New Report Highlights What I & Others Already Knew

The string of bad publicity for the MTA continues as two separate reports came out detailing either service or system condition issues. In this entry I will talk about the first report which focused on system conditions. The report was co-sponsored by State Assemblyman Dov Hikind & Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer.

The report’s initial idea came about to two incidents with the first coming in January involving a 14 year old boy who fell onto the tracks at a Kings Highway station in Brooklyn after part of the platform beneath him collapsed. The second incident occurred at a MTA meeting in February when NYC Transit President Howard Roberts responded to Mr. Hikind’s concerns. Mr. Hikind did not care for the response which led to the birth of the idea for this report.

I have read the entire 9 page report & I must say the results are not surprising although they are disturbing. Here is a small sample of different parts of the report:

Of the ninety-one stations inspected, fifty-seven of them (63% overall) had conditions that represented a significant safety hazard for riders. The conditions documented at stations included cracks in the platform, loose rubbing boards, cracked stairwells, gaps between subway doors and platform, missing sections of platform edge, loose ceiling panels, raised metal and wood plates, eroding cement and other hazardous conditions.

Stations that scored the worst safety ratings were in Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan. In Brooklyn, the Avenue J, Avenue M and Kings Highway stations of the B and Q Line were given failing grades due to the conditions of the platforms on both the Manhattan and Brooklyn bound sides. The Avenue J station was also given a failing grade in cleanliness category due to the prevalence of full garbage bags on the platform on multiple inspection dates.

In Manhattan, at the 57th Street station of the F line, surveyors encountered widespread erosion throughout the station. The platform edges throughout the station on both the uptown and downtown sides were cracked, not properly connected and in terrible condition overall. Surveyors witnessed a number of homeless individuals sleeping on the mezzanine level as well. The West 4th station of the B/D/F/V lines was also ranked lowest due to similar platform conditions including a segment of rubbing board that was detached from the platform edge and was liable to crack at any time.

In Manhattan, at the 57th Street station of the F line, surveyors encountered widespread erosion throughout the station. The platform edges throughout the station on both the uptown and downtown sides were cracked, not properly connected and in terrible condition overall. Surveyors witnessed a number of homeless individuals sleeping on the mezzanine level as well. The West 4th station of the B/D/F/V lines was also ranked lowest due to similar platform conditions including a segment of rubbing board that was detached from the platform edge and was liable to crack at any time.

Click here to view the entire report.

As I said the results are not surprising yet disturbing at the same time. This is the current state of our system & I don’t want to hear about finances being the only reason for it being this way. When times were going great, where was the MTA in fixing these issues? They as usual only patched up stations here & there instead of properly maintaining each one as if they were as important as the stop before or after it.

This is the system we will most likely be paying even more for starting in 2009. I wonder if doubling the fare is still seen as a good idea…..

xoxo Transit Blogger

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Maybe Another Time

For years commuters have felt no one on the MTA Board truly understands what they go through on a fairly regular basis when riding any part of the current transit system. Within that same period some have called on current & past political leaders to consider adding a working class commuter to the MTA Board. The idea continues to float around as the Long Island Rail Road Commuters Council recently wrote a letter to Gov. Patterson to consider such an appointment. New York Daily News transit reporter Pete Donohue has the story:

An MTA advisory panel has floated a novel idea to Gov. Paterson: Appoint regular rail riders to the board.

“There are quite a few [current board members] who don’t ride mass transit on a regular basis,” said Gerard Bringmann, chairman of the Long Island Rail Road Commuter’s Council.

Bringmann said the group wants Paterson to appoint “someone who feels our pain and is in the trenches with us; someone who knows what it’s like to be on a train without air conditioning or on a platform where messages are garbled or nonexistent.”

The council, part of the Permanent Citizens Advisory Committee to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, expressed its view in a letter to Paterson, who must fill a vacancy caused by the death of Frances Powers. The missive was prompted by recent comments by David Mack, chairman of the MTA’s Long Island Rail Road committee, who said he rides the train a handful of times a year – and only because he doesn’t have to pay.

MTA divisions are currently preparing their preliminary 2009 spending plans amid high fuel costs and declining tax revenues. The reports include how the various divisions will meet a prior directive to cut spending by 6% over four years, starting next year when savings must total about $80 million.

The idea seems like a good one in principal due to the gap between leadership & the people it serves. History has shown that MTA Board members are so out of touch with everyday commuters, it is no wonder they do not know how to manage/maintain a system needed by said commuters. However with saying that, a legitimate concern does get ousted into the spotlight if such an appointment was to be made.

As great of an idea as this might be, can an everyday commuter really capable of doing the job? Anytime commuters hear about a fare hike, they immediately blame the MTA & how it is ridiculous that their fare payments do not cover all the costs. While in simple terms it might make sense to look at it from that angle, in reality we know there is more to the MTA’s finances beyond fare collection. Fare collection has never been the backbone of the agency’s income. If it was, it would be impossible to have the service in place that they do now.

I seriously question if an everyday commuter would be able to understand all the pieces that make up the MTA from top to bottom. They are just commuters who only know about the system they use & not all the policies in place that run it from behind the scenes. Unfortunately now is not the time to place an amateur in such a high position. It would truly be like throwing a fresh piece of meat into a lion’s cage as it would be devoured within seconds. Maybe when things are more in order can such an idea be seriously looked into.

If anything I would suggest for now, they consider a panel of educated riders who know enough about the system & how it works to come together & pitch possible ideas. Add in a mix of transit advocates to the mix & we could see something good come out of it.

xoxo Transit Blogger

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Not The Time For This Bloomberg

Over the last week or so Mayor Bloomberg has shared his feelings about the MTA’s lack of fiscal responsibility. However in the midst of these feelings came a suggestion to give raises to current MTA engineers as they do not get paid enough. Kathleen Lucadamo of the New York Daily News filed the report:

Mayor Bloomberg favors trimming MTA spending, but Friday he called for the cash-starved agency to give workers a raise.

“The people who work for the MTA, we don’t pay them enough,” Bloomberg declared on WOR radio.

The mayor blamed construction cost overruns, in part, on underpaid engineers who have to haggle with their higher paid, and presumably, more experienced counterparts.

“If you want to have the best engineers to negotiate with the best engineers in the construction company, you are going to have to pay comparable salaries,” he said.

An MTA spokesman agreed that modest pay makes hiring tough, but stopped short of supporting raises.

“We certainly agree that it is a challenge in the public sector to attract the best talent when you have limited resources, but I think we have an extremely talented group of engineers and planners at our capital construction company,” MTA spokesman Jeremy Soffin said.

“We work as hard as we can to make those jobs appealing, but obviously we are limited by being in the public sector.”

Bloomberg’s comments came a day after he scolded the state-run MTA for proposing two fare hikes without finding alternative revenue or cutting its budget by 1.5%.

The MTA has called for an 8% fare hike next July and another 5% jump in 2011 to close a $700 million shortfall.

I understand the thought process of Mayor Bloomberg in terms of the never ending public vs private sector earnings war. However at a time when the MTA’s finances are in shambles, I find it fiscally irresponsible to even suggest raises for any employee. I would think of all people such a strong businessman such as Bloomberg would understand how now is not the time for this. Maybe he should practice what he preaches before coming down on the MTA for their fiscal irresponsibility. While he is at it, he could stop diverting from one of the real culprits here, the inadequate funding from the city towards its transit infrastructure.

xoxo Transit Blogger

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MTA Implements Service Changes

By now you know the MTA has been in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons lately in regards to the possibility of two fare hikes with one kicking in next year. However even with all of that, they have managed to officially implement additional service on select subway lines within the system. Here are some press releases discussing the changes:

3 Train:

MTA NYC Transit announced an increase in 3 line service during evenings and weekends beginning Sunday, July 27th. The service change is being made to meet changing ridership patterns and to better meet the needs of the Harlem community.

Since 1995, late-night customers using the 3 and headed to or from 148th Street have had to use a bus to connect with subway service at 135th Street. Currently, there is no 3 service from midnight to 6:30 a.m. Late night 3 customers must take the 2 to 135th Street-Lenox Avenue and continue on M7, M102 or shuttle bus to 148th Street in Harlem.

However, beginning Sunday, July 27th, 3 service will operate between Times Square-42nd Street and Harlem-148th Street overnight on weekdays and weekends. This service change will ease congestion on Bronx-bound 2 trains, reduce waiting time for 2 and 3 customers, and accommodate the ridership growth at Harlem-148th Street and projected growth in Harlem in general.

“Our mandate is to provide safe, efficient, environmentally friendly and reliable transit service to our customers, city wide,” said MTA NYC Transit President Howard H. Roberts, Jr. “This change in service will go a long way toward making the commute of thousands of our customers in Harlem and Upper Manhattan that much better.”

“On behalf of the community, I would like to thank the MTA for restoring 24-hour service to Northern Manhattan,” said Assemblyman Herman D. Farrell, Jr. “The return of around-the- clock 3 train service means people will no longer be forced to wait outside in the heat and humidity or the cold and snow for a shuttle to bring them home. It also means that those who commute late at night or early in the morning will have access to the same level of service as those who work day-time hours.”

In addition, 3 service will increase on weekdays in the late morning from 9:30 to 10 from every six to eight minutes to every five to seven minutes to alleviate overcrowding on the 2 during this time period.

This service increase is part of a package of subway service changes implemented at a cost of $8.9 million annually. The cost is being funded by several internal savings initiatives that are included in the NYC Transit’s July 2008 Financial Plan.

B Train, M Train, & W Train:

Results of recent analysis show that subway ridership growth has resulted in several routes operating with loads that exceed the MTA’s loading guidelines at certain times. To bring subway loads within the guidelines, MTA NYC Transit is making service adjustments to the B M and W lines.

Rush hour W service will be increased between 8:15 a.m. and 8:45 a.m. from every 10 minutes to every 8 minutes. In addition, weekday evening service on the B W and M service will be expanded. On weekdays, B service will operate from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. instead of stopping at 9:30 p.m. as it does currently. Evening M service will run between Metropolitan Avenue and Broad Street from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. and between Metropolitan Avenue and Myrtle Avenue from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. W trains will operate from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. – an extension from its current 9:30 end time.

The expanded hours will ease crowding conditions on the Q N and J routes, reduce the need for transfers and provide a more simplified and consistent service to our Queens and Brooklyn customers.

This service increase is part of a package of subway service changes implemented at a cost of $8.9 million annually. The cost is being funded by several internal savings initiatives that are included in the NYC Transit’s July 2008 Financial Plan.

1 Train, 4 Train, 6 Train, & 42nd Street Shuttle:

In order to bring NYC Transit subway loads within MTA’s loading guidelines, service increases are coming to the 146 and 42nd street shuttle S lines beginning Monday, July 28.

Weekday evening 1 service from 8 p.m. to midnight will increase from every 6 to 10 minutes to every 5 to 8 minutes.

The early weekday rush hour service (from 6 a.m. to 6:30 a.m.) on the 4 will see a significant increase from every 15 minutes to every 10 to 12 minutes northbound and from every 10 minutes to every 7 to 8 minutes southbound. Weekday 4 early afternoon rush hour service (3:15 p.m. to 4 p.m.) will increase from every 5 minutes to every 4 minutes. Weekday 4 evening service (7 p.m. to midnight) will increase from every 10 to 12 minutes to every 7 to 10 minutes. Weekday 6 evening service (9 p.m. to midnight) will increase from every 6 to 12 minutes to every 5 to 8 minutes.

42nd Street S shuttle service will increase in two time periods: Between 9:55 a.m. and 10:30 a.m., service will increase from ever 5 minutes to every 4 minutes and between 7 p.m. and 8:30 p.m., it will increase from every 4 to 5 minutes to every 3 to 4 minutes.

These service adjustments will mean six additional trips to the 1 and 6 and ten additional trips to the 4 and S on weekdays.

This service increase is part of a package of subway service changes implemented at a cost of $8.9 million annually. The cost is being funded by several internal savings initiatives that are included in the NYC Transit’s July 2008 Financial Plan.

Also don’t forget about the major changes for the 7 Train which include:

xoxo Transit Blogger

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NY State Comptroller Will Audit The MTA

This past Sunday New York Post writers Bruce Golding & Melissa Klein broke the story of New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli deciding to audit the MTA’s books. Here is a small sample of their report:

State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli will launch an audit of the MTA’s books in response to public outrage over the proposed fare hikes, The Post has learned.

“Mass transit is crucially important to the economic well-being of the city, and the MTA has historically not done the best job of managing its resources,” DiNapoli’s spokesman Dennis Tompkins told The Post.

“Now it’s more important than ever that they implement every possible way to save money and increase efficiencies in the system before they raise fares on the public.”

Click here to read the entire report.

I applaud Mr. DiNapoli’s plan to audit the MTA’s books. I am anxious to read the preliminary report which is due to be released in September. However even though I expect him to find countless examples of how the agency wasted money, will it really make a difference in regards to the potential fare hikes that will come starting next year?

The MTA has clearly shown that they do not do the best job possible in implementing the concepts shared in these reports. Why should I or anyone believe that this report will change things for the better? Did last year’s report by NYC Comptroller William C. Thompson change anything? No, it sure did not in the overall picture & I expect the results to be the same here.

It is nice to see Mr. DiNapoli take a long hard look at the numbers. However until the MTA can show that they will change their ways, no amount of factual reports will change their ways or starve off an unjustified fare hike.

xoxo Transit Blogger

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