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.

xoxo Transit Blogger

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MTA Names New Capital Construction Company President

Earlier this week I received a press release from the MTA to announce the hiring of a new Capital Construction Company President. Here is that press release:

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) today announced that Michael Horodniceanu had been appointed President of the MTA Capital Construction Company, effective today. Dr. Horodniceanu succeeds Mysore Nagaraja, who served from the founding of MTA Capital Construction in 2003 through the end of January. Veronique “Ronnie” Hakim had served as Acting President since Mr. Nagaraja’s departure.

Dr. Horodniceanu was the CEO of The Urbitran Group between 1980 and 1986, and again from 1990 until this month. Urbitran, which was acquired by DMJM Harris/AECOM this month, was a New York City-based engineering firm. Under his leadership, the company extended its reach beyond its core expertise of transportation planning into architectural, engineering, planning and construction management services; it grew from a firm employing 70 people with revenues of $6.5 million in 1990 into a 200-person multidisciplinary organization with annual revenues exceeding $36 million.

Between 1986 and 1990, Dr. Horodniceanu served as Traffic Commissioner for the City of New York, overseeing a $4 billion capital construction program and managing the largest parking system in the United States with more than 75,000 spaces.

“Michael has the experience and vision to lead the MTA Capital Construction Company at a time when the need for our transportation megaprojects is clear,” said Elliot G. Sander, the Executive Director and CEO of the MTA. “Our Blue-Ribbon Panel on Construction Excellence looked at how to complete construction projects on time and within budget during a time of rising commodity prices, local labor shortages and a weak dollar. Michael’s extensive experience, vision and innovative outlook will enable us to implement the ideas the panel generated. He will take over from the very capable Ronnie Hakim, who did a terrific job leading the agency through this period of transition.”

“I am pleased and honored to be joining the MTA at a time when attention is focused more than ever on the importance of mass transit infrastructure,” Dr. Horodniceanu said. “Challenging times will demand innovative solutions, and I look forward to working with the excellent team at Capital Construction to get the job done.”

Dr. Horodniceanu earned a Ph.D. in Transportation Planning & Engineering from Polytechnic University of New York, a Master’s in Engineering Management from Columbia University and a Bachelor’s in Civil Engineering from the Israel Institute of Technology. He serves on the boards of the New York Transit Museum, Polytechnic Institute of New York’s Department of Civil Engineering, and the Community Service Society of New York.

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Kew Gardens Union Turnpike Station Now ADA Compliant

Station sign at the Kew Gardens-Union Turnpike station in Queens
Station sign at the Kew Gardens-Union Turnpike station in Queens. Resized photo courtesy of

A few days ago the MTA issued a press release to highlight the 67th station out of 468 in the NYC Subway to become ADA Compliant. The 67th station is the Kew Gardens-Union Turnpike stop on the NYC Subway E Train & NYC Subway F Train. Here are the details:

MTA NYC Transit announces the opening of three new Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) elevators at the Kew Gardens-Union Turnpike station bringing the number of ADA accessible stations to 67. With the completion of this project, Transit has met its commitment to have 67 accessible stations available for use by 2010 two years early. On hand for the ribbon-cutting ceremony were MTA Executive Director and CEO Elliot G. Sander, MTA NYC Transit President Howard H. Roberts, Jr., Queens Borough President Helen Marshall and several local elected officials.

“We are proud to be two years ahead of the schedule that we had set in 1994 to create 67 stations that are accessible to everyone, said Elliot G. Sander, MTA Executive Director and CEO. “This is the third ribbon-cutting ceremony that we have held in the last month. It is a pleasure to be able to complete so many important projects thanks to the strong support of elected officials throughout the region.”

The street elevator headhouse is located on the southeast corner of Union Turnpike and Kew Gardens Road, just south of Queens Boulevard. Now customers with disabilities can take advantage of the new elevators: one providing access between the street and the mezzanine level and two connecting the mezzanine and platforms.

The Kew Gardens-Union Turnpike station is the fifth busiest station in Queens with an average weekday ridership count of 27,658 as of March 2008. Originally opened in December 1936, the station is a major transfer point to bus lines providing access to destinations such as JFK International Airport, North Shore/Long Island Jewish Hospital Medical Center, St. John’s University, numerous parks and other educational facilities.

The $13.9 million station renovation project which began in July 2006 also included other improvements including: accessible station booth windows, handrails, graphics, public telephones, platform warning strips and the minimization of platform edge gaps. So far, this year, 11 ADA elevators have been opened in six stations. Three more elevators are planned for completion at additional one station later this year. These accessibility improvements were funded through the MTA Capital Plan.

“We want to operate a first-class subway system for everyone and each station that we are able to bring into compliance with the ADA brings us closer to that goal,” said NYC Transit President Howard H. Roberts, Jr. “From my initial days as president of NYC Transit, it has been one of my goals to make substantial improvements in system accessibility.”

As with other ADA elevators in the system, these new elevators have been equipped with closed-circuit televisions and talk-back intercom systems which will allow users to communicate directly with the station agent’s booth and Station Command in case of an emergency. In addition, these elevators are included in NYC Transit’s lift-net monitoring system that alerts technicians immediately should the elevator should breakdown. With real time information, repairs crews can be dispatched sooner, ensuring a much faster response to incidents and the subsequent repairs.

In addition to Borough President Helen Marshall, attendees included State Senator Shirley L. Huntley, Assembly Member Andrew Hevesi, Assembly Member Nettie Mayersohn, Council Member Melinda Katz and Council Member James Gennaro.

As I said earlier this month, “I look forward to the day when all 468 stations are ADA Compliant as that is something that should have been done by now!”

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