4th Avenue Station Gets Dealt A Major Blow

4th Avenue station at night; Resized photo courtesy of Eye On Transit

This past Saturday, “The Brooklyn Paper” broke the unfortunate news that the MTA has abandoned its plans to completely overhaul the 4th Avenue station on the . While the track work phase of the project is still a go, plans to overhaul the station’s appearance from its current state to a more European style. Last November, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority showcased samples of what the station would look like. Unfortunately for local residents & riders, the overhaul will have to come another day if it comes at all. Here is the full story courtesy of “The Brooklyn Paper

The MTA giveth and the MTA taketh away.

This time, the almighty transportation agency has abandoned its ambitious plans to renovate the shabby Fourth Avenue station in Park Slope into a glittering, light-filled, Euro-styled stunner.

Just last November, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority showed off renderings (left) of the elevated F-train platform basking in sunlight from new windows, renovations that were part of a larger project to reconstruct the crumbling elevated tracks on the F and G line between the Carroll Street and Fourth Avenue.

The trackwork is still set to start later this year and finish in 2012. And improvements to the equally beleaguered Smith–Ninth Street station are still slated to begin next year.

But the overall $250-million project has been trimmed to $187.8 million, so something had to give, said Deirdre Parker, a spokeswoman for New York City Transit.

“Work on the Fourth Avenue station was never officially funded,” Parker said in an e-mail — one that contradicts an announcement made at a Community Board 6 meeting last November. “Consideration has been deferred until the next capital plan.”

Station appearances are not as important as the system’s functionality, but it does matter to riders.

“Aesthetics and cleanliness matter to the experience of riders,” said Noah Budnick, deputy director of Transportation Alternatives. “To think that those things don’t affect the quality of your ride and your experience misses the reality of transit riding.”

Other MTA critics said it was disingenuous for the plans to be touted publicly only to be quietly dropped months later.

“They have to have a public dialogue,” said Gene Russianoff of the Straphangers Campaign.

Local subway riders were just as withering in their rebukes to the agency.

“It’s a bad thing that it’s not going to be remodeled,” said Rosanny Fernandez. “When you’re waiting for the train, you want to feel like you get what you paid for.”

Others said the refurbishments were not a priority compared to the condition of other stations.

“I was really excited that they were going to redo it, but my first reaction was that they should do Smith-Ninth first,” said Jeremy Olsen, who lives nearby on 11th Street.

Looks like the MTA agrees with him.

Of course, it’s not the first time that a much-ballyhooed improvement went from front-burner to back (or, more accurately, into the basement),

Following a fare hike and weeks after promising to spend $30 million on expanded service in his state of the MTA address in March, Elliott Sander, the agency’s executive director, backtracked on the promise, forcing Brooklynites to forgo bus service from Red Hook to Manhattan, better G-train service, an extension to the B67 to Fulton Ferry in DUMBO, and other improvements.

xoxo Transit Blogger

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A Sad Reality…….

Lets face it, the economy for just about everyone is in the dumps right now. We will most likely face only the second ever back to back fare increase in MTA history (the only occurrence being in 1980 & 1981) next year. The MTA Is strapped for cash & is desperate for any sort of funds. Unless something drastic changes in the near future, expect many projects to be scaled back, delayed, or canceled altogether. These issues were not lost on Mayor Bloomberg as he described the state of the MTA’s finances & construction projects this past Friday on his weekly guest co-host appearance on WOR710 AM’s “The John Gambling Show” by describing the MTA’s construction plan as being in “shambles”. He also went on to say…

I think there is a very good likelihood that we are going to have to face the issue of a fare increase or something else. The city doesn’t have any money to give. We are out of money.”

While I am tired of him & many others going back to the so called “trump excuse card” of the failed congestion pricing plan & it supposedly curing all, he is pretty accurate about the current state of the MTA’s finances. While the system has not gone back to the dark days of the 70’s & 80’s, can we really chance that not happening if things continue as they are? I am 100% confident that we can’t chance that happening & something needs to be done.

At this point no matter at what cost, the government must find a way to give the MTA funds it needs & deserves to give us the riding public a transit system that we can count on. Enough with the cat & mouse games, pony up the cash one way or another. Where is all this so called money that politicians like Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver & especially Assemblyman Richard Brodsky claimed they would have for the MTA back when they were playing the “good guys” trying to stop the last fare hike from coming through.

I especially feel that of all politicians Assemblyman Richard Brodsky should be called out. While I supported him in the fight to stop a fare hike, I now wonder if his words were just empty promises. I vividly recall him fighting tooth & nail to prevent the recent fare hike & making one statement after another about his desire to help the MTA secure the funds it needs & deserves. Mr. Brodsky, do you remember some of your statements such as:

I know that I remember these statements very well. Now what have you done to really help us of late?

xoxo Transit Blogger

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Fare Hike In 2009? Tell Me It Can’t Be True!

Well folks it can & most likely will be by time 2009 rolls around. Daily News transit reporter Pete Donohue had a report with a catchy title about the possibility of a fare hike in 2009. Here is his report courtesy of the New York Daily News

Brace yourself for the possibility of another subway fare and toll hike.

A rare back-to-back increase – along with service cuts – could be in store for commuters now that MTA number crunchers are suddenly dealing with a massive hole in next year’s budget.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority‘s projected 2009 budget gap has ballooned – doubling or even tripling original estimates, sources said.

Without new state money, officials may soon raise the spectre of increases, service cuts – or both, sources and experts said.

“They don’t have many options,” one source said.

Subway riders gasped at the suggestion.

“I’m a recent college graduate so I can’t afford the subway as it is,” said Bryan Tran, 21, of Queens. “Any higher and I will have to walk everywhere. It’s ridiculous.”

The MTA by law must have a balanced budget. The preliminary plan will be released next month.

“Back-to-back fare hikes would slam riders, already reeling from higher costs of living and a poor economy,” said Gene Russianoff of the Straphangers Campaign

The MTA just boosted fares in March, and those hikes will raise nearly $200 million over the course of a year. If the agency is forced to fill next year’s budget gap with increases in subway and commuter train fares, and bridge tolls, the next hikes would have to be even bigger.

The only other consecutive set of increases was in 1980 and 1981.

The latest projections had the MTA struggling to fill a $220 million budget hole. That number has grown to $500 million to $700 million, sources said.

Part of the problem is that last year the MTA predicted that revenue from fees on real estate transactions would drop by $160 million between January and May. Instead, they plummeted by $240 million, MTA documents show.

And despite pledges to fight for more MTA funding, the state Legislature later joined Gov. Paterson in slashing expected subsidies from one state account by $40 million earlier this year. The hit repeats next year.

Paterson picked former MTA Chairman Richard Ravitch in April to lead a panel to weigh funding solutions for the authority’s operating and construction budgets.

Although Ravitch has been delving into the authority’s finances, the other panelists haven’t been selected.

Before this fiscal crisis, MTA officials adopted a policy of modest fare and toll hikes every other year, with the next round coming in 2010.

Board member Mitchell Pally, who voted against this year’s hikes, said he doesn’t expect that schedule to be altered in preliminary budget next month. Fare hikes and service cuts are “the last two things we should be thinking about,” especially with gasoline prices so high, he said.

He called for the federal government to again provide operating budget funds for transit, a practice he said halted more than a decade ago.

I was reading Second Avenue Sagas (you should be reading his transit blog like you do this one!) & noticed Benjamin took Bryan who was interviewed as part of the report, to task for his statement of having to walk if the fares go up any higher. He did so by stating the following:

Despite Donohue’s man-on-the-street Bryan Tran’s statement — “Any higher and I will have to walk everywhere. It’s ridiculous.” — the fares just aren’t that high. The average cost-per-ride for an unlimited ride user is still well below what the $1.50 base fare we all used to pay in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

If anything, this news just drives home what Sheldon Silver and the anti-congestion pricing contingent did when they opted to let that MTA-saving measure die in committee. Perhaps it’s time to start paying closer attention to Ted Kheel after all.

Now here is my problem with his statements. While he is completely accurate about the cost for an unlimited rider being less than the base fare of the 90’s, I feel it is not exactly fully relevant to the actual costs of today. While the average fare is lower, one must account that not everyone is an unlimited rider. There is also the possibility that the recent fare increase has resulted in the loss of some unlimited riders due to not being able to afford the increases. However I feel the main issue is the cost of living is so much different from the 90’s that the savings one receives on paper is just that on paper.

With a potential fare hike in 2009 being even bigger than the one we just faced, the harsh reality is that some might be priced out of the system. While none of us know if Mr. Tran was being over dramatic with his “walking statement” or being completely honest, it is undeniable that another fare hike will lead to some people turning to walking as a necessity to get around.

The other issue I have relates to bringing up the failure of the proposed congestion pricing plan becoming a reality as to why we will have to pay more in the long run. I have been dead set against congestion pricing since day one. I could not support an obvious attempt to screw one section over to help another. It was clearly a case of “robbing Peter to pay Paul”. Instead of this excuse, I feel more anger should be shown towards current & former government & MTA officials for not doing their jobs properly. If things were run the way they should have been with the agency & riding publics best interest being accounted for, we would not be in the mess we were in.

This leads me to an editorial about the fare hike which was on page 24 of Monday’s New York Daily News which calls out MTA CEO Elliot Sander along with MTA Chairman Dale Hemmerdinger. Here is the editorial courtesy of the New York Daily News

Promises, promises. Broken promises. It seems that’s all the Metropolitan Transportation Authority is good for.

Back in March, the MTA socked riders with another fare hike for subways, buses and commuter rail. The salve was a pledge that there would not be another increase for at least two years.

Chairman Dale Hemmerdinger and CEO Lee Sander promised to get the agency’s fiscal affairs in order.

They promised they were starting an orderly program of fare increases: Riders would pony up every other year, with hikes in line with inflation.

They promised they would get whatever additional money they needed – and it would be a lot – from state and city governments.

“Trust us,” harrumphed Hemmerdinger and Sander.

And they took the public for a ride. Barely three months after giving their word – and pushing through a hike with the blessings of then-Gov. Eliot Spitzer and Mayor Bloomberg – the MTA is floating the prospect of another increase as early as next year.

All of a sudden, the agency is broke, suffering from declining revenues while costs are climbing. Real estate-related taxes dedicated to the MTA are plummeting, thanks largely to the subprime crisis. Next year’s budget gap won’t be $220 million, but as much as $700 million.

Bloomberg is in no mood to help by boosting operating aid. Spitzer, who vowed to provide $600 million, is gone in ignominy. And the Legislature echoes with its own empty promises.

In the winter, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and lawmakers like Assemblyman Richard Brodsky trumpeted that they wanted to avert the March hike. But come spring, when fares rose with the crocuses, they failed to come through with a dime.

What they did do was kill congestion pricing, and with it an immediate $354 million in federal cash along with a half-billion dollars from traffic fees every year – money that was desperately needed to reduce the pressure for fare hikes.

There was a ray of hope two months ago, when Gov. Paterson tapped former MTA Chairman Dick Ravitch to lead a group to map out the agency’s financial future. But Paterson hasn’t gotten around to naming the rest of the Ravitch panel. He needs to do that right away. Monday would be best, but no later than Tuesday.

And Hemmerdinger and Sander need to shoot straighter.

I must give credit where credit is due. As you might remember, I was a supporter of former New York Governor Elliot Spitzer & felt he was criticized way too often for trying to help out the little guy. However I must say Benjamin Kabak of Second Avenue Sagas fame is spot on with his analysis of the editorial in Monday’s New York Daily News.

I must also give him credit as he was the first blogger/writer of any sort to call bullshit on Mr. Spitzer’s political game of being the “good guy” & how he was screwing over the majority of riders. I definitely recommend you check out his past posts on Spitzer’s game & how we are paying the price now. But before you do that, I highly recommend you check out his response to Monday’s editorial. You can do so by clicking here. When you are done, you can read my feelings from December in regards to then Governor Spitzer’s screwjob for the holidays.

xoxo Transit Blogger

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The MTA Hopes Its Green Attitude Leads To Tons Of Greenbacks

Last Monday, Newsday’s morning paper AMNY featured a story about the MTA’s plans to have their “green” attitude lead to tons of greenbacks. In simpler terms, the MTA is partnering with the consulting firm of Booz Allen Hamilton in hopes of being able to make money from selling credits they earned from cleaning up the environment to companies who would be in need of such credits to fall within legal standards. Simply put the Metropolitan Transportation Authority wants to get paid for helping high polluting companies legally pollute. Here is the full article courtesy of Newsday via AMNY:

The MTA recently released “green” MetroCards that touted mass transit’s benefit to the environment. The agency, however, hopes to take their efforts farther by selling its pollution reducing benefits for cash on the carbon trading market.

Last month, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority approved a $776,000 contract with consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton to measure its carbon footprint and look at ways to create revenues “in a tradable-carbon situation.”

What that means is that the MTA hopes eventually to quantify the amount of pollution it removes from the air through mass transit, put a value on it, and sell it to a company that is a high polluter. By paying the MTA, the company would legally be allowed to pollute.

“This is all quite new and unique and a little bit out there,” said Projjal Dutta, director of sustainability initiatives at the MTA.

Carbon-trading is more common to Europe and Japan, where nations are committed under the Kyoto Protocol to limit their emissions greenhouse gases.

Through mandated “cap-and-trade” programs, a business can exceed the allowed limit on greenhouse pollution it releases if it buys unused emissions from a “clean” industry on the carbon-trading market. These so-called carbon “offsets” are usually generated in the developing world through projects that are certified to reduce greenhouse gases.

It’s uncertain how much the MTA stands to profit from such a deal.

Worldwide carbon-trading was a $64 billion business in 2007. Some 2.9 billion tons were traded at a price range of 8 to 20 euros per ton (about $12 to $31), said Eron Bloomgarden, U.S. director of EcoSecurities, a company in the emissions reduction market.

In the United States, because the market is voluntary, carbon brings only $2 to $7 per ton on the New York Mercantile Exchange‘s Green Exchange, which opened in March, and the Chicago Climate Exchange that started in December 2003, Bloomgarden said.

That’s expected to change fairly soon. All three presidential candidates support adopting some form of cap-and-trade policy in the United States.

The MTA is putting itself in a position to try and profit from whatever policy is mandated. The agency actually has a negative carbon footprint because subways, trains, and buses take cars off the road and reduce congestion, which means that cars do not burn as much fuel sitting in traffic.

“A system ought to be in place that incents somebody like the MTA through some other means to keep increasing those passenger miles,” Dutta said.

I now bring in the viewpoint from Benjamin Kabak of Second Avenue Sagas who pegs this issue dead on when he said:

In trying to wrap my head around the idea of the MTA trading its carbon credits in an emissions market, I keep landing on two distinct points that are seemingly at odds with each other. On the one hand, as we well know, the MTA is searching high and low for any dollars it can scrounge up. The authority needs money to keep our public transit system in a state of good repair and, looking ahead, for much needed expansion plans as well. To that end, if the powers that be feel they can capitalize on the MTA’s negative emissions, then they should do so.

But on the other hand, the environmentalist public transit advocate in me is a little wary of the carbon trading plan. If the MTA is allowing some other company to continue to pollute by trading them their carbon credits and profiting from it, does that really match the agency’s desired and publicly-stated goals of becoming a greener organization. Until the U.S. starts putting stricter caps on greenhouse emissions, the MTA is simply profiting off some other company’s pollutants. That’s fine for the bottom line but not so fine for the environment.

Check out his entire entry on the issue by clicking here.

I couldn’t have said it any better myself!

P.S. It always brings a smile to my face when I hear about Booz Allen Hamilton as lets just say if only those walls could talk, the stories you would here…………

xoxo Transit Blogger

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Multiple People Hurt As Bus Crashes Into An Abandoned Building

9 days ago, multiple people were hurt after a public bus (bus route & # not reported) crashed into an abandoned building. The bus driver hit the building after he had to swerve out of the way of a little kid who darted into the street. No one at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) has commented on the accident. According to firefighters, all injuries were minor.

Now based on a rough estimate of the location of the accident, I am pretty sure the route involved in the accident was the Q53 which is a limited stop route which runs between Woodside & Rockaway Park.

xoxo Transit Blogger

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