MTA Statement On Cleaning Program

In today’s New York Daily News, the paper had a strongly worded piece on the cleaning program the MTA runs that includes hiring outside firms to bring new methods to cleaning to the system. The piece stemmed from the paper witnessing an accident at the Clinton-Washington Avenues stop on the last Tuesday. Here is a link to their piece.

Just a few minutes ago, I received a response to the piece from MTA Chief External Affairs Officer Maxwell Young which stated:

The Daily News article today is misleading and misses the point of the entire station and car cleaning project. Two years ago the New York City Transit system was declared to be in a state of emergency due to its decline in performance.

Then-MTA Chairman Joe Lhota and outside consultants created an emergency management plan to correct mismanaged systems, including water management, signal repairs, station cleaning and more. The state and city provided $836 million to pay for overtime and outside contractors to bring new means and methods to a broken system.

The car cleaning and station cleaning contractors use chemicals approved by NYCT safety experts, and state of the art cleaning equipment. The approved chemicals are commonly used – for example the chemicals used by the fleet washing company are used by the same company in states around the country and on other fleets, including surrounding states and Amtrak and New Jersey Transit.

The equipment that backfired was a pressure washer. It is a common piece of equipment widely used by cleaning companies and even the MTA. A backfire sometimes happens to an engine. It’s not something that was caused by it being faulty or not properly maintained.

“‎The independent contractors’ new means and methods have been a great success. Water is now being effectively cleared from the tracks and new modern equipment has been introduced, cars and stations are cleaner and signals have been repaired.

The success of the Subway Action Plan is inarguable, as shown by the better performance numbers. Now phase 2 of the Subway Action Plan is to implant those new management systems into a restructured MTA, through the reorganization plan due later this month.”

xoxo Transit Blogger

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MTA & Gov. Cuomo Agree To Add 500 Cops

After Saturday morning’s heinous attack on a MTA worker at the 145th station, Gov. Cuomo & the MTA have announced an agreement to add 500 uniformed cops to the NYC Transit system. Here is more via the press release I received:

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority today announced an agreement to add 500 additional uniformed officers to the New York City Transit system. The agreement was reached with New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, New York County District Attorney Cyrus Vance, NYPD Police Commissioner James P. O’Neill, and MTA Chairman Pat Foye as part of a comprehensive action plan to improve safety across New York City’s mass transit system, address the rising number of assaults on transit workers and combat the growing problem of fare evasion.

From 2013 and 2017, assaults reported by New York City Transit workers have increased by 15.2 percent, and lost revenue from fare evasion increased from $105 million in 2015 to $225 million in 2018. New data released today shows the upward trend is continuing with year to date totals reaching $243 million in the 12-month period ending in March 2019. The new program also includes additional measures to deter fare evasion with enhanced exit gates and additional monitors and cameras throughout the system. As part of this plan, the New York County District Attorney will provide $40 million over four years to fund associated costs of the personnel and provide construction modifications and new video technology to target station locations.

“This year we succeeded in making historic reforms to the MTA and provided significant new funding streams that will overhaul the system,” Governor Cuomo said. “But the MTA is still plagued by problems of public safety, attacks against transit workers and persistent fare evasion – issues that have only worsened in recent years. This new multi-pronged effort will improve safety on the system overall, protect workers from these incomprehensible assaults, and deter fare evasion by deploying 500 new uniformed officers on our subways and buses. I want to thank the TWU, the NYPD, the MTA and the Manhattan District Attorney for their cooperation and partnership to tackle these critical issues.”

“The safest big city in America deserves the safest subways in America,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “This partnership means more eyes and ears in stations, and more officers for New Yorkers to turn to when they need help. The additional officers we’re deploying to the subway system will protect riders, prevent fare evasion and respond in emergencies.”

New York County District Attorney Cyrus Vance said, “Our office is proud to invest in New York’s shift from a criminalization model to a prevention model for fare evasion. This is a movement that began in Manhattan, where we’ve used our discretion to reduce criminal prosecutions for subway fare evasion by 96 percent. Today’s investment in design improvements and other prevention and deterrence measures will mean that more fares get collected while fewer New Yorkers end up in the criminal legal system, with life-altering consequences, for this low-level offense. I thank Governor Cuomo, the MTA, the NYPD, and the TWU for their vision and collaboration.”

“Our priority is to keep the nearly six million riders who use the subway each day safe, and to ensure quality-of-life on the trains and in stations. In 1990, there were nearly 17,500 transit crimes, compared to 2018, where there were 2,500 transit crimes, which is approximately one crime for every million riders,” said Police Commissioner James P. O’Neill. “These additional officers will help us continue to reduce crime past already record lows, work with our partners to solve problems, and provide increased visibility to deter theft-of-service – all while preventing crime and disorder from occurring in the first place.”

MTA Chairman and CEO Patrick Foye said, “Paying your subway or bus fare isn’t optional, and evading it harms all our customers. Today we’re taking critical steps to secure resources that the MTA needs to improve the system, while better protecting the men and women that keep New Yorkers moving. We’re doing it without hiring new staff, ensuring that the resources we get back from reducing fare evasion goes directly into improving subway and bus service. I thank Governor Cuomo and the state legislature for their leadership on this issue, and recognizing fare evasion as a growing problem that must be solved.”

TWU International President John Samuelsen said, “For more than a decade TWU has demanded MTA management take responsibility and act to protect our workers from horrendous assaults – like being stabbed, punched, kicked and spat on. The governor’s focus on reducing assaults against transit workers is a critically important step forward as we strive to ensure that TWU members have increased workplace safety and security. This program will make the riding public safe, our members safe and hold riders accountable to paying their fair share so the system has the resources it needs.”

The MTA fare evasion problem coupled with the growing reports of assaults on MTA workers has led to concern among many riders who believe there is a greater need for police presence in the subway and transit system. In 2018 there were 101 assaults against transit workers qualifying as felonies and misdemeanors. There were also 26 cases where workers were threatened and 2,318 incidents of harassment against transit workers ranging from verbal abuse to contact without injury. Once fully implemented, the Fare Enforcement Task Force – comprised of 200 NYPD officers, 300 MTA Police Department officers and Bridge & Tunnel Officers, and 70 New York City Transit Eagle Team members – will be deployed to targeted locations with the highest levels of incidents of assault on MTA workers and the subway stations and bus routes with the highest ridership rates. The additional MTA personnel will receive training to support this effort prior to deployment.

The MTA and the New York County District Attorney’s office entered into an agreement pursuant to which the New York County District Attorney’s office will provide $40 million over four years to support the MTA’s anti-fare evasion actions. The funds will go towards training and equipment for members of anti-fare evasion teams, including MTA PD, Bridge and Tunnel officers, and NYPD. In addition to working on anti-fare evasion actions, the fare deterrence teams will provide additional worker safety protections to MTA employees. The funds will also support enhanced technology in the stations, as well as infrastructure hardening, and aid in the research of new station designs for track access. Maintaining access to the subway system helps further enhance the safety of passengers. Fare evasion is illegal and may subject the evader to arrest, although the majority are issued a transit adjudications bureau summons or criminal court summons.

The focused enforcement has two main objectives: to maximize fare collection and to ensure that enforcement does not target any specific demographic. Task Force members will deter fare evasion through their physical presence and through the issuance of Transit Adjudication Bureau summonses. The components of the plan focus on educating MTA riders and are not meant to be punitive or increase the number of arrests.

The new program also includes the positioning of 100 NYCT Wayfinders near subway fare areas, enhancing select exit gates, and adding more monitors and CCTV cameras throughout the system. The MTA will also introduce a new, anti-fare evasion communications campaign, with signs in stations, voice messages on trains and in stations, and radio messages. Furthermore, the MTA Board recently approved full-fare MetroCards for New York City students, to both curb fare evasion and to ensure fairness in the student MetroCard program.

These new measures will complement the NYPD and the MTA’s existing efforts to combat fare evasion, including the MTA’s exit gate alarm reactivation pilot, educational outreach with New York City’s Department of Education, the Criminal Justice Interagency Group, EAGLE Team deployment on Select Bus Service lines, and the EAGLE Team pilot on local buses in the Bronx and Staten Island.

While on paper it is good to know they are adding cops to the system, I have to ask why did it take having the heinous attack on Saturday morning to do so? Assaults on transit workers has been a  serious issue for a few years now. However even with the increase in penalties for assaulting workers, it has not stopped people from doing so anyhow & most without any repercussions.

This move is more of Cuomo trying to score political brownie points versus actually doing what is necessary overall to protect the workers who keep the system operable & moving 24×7. A complete shame when you think about it!

xoxo Transit Blogger

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MTA Brings New Buses To Staten Island

Earlier today, MTA NYC Transit along with Congressman Max Rose announced that 77 new state of the art buses will be coming to Staten Island along with a contactless fare payment system. Here is more information via the press release I received:

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) and Congressman Max Rose announced today that a total of 77 new state-of-the-art buses will be put into service on Staten Island this year as the MTA works to modernize bus service with new vehicles and a new contactless fare payment system that speeds entry and allows all-door boarding.

The new buses are equipped with modern customer amenities such as USB charging ports, Wi-Fi and digital screens, and safety technology such as a pedestrian turn warning system and cameras. They replace Orion Hybrid buses from 2009 currently in service on Staten Island, and will be used on routes operating out of the Yukon Bus Depot, which includes S79 Select Bus Service. Additionally, the MTA is in the process of procuring 50 new coach buses that will be put into Staten Island express bus service in 2021.

“Our Staten Island customers are amongst our most vocal and dedicated customers because they rely on our buses far more than riders in other boroughs, which means we absolutely must get bus service right on Staten Island,” said MTA New York City Transit President Andy Byford. “We still have work to do, but the future of public transit is very bright on Staten Island thanks to this new fleet of buses and our myriad work to add new service where possible and enhance existing options.”

“These new buses are just one step towards getting Staten Island the mass transit system we deserve, and I’m proud to be working with the MTA to ensure that this is only the beginning,” said Congressman Max Rose. “Getting where you need to go on time isn’t too much to ask, and I know that with these new buses on the road, Staten Islanders can expect a more reliable, fast, and comfortable commute. I look forward to these buses getting on the road and showing the people of Staten Island that government can make a difference in their daily lives.”

Of the 77 new buses, which are standard 40-foot-long vehicles used on both local and Select Bus Service routes, 41 have already been delivered. Theses buses will be delivered with software ready for traffic signal priority technology implementation. These capital investments help make MTA more cost efficient, as continuing maintenance to retain older buses well past their useful lives are a significant drain to NYC Transit personnel and funding resources.

As part of similar modernization initiatives, the MTA launched a public pilot on May 31 for OMNY, its new contactless fare payment system, to replace the outdated MetroCard technology by 2023. The public pilot included all Staten Island buses, where hundreds of customers are using their own preferred contactless fare payment method to pay fares and speed their entry onto buses without needing to buy a MetroCard or find exact change. Within the first week of the pilot, Staten Island customers using OMNY have far exceeded initial estimates of 800 to 1,500 taps per week.

Both the MTA and Congressman Rose are committed to improving public transportation on Staten Island, from improving existing service to looking at ways to enhance or bring service to underserved areas. In August 2018, MTA New York City Transit implemented a customer-focused redesign of the Staten Island express bus network that has yielded positive results for customers, increasing service reliability, speeding up commutes by up to 12 percent, adding 120 more weekday trips and frequency, and streamlining routes to help clear streets and simplify circuitous routes that unnecessarily lengthened trips. The lessons learned from this redesign will be used for a planned redesign of the Staten Island local bus network, which will take a clean-slate approach to a network that was based on trolley lines from nearly a century ago.

The success of any bus network redesign is largely dependent on close collaboration with stakeholders such as the New York City Department of Transportation and NYPD by providing street treatments and enhancements to help our buses move through congested city streets and to enforce bus lanes and keep streets clear. These enhancements include bus lanes, traffic signal priority for buses, camera enforcement, and reconfigured street traffic infrastructure to increase pedestrian and customer safety.

In addition to improving bus service on Staten Island, the MTA is conducting two studies to bring new service or enhance existing mass transit options on the North Shore and the West Shore. This spring, the MTA launched the West Shore Transit Alternatives Analysis to find new ways to enhance public transit in and to those communities, taking a holistic look at the transportation needs and patterns of West Shore residents. It aims to identify transit improvements and connections between key points on Staten Island and Manhattan, with the goal of making final recommendations in 2020. On the North Shore, the MTA is developing a new Bus Rapid Transit system to provide faster travel for thousands of residents to and from the St. George Ferry Terminal. That project is undergoing an environmental study that will take approximately 24 months.

I am glad to see the agency is continuing to update its fleet & overall options for riders as they tackle being behind the times in terms of technology compared to other transit systems. Hopefully the riding public will treat the equipment with respect & that it has a long & prosperous career serving riders.

xoxo Transit Blogger

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Crazy Man Attacks MTA Worker In Harlem

Early Saturday morning, a crazy man attacked a MTA worker on the Manhattan-bound platform at the 145th Street train station. The unidentified Hispanic male was standing on the Bronx-bound platform when he began to shout at workers on the closed Manhattan-bound platform. He proceeded to exit the station & cross the street to enter on the Manhattan-bound side where he went over the turnstile & punched one of the workers.

Here is the brief video caught on tape:

Sadly these incidents continue to be an issue for transit workers whether above or underground & many do not make it to the media. More needs to be done to protect these workers as even the increase in penalties for assaulting workers has not deterred these crimes. Hopefully a solution can be found as soon as possible as enough is enough!

xoxo Transit Blogger

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Metro North Development At Harrison

The MTA Metro-North is continuing its attempts to upgrade its system. The latest plan sees it branching out even further by teaming up with AvalonBay Communities to built its first transit oriented development at the Harrison Station. Both agencies held a groundbreaking ceremony. Here are more details:

MTA Metro-North Railroad and AvalonBay Communities, one of the nation’s leading multifamily builders, held a groundbreaking ceremony at the Harrison station today to mark the start of construction of a mixed-use development project on the south side of the station.

This transit oriented development project will be the first of its kind in the railroad’s system, and it will include a garage for commuters and the public, housing complex with 143 apartment units (7 of which are affordable units), 27,000 square feet of retail space, as well as two pedestrian plazas at the station. The garage will increase commuter parking by at least 218 spaces. Metro-North reached an agreement on the sale of the parcel of property to AvalonBay in April, allowing construction to begin.

Housed on a 3.28-acre site on the south side of the station along Halstead Avenue, the development intends to spark a downtown rebirth, serving as a catalyst for the revitalization of the Town/Village of Harrison.  This previously underutilized parcel of property presently contains a surface parking lot that is too small to meet current commuter demand.

Under the design completed by the developer, and approved by the Town/Village with input from Metro-North and MTA, the surface parking lot will be replaced by a series of pedestrian-oriented, four-story buildings lined with retail stores on the ground floor and apartments on the upper floors, including seven affordable apartments that will be subsidized by Westchester County.

A mixed-use building at the eastern end of the site will create a vibrant streetscape with direct entry for several town home units and residential amenities at street level. Its interior and upper stories would provide 598 spaces of structured parking, of which at least 475 would be reserved for the public and commuters, an 85% increase over the 257 Metro-North-owned parking spaces that exist today.

An additional 187 parking spaces for residents and 96 for retail customers will be located in another parking structure behind the first floor of the mixed retail/residential buildings on the western end of the site.  The existing parking spaces owned by the Town/Village of Harrison on the north side of the station are preserved for customers and will not be affected by construction or the project.

There will be closures of part of the parking lot during the construction process. Alternate will be provided, and customers will be diverted to the other lots within walking distance from the station.

The start of construction of the transit oriented development is the culmination of an extensive public process that involved meeting with community stakeholders, a request for proposals to build on the site, a review of construction plans, an environmental review, as well as a series of approvals from the MTA Board.

“Transit oriented development is a quadruple win: it’s a win for downtown revitalization and economic progress, it’s a win for the environment, it provides a new choice in housing opportunities, and it reinforces the MTA’s bottom line, which is a win for the public,” said MTA Chief Development Officer Janno Lieber. “I’m pleased that the MTA and AvalonBay are moving forward on this marquee project that we hope will set the bar for future transit-oriented development efforts in our region.”

“We are delighted to be proceeding with what promises to be a transformative project for Metro-North commuters and for the Town and Village of Harrison,” said Catherine Rinaldi, President of Metro-North Railroad. “When it’s fully realized, this green project will create a vibrant, walkable community, both reducing a reliance on cars and   enhancing the existing village hub. Our customers will have a much easier time finding parking at the station, and Harrison residents can enjoy new shopping options and an enlivened downtown. We hope this type of suburban transit-oriented development becomes a model for communities throughout the MTA region.”

Matthew Whalen, AvalonBay Senior Vice President for Development, spoke at the reception, saying: “It took a great deal of persistence and patience to arrive at this day. I want to thank Mayor Belmont and the executives at Metro-North for their support and encouragement throughout the process. We understand the importance of genuine partnership not only during the pre-construction and construction phases but going forward as well. AvalonBay intends to be a good corporate citizen here in Harrison, as we have been everywhere else in the New York metro area.”

I am curious to see how the agency handles this project especially in terms of getting involved with housing. I can’t say I am surprised at the lack of affordable housing being offered at the development. Of the 143 units, only 7 will be affordable housing aka it is probably the base amount needed for tax breaks for the developer. However that is a different issue for a different time!

xoxo Transit Blogger

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