Home View from Underground Vacation Links: A cricket-related arrest, disbanding the Port Authority, new Amtrak rolling stock

Vacation Links: A cricket-related arrest, disbanding the Port Authority, new Amtrak rolling stock

by Benjamin Kabak

I’m on vacation for the next two weeks, traveling in Barcelona, Provence and Paris. I’ll be riding the Metros in Spain and France (with two SNCF rides in between). So keep an eye on the Second Ave. Sagas Instagram account. I’ll be on Twitter when possible, but I won’t post much more than service advisories here. I’ll be back from Europe on September 11 so barring any breaking news, I’ll see you on September 12.

In the meantime, some links to keep you occupied (for a minute or two or more): In the ongoing saga of the performance artist who caused a scene on the D train last week, police arrested Zaida Pugh today and threw the book at her. She is facing charges of reckless endangerment, obstructing governmental administration, false reporting an incident and disorderly conduct, according to Daily News sources, all stemming from her hoax that left a D train stranded. The cops acted fast in this case, and Pugh has seemed remorseful on social media.

For a longer read, check out this City Journal piece on the Port Authority. In an overview of the massive beast that the Port Authority has become, Stephen Eide argues that it is time to disband the bi-state agency, a constant rallying cry of reformers and advocates. Eide argues that the regional model isn’t working as the Port Authority suffers from extreme mission creep and can’t make investments where needed. Eide recommends the PA restructure its debt, spin off the airports, and dump the World Train Center. Many have considered whether the MTA should ultimately wrap PATH into the New York City subway, but Eide does not call for the PA to divest itself of PATH. I’ll likely have more on this piece in a few weeks, and it’s an interesting one to ponder.

Finally, Amtrak last week unveiled plans to purchase 28 new trainsets for operation along the Acela line. These cars will enter service in 2021 and should allow Amtrak to run half-hour Acela service along the Northeast Corridor. The cars will be able to operate at speeds of up to 186 mph and are part of a $2.45 billion investment. They will indeed include USB ports at every seat. Read the press release here, check out renderings here, and read Jason Rabinowitz’s roundup of the Alstom-made cars. (And fret over the Amtrak-MBTA dispute that could temporarily torpedo Boston Amtrak service.)

When I get back, we’ll talk Midtown East rezoning and the MTA’s joining NATCO after dumping APTA. You can always read some free ebooks in the subway, but just don’t break too many rules while I’m gone.

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Peter L August 30, 2016 - 9:47 pm

Can’t tell if “World Train Center” is a joke or a typo … I mean, isn’t WTC just a mall?

The new Amtrak trains may well be able to operate at 186 mph (300 km/h for those wondering about the weird number) but, currently, there are only a couple of stretches of track good for 150 mph up in RI and MA. There is another stretch in NJ that is currently at 135 but is expected to go to 160 mph.

And then there are dozens and dozens of miles where trains (any trains) are restricted to 90. Or 60. Or 30.

And it will take a lot more than buying new trains (which are needed in any case) to get to anything approaching 300 km/h.

Adirondacker12800 August 30, 2016 - 10:33 pm

There’s lots and lots of very straight track between NY and DC. The trains don’t run faster on it because the catenary would vibrate itself to bits.

Stephen August 30, 2016 - 11:22 pm

Will those catenaries get upgraded with the new trains so the trains can run faster?
O/T: I am still waiting for the Vermonter line to gets is Vermont track work improvements finished. At least they finally got rid of the Palmer turn-around.

Adirondacker12800 August 31, 2016 - 12:04 am

They are upgrading the part between New Brunswick and Trenton. The rest of it… someday. The new trains will have approximately 30 percent more capacity and there will be 40 percent more of them. They’ll have the money to do it. From all the extra passengers they will be able to carry.

The Portal Bridge replacement should save a few minutes. The new Tunnels in Baltimore should save 5. There are bridges that could be replaced. It’s not all track straightening.

The second track between Schenectady and Albany is supposed to be completed next year. It should cut padding out of the schedule for the Ethan Allen. Vermont has found the money to extend it to Burlington by 2018 or ’19.

webster August 31, 2016 - 7:31 am

They’re also lighter and tilt…I suppose that helps, as well.

eo August 31, 2016 - 7:58 am

You are too optimistic on the Portal Bridge. Money has not been allocated to it other than a tiny TIGER grant to build access platforms for the future construction. At this rate the old bridge will need to stay in place another 12-15 years. Also given the congestion of the tracks between Newark and NYP I doubt that you will see noticeable reduction in travel time. With the congestion the difference between 60mph (current bridge) and 90mph(proposed bridge) is not that important.

Also does not the EIS expire after some period of time? If it does you won’t see it happen until the current bridge falls into the river.

Adirondacker12800 August 31, 2016 - 12:55 pm

I’m getting old. When Portal Bridge had a 90 MPH speed limit the slower trains between Newark and New York were scheduled for 15 minutes. An average speed of 40. Today’s trains take 20, an average speed of 30. Going faster between Harrison and the tunnel makes a difference. It may not be 5 minutes but it makes a difference.
It is congested. Back when the schedule was 15 minutes the former Morris and Essex lines only went to Hoboken. There were less trains on the Trenton and North Jersey Coast lines. It’s why they want to separate the Morris and Essex trains out and build a third and someday fourth track between Newark and New York. And a fifth and sixth track all the way to Rahway.
Building the construction platforms means they are ready when they find the additional money. They’ll find the additional money when they remind Congresscritters that it’s the bridge Acela uses when they go to Manhattan for fund raisers. And whatever else they do in Manhattan…

AG August 31, 2016 - 12:31 am

It will interesting how this goes along with their HSR plans. From the new Gateway Tunnels south they devised ways to improve speed without completely new tracks. North from Westchester/CT up to Boston were a different story. I guess in that 40 year plan they still plan all new HSR.

Stephen August 30, 2016 - 10:36 pm

In case anyone else had a problem clicking on the Instagram link, here it is:

Good thing for Google, again, as I had no idea as to what SNCF is. From Wiki:
“SNCF is France’s national state-owned railway company and manages the rail traffic in France and the Principality of Monaco. SNCF operates the country’s national rail services, including the TGV, France’s high-speed rail network.”

The next thing I learned is that Provence is in France. Again, from the good folks at Wiki: “Provence is a geographical region and historical province of southeastern France, which extends from the left bank of the lower Rhône River to the west to the Italian border to the east, and is bordered by the Mediterranean Sea to the south.”

I am looking forward to the Instagram postcards.

Is there an over/under as to which month in 2021 the new Amtrak cars arrive?
Maybe another bet as to if they arrive in sufficient quantity by the end of 2021 to make a difference? Gee, I am a cynic, aren’t I?

Well, Ben, a wish to you and yours for a wonderful vacation.

Thomas Graves August 31, 2016 - 6:51 am

With all due respect, you needed Wikipedia to tell you that Provence is in France…?

Eric August 31, 2016 - 8:46 am Reply
Jimmy Snoogans August 31, 2016 - 3:49 pm

Eric, you’re doing great work. My usual followup to “You don’t know that” is “I can’t wait to tell you EVERYTHING!”

Stephen September 1, 2016 - 4:20 pm

Yes, I did. I’m not up on all the locations of France (or for that matter, the rest of the world). So, if I don’t where some place is located, I look it up. I put my comments out there for anyone else who didn’t know it either. No offense taken.
For the record, I am a second-generation Italian-American, so if Ben was heading to somewhere in Italy, I’d have a better chance of knowing it was in Italy if he had only mentioned a province or city.

AG September 6, 2016 - 7:43 pm

With all do respect – does one have to European or of Euro descent to like transit?

Stephen August 30, 2016 - 11:19 pm

FYI for folks: The forbes website (where Jason’s story is located) is now taking on the ad-blockers and not letting you see anything if you’ve got one enabled. So, in an effort to see what they consider ‘ad-light’ I paused my blockers. Ok, I get to read the story. But they have non-static ads on the side, so that means more disruption to my viewing experience. I’ll be happy to whitelist their site (and others) if ads were just static images. I don’t want to see gifs or videos taking up my cpu cycles or downloading data. So, the blockers were turned back on.

Nathanael September 23, 2016 - 10:34 pm

Yeah, Forbes is unreadable due to their ad garbage, so I don’t read it.

John-2 August 31, 2016 - 8:58 am

Keeping PATH tied to the revenue stream of the Port Authority’s bridges and tunnels, rather than folding it into the MTA, makes sense if for no other reason than PATH would maintain a guaranteed bi-state revenue stream, and the two states wouldn’t then be prone to seeing the bridge and tunnel revenues as ‘free money’ to spend on new pet projects (a possibility that would probably be even more likely on the New Jersey side, if they were only required to make a partial financial contribution to the MTA for their share of PATH that wasn’t connected to the toll revenues).

Jimmy Snoogans August 31, 2016 - 3:52 pm

Have a great time, Benjamin! I was trying to plan a very similar vacation for this fall/winter, but it looks like time and money aren’t going to let that happen. Too many darn weddings taking up all my time (and money)! Make sure to visit La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona (and the Dali Museum) and send us pics! Buen viaje/Bon voyage!

Jimmy Snoogans August 31, 2016 - 3:52 pm

(And this gives me time to catch up on all my SAS reading!)

Maggie September 1, 2016 - 7:12 am

From the CityJournal article, I didn’t realize Port Authority runs the port of Newark at an operating loss. Has that always been the case?

AG September 6, 2016 - 7:48 pm

I am wondering if that includes all the ports in the system or just Newark itself. That wasn’t clear from the article… What was clear (again) is that they shouldn’t be running PATH. They have at least stated they plan to sell One World Trade.
Even though they are losing money at the bus terminal – they should probably keep it. They are probably best suited for that – in contrast to PATH which should be a division of the NYC subway.

Adirondacker12800 September 6, 2016 - 9:42 pm

One of the reasons the Port Authority was created was that the ferry boats from all the railroad terminals were clogging up the harbor.

Edward September 7, 2016 - 11:45 am

Not so much ferryboats as the car-float barges shuttling box cars from New Jersey to Brooklyn/Manhattan. The PA was created to build a cross-harbor tunnel from Jersey City to Brooklyn so trains wouldn’t have to be broken up on the Jersey side and boxcars shuttled across the harbor. Alas, the PA never built the tunnel and went on an automobile-related building spree that now includes bridges, tunnels, real estate and PATH trains.

AG September 7, 2016 - 1:48 pm

Yeah that’s what I thought – all the rail barges… Which now since they still don’t have the tunnel – they are trying to ramp up somewhat (it couldn’t be as busy as it was back then).

Adirondacker12800 September 7, 2016 - 2:36 pm

It not as busy as it was back then. It’s busier. There are more people and they are much richer. They buy more stuff.

AG September 7, 2016 - 6:22 pm

Most things come on trucks nowadays… “Carfloats” were about 1000 a day in 1954 according to this article. In 2012 it was 9 (though it has increased slightly since then)…
I”m not sure where you get your idea from that the harbor is busy with freight criss-crossing. Most of it lands in NJ and is sent on road trucks.


Adirondacker12800 September 7, 2016 - 6:43 pm

Most things do come on trucks. Because the Port Authority built a lot of bridges and tunnels. Passengers on a PATH train aren’t on a bus, leaving more room for the trucks. So many trucks that the Port Authority wants to spend billions to shift some of it to rail.

AG September 8, 2016 - 1:53 pm

Ok – but in still not understanding you. My point simply being that PATH doesn’t need to disappear. It just should be run by the Port Authority. It would be better for everyone involved. If it became part of NYCT tomorrow it’s costs long term shrink drastically. And the PA can do what it needs to do – spending time to figure out how best to move freight around and across the harbor and region (airports bring in a good chunk of freight also).

Adirondacker12800 September 8, 2016 - 2:45 pm

New Jerseyans don’t vote for New York’s governor. Or legislature. Another reason the Federal government forced the Port Authority onto the two states.

Nathanael September 23, 2016 - 10:36 pm

Perhaps his point is that the Port Authority was built to build a freight rail tunnel from New Jersey to Brooklyn and STILL HASN’T DONE IT.

They need to either do it, or be shut down and replaced with an agency which will do it. It’s their *purpose* and they refuse to do it.

22r September 14, 2016 - 1:31 pm

when are they finally gonna replace the 60-year-old tin cans on Northeast Regional service?


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