Fulton Transit Center Facing Major Financial Issues

The Fulton Transit Center which is known as the centerpiece for Lower Manhattan’s revival from 9/11 continues to face major financial issues. During a MTA meeting, board member Nancy Shevell said the agency would require serious “soul searching” if it wanted to keep the estimated $888 million dollar work tab from expanding out of control. Patrick Arden of Metro wrote a brief article about the situation:

MIDTOWN. Hailed as a centerpiece of Lower Manhattan’s revival after 9/11, the Fulton Street Transit Center has seen its price tag jump $138 million since 2004.

At an MTA meeting this week, board member Nancy Shevell warned some serious “soul-searching” would be required to keep the estimated $888 million tab from growing.

That cost is already $41 million higher than the federal funds allotted for the project. Working against rising real estate prices, historic preservation laws and strict demolition procedures mandated for buildings around Ground Zero, the MTA’s chief of capital construction, Mysore Nagaraja, has whittled away at the station’s size, most notably in the glass dome once meant to bring sunlight to subway platforms. A proposal to do away with one passageway connecting the R/W to the E was defeated by board members almost a year ago.

Shevell said tough choices will be discussed at the next construction meeting in January, but she would not be specific. In the East Side Access project, Nagaraja faced a lack of bidders. “The market is still very tight right now, ” he said of a contract that was 8.5 percent higher than expected.

Relief

When it’s complete in late 2009, the Fulton Street Transit Center will ease connections among the , , , , , , , , , , , , & subway lines.

Lets just say the MTA is in a huge pickle with this one. The project as noted is already $41 million dollars over the federal funds alloted for the project. Now mix in the fact that the construction is so far along, it isn’t something that can be abandoned or severely altered & you can see what kind of jam the MTA is in. Lets hope they fix this as this project has a lot of positives going for it.

xoxo Transit Blogger

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Ulterior Motives?

While the proposed service improvements should improve service for many riders, one has to ask why the delay in implementing the possible changes? Well it seems the answer lies with Mayor Bloomberg as he is made out to be the culprit behind the delay of the possible service improvements. Patrick Arden of Metro wrote this article about the situation:

MIDTOWN. The MTA’s Finance Committee approved next year’s proposed fare hike yesterday, and the authority’s full board is expected to seal the deal tomorrow.

But just before the vote, NYC Transit unveiled a list of 32 “service enhancements,” involving 10 subway lines, 31 bus routes and four high-traffic stations. The proposed improvements — the first for subway service in four years — would acknowledge the system’s ridership is at a 35-year high.

MTA boss Elliot Sander had budgeted an annual $60 million worth of service improvements to arrive at the same time as the fare hike. Yet now the fate of these improvements is uncertain, as delayed implementation dates extend from June to December of next year.

While the debate over the MTA’s finances has focused on wringing money from Albany, this push-back came from City Hall, when Mayor Michael Bloomberg decided to support the fare hike.

In a statement, Bloomberg made clear he had asked “that next year’s service increase program will not be implemented until the first quarter’s tax and other revenues are reviewed.”

“I chalk it up to the mayor’s scorn for traditional politics,” said Gene Russianoff of the Straphangers Campaign. “It would be a rare mayor who would vote for a fare hike upon the condition that service improvements don’t go into effect until later in the year.”

The mayor’s motivation may ultimately be political, as the MTA’s new $28 billion capital program gets submitted to the state Legislature just before it votes on congestion pricing. The mayor’s traffic fee would fund the MTA’s capital needs.

Currently, the city funds just 4 percent of the MTA’s budget.

Lets hope Patrick is off base & that possible service improvements will fail to see the light of day due to ulterior motives or p0litics as usual.

xoxo Transit Blogger

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Service Improvements On The Way???

In what could qualify as a slick but poorly executed P.R. move, the MTA’s New York City Transit division announced possible service improvements that riders could look forward to starting in the second half of 2008. Some of the  improvements which are supposed to serve as a way of calming the anger of the fare hike include:

Cutting off 1-2 minutes from wait times during evening service on the , , &

Extend the operating time to 11 pm on the &

Increase in service

Create the M13 which would run between East Midtown & The Lower East Side

Extend the B71 & B73 into Manhattan via the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel & terminating at South Ferry

Have the train run to 148th Street at all times

Have the run to Forest Hills-71st Avenue at all times

Increase in weekend service

Since this is involving the MTA, you must be expecting a catch. Well I am here to report that you are correct in assuming these improvements came with a catch. The catch is these service improvements will only be implemented if the MTA’s financial situation does not worsen through the first 3 months of 2008. Lets keep our fingers crossed!

xoxo Transit Blogger

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MTA Looks To Decrease Response Times

10 days ago the MTA announced their plan to spend $1.3 million dollars to decrease their response time to escalator & elevator breakdowns throughout the subway system. The plan calls for more than 300 escalators & elevators to be hooked up to a computerized monitoring system. Here is a brief article about the plan courtesy of New York Times writer William Neuman:

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority plans to spend $1.3 million to hook up more than 300 elevators and escalators in the subways to a computerized monitoring system that would allow it to respond more quickly to breakdowns. The plan is to be submitted this week to the authority’s board for consideration.

The monitoring system has been tested on 44 elevators, and officials are seeking to expand it to all of the elevators and escalators in the subway stations “in order to enable a rapid response” to breakdowns, according to an authority board document.

Broken elevators and escalators are a frequent complaint of subway riders.

In August, New York City Transit, the branch of the authority that runs the subway system, began posting a list of broken elevators and escalators on its Web site, mta.info.

The list, which is updated three times a day, is not always accurate because it depends on transit employees or customers to report breakdowns.

Officials said in August that they hoped to expand the computerized monitoring system, which would allow them to post up-to-date information on breakdowns as they occurred.

On Sunday afternoon, the authority’s Web site listed five elevators in five stations as being out of service. It also said that 18 escalators in 10 stations were not working.

The monitoring system is connected to a central display at a dispatch center for elevator and escalator mechanics.

Michael Harris of the Disabled Riders Coalition, an advocacy group, called the monitors an important improvement. “The M.T.A. has historically had a severe problem in knowing when elevators are or are not in service,” he said.

Paul Fleuranges, a spokesman for New York City Transit, said in an e-mail message, “The ability to be able to monitor all of our assets in real time and respond immediately when a piece of equipment fails will go a long way in improving the availability of these important pieces of machinery relied on by our customers, especially those with special needs.”

There are 158 passenger elevators in the subway system, including 138 in 61 stations that are fully accessible to disabled people, according to the transit agency. There are 169 escalators. The subway system has 468 stations.

The transit agency also provides a telephone number for information on elevator and escalator breakdowns, (800) 734-6772.

While I applaud & support the MTA’s plan to decrease response times, one must pose this question. Why wasn’t such a system in place to begin with? This is one of those ideas which should have been on the drawing board to begin with as it would have probably cost less.

xoxo Transit Blogger

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Staten Island Railway Is No Different

The updates have been extremely rare the last couple of weeks. I have been extremely busy & am now just starting to catch up. Lets get started with the “Rider Report Card” results for the Staten Island Railway. Here is the full breakdown:

Top 10 priorities that Staten Island Railway riders would like to see improvement on:

01. Adequate room on board at rush hour
02. Sense of security in stations
03. Trains depart and arrive as scheduled
04. Sense of security on trains
05. Cleanliness of cars
06. Comfortable temperature in cars
07. Cleanliness of stations
08. Train announcements that are easy to hear
09. Minimal delays during trips
10. Availability of MetroCard Vending Machines

Now here is the entire order of Staten Island Railway riders priorities:

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

Now here is the graded breakdown of all 21 categories:

Minimal delays during trips B
Trains depart and arrive as scheduled B-
Adequate room on board at rush hour C-
Sense of security in stations C
Sense of security on trains C
Working elevator at St. George C+
Signs in stations that help riders find their way C+
Signs in cars that help riders find their way C+
Cleanliness of stations C
Cleanliness of cars C
Station announcements that are easy to hear C-
Station announcements that are informative C-
Train announcements that are easy to hear C-
Train announcements that are informative C
Lack of graffiti in stations C
Lack of graffiti in cars C+
Lack of scratchitti in cars C-
Courtesy and helpfulness of station personnel B-
Comfortable temperature in cars C
Turnstiles that are easy to use B-
Availability of MetroCard Vending Machines C

I will be honest, I do not have much to say about these results. I have never ridden the Staten Island Railway so I can’t offer my analysis based on personal experiences. The friends I have who reside in Staten Island don’t ride it so I can’t ask them for opinions. I will however comment how the Staten Island Railway is the first line to not get a B for the “Availability Of MetroCard Vending Machines”. Here is where I have the most shocked look on my face……..

xoxo Transit Blogger

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