To better serve LaGuardia, the Riders Alliance has proposed eliminating the fare on the Q70 and rebranding the bus as a shuttle to the airport. (Image courtesy of the Riders Alliance)

To better serve LaGuardia, the Riders Alliance has proposed eliminating the fare on the Q70 and rebranding the bus as a shuttle to the airport. (Image courtesy of the Riders Alliance)

When it comes to creative measures aimed at growing ridership while encouraging car-free attitudes in New York City, the MTA hasn’t moved much beyond the Unlimited MetroCard and the so-called one-fare zone. It’s been nearly 20 years since the MTA introduced the MetroCard transfer, and while ridership has skyrocketed since then, the agency hasn’t experimented much with fare policies. Outside of the express buses, New York City Transit’s buses cost the same as a subway ride, and every subway ride costs the same. It’s easy, but it’s also lazy.

The Riders Alliance — with an eye toward an easy upgrade — wants to begin to push back on this idea. In a report released today, the advocacy group (of which I sit on the board) called up on the MTA to eliminate the fare on the Q70, thus making the bus ride between LaGuardia Airport and Jackson Heights or Woodside free. The group contends that the MTA wouldn’t lose money with the move — and based on a modest projected growth in ridership, could possible capture more revenue from those going to and from the airport. Additionally, the group has called upon the MTA to better brand the Q70 as specifically for airport travelers while increasing reliability and upgrading service. The ideas are new-to-New York but hardly revolutionary and deserve more than just a cursory glance.

“Transit access to LaGuardia shouldn’t be New York’s best-kept secret,” John Raskin, Executive Director of the Riders Alliance, said. “It should be intuitive and simple. Turning the Q70 into a free LaGuardia subway shuttle is a cost-effective improvement that could revolutionize how New Yorkers get to the airport. It’s not a billion-dollar project; it’s a free project with billion-dollar returns.”

Raskin is of course referring to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s multi-billion-dollar plan to build a poorly-routed LaGuardia AirTrain. The Riders Alliance feels their bus proposal would alleviate the need for an AirTrain in the short term, but it’s not just about finding a better way to build a more direct and cost-efficient AirTrain. It’s about providing a better transit solution for LaGuardia-bound travelers overall.

The crux of the report rests on the fact that 90 percent of the Q70 ridership is already transferring to or from the subway (85%) or LIRR (5%), and thus, the MTA has already captured that revenue. In essence, nearly all riders are already riding the Q70 for free, but everyone pays in dwell time, a major criticism for Q70 ridership. (In fact, if anything, eliminate the fare just to cut dwell times on the Q70 would be well worth it.) Were the bus to be free, the Riders Alliance contends, even an increase in transit usage by just one percent of all LaGuardia Airport travelers would cancel out the free bus and in fact make the MTA money. Whether the subways could fit another 200,000 passengers is another question.

But this isn’t just about making the bus free to increase ridership in the short term. While some are skeptical of initiatives that seem like a short-term move designed to get more people on transit (rather than on implementing changes that lead New Yorkers to choose a car-free, transit-heavy lifestyle), the Riders Alliance report takes a longer view as well. The group has called upon the MTA to run the Q70 with headways no longer than 10 minutes while providing either a dedicated lane for the bus or allowing drivers to optimize their route based on current traffic conditions. Doing so should make the free bus not just the easy choice in the short term but the right choice in the long term as well.

Additionally, the report notes that current Q70 service isn’t particularly well-suited to appeal to LaGuardia riders. In addition to inconsistent headways and routing that suffers from the whims of surface traffic, signage doesn’t encourage use. The buses do not include information regarding departure terminals and signage at the airport can’t even get the fares right. MetroCards aren’t available for purchase at the bus stop, and those unfamiliar with the New York City bus network wouldn’t easily determine that the Q70 provides a quick connection to the subway. The bus is, in fact, labeled as a bus to Queens rather than a bus to the subway or the LIRR, and neither the MTA nor the Port Authority have signage that clearly indicates what this bus does. In fact, a quarter of airport travelers surveyed said they didn’t know and couldn’t tell that the Q70 was more a shuttle to transit rather than a local bus through Queens.

To that end, the Riders Alliance have proposed rebranding the bus so that it’s clear where this bus goes and how it goes there. Without a fare and with more frequent service and better advertising, the bus can be a key link to the airport rather than something those in the know take out of convenience. It’s a new idea for New York City but hardly one so radical that it can’t work. As Joe Sitt, head of the Global Gateway Alliance, said, “A clearly branded, free airport subway shuttle is a low cost solution that would provide LaGuardia’s 27 million passengers with a 21st century access link, and with plans to modernize LaGuardia underway, the time to act is now.”

For its part, though, the MTA threw cold water on the plan. Transit spokesman Kevin Ortiz said the agency “wholeheartedly disagree[s] with the premise that this could all be done at no cost to the MTA. First of all, one-fourth of riders do not come from the subway and don’t use the free transfer, and thus we would lose money on one out of every four customers under their plan. If ridership would continue to grow on the route to the level they claim, we would have to add service, and that costs money. And where would we find the buses? Also, what’s to say that all this would do is shift a portion of riders from the M60 to Q70? At the end of the day, there is simply zero evidence that making it a free shuttle would increase ridership on subways to the point it would make the shuttle self-sustaining.”

Is this is simply a case of “we-didn’t-invent-it”-itis that plagues New York City, legitimate pushback or a combination of the two? Either way, this is a plan whose feasibility is worth pursuing.

Categories : Buses
Comments (36)
  • Coming Monday: Riders Alliance to call for free Q70 service · Later on today, the Riders Alliance, along with the Global Gateway Alliance and other NYC advocacy groups, will issue a report and hold a press conference calling upon the MTA to eliminate the fare on the Q70 bus. Their proposal would streamline and clarify access to LaGuardia Airport while increasing the number of airport travelers using a transit connection. The group contends the idea could be implemented immediately and would likely improve the MTA’s bottom line. It’s an intriguing idea and one completely foreign to New York City.

    Due to an embargo on the report, I can’t say much more now about the initiative, but I have a full post ready to go when the embargo is lifted at noon today. Be sure to check back then for the details and fine print regarding this plan. Needless to say, it’s one that deserves full consideration (if not a fast implementation). Can the MTA embrace an idea that so outside the box for the agency? We’ll find out soon. · (12)

Earlier this week, the Transit Museum hosted a panel discussion on the history and look of the New York City subway map. It was the second such event in a month, and it seems that the field of map design is undergoing something of a renaissance, especially in regards to our map. From the pre-Vignelli days to the current John Tauranac-inspired version that you can’t actually use in the subway system due to its absurdly large size, we could (and have) discussed map preferences for posts on end. Perhaps, soon I’ll revisit the topic.

In the meantime, Peter Lloyd, a historian with a specialty in the New York City subway map and its various iterations, is trying to raise funds for a multi-volume book detailing the history of our subway map. With only a few days left in his Kickstarter campaign, he’s a bit short of his goal. Check out his proposal here, and consider if it’s a worthy endeavor. I’m a sucker for subway map histories, and I hope his book can see the light of day.

Meanwhile, we have weekend changes to discuss. There’s a map for those — hosted by the MTA at the Weekender site. The descriptions follow.

From 11:30 p.m. Friday, November 20 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, November 23, 1 trains are suspended in both directions between 14 St and South Ferry. Take the 23 trains and free shuttle buses instead. Free shuttle buses provide alternate service between Chambers St and South Ferry.

From 6:30 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Saturday, November 21 and from 9:30 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Sunday, November 22, 1 trains run every 16 minutes between 137 St and Van Cortlandt Park-242 St. The last stop for some trains headed towards Van Cortlandt Park-242 is 137 St.

From 3:45 a.m. Saturday, November 21 to 9:00 p.m. Sunday, November 22, Van Cortlandt Park-242 St 1 trains run express from 215 St to Van Cortlandt Park-242 St.

From 11:30 p.m. Friday, November 20 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, November 23, 2 trains run local in both directions between Chambers St and 34 St-Penn Station.

From 6:30 a.m. to 12 Midnight Saturday, November 21 and Sunday, November 22, 3 trains run local in both directions between Chambers St and 34 St-Penn Station.

From 11:45 p.m. Friday, November 20 to 7:30 a.m. Sunday, November 22, and from 11:45 p.m. Sunday, November 22 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, November 23, Crown Hts-Utica Av bound 4 trains run express from 14 St-Union Sq to Brooklyn Bridge-City Hall.

From 4:00 a.m. Saturday, November 21 to 10:00 p.m. Sunday, November 22, Woodlawn-bound 4 trains run express from Brooklyn Bridge-City Hall to Grand Central-42 St.

From 6:00 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. Saturday, November 21 and from 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. Sunday, November 22, 5 trains run every 20 minutes between Eastchester-Dyre Av and Bowling Green. Eastchester-Dyre Av bound 5 trains run local from Brooklyn Bridge-City Hall to Grand Central-42 St.

From 11:45 p.m. Friday, November 20 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, November 23, Brooklyn Bridge-City Hall bound 6 trains run express from 14 St-Union Sq to Brooklyn Bridge-City Hall.

From 6:45 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. Saturday, November 21 and Sunday, November 22, Mets-Willets Point bound 7 trains run express from 74 St-Broadway to Mets-Willets Point.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, November 21 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, November 23, A trains are suspended in both directions between Euclid Av and Lefferts Blvd. Free shuttle buses provide alternate service and operate between Euclid Av and Lefferts Blvd, stopping at Grant Av, 80 St, 88 St, Rockaway Blvd, 104 St, and 111 St. Transfer between trains and free shuttle buses at
Euclid Av and/or Rockaway Blvd. A service will operate normally between Inwood-207 St and Eculid Av, and between Rockaway Blvd and Far Rockaway every 20 minutes.

From 11:45 p.m. Friday, November 20 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, November 23, E trains are rerouted via the F in both directions between Roosevelt Av and W4 St-Wash Sq. Free shuttle buses run between Court Sq-23 St and 21 St-Queensbridge, stopping at Queens Plaza.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, November 21 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, November 23, E trains run local in both directions in Queens.

From 11:45 p.m. Friday, November 20 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, November 23, F trains are suspended between Coney Island-Stillwell Av and Kings Hwy.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, November 21 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, November 23, F trains run local in both directions in Queens.

From 11:30 p.m. Friday, November 20 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, November 23, N trains are suspended in both directions between 36 St and Coney Island-Stillwell Av. N trains are routed via the D line in both directions between 36 St and Bay Pkwy-95 St, the last stop. DR trains and free shuttle buses provide alternate service. Free shuttle buses operate between 36 St and Stillwell Av, making all station stops. Transfer between R trains and shuttle buses at 59 St.

From 11:45 p.m. Friday, November 20 to 6:30 a.m. Sunday, November 22, and from 11:45 p.m. Sunday, November 22 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, November 23, 36 St-bound R trains stop at 53 St and 45 St.

Comments (13)

Following up on last week’s report, one-time MTA executive and current New Jersey Transit Executive Director Veronique Hakim has accepted the position as president of the New York City Transit Authority. Widely considered as the number two transit gig in the country behind MTA CEO and Chair, the TA president is in charge of the vast network of subways and buses that currently serve over 8 million New Yorkers per day. Hakim, a 20-year vet of the agency, is the first woman to be appointed to the job, and her arrival comes at a time when the subways are sagging under the weight of ever-increasing demand.

Hakim’s appointment is another in the revolving door of transit politics, and some have grumbled about the “inside baseball” nature of her return. She spent 23 years at the MTA, as an attorney with both New York City Transit and Capital Construction, before heading up the New Jersey Turnpike Authority and New Jersey Transit. Yet, she’s a qualified pick who’s earned praise from others in the industry, and it’s high time the men’s club atop the MTA’s leadership positions is broken. “Our transit network is the lifeblood of the entire region, and I am glad to welcome Ronnie back to New York City Transit and to entrust her with the responsibility of ensuring safe and reliable service even as ridership grows every month,” MTA Chairman and CEO Prendergast said. “Ronnie’s comprehensive transportation experience, her detailed vision for the future and her demonstrated ability to bring real improvements to customers make her the right person to tackle New York City Transit’s challenges now.”

Her tenure begins on December 28, the Monday in between Christmas and New Years, and she’ll take over from interim head James Ferrara, who will remain as the President of MTA Bridges & Tunnels. “Having spent more than two decades of my life at the MTA, I am deeply honored to have the opportunity to lead New York City Transit at a time when surging ridership is affecting every element of its operations,” Hakim said. “Subway and bus customers have high expectations for the network they rely on every day, and I look forward to meeting their expectations of safety, reliability and quality at New York City Transit.”

Meanwhile, Transit’s gain is someone else’s loss, and the someone else in this case is our neighbor to the west. For New Jersey Transit, Hakim’s departure is another in a long line of troubles for the agency in recent years. Kate Hinds summed up seven of them for WNYC yesterday afternoon, and tops among those was brain drain. In addition to Hakim, NJ Transit has lost its rail ops head who was involved in planning for a new trans-Hudson tunnel, its capital program head, and a travel forecast official. This is a problem for an agency that’s struggling to maintain, let alone grow, amidst lukewarm state support but increasing ridership demands. Considering how tough it’s been for transit agencies to replace top talent lately, NJ Transit may be on the precipice of a problem. More on that later.

Comments (8)

Despite journalistic claims of objectivity, some of the best reporting happens when a writer pursues something personal. In this instance, James Somers wanted to know why his F train stop at Carroll St. didn’t have countdown clocks, and what he undercovered made for a massive piece in The Altantic on the dreadful state of the MTA’s technology and its efforts at modernizing. As you may imagine, what Somers found is an agency beset by institutional paralysis, on the one hand, and a fear of taking any risks, on the other.

What Somers uncovered is an open secret amongst the transit literati. The MTA admits it to those who ask, but it’s rarely publicized. The truth is that the F train — and all B division trains — do not have countdown clocks because the MTA doesn’t know where the trains are. The fixed-block signal system doesn’t allow for MTA operators or individual towers to identify which trains are where, and those non-stop signal problems we hear about can, the MTA says, be caused by something as innocuous as debris on the tracks.

I’d like to spend more time discussing some of the issues Somers’ piece raised, but for today, let’s delve into one section — the tale of bringing CBTC to the L train:

[The RPA’s Richard Barone] explained that the Canarsie pilot suffered from problems that weren’t unusual for big transit projects in New York. The first was outmoded work rules. CBTC is designed so that trains can run themselves. But the L still has two-person crews on board every train. They’re not very busy: An April 2007 article titled “Look, Ma—no hands!” in the trade magazine Railway Age featured a delighted train supervisor named Lance Parrish riding in a CBTC-equipped train on the Canarsie Line. “All Parrish has to do is scan the onboard displays and acknowledge a flashing/beeping alerter every 20 seconds.”

…The second was a fear of change. It costs $168,000 per track-mile per year to maintain trackside signals, 90 percent of which is spent on labor—much of it done overnight and on weekends, qualifying the workers for overtime. If those signals were eliminated, millions of dollars could be saved each year. But New York decided to run CBTC on top of a reduced form of the old fixed-block signaling system, requiring that both be expensively maintained, despite evidence from other cities that no backup was necessary. (In Vancouver, the SkyTrain has had no CBTC-related accidents in more than 26 years.) And the fact that the two systems had to work together—requiring the supplier to study the old signals in depth—became a major source of delays.

Barone says New York just wasn’t willing to rip the band-aid off. Cities like London deal with major transit upgrades by packing maintenance and line closures into as short a window as possible, however painful that might seem at the time. New York, by contrast, draws out its track maintenance. When I spoke to the president of Thales Transport & Security, one of two major CBTC suppliers to New York, he said that “getting time on the track is by far the biggest schedule driver.” Crucial test-runs get queued behind miscellaneous track maintenance, so that it takes months to validate even small changes. “In the New York mindset,” he said, “there just isn’t the concept of the trains ever stopping.”

All that waiting isn’t free. These are huge projects for a company like Thales; they’ll spin up a whole office, a whole mini workforce, just to work on it. And when they’re waiting for track time, that workforce doesn’t just spin down—it continues to get paid. Anticipating delays, contractors inflate their bids.

So what we see here in this one little excerpt from a much longer story is an insight into why the MTA can’t seem to bring technology innovation to our system in a timely fashion and, in part, why everything costs so much. If we are to reform MTA practices and get more (or perhaps any) bang for the massive amounts of capital bucks to which the agency now has access, we’re starting to understand the best places to start.

More coming later when we look at how Somers explains the countdown clock conundrum. In the meantime, be sure to check out the full article. It’s well worth the read.

Categories : MTA Technology
Comments (58)

We spend a lot of time talking about where New York City’s transit system goes and how it could be better, but we don’t spend too much time talking about where the transit doesn’t go. We know how current service could be improved, and we all have fantasy maps regarding planned service extensions. But we don’t always address the so-called transit deserts where transit riders have few options and commuters face long rides to job centers.

At a time when affordability is a buzzword surrounding the political discourse in the city, these transit deserts stick out like a sore thumb, and last week, Ydanis Rodriguez, head of the City Council’s transportation committee, held a hearing on improving access. From light rail to ferries, the speakers ran the gamut of topics we’ve discussed over the past few years, and those facing questions responded adeptly. For instance, DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg spoke about how light rail involves more than just tracks and a line on a map; it involves, she explained, the need to invest in the infrastructure behind light rail and create a sustainable network.

One idea though that has come up time and again over the years involves commuter rail access through New York City. When I was in Berlin and Paris this past summer, I had the opportunity to ride both the S-Bahn and RER trains, and for someone used to New York City’s concept of commuter rail, the European model is eye-opening. These trains enjoy the benefits of through-running through center city areas, and the fare structure is rationalized to encourage both intra-city and city-to-suburb travel. It didn’t cost me more to take the RER a few stops than it would have to make a similar trip on the Metro.

Here, the LIRR and Metro-North do not share a fare structure with each other, let alone with New York City Transit, and those who board commuter rail lines within New York City pay a much higher — and often cost-prohibitive — fare. If our politicians have their ways, this practice would end, and riders would be able to use commuter rail trains within the boroughs for a much lower cost. The city is pushing aggressively to make this happen, and one MTA Board member is embracing the cause.

As officials explained, last week, they want the MTA to reduce fares on intra-city travel and provide a free transfer from the LIRR or Metro-North to New York City Transit’s network. The MTA though is crying poverty. Agency Chairman and CEO Tom Prendergast claimed that such a move would cost the agency $70 million per year and that no one has yet identified how to cover the missing revenue. “We just can’t agree to accept that kind of loss especially since we already lose so much money on other services,” spokesman Adam Lisberg said to Gothamist. “This year we will lose $575 million on unreimbursed paratransit service as well as discounted fares for seniors and free rides for schoolchildren. When we start each year more than half a billion dollars in the hole, we don’t want to dig it any deeper.”

Allen Cappelli, the Board member who plans to bring up the issue during today’s committee meetings, doesn’t accept the cries of poverty. “Honestly, it sounds to me like seat-of-the-pants analysis and I think this issue warrants more than somebody’s best guess,” Cappelli said to the Daily News. “Now that money is, while tight, not as dire as it was, we ought to be looking for ways to improve service for people in our region.”

This debate of course gets to the heart of the conflict between the suburban-focused commuter rail and the city-centric subway system. Do suburban riders want city passengers hoping on board their commuter trains for a few stops? Do suburban riders want to see their trains slowed in order to make more stops to better serve inaccessible areas? Can MTA agencies work together on rational fare policies? These are questions that hit at the very essence of the MTA’s regional approach and haven’t been satisfactorily addressed in years.

I expect this conversation to continue, especially as the MTA looks to reactivate certain LIRR stops in Queens and bring Metro-North into Penn Station via the Penn Station Access plan. Eventually, we have to move toward a European model. But can we get there without unnecessary kicking and screaming? We’ll find out soon.

Comments (186)

Saturday is an exciting day for the New York area transit community. After a long wait, Transportation Camp makes its return to the city. The event at City College is sold out, and the waiting list is already closed. However, I know many of my readers will be there. Be sure to say hi if you see, and perhaps I may even lead a session.

Of course, it’s a weekend in New York City so there are subway changes affecting travel. For those going to Transportation Camp, 1 trains won’t run north of 137th St., but the A, C and D trains will all stop at 145th St. The list of weekend changes follows:

From 11:30 p.m. Friday, November 13 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, November 16, 1 trains are suspended in both directions between 137 St and Van Cortlandt Park-242 St. Take AC trains, M3, M100, and free shuttle buses instead. For service between 137 St and 168 St, use free shuttle buses or the AC at nearby stations. For service between 168 St and 191 St, use M3 or free shuttle buses. Or, use the A at nearby stations. For service between 207 St and Van Cortlandt Park-242 St, take free shuttle buses. Transfer between buses and A trains at 207 St and between A and 1 trains at 59 St.

From 11:45 p.m. Friday, November 13 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, November 16, 3 service operates to/from New Lots Av all weekend, replacing the 4 in Brooklyn. Trains run express in Manhattan.

From 11:45 p.m. Friday, November 13 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, November 16, 4 trains are suspended in both directions between New Lots Av and Brooklyn Bridge-City Hall. Take the 23DNQ or R instead. 4 service operates between Woodlawn and Brooklyn Bridge-City Hall, making local stops. For service to/from Fulton St and between Borough Hall and Franklin Av, take the 2 or 3 instead.

From 6:00 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. Saturday, November 14 and from 8:00 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. Sunday, November 15, 5 trains are suspended in both directions between Bowling Green and Grand Central-42 St. Take the 46 or R instead. Transfer between 5 and R trains at 59 St. Transfer between 5 and 46 trains at Grand Central-42 St. Transfer between 46 and R trains at Canal St.

From 6:00 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. Saturday, November 14 and from 8:00 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. Sunday, November 15, 5 trains run every 20 minutes between Eastchester-Dyre Ave and Grand Central-42 St.

From 12:15 a.m. Saturday, November 14 to 4:30 a.m. Monday, November 16, 7 trains are suspended in both directions between Times Sq-42 St and Queensboro Plaza. EFNQS and free shuttle buses provide alternate service. 7 service operates in two sections between Flushing-Main St and Queensboro Plaza, and between Times Sq-42 St and 34 St-Hudson Yards every 15-20 minutes. Free shuttle buses make all station stops between Vernon Blvd-Jackson Av and Queensboro Plaza.

From 11:45 p.m. Friday, November 13 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, November 16, A trains are rerouted via the F line in both directions between W 4 St-Wash Sq and Jay St-MetroTech.

From 11:45 p.m. Friday, November 13 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, November 16, A trains run local in both directions between W 4 St-Wash Sq and 59 St-Columbus Circle.

From 11:45 p.m. Friday, November 13 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, November 16, Lefferts Blvd-bound A trains skip 104 St.

From 6:30 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. Saturday, November 14 and Sunday, November 15, C trains are rerouted via the F line in both directions between Jay St-MetroTech and W 4 St-Wash Sq.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, November 14 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, November 16, D trains run local in both directions between W 4 St-Wash Sq and 34 St-Herald Sq.

From 11:45 p.m. Friday, November 13 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, November 16, F trains are suspended between Coney Island-Stillwell Av and Kings Hwy.

From 11:30 p.m. Friday, November 13 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, November 16, L trains are suspended in both directions between Canarsie-Rockaway Pkwy and Myrtle-Wyckoff Avs. Take free express and local shuttle buses and AC or J trains.

  • Free local shuttle buses provide alternate service between Rockaway Pkwy and Myrtle-Wyckoff Avs, stopping at East 105 St, New Lots Av, Livonia Av, Sutter Av, Atlantic Av, Broadway Junction, Bushwick Av, Wilson Av, and Halsey St.
  • Free express shuttle buses serve Rockaway Pkwy, Broadway Junction, and Myrtle-Wyckoff Avs only.
  • Transfer between free shuttle buses and L trains at Myrtle-Wyckoff Avs. To/from Manhattan, consider the AC or J via transfers between trains and shuttle buses at Broadway Junction.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, November 14 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, November 16, Astoria-Ditmars Blvd bound N trains stop at 53 St and 45 St.

From 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. Saturday, November 14, and from 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Sunday, November 15, Q service is extended to Astoria-Ditmars Blvd.

From 11:45 p.m. Friday, November 13 to 6:30 a.m. Sunday, November 16, and from 11:45 p.m. Sunday, November 16 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, November 16, 36 St-bound R trains stop at 53 St and 45 St.

Rockaway Park Shuttle
From 11:45 p.m. Friday, November 13 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, November 16, the Rockaway Park Shuttle. Free shuttle buses provide alternate service between Rockaway Park and Beach 67 St A station, stopping at Beach 105 St, Beach 98 St, and Beach 90 St. Transfer between free shuttle buses and A trains at Beach 67 St.

42nd Street
From 12:01 a.m. to 6:00 a.m. Saturday, November 14 to Monday, November 16, the 42 Street Shuttle will operate overnight.

Categories : Service Advisories
Comments (0)
With costs seemingly skyrocketing, will Phases 2 and 3 of the Second Ave. Subway see the light of day?

Facing political pressure, the MTA may try to speed up necessary planning work for Phase 2 of the Second Ave. Subway, seen in this graphic in blue.

It took the reality of a delay for New York City’s politicians to wake up to the reality of the phased approach to the Second Ave. Subway. Without forceful political oversight or sufficient funding streams, the MTA’s original promises of constructing multiple phases at once fell by the wayside, and although Phase 1 may wrap by the end of 2016, the agency didn’t expect to begin construction on Phase 2 until 2019. When, thanks to a delay in resolving capital funding obligations, that date slipped to 2020, our elected officials finally noticed.

Pick a politician with a hand in the pie, and they had a complaint. In turn, the MTA promised to do what it could do speed up the planning process so that they could stick some shovels in the ground before 2020. Yet, behind the scenes, action continued, and on Thursday, MTA Chairman and CEO Tom Prendergast met with a delegation of New York City representatives in what amounted to a rightful airing of grievances. The politicians want to see this project realized, and the MTA doesn’t want to bite the fiscal hands that feed it.

Thus, a statement from Prendergast, released on Thursday evening:

“Today I met with federal, state and city elected officials to discuss ways to advance and accelerate bringing the Second Avenue Subway to 125th Street. This is a prime goal for the MTA, for the state of New York and for the hundreds of thousands of people who will benefit from its construction. The MTA is fully committed to beginning work on the East Harlem extension even before the first segment to the Upper East Side opens by the end of next year.

“The MTA is committed to find every possible way to accelerate this project. We will employ alternative procurement methods to speed the planning, design, environmental review, property acquisition, utility relocation and construction preparation in our proposed 2015-19 Capital Program. Representative Charles Rangel, dean of the Congressional delegation, has offered to work with the delegation to explore ways to accelerate the project’s environmental review and assure the maximum federal funding possible, and we welcome their assistance.

“If these efforts to speed up the project timetable are successful, the MTA will amend our Capital Program and seek additional funds to begin heavy construction sooner. We appreciate the attention and commitment from our elected officials, and we share the goal of bringing the Second Avenue Subway to East Harlem as quickly as possible.”

This is what happens when six Assembly members, four State Senators, three City Council members, the Manhattan Borough President, the Public Advocate and a member of Congress gather in a room together. It’s not quite a promise to build the line faster; rather, it’s a promise to amend the capital plan if the opportunity arises for the MTA to start work sooner. But it also raises a series of questions.

For instance, why didn’t the MTA budget to start Phase 2 planning and design work well in advance of the completion of Phase 1? If Prendergast feels “alternative procurement methods” can speed up the initial stages of work, why wouldn’t they be implemented as a matter of standard policy? How much will all of this cost? And what can we do to keep those costs under $5.5-$6 billion?

Politicians should continue to focus on this issue, and the MTA should be able to figure out a way to start construction within four years from today. Hopefully, too, this can serve as a wake-up call for future projects of this magnitude (whether future phases of the Second Ave. Subway or otherwise). If politicians — those with access to dollars — stay involved, the MTA responds. It’s a lesson well worth learning.

Comments (67)

Somewhat oddly, because why now and why not earlier, momentum on a new trans-Hudson tunnel continues to build. Construction may be a few years away (even though low interest rates would make lining up funding now a great idea), but the politics are falling into place. On Monday, we learned that the feds were considering a plan to create a new entity to oversee the project, and today, we find out that’s just exactly what’s going to happen, although the Port Authority will have more of a role in this than originally anticipated.

Additionally, following a September offer from New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to have the two states pay 25 percent each and the feds pay 50, the funding scheme may be in place too, and it will look exactly as proposed. It’s not a bad deal for the states as they shift most of the funding to the feds, but it’s still not clear how much this project will cost or when it can begin.

The details of the partnership will be unveiled tomorrow, but Emma Fitzsimmons broke the news in The Times on Wednesday night. She writes:

Federal and state officials announced an agreement on Wednesday to create a corporation within the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to oversee long-awaited plans to build a new rail tunnel under the Hudson River.

The entity, called the Gateway Development Corporation, will coordinate the project and assemble the billions of dollars needed to pay for it. It will be controlled by a four-member board with representatives from New York, New Jersey, Amtrak and the federal Transportation Department.

As part of the agreement, the federal government and Amtrak said they would be responsible for financing half of the project, which could cost as much as $20 billion. Govs. Chris Christie of New Jersey, a Republican, and Andrew M. Cuomo of New York, a Democrat, had pushed for the cost-splitting and said the two states would line up the money for the other half.

The announcement, from the governors and Senators Chuck Schumer of New York and Cory A. Booker of New Jersey, both Democrats, signaled the most significant progress yet on an effort federal officials have called one of the most important infrastructure proposals in the country. The century-old rail tunnel used by Amtrak and New Jersey Transit that runs under the river is deteriorating and needs repairs because of damage by Hurricane Sandy.

In comments to The Wall Street Journal, various stakeholders seemed optimistic Gateway would become a reality. “Our shovels are ready. Literally, if you don’t build this tunnel, you would greatly imperil train service,” Cuomo said, apparently channelling Chris Traeger. Amtrak Chair Anthony Coscia called the move “a real turning point.”

What the Gateway Development Corporation likely does not include is a cost-control mandate. Even if the new corporation can issue bonds, no one has mentioned spending reform or any effort to drive down the project costs. We may well get our tunnel yet, but at what cost?

Categories : Gateway Tunnel
Comments (72)

During the opening of the 7 line extension in February, I overheard one MTA official talking about the new station. Speaking of the vast hallways and open spaces underneath 11th Ave., this official remarked “I’ve spent my entire career closing these mezzanines.” For someone with decades of experience — and organizational philosophy — under his or her belt, this new station design represented a massive break from the past. While the old guard may still be wary of the safety elements of open spaces, New Yorkers aren’t fazed by areas that, by design, aren’t always crowded.

Over the past few years, meanwhile, the MTA has engaged in an effort that intentionally reduces eyeballs underground. As part of the 2010 budget cuts, station agents were reduced to the point where only one station entrance requires staffing. That is, if the northbound Union St. entrance underneath 4th Ave. in Brooklyn has a station agents, the southbound entrance doesn’t need one even if the southbound platform is separated by the northbound platform by four tracks and two walls. Most stations now have (and really always have) plenty of waiting areas that aren’t visible by station agents. Plus by removing the station booths at hundreds of locations throughout the city, the MTA ensured it wouldn’t face calls to bring back these agents were the agency’s finances to improve.

With this in mind, we return to shuttered station entrances. As the MTA struggles to cope with expanding ridership, station chokepoints and unhappy crowds, we continually return to access points no longer open. They dot the city, a remnant of an era of declining ridership and increasing crime when the MTA engaged in a short-sighted attempt to seal off areas of the subway system that agency officials deemed high risk. Not only would these entrances improve passenger flow at stations with increasing ridership but they would create more pedestrian paths to stations, a boon to both residents and business.

Lately, a new round of media coverage has focused on these entrances. amNew York ran a piece in October on closed entrances in Williamsburg and Bushwick and revisited the topic last week. As Rebecca Harshburger noted, one in four stations have closed entrances, and some grassroots organizers who have approached me for advice have begun to look at the issue on a granular level. These closed entrances are hyper-local issues of transit access.

Now, Kate Hinds and the data team at WNYC have delved into the location of the closed entrances. They produced the map embedded above, and the data is extensive. This isn’t of course the first time this issue has gotten attention. When I last looked closed entrances in January, I noted a 2001 PCAC Report urging action. After nearly 15 years, not much has changed, but the MTA, in comments to amNew York and WNYC, recognized these entrances as “something we’re very actively looking at,” at MTA spokesman Adam Lisberg said to Hinds.

“The MTA has been setting modern ridership records almost every month, and as we try to accommodate more than 6 million customers on our busiest days, we’re looking at ways to expand capacity everywhere in the system — including analyzing whether some closed parts of subway stations could be reopened,” said spokesman Adam Lisberg.

It’s certainly taken a long time for the MTA to analyze these entrances, and again, I’m left wondering if there’s a short-term plan to disperse crowds and adjust to spiking ridership numbers. In reality, the MTA can open many of these entrances in the amount of time it takes to procure some HEETs, sweep and paint. While many have pointed to ADA requirements as a potential roadblock, the issues regarding accessibility requirements for long-closed entrances that are reopened remain untested and a potential risk to the MTA. I believe the agency could point to the 20% threshold in Section 202.4 in the 2010 ADA Standards as indication that they do not have spend prohibitive amounts of money to reopen these entrances, and one station could serve as a test case if the agency wants to pursue the action.

Rather, I’m left with a nagging suspicion that Patrick O’Hara on Twitter may be onto something. As he put it, “Accessibility requirements are also tend to be a convenient excuse to throw out when you don’t really want to do something too.” But we’re past the point of doing nothing. Reopening entrances can ensure compliance with NFPA guidelines on station egress times and can actually contribute to transit usage — something that should be embraced as a policy goal but may otherwise scare an agency whose trains are packed at all hours. The move can also ease chokepoints and commuter frustration. Why wait much longer? Transit should identify those entrances easy to open and start opening them. There’s no good reason not to.

Comments (66)
Page 1 of 51512345...Last »