Both Sides To Return To The Bargaining Table

Here is the latest news on the Paratransit drivers strike which has affected thousands of chronically ill & disabled riders. According to The Para Transit Drivers and Mechanics of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1181-1061 & Paratransit Operators Coalition, both sides will return to the bargaining table later today. The union which has 1500 members will continue to strike while both sides try to hammer out a deal.

Lets hope both sides can come to a satisfiable agreement for both sides so full service can be available to the approximately 8000 people who depend on this service daily.

xoxo Transit Blogger

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Metro-North Finalizes A Collective Bargaining Agreement

In the last piece of Metro-North news for Tuesday December 11th, the MTA announced that the Metro-North has finalized a collective bargaining agreement with the Association Of Commuter Railroad Employees Division 166. Here is the full press release courtesy of the MTA:

Metro-North has reached agreement with the last of its 19 bargaining units, the railroad announced Monday.

The 222 members of the signalmen’s union, the Association of Commuter Railroad Employees Division 166, ratified the contract last month and the agreement was approved by the board of directors of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority at its last meeting.

“With wages and working conditions settled for Metro-North’s 4,900 union-represented workers through 2010, the railroad and its employees can better focus on continual improvement of the safe, reliable service we provide every day,” said Metro-North President Peter A. Cannito.

Work rule and productivity gains were achieved in this round of talks.

This contract, which is retroactive to January 1, 2007, was extended six months beyond the usual three-year term to June 15, 2010, to help pay for some of the contract changes, notably an improved pension plan similar to that offered to management employees.

The ACRE signalmen were the last to sign because of work rule issues unique to their craft, the railroad said.

It is nice to know that an agreement was reached. It is never a bad thing to have all of your ducks in a row as far as agreements are concerned. Now ladies & gentlemen, lets get to work!

xoxo Transit Blogger

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Metro-North Announces Reconstruction Plans For 3 Stations

Continuing with the latest Metro-North news, the MTA issued a press release to announce their reconstruction plans for the Ossining, Philipse Manor, & Scarborough stations. Here is the full press release courtesy of the MTA:

 The ongoing rehabilitation of Hudson Line stations has reached Ossining, Scarborough and Philipse Manor, MTA Metro-North Railroad announced today.

Working from south to north, with work just finishing up at Hastings-on-Hudson, Dobbs Ferry, Ardsley-on-Hudson, and Irvington, 13 Hudson Line stations have now been completely rebuilt.

The overhauls continue with a $67 million upgrade planned for Ossining, Scarborough and Philipse Manor, where new platforms, canopies, shelters, enclosed staircases, lighting, benches, public address systems, audio-visual information systems and trash receptacles are planned for each station.

The overpass at Scarborough will be demolished and replaced with a new one that has elevators on either side, making the station fully accessible to the disabled for the first time. At Scarborough, which is sandwiched between Kemey’s Cove and the Hudson River, a temporary station will be built south of the existing one. Contractor access to the west side will be to drive across the tracks at a temporary at-grade crossing. With equipment, materials and construction trailers occupying the space at the foot of the northbound platform, a temporary platform will be built in the parking lot behind the outbound local track.

Another temporary inbound platform will be built directly atop of track four, which will be out of service. They will be connected by a temporary overpass.

During this work, a dozen parking spaces will be out of service. The Village of Briarcliff Manor is instituting a valet parking service during construction with parking in the drive aisles.

At Ossining, where an historic brick station building straddles the four tracks below, six new and one rehabilitated staircase will connect the station and Secor Road with the platforms. Four new elevators will be built. Two elevators will be installed in shaft ways that long ago held baggage handling elevators and will connect the elevated walkway on the north side of the station building to the two island platforms. Two new elevators will connect Secor Road overpass with the parking areas east and west of the tracks.

In a separate but related project, Metro-North will begin to restore the architectural integrity of the Tarrytown Station building. Inside, the station building is in good shape, but outside, much structural work is needed. Most importantly the building’s foundation, which was settled in the northeast corner, will be corrected and stabilized.

In addition, three roof dormers that were removed from the track side of the building in the 1980s will be rebuilt during the roof replacement to bring daylight back into the waiting area. A porte-cochere that existed years ago on the front or east side of the building also will be rebuilt, subject to a traffic study.

Windows will be refurbished or replaced in kind. Exterior columns and eaves will be restored. Copper gutters and leaders will be replaced in kind.

The design for repairs at Tarrytown is being prepared for review in January by the State Historic Preservation Office of the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. Advertisement for a construction contractor is expected next spring with work to begin in summer. The station and ticket window will remain operational during the restoration.

Work on the platforms, staircases, elevators and overpasses at Tarrytown is planned to will be undertaken as a single project beginning in mid-2009. Tarrytown is the only station in the interlocking north of Irvington and south of Philipse Manor.

During construction at Philipse Manor, Scarborough and Ossining, morning customers will be boarding southbound trains on the opposite platform. Signs will be posted at the stations and announcements will be made directing customers to the correct platform

Scheduling of station construction projects is dictated by the track layout. To work on platforms, the adjacent track has to be taken out of service. To do that, trains must be routed onto other tracks at switches, also called interlockings. Often the distance between interlockings is several miles and may include several stations. So it makes sense to bundle work at stations within a given interlocking to take advantage of the track outage.

That’s why work at Hastings-on-Hudson, Dobbs Ferry, Ardsley-on-Hudson, and Irvington was done simultaneously and why works at Ossining, Scarborough and Philipse Manor will be undertaken as a single project.

That’s also why Track 4, the western-most, riverside track, also known as the inbound local track, will be taken out of service on January 15, 2008 for 18 months during work at Ossining, Scarborough and Philipse Manor. During this outage, customers will board AM peak trains from the opposite side, Track 3, also known as the outbound local track.

While I am sure some customers will complain about the temporary changes at their respective stops, they will hopefully enjoy the upgraded facilities to help create a better railroad.

xoxo Transit Blogger

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Metro-North Increases Train Service This Holiday Season

Yesterday, the MTA issued a press release announcing increases in Metro-North service this holiday season. The increases begin on December 21 & last until New Year’s Eve. Here is the press release with full details courtesy of the MTA

MTA Metro-North Railroad knows what it takes to keep you moving, shopping, sightseeing, show-going and celebrating – trains and schedules to suit everyone’s need. So pick up a special holiday timetable today.

Friday, December 21:
A regular weekday schedule will operate with extra “getaway” trains between 1 p.m. and 4:10 p.m. Some early departures also will have more cars to provide more seats. Between 4 p.m. and 5 p.m., normal peak schedules will be in effect, but from 5 p.m. through 8:30 p.m., service will be consolidated due to lighter ridership.

Saturday, December 22:
A regular Saturday schedule will operate this day, including Shoppers’ Special service.

Sunday, December 23:
A regular Sunday schedule will operate this day, including Shoppers’ Special service.

Monday/Tuesday December 24-25:
A special two day holiday schedule will be in effect for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

Monday, December 24 – Christmas Eve Day:
Saturday schedule with additional inbound and outbound peak service. (Shoppers’ Special service does not operate).

Tuesday, December 25 – Christmas Day:
Regular Sunday schedule. (Shoppers’ Special service does not operate).

Wednesday thru Friday, December 26-28 – Week Before New Year’s:
During this holiday week, a.m. peak ridership decreases, while mid-morning travel increases. Therefore, Metro-North has changed its schedules to reflect this change in ridership with some trains not operating in the AM peak and additional inbound trains operating between 10 a.m. and noon. The specific changes are listed in the October 7th timetables and in the special holiday schedules now available.

Friday, December 28:
A regular schedule will be operated. There will be extra “getaway” trains between 1 p.m. and 4:10 p.m. In addition, there will be extra cars on most trains departing Grand Central from noon through 6 p.m. to provide additional seats. Between 4 p.m. and 5 p.m., normal peak schedules will be in effect. But from 5 p.m. through 8:30 p.m., service will be somewhat consolidated due to lighter ridership.

Saturday and Sunday Before New Year’s – December 29-30:
Regular Saturday and Sunday schedules will be in effect, including Shoppers’ Special service.

Monday, December 31, 2007 – New Year’s Eve:
Saturday schedule with additional peak service will be in effect, additional evening inbound service and overnight service for party revelers.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008 – New Year’s Day:
A regular Sunday schedule will operate on this day.

Day After New Year’s – Wednesday, January 2, 2008:
A regular weekday schedule is back in effect.

Connecting Services:
The Hudson Rail Link at Spuyten Duyvil and Riverdale, the Tappan Zee Express at Tarrytown, the Haverstraw Ossining Ferry-Link and the Beacon Newburgh Ferry Link all have special schedules. Look for station notices.

Special holiday timetables for all lines are available at Grand Central Terminal and outlying Metro-North train stations. Information is also available by visiting the MTA website at www.mta.info. Customers can call for information within NYC at 212-532-4900, outside of NYC at 800-METRO-INFO. The hearing impaired may call-via teleprinter-at 800-724-3322.

I am sure this will put a smile on the faces of many who will depend on the Metro-North this holiday season.

xoxo Transit Blogger

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The Fare Hike Is Now A Stone Cold Lock!

While the MTA Board still has to pass a fare hike at the scheduled vote on December 19th, it can now be considered a stone cold lock to happen. This opinion stems from the news that came out yesterday from Mayor Bloomberg. All this time Mayor Bloomberg has been secretive on which way he was leaning towards with the 4 votes he theoretically controls on the MTA Board. However his silence was broken after yesterday’s online seminar as he issued a statement on the latest fare hike proposal by the MTA. Here is the full statement by Mayor Bloomberg courtesy of NYC.gov:

Based on the information that my staff and I have received and reviewed over the past few weeks, I am now satisfied that the MTA budget is a responsible plan that includes important cost reductions. I agree with Governor Spitzer that this fare increase is necessary to maintain an adequate level of service and balance the needs and obligations of all who use this critical part of the region’s infrastructure. Although it is always hard to ask riders to pay more, I will now urge the City’s representatives to support the proposed fare plan that calls for preserving the $2.00 fare and holding the overall fare increase to less than 4%. This was something we couldn’t support until we’d done everything possible to lower operating expenses and to ensure efficiencies.

The MTA’s reductions in 2008 total about $140 million, approximately the same reduction in controllable expenses I am asking of Mayoral agencies. The MTA’s financial plan includes out-year reduction targets, but uncertainties in the economy, which we will monitor carefully in coming months, may require further cost containment. MTA management has agreed to propose to its Board that next year’s service increase program will not be implemented until the first quarter’s tax and other revenues are reviewed. While I hope that those service increases will be able to proceed, it is prudent to insure that funds are available to support these new initiatives. Further, MTA has committed to redoubling its efforts to reduce inefficiencies and redundancies.

The MTA plan currently has specified $11 million in additional cost efficiencies to take effect in ’09 and an additional unspecified target of $140 million. I have the commitment of Chairman Hemmerdinger and Executive Director Sander that they will promptly initiate a process which will include my designated Board members, particularly City Budget Director Mark Page, to identify specific measures to realize those savings. One promising program that is underway at the MTA is their ‘shared services’ initiative. The MTA is an amalgam of six separate operating agencies and I support their efforts to achieve efficiencies by consolidating ‘back office’ functions.

We all now need to turn to the next MTA capital plan. We must ensure that the next capital program not only continues to maintain the system but provides the funding for the system expansion that is essential for the growth of the City and the region. In the coming months, the MTA is required to submit its next five year capital plan. Not only do I look forward to working with the MTA in preparing that plan, I have asked the Governor to begin laying the structural groundwork for that plan in his executive budget, in anticipation of a new revenue source to be proposed by the congestion mitigation commission.

Here is Gov. Spitzer’s statement courtesy of NY.gov:

I commend MTA Chair Dale Hemmerdinger and MTA Executive Director and CEO Lee Sander on the hard work that they and their staff have put into developing a fiscally responsible 2008 budget. Fare increases are a difficult reality, but they have been diligent in their efforts to save the base fare at $2, limit the increase on discount Metrocards, and ease the burden on those who are least able to afford any hike. They combed through the budget to find savings and also to identify revenues to keep fare and toll increases to a level that is fair to the users of the system.

We all know the challenges that our transit system faces. The fare increase will be used to maintain an adequate level of service, ensure the safety of the system, and meet the challenges of growing ridership. By holding the $2 fare as I had requested, reducing the amount needed to purchase a bonus Metrocard, and introducing the 14-day pass, the MTA has put forward a range of options to ensure the system remains affordable.

I urge the MTA Board to adopt the proposed budget at their meeting next week.

We must now turn our efforts to the long-term funding of the state’s transportation infrastructure, including the needs of the MTA. We need to invest, not only to maintain the system we have, but to make the necessary improvements to grow the system through the 2nd Avenue Subway, East Side Access, Access to Regions Core, and a new Moynihan Station – projects that will ensure the system serves the 21st Century economy. The report due in January by the Congestion Mitigation Commission is the first step in that process.

I look forward to working with Mayor Bloomberg, Speaker Silver and Majority Leader Bruno on developing the MTA plan.

On the other side of the debate, some opponents of the fare hike did not pass up on the opportunity to release statements of their own. Here is with an official statement courtesy of the NYC Council from City Council Speaker Christine Quinn who had this to say:

While the MTA is facing tough economic projections, I do not believe that there is an immediate reason to raise the fare for 86% of New Yorkers. Simply put, we need to give the MTA more time to get its house in order.

MTA board members should heed the offer of Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, over fifty members of the State Assembly and numerous other elected officials, to work with the MTA to seek additional funding streams to address long term fiscal planning.

There may very well be a time when a fare increase is justified. With necessary expansion projects on the horizon, we obviously need to come up with addition sources of revenue. But when the MTA can come up with $220 million dollars almost overnight, it raises serious doubts over the severity of their projected deficits and whether or not they have a clear understanding of their own budget and potential State and City contributions.

Before New Yorkers dig deeper into their pockets, we need assurance that the MTA has explored every option.

Here are some more comments from other opponents of the proposed fare hikes:

Queens Democrat Councilman & Chairman of the Transportation Committee of the City Council John Liu had this to say:

The M.T.A. is once again out of touch with the public in this headlong rush to raise transit fares. In New York, we’re trying to get more commuters to use mass transit. However, all the ill-conceived M.T.A. talk of fare increases has in fact stirred up mounting opposition to the Mayor’s congestion mitigation proposal. Ultimately, it all boils down to the M.T.A.’s credibility and New Yorkers simply are not ready to pay the M.T.A. more now when there is a billion dollars of operating surplus, on top of which they recently found $220 million dollars of extra surplus.

There’s no need for any fare increase of any kind now. The M.T.A. needs to drop this arrogant effort to hike the fares and instead get down to the real business of running our mass transit system, of fixing stations, of terror-proofing the subways, of installing communications capabilities, and maintaining the storm drainage systems.

City Councilmember Simcha Felder:

I’m not surprised that the MTA has found a new way to rip us off by holding the base fare favored by tourists at $2, while raising every other fare, including the fares of the weekly and monthly unlimited passes. Hard working New Yorkers, who have to deal with crowded trains, delayed and intermittent service, and dirty subway stations every day should be the ones shielded most from fare hikes.

Gene Russianoff of the Straphangers Campaign:

I am very disappointed that Mayor Michael Bloomberg is supporting Governor Eliot Spitzer’s proposed fare hike for New York City subway and bus riders.

A fare hike now is the wrong choice for New York. It would hit many people who are struggling hard to make ends meet and hurt the region’s economy. We had hoped that Mayor Bloomberg would stand up for his constituents. Our hope was misplaced.

The struggle to win fairer state and city funding for transit continues. The Spitzer Administration should not propose a state budget filled with inadequate support and gimmicks for transit. The Straphangers Campaign will keep pressing the need for new aid to transit. We note:

* This fare hike will hit 86 percent of the riding public who use fare discounts. These include pay-per-ride bonus MetroCards and 7- and 30-day unlimited-ride passes. It’s also a double whammy for most L.I.R.R. and Metro-North commuters whose railroad fares would go up! The large majority of them also use city transit.

* Legislators should get a chance to end unfair transit funding. As a recent editorial said: “The city and state have unconscionably underfinanced mass transit for years, a legacy of Gov. George Pataki and Mayor Rudolph Giuliani. The formula for funding mass transportation should be changed before any fares are raised.”

* Metropolitan-area riders already pay more than their fair share. In 2005, riders paid 55 percent of the costs of running the subways and buses. Metro-North riders paid 51 percent and LIRR riders paid 47 percent. But riders in other cities pay much less. The national average for the top 50 transit systems is 37 percent. In Boston it is 29 percent, Chicago 43 percent and Philadelphia 37 percent.

The M.T.A.says the new fare hikes are “progressive.” In the absence of any demographic data to back up their claim, it is still a fare hike.

We do appreciate both the M.T.A.’s lowering of the threshold for getting a bonus on a pay-per-ride MetroCard. Riders will now get a smaller bonus (down from 20 percent to 15 percent), but for a lower dollar amount (would be $7, currently $10.) The real fare on discounted pay-per-ride would go up from $1.67 to $1.74.

We also support the creation of 14-day unlimited-ride MetroCards. For riders who can afford it, the 14-day card will give a greater discount than a 7-day card, but cost much less than a 30-day card (which would go from $76 to $81.)

As you can see many have come out sharply against all or part of the new fare & toll hike proposals by the MTA. Unfortunately though none of it will matter as the fare hike is now a stone cold lock. With Mayor Bloomberg officially siding with Elliot Spitzer & the MTA, the amount of votes needed to pass a fare hike are in their favor. I don’t think any amount of criticism will prevent the majority of riders, 86% in fact from receiving screwjobs for the holidays. What more could we want this holiday season? A special thanks to the MTA, Gov. Spitzer, & Mayor Bloomberg, we appreciate the screwjobs!

xoxo Transit Blogger

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