.m. Sunday, April 17, and from 12:15 a.m. to 5:00 a.m. Monday, April 18, Jamaica Center-Parsons Archer bound E trains run express from Queens Plaza to 71 Av.

From 11:45 p.m. Friday, April 15, to 5:00 a.m. Monday, April 18, E trains skip 23 St and Spring St in both directions.

From 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Saturday, April 16, and from 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Sunday, April 17, additional E trains will run between Manhattan and Queens. Some E trains traveling from Manhattan are rerouted to the 179 St F station. Please check destination signs and listen to announcements.

From 11:30 p.m. Friday, April 15 to 4:30 a.m. Monday, April 18, F trains are suspended in both directions between Coney Island-Stillwell Av and Church Av. Free shuttle buses operate between Church Av and Coney Island-Stillwell Av, stopping at Ditmas Av, 18 Av, Avenue I, Bay Pkwy, Avenue N, Avenue P, Kings Hwy, Avenue U, Avenue X, Neptune Av, and West 8 St. Transfer between trains and free shuttle buses at Church Av. Consider using the DNQ between Coney Island-Stillwell Av and Downtown Brooklyn or Manhattan.

From 11:30 p.m. Friday, April 15, to 5:00 a.m. Monday, April 18, L trains are suspended in both directions between Canarsie-Rockaway Pkwy and Myrtle-Wyckoff Avs. Take free express and local shuttle buses and AC or J trains. Shuttle buses operate in two sections:

    Free local shuttle buses provide alternate service between Rockaway Pkwy and Myrtle-Wyckoff Avs, stopping at East 105 St, New Lots Av, Livonia Av, Sutter Av, Atlantic Av, Broadway Junction, Bushwick Av-Aberdeen St, Wilson Av, and Halsey St.
  • Free express shuttle buses serve Rockaway Pkwy, Broadway Junction, and Myrtle-Wyckoff Avs only, days and evenings.

Transfer between free shuttle buses and L trains at Myrtle-Wyckoff Avs.

From 6:00 a.m. to 7:00 a.m. Saturday and Sunday, April 16 and April 17, Forrest Hills-71 Av bound R trains run express from Queens Plaza to Forrest Hills-71 Av.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, April 16, to 6:00 a.m. Monday, April 18, the 42 St S Shuttle operates overnight.

Categories : Service Advisories
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Upper East Siders stalled this project for four years over the location of one entrance.

A whole bunch of years ago, back in late 2011, I covered sort of an ugly story concerning Upper East Side residents who lived on East 69th St. and a classist and racist reaction to a plan to build a new entrances to the perennially overcrowded 68th St. stop on the 6 train. This plan is now back in the news, and although 68th St. will get its additional entrances and ADA-compliant accessibility, the NIMBYs have seemingly won and at a cost to the MTA — and taxpayers — to boot.

Let’s take a quick trip back to late 2011. It was in October that the MTA announced plans to build two entrances at 69th St. — one facing toward Lexington and the other facing down 69th St. The latter did not go over well with some residents who said the increased foot traffic would “ruin the fabric of the neighborhood.” As another resident said, “people to the west don’t take the subway. Not to be elitist, but they don’t.”

A few months later, those same residents dug in and threatened legal action. They talked about the “pristine nature” of East 69th St. and the “bucolic” street that would be ruined by a new subway entrance. The dog whistles could not have been more deafening, but their tactics worked. It’s four years later and only now is the MTA getting ready to make the 6 train station accessible and with more entrances — but at a cost.

In last month’s MTA Board materials, the 68th St. station work resurfaced. By the MTA’s own admission, the project is four years late. Design work was supposed to be completed by April of 2012; instead, the agency expects to finish shortly. And why? In bureaucratic-speak, “this delay is due to additional time needed to address community concerns, raised by adjacent property owners at 69th Street regarding the location of the proposed street stair entrances.” In other words, NIMBYs have meant that thousands of subway riders — 68th St. sees 36,000 riders per weekday — have suffered through worse commutes for nearly half a decade.

The end result isn’t particularly comforting either. Here’s what the MTA had to say:

After extended negotiations, an agreement has been reached to place the stair entrance east of Lexington Avenue inside the Imperial House Apartments (between 68th Street and 69th Street). This entrance is in lieu of the street entrance at the Southeast corner of 69th Street and Lexington Avenue. The additional time is necessary to complete the property acquisition, environmental study, and additional design for the new work items.

The costs of this project have increased by around $8 million to approximately $65 million due to the MTA’s need to acquire property that belongs to the Imperial House Apartments. It’s also still not clear what the final scope will be as compared with the 2011 plans. DNA Info recently reported that the MTA could still pursue those plans, but MTA sources tell me the Imperial House plan is essentially the only way this project moves forward as East 69th St. residents will throw up substantial legal roadblocks otherwise. Construction may start later this year and end in 2020, well over three years after this project was supposed to wrap.

So did the NIMBYs win? I guess so. The project is more expensive and has been delayed, as MTA sources tell me, thanks to the back-and-forth between the agency and community groups. The scope will be reduced, and access to the station will be cut back by a half a block or so. It’s not nearly as encompassing as it was first proposed. But that’s what happens when a vocal minority of a community with resources bands together to fight something they see as intrusive. The rest of us suffer through worse transit options because of it.

Categories : Manhattan
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The future of the Metrocard is a bit fuzzy. (Art by Lisa Scruggs. Photo by Benjamin Kabak)

The future history of the Metrocard has been, for nearly a decade, maddeningly out of reach. Since 2006, the MTA has discussed, tested and discussed again plans for a contactless next-generation replacement for the Metrocard, and a certain combination of technological uncertainty and organizational inertia, the effort won’t be fully realized before 2019 when the costs to maintain the current Metrocard system start to climb. But taps, and not swipes, are on the way.

Now that the state has seemingly cleared the logjam that was the MTA’s 2015-2019 capital plan, the agency has started to take concrete steps to phase out the Metrocard. It began earlier this week with the release of a solicitation notice (pdf) in advance of an RFP that will be made available today. The MTA claims the RFP contains certain confidential information regarding the agency’s infrastructure, and it isn’t available to the public. But the agency has released enough detail either through the solicitation or in subsequent so that we have a general sense of what will go into the MTA’s tap-based contactless system. Adios, swipes.

First and foremost, despite what you might have read elsewhere, the Metrocard isn’t getting phased out next year or even next presidential election. We’ll have plenty of time for presidential candidates to mock their inability to swipe. Although the MTA hopes to begin phasing in the next generation fare payment system by around June of 2018, much as tokens weren’t retired until nearly nine years after the introduction of the Metrocard, the Metrocard won’t be retired immediately. When last we checked in on this project, the MTA expected to phase out Metrocards by the end of 2023, but an MTA spokesman told me on Tuesday that this is not a definite timeline at this point.

So what is this thing anyway? According to the MTA’s documents, we’ll be using some fare system “based on open bank card payment industry standards that will utilize contactless media, including contactless smart cards and mobile devices.” The MTA will likely use a proprietary card and offer a cash option for riders who don’t have bank accounts, smart cards or smart phones. “The key thing is broad support for all of our customers,” agency spokesman Kevin Ortiz told me. “We’re not leaving any customer behind in the transition.”

As part of the implementation, the MTA is going to maintain but rewire the current turnstiles. The RFP documents call for a supplier to install and maintain a TCP/IP ethernet-based communications network connecting fare collection equipment, including turnstiles, HEETs and payment vending machines. Still, the basis for the system is going to be contactless. The MTA will rely on bank cards, smart phones, or an MTA-issued card to process fares. This move will allow the MTA to lower the costs of fare collection and maintenance of a fare payment system. Only a small percentage of users will use the MTA’s own card, and the system — essentially next generation that doesn’t rely on a proprietary technology as, say, PATH’s SmartCard or London’s Oyster Card does — will be adaptable across MTA agencies.

One interesting part of the solicitation document concerns the fare future. The MTA wants its next generation fare payment technology to respond to “alternate fare structures…including fare capping and/or changes to the fare incentive structures.” In other words, the MTA wants something that could be used for fixed fares, a zone-based fare structure or even a time of day-based variable fare. The possibilities with a system that could allow for tap in and tap out are more expansive than today’s swipe in-only system. While the MTA has no plans to start exploring a variable fare structure, I have been told that the agency wants the ability to do so in the future.

So we get a few glimpses into the future and a bunch of uncertainty. The MTA’s initial contract for this new system will run for 69 months from the date of contract award, but the MTA doesn’t expect Metrocards to be phased out within six years from now. So there will be some period of overlap and some period of exploration as the MTA receives RFP responses.

Yet, the overarching questions are whether and when the MTA can pull this off. The agency’s last true systemwide technological upgrade effort was the introduction of the Metrocard two decades ago, and now they’re going to try again with something that is essentially a new technology built on industry standards and evolving technology. We’ll see how this goes, but one thing is for certain: The Metrocard — and that message urging us to please swipe again — is on borrowed time. How much borrowed time remains to be seen.

Categories : MetroCard
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Today’s post is a guest piece by Sarah M. Kaufman. Kaufman is the Assistant Director at the NYU Rudin Center for Transportation, where she researches, advocates for and educates about cutting-edge technologies in transportation. She is also an Adjunct Professor of Planning, teaching Intelligent Cities, a course about policy and planning for the future of digital urban life.


The way gender affects transit usage is not just about manspreading.

Manspreading vs. bags-on-seats has dominated recent discussions about gender on transit, but it’s time to move the conversation on to larger issues that take up plenty of room on their own.

Specifically: Second Avenue Sagas readers responded several weeks ago, via Twitter poll, that they feel safe riding the subways late at night. In the same week, The New York Times discussed a rise in reported sex crimes on the subway: 738 in 2015, up from 620 in 2014.

This starkly different perspective highlights how riding the New York City subway varies by gender. Experiences in transit are as diverse as New Yorkers, and it’s time to call attention to the different ways genders approach transit in New York City.

Women seeking to go somewhere must choose between safety and cost, a choice found all over the globe. Here in NYC, women outnumber men on public transportation – of people taking public transportation to work, 52 percent are women and 48 percent are men, according to the American Community Survey. Women are also the predominant victims of subway-based crimes, specifically robbery, forcible touching (340 cases reported in 2015), public lewdness (223 cases) and sexual abuse (130 cases), according to The New York Times. These issues are exacerbated by the fact that women tend to travel at atypical commute hours, as they dominate fields like health, retail and education, which often do not comply with the traditional 9-to-5 workday.

When possible, women prefer another, safer mode, rather than waiting in desolate subway stations or at dimly-lit bus stops. Depending on their economic well-being, women may opt for dollar vans, taxis, livery cabs, Citi Bikes, Lyfts, Vias or Ubers. Women outnumber men in the relatively inexpensive dollar vans (ridership is 63% female, according to Eric Goldwyn), but use taxis less frequently than men do (34% female) and are vastly underrepresented on the comparatively costly Citi Bike (24% of rides are taken by women).

The cost of personal safety is not the only complication facing women on transit. Across the United States, women bear much of the burden of dependent care, including children and elderly relatives. This work involves bringing dependents to school, doctor’s appointments and the grocery store. These are arduous tasks, at best, on transit, where caretakers are suddenly aware of frighteningly close platform edges, the hearing loss incurred at some curved stations, the need to advocate for a seat, and the state of subway elevators. (A milestone of NYC parenthood: convincing your toddler that although the elevator is soaked in urine, he must hold it in until reaching a proper restroom.) Riding the subway while transporting another, less able-bodied person is a responsibility more frequently carried out by women, and presents a more complicated experience than that of a single commuter.

As a result of these household responsibilities, women are likely to do more trip-chaining – e.g. taking the subway from work to the grocery store, walking to school, taking the bus home with kids and arms full of groceries – which is more time-consuming and expensive. These responsibilities are increasingly being distributed between men and women, but typically remain on the shoulders of women, both in time and cost.

The positive side of trip-chaining in NYC is the breadth of mobility options (specifically, 28 of them), which makes it easier to travel around New York than many other cities. New York’s multimodalism is due in a large part to smartphones (carried by nearly 70% of New Yorkers, according to industry experts), which let users tap into a range of travel options. (Many of those options don’t require cash, building in a measure of safety from theft). The combination of nearly-ubiquitous smartphones and dozens of travel modes makes New York a vastly improved travel city for women.

Other cities around the world are already attempting to address these safety concerns. Women-only rail cars and buses have been instituted in Tokyo, Delhi, Jakarta, Mexico City and other major cities. Unfortunately, they do not tend to offer protection on platforms or at bus stops, or get to the root of the problems of unwanted touching and violent behavior.

In New York, specific improvements on the subway are needed to make it a viable option for women taking part in the city’s 24-hour economy. Here’s a brief wish list for female transit users:

  • Accelerated buildout of cell phone service in stations
  • improved elevator functionality and cleanliness
  • Emergency call functions for On The Go kiosks
  • Increasing transit police presence on crowded trains
  • Training station agents to assist with station security throughout stations, looking out especially for women.

While readers of this site are right to prioritize an expanded subway system and reduced crowding on trains, these nearer-term transit improvements will make all New Yorkers safer, more comfortable and able to travel more efficiently.

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As the clock on March expired and the calendar flipped to April, New York State legislators passed a $155 billion budget. The state has a lot of money to play with, and as interest rates remain low, it’s very easy to borrow. It would be, in other words, a great time to fund mass transit through direct contributions, and even $3 billion in annual direct contributions would lead to a guaranteed $15 billion for the MTA’s five-year capital plan. This money would lessen the MTA’s need to borrow and then fund borrowing through fare revenue. Less than 2% of the state budget should go toward MTA capital improvements. But that’s not what happened.

As I explored shortly after the budget passed, the MTA didn’t get much out of it except for some funding earmarked toward future phases of the Second Ave. Subway and, apparently, a vague promise to approve the capital plan following a second round of amendments. Meanwhile, Cuomo has promised to fund a sliver of the MTA’s current five-year, $28 billion capital plan only when the agency has exhausted all other revenue streams. To that end, no one expects the MTA to realize any of this money until the mid-2020s, and Cuomo has insidiously allowed the MTA to raise its debt ceiling. Thus the agency can borrow even more before the state’s obligations to pony up a few billion dollars come due.

Over at NY1, Zack Fink broke the story:

After staying up all night, the New York State Senate finally voted on the last budget bills before 9 a.m. Friday. One of those bills raised the debt ceiling for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), allowing the agency to borrow up to $55 billion. “What kind of message does that send, that we’re allowing one state authority to issue more debt than the entire state of New York is allowed to?” said State Assembly Member Nicole Malliotakis of Staten Island and Brooklyn. “It’s going to lead in the future to higher tolls, fares, and service cuts.”

…Observers said the new MTA debt ceiling explains how Cuomo will fund the agency’s ambitious capital program construction, which includes East Side Manhattan access to the Long Island Rail Road and the Second Avenue Subway. “Cuomo said he’s going to give $8.3 billion to MTA; he only showed up with $1 billion,” said Nicole Gelinas of the Manhattan Institute. “And so where is he going to get the rest of this money? Obviously there’s your answer.”

Critics say commuters will ultimately get hit with the bill. “Somebody has to pay for this. The MTA already has budget gaps over the next several years, so people’s fares and tolls will go up to pay for all this debt,” Gelinas said. “It’s just that the governor probably expects that this will happen after he leaves office.”

It is my understanding that the MTA’s debt will come in the form of so-called moral obligation bonds and not general obligations bonds. Thus, if the MTA defaults on its bond obligations in order to force bondholders to the table, the state will not step in to cover any outstanding debt service payments. In other words, by hook or by crook, we the subway and bus riders of New York City (along with the Metro-North and LIRR riders and those paying bridge and tunnel tolls) are stuck with mounting debt and mounting debt service obligations that would put more pressure on fares and the MTA’s ability to provide and expand service. That’s Gov. Cuomo’s New York.

Meanwhile, the Governor has promised upstate drivers parity and breaks on New York State Thruway tolls. It seems unlikely that they will be saddled with debt this high that could be easily avoided for a small percentage of the overall budget. Cuomo too has proposed a series of transit projects that aren’t in line with what the city needs. He’s singularly focused on improving the way people enter and exit New York City rather than on improving how they get around New York City once they’re here, and even some ideas — such as the Willets Point Laguardia AirTrain — are worse than doing nothing.

It’s easy to saddle future generations of New Yorkers who will never have the opportunity to vote for Cuomo or the current batch of legislators will the debt that arises out of transit ideas built today, whether they’re good or bad ideas, and that is exactly what our politicians have done. It’s a devious way to make decisions that affect us all for decades to come.

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Presidential candidates: They’re just like us. As we saw yesterday, Hillary Clinton, at a subway station with notoriously prickly turnstiles, couldn’t get her MetroCard to work. She had to swipe five times, thus turning our aging and outdated fare payment system we’ve come to know and hate into a major campaign issue. In fact, everyone has pledged more federal money for transit.

Just kidding.

Instead, everyone is having a good laugh over a frustrating experience New Yorkers have to live with on a daily basis. Meanwhile, as the primary nears, Bernie Sanders discussed paying his fare with tokens or else just jumping a turnstile. Ted Cruz, Donald Trump and John Kasich have left well enough alone. It seems that our national politicians are as interested in transit as our local ones are. What a dismaying, if entirely expected, turn of events.

The real test would be to see if any of them could navigate the weekend service changes. This week, we have 15 lines with changes. As always these comes to me from the MTA so pay attention to announcements and other signs.

From 11:30 p.m. Friday, April 8, to 5 a.m. Monday, April 11, service is suspended between 14 St and South Ferry. Free shuttle buses operate between Chambers St and South Ferry. Trains skip 18 St, 23 St and 28 St in both directions.

From 5:45 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, April 9 and 10, 242 St-bound trains run express from 215 St to 242 St.

From 11:30 p.m. Friday, April 8, to 5 a.m., Monday, April 11, trains run local in both directions between Chambers St and 34 St-Penn Station.

From 11:30 p.m. Friday, April 8, to 5 a.m. Monday, April 11, service is suspended between Utica Av and New Lots Av. Free shuttle buses make station stops between Utica Av and New Lots Av.

From 11:30 p.m. Friday, April 8, to 5 a.m. Monday, April 11, trains run local in both directions between Chambers St and 34 St-Penn Station.

From 11:45 p.m. Friday, April 8, to 5 a.m. Monday, April 11, downtown trains skip Astor Pl and 103 St.

From 11:45 p.m. Friday, April 8, to 5 a.m. Monday, April 11, service is suspended between New Lots Av/Utica Av and Brooklyn Bridge. 2 3 N Q R trains provide alternate service. Free shuttle buses operate between Utica Av and New Lots Av.

From 4:30 a.m. Saturday, April 9, to 6:30 p.m. Sunday, April 10, service is suspended. 2 and 4 trains and free shuttle buses provide alternate service. Shuttle buses operate between Dyre Av and E 180 St.

From 6:30 p.m. to 11 p.m., Sunday, April 10, service is suspended between E 180 St and Bowling Green. 2 4 trains provide alternate service.

From 11:45 p.m. Friday, April 8, to 5 a.m. Monday, April 11, downtown 6 trains skip Astor Pl and 103 St.

From 11:45 p.m. Friday, April 8, to 5 a.m. Monday, April 11, trains are rerouted via the F in both directions between W 4 St and Jay St-MetroTech.

From 11:45 p.m. to 6:30 a.m., Friday to Sunday, April 8 to 10, and from 11:45 p.m. Sunday, April 10, to 5 a.m. Monday, April 11, uptown trains run express between 59 St-Columbus Circle and 125 St.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, April 9, to 5 a.m., Monday, April 11, trains run local in both directions between W 4 St and 59 St-Columbus Circle.

From 6:30 a.m. to 11 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, April 9 and 10, trains are rerouted via the F in both directions between W 4 St and Jay St-MetroTech. Uptown trains run express from 59 St-Columbus Circle to 125 St.

From 11:30 p.m. Friday, April 8, to 5 a.m. Monday, April 11, service is suspended between 59 St-Columbus Circle and Stillwell Av. F N Q R trains and shuttle buses provide alternate service. D trains operate between 205 St and 59 St-Columbus Circle and run express via the A to/from Chambers St, the last stop. Free shuttle buses operate between W 4 St and Grand St.

From 11:45 p.m. Friday, April 8, to 5 a.m. Monday, April 11, trains are rerouted via the F in both directions between 21 St-Queensbridge and W 4 St. Free shuttle buses run between Court Sq-23 St and 21 St-Queensbridge.

From 11:45 p.m. Friday, April 8, to 7 a.m. Sunday, April 10, and from 11:45 p.m. Sunday, April 10 to 5 a.m. Monday, April 11, Manhattan-bound trains run express from Forest Hills-71 Av to 21 St-Queensbridge.

From 11:45 p.m. Friday, April 8, to 5 a.m. Monday, April 11, Manhattan-bound trains skip Briarwood and 75 Av.

From 11:45 p.m. Friday, April 8, to 5 a.m. Monday, April 11, Coney Island-bound trains skip Sutphin Blvd, Briarwood and 75 Av.

From 11:45 p.m. Friday, April 8, to 5 a.m. Monday, April 11, Coney Island-bound trains run express from Smith-9 Sts to Church Av.

From 3:45 a.m. Saturday, April 9, to 10 p.m. Sunday, April 10, Manhattan-bound trains run express from Myrtle Av to Marcy Av.

From 6:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday, April 9, and from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday, April 10, Manhattan-bound trains run express from Myrtle Av to Marcy Av.

From 11:30 p.m. Friday, April 8, to 5 a.m. Monday, April 11, trains are rerouted via the D in both directions between Stillwell Av and 36 St. Free shuttle buses and R trains provide alternate service.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, April 9, to 5 a.m. Monday, April 11, Astoria-bound trains run local from 36 St to DeKalb Av.

From 6:30 a.m. to midnight, Saturday and Sunday, April 9 and 10, Manhattan-bound trains run express from 71 Av to Queens Plaza.

From 11:45 p.m. Friday, April 8, to 6:30 a.m., Sunday, April 10, and from 11:45 p.m. Sunday, April 10, to 5 a.m. Monday, April 11, 36 St-bound trains stop at 53 St and 45 St.

Categories : Service Advisories
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Jonathan English at Urban Omnibus has proposed an extension of the 3 train that seems perfectly reasonable.

When we talk about subway and transit expansion, it’s easy to get blinded by large and ambitious plans to transform the city. We talk about the Triboro RX line, reactivation of the Rockaway Beach Branch ROW or countless other pie-in-the-sky routes (including that Brooklyn-Queens Connector the mayor is pushing), but sometimes, we should take a step back and look at something easier. Not everything has to involve multiple stops spread out over many miles or a new-to-New York mode of transit.

In a way, that’s what New York state may be trying to do with the Penn Station Access proposal. For the relatively affordable price of $1 billion, Gov. Andrew Cuomo thinks Metro-North can construct four new stations in the Bronx along a preexisting right of way and provide commuter rail service into Manhattan’s Penn Station on the West Side. It’s not the sexiest of projects, but it provides a vital connection to Penn Station. It’s also an important reminder that low-hanging fruit can pay off.

Recently, a post on the Urban Omnibus blog had me thinking of even lower hanging fruit. This one concerned a plan to expand subway service in East New York. It involves the construction of a station only and some reallocation of yard space along a currently-active ROW in an area underserved by transit. I’ll let Jonathan English tell his story:

Imagine there were the possibility for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to extend a subway line to a major concentration of new affordable housing — and a neighborhood with some of the longest commutes in the city — without building a single foot of new subway track. That chance exists right now in East New York, where the 3 train’s tracks continue nearly a half-mile beyond their current terminal at New Lots Avenue to the Livonia maintenance yard, near the Gateway Center mall, Spring Creek Nehemiah, and several large public housing projects. Using these tracks for passenger service would significantly enhance transit access to a major development area at a low cost, and spread the city’s current subway expansion program beyond Manhattan…

Building such an extension is far less expensive than building a new subway line from scratch. Since the tracks already exist — and the yard makes land available for a surface station — there is no need for multi-billion-dollar underground construction…The only other cost would be replacing the converted train storage tracks. (Only a small part of the yard would need to be converted, and the existing maintenance facility could remain.) Trains could be stored at other yards in the “A division” of the subway (the narrow-car ex-IRT), where the MTA has indicated that slack is available. Much of the work could be joined with the $91.4 million renovation at the Livonia Yard that is included in the MTA’s 2015-2019 Capital Program.

Spring Creek, which would be served by the new extension, is both fast-growing — no Brooklyn neighborhood has added more residents since 1940 — and transit-deprived. It has been the site of major new affordable housing construction in recent years, including the Bloomberg-era 2,200-unit Spring Creek Nehemiah project. The nearby Spring Creek Towers, which opened in 1974 as Starrett City, comprise 5,881 Mitchell-Lama units. Right now, Spring Creek has some of the longest average commutes in the city, at 48.9 minutes. The extension would follow part of the route of the B6, which has over 40,000 riders on an average weekday and is one of the busiest bus routes in the city. And it would shorten or replace the route of the B84 shuttle, which takes riders from the Gateway Center to New Lots Avenue station.

English compares the cost of the work favorable to the in-fill Yankee Stadium Metro-North stop which the MTA was able to open for around $91 million as opposed to the one-stop $2.4 billion extension of the 7 line. For minimal amounts of money — a rounding error in the MTA’s capital plan — the 3 train could expand its reach through a neighborhood soon to be upzoned as part of the Mayor’s affordable housing project. That such an easy transit project isn’t on anyone’s agenda is problematic at best and a fatal flaw at worst.

These types of low-hanging fruit aren’t readily available in too many places throughout the city. Most expansion efforts — even modest one-stop plans above ground — require construction of new tracks, new tunnels, new stations and the land acquisition costs that go along with it. Here, in East New York though, the opportunity exists for a low-cost subway extension along an existing active ROW. Why not indeed?

Categories : Brooklyn
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Since early 2007, Thomas DiNapoli has served as the New York State comptroller. He has outlasted two governors and more MTA CEOs or chairmen than I wish to count. He has, if he wants it, complete and total access to bones of the MTA’s financials. He could study its contracting processes and inefficient spending. He could try to analyze why capital construction costs orders of magnitude more in New York City than anywhere else in the world.

Instead, DiNapoli would like to tell you that subway trains are getting more crowded and service is growing more unreliable. This is truly breaking news from a nine-year veteran who should be doing more. This isn’t the first time I’ve criticized DiNapoli for his particularly unimpressive audits, and although DiNapoli brings up some valid points I’ll cover shortly, it’s worth hounding on the limited scope of DiNapoli’s examinations of the MTA’s practices. He is talking about improvements around the margins when someone needs to address the larger problems plaguing the MTA’s contracting efforts and spending patterns.

But we are left with DiNapoli’s reports as they are, and this one says that subway service is bad! Perhaps it’s worse than the MTA says! Breaking news! The New York State Comptroller is ON IT!

DiNapoli’s latest report – available here as a PDF — is a slog through the MTA’s wait assessment numbers. Wait assessment essentially measures headways and the MTA’s adherence to its published guidelines. A seven-minute gap between 6 trains at rush hour, for instance, means one or two trains missed their scheduled runs, and as such, wait assessment is negatively affected. Using only the annual figures, DiNapoli has determined that the 5 and A trains are the two worst performing lines in the system and that the MTA’s wait assessment figures show service growing more unreliable. The 1 and C or D trains have been the best, but DiNapoli is skeptical of the numbers he opted to study for this audit.

“The MTA is very clear that it considers its wait time assessment to be its most important measurement of the reliability of subway service and riders’ experience,” DiNapoli said. “It turns out the way Transit calculates this measurement obscures the reality of straphangers’ wait times. New York’s subway riders deserve better.”

DiNapoli’s critique focuses around annual wait assessment figures. For annual numbers, the MTA averages wait times across the year, and performance may look better than it is. But the MTA also provides monthly numbers in its Board materials, and for some reason, DiNapoli didn’t examine the granular details. “The MTA reports these wait assessment figures to the public every month for every subway line, and uses them as part of its many analytical tools to determine the root causes of delays and develop strategies for improving service,” the MTA said in a statement. “While the audit recommends changing how wait assessment is calculated and reported, the comptroller’s proposal misstates how subway service guidelines operate and would introduce statistical disparities if put into practice.”

This battle over some very inside-baseball measurements aside, it’s hard to deny that our subways are more crowded than ever and service can’t meet demand. The problem is that fixes are years away. First, the MTA doesn’t really have the rolling stock for significant increases in peak-hour service. Until the R179 order starts coming in, the MTA is constrained by the train sets they have on hand. Second, the MTA needs communications-based train control, but full systemwide implementation is still years or decades away. DiNapoli should instead explore why and what can be done to speed up this process.

As has become party line lately, the MTA blamed “crowding” as “the single most frequent cause of subway disruptions.” To me, this is victim-blaming. The MTA says trains are delayed because there are too many people using the trains. But ultimately, the MTA can’t keep up with demand, and trains are delayed because there aren’t enough of them to adequately carry passenger loads. That’s on them, not us, and it’s a problem that could be more readily improved if the New York State comptroller took on the harder questions.

Comments (35)
The RPA's plan for the L train involves comprehensive upgrades that would benefit future generations of NYC subway riders. (Via RPA)

The RPA’s plan for the L train involves comprehensive upgrades that would benefit future generations of NYC subway riders. (Via RPA)

A politician of which I’m not a particularly big fan once said, “You never let a serious crisis go to waste,” and as we know, with the L train’s looming shutdown, the MTA has a serious crisis on its hands. What they do with that crisis could change L train service for the good or simply repeat the mistakes of the past in which the MTA, through politics, economics or both, has let prime opportunities to upgrade and improve service slip through its hands. The proposal to maximize the crisis comes to us from the RPA, and it follows Monday’s news that the Sandy-related repairs on the L train’s Canarsie Tubes will likely shutter crosstown 14th St. service as well.

The RPA’s recommendations come on the heels of weeks of discussion over the best way to proceed, and the report is a comprehensive overview of the situation with additional improvements the MTA should not miss implementing. (You can read the whole thing right here as a PDF.) The key takeaways are important. Let’s run them down.

1. Shut down the two tunnels together for 18 months. The RPA does something the MTA hasn’t done yet: take a stand on the preferred approach to work. The report notes: “RPA’s experience and review indicate that … closing both tunnels for 18 months is the most cost effective. What’s more, it creates an opportunity to truly transform the L train. The loss of the L train service to and within Manhattan for an 18-month period will be disruptive, but doubling the construction timeline, along with the higher associated costs and extending the pain of a huge service cut is far less desirable. It’s also not possible to justify the cost of constructing a new tunnel to serve as “swing space” for the tunnel repairs when that additional capacity will go unused after the project is completed.”

2. Piggyback needed L train work onto the Sandy repairs. The RPA urges the MTA to “take advantage of this outage to rebuild a quarter of L stations
to modern standards. The agency also should make a series of additional investments to unlock the line’s capacity, taking full advantage of the agency’s earlier investment in modern train control, known as Communications-Based Train Control. This includes addressing major system bottlenecks, including the 8th Avenue terminal and dealing with crowding issues at the L’s busiest stations by resizing them to meet current and projected ridership demand.”

3. The key to better L service involves tail tracks at 8th Ave. I discussed this element of the proposal on Monday, but it’s worth revisiting. With tail tracks and a diamond switch, trains can enter 8th Ave. at speed, and the MTA has space for storage. The RPA also suggests a series of other station improvements, including ADA accessibility upgrades, wider platforms, and improved passenger circulation particularly at 8th Ave. and Union Square. A proposed entrance to the 1st Ave. station at Avenue A and improvements to the Bedford Ave. stop are already part of the plans.

4. Travel alternatives. The RPA report presented four travel alternatives that should be a part of any L train shutdown. These include a bus bridge over the Williamsburg Bridge, a 14th Street bus corridor with more space for pedestrians and cyclists, expanded service on the G and J/M/Z trains, and free transfers for the East River ferries. I would add more reliable A and C train service at Broadway Junction and an examination of capacity along Queens Boulevard to ensure riders can access Manhattan with minimal disruption.

So what’s stopping the MTA from implementing this holistic vision for L train improvements? It’s not immediately clear if the MTA has access to enough money to perform this work, but with the capital plan due for resubmission, the MTA should take advantage of this crisis. Another problem though are pandering politicians. Just yesterday, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer decided she knows best and urged the MTA to take the worst approach on an L train shutdown. She claims that 7 years of no L train service on nights and weekends would be sufficient and less harmful to business which is in defiance of reality. It’s less cost effective for the MTA and would torpedo train service to Williamsburg and eastward on weekends for seven years rather than 18 months. Plus, the MTA is far less likely to implement transit-prioritization measures such as a bus bridge or dedicated bus lanes on 14th St. for a nights-and-weekends-only shutdown.

There is no way around the reality that a long shutdown will not be much fun for anyone, but with the right planning and the right approach, the MTA could turn this crisis into an advantage for future L train riders. If we miss this opportunity now, will we ever get it back again?

Categories : Superstorm Sandy
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