Service Diversions 08-01

I have just updated the service diversions page with the latest scheduled diversions for this weekend plus next week (and beyond in some cases). Don’t forget to check in for any changes to the page. I also suggest printing out a copy of the page to use while riding the system.

xoxo Transit Blogger

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Future LIRR Service Diversions

Earlier this afternoon I received a press release from the LIRR about a major service diversion coming up this month. The diversion will have buses replace trains between Mineola & Jamaica on 5 LIRR branches due to work on the Queens Interlocking Project. Here are the complete details:

Long Island Rail Road President Helena Williams today reminded customers who use the LIRR’s Main Line branches that buses would replace train service between Mineola and Jamaica on Saturday, August 23 and Sunday, August 24, 2008.

The 48-hour shutdown is necessary to allow LIRR workers to complete a major signal upgrade as the Queens Interlocking Switch & Signal Improvement Project nears completion. The service suspension will affect customers on the Huntington/Port Jefferson, Ronkonkoma, Hempstead and Oyster Bay Branches.

“This is the final phase of an important project that would have not been possible without the cooperation of customers all summer long,” said Williams. “We have tried very hard to minimize the impact, but on the August 23-24 weekend it is particularly important for LIRR customers to be aware of what’s happening. We want everyone who plans to ride the Railroad that weekend to be ready to adjust their travel plans accordingly.”

Customers are urged to pick up special weekend timetables for their branch and plan for 30-45 minutes of additional travel time. In addition to the shutdown between Mineola and Jamaica, other trains will be rerouted, connection times will change and schedules for most branches will be altered. To avoid lengthy delays, weekend travelers should make their way to the South Shore and use the Babylon, Far Rockaway, Long Beach, Montauk and West Hempstead Branches.

The Queens Interlocking project is a $60,4 million modernization program bringing state-of-the-art technology to an important LIRR switching point (between Queens Village and Bellerose) where the busy Main Line and Hempstead Branch merge. Work began on Monday, June 16 and is scheduled for completion on Monday, September 1.

Workers have been replacing the current signal system with microprocessor technology and reconfiguring the track to include high-speed crossover switches.

“This project will benefit our customers by providing a smoother and faster ride over the crossovers, and a reduction in maintenance-related track outages at a heavily traveled section of the Railroad,” said Williams.

Here is summary of the service changes planned:

Ronkonkoma Branch:

• During early morning hours, westbound Ronkonkoma branch customers will transfer at Mineola for bus service to Jamaica where they will transfer back to trains for the remainder of their trip. Eastbound Ronkonkoma branch customers during the early morning hours will transfer at Jamaica for bus service to Mineola where they will transfer back to train service for the remainder of their trip.

• Between the hours of 7:00 AM and 12:00 AM, customers traveling on the Ronkonkoma branch will have direct service to and from Penn Station using Dual Mode engines re-routed using the Central branch and Babylon branch to and from western terminals for all stations except Bethpage.
Bethpage customers will travel by bus to Hicksville and transfer to train service to Mineola. Customers will continue their trip by bus to Jamaica and transfer back to train service for western terminals.

East of Ronkonkoma Service:

Buses will replace trains for stations Medford, Yaphank, Riverhead, Mattituck, Southold and Greenport.

Huntington/Port Jefferson Branch:

Eastbound trains will operate to Jamaica where customers will transfer for buses to Mineola. Customers will transfer back to train service at Mineola for the remainder of their trip. Westbound customers will transfer at Mineola for bus service to Jamaica where they will transfer back to train service for western terminals. Port Jefferson branch stations will be serviced on two-hour intervals throughout the weekend program.

Oyster Bay Branch:

Eastbound Oyster Bay customers will transfer at Jamaica for bus service to Mineola where they will transfer back to train service for all stations on the Oyster Bay branch. Westbound Oyster Bay trains will terminate at Mineola where customers will transfer to buses to Jamaica. Customers will transfer back to train service at Jamaica for western terminals.

Hempstead Branch:

There will be no train service for Hempstead branch customers between Jamaica and Hempstead. Eastbound customers will transfer to buses at Jamaica for stations Hollis through Hempstead. Westbound customers will board buses at their stations for service to Jamaica where they will transfer to train service for western terminals.

For additional travel information, customers can contact the LIRR’s 24-hour Travel Information Center in Suffolk County at 631-231-LIRR, in Nassau County at 516-822-LIRR or in New York City at 718-217-LIRR. The Travel Information Center’s TDD telephone number for the hearing impaired is 718-558-3022. Customers can also consult the LIRR’s website at www.mta.info.

I would advise printing out this entry for future use. However I will post a reminder as the dates draw closer.

xoxo Transit Blogger

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MTA Website Adds 9 Language Translation Services

Earlier today I received a press release talking about the MTA’s website adding translation services for 9 new languages. Here are the complete details:

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) today announced that it had upgraded its website translation service, adding nine new languages to the list of 14 that were already available, and featuring a new pop-up window that allows users to suggest better translations. The new languages are Bulgarian, Croatian, Czech, Danish, Finnish, Hindi, Norwegian, Polish and Romanian. The MTA’s web pages continue to be available in Arabic, Chinese Simplified, Chinese Traditional, Dutch, French, German, Greek, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish and Swedish.

The change comes as part of the MTA’s switch to Google Translations, which will result in improvements to the way web users get translations. The new service will allow users to see the original English text as they read and suggest improvements to the translations.

The new translation service is accessed via left-hand navigation panel of all MTA web pages. To get a translation, simply click on the drop-down menu that says “Select Language” and 23 foreign languages appear. The number of languages available is expected to grow as Google expands its service. The drop-down menu replaces the 14 icons of national flags that formerly appeared at the bottom of MTA web pages.

“This improved translation service furthers the MTA’s goals of breaking down boundaries and improving customer service while at the same time reducing our expenses,” said Elliot G. Sander, the Executive Director and CEO of the MTA. “Our website now more accurately reflects the wide variety of languages spoken by our customers, and it will help more visitors to understand our system before they arrive.”

Google Translations is a service provided to any Website free of charge. The MTA does not pay a fee to include it in its web pages.

xoxo Transit Blogger

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MetroCard Vending Machines Fail

So earlier this week while browsing the transit blogosphere, I read on Subway Blogger how the MetroCard Vending Machine’s (MVM) ability to take electronic payments crashed. One would figure that the problem would be taken care of quickly but not so as it continued into the next day. Days after the MTA decided to issue a press release about the entire fiasco:

During three separate rush periods (Monday a.m. and p.m., and Tuesday a.m.), MTA New York City Transit’s MetroCard Vending Machines (MVMs) and MetroCard Express Machines (MEMs) had difficulty processing credit-and debit-card sales transactions, inconveniencing thousands of our customers. As customer usage increased, it took an increased period of time to receive authorizations for card usage from our bank. In such cases, the machines are programmed to cancel the transaction after too much time has elapsed without authorization.

After an investigation, it was discovered that one of the encryption devices was not operating. The devices are required by Credit Card Industry security protocols and are necessary to process transactions. The one functioning device could not handle the load during peak usage periods.

Normally the system is served by at least two encrypters (sometimes three). In this case, however, our monitoring system told us that two were active when in fact only one of them was working. This “false positive” was the main reason why it took so long to identify the cause.

Following Tuesday’s a.m. rush period, when this issue was identified, another device was activated to distribute the workload and, as we expected, the change corrected the “time out” issues encountered over those three rush hours.

To eliminate a recurrence of this issue, we have requested that the contractor who provides the interface from the MTA data center to the bank that authorizes credit-and-debit-card transactions investigate the addition of a triggering feature that will display a warning message when only one encryption device is active. This will allow NYC Transit to take immediate action to prevent possible future outages.

It should be noted that on Wednesday, with the problem corrected, we processed 211,000 credit/debit purchase requests at MVM’s (about 20,000 above the normal figure) and successfully processed 99.98% of them. Only 35 attempted transactions didn’t succeed, and only 14 of those “timed out.”

Things like this are bound to happen as that is the price we pay when dealing with technology. I however would be worried as this is something that has happened before within the system albeit on the Long Island Rail Road. I have always heard it is good to carry a card in case of an emergency. I’m inclined to think the opposite as it is good to have cash on you in case something like this happens. Imagine how people who only had what was on their card to depend on for traveling felt when they were screwed. They seriously need to find a way to issue temporary credits or cards in case of such an emergency in the future.

xoxo Transit Blogger

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191st Street 1 Train Station Tunnel Closed

I’m sorry for not posting this sooner. MTA’s New York City Transit issued a press release to announce the temporary closure of the 191st Street 1 train station tunnel. The first closure occurred on Wednesday but two more days are scheduled. Here is the press release:

New York City Department of Transportation is closing the 1 191st Street station pedestrian tunnel to Broadway for cleaning, maintenance and renewal work. The tunnel will be unavailable for use from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Wednesday, July 30. It will also be closed on Thursday and Friday, August 14 and 15 and Wednesday, August 20. The hours of closure on those days have yet to be determined.

This tunnel is not the property of MTA NYC Transit, but is used by NYC Transit customers to reach the 1 subway from Broadway, as well as by pedestrians using the elevators to St. Nicholas Avenue. While the passageway is closed, access to and from the 191st Street station will be from St. Nicholas Avenue only.

Exiting the station, customers headed for Broadway should walk north on St. Nicholas Avenue, then downhill on Fairview Avenue from Fort George Hill. Customers may also transfer from the 1 to the A at 168th Street, take the A to 190th Street and exit to Bennett Avenue.

Customers entering the station from Broadway may walk uphill on Fairview Avenue to Fort George Hill, then south on St. Nicholas Avenue to the station, or use the 190th Street A station entrance on Bennett Avenue (north of 192nd Street), transferring from the A to the 1 at 168th Street.

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