MTA Prepares For First Winter Storm

The MTA is in full preparation mode for the first winter storm of the 2015-2016 season. Here is more on their prep work:

With a wintry blast that may dump as much as 12 inches of snow in parts of the metropolitan region, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority is hard at work to ensure safe, reliable service this weekend. MTA New York City Transit, Metro-North Railroad, Long Island Rail Road, and MTA Bridges and Tunnels are once again preparing. Personnel will be ready to drop salt and clear platforms and stairs of snow but customers are urged to use extreme caution while navigating the system, especially on outdoor platforms and stairs.

The MTA follows well-established plans to keep the region’s transit services up and running during harsh winter weather conditions. MTA personnel will continue to monitor the U.S. National Weather Service and have direct access to a customized weather prediction service that provides regularly updated weather forecasts. From forecast to clean-up, North America’s largest mass transit provider will respond accordingly with an army of dedicated workers and a fleet of heavy equipment built for snow-fighting duty.

“We will make every effort to keep our services up and running so that our customers can get to where they need to be,” said MTA Chairman and CEO Thomas F. Prendergast. “We have a tremendous investment in equipment, manpower and experience. However, we will only provide service as long as it’s safe to do so. There may come a point throughout the winter months when it is no longer prudent to roll out buses or send trains onto some outdoor sections of the lines.”

NYCT Subways:

The Incident Command Center will be activated Friday night at 8 p.m. Personnel will be stationed to communicate with outlying local storm fighting centers, coordinating the overall snow-fighting effort. NYCT has refined procedures at the Incident Command Center upgrading a tool for tracking field reports on snow removal and station conditions, as well as a database of essential resources such as salt, sand, and generators to enable better collaboration and response time.

To prevent subway trains from being blocked in yards, they will be moved and stored underground in anticipation of heavy snow or ice. This will impact service on lines with express service. In addition, all scheduled weekend work has been canceled. However, if the storm tracks south and snow accumulation is minimal, NYCT may proceed with some work.

The Department of Subways has a yellow-hued fleet of snow and ice-busting equipment designed to keep outdoor tracks, switches and third rails clear of snow and ice. Super-powered snow throwers, jet-powered snow-blowers, and de-icing cars – retired subway cars modified with tanks and other specialized equipment to spray de-icing fluid on the third rail — are ready for immediate deployment. Based on the current forecast, workers will be held after their regular shifts and additional personnel will be brought in prior to the beginning of the storm. Approximately 1,000 track workers will be deployed during the storm in addition to 800 station workers to keep stairs and platforms clear of snow. Personnel will have access to 262,500 pounds of calcium chloride and 200,000 pounds of sand to melt snow and ice.

While the underground portions of the system remain unaffected during snowstorms, there are nearly 220 miles of outdoor track throughout the boroughs. The Rockaway AS, Sea Beach N, Flushing 7, Brighton BQ and Dyre Av 5 Lines are particularly vulnerable to snow and freezing precipitation. NYCT resources strategically deployed for the storm include:

• 10 snow-throwers
• 7 de-icers
• 4 jet blowers
• 8 R156 diesel locomotives
• 22 heated/insulated work cars
• 79 trains placed into service with scraper shoes, which help reduce icing on the third rail

NYCT has also added more third rail heaters and snow melting equipment at critical points throughout the system. There are currently 1,084 remote-controlled, and 494 manual third-rail heaters as well as snow melting devices at 500 switch and 700 signal locations to keep trains moving.

NYCT and MTA Bus:

The Department of Buses has expanded the testing and evaluation of all-season tires on the bus fleet. Currently 60% of standard buses and the entire articulated fleet have been fitted with these tires that are designed to provide additional grip in snowy weather. However, out of an abundance of caution due to predicted high levels of snow accumulation, buses will also be fitted with tire chains. Articulated buses will be replaced by shorter buses starting Friday night.
This year’s weather plan has been updated to include new snow-fighting equipment, bringing the total number of snow fighters to 37 in our fleet. Predetermined routes have been mapped for this snow-fighting equipment to quickly reach highly trafficked locations for buses such as terminals, lay-over locations, facilities and known hotspots. The Department of Buses also coordinates closely and shares information with the Department of Sanitation to keep routes passable.

Bus managers now have new technology that tracks service when it falls below minimum expected levels on any route, allowing them to make decisions more quickly. Bus service will be adjusted based on road conditions around the city and service curtailments on a route-by-route basis are possible.

Metro-North Railroad & Long Island Rail Road:

Snow-fighting equipment is winterized, tested and positioned strategically throughout both railroads to start operation as soon as snow accumulations begin. Protective heat circuits are verified to be operational, air brake lines are purged of any moisture to prevent them from freezing, and electric trains are fitted with special third rail shoes to prevent snow from accumulating. Metro-North Railroad covers exposed couplers to keep snow out, treats exposed shoes with de-icer, and sprays door panels with an anti-freeze agent.

Long Island Rail Road has the following snow-fighting equipment located at various yards around the system ready for deployment:

• 1 Spreader/Ditcher
• 3 Cold Air Blowers to clear main track, yards and third rail
• 2 Stabilizer/Brooms used to clear excessive snow from rails
• 7 Rail-bound Jets and 2 hi-rail jets (total 9 jet snow blowers)
• 2 Pickup Truck Plow/Spreaders
• 151 Snowblowers

Metro-North Railroad has the following snow-fighting equipment ready to go, located at various yards around the system:

• 1 Front-end Loader with thrower
• 5 Backhoes
• 6 Cold Air Blowers
• 3 Rail-bound Jets
• 2 Tractor Blower/Spreaders
• 70 Pickup Truck Plows
• 216 Snowblowers

Along the right-of-way, switches – the interlocking tracks that allow rail traffic controllers to route trains from one track to another – are treated with an anti-freeze agent and lubricated. Long Island Rail Road has switch heaters with natural gas burners at Jamaica Station and electrical heating elements at switches around the system. Metro-North Railroad uses propane switch heaters and activates heating rods. Switches are continually moved by rail traffic controllers to keep them from freezing shut.

Extra personnel at both railroads are positioned at numerous locations to pre-salt platforms and stairways before the storm begins and to clear them of snow during and after the storm.
Both railroads must consider various service options due to the vast coverage of service areas and severity of the storm.

Long Island Rail Road may modify or suspend service if snowfall is heavy, 10-13 inches or more. In ice storms, blizzards, or sustained winds over 39 mph, train service may be severely curtailed or suspended, especially if there are frozen switches or there is a loss of third rail power. Long Island Rail Road has four modified schedules for storm recovery.

Metro-North Railroad impact to service is not just determined by the amount of snow that falls, but also by the age of equipment and the condition of infrastructure, especially evident on the New Haven Line where there is 100-year-old catenary and moveable bridges. Service options include reductions of service and temporary suspensions of service.

Pertinent information regarding service on both railroads is available via customer email alerts, website updates, station announcements, platform display message boards, as well as message boards at key terminals.

Paratransit:

Paratransit customers may experience additional travel and wait times. Depending on conditions, customers may want to reconsider travel, unless medically necessary. For Access-A-Ride paratransit service, a dashboard storm monitoring system is in place to track immobilized vehicles and customers.

NYC Transit has also coordinated a procedure with New York City first-responders and the Office of Emergency Management for rescuing customers on immobilized vehicles or those who develop medical needs during storms. Also in place is a paratransit-specific Storm Action Plan that includes processes for curtailing all non-medically essential service.

Customers should check mta.info for updates and modified emergency schedules.

Bridges and Tunnels:

Extra managerial staff will be activated and the Command Center will be operating their weather desks throughout the snow event. These include:

• Operations Section Post: Desk will be staffed by a uniformed supervisor to handle weather related operational issues and to keep a detailed record of all storm activities;
• Logistics Section Post: Desk will be staffed by a member of the Maintenance Division to track snow removal equipment, assist with storm tracking and to analyze and redeploy resources as conditions necessitate.

Bridges and Tunnels has 9,180 tons of roadway deicer on hand and 100 pieces of snow-fighting equipment in service and available for storm fighting operations. Staffing will be kept at a maximum level to assist with mitigation of snow and ice build-up as well as to sustain the normal operation of the 7 bridges and both tunnels.

Bridges also are equipped with embedded roadway sensors for temperature and above-ground atmospheric sensors that deliver real-time information on wind velocity, wind direction, humidity and precipitation via wireless communication. These sensors record data used to determine if speed restrictions are necessary.

To enhance our communications with customers, the MTA has taken steps to insure its communications systems function well during any type of emergency. The current website design allows for the quick posting of service information and includes a special weather page that becomes the mta.info homepage during weather-related events affecting operations.

Customers can view the Winter Weather Guide available at http://web.mta.info/coldWeather/
The Winter Weather Guide is a handy guide to keep customers informed during periods of inclement weather that may require service changes. The poster provides information about service on each of the MTA’s agencies with a description of the weather condition and how that weather may affect operations.

Customers are urged to monitor mta.info regularly as well as television and radio for service updates. Customers can also sign up for customer alerts by visiting www.mtamyalerts.com

Stay tuned to the site & my Twitter feed as I will be posting updates as I receive them from the agency. Make sure to follow @TransitBlogger by clicking here.

xoxo Transit Blogger

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Boy Hits Bus Driver With Glass Bottle

Unfortunately the safety of bus drivers has come into the spotlight again after a young thug threw a glass bottle at the driver of a Bx17 bus. Samantha Tata of Pix11 has more:

A boy was caught on camera throwing a glass bottle through the door of an MTA bus, hitting the driver in his eye, police said Wednesday asking for the public’s help to find the child.

It happened shortly before 9 p.m. Oct. 20 at the bus stop on the southwest corner of Home Street and Prospect Avenue in the Bronx, police said.

The assailant, thought to be no older than 13, approached bus No. 267 and hurled a glass bottle through its open door. A rider was paying his fare when the bottle when flying and another rider was waiting in line to get on to the bus, video shows.

The driver suffered a minor injury to his left eye, was taken to a hospital, treated and released, police said.

Police described the wanted individual as a black male about 10 to 13 years old with short curly hair who stands about 5 feet 4 inches tall. He was last seenw earing black sneakers, a black polo shirt and black jeans.

Anyone with information in the case is urged to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-577-TIPS (8477).

Click here to see the video of the incident.

This incident brings back the memories of the same exact thing happening to my father when he drove for the MTA. What makes the memory even more vivid is that he happened to be driving on the Bx17 when it happened.

The safety of bus drivers is something the MTA has taken steps to address albeit not in the timeliest way. It might be time for the agency to look into further ways to completely prevent such incidents.

As far as the video is concerned, I am extremely curious as to why the person standing in the bus stop appeared to do nothing in terms of trying to stop the kid who ran off. While we can’t verify if he said something, his body language sure appears to show he took no action to stop the culprit.

Hopefully this worthless thug is caught & punished to the full extent of the law as a way to show that regardless of how old you are, these despicable acts against transit workers will never be tolerated.

xoxo Transit Blogger

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Metro North Implements Close Call System

Yesterday, the MTA Metro-North Railroad announced the implementation of a confidential close call reporting system. Here is more via the official press release:

MTA Metro-North Railroad today announced the extended implementation of Confidential Close Call Reporting System (C3RS), an industry-leading initiative designed to encourage workers to report any potential safety hazard or breach of procedures that they may observe by providing them with a convenient, non-confrontational and anonymous method to do so.

The Confidential Close Call Reporting System (C3RS) is a partnership between the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), in conjunction with participating railroad carriers and labor organizations. C3RS was first rolled out in 2015 to approximately 1,500 transportation department employees, represented by the Association of Commuter Rail Employees (ACRE), including conductors, engineers and rail traffic controllers.

Today, Metro-North President Joseph Giulietti, labor organizations representing 4,000 employees, and FRA Deputy Regional Administrator Les Fiorenzo have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) describing the core principles and values to successfully implement the program to its mechanical and engineering workers. Metro-North is the first commuter railroad to implement the system with all of its operations workforce throughout the entire network.

“I am proud to put my signature on a document that provides the opportunity to continue the initiatives we have already put in place to enhance railroad safety,” said Giulietti. “This program confirms how much we depend on our employees to detect potential risks to our operations. They are the eyes and ears of Metro-North and we appreciate their contribution to making the system run safely and efficiently.”

C3RS is an FRA-funded program that provides a voluntary, non-punitive approach for employees to report certain incidents and close call events that pose the risk of more serious consequences. A third party (NASA) will receive the details of the incident via an online form and de-identify the information before presenting it to a Peer Review Team (PRT) consisting of local representatives from the FRA, Metro-North and labor unions representing 4,000 mechanical and engineering employees.

Those unions are: The American Railway Supervisors Association/ Transportation Communications Union/International Association of Machinists (ARASA/TCU/IAM and ARASA/TCU/IAM 5041), International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAMAW), International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW System Council Number 7, IBEW Local 1573), National Conference of Firemen & Oilers (NCFO), International Association of Sheet, Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers (SMART-SM), Association of Commuter Rail Employees (ACRE Signalman Division Local 166, ACRE Power Directors Local 37), Transportation Workers Union (TWU Local 2055, TWU Local 2001), and International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT Local 808).

“Every day, nearly 300,000 people count on Metro-North to transport them safely to their jobs in the morning and home to their families every night. Starting a Confidential Close Call Reporting System for its mechanical and engineering Departments is another important step toward improving Metro-North’s safety culture, preventing accidents before they happen and increasing worker safety,” said FRA Administrator Sarah Feinberg.

Other railroads currently using C3RS include Long Island Rail Road, New Jersey Transit, Amtrak and Strasburg Rail Road. Reporting results from each railroad provide the chance to see industrywide trends in close call incidents and use the information to prevent similar or more serious incidents from recurring.

While the reporting of close call events will not be used as a substitute for any existing Metro-North safety programs or reporting procedures, it will serve as an additional tool for improving safety. The information about close call incidents enables the railroad to identify factors that contribute to accidents or injuries and to correct these problems before they result in harm. It will increase productivity and cost savings by reducing claims and litigation as well as time lost from injuries. The program will also help to decrease damage to railroad property and the environment.

xoxo Transit Blogger

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MTA Probing Report Leak

Last week the New York Post had a disturbing story about Chief Engineer Nicholas Jezina who was found by a MTA investigation to be running a mob style workplace at the Coney Island boiler room facility.

Fast forward to this week where the MTA is investigating how the confidential report about Mr. Jezina leaked. Rich Calder of the New York Post has more:

The MTA is investigating the leak of a confidential report that identified whistle-blowers who complained of “mob-style” bullying by an out-of-control supervisor.

As The Post reported last week, Coney Island Rail Yard boiler-room workers who came forward about Chief Engineer Nicholas Jezina claim they’re being shunned by co-workers and fear for their safety, because Jezina and other peers know they spoke up.

Jezina was transferred to an agency facility in The Bronx last year and bumped down in title to a stationary engineer, with a pay cut from $55 hourly to $49, after an MTA probe found that he routinely ordered subordinates to leave work to go buy him cigarettes and lunch, and verbally abused workers with curse words and derogatory remarks.

All military “are baby killers,” he told one veteran who served in Afghanistan and Iraq, the report found.

Click here for the complete report.

For starters the alleged actions of Mr. Jezina should have led to his firing, not a minor pay & title demotion. Secondly the source of this leak needs to be exposed as all it will do is prevent future whistleblowers from coming forward when they should which actually is the biggest issue here.

Hopefully this investigation is not a dog & pony show like the demotion was & the proper measures are put in place to prevent this from happening again.

xoxo Transit Blogger

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State Senator Wants MTA To Review R Line

The R Train train is one of the most unpopular lines in the entire system. According to long time riders, the line has deservedly earned its nickname of “Rarely” in terms of showing up on time or if at all.

However riders are not the only ones to complain as a plethora of elected officials including State Senator Daniel Squadron have called for the MTA to do a full line review. Paula Katinas of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle has more:

The R train is desperately in need of improvements, according to state Sen. Daniel Squadron, who is among several elected officials pushing the MTA to conduct a top-to-bottom review of the subway line.

Squadron, Councilmember Vincent Gentile, the Riders Alliance, the NYPIRG Straphangers Campaign and 41 other elected officials called for the MTA’s next Full Line Review to study the R train.

In 2009, Squadron worked with the MTA to create Full Line Reviews of subway lines in which the agency takes a close look at train service over a period of months to see if improvements are needed.

The Full Line Reviews, which have been done for the A, C, F, G and L trains, have led to more frequent and on-time trains, newer and cleaner subway cars, and other cost-effective service improvements along the subway lines, Squadron said.

Not only are Squadron, Gentile and transit advocates seeking a Full Line Review of the R train, they are also looking for the inspection of the subway line to go faster than previous reviews of other train lines.

“This Full Line Review can’t be as delayed as an R train commute,” said Squadron (D-Brooklyn-Manhattan). “I hope the MTA pursues this Full Line Review, and quickly offers results and improvements.”

In a Jan. 11 letter to MTA Chairman Thomas Prendergast, Squadron, Gentile and their fellow lawmakers urged a speedy review process.

“We also request that this review be conducted in a timely manner. The almost 18 months that it took to complete the A/C Full Line Review is, simply, too slow. Riders cannot be expected to wait that long for service assessments and improvements,” the letter reads in part.

Click here for the complete report.

A review of this line is long overdue. I have been hearing complaints about this line for well over a decade. I personally have experienced my fair share of failures riding it while spending time in Bay Ridge in the past. Honestly I do everything possible to avoid the line as it is unreliable especially during rush hour.

Hopefully the agency finally does something to bring the service on this line up to par as it is long overdue!

xoxo Transit Blogger

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