The Fare Hike Is Now A Stone Cold Lock!

While the MTA Board still has to pass a fare hike at the scheduled vote on December 19th, it can now be considered a stone cold lock to happen. This opinion stems from the news that came out yesterday from Mayor Bloomberg. All this time Mayor Bloomberg has been secretive on which way he was leaning towards with the 4 votes he theoretically controls on the MTA Board. However his silence was broken after yesterday’s online seminar as he issued a statement on the latest fare hike proposal by the MTA. Here is the full statement by Mayor Bloomberg courtesy of NYC.gov:

Based on the information that my staff and I have received and reviewed over the past few weeks, I am now satisfied that the MTA budget is a responsible plan that includes important cost reductions. I agree with Governor Spitzer that this fare increase is necessary to maintain an adequate level of service and balance the needs and obligations of all who use this critical part of the region’s infrastructure. Although it is always hard to ask riders to pay more, I will now urge the City’s representatives to support the proposed fare plan that calls for preserving the $2.00 fare and holding the overall fare increase to less than 4%. This was something we couldn’t support until we’d done everything possible to lower operating expenses and to ensure efficiencies.

The MTA’s reductions in 2008 total about $140 million, approximately the same reduction in controllable expenses I am asking of Mayoral agencies. The MTA’s financial plan includes out-year reduction targets, but uncertainties in the economy, which we will monitor carefully in coming months, may require further cost containment. MTA management has agreed to propose to its Board that next year’s service increase program will not be implemented until the first quarter’s tax and other revenues are reviewed. While I hope that those service increases will be able to proceed, it is prudent to insure that funds are available to support these new initiatives. Further, MTA has committed to redoubling its efforts to reduce inefficiencies and redundancies.

The MTA plan currently has specified $11 million in additional cost efficiencies to take effect in ’09 and an additional unspecified target of $140 million. I have the commitment of Chairman Hemmerdinger and Executive Director Sander that they will promptly initiate a process which will include my designated Board members, particularly City Budget Director Mark Page, to identify specific measures to realize those savings. One promising program that is underway at the MTA is their ‘shared services’ initiative. The MTA is an amalgam of six separate operating agencies and I support their efforts to achieve efficiencies by consolidating ‘back office’ functions.

We all now need to turn to the next MTA capital plan. We must ensure that the next capital program not only continues to maintain the system but provides the funding for the system expansion that is essential for the growth of the City and the region. In the coming months, the MTA is required to submit its next five year capital plan. Not only do I look forward to working with the MTA in preparing that plan, I have asked the Governor to begin laying the structural groundwork for that plan in his executive budget, in anticipation of a new revenue source to be proposed by the congestion mitigation commission.

Here is Gov. Spitzer’s statement courtesy of NY.gov:

I commend MTA Chair Dale Hemmerdinger and MTA Executive Director and CEO Lee Sander on the hard work that they and their staff have put into developing a fiscally responsible 2008 budget. Fare increases are a difficult reality, but they have been diligent in their efforts to save the base fare at $2, limit the increase on discount Metrocards, and ease the burden on those who are least able to afford any hike. They combed through the budget to find savings and also to identify revenues to keep fare and toll increases to a level that is fair to the users of the system.

We all know the challenges that our transit system faces. The fare increase will be used to maintain an adequate level of service, ensure the safety of the system, and meet the challenges of growing ridership. By holding the $2 fare as I had requested, reducing the amount needed to purchase a bonus Metrocard, and introducing the 14-day pass, the MTA has put forward a range of options to ensure the system remains affordable.

I urge the MTA Board to adopt the proposed budget at their meeting next week.

We must now turn our efforts to the long-term funding of the state’s transportation infrastructure, including the needs of the MTA. We need to invest, not only to maintain the system we have, but to make the necessary improvements to grow the system through the 2nd Avenue Subway, East Side Access, Access to Regions Core, and a new Moynihan Station – projects that will ensure the system serves the 21st Century economy. The report due in January by the Congestion Mitigation Commission is the first step in that process.

I look forward to working with Mayor Bloomberg, Speaker Silver and Majority Leader Bruno on developing the MTA plan.

On the other side of the debate, some opponents of the fare hike did not pass up on the opportunity to release statements of their own. Here is with an official statement courtesy of the NYC Council from City Council Speaker Christine Quinn who had this to say:

While the MTA is facing tough economic projections, I do not believe that there is an immediate reason to raise the fare for 86% of New Yorkers. Simply put, we need to give the MTA more time to get its house in order.

MTA board members should heed the offer of Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, over fifty members of the State Assembly and numerous other elected officials, to work with the MTA to seek additional funding streams to address long term fiscal planning.

There may very well be a time when a fare increase is justified. With necessary expansion projects on the horizon, we obviously need to come up with addition sources of revenue. But when the MTA can come up with $220 million dollars almost overnight, it raises serious doubts over the severity of their projected deficits and whether or not they have a clear understanding of their own budget and potential State and City contributions.

Before New Yorkers dig deeper into their pockets, we need assurance that the MTA has explored every option.

Here are some more comments from other opponents of the proposed fare hikes:

Queens Democrat Councilman & Chairman of the Transportation Committee of the City Council John Liu had this to say:

The M.T.A. is once again out of touch with the public in this headlong rush to raise transit fares. In New York, we’re trying to get more commuters to use mass transit. However, all the ill-conceived M.T.A. talk of fare increases has in fact stirred up mounting opposition to the Mayor’s congestion mitigation proposal. Ultimately, it all boils down to the M.T.A.’s credibility and New Yorkers simply are not ready to pay the M.T.A. more now when there is a billion dollars of operating surplus, on top of which they recently found $220 million dollars of extra surplus.

There’s no need for any fare increase of any kind now. The M.T.A. needs to drop this arrogant effort to hike the fares and instead get down to the real business of running our mass transit system, of fixing stations, of terror-proofing the subways, of installing communications capabilities, and maintaining the storm drainage systems.

City Councilmember Simcha Felder:

I’m not surprised that the MTA has found a new way to rip us off by holding the base fare favored by tourists at $2, while raising every other fare, including the fares of the weekly and monthly unlimited passes. Hard working New Yorkers, who have to deal with crowded trains, delayed and intermittent service, and dirty subway stations every day should be the ones shielded most from fare hikes.

Gene Russianoff of the Straphangers Campaign:

I am very disappointed that Mayor Michael Bloomberg is supporting Governor Eliot Spitzer’s proposed fare hike for New York City subway and bus riders.

A fare hike now is the wrong choice for New York. It would hit many people who are struggling hard to make ends meet and hurt the region’s economy. We had hoped that Mayor Bloomberg would stand up for his constituents. Our hope was misplaced.

The struggle to win fairer state and city funding for transit continues. The Spitzer Administration should not propose a state budget filled with inadequate support and gimmicks for transit. The Straphangers Campaign will keep pressing the need for new aid to transit. We note:

* This fare hike will hit 86 percent of the riding public who use fare discounts. These include pay-per-ride bonus MetroCards and 7- and 30-day unlimited-ride passes. It’s also a double whammy for most L.I.R.R. and Metro-North commuters whose railroad fares would go up! The large majority of them also use city transit.

* Legislators should get a chance to end unfair transit funding. As a recent editorial said: “The city and state have unconscionably underfinanced mass transit for years, a legacy of Gov. George Pataki and Mayor Rudolph Giuliani. The formula for funding mass transportation should be changed before any fares are raised.”

* Metropolitan-area riders already pay more than their fair share. In 2005, riders paid 55 percent of the costs of running the subways and buses. Metro-North riders paid 51 percent and LIRR riders paid 47 percent. But riders in other cities pay much less. The national average for the top 50 transit systems is 37 percent. In Boston it is 29 percent, Chicago 43 percent and Philadelphia 37 percent.

The M.T.A.says the new fare hikes are “progressive.” In the absence of any demographic data to back up their claim, it is still a fare hike.

We do appreciate both the M.T.A.’s lowering of the threshold for getting a bonus on a pay-per-ride MetroCard. Riders will now get a smaller bonus (down from 20 percent to 15 percent), but for a lower dollar amount (would be $7, currently $10.) The real fare on discounted pay-per-ride would go up from $1.67 to $1.74.

We also support the creation of 14-day unlimited-ride MetroCards. For riders who can afford it, the 14-day card will give a greater discount than a 7-day card, but cost much less than a 30-day card (which would go from $76 to $81.)

As you can see many have come out sharply against all or part of the new fare & toll hike proposals by the MTA. Unfortunately though none of it will matter as the fare hike is now a stone cold lock. With Mayor Bloomberg officially siding with Elliot Spitzer & the MTA, the amount of votes needed to pass a fare hike are in their favor. I don’t think any amount of criticism will prevent the majority of riders, 86% in fact from receiving screwjobs for the holidays. What more could we want this holiday season? A special thanks to the MTA, Gov. Spitzer, & Mayor Bloomberg, we appreciate the screwjobs!

xoxo Transit Blogger

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As Usual With Anything The MTA Touches, The Online Seminar Fails

Unfortunately anything the MTA touches usually turns into a huge failure. Yesterday was no different as their heavily promoted “Public Engagement” online seminar was a huge failure. The online seminar which I signed up to participate in was not accessible to anyone. I have yet to read or speak to anyone who was able to access the seminar. The MTA sent out an e-mail to all of those who registered apologizing for the technical difficulties. Here is the actual e-mail that was sent out:

Dear Webinar Participant,

Thank you for taking the time to register for today’s fare and toll webinar. Unfortunately, we experienced some technological difficulties which created difficulty for some participants to view the slide presentations being given. For that we sincerely apologize.

Even though the technology didn’t work perfectly for us this first time, the webinar format and the extremely successful Public Engagement Workshop we held on November 17th, were noble experiments to expand our public outreach efforts. We learned a lot today and look forward to better employing the electronic element in the future.

The good news is that virtually everyone who signed on was able to hear the presenters and to submit questions. In fact, several hundred questions were asked by the hundreds of individuals who ultimately joined us. Since many were similar in nature, we will categorize them and post answers on the MTA website (www.mta.info) later this week, along with a complete copy of the presentations that were given.

We also encourage you to review the details of the current fare and toll proposals at www.mta.info and to submit comments on those proposals by e-mail or by writing us at 347 Madison Ave, NY, NY 10017, prior to the MTA Board’s deliberations on this matter on December 19th.

Again, thank you for joining us today.

Sincerely,

Elliot G. Sander
Executive Director
and Chief Executive Officer

Unfortunately for many of us, this e-mail was the closest we got to communicating with the MTA yesterday.

xoxo Transit Blogger

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A Way Too Generous Grade If You Ask Me


Uncoupled R trains laying up at the Parsons Boulevard station. Resized photo courtesy of Eye On Transit

The overall grade for the R train “Rider Report Card” grade is in & as usual we get another C-. However this grade was way too generous if you asked me. I am pretty sure there are a good number of others who would agree. Lets get straight to the breakdown before I offer my analysis.

Top 10 priorities that null train riders’ would like to see improvement on:

01. Reasonable wait times for trains
02. Minimal delays during trips
03. Station announcements that are easy to hear
04. Train announcements that are easy to hear
05. Cleanliness of stations
06. Adequate room on board at rush hour
07. Sense of security in stations
08. Sense of security on trains
09. Cleanliness of subway cars
10. Station announcements that are informative

Now here is the entire order of null train riders’ priorities:

01. Reasonable wait times for trains
02. Minimal delays during trips
03. Adequate room on board at rush hour
04. Station announcements that are easy to hear
05. Train announcements that are easy to hear
06. Cleanliness of stations
07. Cleanliness of subway cars
08. Sense of security in stations
09. Sense of security on trains
10. Station announcements that are informative
11. Train announcements that are informative
12. Working elevators and escalators in stations
13. Comfortable temperature in subway cars
14. Courtesy and helpfulness of station personnel
15. Lack of scratchitti in subway cars
16. Signs in stations that help riders find their way
17. Ease of use of subway turnstiles
18. Signs in subway cars that help riders find their way
19. Availability of MetroCard Vending Machines
20. Lack of graffiti in stations
21. Lack of graffiti in subway cars

Now here is the graded breakdown of all 21 categories:

Minimal delays during trips C-
Reasonable wait times for trains D+
Adequate room on board at rush hour C-
Sense of security in stations C
Sense of security on trains C
Working elevators and escalators in stations C-
Signs in stations that help riders find their way C
Signs in subway cars that help riders find their way C
Cleanliness of stations D+
Cleanliness of subway cars C-
Station announcements that are easy to hear D
Station announcements that are informative D
Train announcements that are easy to hear D
Train announcements that are informative D+
Lack of graffiti in stations C
Lack of graffiti in subway cars C
Lack of scratchitti in subway cars C-
Courtesy and helpfulness of station personnel C
Comfortable temperature in subway cars C
Ease of use of subway turnstiles C+
Availability of MetroCard Vending Machines B-

As I said, this grade was way too generous. While I feel the 7.821 riders accurately ordered the 3 top priorities, I feel they were generous in their grades. In my honest opinion, the R deserved a big fat F in the top 3 priority categories. While the D+ earned for “Reasonable wait times for trains” was close to a F, it failed to earn the grade it deserves. There is a good reason why many transit buffs & riders say the R stands for “rarely” as that describes the R train to a tee!

I have spent many times riding the R all over its long route between Forest Hills/71st Avenue & Bay Ridge/95 Street. Every time I have ridden that line with the exception of one time, I was waiting for at least 10 minutes for a R to arrive. The lone time was that infamous Saturday when I went to go see my friends The Pervs play at Matchless in Greenpoint. I shall refer to that commute as “The Miracle On Pervs St.” from now on! On that night, the longest wait I had on my 3 train ride was 5 minutes. As one would guess, the longest wait was for the R train!

The R is a line that is slow as molasses & unfortunately for the riders who depend on it, this is a feeling they are definitely used to dealing with. I feel the biggest problem that leads to delays on the R is the fact it shares trackage on just about every part of its long route between Forest Hills/71st Avenue & Bay Ridge/95 Street. The only part of the line where it can spread its wings is between the 59th Street & Bay Ridge/95th Street stations. Unfortunately by time the R gets to that portion of the line, it has usually been delayed beyond belief. This is what happens when you share trackage with the , , , & at some point along your route.

The “adequate room on board at rush hour” issue which seems to have order inconsistencies based on the information the MTA posted on their site clearly stems from the delays & wait times I just described. Many straphangers have the mentality that the train they see is the last one that will ever come so they must squeeze on even when there is no room for them. Now take that mentality & couple it with the typical performance of the R train & you can clearly understand why the line does not have “adequate room on board at rush hour”.

You know the R is bad when the only good grade it could get was the “free square B or B-” earned for the “Availability of Metrocard Vending Machines”. I will say that I was somewhat surprised by the amount of report cards received by the MTA for the R. However……

Realistically speaking the major issues the R faces are ones that do not have an easy fix. There is no band-aid solution for the R’s problems. You have a line trapped on trackage that is quite full to begin with coupled with being susceptible to any little delay on a few select lines & this is what you get! Unless additional trackage magically becomes available, look for the R to continue to under perform in the most important categories.

xoxo Transit Blogger

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Yawn…… Yet Another C-


Jamaica/179th St. bound F train departing the 2nd Avenue station. Resized photo courtesy of Eye On Transit

The grade for the partner in crime to the F train comes as no surprise to anyone who has been following the 2007 Rider Report Cards. The V train earned a C- from the 1,636 people who sent in their report cards. Lets go straight to the full breakdown shall we….

Top 10 priorities that null train riders’ would like to see improvement on:

01. Reasonable wait times for trains
02. Minimal delays during trips
03. Station announcements that are easy to hear
04. Adequate room on board at rush hour
05. Train announcements that are easy to hear
06. Cleanliness of stations
07. Station announcements that are informative
08. Cleanliness of subway cars
09. Sense of security in stations
10. Working elevators and escalators in stations

Now here is the entire order of null train riders’ priorities:

01. Reasonable wait times for trains
02. Minimal delays during trips
03. Station announcements that are easy to hear
04. Adequate room on board at rush hour
05. Train announcements that are easy to hear
06. Cleanliness of stations
07. Station announcements that are informative
08. Cleanliness of subway cars
09. Sense of security in stations
10. Working elevators and escalators in stations
11. Sense of security on trains
12. Comfortable temperature in subway cars
13. Train announcements that are informative
14. Courtesy and helpfulness of station personnel
15. Ease of use of subway turnstiles
16. Lack of scratchitti in subway cars
17. Availability of MetroCard Vending Machines
18. Signs in subway cars that help riders find their way
19. Signs in stations that help riders find their way
20. Lack of graffiti in stations
21. Lack of graffiti in subway cars

Now here is the graded breakdown of all 21 categories:

Minimal delays during trips C-
Reasonable wait times for trains C-
Adequate room on board at rush hour C
Sense of security in stations C
Sense of security on trains C
Working elevators and escalators in stations C-
Signs in stations that help riders find their way C
Signs in subway cars that help riders find their way C
Cleanliness of stations C-
Cleanliness of subway cars C-
Station announcements that are easy to hear D
Station announcements that are informative D+
Train announcements that are easy to hear D+
Train announcements that are informative D+
Lack of graffiti in stations C+
Lack of graffiti in subway cars C+
Lack of scratchitti in subway cars C-
Courtesy and helpfulness of station personnel C-
Comfortable temperature in subway cars C
Ease of use of subway turnstiles C+
Availability of MetroCard Vending Machines B

Personally I think this line got what I & many others expected it to get. In reality, it is hard to imagine a part time line that only runs during the week to score very high. I am sure it does not help that many see the V as being the evil choice that took away F service from the extremely busy 53rd Street corridor. Lets look at a few of these grades more closely.

Let me start with the #1 priority of “reasonable wait times for trains”. This priority ending up at #1 does not surprise me as when one waits for the V, you get the feeling the service is consistently sub par. I have had many adventures on the V & it seems to be one of many lines that seem to have riders waiting forever until the next one arrives. I usually tend to hop the V in Manhattan & when I just miss one, I expect to wait a minimum of 10 minutes for the next one to arrive. Depending on my location, I expect to see either multiple E or F trains to arrive before the next V.

The main issue I see with the V is the amount of trains per hour. One look at the V’s schedule which is so minuscule it shares the page with the F, shows that it usually only has 6 trains per hour excluding a couple of hours here & there. The most trains per hour you will see on the V is 9 which is accomplished 4 times a day, 2 times in each direction. The V has 9 trains per hour traveling to Lower East Side/2nd Avenue between the hours of 7 am – 8 am & 4 pm – 5 pm. The V has 9 trains per hour traveling to Forest Hills/71st Avenue between the hours of 8 am – 9 am & 5 pm – 6pm.

As far as delays are concerned, I have always noticed consistent delays in certain areas. From my experiences, I have noticed a lot of delays while traveling in Queens between the Steinway Street & 23rd Street/Ely Avenue stations as well as between Broadway/Lafayette Street & its terminal at Lower East Side/2nd Avenue. The delays while approaching the Lower East Side/2nd Avenue terminal are not shocking to me as one can usually expect delays when approaching terminals. However I think the delays in between the Steinway Street & 23rd Street/Ely Avenue stations need some attention.

I know I sound like a broken record but I will say this anyway. The amount of report cards received was way too low but maybe it matches the amount of people who use this line daily. I am used to seeing pretty empty V trains, what can I say! Also can the MTA remove the free B or B- square category for the “Availability of MetroCard machines”. The joke grade is getting old now!

When I think of the V, I can’t help but feel this line fails to live up to its potential. If the MTA felt the V was necessary, it sure needs to come up with a better terminal as Lower East Side/2nd Avenue is not going to cut it. While there are plans for the V to see life in Brooklyn full time in the near future, as opposed to emergency runs like this one, it sure can’t come fast enough!

I personally would love to see this line run later if not 24×7 as it could benefit many riders. I for one would definitely use the line if it was available after my many late nights/early mornings of hanging out with friends in the Lower East Side. The hopping of the F one stop to Broadway Lafayette to ride a downtown 6 to Brooklyn Bridge just to turn back around & head home got old real quick! I also am not thrilled with walking back to the Astor Place or Bleecker Street station after drinking as that seems to take forever even for a fast walker such as myself!

So in the end until changes can be made such as the completion of construction on the Gowanus Viaduct, the V will always be a line carrying around the dreaded “P” label known to many as “Potential”.

xoxo Transit Blogger

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Striphangers Spread Holiday Cheer In A Unique Way!

The L now stands for “lucky” & the N “nice” after 3 women transformed themselves from straphangers into striphangers! The story which was an exclusive to the New York Daily News goes like this. 3 women; Laura Lee Anderson, Marissa Lupp, & Jessica Wu have gone from unknowns to internet celebrities due to a video that is all the rage on the internet.

The 3 ladies decided to take a dare from DareJunkies.com promising $10,000 for the best pole dancing routine in public. They decided to just go for it since they admittedly were all broke, in between jobs & desperate for cash. So this past March the 3 ladies joined by their pal Isis Masoud took their routine along with their boom box blasting Prince’s “Erotic City” for the ride of their life.

The MTA was not thrilled about the ladies routine. Playing the role of the “party pooper” is NYC Transit spokesman Paul Fleuranges who issued this statement on behalf of the MTA New York City Transit:

The last thing we want is for anyone to turn our subways into roving burlesque stages for crude exhibitionists. While the rules don’t specifically state lap or pole dancing, what is depicted here is disorderly conduct.

Wow talk about having sour grapes! I admit that a pole routine is not really the type of activity that should be taking place in a subway. However there was no nudity involved & it was just a temporary shoot for a contest. If you are going to come down hard about this, why not come down just the same on the daily activities of panhandling, dangerous dance routines, & much more? I don’t see the snotty comment for those activities which are worse than harmless pole dancing!

In case you were wondering, the ladies did win the contest & are $10,000 richer. If you want to see the video, click here.
The facial reactions alone make it worth watching over & over!

xoxo Transit Blogger

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