Paying More For Less

In a story that will anger NYC Subway riders more than they already are, a dirty secret known to most transit aficionados has come out showing that we are paying more in fares but getting less service compared to 10 years ago. Uday Schultz of Streetsblog NYC has more:

Subway service today is atrocious, that much is clear. During rush hours, crowding and delays have reached crisis proportions, and off-peak, the wait for a train can seem interminable.

There are a number of culprits, including the failure to adequately maintain and upgrade track and signals, and the profusion of unnecessary timers slowing down trains. But one simple factor doesn’t get mentioned enough: During off-peak hours, the MTA doesn’t run as many trains as it used to.

The service reductions mainly stem from the financial crisis of 2008, when MTA revenues nosedived. While Albany enacted an MTA funding package in 2009 to prevent a total collapse of service, the agency balanced its budget with a round of deep service cuts in 2010.

For subways, the cuts mainly affected off-peak service. It’s a logical way to allocate resources when budgets are tight, but those times are also when subway ridership has recently seen significant growth. Off-peak service still hasn’t been restored to its former levels, so more people are riding the subway at times when the MTA is running less service than it provided 10 years ago.

These service cuts are especially painful for people who work outside conventional office hours, including New Yorkers doing shifts on nights and weekends. Let’s look at a few examples to see how these systemwide service cuts have contributed to the diminished utility of the system.

Back in 2008, the midday A train came as frequently as every six minutes during on weekdays. Similarly, on Saturdays, going northbound, service every eight minutes began at 6:30 a.m. and lasted until about 5:30 p.m. That’s 11 hours of frequent, useful A service. On Sundays, too, the MTA delivered, with trains running every eight minutes in the late afternoons, getting people home promptly before the week began again.

Today, during weekday midday hours, the A runs a measly seven or so trains per hour — once every nine minutes. On Saturdays, the window of eight-minute headways lasts about nine hours, not 11. And on Sundays, service every 10 minutes is as good as it gets. Keep in mind that the A splits in two at Rockaway Boulevard, so what may be barely-adequate on the main line equates to 20-minute headways on the branches to Lefferts Boulevard and the Rockaways.

On the R, weekend trains ran every eight minutes for 10 hours on Saturday, and six of Sunday in 2008. But today, the line runs no more than every 10 minutes on the weekends.

Most disturbing is the J. The 2008 version of J train service often arrived every eight minutes during off-peak hours. Today, the only time the J arrives more frequently than once every 10 minutes is during the weekday rush.

This is just a sample of the service reductions. While the MTA has restored some of the service cut in 2010, especially rush-hour service, off-peak service on most if not all subway lines remains below the level of 10 years ago. It has become the new normal.

Sadly the line in the article of service being below the level of 10 years ago equating to being the new normal is 100% accurate. It is quite pathetic that in this day & age as population increases dramatically throughout the system, the agency gets away with not only poorer service but less of it overall. A lot of this falls back on not only the agency itself but the politicians who purposely go out of their way to not properly fund the system.

xoxo Transit Blogger

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LIRR Meeting Equals More Of The Same

On the heels of the report coming out showing the MTA Long Island Rail Road had its worst month of on time performance in 22 years, the much maligned agency held a board meeting to discuss solutions. Unfortunately after hearing the suggestions put forth, it just sounded like more of the same.

Yes, the agency acknowledges the need for infrastructure upgrades such as signal & track work. However my biggest pet peeve is the whole call to action to improve communication with riders. LIRR riders have been hearing that same tired canned solution after every issue involving the agency.

While I acknowledge that they have improved in ways with communication, this is not what riders care about most, they just want reliable service without the daily barrage of mishaps. Every few years the fares get raised yet we get more inferior service with it which is a complete slap in the face.

xoxo Transit Blogger

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LIRR Worst Monthly Performance In Decades

Ladies and gentlemen, the MTA Long Island Rail Road train you are waiting for is delayed or the one you are currently on will be arriving to your destination late. This is an unfortunate song & dance that LIRR commuters are used to dealing with & if it felt like you did even more in January, you were not imagining things.

Last month was not kind to the much maligned agency as it posted its worst on time performance for a month in 22 years. Alfonso A. Castillo of Newsday has more:

The Long Island Rail Road in January posted its worst on-time performance in more than two decades.

The LIRR’s 83.9 percent on-time performance rate for the month — released to riders Friday morning in the agency’s monthly “Train Talk” newsletter — was the lowest since January 1996, when just 73.5 percent of trains were on time.

The release of the January on-time rate comes less than five months after MTA head Joseph Lhota promised that improved service reliability at the LIRR would be the “new normal.”

LIRR officials have suggested January’s bad commute — which included at least 21 times that service was suspended on all or part of a branch — was an anomaly caused by a number of converging factors. There was a shortage of train cars due to wheel damage caused by leaves on the tracks in early December; sustained arctic temperatures that caused rails to break, switches to freeze and various mechanical malfunctions on trains; the Jan. 4 “bomb cyclone” snowstorm, and several infrastructure failures at Penn Station, which is owned and maintained by Amtrak, the officials said.

But some riders said the on-time performance last month was the culmination of steadily deteriorating service and to some degree, statistics back that up. The LIRR’s on-time performance for all 2017 was 91.4 percent, the worst since 2000. Annual on-time performance has dropped in four out of five years since 2012.

The railroad considers a train on time if it arrives at its final destination within five minutes and 59 seconds of its scheduled time.

News of the historically low mark for January served to fuel calls from commuters, elected officials and MTA leaders for a major overhaul at the LIRR, the busiest commuter railroad in the United States, which last year tied its own modern ridership record by carrying about 89 million riders.

Lhota has recently expressed his disappointment with the LIRR’s woeful service, especially coming months after the railroad received praise for its performance during and in the months immediately following the “summer of hell” service disruptions caused by Amtrak repairs at Penn in July and August.

Lhota has criticized LIRR president Patrick Nowakowski and his administration for a “lack of urgency” in addressing recent problems, and has promised a shake-up. The railroad’s head of engineering, Bruce Pohlot, resigned last month.

LIRR officials have also said they are putting together an “emergency action plan,” similar to that recently adopted for the subway system, to reverse declining service.

LIRR’s worst on-time months over the last 30 years

1. January 1996: 73.5

2. February 1994: 77.4 percent

3. January 1994: 81.2 percent

4. November 1989: 80.6 percent

5. January 2018: 83.9 percent

Source: LIRR

Click here for the complete report.

As someone who has to deal with the LIRR, I can vouch for how horrible the service truly is. While the NYC Subway has its fair share of problems, riders of it exclusively have nothing on what we have to deal with especially at the prices that we pay. Just think about it next time you complain about a delay on a subway ride that cost you $2.75 albeit with options most likely available to get around the issue versus paying nearly $20 for a peak ride with no other realistic option of getting to your destination.

xoxo Transit Blogger

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Pontoon Bridges To The Rescue?

No one can accuse people of not thinking outside the box in terms of finding transit solutions for the upcoming L Train shutdown. This is evident by the idea proposed by former Manhattan resident & now San Francisco based 31 year old Parker Shinn who has proposed the idea of a pontoon bridge to help ease the commute for thousands of riders. Danielle Furfaro of the New York Post has more:

A crew of engineers and real estate agents is hoping to convince the city of another option to mitigate the pending L-pocalypse — a floating bridge over the East River to help ease the pain of the train’s tunnel shutdown. ​​

Pontoon bridges have been quickly built all over the world to deal with temporary traffic issues, said Parker Shinn, who is trying to garner support for the project.

“We are confident that this would be a practical solution from​​ both an engineer and a cost perspective,” said 31-year-old Parker Shinn, who lives in San Francisco but spent years dealing with the hell of living off the Third Avenue stop in Manhattan and waiting for several trains to go by before he could get on one.

The proposed bridge would be anchored by 37 barges over 3,000 feet and elevated enough for small boats such as ferries to pass through.

It would have a 240-foot long drawbridge in the center for larger boats. The bridge would have two lanes for buses and two for pedestrians and cyclists at a cost of about $38 million, said Shinn.

Shinn, who is currently running a Kickstarter campaign to raise $50,000 for marketing and additional engineering, said he’s aware of the huge hurdles in the way of getting the project built by April of next year, which is when the L train shutdown is supposed to start. But he said the city and MTA’s weak plan released in December convinced him that he had to try.

“When I saw the MTA’s plan, I was really concerned for the people in Brooklyn,” said Shinn. “The rough calculation of economic lost in terms of lost time is staggering.”

Click here for the complete report.

I love the forward thinking from Parker has his idea has some interesting merit behind it especially since he is correct in his concert for riders after seeing the initial plans put out by the MTA. The biggest hurdle in my opinion would be the timing as I am not sure if this solution could be created in time especially when needing the approval of the Coast Guard among other potential tie ups.

xoxo Transit Blogger

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MTA To Add Ferry Service During Shutdown

The inevitable L Train train shutdown between Brooklyn & Manhattan is fast approaching. Riders in the highly popular areas of Bushwick, East Village & Williamsburg are still waiting for concrete answers on how the MTA plans to make up for the service loss.

One of their plans is to add ferry service that will run between the East Village & Williamsburg. The agency would run 8 boats per hour which comes out to about every 7 minutes. The problem is the boats would only hold 149 passengers per boat which comes out to almost 1200 riders per hour which is the equivalent of 22 standard buses or 1 L Train train. Let that sync in…..

Paul Stremple of the Bklyner has more in this report:

Last night, during a joint presentation to Community Board 1 regarding the upcoming closure of the L train and repairs to the Canarsie Tunnel, the MTA and DOT revealed a host of new information, including new details about additional ferry service during the 15-month closure.

The agencies have long mentioned a direct ferry route between the North Williamsburg ferry landing and Stuyvesant Cove. Now, more details are available.

According to the presentation, temporary ferry service during the shutdown will run 6:00 am-Midnight Sunday through Thursday, with a potential for extended hours until 2:00 am on Saturday and Sundays, pending coordination with the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation.

Some in the crowd raised concerns about safety on the boats, especially in the late hours of Friday and Saturday, citing the plurality of bars in the neighborhood—fears of drunken revelers taking a dip in the East River elicited shouts of “Man Overboard!” from attendees. Agency officials agreed safety was a concern, telling those gathered that discussions about the plan are ongoing.

The late-night ferry rides may cause additional community concerns, as the US Coast Guard requires the operators to sound their horn at each departure. (Last June, service operators Hornblower swapped out high-decibel horns for quieter ones after neighbors up and down the waterfront lodged complaints.)

With 225,000 L train riders needing to cross the river each day, whether by boat, bus, bike or another train line, there has been a question about what kind of capacity the ferry system could muster during the shutdown, even with a direct service route.

Luckily, the MTA and DOT representatives came prepared with figures: during rush hours (which have yet to be defined), the plan is to run 8 boats per hour in each direction—one every 7.5 minutes. With a capacity of 149 passengers per boat, that means up to 1,200 riders an hour in each direction between Brooklyn and Manhattan. That’s equivalent to about 22 standard buses (but only 1 L train).

Click here for the complete report.

I strongly doubt this service will do much to help riders during the shutdown. The lack of room will make it an option that is not exactly feasible for many. Plus the lack of overnight hour service past a potential 2AM will be an issue as the first few stops along the L in Brooklyn are packed nearly 24 hours a day.

xoxo Transit Blogger

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