A Must Read Editorial

Earlier this morning I finally got a few minutes to read a little of the New York Times. As I normally would do, I went to the back of the main section to check out the editorials & I’m glad I did. Today’s edition of the paper contained a must read editorial about the financial state & reality of our city’s transit system. While I am not thrilled with the mention of many’s favorite fallback crutch congestion pricing, it does accurately paint the dire situation our system is currently in.

New York City’s mass-transit system is deteriorating and desperately underfunded. The politicians know this, but they are still providing far too little in the way of financing. The result is that the system’s users, many of them already suffering from tough economic times, could be stuck with the bill.

Neither the city nor the state is paying its fair share, despite what they claim. With the Metropolitan Transportation Authority facing a budget gap of nearly $1 billion next year, direct subsidies from both governments last year totaled about $600 million, not much more than what they were a decade ago, according to the nonpartisan Independent Budget Office. Adjusted for inflation, subsidies have actually declined, saddling riders with an ever-increasing burden.

The main problem is that New York’s state legislators have failed to put a dependable source of financing — like congestion pricing — in place. Transit has been forced to rely on fluctuating taxes from real estate and other sources and, increasingly, rising fares.

Click here for the complete editorial.

The person who wrote this editorial is spot on with the financial state of our transit system. It is great when politicians call out the MTA for their ridiculous practices or decisions. However if they truly wanted to better our system, they would stop putting all the blame on the MTA & do two things. The first thing would be to admit their role in the situation that caused the MTA to be where it is today. Lastly they would actually step up to the plate & put an end to the financial shortchanging of the MTA year after year. Until these politicians are ready to complete both steps, the history of putting the burden on riders will only help but continue on.

xoxo Transit Blogger

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A Closer Look At The Double-Decker Buses

On Friday evening I posted an entry to let people know of the MTA’s photo/press opportunity this morning to announce a 35 day test run of double-decker buses in passenger service . April Dembosky of the New York Times’ City Room blog brings us more on today’s proceedings:

New York City Transit officials unveiled a new behemoth double-decker bus today that will cruise city streets in a 30-day trial run. Not since 1953 have the two-story vehicles carried nontourist passengers.

The 13-foot-tall, 45-foot-long, 81-seat bus will alternate service on local and express bus routes: BxM3 from Yonkers to Manhattan, the X17J between Staten Island and Manhattan, the M15 limited on First and Second Avenues, and possibly the M5 along Fifth Avenue (if the tree pruning along the bus lane goes well).

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority plans to talk with the driver and passengers to gauge how the bus handles in city traffic and how customers react.

“This is not just a show,” Howard H. Roberts Jr., president of New York City Transit, said at a news conference on Monday. “It’s not a movement to titillate the public.”

The agency, a unit of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, is considering bringing back the double-decker bus in light of increased ridership and the mounting cost of gas, said Elliot G. Sander, director and chief executive of the M.T.A.

Click here for the complete report.

I noticed one of the routes being used on the test is the M5. The route is not heavily used & would seem to be a waste as far as test use is concerned. I would think they would want to test it out on routes with decent ridership to get a real gauge as to their effectiveness & potential full time use throughout the city.

xoxo Transit Blogger

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Some Just Don’t Know How To Let Go

Back in mid-late June, the biggest story in & around the MTA was “PerkGate”. This scandal came about after a great Daily News exposé which alerted the masses how MTA Board members were abusing perks such as Free E-Z Pass tags, MetroCards, Railroad Passes, etc….. The MTA put up an initial resistance to eliminate the perks after New York State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo came calling. However their resistance was short lived & they voted to revoke the free travel perks. The last piece of responsibility was for board members to turn in their respective tags, passes, & such. However according to New York Daily News transit reporter Pete Donohue, only 80% of them have:

Former MTA honchos kept one in five lifetime passes that the agency recalled after a Daily News exposé – and their electronic freebies will be switched off within days.

Ex-Metropolitan Transit Authority big shots still have three free E-Z Passes, 10 MetroCards and at least 16 suburban rail passes more than two months after they were told to hand in a total of 143 perks, officials said.

“Our former board members have been very cooperative, and we expect to have all of the passes returned shortly,” MTA spokesman Jeremy Soffin said.

Soffin refused to name those who failed to return the passes and said some of them may not know about the recall because of summer vacations.

He noted that nearly 80% of the passes were returned.

The agency plans to pull the plug on the E-Z Passes and MetroCards by the end of the week, meaning some of the ex-bosses may find themselves stuck at bridge toll gates or subway turnstiles, officials said.

Click here for the full report.

It is ridiculous that it has taken them this long to turn them in. I’m sure we will hear the excuses such as vacations & such but that does not fly with me. If you couldn’t turn them in, have an associate do do. Should I believe that every possible person who could have turned them in was on vacation at the same time? Highly unlikely………

xoxo Transit Blogger

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LIRR Adjusts Shea Stadium Extra Service

As I posted yesterday morning, the LIRR announced extra service for riders attending the rescheduled Mets game tomorrow. However due to the remnants of Tropical Storm Hanna, today’s New York Mets game was postponed. The remnants also caused a suspension of play at The U.S. Open. The LIRR has just e-mailed me a press release with new information on the adjusted Shea Stadium service along with extensions of U.S. Open service for Monday:

The MTA Long Island Rail Road will adjust its schedules for Shea Stadium train service this Sunday, September 7 and Monday, September 8, due to the postponements of Saturday’s (September 6) Mets game and the U.S. Tennis Open matches because of Tropical Storm Hanna. The LIRR will provide its regular additional afternoon service to Shea Stadium Station for the re-scheduled Mets 2:15 PM game start on Sunday and extend its U.S. Tennis Open additional service to Shea Stadium Station through Monday, September 8. The previously announced additional service for the Sunday 8:05 PM Mets game at Shea Stadium will continue.

Following are the adjusted Shea Stadium Station train schedules:

Sunday, September 7 Mets Game start at 2:15 PM

Port Washington Branch:

Eastbound: Trains leaving Penn Station half-hourly between 10:19 AM and
7:19 PM. In addition, an extra train leaves Penn Station at 12:59 PM.
Westbound: Trains leaving Port Washington half-hourly between 10:10 AM and
7:40 PM. In addition, an extra train departs Great Neck at 12:59 PM.

The following Main Line trains will have added stops at Woodside for 2:15 PM game:
Eastbound: 6:09 PM, 6:37 PM, 6:46 PM, and 7:09 PM trains from Penn Station.
Westbound: 11:01 AM from Huntington, 11:26 AM from Long Beach, 12:01 AM from Huntington, 12:26 PM from Long Beach.

Sunday, September 7 Mets Game start at 8:05 PM

Port Washington Branch:

Eastbound: Trains leaving Penn Station at 4:49 PM, 5:19 PM, 5:49 PM,
6:19 PM, 6:49 PM, 6:53 PM, 7:19 PM, 7:49 PM, 8:19 PM, 8:49 PM, 9:19 PM,
9:49 PM, 10:19 PM, 10:49 PM, 11:19 PM, 12:19 AM and 1:19 AM.

Westbound: Trains leaving Port Washington at 4:40 PM, 5:10 PM, 5:40 PM, 6:10 PM, 6:40 PM, 6:58 PM (from Great Neck), 7:10 PM, 7:40 PM, 8:10 PM, 8:40 PM, 9:10 PM, 9:40 PM, 10:10 PM, 10:40 PM, 11:40 PM, 12:40 AM and 1:39 AM.

The following Main Line trains will have added Woodside stops for this game:

Eastbound: 11:30 PM, 12:14 AM, 12:50 AM and 1:11 AM trains from Penn Station.
Westbound: 4:01 PM from Huntington, 4:26 PM from Long Beach, 5:01 PM from Huntington, 5:26 PM from Long Beach, 6:01 PM from Huntington, 6:25 PM from Babylon and 6:26 PM from Long Beach.

US Tennis Open Monday, September 8:

Eastbound: Trains departing Penn Station approximately every half-hour from
8:21 AM through the completion of the event.

Westbound: Trains departing Port Washington every hour from 9:40 AM through
2:24 PM and then at 3:10 PM, 3:40 PM, 4:06 PM, 4:36 PM, 5:00 PM, 5:23 PM and
6:24 PM and then every half-hour through the completion of the event. Trains departing Great Neck at 8:58 AM, 9:32 AM, and then hourly from 11:04 AM until 3:04 PM and then 5:54 PM, 6:20 PM and 6:44 PM.

Customers traveling from branches other than Port Washington can reach Shea Stadium by taking a regularly scheduled train to Woodside Station, then changing to an eastbound Port Washington Branch train. Since Shea Stadium is located in Zone 1, tickets to that zone from outlying stations are valid to Shea. However, passengers must retain their ticket stubs and inform ticket collectors of their intention to travel to Shea Stadium. Customers must hold onto their tickets, which will be collected at the Shea station after they disembark. CityTicket is not valid to Shea Stadium Station.

xoxo Transit Blogger

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Local Bus Rider Report Card Results

Last night NYC Transit e-mailed me the local bus rider report card results. I wanted to bring it to you last night but I could do not due to a request not to do so until today. Anyhow here they are now for you to go over. Lets first look at the release that came with the results:

Last March, Local Bus Rider Report Cards were distributed along Staten Island bus routes and since then customers throughout the five boroughs have been asked their opinions. MTA New York City Transit local bus customers have responded to the most recent inquiry into customer satisfaction with their transit services by issuing a grade of C-minus.
Citywide, local bus customers accepted approximately 243,500 cards, returning 19,456, a mail-back response rate of 8.0%. There were also 2,653 votes cast via the Internet for a total of 22,109 customer responses.
Local bus customers were asked to rate various aspects of service such as “Reasonable wait times between buses,” “Seat availability,” “Smooth handling of bus,” “Courtesy of bus operators and dispatchers,” and “Reliability of wheelchair lifts.”

Riders were asked to mark the routes they ride, and then provide a letter grade – A through F or G for “not observed” – for each of the 20 different service attributes listed, as well as a grade for the overall performance of the route. Issued in a self mailer, Rider Report Cards were handed out at key bus stop locations during the morning rush periods.

Systemwide, customers rated local bus service an average of C-minus. Manhattan was the only borough that rated higher with a C.

“These Rider Report Cards have been shown to be an effective tool in gauging how our customers feel about the service we provide and then being able to accurately measure our improvement,” said NYC Transit President Howard H. Roberts, Jr. “We have already begun to make improvements to our bus services with the introduction of Select Bus Service (SBS), new technology and increased attention to cleaning and maintenance, but we realize that we have more to do.”

Customers rated “Smooth handling of bus” C throughout the system. Manhattan customers, however, gave this subject a grade of C-plus. “Courtesy of bus operators” was graded C-plus system-wide with Manhattan, the Bronx, Brooklyn and Staten Island earning grades of C-plus while Queens bus riders rated this category a C. “Cleanliness of buses” was rated a C system-wide, with Manhattan earning a C-plus, the Bronx and Brooklyn with C-minus, Queens earning a C and Staten Island a D-plus.

When asked what their priorities for improvement are, customers system-wide voted “Reasonable wait time between buses” at the top spot. “Bus operates according to schedule” was the second highest priority. In both instances, the customer response was consistent across all boroughs.

The third top rated priority was “Seat availability.” This was the third highest priority in every borough except the Bronx and Staten Island, where it was ranked fourth. The fourth highest priority or local bus customers citywide is “Cleanliness of buses,” though Bronx and Staten Island customers rated it as high as third. Brooklyn bus riders saw “cleanliness” as their fourth highest priority while Manhattan and Queens ranked it fifth.

“Current schedule information” rounded out the top five customer priorities with Bronx, Brooklyn and Staten Island customers ranking it fifth while Manhattan and Queens local bus customers saw it as the fourth most important issue in need of improvement.

The top 3 requested improvements were:

Reasonable wait times between buses
Bus operates according to schedule
Seat availability

Here is the complete list of categories with grades earned systemwide & for each borough individually. Please note you will see 5 grades next to each category & the grades will be in this order:

Systemwide / Manhattan / Bronx / Queens / Brooklyn / Staten Island:

Reasonable wait times between buses D D+ D+ D D D+

Seat availability C- C C- C- C- C-

Smooth handling of buses C C+ C C C C

Clarity of bus destination sign C+ B- C+ C+ C+ C+

Current schedule information at bus stop C- C C D+ C- C

Bus operates according to schedule D D D+ D D D+

Cleanliness of buses C C+ C- C C- D+

Lack of graffiti on buses B- B C+ B- B- C

Lack of scratchitti on buses C+ B- C+ C+ C+ C-

Courtesy of bus operators C+ C+ C+ C C+ C+

Courtesy of bus dispatchers C C+ C C C C

Comfortable temperature in buses C+ C+ C C C+ C

Ease of paying your fare B- B B- B- B- B –

Bus announcements routinely made C- C C- C- C- C-

Bus announcements that are informative C- C C- C- C C –

Reliability of kneeling buses C+ B- C+ C+ C+ C+

Reliability of wheelchair lifts B- B- B- C+ C+ C+

Bus personnel properly secure wheelchairs B- B- B- B- B- B –

Overall performance C- C C- C- C- C-

Now here are the priorities of riders ranked system wide & individually by borough. Please note the number next to the priority is the overall ranking from 1-18 with 1 being the highest & 18 being the lowest for the respective borough or overall system wide. The categories will be in this order:

Systemwide / Manhattan / Bronx / Queens / Brooklyn / Staten Island:

Reasonable wait times between buses 1 1 1 1 1 1

Seat availability 3 3 4 3 3 4

Smooth handling of buses 7 8 8 7 7 6

Clarity of bus destination sign 10 13 11 10 10 8

Current schedule information at bus stop 5 4 5 4 5 5

Bus operates according to schedule 2 2 2 2 2 2

Cleanliness of buses 4 5 3 5 4 3

Lack of graffiti on buses 15 16 13 16 15 13

Lack of scratchitti on buses 16 15 15 15 16 18

Courtesy of bus operators 6 6 6 6 6 7

Courtesy of bus dispatchers 13 14 14 13 13 11

Comfortable temperature in buses 8 7 7 8 9 9

Ease of paying your fare 14 11 12 14 14 11

Bus announcements routinely made 9 9 9 9 8 10

Bus announcements that are informative 11 10 10 11 12 14

Reliability of kneeling buses 12 12 16 12 11 16

Reliability of wheelchair lifts 18 18 18 18 17 15

Bus personnel properly secure wheelchairs 17 17 17 17 18 17

I am not surprised by the results to these report cards. The top 3 overall priorities are interchangeable as the most important priority to riders. I do find it a tad curious how Manhattan was the only borough to score a B or higher for readable destination signs.

I wish the results could have been broken down by individual lines as it is hard to really give a review from an overall basis since things vary greatly from line to line. I am curious how the Bx12 will grade out the next time with Select Bus Service being in the mix.

Overall bus service can use some major improvements & bus rapid transit is just one of the many options that should be looked into. Either way you slice it, improved bus service is needed & would benefit millions of riders. So lets get to it!

xoxo Transit Blogger

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