MTA To Vote On Budget Savings Plan

Today is a big day for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) or more specifically New York City Transit, as they will be voting on the proposed budget savings plan. The plan would eliminate or curb back the following:

Matthew Sweeney of AMNY filed this report which will appear in tomorrow’s edition:

Let the service cuts begin.

New York City Transit is expected to vote Monday on its budget-savings plan that would halt plans to repair 19 stations, put off paint jobs for flaking elevated structures, and institute a more “efficient” way of cleaning subway cars.

The delays on the capital project are estimated to save $2.4 billion at a time when the MTA is warning of a possible fare hike next year. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority must release a preliminary budget for 2009 next month and estimates a deficit of $500 million to $700 million.

“I think they need to spend money on making stations look better,” said Demitri Yermolaev, 26, of Brooklyn, as he waited for the train in Union Square. “Service has to be improved, definitely not scaled back.”

Many of the cuts, however, will take place behind the scenes and delay needed repairs to transit buildings that keep the system running, such as tunnel vents, bus depots, and a subway-car overhaul shop.

“You have to be concerned about the lack of funding support from the state and the city,” said MTA board member Andrew Albert. “They want all of these improvements and then they scream when we raise fares. They have to come up with more money.”

The MTA is waiting for a commission headed by former authority chairman Richard Ravitch to recommend new sources of funding. In the absence of additional funding from the state, the cuts will help pay for $2.5 billion in capital projects such as subway flooding control, increases to paratransit service, and rehabilitation of the elevated section of the F line in Brooklyn and new cars for the “letter” subway lines.

Another $8.9 million in savings will come from the MTA’s operating budget. The savings, which will fund increased service on certain train lines, include subway car cleaning and quality control.

“None of the reductions will have an impact on what riders see,” said transit spokesman Paul Fleuranges in an e-mail.

In the past, transit advocates have disputed the MTA’s proclaimed “efficiencies” as little more than service cuts.

William Henderson, executive director of the Permanent Citizens Advisory to the MTA, wondered exactly where the savings would be found in subway car cleaning.

“When people get on a car and maybe it’s not quite as clean as before, they notice it,” he said.

The $8.9 million will fund increases on numerous subway lines targeted to relieve crowding. Transit will add 10 trains to the No. 4 line throughout the weekday, and more weekend service on the No. 7 line. The No. 3 train will get overnight service to 148th Street. Other lines with added service are the No. 1 (weeknights), No. 6 (weeknights), Times Square shuttle (late morning rush), and the B, M and W trains.

The added service allows transit to try and maintain its own guidelines for crowding that have been overwhelmed by increases in ridership during the past four years.

“While one trip may not seem like anything substantial, the impact will be felt not only by those riders who ride that particular train, but by riders up and down the line who will benefit from the reduction in over crowded conditions,” Fleuranges said.

Major construction projects — such as the Second Avenue subway or the East Side Access plan to bring Long Island Rail Road trains into Grand Central Terminal — are not on the chopping block yet, said those who were briefed on the current cost-savings plan.

“Those are the projects they’re trying to protect,” Henderson said. “Those are the projects where a delay really ends up costing you money.”

Henderson said that to some riders, getting repairs to their home station was as important as the Second Avenue Subway.

But delays on the mega-projects are possible in the long run, and the agency has not ruled out cuts to train service as a last resort to balance its budget.

“I’m not going to be for any cutting for service,” Albert. “It’s one thing to raise the fare; its quite another to cut service, especially when we have record ridership. The better policy is for the state to fund all of this.”

Andrew Albert has a strong point when he said “They want all of these improvements and then they scream when we raise fares. They have to come up with more money.” He is 100% right about our elected officials needing to give them more money. However it should be noted that the MTA should also be held accountable for years of wasting money as well. The issues that face the cash strapped agency go both ways so some soul searching is needed from the likes of Mr. Albert & his peers.

xoxo Transit Blogger

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Latest Subway Diversions Are Up

I apologize for the delay in getting the latest scheduled subway diversions updated in the left sidebar. train riders make note of the emergency track work.

I hope you all have a wonderful weekend & safe commute.

xoxo Transit Blogger

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Metro-North Completes Work At 4 Stations

The construction work at four Metro-North stations in Westchester County has been completed. The MTA isused a press release with more details:

Customers at four mid-Hudson Line stations are enjoying new platforms, new canopies and windbreaks, elevators and overpasses thanks to a just-completed, $65 million construction project undertaken by MTA Metro-North Railroad.

Railroad officials were joined Friday afternoon by State Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins and State Assemblyman Richard Brodsky in commemorating the project’s completion at a ceremony in Hastings.

The work at Irvington, Ardsley, Dobbs Ferry and Hastings brings to 13 the number of Hudson Line station platform complexes that have been completely rebuilt going north from Morris Heights. Similar work continues at Philipse Manor, Scarborough and Ossining.

“The renewal of our stations, while operating a regular train schedule, is a rewarding challenge,” said Metro-North President Peter A. Cannito. “Customers really appreciate the handsome gooseneck lighting, the comfortable wire mesh benches, the improved public address system and even the pigeon proofing in the canopies. Everything is new and clean and designed to help our station maintainers to keep them that way.”

“Great improvements like this one show how important the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Capital Program is for communities throughout the MTA’s 5,000-square-mile service territory,” said Elliot G. Sander, the Executive Director and CEO of the MTA. “Without appropriate reinvestment in our transit network, projects like this one would not happen.”

“This is a great day for all of the commuters who use the Hastings, Dobbs Ferry, Ardsley and Irvington Metro-North Railroad Stations to get to and from work everyday. How wonderful that all of the work to enhance the stations aesthetically also included important safety and accessibility features, including new elevators, and other improvements to ensure that these stations comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. I hope these improvements encourage more Westchester residents to ride the rails and take advantage of the good service that MTA Metro-North Railroad provides,” said Congresswoman Nita Lowey.

“Using public transportation is a solid way to cut our reliance on foreign oil and to clean up our environment. The renovation of the four stations, and the 12 others already completed or being worked on, encourages commuters to use Metro-North instead of cars. This is $65 million well-spent for commuters on Metro-North and for their communities,” said Congressman Eliot Engel.

“I applaud Metro-North for implementing these improvements that will benefit all commuters in these four beautiful villages along the Hudson River. Metro-North’s obvious commitment to safe, efficient and comfortable transportation only enhances these villages overall appeal,” stated New York State Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins.

“These much-need improvements will make life a little easier for the thousands of commuters who use the Mid-Hudson Line everyday. With soaring fuel costs, as well as the environmental benefits that mass transit provides, we should be doing everything we can to make mass transit as appealing as possible to everyone,” said Assemblyman Richard Brodsky.

“I commend Metro-North for its accomplishment here. This will improve the quality of the commute for many Westchester residents,” said Westchester County Executive Andy Spano.

“We are pleased that Metro North has devoted so much capital within the Village of Irvington. Their substantial investment in our Village will improve the quality of life for all that live, work or visit here,” said Irvington Mayor Erin Malloy.

“The reconstruction of the platforms, the addition of handicapped accessible elevators and the upgrading of the station amenities are a welcome addition to the commuting experience. Add to that the new station café and we have a first-class entryway to our village. I applaud Metro-North for these upgrades,” said Lee Kinnally, Mayor of Hastings.

“We are privileged to be the recipient of a beautiful new station in Dobbs Ferry which complements our magnificent waterfront and we thank Metro-North for all of its hard work on this project,” said Scott H. Seskin, Mayor of Dobbs Ferry.

“Because of the renovations, improvements and quality of life enhancements Metro-North has undertaken, commuting to work will now be a much more enjoyable experience. They also make a positive first impression about our communities for first-time visitors who take the train to visit the river villages,” said Greenburgh Town Supervisor Paul Feiner.

During platform demolition and reconstruction, the track adjacent to the platform had to be taken out of service. Trains were either rerouted to the platform on the opposite side or “bridge plates” were constructed to allow passengers to cross over the out of service track to board the train.

Despite this, the Hudson Line operated at better than 97% on-time throughout the three-year project. This so-called “opposite side” operation will continue until summer 2009 in support of the station reconstruction work underway at Philipse Manor, Scarborough and Ossining.

Elevators were installed for the first time at Hastings, Dobbs Ferry and Ardsley making these three stations completely accessible to those in wheelchairs. Tactile warning strips, Braille signs and audio-visual information systems make these stations accessible under terms of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Three overpasses were completely replaced with new, slightly higher overpasses in order to allow better clearances for freight trains, a New York State Department of Transportation initiative which contributed $3.3 million to the project.

Additional station-specific improvements were undertaken as follows:

At Ardsley, the existing overpass was replaced with a new overpass south of the station building. Previously the overpass was accessed through the second floor of the historic station building. Under the auspices of the New York State Office of Historic Preservation, the project eliminated that connection and restored that portion of the station building.

At Hastings, while the platform work was underway, the station building was leased to the Hastings Station Café, whose owner, Avi Schwartz, made upgrades to utilities and interior spaces. The café is open 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. making the waiting room and restrooms available to Metro-North customers considerably longer than when the ticket office hours were Monday through Friday mornings only.

At Dobbs Ferry, permanent art work was installed as part of the MTA’s Arts for Transit program. A huge floral mosaic entitled “Floating Auriculas,” by Nancy Blum, was installed on the northbound platform. Consisting of a series of flower heads each eight feet in diameter, the glass and tile installation “leaves a happy imprint on the imagination,” as Blum put it.

At Irvington, the main vehicular bridge over the tracks connecting downtown with the waterfront, was replaced as part of a separate but simultaneous effort. The $3.9 million Bridge Street Bridge project replaced a 1913 bridge with a modern, multi-girder, concrete box beam superstructure. The bridge was dedicated by the village to Patrolman George E. Duggan, the only Irvington Police Officer ever to have been killed in the line of duty back in 1929. The abutments were rehabilitated and strengthened to accommodate the new, higher span. In addition, the parking lot was rehabilitated and expanded by 21 spaces in a separate $1.9 million effort completed in 2007.

The project was designed by Stone and Webster. Construction was performed under two separate contracts by Halmar International and the Perini Corporation. Construction management and inspection was performed by Gannett Fleming Engineers and Architects.

Construction began in fall of 2004 and was completed this spring.

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Hempstead Branch Service Reminder

Last Sunday, I wrote an entry about the major LIRR Queents Interlocking project that will many service changes for riders this summer throughout the Long Island Rail Road System. This entry is just to serve as a reminder of the major change in service this weekend which features the complete suspension of service on the Hempstead Branch in both directions. The MTA issued a press release to remind customers:

MTA Long Island Rail Road reminds Hempstead Branch customers that train service will be shut down this weekend, June 21 and June 22, to allow workers to install a new signal system and new switches at a key switching point called Queens Interlocking.

Bus service will replace trains between Hempstead and Jamaica on Saturday, June 21 and Sunday, June 22 and customers should expect up to 35 minutes of additional travel time if they use stations at Hempstead, Country Life Press, Garden City, Nassau Boulevard, Stewart Manor, Floral Park, Bellerose, Queens Village and Hollis.

Trains will stop running at 12:23 AM Saturday. Service will not resume until 11:59 PM Sunday. Customers should pick up a copy the gold-colored Hempstead Special Branch Timetable dated June 21-22 which details replacement bus service for the two-day period.

Customers can also minimize delays by using stations on other LIRR branches such as Mineola, Merillon Avenue, New Hyde Park and West Hempstead where all trains will be operating on regular weekend schedules.

“We’re have tried very hard to minimize the inconvenience the project will cause,” said LIRR President Helena Williams. “But the ultimate benefit to our customers will be a smoother and faster ride through Queens Interlocking and a reduction in maintenance-related track outages.”

The work on the Hempstead Branch is part of the LIRR’s Queens Interlocking Switch and Signal Improvement Program, a $60 million project that began Monday, June 16, and is scheduled for completion on September 1.

The upgrade will replace the current signal system with microprocessor technology and the current track switches with high-speed crossovers at an important LIRR switching point between Queens Village and Bellerose.

For additional travel information, customers can contact the LIRR’s 24-hour Travel Information Center in Suffolk County at 631-231-LIRR, in Nassau County at 516-822-LIRR or in New York City at 718-217-LIRR. The Travel Information Center’s TDD telephone number for the hearing impaired is 718-558-3022. Customers can also consult the LIRR’s website at

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Clear Display Of Nepotism

The last post I made on this blog before I disappeared in January for a few months was about a bus reroute which clearly benefited the then newly appointed MTA Chairman Dale Hemmerdinger. Now months later, the bus reroute situation has come back into the spotlight. Here is the report from AMNY’s Matthew Sweeney:

A handful of shopping malls get mentioned on MTA bus maps, like Gateway Center Mall and the Staten Island Mall, but only one belongs to the son of MTA Chairman H. Dale Hemmerdinger.

During a hearing on bus routes Thursday, Councilman John Liu, who heads the council transportation committee, suggested that the Shops at Atlas Park in Glendale, Queens, gets preferential bus service because of the father-son connection.

The mall opened in the spring of 2006 with one bus line, the Q29. Since then, the Q54, was rerouted to stop there. Another route, the Q45, is expected to begin serving the mall in September, pending NYC Transit’s approval next week.

“It’s amazing how this request for the Shops at Atlas Park sped through,” Liu said.

If this is not a clear display of nepotism, i don’t know what is. This is just another example of someone in the higher ranks of the MTA abusing their power to either their own or someone they care about/owe a favor to’s beneit.

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