New Features

As you may have noticed, I have made some changes to the site. Most changes were on the back end to make the site run better however one major change was done with readers in mind. As you may notice in the left sidebar, you have a list of every train in the system along with some information. The information you see is the latest scheduled diversions which cover every day of the week. The data will be updated every Friday.

Be on the look out for more features to be added soon that will make Transit Blogger your best place for all things mass transit!

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MTA CEO Paints A Grim Financial Picture

You are not seeing things folks, at the current pace, the MTA will have a budget gap of anywhere between $500 & $700 million dollars. This is up drastically from the $220 million dollar figure projected last December. The news came from MTA CEO Elliot G. Sander who was speaking at a hearing in Albany yesterday that was chaired by Assemblyman Richard Brodsky.

Some of the comments Mr. Sander shared during his speech are telling. Here are a couple of samples

If comments like these are not telling of the dire state of the MTA’s finances, I don’t know what is. As usual we got the usual lip service from Brodsky who chimed in by saying the MTA is in a “political fight” for what little money is available. He wants the agency to be more aggressive in seeking the funds it needs.

I am not one to defend the MTA but lets get real here, be more aggressive? The new regime has pretty much put their cards on the table about their financial situation. What else does Brodsky want? He is coming across as someone who wants to see someone grovel for what they need. Seriously, this is not the time for pettiness. While the MTA has made tons of mistakes, the only way we could see if the new leadership can move things from the status quo is to give them the money they need. So Brodsky, were you lying when you said all the MTA had to do was ask for the money they need or will you come through? The ball is clearly in your court, don’t turn it over!

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LIRR Last 2 Days = Not So Good……

The last two days would definitely qualify as bad ones for the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR). They first had to deal with a track fire during Tuesday evening’s rush hour that knocked out service on the Port Washington line between Hicksville & Huntington. This also caused delays on the Ronkonkoma line.

Yesterday was no better as a power outage interrupted service on the Far Rockaway line along with the . Here are the respective stories for each incident starting with Tuesday’s track fire courtesy of Newsday

Amid yesterday’s scorching heat, a Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) track fire in Hicksville suspended rush-hour train service on the railroad’s Port Jefferson line, the Hicksville Fire Department said.

A pile of wooden ties adjacent to the elevated tracks near Barclay Street and Woodbury Road began burning at about 6:30 p.m., said First Assistant Fire Chief Edward Korona.

The fire likely was ignited by sparks from a passing train, he said.

Firefighters, who could see the fire from the window of their department, waited for the railroad to confirm that service had been suspended, then raised a ladder truck bucket to extinguish the flames.

At 7 p.m., LIRR service was suspended in both directions on the Port Jefferson line between Hicksville and Huntington. Service was restored on one of two tracks at 7:35 p.m. and on the other at 7:50, said LIRR spokesman Sam Zambuto.

Trains were delayed by up to an hour on the Port Jefferson line and by 10 to 15 minutes on the Ronkonkoma line, the railroad said. Service was back on schedule by 9 p.m., Zambuto said.

Sporadic weather-related power outages continued in homes and business in the area yesterday. The Long Island Power Authority (LIPA) reported about 1,500 outages last night.

Metro-North Railroad said it was operating trains at reduced speeds because of the heat.

Outside Penn Station, Lisa Burke waited in a block-long taxi line rather than walk a half-mile to the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center.

“If it were more pleasant, I would walk,” said Burke, of Oyster Bay. “I want to arrive at my destination looking cool and composed.”

This story was supplemented with an Associated Press report.

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Service on the A train and along the Long Island Rail Road’s Far Rockaway branch has been restored after an earlier Long Island Power Authority power outage knocked out service to subways in the Rockaways and power to Long Island Rail Road signals, slowing several commuter trains running through that area.

At the height of the outage, more than 75,000 customers were without power, according to LIPA.

By 2:05 p.m., full power was restored to most of the affected areas, said Ed Dumas, LIPA’s vice president of communications. As of 4:20 p.m. about 80 outages remained.

As a result of the outages, the 1:05 p.m. LIRR train from Flatbush Avenue, scheduled to arrive in Far Rockaway at 2:03 p.m., was operating 20 minutes late. The 1:36 p.m. LIRR train from Far Rockaway, scheduled to arrive in Flatbush Avenue at 2:33 p.m., was operating 25 minutes late. Forty passengers were on the trains.

“LIPA experienced a transmission failure at a key substation in Valley Stream interrupting service to approximately 50,000 homes and businesses in Valley Stream, Cedarhurst, Inwood, Lawrence, Hewlett, Woodmere and the Rockaway Peninsula in Queens. Service crews were dispatched immediately”, read a notice posted on LIPA’s Web site.

On the subways, the MTA reported that because of a train with mechanical problems at the Broadway Junction station, Inwood-bound A trains were running local from the Euclid Avenue to Hoyt-Schermerhorn. Customers on the A should expect delays.

LIRR service through the Rockaways was back by 2:17 p.m. and subway service was restored around 2:42 p.m., according to the MTA’s Web site.

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PATH Service Restored

PATH commuters were able to breathe a sigh of relief yesterday as the morning commute went off without a hitch after service between 33rd Street and the Journal Square & Hoboken terminals was suspended for most of Tuesday due to a track fire between the Christopher and 9th Street stations . I spoke to a couple of friends who said getting home was a nightmare as it took over an hour longer because of the suspension.

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Free E-Z Pass Tags Cost MTA Millions

While I was relaxing in my house with the A/C blasting on Tuesday, I was reading the New York Daily News. While going through the paper, my eyes got drawn to pages 16 & 17 as there was an amazing color photo of a large bolt of lighting that came down between the Manhattan & Brooklyn bridges. I looked to the left of the photo & noticed a report from Pete Donohue on how free E-Z Pass tags cost the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) $14 million dollars a year. Here is the article courtesy of the New York Daily News

As straphangers face the possibility of higher fares and tolls, the MTA’s freebie E-ZPasses are costing the authority $14 million in lost revenues a year.

In March alone, cars and other vehicles with a free E-Z Pass made nearly 300,000 trips via Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) bridges and tunnels – amounting to approximately $1.2 million in uncollected tolls, MTA records show. Many of the trips were made by city employees, including on-duty police officers and firefighters.

The MTA is planning fare and toll hikes in 2010, but they could be put on the table for next year because of budget gaps. Given the MTA’s shortfall, fare hikes could come around next year – and Gene Russianoff of the Straphangers Campaign said the city should pony up some dough.

“The City of New York should reimburse the agency’s cost, as it now does in part for discounted fares for city students and senior citizens,” Russianoff said.

Toll revenues go toward maintenance and operating costs associated with MTA bridges and tunnels. They also help fund the bus, subway and commuter train network. Of the approximately 24,000 freebie tags issued or honored by the MTA, nearly 14,500 were distributed to city agencies.

The largest batches went to the police and fire departments. Smaller numbers went to sanitation, recreation and other city departments, records show.

The city Office of Emergency Management has 107 of the non revenue tags. The mayor’s office has 14 but is only using 10, spokesman Jason Post said. Those 10 are assigned to city cars for official business by senior staff, including deputy mayors, Post said.

For decades, the MTA has granted free passage to government agencies that “provide services directly to us … to save public money by avoiding the need for these agencies to budget public funds for tolls,” the MTA’s bridge and tunnel division said.

The MTA also has doled out more than 2,700 special free-travel passes good only on the Triborough Bridge approach to Randalls and Wards islands.

These limited freebies, given to city and state workers assigned to the islands, include 543 passes given to the city Parks and Recreation Department, 559 to the Fire Academy and 493 to the Department of Environmental Protection. Two state mental health facilities have 859 tags.

City Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe said those assigned to the East River outposts have few options.

“There is no subway line,” he said. “Bus service is infrequent. They are almost forced to drive.”

The department provides a shuttle bus over the bridge to a Manhattan subway line on a very limited basis, Benepe said.

Does it really surprise anyone that the MTA has lost millions due to idiotic practices? I am not the least bit surprised as it has been a staple of the MTA since day one. They seriously need to find a way to accurately determine who deserves a free E-Z Pass tag & monitor the use of it. It is common knowledge that these tags are being used outside of the confines of official business trips. If the agency would shore up such revenue holes like this, they could start to fix the financial woes they are in.

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