Home Transit LaborTWU A union goal amidst talk of a subway slowdown

A union goal amidst talk of a subway slowdown

by Benjamin Kabak

To what end the TWU’s bloody MetroCard?

Every organization has an end-game. It’s the goal an organization most wants to achieve no matter the costs, and the goal such groups go about pushing directly or indirectly. Right now, the Transport Workers Union Local 100 has two end-games: Leaders want to push the MTA toward a contract solution 13 months after the last three-year deal expired, and they want to ensure that union jobs are maximized.

Enter the great — and terrible — train slowdown idea. As you, dear reader, are well aware, the TWU has latched onto two high-profile subway murders to proclaim an epidemic that doesn’t exist. Despite the odds stacked overwhelmingly against anyone who’s at least showing one iota of care getting struck my a subway train — let alone killed — the TWU has made this their cause du jour. In part to protect union members how suffer the heavy psychological toll when trains they are driving strike someone and in part to get into the papers, the TWU has been promoting a call to slow trains down to 10 miles per hour as they enter stations.

The costs of these slowdowns are well documented. Streetsblog determined the economics of such a move could cost the city over $1 billion annually, and the MTA says a slowdown would add 13 minutes to a 2 train ride from 241st St. to Times Square. In other words, a 50-minute ride would take over an hour, and New Yorkers, who seem to support a slowdown without thinking too much about it, would be a singing a different tune within days.

As this debate has played out, I’ve come to both despise its existence and ponder the effectiveness of the TWU’s campaign. Not known for being particularly media savvy, the TWU has created a call that politicians and the vaunted People-On-The-Street can support without so much as a thought. I’ve been left wonder what’s the TWU’s end-game, and recent comments by the union on Twitter and its leaders at last week’s City Council hearing have me inching toward an answer.

Gothamist’s Ben Yakas has a very thorough report on the TWU’s take on the issue. In speaking with Yakas, TWU officials used particularly strident language to describe something that happens, give or take, to one out of every 10.8 million riders — and a third of time intentionally so. “We’re trying to snap the Transit Authority out of their unconscious state about it, from just ignoring it,” TWU VP Kevin Harrington, ignoring the fact that the MTA isn’t ignoring platform safety, said. “[Change is] going to have to come from the riders, because the Transit Authority is inured to doing anything by years of ignoring the issue. They dont think it’s an issue. They’re just stonewalling until it goes away.”

TWU President John Samuelsen used even more over-the-top language than that. Calling riding the subways “Russian Roulette,” he said the MTA’s claims that slowing down trains would cause overcrowding are false because the MTA could just add more trains: “The truth of the matter is, they have the ability to add capacity in rush hour situations. That’s an economic choice on their part, and a political choice on their part. They can do it. The question for them becomes: is it worth adding capacity to save three [subway] incidents a week. And to save an avalanche of fatalities over the course of a year? So the question for the company is, do we add service, and stop the daily game of Russian Roulette on the station platforms, with folks getting killed on the platforms, or do we add capacity to stop the deaths?”

Never mind the fact that slowing trains down would actually limit the number of trains per hour that could move through the tunnels and never mind the fact that we’d all be getting to work, school and play a lot slower than before. Let’s instead focus on what Samuelsen wants: He wants more trains on the rails. Why? Because more trains lead to more jobs.

Stephen Smith from Market Urbanism picked up this thread on Twitter on Thursday and suggested that that the MTA could implement OPTO as a solution to this pickle. It would lead to more trains but the same number of jobs, and all of a sudden, the TWU had no answer. “No OPTO [is] needed if the point is to provide more service,” the union said via Twitter.

So is this really about customer safety or is this about finding ways to increase the number of trains on the rails and thus the number of jobs to be had? The cynic in me is leaning toward the latter, and I must say that it’s a brilliant PR move by the union. It has politicians and riders advocating against their own interests to push for a measure that would lead to more union members working more train shifts. It’s a brilliant marketing move and a terrible operations policy.

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Union Member February 11, 2013 - 1:51 am

Against my better jugdement I’m going to throw my hat into the discussion. The issue is not about the deaths at all. The rank and file are at odds over the issue that has not even been formally proposed to the rank and file itself. As everyone understands it now the idea is as doomed as this discussion about it is hot.

As of this moment no operators willing to follow through with the 10 MPH entering stations because we all know the schedule will not be adjusted accordingly. That means train operators will be making a sacrifice of meal time and break time and spending more time in the cab. Same goes for conductors. Dispatchers and Tower Operators jobs will be made more difficult as a direct result. There are some really good job assignments currently held by senior members where said job assignments don’t look nearly as good because the schedule gets affected. Not to mention the OT the Authority will have to pay out for almost 3,000 Operators and 3,000 conductors spending more time on the train.

The problem the union has is leverage has been lost because of the failings of the 2005 strike. The contract came with raises but it came with more consessions than the membership and other outside unions were willing to allow. Most importantly automatic dues check offs was lost. Even though it’s back now, there are still members on the payroll not contributing to the union since then because it’s not required for them to file to reactivate the process. The only way to correct the underfunding is to get more employees active with more jobs and/or getting those who don’t contribute to retire asap.

So basically the fight for a contract continues but this is what it’s down to now. As silly as it sounds it’s the only card to play. Call your bluff when you are low on funds and playing with a bad hand.

nycpat February 11, 2013 - 8:58 am

Very cogent analysis.

Nathanael February 11, 2013 - 3:08 pm

The rank and file need to change union leadership, or failing that, change unions.

The TWU local leadership has been nothing but trouble for several years.

There’s a union procedure for voting in a different union leadership, isn’t there? I know there’s an NLRB procedure for certifying a *different union*.

If the rank and file either replaced the local union leadership, or voted in a completely different union, you might have a respectable union leadership rather than a bunch of clowns who’ve shot their wad already.

Benjamin Kabak February 11, 2013 - 3:09 pm

The rank-and-file just re-upped with the current leadership a few weeks ago for three more years. This is their first public campaign after securing their leadership positions. Depressing thought, huh?

Nathanael February 11, 2013 - 3:16 pm

This makes me extremely suspicious of the union election procedure. I suggest someone research it.

If it’s anything like corporate board elections or the NRA elections, the rank and file have no voice whatsoever.

I do know that, historically, many unions have been corrupted by changing the rules for selecting the leadership until the leadership is not really elected; this happened to the SEIU not so long ago.

KC February 12, 2013 - 9:04 pm

It’s exactly like the board of directors for a publicly held firm, or our national leaders, because if The PEOPLE really had a say, we would have had a choice of candidates far better than what we’ve seen over the past 5 decades.

Make no mistake, the problems with unions, corporations and government all stem from problems at the top.

When problems arise in government, many people point to the government workers, corporations find low level scape goats and union workers have long been depicted as lazy.

political_incorrectness February 11, 2013 - 1:56 am

Watching this from the outside and never having been to New York, I honestly think this is quite ridiculous. When you reduce capacity, you are going to increase overcrowding at stations and people are going to be pissed when they cannot get to where they are going fast enough and there isn’t enough capacity to handle this. Fear-mongering the public like this really pisses me off because deaths are potentially being used as a ploy. I am surprised the union does not propose reducing speed limits on all streets so that way pedestrians do not get killed.

Bolwerk February 11, 2013 - 10:32 am

Who needs net zero increase in employment plan? The dumb thing about this idea is it’s unlikely to increase safety. If it increases crowding at all, it’s reducing safety. Faster, more frequent service would increase safety more. Maybe Union Member is right that it’s just a poker move, but it’s one that is designed to maximize union employment at the cost to rider comfort if the TWU wins that hand.

It really is time for pols to start respecting the need to modernize the system, which includes laying off redundant TWU labor. I don’t see a big problem with compensation, but overstaffing is a major, costly problem.

Someone February 11, 2013 - 2:03 pm

The union is doing this so their own people don’t have to suffer the trauma of witnessing a train crash. It’s not for the good of anyone else.

anon February 11, 2013 - 7:30 am

if passengers aren’t allowed to move between cars, why are they allowed to stand on the platform edge? Neither as “enforceable” as the other yet both would/do have an impact.

KC February 12, 2013 - 9:12 pm

Actually, every once in a while, a plain clothes officer will grab people going between cars and give them tickets, and uniformed police officers will, on occasion, direct people to back away from the platform edge.

The reality is that there are not enough police officers to be on enough platforms or in enough subway cars to make an impact.

Someone February 12, 2013 - 9:57 pm

There doesn’t need to be police officers roaming between cars, if only the MTA would purchase articulated trains (like the Toronto Rocket.)

KC February 13, 2013 - 10:39 pm

The plain clothes officers giving out tickets to passengers going between cars are there to generate revenue.

Someone February 11, 2013 - 7:55 am

I wonder how much time it would cost passengers if trains were forced to slow down every time they entered a station. Maybe hundreds of hours per train, perhaps.

Having been a New Yorker for over 20 years, I think that is an absurd idea that should be curbed by the installation of platform doors.

Alon Levy February 11, 2013 - 11:46 pm

Charlie Komanoff ran the numbers and posted his analysis on Streetsblog; he appraises the cost to passengers in lost time and to everyone in higher car traffic at $1.5 billion a year.

John Doe February 11, 2013 - 10:11 am

When are they replacing conductors with robots? It’s 2013 already!!

KC February 11, 2013 - 10:54 am

That isn’t a bad idea John Doe, as long as we create new jobs to replace the ones you’re in favor of eliminating, otherwise you’re only adding to the unemployment line. The unfortunate reality is that new jobs are not being created to replace jobs lost through automation, so what’s the solution? Just allow the already rich to become richer while the unemployment rolls continue to swell?

Here’s a thought, we’ve been on a 40 hour work week for more decades than I’ve been alive, since automation has taken so many jobs and helped make the well-off even more well-off, how about shortening the work week and putting a lot more people back to work?

jtown February 11, 2013 - 11:10 am

“as long as we create new jobs to replace the ones you’re in favor of eliminating, otherwise you’re only adding to the unemployment line”
In other words, you think the main goal of the MTA should not be to provide the most efficient and wide-reaching transportation service but to employ the most union workers (at the expense of all the New Yorkers who rely on public transportation).
What about the poor people who live in neighborhoods with little to no transit service? The status quo means there is little possibility of ever extending transit to new areas (or even increasing service) because so much of the MTA’s budget is tied up in labor costs.

KC February 12, 2013 - 9:19 pm

Eliminating jobs has an effect, not only on those released from employment, but on the city, state and country.

If it takes 1 person 40 hours to make 100 widgets, and a machine can make the same 100 widgets in 1 hour, it certainly makes corporate sense to eliminate that 1 job, but if that scenario is extrapolated to eliminate even 10% of the jobs in this country, you are creating a serious unemployment problem.

Bolwerk February 11, 2013 - 11:14 am

I somewhat agree with this. Yes, automate the system and invest the savings in more construction. More jobs will be created and, even better, the future will have a better infrastructure to power its economy.

Unfortunately, the conductor positions need to go and shouldn’t come back. Arguably, the TO position should start being phased out too (ZPTO). Paying money to keep a virtually useless position around is an incredible waste of resources that could be used to invest in the future. And there is no reason the TWU should enjoy more job security or better benefits than those of us in the private sector.

Nathanael February 11, 2013 - 3:10 pm

Judging from other places I’ve been, the most effective result, in the long run, is to have no operators, no conductors, very few people in booths…. and a lot of uniformed customer service people standing on the platforms.

This requires a very different mentality.

Bolwerk February 11, 2013 - 6:13 pm

Perhaps. Germany, perhaps behind some places on labor in general, seems to be fairly effective at what you describe, and there aren’t even a lot of uniformed people offering customer service or doing collection these days.

How much customer service is needed is very situational, of course. Lots at GCT, little to none on the M stub in Ridgewood – and maybe something like Union Square is between the two extremes.

Alon Levy February 11, 2013 - 11:49 pm

Germany most certainly does not have platform attendants except at very busy stations. In fact it makes sure to build even low-traffic regional branch lines with level boarding precisely so that people in wheelchairs can board without the need for a conductor or a platform attendant.

KC February 12, 2013 - 9:32 pm

Traditionally, transit workers have had SLIGHTLY more job security, and better benefits, than the private sector because they received lower wages than a comparable private sector job.

There are also quality of life issues, such as spending so much time underground, incurring the wrath of the ridership when the subways are delayed, dealing with a management that will send someone to make sure you’re home when you call in sick, dealing with a management team that forces motormen and conductors to falsify documents when their train arrives late, so that the management doesn’t look bad, or penalizing motormen & conductors for being late.

Bolwerk February 12, 2013 - 10:35 pm

Yeah. Sometimes I just wonder if there should be a term limit on the job. The major downside is, of course, training ain’t exactly cheap either.

Bus drivers seem to even have it worse.

Someone February 11, 2013 - 11:47 am

since automation has taken so many jobs and helped make the well-off even more well-off

Name ONE example of that.

Bolwerk February 11, 2013 - 12:56 pm

Between automation and outsourcing, much of America’s manufacturing base is literally gone. In the railroad/transit world, ZPTO is a technically viable option now (maybe not politically viable). Imposing ZPTO quite literally means that many skilled workers are going to be out of a job. And, we have to accept that and find new economic opportunities for them.

al February 11, 2013 - 1:05 pm

Automation means that a few highly skilled workers make large quantities of high tech, high value added products. Its still here, just that few people work the lines anymore.


I see this conflated with offshoring way too often. Outsourcing is shifting the work outside the organization. It can be sent to the company next door for all we know. Offshoring, that is sending work overseas, is what people really complain about.

Nathanael February 11, 2013 - 3:12 pm

If done properly, there should be a lot of new jobs in the customer service (sales/service/complaints/returns/problems/questions) end of things — because, despite many companies’ best efforts, you can’t automate customer service, and it just ticks people off if you try.

KC February 12, 2013 - 9:39 pm

Are you aware of the metro card vending machines? Token booth clerks were the first line of customer service. Many of them have already been replaced by these machines.

The fact is corporations require a lot fewer customer service types than they used to require skilled labor, so there is no way your going to make up the jobs lost to automation and off-shoring by increases in customer service, and we’ll never make up the shortfall in the economy by replacing $20 an hour jobs with $8 an hour jobs.

I’ll go back to one of my earlier points, if there aren’t enough jobs to go around, we need to consider lowering the 40 hour work week.

Bolwerk February 11, 2013 - 6:09 pm

True, it is often conflated. The reason is outsourcing often is offshore. Offshoring the innards of the organization is becoming much more common, of course.

(Of course, sending work to labor-unfriendly red states also interplays with this, which is often done through “intranational” outsourcing.)

Alon Levy February 12, 2013 - 12:18 am

Actually, people in the US complain about both offshoring and outsourcing. Outsourcing is often a way to replace long-time workers with temporary contractors, who the company doesn’t need to pay benefits, and also to insulate the company from criticism of labor practices by putting another layer between it and the workforce. Krugman recently said both were a problem, and the unions in New York have run ads attacking the practice of replacing municipal workers with contractors.

In Israel, labor and social justice activists complain a lot about outsourcing, have begun a Movement for Direct Employment, and attack manpower companies. In contrast, nobody cares about offshoring; if anything the country is a net gainer from that since it’s a destination for Silicon Valley offshoring due to lower wages.

dungone February 12, 2013 - 12:28 pm

A modern mechanical cotton picker can replace 240 manual laborers and I wouldn’t want to go back to the sort of economy that existed before that. And for the same reason, I’ll take one job that can support an entire family, created by automation, over 10 jobs that can hardly support the workers themselves and which will eventually have to be offshored anyway, or else the economies which are based on them will go bust.

KC February 12, 2013 - 9:46 pm

“I’ll take one job that can support an entire family, created by automation, over 10 jobs that can hardly support the workers themselves”

That’s fine, but how would you propose the other 9 people support themselves?

Someone February 13, 2013 - 7:55 am

Most families don’t have ten members. When the time comes, we’ll worry about that.

dungone February 13, 2013 - 6:15 pm

It wouldn’t be 9 people needing jobs.

With better quality jobs, more family members can afford to go to college, retire earlier, start businesses, become homemakers, etc. That would open up various jobs for other people.

With automation, transit costs would go down and the money would go back into the local economy which, in turn, would be able to hire more workers elsewhere.

And by adding workers with better pay to the economy, they in turn spend their money less on basic necessities (think Walmart) and more on higher quality goods and services (think made in America) that in turn create higher quality jobs than those they replace.

KC February 17, 2013 - 12:47 pm

If you are only creating 1 good paying job for every 10 displaced by automation, you have a severe problem.

The fact is, most jobs being created in the USA today are very low paying service sector jobs, and there aren’t even enough of them being created.

The citizens of America cannot rely on corporations to create the jobs needed to employ all those that want employment. The typical corporate goal is to get the most labor for the lowest cost, so that more of the profits go to the top.

If a corporation can shell out $10,000 for a machine that has a life expectancy of 3 years, and will displace 10 workers, most will follow that path, without taking into consideration that there are 10 more people that will not have an income that allows them to be able to purchase their products.

dungone February 12, 2013 - 11:46 am

“as long as we create new jobs to replace the ones you’re in favor of eliminating”

This is why American manufacturing is in the dumps. Whereas other Western countries have embraced automation, American businesses are loathe to change their old ways until there’s no other choice but to shut down or move overseas.

KC February 12, 2013 - 9:50 pm

“This is why American manufacturing is in the dumps”

Wrong, ignoring this is one of the principal reasons unemployment is so high.

dungone February 13, 2013 - 6:19 pm

Actually, trying to force this level of control over economic progress is the very thing that defines a managed, top-down economy such as Communism. Those who complain about arduous, dangerous, redundant jobs being replaced with advanced high-technology jobs are only holding everything that is good about this country back.

KC February 13, 2013 - 10:51 pm

I am not in favor of having unnecessary jobs or having people do jobs that are better suited to machines. That being said, we still have to find a way to create more employment.

If all the $20-$30 an hour jobs are replaced by half as many $8 an hour jobs, the economy of the masses will shrink significantly.

If there is not enough work to provide gainful employment to all those who want to work, I think it’s time to shorten the 40 hour work week and increase the minimum wage.

Someone February 11, 2013 - 11:01 am

I think you mean “motormen”. The conductors are the ones that operate doors, make announcements, etc. Besides, 95% of NYCS track does not have ATO, and 90% of NYCS cars do not have ATO equipment.

Besides, I think there is a lot of union opposition to that idea. It’s going to cut a lot more jobs (and to think we’ve cut enough jobs already.)

al February 11, 2013 - 1:09 pm

There us a solution to this. As CBTC and ATO comes online install platforms screen doors and shift conductors (and later motormen) to customer service, and system maintenance, supervision and inspection. The more regular work hours make for easier and more efficient manpower deployment.

Nathanael February 11, 2013 - 3:14 pm

Indeed. The future is for more maintenance, repair and inspection work; and more customer service people out walking the platforms (and perhaps walking the trains). Oddly (or perhaps not so oddly), the TWU local has been quite resistant to both. There have been nasty scandals in the maintenance department, and the TWU fought the idea of getting the token clerks out of their booths.

Bolwerk February 12, 2013 - 7:23 am

Somewhat, but I think you’re being rosy.

The fact of the matter is a realistic level of employment calls for more maintenance and capital investment, but probably nowhere near enough to replace thousands of lost conductor and token booth positions.

KC February 12, 2013 - 9:56 pm

That’s not entirely acurate Nathanael. The TWU was opposed to eliminating the jobs, they weren’t opposed to reclassification. What the MTA has done is eliminate a large number of token booth clerk jobs and replaced them with fewer customer service jobs, creating a smaller work force. It is understandable that the TWU would be against a similar program for the motorman & conductors.

"Tony" February 11, 2013 - 6:18 pm

Until the system is 100% CBTC, the thought of getting rid of conductors is not on the table. Accountability(from emergencies to train operator error), concerns over train operator fatigue on longer/ more frequent routes if they were to both “drive” & operate the doors(non-CBTC & older fleet) and the public’s concern of getting rid of conductors. The public didn’t like the thought of station agents being laid-off; think it will be any different w/ conductors?

Someone February 11, 2013 - 7:53 pm

Until the system is 100% CBTC, the thought of getting rid of conductors is not on the table.

Apparently, John Doe thinks that it’s that time already.

Well, this is not London, Paris, or Beijing. Conductors, fortunately, are still necessary to expedite service in the NYC subway.

Alon Levy February 12, 2013 - 12:20 am

What would cause train operator fatigue, anyway? They’re not overworked, at least not in a way that’s beneficial to passengers even in the short term. They spend ~550 hours a year operating revenue trains, vs. 700+ in Helsinki and Tokyo, both located in countries with average working hours that are if anything marginally shorter than in the US.

Someone February 12, 2013 - 9:46 am

Conductors in Tokyo have to operate longer hours than NYC conductors because they also have to operate longer routes.

nycpat February 12, 2013 - 12:55 pm

That’s BS. NYCT T/Os easily spend 1200 to 1400 hrs in revenue service. Then there is OKing trains in the yard and laying up and relaying and getting the homeless off at terminals. 550= a ridiculous assertion. You’ve extrapolated from some flawed data. I spent 7 hours 10 minutes operating trains yesterday and got paid 8 hrs. I have over a decade in title.

Bolwerk February 12, 2013 - 10:29 am

What would a conductor do about accountability or fatigue? The conductor isn’t in the same cab as the operator to use a cattle prod on him.

The public has plenty of paradoxical wishes. Maybe they think booth clerks add security (which they probably don’t), but the price of keeping the position around is a higher subway fare – something they don’t like either.

"Tony" February 14, 2013 - 9:03 pm

“What would a conductor do about accountability or fatigue?”

The conductor is in charge of the train. That includes how the train operator operates the train. If s/he operates the train recklessly, take a wrong route, overshoots the station, etc. it’s the conductor’s role to notify supervision immediately. Those are things that still occur to this day. That’s accountability. As far as fatigue goes, they want the train operator to focus on one job only, “driving” the train from terminal to terminal safely. They want everything else handled by the conductor. Especially on the longer routes, which most are.

Larry Littlefield February 11, 2013 - 10:37 am

The problem with New York is you have a lot of people who have no idea what other people get, always assume it is more, and always want more for themselves. And it adds up to more than there is.

More money, less years of work, etc.

And those with power to take more at other’s expense only compare themselves within a tight little group — other people on Wall Street, other unionized employees, etc. Looking at the overall economic data, in contrast, makes me gratefull for what I have.

Bottom like — the TWU HAS gotten big raises. The retroactive pension deal of 2000, which was described as costing nothing and still isn’t being fully paid for. Of course other unions got more in the pension department than the TWU, with the MTA’s problem due substantially to debts.

It makes no sense of anyone to settle with the TWU until those who got their years of work and retirement age reduced, and those who got bills to allow just about everybody to claim a 3/4 disability retirement, are pushed to settle for even less — to make up for the fact that compared with most of us they have taken even more.

Bolwerk February 11, 2013 - 10:40 am

Do they imagine the MTA has a big stash of Nazi treasure in a Swiss safe deposit box? Samuelson seems to think the MTA isn’t cash-strapped at all.

It’s not like they want new revenue sources. Remember, these were the same guys who didn’t step up to the plate on congestion pricing a few years ago. They don’t give a shit about riders’ time or taxpayers’ wallets, but they want their SUV rides from the ‘burbs to be toll-free. They got theirs.

KC February 11, 2013 - 11:01 am

Bolwerk, congestion pricing was nothing more than a revenue stream scheme thought up by Bloomberg. It did nothing to equip the MTA to handle one additional rider during rush hour or any other time of the day.

Someone February 11, 2013 - 11:02 am

But congestion pricing is going to encourage more commuters to use mass transit. That makes no sense.

Bolwerk February 11, 2013 - 11:08 am

Yeah, it was only intended to help fund the capital program. It was silly of me to think the capital program does anything for riders.

capt subway February 11, 2013 - 12:44 pm

The whole point of congestion pricing is not necessarily to take everyone out of their cars and put them on mass transit. It’s essentially to make drivers – those who choose to drive – to pay their fair share. If some drivers do choose to abandon their cars and take public transit the system will probably be able to absorb them, as was the case in London a few years ago. Remember the vast majority of private autos have exactly one person in them – the driver.

And yeah, I don’t recall that the TWU supported congestion pricing when it was proposed.

Bolwerk February 11, 2013 - 12:49 pm

It would clearly be useless if it took everyone out of their cars.

SEAN February 11, 2013 - 1:12 pm

CP was designed to NOT get everyone out of there cars, rather it was ment to get a large percentage of them. That percentage are those who could use transit, but unwisely chose to drive. The remainder who think that they should travel for free, were going to have to pay for their impact on the enviernment.

Someone February 11, 2013 - 2:06 pm

The only problem with CP is the fact that a myriad of tollbooths would have to be installed in Manhattan; also, that would turn Long Island into a tolled area, like Staten Island already is.

Benjamin Kabak February 11, 2013 - 2:07 pm

This is a 100 percent myth. You wouldn’t have to install any tollbooths at all.

Someone February 11, 2013 - 3:37 pm

For congestion pricing, you would have to collect money some way…

Benjamin Kabak February 11, 2013 - 3:39 pm

The same way tolls are collected in London.


If you don’t like that one, check out cashless tolling on the HHP right now. You don’t need to install much infrastructure to capture what you need, and it doesn’t slow down traffic at all.

Someone February 11, 2013 - 7:55 pm

Oh, OK. Now I get it.
(I also just realised that I got to pay a penalty charge to the TFL…)

Bolwerk February 11, 2013 - 6:55 pm

WTF is this crusade for the anti-truth with you? Might you consider doing a simple Google search before you post, so you can see if what you’re about to say is wrong? There was no plan to line Midtown Manhattan with tolls, and the collection was going to be electronic.

LLQBTT February 11, 2013 - 3:17 pm

Not necessarily. It would take many 9 to 5 commuters out of their cars, or force those commuters into fewer cars, i.e. car pooling. What remains are those drivers who would ‘eat’ the cost, drivers who use theirs or corporate cars for work (sales and support) and service vehicles of all types. There would remain ongoing income or tax from congestion pricing.

Bolwerk February 11, 2013 - 6:19 pm

Yes, I understand the economics of it. I don’t know why capt subway made that comment to me to begin with, but my point goes to the absurdity of the anti-CP crowd: this delusion that somehow enough people wouldn’t drive in to sustain it.

Anyway, reducing congestion is good. Especially for drivers who value their time. Which is why I always find it perplexing when slopebrowed carheads tell me I’m anti-car for supporting CP. (I only want cars to work….)

KC February 12, 2013 - 8:31 pm

Again, the principal goal of CP, by the words of one of Bloomberg’s deputies, was to generate revenue.

If you want to reduce automobile congestion, you don’t start by giving politicians another revenue stream.

Bolwerk February 12, 2013 - 10:42 pm

Who or what gets the revenue is almost completely irrelevant. They could have taken the money and burned it, and it still would have sent a uniform price signal to the region’s drivers.

KC February 13, 2013 - 10:55 pm

To what effect? If, as claimed, CP was designed to get people out of their cars and onto mass transit, the plan was severally flawed since there wasn’t any plan to increase the service on an already over crowded rush hour subway & bus system.

KC February 12, 2013 - 8:44 pm

When the idea was being touted by the administration, there were only vague references to POSSIBLY funding some capital programs aimed at enhancing public transportation. There was far more talk about helping close the city’s budget shortfall. That’s one of the reasons the TWU never supported it.

Bolwerk February 12, 2013 - 10:58 pm

Sure you’re not making that up? That’s now how I remember it:

During the spring and summer of 2007, the City and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), which operates subway, bus and commuter rail service in New York City and its suburbs, pursued federal funding for congestion pricing implementation and complementary transit improvements.

Why would the MTA be doing the implementation if the money was just going to flow to the city?

KC February 13, 2013 - 11:00 pm

“On April 22, 2007 — Earth Day — Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg unveiled the details of a plan to unsnarl Manhattan’s streets through a congestion pricing plan. On April 7, 2008, Sheldon Silver, the Democratic leader of the state Assembly, announced that the plan was dead, unable to receive needed legislative approval.”

LLQBTT February 11, 2013 - 3:12 pm

I don’t necessarily disagree with your first point, but bureaucracies and money are funny thing. The former never has enough money and yet when something is needed or wanted enough or by the right people big or samll, the money materializes or is ‘found’.

Andrew Smith February 11, 2013 - 1:48 pm

Question for Ben and all the other lawyers out there: Can the TWA be sued for damages if it wins support for a policy that costs the MTA billions in cash and commuters more than that in lost time with arguments that no reasonable person could believe? Could its pension funds be attacked if this policy is enacted, leads to overcrowding on platforms and increases deaths rather than reducing them?

Larry Littlefield February 11, 2013 - 2:28 pm

For historical reasons, although New York City Transit has been part of the MTA, a state agency, since 1968 its employee still use the NYC pension system.

“Could its pension funds be attacked.”

After Lindsay cut the Tier I pension deals in the 1960s and borrowed lots of money, and due to resulting soaring costs, the infrastructure was allowed to collapse, the police stopped protecting people from crime, the schools stopped educating children, the city burned and the bag ladies died in the streets.

But the debts and pensions got paid. The political/union class and the executive/financial class always seek to grab more, and always get paid first. No matter what.

Bruce M February 11, 2013 - 2:03 pm

Ben; how do we take your well articulated viewpoint and get it out there to the general public? There are plenty of politicians in NYC who are willing to jump on the union bandwagon. Is there another voice out there with an opposing viewpoint who is willing take on the unions and call out their position for what it is? Paging Joe Lohta.

NB99 February 12, 2013 - 5:59 pm

What about the intrusion detection systems that are supposed to be part of the subway’s homeland security system? The same systems that are supposed to detect trespassers should be able to detect people who have fallen on the tracks.

Someone February 13, 2013 - 7:58 am

They’re called radar tubes, and they’re already in use in several European metros.

The same systems that are supposed to detect trespassers should be able to detect people who have fallen on the tracks.

The tech exists for that.


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