I’m calling this week a few hours early. Stay warm. Leave extra time for travel if you insist on going anywhere this weekend. As now, all of this work is planned as scheduled, but the MTA could choose to cancel some if the weather looks bad (though if this bone-chilling cold isn’t bad, only a blizzard can stop it now).

As an aside, this is a weekend where I wish the MTA still offered explanations of why these service changes are in place. Take a look at what the R is doing and try to figure out if it’s running via 63rd St. or simply not opening its doors at certain stations.


From 11:45 p.m. Friday, January 9 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, January 12, South Ferry-bound 1 trains run express from 96 St to Times Sq-42 St. For service to 86 St, 79 St, 66 St, 59 St, and 50 St, take a South Ferry-bound 1 to 72 St or Times Sq-42 St and transfer to an uptown 1 or 2 local train. For service from these stations, take an uptown 1 or 2 train to 72 St or 96 St and transfer to a South Ferry-bound 1.


From 11:45 p.m. Friday, January 9 to 6:00 a.m. Sunday, January 11, and from 11:45 p.m. Sunday, January 11 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, January 12, Flatbush Av-Brooklyn College bound 2 trains run express from 96 St to Times Sq-42 St.


From 11:45 p.m. Friday, January 9 to 6:00 a.m. Sunday, January 11, and from 11:45 p.m. Sunday, January 11 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, January 12, 3 service is extended to/from 34 St-Penn Station.


From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, January 10 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, January 12, Woodlawn-bound 4 trains run local from Grand Central-42 St to 125 St.


From 11:45 p.m. Friday, January 9 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, January 12, 5 service operates between Eastchester-Dyre Av and Bowling Green all weekend. 5 trains run local in Manhattan, replacing the 6.


From 11:45 p.m. Friday, January 9 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, January 12, 6 trains are suspended in both directions between 125 St and Brooklyn Bridge-City Hall. Take the 5 instead. Transfer between 5 and 6 trains at 125 St.


From 11:45 p.m. Friday, January 9 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, January 12, Pelham Bay Park-bound 6 trains run express from 3 Av-138 St to Hunts Point Av. To Brook Av, Cypress Av, E 143, E 149 St and Longwood Av take a Pelham Bay Park-bound 6 train to Hunts Point Av and transfer to a Manhattan-bound 6. From these stations, take a Manhattan-bound 6 train to 3 Av-138 St and transfer to a Pelham Bay Park-bound 6.


From 11:45 p.m. Friday, January 9 to 4:00 a.m. Monday, January 12, 7 trains are suspended in both directions between Flushing-Main St and Mets-Willets Point. Free shuttle buses provide alternate service.


From 11:45 p.m. Friday, January 9 to 6:00 a.m. Sunday, January 11, and from 11:45 p.m. Sunday, January 11 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, January 12, Queens-bound A trains run express from 59 St-Columbus Circle to Canal St.


From 6:30 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. Saturday, January 10, and Sunday, January 11, Euclid Av-bound C trains run express from 59 St-Columbus Circle to Canal St. C trains run every 15 minutes. Allow additional travel time.


From 11:45 p.m. Friday, January 9 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, January 12, World Trade Center-bound E trains run express from 34 St-Penn Station to Canal St. To 23 St and Spring St, take the World Trade Center-bound E to 14 St or Canal St and transfer to an uptown A local, C or E train. From these stations, take an uptown A, C or E to W 4 St-Wash Sq or 34 St-Penn Station and transfer to a World Trade Center-bound E.


From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, January 10 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, January 12, E trains run local in both directions between Queens Plaza and Forest Hills-71 Av.


From 11:45 p.m. Friday, January 9 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, January 12, Jamaica-179 St bound F trains run express from W4 St-Wash Sq to 34 St-Herald Sq.


From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, January 10 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, January 12, F trains run local in both directions between 21 St-Queensbridge and Forest Hills-71 Av.


From 11:45 p.m. Friday, January 9 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, January 12, N trains are suspended in both directions between Lexington Av-59 St and Queensboro Plaza. For service between Queens and Manhattan, take the 7. Transfer between trains at Times Sq-42 St and/or Queensboro Plaza.


From 11:45 p.m. Friday, January 9 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, January 12, Q trains are suspended between 57 St-7 Av and Times Sq-42 St. Take the N or R instead.


From 5:45 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Saturday, January 10, and Sunday, January 11, Coney Island-bound Q trains run express from Prospect Park to Sheepshead Bay.


From 5:15 a.m. to 12 midnight, Saturday, January 10 and Sunday, January 11 R trains skip 5 Av-59 St, Lexington Av-59 St, and Queens Plaza in both directions. E and F trains run local in Queens.

Categories : Service Advisories
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As long-time readers of Second Ave. Sagas know, I’m not exactly a fan of the GOP presidential aspirant who occasionally visits New Jersey these days to remind that he is indeed still the governor. Outside of any red-and-blue ideological concerns or the way he chooses to face down those who disagree with him, his support of transit has been abysmal. From canceling the ARC Tunnel to moving the money for transit to various road-widening and repair initiatives to his games with the Port Authority, I’m eagerly looking forward to someone sitting in Trenton who has a better mind for the way PATH and NJ Transit feed the symbiotic relationship between New Jersey and New York.

But despite my dislike of the Governor, I am impressed with his grasp of political machinations and press malleability. Throughout his years as Governor, Christie has made some decisions that should, by any stretch, thoroughly anger his constituents, and sometimes, they do. But the real political impact of his actions are often ignored for the sideshow of the better story. Weather the temporary storm to escape permanent damage.

Let’s take this PATH Train issue. It’s a shared problem with Gov. Cuomo, but Gov. Cuomo’s contempt for anyone who doesn’t drive one of his muscle cars has been out in the open for decades. It’s my strong belief that the hullabaloo over the Governor-endorsed report that mentions cutting overnight PATH service as a last resort is nothing but a smokescreen. In essence, reporters are barking up the wrong story because no one every planned or plans to cut overnight PATH service. But by leading with this one line in a 90-page report, the fact that Christie and Cuomo vetoed strong reform legislation for a report of recommendations is conveniently ignored.

It’s now been nearly two weeks since the Christmas Saturday Veto and still New Jersey commentators are struggling with the PATH move. Steve Strunsky for NJ Advance Media penned a long piece analyzing the “real reason” he feels Port Authority may target PATH. He explored political in-fighting between the Democratic mayors of New Jersey’s waterfront PATH communities and Christie; he pondered leverage over the unions; he opined on privatization or a transfer of PATH to NJ Transit (or maybe, as I think would make sense, the MTA). He didn’t mention PATH as a cover for a veto even though Port Authority commissioners have all but said as much. They won’t cut PATH service, but the media loves this story.

In a way, this is an echo of Christie’s most costly move for the long-term mobility of the region: the decision to axe the ARC Tunnel. Christie established his conservative bona fides by canceling the project despite the fact that his cost overrun projections were based on spurious data and that New Jersey likely could have worked out a deal with the feds and even New York to split overruns. But while Christie faced some criticism for the move, it was muted especially from New Jersey transit advocates who never supported the deep cavern alignment for the tunnel and wanted the Alt G version instead. So while Christie sometimes faces irate commuters on Twitter, he gets a pass, and editorial writers who try to tell the full story face a Sisyphean task.

Ironically — or perhaps intentionally — the Port Authority reform report that Christie signed endorsed a new Hudson River crossing which allowed for another round of hand-wringing over Christie’s duplicity. Again, though, the focus has been on the inconsistency of these statements rather than on the affect of Christie and Cuomo’s veto of the reform measures. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.

Finally, as a Giants fan, I’d be remiss not to mention the New Jersey governor’s love of the Cowboys. I don’t begrudge anyone their sports fandom; I went to high school with Upper West Siders who were Braves fans in the early 1990s and know a bunch of people who subject themselves to Mets and Knicks games on a regular basis. Christie happens to be a Cowboys fan, but so what? While the press focuses on how that may play in Pennsylvania or anywhere during an election cycle, news breaks that Christie may have accepted gifts in violation of New Jersey ethics laws and may have funneled work to companies associated with Cowboys owner Jerry Jones. It doesn’t get nearly the same press because the fandom has dominated the conversation. Yet again, the wrong story for the wrong reasons takes away from the problem.

Now I’m sure some of you will accuse me of focusing on Christie’s negatives. From where I sit concerned with regional mobility, he hasn’t done much good, but except for the unfolding stories with Jones, these aren’t even scandals I’ve mentioned. They’re simply news stories covered from angles pushed subtly by the Governor that miss the big long-term picture. I ultimately have to tip my hat to the way he runs the conversation and pits allies against allies while burying bad news behind smokescreens. That’s a political force to be reckoned with, and his counterpart in New York has done the same thing a few times as well. Again, though, I’ll say it: The PATH train cuts aren’t the issue; the veto is. The ARC alignment wasn’t the issue; the argument for the cancellation was. Dig deeper.

Categories : ARC Tunnel, PANYNJ
Comments (48)

A few updates for you tonight, some concerning hot-button political issues of the day. You had to know it would be hard for the MTA to escape these.

Ironing out the challenges of cashless tolling

It’s hard to believe that it’s been nearly four years since the MTA introduced cashless tolling on the Henry Hudson Parkway, but here we are. While I had originally hoped this would do away with a major objection to congestion pricing, the MTA hasn’t yet expanded this long-running pilot beyond the bridge over the Spuyten Duyvil. Now we learn why.

In a piece illustrative of the zany deals the MTA has to strike with states to which it provides various services, Andrew Tangel explores how gaps in enforcement, particularly with respect to Connecticut drivers, is slowing the process. The MTA, you say, is barred by deals it has with Connecticut from sending collections agencies after drivers who do not pay bills they receive. Although the vast majority have E-ZPasses, Connecticut drivers owe the MTA half a million dollars.

Admittedly, this is small change for one river crossing, but it’s holding up implementation at more crowded spots such as the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel and the Verrazano Bridge. “Until we have legislation in place, it really doesn’t make a lot of sense to do it out at the larger facilities,” Don Spero, MTA Bridge & Tunnel CFO, said to The Journal.

The MTA is working to change these arrangements, but Board members are getting restless. “It’s stupid that we’re not doing this,” Staten Island’s Allen Cappelli said. “To have to sit there because you’re using antiquated equipment is insulting.” The pilot meanwhile has been a marked success as 99 percent of cars now travel across the bridge at speeds of 30 mph or more.

Transit and the NYPD slowdown

As the NYPD rank-and-file enter their third week of their unorganized-but-somehow-coordinated enforcement slowdown, transit riders seem to be shouldering the effects of the precipitous decline of “Broken Windows”-style police work. Crime isn’t up underground; in fact, subway crime — as with all city crime — is at a low. But while cops aren’t eying law-abiding New Yorkers these days, they’re also not pursuing those breaking the rules.

Vivian Yee of The Times has this:

Below ground, the slowdown has been even more profound.

Police Commissioner William J. Bratton urges officers to target minor offenses that could be preludes to more serious crimes. Last week, however, besides the lax enforcement of turnstile-jumping, a highly visible emblem of urban disorder, officers made only one arrest in the subway system in the category of “peddler/panhandler”; none for unsafe riding (down from 68 for the same period last year); none for narcotics (down from 23); and one for a knife or other cutting instrument (down from 18).

Drivers think they’ve died and gone to heaven as well as they can now park with impunity. These numbers, and the relative lack of anarchism I’ve seen in New York City lately, raise questions of what exactly constitutes the appropriate level of police work, but that’s part of a larger dialogue. As temperatures drop into the single digits this week, crime is at a low anyway. I’ll keep an eye on this story as it relates to transit riders.

MTA kills GCT ‘Die-In’ protests

It is, apparently, against MTA rules — wherever they may be posted — to lie down in Grand Central, but for the past month, the MTA has not enforced this regulation. As protesters have staged nightly “Die-Ins” to voice their displeasure with the Eric Garner Grand Jury decision, the MTA has not made a move to clear out those who choose to lie down. Now, according to The Journal, the MTA will enforce their rules, and the Die-Ins must stop.

The MTA says they’ve reassessed this decision when protestors started placing placards on the ground, but the protestors aren’t convinced. One way or another, I’m surprised at this decision as it seems to be another First Amendment beehive into which the MTA is sticking its hand. I’m no expert on right-to-assembly jurisprudence, but the MTA has lost nearly every free speech case it has faced recently. We’ll see if this goes anyway. On Tuesday, the protesters were still in Grand Central but fewer opted to lie down.

The Canarsie Tube shown here in 2012 shortly after MTA crews pumped out the saltwater from Sandy. (Photo: MTA New York City Transit / Marc A. Hermann)

It’s hard to find the silver lining in the destruction to the subway system that Sandy wrought. Nearly every East River train tunnel was flooded, requiring millions of dollars of repairs and inconveniences that New Yorkers haven’t yet begun to imagine. A few weeks ago, though, we got wind of the MTA’s plan to use Sandy repairs to build a station entrance for the L train at Avenue A. The new entry point will make the 1st Avenue stop ADA compliant and provide access to the subway system for Alphabet City. That’s the good news.

The bad news is that for the MTA to construct this entrance, they have to piggyback work onto Sandy repairs. As a few MTA sources have told me, in fact, this work would not be possible without the looming L train shutdowns that the Sandy repair work will require. Since parts of the L train are as crowded on the weekends as they are during the week, there isn’t a good time for the repairs, and as Sandy has receded into the past, it’s easy for Williamsburg, Bushwick and Canarsie residents to lose sight of the fact that substantial and lengthy repairs are on tap for their subway line.

The MTA isn’t accepting bids on the BMT Canarsie Line work until later this spring, but a Subchatter has a glimpse of the bid demands. If this is the final request, it’s not a pretty picture for L train riders.

As the document notes, the Canarsie Tube was flooded from essentially Manhattan to Brooklyn. The worst of the water damage occurred between Avenue D and the North 7th fan plant. The work includes demolition and reconstruction of over 36,000 feet of ducts; power cable replacement; communications system work; reconstruction of a pump room at Avenue D; and replacement of nearly a mile’s worth of track. That’s not going to happen in one FASTRACK treatment, and the MTA expects this $50 million contract to last 40 months.

So what does this mean for L train riders? The damage to the Canarsie Tube was, by some accounts, right behind the R train’s Montague St. Tube and the G train’s Greenpoint Tube in terms of the severity, but the MTA isn’t planning on shutting down the Canarsie Tube for any long-term work. The demand for service is too great, and the parallel service is inadequate. There’s no 14th St. bridge for shuttle buses, and the nearest East River crossings are the 7 to the north in Long Island City and the J/M/Z ride over the Williamsburg Bridge.

During the weekends, though, the M train will be expected to pick up the slack. In all likelihood, the M will run north through Manhattan via 6th Avenue as it does during the week, and those trains will be packed. It’s not replacement service, but it’s the next best thing. As of now, we don’t know how those weekend outages will be structured or how long the weekend work will last. But that’s what’s ahead for the Canarsie Tube when work eventually begins within the next few years.

For more on the Sandy recovery efforts and the MTA’s Fix And Fortify program, check out my upcoming Problem Solvers session at the Transit Museum on January 27th. I’ll be interviewing John O’Grady, an MTA engineer, on the challenges facing the agency as it continues to recover from the storm. Tickets are free for museum members and otherwise cost $10.

Categories : Superstorm Sandy
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I’m still marveling over Gov. Christie’s and Cuomo’s dual veto of the Port Authority reform measure. From its timing late on a Saturday night between Christmas and New Year’s to the fact that their counter-proposal contained a brazen plan to curtail overnight PATH service between Manhattan and New Jersey, this thing reeks of politics. Despite their wishes too, this story hasn’t gone away.

As the first real full-time workday dawns since the veto, New Jersey legislators are threatening to an override vote while New York representatives, and in particular the embattled Sheldon Silver, have been mum on their intentions in the new legislative session. Furthermore, although the Governors’ report featured 90 pages of recommendations, the PATH proposal is still drawing headlines. Matt Chaban spoke with late-night PATH riders for an article that appears in today’s Times, and they are uniformly against the move.

Many riders spoke about the convenience of the trip and how it drove their decisions to move to New Jersey’s waterfront cities. Others note that it allows them to work in certain sectors — particularly service jobs — while paying rent. As one said, “If there was no PATH train, that would change everything. I guess I’d have to buy a car, or move to the city, neither of which I want to do.”

Late last week, the editorial page director of The Record penned a signed opinion column speaking out against the PATH cuts. It included a gem of a line: “Christie and Cuomo know more than I do about many things, but commuting on a budget isn’t one of them. I expect that holds true for the members of the governors’ special panel.”

Doblin makes many good points regarding subsidized fares; affordable commutes; the inability of New Jersey Transit to run its own house, let alone someone else; and Port Authority priorities. He also drops a few good zingers: “And if the Port Authority wants to reduce PATH expenses, why is it building a $4 billion station at the World Trade Center where even the platforms at track level are marble? Before someone asks me to pay five bucks for a subway ride, I would like someone to explain marble train platforms.”

But what if we’re focused on the wrong thing? What if this isn’t really about the PATH train cutbacks at all? Even current Port Authority commissioners have been quick to point out that the elimination of overnight PATH service would be “a last resort.” Still, it’s garnered a lot of headlines while the real story has almost — but not quite — been forgotten.

So before we forget entirely, let’s revisit the real story: After a bipartisan, two-state push to reform Port Authority through legislative mandates, Governors Christie and Cuomo both vetoed their respective state measures at 11 p.m. on the Saturday night after Christmas. In its place, they proposed non-binding reform measures that wouldn’t have the weight of law or the bite of legislative oversight or legal enforcement. As Doblin ultimately concludes, “The process will not change unless laws change. Christie and Cuomo do not want that to happen. Unchecked authority at the Port Authority was how a $4 billion subway station resembling a gigantic gull in flight was approved and constructed. When it comes to the Port Authority, the governors of New Jersey and New York will do what they want while the public, well, they get the bird.” That — and not a misguided two paragraphs regarding 24/7 PATH service — is the real takeaway. The PATH train is just a ruse.

Categories : PANYNJ
Comments (35)

First, the first part of this year’s FASTRACK changes. Here you go:

  • January 5 – 9, and January 12 – 16 on the 6 Line: no 6 trains between Hunts Point Av and 125 St.
  • February 23 – 27 on the 4/5 Line: 4 local service begins early in both directions between 125 St and Grand Central-42 St.; 5 service in Manhattan ends early each night.
  • March 9 – 13 on the 4, 5, & 6 Lines: trains run express in both directions between 125 St and Grand Central-42 St. 5 service in Manhattan ends early each night.
  • March 30 – April 3, and April 6 – 10 on the E, F, M, and R Lines: no E trains between Roosevelt Av and World Trade Center; no F trains between Roosevelt Av and 21 St-Queensbridge; M and R service ends early each night.

And now another year, another weekend of service changes. You know the drill.


From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, January 3 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, January 5, Woodlawn-bound 4 trains run local from Grand Central-42 St to 125 St.


From 11:45 p.m. Friday, January 2 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, January 5, 5 service operates between Eastchester-Dyre Av and Bowling Green all weekend. 5 trains run local in Manhattan, replacing the 6.


From 11:45 p.m. Friday, January 2 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, January 5, 6 trains are suspended in both directions between 125 St and Brooklyn Bridge-City Hall. Take the 5 instead. Transfer between 5 and 6 trains at 125 St.


From 11:45 p.m. Friday, January 2 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, January 5, Brooklyn Bridge- City Hall bound 6 trains run express from Hunts Point Av to 3 Av-138 St. To Longwood Av, E 149 St, E 143 St, Cypress Av, and Brook Av, take a Manhattan-bound 6 train to 3 Av-138 St and transfer to a Pelham Bay Park-bound 6. From these stations, take a Pelham Bay Park-bound 6 train to Hunts Point Av and transfer to a Manhattan-bound 6.


From 11:45 p.m. Friday, January 2 to 4:00 a.m. Monday, January 5, 7 trains are suspended in both directions between Flushing-Main St and Mets-Willets Point. Free shuttle buses provide alternate service.


From 11:45 p.m. Friday, January 2 to 6:00 a.m. Sunday, January 4, and from 11:45 p.m. Sunday, January 4 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, January 5, Queens-bound A trains run express from 59 St-Columbus Circle to Canal St.


From 6:30 a.m. Saturday, January 3, and Sunday, January 4, Euclid Av-bound C trains run local from 59 St-Columbus Circle to Canal St. C trains run every 15 minutes. Allow additional travel time.


From 11:45 p.m. Friday, January 2 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, January 5, World Trade Center-bound E trains run express from 34 St-Penn Station to Canal St. To 23 St and Spring St, take the World Trade Center-bound E to 14 St or Canal St and transfer to an uptown A local, C or E train. From these stations, take an uptown A, C or E to W 4 St-Wash Sq or 34 St-Penn Station and transfer to a World Trade Center-bound E.


From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, January 3 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, January 5, E trains run local in both directions between Queens Plaza and Forest Hills-71 Av.


From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, January 3 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, January 5, F trains run local in both directions between 21 St-Queensbridge and Forest Hills-71 Av.


From 11:45 p.m. Friday, January 2 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, January 5, N trains are suspended in both directions between Lexington Av-59 St and Queensboro Plaza. For service between Queens and Manhattan, take the 7. Transfer between trains at Times Sq-42 St and/or Queensboro Plaza.


From 11:45 p.m. Friday, January 2 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, January 5, Q trains are suspended between 57 St-7 Av and Times Sq-42 St. Take the N or R instead.


From 5:15 a.m. to 12 midnight, Saturday, January 3 and Sunday, January 4 R trains skip 5 Av-59 St, Lexington Av-59 St, and Queens Plaza in both directions. E and F trains run local in Queens.

Categories : Service Advisories
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Noise pollution no more as the MTA has silenced emergency exit sirens. (Photo via flickr user rlboston)

As the MTA’s technology has improved, the amount of noise pollution in the subway system has gone up. While there’s only so much the agency can do to lessen the screech from metal-on-metal as subways bend around steep curves, the new rolling stock with its clear public address systems has led to a noted increase in announcements. We’re asked to be patient, sneeze into our arms, stand up, get out of the way, check ourselves, don’t block the door and say something if we see something. Much like some of those pesky delays, the sounds are seemingly unavoidable.

As 2015 dawns, though, the MTA is doing away with one source of easily avoidable noise pollution: The emergency exit doors with their ear-piercing sirens will be silenced. In effect, those doors are now simply exits as the MTA has finally caved to the reality of the flow of people out of subway stations that often do not have enough turnstile capacity to handle peak-hour crowds.

This move has been months in the making as the MTA has been slowly disarming the doors nearest station agents or simply opting against repairing failed alarms, but yesterday morning, WNYC’s Kate Hinds confirmed the news. “Our customers,” Transit spokesman Kevin Ortiz said, “have been quite clear in displaying their annoyance and letting us know that the alarms really were the number one annoyance for them as they travel through the system.”

Amusingly, as The Times’ Matt Flegenheimer noted, the MTA still maintains the rule that exiting through an emergency exit is against the rules, but enforcement is bare to nonexistent in this case. Straphangers routinely exit through these doors in full view of station agents and cops with no consequences, and that practice isn’t likely to change any time soon. Now, though, the blaring alarms will not greet customers trying to leave stations.

So what’s really going on here? The obvious is that, for years, the MTA has heard nonstop about the ineffectiveness of emergency exits from various rider advocacy groups. Straphangers didn’t care about the alarms and would routinely use the nearest — or least crowded — exit. So in one way, the MTA is simply giving in to popular opinion.

But there’s a deeper story here. First, the MTA is doing away with a source of noise pollution within the system and one that could be potentially damaging to the long-term hearing of station agents and other employees who were exposed to these sounds multiple times per hour. Second, this move can also be seen as one designed to improve station flow. As far as I know, the MTA is still working on plans to redesign station entrances. By removing the alarm, the MTA can study how people exit stations, and they’ll likely find that crowds optimize the emergency exits especially at stations with few other points of egress.

Ultimately, though, while New Yorkers generally welcome the New Year with parties, fireworks and a fair amount of sound, the end of the emergency exit noise is a welcome development. And now we know what we all assumed long ago: These emergency exits are simply just exist after all.

Comments (28)

While Governors Christie and Cuomo continued to show their true transit colors, we ended 2014 arguing about the best use for a long-abandoned right-of-way in Queens. As the MTA quietly celebrated 110 years of the New York City subway system, they finally opened the Fulton St. Transit Center while the 7 line didn’t open. Sen. Lanza continued his assault on SBS lights while the Senate waited until June to confirm Tom Prendergast as MTA CEO and Chair. Oh, and the R train reopned after Sandy repairs wrapped early. It was not a dull year.

So what’s next? In a way, 2015 is year of waiting. If all goes accordingly to plan, in less than two years, we’ll be riding the Q north from 57th and 7th Ave. all the way to 96th St. and 2nd Ave. So the next 24 months will represent the home stretch — if the MTA can open the project on time. But there’s much to anticipate for the year ahead.

1. Fare Hikes. You would hardly know that fare hikes as just a few months away as the biennial increases hardly seem to rile up New Yorkers any longer. The hearings over the last few weeks were sparsely attended, and even the outrage seems muted. We’ll find out if the base fare goes up and the bonus sticks around or if the bonus goes while the base fare stays. It’s hardly a huge choice, but it is yet another fare hike. It arrives this spring.

2. The 7 Line. When will the 7 line open? Will the 7 line open? The MTA had hoped to open the extension in February, but recent reports indicate that it may be more likely that April is the revenue service start date. The inclined elevators and fire alarms remain an issue, and the line will not open until 14-16 months after Mayor Bloomberg’s photo-op/faux-ribbon cutting ceremony.

3. Sandy Recovery. The MTA will be closing the Cranberry St. Tunnel this year for Sandy-related repairs, and the work will force weekend service changes for A and C train riders. The F train’s Rutgers St. Tunnel is further down the line, and the most inconvenient work on the 2/3’s Clark St. Tunnel and L train’s tubes loom. I’ll be discussing the Sandy Recovery efforts in depth at the Transit Museum in late January.

4. The Future of the MetroCard. Will 2015 be the year the MTA starts to roll out its next-gen fare payment plans? Some MTA sources have indicated to me that new pilots involving a smart card of sorts may be on the horizon. Watch this space.

5. Capital Plan. How could we enter 2015 without a nod to the capital plan? Somehow, someway, Albany is going to have to address that huge funding gap, and the MTA needs to get the money to ensure the system can meet growing demand and record high ridership. It’s going to involve uncomfortable conversations about spending priorities, details for Phase 2 of the Second Ave. Subway and perhaps the Move NY plan.

So stick around; it’s never boring around here. And have a happy and safe New Year.

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Flashy renderings of the Queensway have captured the attention of The Times. (Via Friends of the Queensway, WXYand DLANDStudio)

Flashy renderings of the Queensway have captured the attention of The Times. (Via Friends of the Queensway, WXYand DLANDStudio)

When I first wrote about the plans to turn the LIRR’s old Rockaway Beach Branch back in 2011, I never imagined it would become a major rift issues for otherwise-civil transit advocates. Of course, considering how I framed that first post — as a referendum on the finality of a rail trail vs. rail reactivation — I should have seen this coming. Now groups that usually fight for better transit, pedestrian and biking infrastructure are going at each other over a $120 million plan to build a High Line equivalent deep in the heart of Queens. All I want is some intellectual honesty.

As I mentioned in early November, I don’t know if the rail line is the right answer, and I don’t know if a park is the right answer. I find it hard to believe, based on geography, demographics and overall transit needs, that a park would trump rail all things being equal, but while we’ve gotten a park study funded by the pro-parks side, the pro-rail study was more of a school project sponsored, nobly so, by Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder. The numbers out of that study proclaimed 500,000 daily riders — almost too exorbitant to be believed — and no independent engineering group has been commissioned to give equal assessment to either option. That’s what I want.

Meanwhile, The Times is not only content with how the story has played out; they’ve decided to throw their editorial weight behind the QueensWay. In a piece published Saturday, rivaling Cuomo and Christie in their attempts at burying the lede, the Gray Lady wrote one of the worst argued editorials I’ve read in some time. The whole thing is a maddening read, but let’s take a look at the worst offenders:

The question is not whether a new park in Queens is a good idea. It’s a spectacular one. The question is whether it is a better idea than a less-flashy alternative — reviving the rail line so people in Queens, particularly in the Rockaways, can get to work without creeping along congested boulevards in cars and buses, or taking the hour-plus ride to Midtown on the A train…

Of the two tantalizing possibilities — rail or trail — trail now has the upper hand. A half-million-dollar study, released in October, resoundingly affirms the foregone conclusion of the national conservation group that commissioned it, the Trust for Public Land. It found that the QueensWay would be a boon to the borough, transforming a humdrum stretch of residential-commercial-industrial-whatever with the sylvan graciousness that the High Line brought to the West Side of Manhattan, but on a far bigger scale. It would open a walk-and-bike gateway to another big park, Forest Park, that is now dangerously hemmed in by roadways.

The study tallied other benefits: fewer traffic fatalities, better flood control, cleaner air, fitter New Yorkers and new commercial and cultural amenities. As new parks go, it would be relatively cheap — about $120 million.

The rail idea has no counterpart study, but it has its advocates, like Assemblyman Phillip Goldfeder, whose district includes the Rockaways. They say it’s foolish to give up an existing right of way in a part of the borough so starved for mass transit. They have a point, but they may be understating the difficulty of reviving those rails for trains. Of the QueensWay’s 47 acres, seven are parkland. If the city, which owns the land, was to return it to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority for transit, it would have to find replacement parkland somewhere else. Then there is the question of when the M.T.A. would get to this capital project, which would be one of many on its overflowing, underfunded to-do list.

The likeliest answer is never. The M.T.A.’s capital plan is only half-funded; the agency is strapped by debt and is hard-pressed to protect the infrastructure it has.

First, there is the use of the adjective “less-flashy” as a way to describe rail. Immediately, The Times has relegated something they admit will improve commutes for thousands as less flashy than a park that won’t even be open 24 hours a day. If avoiding “creeping along congested boulevards” is considered less flashy that some fancy renderings, count me in.

Next comes my favorite line in any Times editorial: “A half-million-dollar study, released in October, resoundingly affirms the foregone conclusion of the national conservation group that commissioned it.” Read that again and soak in its absurdity. The basis for The Times’ pro-park argument is a biased study that shockingly affirmed the views of the biased group that paid half a million New York taxpayer dollars for it. If anything, that should be a reason to doubt the pro-QueensWay rhetoric, not line up in support of it.

Next the price tag: Somehow, a $120 million new park is cheap. The most expensive linear park in New York City cost $150 million and was funded in large part through private donations. No one has even bothered to discuss how the QueensWay project would get off the ground with the support of the same group of wealthy patrons who, for better or worse, rammed the High Line through Chelsea. No matter what, $120 million for an area rife with parks it can’t adequately maintain today is not cheap, and the idea of using value capture that helped fund the Hudson River or Brooklyn Bridge Parks is as controversial to the neighborhood NIMBYs as rail reactivation is.

Finally, we arrive at the criticism of the MTA. When will the MTA get to it, The Times asks. Why aren’t they interested, say QueensWay proponents. Of course, in recent history, the city doesn’t wait for the MTA to do something; rather, interested parties deliver the dollars, and the MTA gets to work. Chuck Schumer got money for 2nd Ave., and Mayor Bloomberg funded the 7 line. The 9/11 recovery fund built the Fulton St. Transit Center, and George Pataki delivered dollars for East Side Access. Imagine if the QueensWay proponents had lined up political and economic support for rail reactivation instead of the park. It would be a much more likely outcome.

Ultimately, The Times betrays itself in its conclusion when it notes “the rare chance to plug a spectacular park into a densely built streetscape that really needs it.” A densely built streetscape needs transit not a park “plugged” through it. All I want is a fair study by an independent group that gives equal air time to the park and the rail. That seems too much to ask once The Times gets seduced by that flashy park.

Ed. Note: I’ve updated this post with a rendering from The Queensway’s presentation. The use of an ENYA design was misleading and distracting from the content of this post.

Categories : Queens
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It is a page out of the politician’s playbook to release bad news at 5 p.m. on a Friday. It’s something else entirely to drop it at 11 p.m. on the Saturday between Christmas and New Year’s, but that’s just what Governors Chris Christie and Andrew Cuomo did this weekend with regards to their vetoes of a two-state, bipartisan Port Authority reform bill. To make matters worse, the two governors also endorsed a controversial reform plan that includes a proposal to limit or eliminate 24-hour PATH service. Merry Christmas indeed.

The basis for the veto came out of the need for Cuomo to act. Had he done nothing, the measure — which passed both states unanimously — would have become law. As The Times summarized, “The legislation vetoed on Saturday would have remade the authority’s daily operations, providing a raft of new financial, ethical and administrative rules, including opening all of its meetings to the public and asking its 12 commissioners to acknowledge that they have a ‘fiduciary duty’ to the Port Authority.”

The measures approved by the state legislatures also included calls for a single-leader CEO model, and this consolidated power is something both Christie and Cuomo have pushed to avoid. For Christie, the reasons are obvious. He or his operatives have repeatedly used the Port Authority for political gain, and at points, it has seemed as though the George Washington Bridge lane closure scandal could derail Christie’s dreams of higher office. Cuomo has generally resisted ceding any power, and losing the ability to appoint half of the Port Authority leadership would be a blow to his entrenchment.

In announcing their vetoes, Christie and Cuomo released just the thing you want to read near midnight on a Saturday after spending the holiday weekend with your family: a wordy statement and pages upon pages of reform recommendations. These recommendations came out of a panel that Christie and Cuomo jointly appointed back in May. It wasn’t called the Port Authority Reinvention Commission, but it might as well have been. It’s critics, such as Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop, have called it “nothing more than a mere power grab.”

If you’d like to read the whole thing, it’s available here as a PDF. Some of the proposals overlap with the state bills and include legitimate reform initiatives. Some of it is lip service. Others though are terrible, no-good, very bad ideas including one to eliminate overnight PATH service. Here’s this summary:

PATH is one of only four heavy-rail systems in America to provide service 24 hours a day for seven days a week; the others are MTA, CTA (which runs only limited service overnight), and the Pennsylvania Port Authority (“PATCO”), which operates a single line from Philadelphia to New Jersey. The PATH’s ridership falls substantially overnight, especially on weeknights, when overnight riders between 1:00 a.m. and 5:00 a.m. constitute less than 1% of daily riders. The cost of providing this service per passenger rises substantially, from $0.01 to $0.02 per passenger during weekday peak hours to an average of $1.15 per rider overnight.

Eliminating overnight service during weekends (i.e., eliminating service on Friday night/early Saturday and Saturday night/early Sunday) would produce operational and capital expense savings. Operational savings would include savings on energy, labor, and station operations; and capital savings would result from allowing capital improvements to be conducted without train interruption. Currently, the PATH shuts down one of the two tracks in each direction during the overnight hours to allow for capital maintenance. This reduces service so that trains come every 35 minutes in each direction. PATH could achieve operational and capital savings estimated to be at least $10 million per year from stopping service altogether between 1:00 a.m. and 5:00 a.m. on weeknights.

The impact of a service reduction would be limited. Assuming that some riders slightly alter their travel plans to ride the last train before operations cease or the first train after they recommence, approximately one-half of one percent of PATH riders during the time period (just under 1,500) would be affected. If PATH decided to offer riders an alternative, bus service for these customers at the cost of $4 per passenger would cost approximately $1.5 million per year.

These are somewhat optimistic projections from the reform commission and do not delve into the real benefits of having ready 24-hour service. As mayors from the New Jersey communities along the Hudson were quick to note this weekend, access to PATH has been a major driver of recent population growth, and those people most affected by an elimination of late-night service don’t have the means to find another way home. The Port Authority — which is spending $4 billion on the World Trade Center PATH station — is looking to save $8.5 million by seriously inconveniencing service and creating the feeling of isolation from communities that have grown to rely on late-night service. It is a typical Cuomo/Christie response to a transportation problem.

Other PATH proposals create interesting hypothetical. One involves asking for an alternative regulatory oversight scheme that would free PATH from onerous and expensive FRA guidelines, but that’s a very “inside baseball” idea. The other proposes pursuing “the possibility of partnering with a third-party operator, public or private, that manages urban transit or commuter rail service in order to improve the PATH’s operational effectiveness and financial efficiency.” If that isn’t a challenge to New Jersey and New York to figure out some way to transfer PATH operations to New York City Transit, I don’t know what is. That idea, if implemented properly, may be a better long-term solution for the region, but it shouldn’t come with service cuts.

Despite Christie and Cuomo’s best efforts, this clearly isn’t the last we’ll hear of Port Authority reform or proposals for PATH. Those behind the vetoed reform bill will continue to push for change, and as Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer vowed, she and many others will “vigorously oppose any efforts to cut PATH service.” As we need a new trans-Hudson tunnel and a better bus terminal, Port Authority needs former, but cutting off its nose to spite its face while working to hide the announcement from as many eyes as possible is no way to go about achieving lasting change.

Categories : PANYNJ
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