LIRR & Metro North Ridership Rises In 2014

Just a few minutes ago, the MTA has announced that ridership on the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) & Metro-North Railroad rose in 2014. Here are the details:

The Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North Railroad both welcomed rising numbers of customers in 2014, new Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) ridership figures show, making them respectively the busiest and second-busiest passenger railroads in the country.

Both railroads saw their strongest growth during non-rush hours, on non-Manhattan commutes and for non-work trips, as customers increasingly rely on the railroads for transportation outside of traditional Manhattan commutes. This increased non-peak ridership, which mirrors trends seen on the MTA New York City Subway, occurs as more jobs in the region are created outside the Manhattan core and in industries without traditional 9-to-5 workdays, such as healthcare, hospitality and arts and entertainment.

Through the 2015-2019 Capital Program, both railroads hope to continue pursuing major projects to expand capacity and improve connections, which will spur economic growth, reduce traffic congestion and make the region more sustainable.

The LIRR reported a year-end total of 85.86 million passengers in 2014, a 3% increase over the prior year. It is the third highest ridership since 1949 and highest since the modern record in 2008.

Metro-North carried 84.66 million passengers in 2014, a 1.5% increase over the prior year and the highest ridership in Metro-North’s history. Metro-North ridership has grown 77% over the past 30 years.

“In another era, young people would buy a car with their first paycheck. Now, with access to the nation’s most vibrant public transit system, more of them are buying train passes and MetroCards. Across our region, New Yorkers are developing a mindset that riding the railroad isn’t just about going to work anymore. It’s becoming more and more integrated into the fabric of daily life,” said MTA Chairman and CEO Thomas F. Prendergast. “That’s why we’re pleased to be continuing projects in our Capital Program that will improve rail travel in the years to come, including East Side Access for the LIRR, Penn Station Access for Metro-North, and the LIRR’s Ronkonkoma Branch Double Track Project.”

On Metro-North, trips that do not involve Grand Central or Harlem-125th Street have increased 273% since 1984 and non-commutation ridership to Manhattan has increased by 133%, while commutes to Manhattan have increased by 31%.

Traditional commutes to Manhattan now constitute less than half of total Metro-North rail ridership. They account for 49% of trips taken in 2014, compared with 67% in 1984. Bronx residents commuting to Westchester County, and Westchester residents commuting to Connecticut, so-called reverse commuters, as well as Connecticut residents commuting from the east end of the New Haven Line to major employment centers in Connecticut, are some of the fastest growing types of travel on Metro-North.

On the Long Island Rail Road, which does not have the same track capacity to support reverse-direction commutes to suburban destinations, non‐commutation ridership has nevertheless increased by 66% since 1984; while commutes to Manhattan have essentially held steady, notching a slight 30-year decline of 7% while growing 2.6% in 2014. In total, LIRR ridership has grown 14% since 1984. Traditional commutes now constitute 57% of all LIRR travel, compared to 71% in 1984.

The ridership increases mirror increases in the frequency of trains. Metro-North ridership has been building in part because of 66 weekly trains the railroad added in October 2012, and another 187 weekly trains added in October 2013. Half-hourly weekend service was added to the eastern New Haven Line in November 2014.

The LIRR recently restored weekend and holiday service on the West Hempstead Branch, and has restored several trains that had been eliminated in 2010, including two evening rush‐hour trains on the Babylon Branch, two summer‐only trains to/from Long Beach, and extension of seasonal weekend service on the Montauk Branch. In total, the LIRR operated 5,000 more trains in 2014 than in 2013.

Increasing use of the railroads for large-scale sports events has also contributed to the non-commutation ridership growth. Metro-North’s Yankees-E. 153rd Street Station opened in May 2009; Barclays Center, home of the New York Nets and the future home to the New York Islanders, opened adjacent to the LIRR’s Atlantic Terminal in September 2012. Both railroads began providing trips to Jets and Giants games in 2009 with the opening of NJ Transit’s train station at the Meadowlands.

The high ridership in 2014 took place in spite of harsh winter storms that reduced travel volumes on both railroads in January and February of 2014

xoxo Transit Blogger

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MTA To Get Loan For Railroad Signal Safety

Late Friday afternoon, Governor Cuomo announced that the MTA would be receiving a nearly $1 billion dollar loan from the Federal Railroad Administration for LIRR & Metro-North signal safety upgrades. Here are the details:

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced that the Federal Railroad Administration has approved a loan of $967.1 million to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority for the improvement of the safety of the signal systems used by the MTA’s two commuter railroads, the Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North Railroad. The loan, which is the largest and lowest-cost financing for the MTA, will finance the installment of positive train control, a technology designed to remove the potential for human error that can lead to train-involved accidents.

“This loan is a dramatic investment in the MTA – one that will make trains safer for all riders on Metro-North and the LIRR,” Governor Cuomo said. “With this infusion of funding, crews will be getting to work on individual cars and along hundreds of miles of track to install state of the art technology that can save lives. This loan could not have been possible without the hard work and support of DOT Secretary Anthony Foxx and Acting Administrator Sarah Feinberg, and I thank them on behalf of all MTA commuter rail customers for helping us make this important advancement possible.”

MTA Chairman and CEO Thomas F. Prendergast said, “We are delighted to have been able to work with the Federal Railroad Administration to make this historic, and extremely important award possible. The most important thing we do each day is strive to ensure the safety of our passengers, our employees, and the public at large. This award will help us enhance that effort in a very significant way.”

Positive train control is a technology that allows computerized systems to automatically control certain aspects of train movement. It is intended to prevent train-to-train collisions, trains accidentally traveling into areas where track workers are working, or derailments caused by excessive train speed or the movement of a train through an improperly aligned switch. The technology can address situations like the Spuyten Duyvil derailment in the Bronx, where a train was going faster than its maximum allowable speed. Congress mandated the installation of positive train control in 2008 for all commuter railroads in the U.S.

Metro-North Railroad and the Long Island Rail Road are in the process of implementing the technology, which includes the installation of on-board components for 1,455 rail cars and transponders alongside 588 route miles of track. In November 2013, the MTA awarded a contract to a joint venture of Bombardier Transportation and Siemens Rail Automation to act as a systems integrator that will provide the design, furnish equipment and ensure that the system functions as intended. LIRR and Metro-North forces and some third party contracts will support installations of wayside, office, communications and on-board equipment. Installation of positive train control on Metro-North territory in the State of Connecticut will be funded by the Connecticut Department of Transportation.

The loan is the largest to have been made through the Federal Railroad Administration’s Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing Program and remains subject to MTA Board Approval on April 29 and final closing in May. The MTA will issue its Transportation Revenue Bond directly to the Federal Railroad Administration and will repay the obligation over 22½ years at a fixed interest rate of 2.38%. MTA’s Transportation Revenue Bonds are rated “AA-” from Standard & Poor’s, “A2″ from Moody’s, and “A” from Fitch.

Congressman Charlie B. Rangel said, “Nothing is more important than ensuring the wellbeing of New Yorkers. I applaud Governor Cuomo’s commitment to improving safety measures on Metro-North and LIRR, so that all commuters in our great State can ride knowing they are in secure hands.”

Congressman Eliot Engel said, “MTA services are an indispensable part of my constituents’ everyday lives. Thousands of commuters rely on the MTA daily to travel to work, home or school. They expect – and should receive – a safe train ride. Implementing positive train control is a critical step making this expectation a reality. The tragedies that occurred at Spuyten Duyvil in 2013 and in Westchester earlier this year may have been avoided if this life-saving technology had been in place. While we cannot assuage the pain and grief that these accidents have caused, we can make every effort to create a better railroad moving forward. I applaud the DOT and the Federal Railroad Administration for recognizing the need for this technology in the MTA system, and am very pleased that all rail travelers can experience a safer ride.”

Congresswoman Nita Lowey said, “I’m pleased that MTA’s application to install positive train control technology has been approved by the Federal Railroad Administration. Securing this funding would help ensure that disastrous events like the December 2013 Metro North accident never happen again. Over the last year, I have worked tirelessly to highlight the need for additional resources to help commuter railroads install PTC, and I will continue to work with federal and state officials to ensure that MTA gets the resources it needs to keep its riders safe.”

Congressman Gregory Meeks said, I’d like to thank Governor Cuomo for prioritizing the modernization and improvement of the Long Island Railroad and Metro-North Railroad’s 1500 railcars and hundreds of miles of track along our country’s busiest commuter rail system. This unprecedented investment of nearly $1 billion in the LIRR and Metro will improve safety for riders public, transit workers for decades to come.”

Congressman Joe Crowley said, “I’m pleased the federal government is making this important investment so we can ensure the safety of New Yorkers on our commuter railroads. The MTA’s planned improvements will go a long way toward averting catastrophic incidents such as the ones we’ve seen over the past few years.”

Congressman Steve Israel said, “This federal loan is a vital step to improving railway safety. I applaud the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and Department of Transportation on their hard work to secure this loan, and I will continue to fight for federal resources for critical New York infrastructure.”

Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney said, “I fought to pass my legislation to make positive train control installations “priority projects” for RRIF loans because investing in PTC on our commuter rail lines is the single most important thing we can do to prevent accidents and save lives. This is a critical investment in our transportation infrastructure that prioritizes the safety of thousands of my neighbors in the Hudson Valley.”

Congressman Grace Meng said, “Thanks to the Federal Railroad Administration for approving this large, low-interest loan to upgrade commuter rail signal systems. The LIRR is vital to the commutes of many of my constituents and upgrading the signal system to improve safety measures is a high priority. I am pleased that this project will move forward through FRA’s financing.”

Congresswoman Kathleen Rice said, “There’s no doubt that positive train control will make riders and workers safer and enhance the security of the commuter railroad systems that so many New Yorkers rely on every day. We need to fully implement this technology, and this major federal funding advance will allow the LIRR and Metro-North to get to work right away.”

Congressman Lee Zeldin said, “As a member of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure and Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials, I applaud this crucial step to upgrade the MTA’s infrastructure to ensure safety. Last month, I voted for the Passenger Rail Reform and Investment Act (HR 749), which included reforms to improve the slow and cumbersome process for RRIF loans, ensuring more potential borrowers have access to this critical financing for improving train safety. I look forward to continuing to work with Governor Cuomo and other New York State officials to complete this important safety upgrade.”

I am all for improving safety throughout the system & am glad to see the agency is getting much needed funds to do so. My complaint centers around it being a loan as quite honestly the agency should be receiving the money without a need for repayment as it benefits the entire region economically. For all the money that has been siphoned away from the agency, to say the government owes them is a major understatement!

xoxo Transit Blogger

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MTA Reopens 2 6 Line Bronx Stations

Residents heading towards the northeast end of the Bronx can rejoice as the MTA has reopened the Zerega & Buhre Ave 6 Train train stations. Here are the details:

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) has substantially completed the Zerega Av and Buhre Av 6 station rehabilitations, which were part of a five-station renewal project on the Pelham Line. The two subway stations will reopen for service in both directions at 5 a.m. on Monday, April 27.

Renewal work at the Zerega Av and Buhre Av stations, which first opened for service in 1920, began in July 2014 and included the installation of new structural steel. The stations’ steel structures that were in place had deteriorated beyond repair. Other work included repairing mezzanine, street and platform stairs; replacing platform and street canopy roofs and track beds; installing bird deterrent systems and ADA equipment such as new platform edges, tactile warning strips and boarding areas; painting; and amenities such as new artwork commissioned by MTA Arts & Design.

“The Zerega and Buhre Avenue stations are on elevated tracks and have open-air platforms that have been exposed to the weather every day, every hour, for nearly 100 years,” said New York City Transit President Carmen Bianco. “The renewal work at these stations is necessary to improve our customers’ experience and help us better serve them, and we hope that our customers enjoy these new upgrades.”

At Zerega Av, large colorful glass mosaic and hand-formed porcelain panels have been installed on the platform level. “Garden of Earthly Delights,” by James Arredondo, depicts the four seasons through images of flowers such as crocuses, marigolds, daisies, pansies, morning glories and roses. Arredondo sought to bring a pastoral element to the urban Bronx environment through the colors and fanciful imagery of his floral mosaics.

A glass mosaic depicting geometric shapes enlivens the platform level at Buhre Av by taking advantage of the bright natural light of the open-air station platforms. Soonae Tark’s “Have a Happy Day” contrasts rigid lines and square shapes with others formed by curves and circular motifs.

The other three Pelham Line stations that were part of the renewal project were Castle Hill Av, Middletown Rd and Pelham Bay Park. Castle Hill Av and Middletown Rd reopened in May 2014, while Pelham Bay Park remains open during its renewal work that continues into the summer.

Some minor work in the electrical rooms and staff quarters remains at the Zerega and Buhre Avs stations. Help Point Intercoms will also be installed in the coming weeks. Once the project is completely finished, MTA personnel will join local elected officials and stakeholders for a ribbon cutting to commemorate the re-opening of the two stations.

xoxo Transit Blogger

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MTA Suspends Distracted Bus Rider

In the technology advanced world we live in today, one should assume that any & all actions have a high probability of being recorded. However a 21 year veteran bus driver did not think about this when he was recorded reading & writing while driving. Rebecca Harshbarger of the New York Post has more:

The “zero vision” city bus operator caught on video reading and writing while driving a packed bus was suspended without pay on Monday after The Post revealed his recklessness.

The driver, who has been behind the wheel since 1984, makes the top rate of $31.79 an hour, the MTA says.

“I think he has probably heard enough about coworkers being involved in fatal accidents during that time to know better,” said the disgusted rider who shot the footage. “I think it’s appropriate based on the dangerous situation he put the passengers and public in.”

The MTA has still refused to release the driver’s name as well as his full earnings in 2014. His suspension is pending disciplinary proceedings.

Click here for the complete report.

When I first saw the story on the news, my initial reaction was that he looked to be handling a bus run timesheet. I used to see them all the time as my father carried his throughout his nearly 30 year MTA career.

However even if I am right (the agency seems to think he was dealing with them), it does not excuse his carelessness while operating his vehicle. So the agency is well within their right to suspend him. While I understand his union will defend him, they really don’t have much to stand on. They should just accept the eventual ruling & move on.

xoxo Transit Blogger

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NYC Subway Ridership Surges 2.6%

While 2.6% sounds like a small number, NYC Subway commuters know how big of a surge that really is on a system that already does not have enough room for them to ride in peace. Here is some more surge details courtesy of a presser sent to me by the MTA:

Subway ridership in New York City grew 2.6% to 1.751 billion customers in 2014, the highest annual ridership in more than 65 years, according to new figures from Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) New York City Transit. Some 5.6 million customers rode the subway on an average weekday and 6 million customers on an average weekend. Weekday ridership rose by more than 132,000 last year, and by more than 500,000 over the last five years. At its busiest, the subway system carried more than 6 million customers on 29 weekdays in the last four months of 2014 – a level not seen since the post-World War II boom.

This growth was seen across the city in all boroughs and all lines, with the highest percentage increase in neighborhoods seeing rapid residential development and population increases, such as Bushwick in Brooklyn and Long Island City in Queens. While ridership grew in every part of the day and every day of the week, weekday growth was strongest outside of the traditional morning and evening rush hours.

As subway ridership surges along with New York City’s population, the increased number of customers creates challenges for the MTA to operate the subway system while minimizing delays, crowding and inconvenience. The subway system has traditionally performed maintenance work during off-peak hours, which are now experiencing record ridership.

“The renaissance of the New York City subway is a miracle for those who remember the decrepit system of the 1970s and the 1980s, but moving more than 6 million customers a day means even minor disruptions now can create major delays,” said MTA Chairman and CEO Thomas F. Prendergast. “We are aggressively working to combat delays and improve maintenance, but the ultimate solution requires investing in infrastructure upgrades such as Communications-Based Train Control (CBTC) signaling systems to accommodate every one of our growing number of customers.”

Brooklyn had the largest borough-wide average weekday percentage ridership increase (2.7% or more than 31,000 riders per weekday), followed by 2.5% growth in Manhattan, 2.1% in the Bronx and 1.9% in Queens.

In Brooklyn, every station on the L line saw a ridership increase last year, with ridership increasing 4.7%, or more than 5,600 customers, on an average weekday. The L is the MTA’s only line with CBTC signaling, which has enabled the MTA to add dozens of trains per week to handle the ridership spike in recent years. The Bedford Av station in Williamsburg saw 27,224 average weekday customers, more than any other station on the L in Brooklyn, but the largest weekday percentage increases occurred farther east on the line in Bushwick at Bushwick Av-Aberdeen St (11.5%), Wilson Av (9.9%) and Jefferson St (9.3%).

The M line in Brooklyn serves some of the same areas and also saw rapid growth, with average weekday ridership up 6.2% at stations between Marcy and Metropolitan avs. M stations from Queens through Brooklyn have seen average weekday ridership grow 23.6% since 2009, after the M was rerouted to serve Midtown Manhattan in 2010.

New residential development is driving ridership growth in Long Island City, Queens. Weekday ridership grew by 12%, or 1,500 customers per day, at the Vernon-Jackson Av 7 station, and by 9.7%, or nearly 2,000 customers, at the Court Sq EGM7 station. Ridership at the Vernon-Jackson Av station has more than doubled since 2000. The MTA is installing CBTC on the 7 line, which will allow more trains to run closer together, carrying more customers while also providing countdown clock information.

In the Bronx, the 2 and 5 lines grew by 3.7%, or nearly 4,800 customers per day. In Manhattan, the Lenox Avenue 2 and 3 lines through Harlem saw 3.7% growth, or more than 2,100 customers per day.

For those inclined to see actual ridership stats, click here for an Excel file with those numbers.

This one piece of evidence is more than enough reason to show that the agency needs more funding. Ridership continues to grow not only in the subway but other facets of the agency’s services yet our elected officials continue to shaft us all in terms of funding.

Hopefully we will get more champions to our cause of better funding as way too many people rely on services that are bursting at the seams in many areas.

xoxo Transit Blogger

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