Senator Blumenthal Safety Blunder

The Metro-North has been taking a beating from all angles for quite sometime. Whether it is the agency’s failed maintenance or the deadliest accident in the agency’s history.

Unfortunately the beating continued this past week when Democratic Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal demanded accountability after learning the agency racked up $552,000 stemming from 139 violations in the last 10 years.

The senator’s biggest message was on how the agency needed to improve its safety accountability which is what makes this past Friday’s incident hilarious.

Mr. Blumenthal was holding a press conference at the Milford Metro-North station when he almost got blown off the platform along with his easel & chart. Check out the video by clicking here.

While his message is right in terms of the agency needed to make major safety accountability changes, I can’t help but laugh at how ridiculous he comes off in the video in what was almost a historic pot calling the kettle black moment.

Do not preach safety & proceed to stand in the clearly marked caution area not only with your body but an easel as well! Who sets up these photo ops & does not use common sense when doing so? The answer: Senator Blumenthal’s people.

In my best Cris Carter or Keyshawn Johnson voice, C’MON MAN!

xoxo Transit Blogger

xoxo Transit Blogger

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DNA Swab Kits Coming To The MTA

One of the perks for bus drivers in the newly agreed contract between the MTA & TWU Local 100 is that they will be receiving DNA Swab Kits to deal with the issue of spat on drivers. Michael Gartland of the New York Post has more:

The MTA is about to get a little more CSI.

City bus drivers will soon be armed with DNA swabs to gather evidence in the all-too-common event of an unhinged passenger spitting on them.

Transit workers catch a loogie 14 times a month, the MTA estimated in 2011.

The swab kits will be distributed to drivers once a new contract between the MTA and Transport Workers Union Local 100 is finalized, union sources confirmed. They’ll include swabs, a rinse and a sealed container to store an assailant’s saliva sample.

“I’m overjoyed that the MTA finally put this into effect,” said Frank Austin, the TWU’s safety director for bus drivers. “We’ve been working on this for two contracts, about seven years.”

Swab kits have been given to drivers in Boston and England and have led to arrests there. In Boston, swabs cost $200 a pop.

After a sample is submitted, police run it against a DNA database for a match.

An MTA spokeswoman declined to comment on the cost of the program, noting the contract was not yet finalized.

But two MTA subdivisions — the MTA Bus Company and NYC Transit — operate a total of 5,701 buses, each of which would be outfitted with a swab kit. At a potential cost of $200 per kit, the overall cost to the city could reach $1.1 million.

“It’s going to cut down on people spitting on us, especially if people get arrested and it ends up in the newspaper,” said Thomas McNally, a TWU safety inspector.

Click here for the complete report.

As someone who grew up with a dad who drove a bus for NYC Transit, I have heard many stories about drivers being spat on. We can agree that this is one of the biggest ways to disrespect someone.

I completely support this measure as any lowlife who spits on a driver deserves to be caught & punished to the fullest extent of the law.

To those who might say it is a waste, think about how you would feel being spat on. Plus considering the amount of the money the agency spends on things, this is a drop in the bucket.

xoxo Transit Blogger

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LIRR & Unions Prepare Final Contract Offers

While agreeing to a deal with the TWU Local 100 cleared a big hurdle for the MTA, it is far from being out of the woods. For the past few months, many have been following the strife between the agency & LIRR unions which have been threatening a July strike for sometime if a deal was not reached.

The two side are preparing final contract offers which are to be put out today. Newsday Transit Reporter Alfonso A. Castillo has more:

The MTA and the unions representing nearly 6,000 Long Island Rail Road workers will begin laying out their final offers in a four-year-long contract dispute Monday.

The White House-appointed Presidential Emergency Board No. 245 will convene in Manhattan at noon to hear from LIRR labor leaders and Metropolitan Transportation Authority negotiators. Without a resolution, LIRR unions could go on strike as early as July.

After reaching a tentative agreement with the Transport Workers Union last week for raises totaling 8 percent over five years, MTA chairman Thomas Prendergast said TWU contracts typically establish a pattern that the agency expects its other unions, including those at the LIRR, to follow.

An LIRR union source, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said he expects the railroad labor groups will stick to their guns in pursuing the more lucrative terms of the first presidential board. Because the subway workers’ contract has not yet been ratified by the MTA board, the TWU board or union members, it will carry little weight with the federal mediators, the source said.

Click here for the complete report.

I am keeping a close eye on this as a strike will have major ramifications for our region considering the importance of the LIRR. The deal struck between the MTA & TWU Local 100 will probably prove to be a sticking point as workers on the island are sure to demand much higher increases.

Personally I feel that a lot of the workers for the LIRR make an impressive salary at current levels considering the workplace rules they have as compared to their NYC counterparts. I would not be against an increase but not at the levels some are talking about.

xoxo Transit Blogger

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MTA Denying More Access A Ride Claims

Sunday’s New York Post featured a story about how the MTA is denying more Access-A-Ride claims. To be more specific, the agency denied 13% of applicants in 2013 which is nearly double the rate from 5 years ago. Stephen M. Joseph and Michael Gartland of the New York Post have more:

The MTA denied 13 percent of Access-A-Ride applicants in 2013 — almost 7,000 New Yorkers — more than double the denial rate from five years ago.

And it’s no coincidence the agency began enforcing stricter eligibility requirements for disabled riders at the same time its overall $12 billion budget shrank $900 million in 2010.

“When we slashed the budget, everything took a hit,” MTA spokesman Adam Lisberg said. “Para-transit took a hit too . . . We started enforcing medical eligibility more strictly. Our medical professionals were reminded of the existing rules and criteria.”

Other changes included re-assessing eligibility on a trip-by-trip basis and steering participants to subways and buses.

The crackdown is not sitting well with rejected applicants.

“What’s the sense in having Access-A-Ride if they keep you from getting it?” said Rita Gibson, 65, who claims to suffer from a herniated disc and uses a walker to get around.

Click here for the complete report.

I admit that a big part of me feels this sensational journalism which would be nothing new considering the source. I have covered the Access-A-Ride fraud issues that were running rampant in the past.

While the article makes no mention of fraud, I would not be surprised if some of the denied requests fell under that category. This is a program which no matter how you slice it is a money pit for the agency. The services are warranted but better policing needs to be put in place. If only a different company could run it & leave the MTA to handle the many other responsibilities it has.

xoxo Transit Blogger

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MTA & TWU Local 100 Reach Deal

A few days ago, the Transport Workers Union Local 100 reached a deal with the MTA, its longtime nemesis. Here is more on the deal courtesy of Greg Mocker of Pix 11:

After 2 years of intense negotiations (and work without a contract), The MTA and The Transport Workers Union have reached an agreement.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced the deal which includes back pay and raises and does not negatively impact the agency’s budget. At the Governor’s New York City Office Thursday afternoon, MTA Chairman Tom Prendergast and Transport Workers Union Local 100 President John Samuelson joined the Governor.

“The transit system is the lifeblood of New York City, and the MTA employees are the ones that make the system work,” Governor Cuomo said. “They showed their dedication time and time again during Superstorm Sandy and its aftermath, working in difficult conditions to get the system up and running in record time. The resolution of this contract dispute is fair to transit workers, fiscally responsible for the MTA, and will have no impact on fares. I thank President John Samuelsen, who fights tenaciously for his members but also cares deeply about the system and its ridership, and Tom Prendergast whose lifelong dedication to the transit system made him the ideal leader of the MTA.”

The panel could not put an exact dollar figure on the 5-year deal for 34,000 bus and subway employees.

Here are some of the details released in a statement from Governor Cuomo’s office:

Under the terms of the agreement, TWU workers would receive increases within the 2% cap that Governor Cuomo has achieved with state labor contracts (1% increase in each of the first 2 years, beginning with 2012, and 2% increases in the last 3 years). Employees would pay an increased share of health care costs – increasing from 1.5% to 2% percent of the employee’s salary – but would receive important new benefits including paid maternity/paternity leave, coverage of health care for surviving spouses of deceased TWU retirees, and improvements to dental and optical benefits.

The contract will have no impact on MTA fares and will be accommodated within revisions to the MTA financial plan.

Fare increases in 2015 and 2017 have always been included as part of the agency’s financial plan.

The Straphangers Campaign issued a statement reminding riders the MTA had earlier suggested a contract could lead to higher fare increases. The transit advocacy group congratulated the MTA, TWU Local 100 and Governor Cuomo.

“The devil is always in the details,” advised the statement. “So like many others, we reserve final judgement until we study the management-labor contract.”

Click here for the entire report.

On one hand I am happy that the workers received a deserved increase in pay. However on the flip side, I like many others in the transit world would like to know the full numbers behind the agreement.

From the outset, it seems the TWU won this battle as the main sticking points the MTA were looking for do not seem to be part of the deal.
I can’t help but shake the feeling that the timing of this deal smells like an Albany game to not ruffle feathers for upcoming elections.

For an agency not flush with cash, where exactly are the increases going to come from as thin air is not available at this time…..

xoxo Transit Blogger

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