MTA Says The Price Is Not Right!

Yesterday the MTA announced that there might be a delay in the creation of a Long Island Railroad terminal at Grand Central. The announcement came after the MTA was not pleased with the lone bid it received for the contract to build the terminal. The MTA expected the bid to come in at approximately $670 million dollars. However the bid submitted by a joint venture between Judlau Contracting Inc. & Dragados totaled $870 million.

MTA Capital Construction President Mysore Nagaraja said this about the agency’s feeling on the bid; “We were not happy with the number.” He also went on to share his feelings on the lack of bids in relation to such a huge project by stating They’re not hungry.” He went on to say that the agency might consider splitting the project into several smaller contracts. He also acknowledged that he is wondering if a call for new bids would delay the project’s slated completion time of 2013.

You know what, I wouldn’t mind seeing this plan scrapped. I have felt all along that this project was not a necessity as it only helps a small minority of riders. The MTA as a whole should be focusing most of their attention on the upkeep & creation of new services & stations in relations to the NYC subway! If they were to get their business in order in those areas, I would then support projects that can help suburban commuters!

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Pascack Valley Line Riders Rejoice!

New Jersey Transit has finally done something that was long overdue! They have added more service to the Pascack Valley line. According to an article in yesterday’s Bergen Record, New Jersey Transit plans on adding bi-directional off peak and weekend service starting this Sunday.

The Pascack Valley line which is 18 stops long averages a little over 4,000 riders a day. The line stretches out 31 miles while serving riders in Bergen & Rockland counties. At the current time, the line offers service into New York in the mornings & out of New York in the evenings. The line offers no weekend service.

The change in service is the direct result of four passing siding tracks being installed. The installation of the 4 passing siding tracks enables New Jersey Transit to offer service in both directions all day long. The service changes include 15 new trains scheduled for weekday service. Weekend service will consist of 23 trains. The breakdown for the 15 weekday trains consist of 8 trains inbound Secaucus Junction & Hoboken with the remaining 7 going outbound. The breakdown for the 23 weekend trains consist of 11 inbound to Hoboken & 12 outbound.

New Jersey Transit has been planning these changes for sometime now. The agency’s board of directors approved the installation of the passing siding tracks in December 2004. Construction began on the project in 2005 & totaled $19 million when all was said & done. The 4 passing siding tracks were installed in East Rutherford, Hasbrouck Heights, Hackensack, & Nanuet.

Many people had comments about the changes made. Here are some of the comments:

New Jersey Transit Board of Directors Member Susan Hayes – “For the first time, we can get to where we want to go to and not have to fight with the traffic.”

New Jersey Transportation Commissioner Kris Kolluri – “These passing sidings have enabled us to address the limitations that have long been posed by the Pascack Valley Line’s single track configuration. Bringing more rail service into Bergen County will encourage more people to leave their cars behind.”

River Edge Mayor Margaret Watkins – “We fully understand how important public transportation is to our lives and how it helps keep us connected to the people and the places we care about.”

Maywood resident Ed Kaminski – “It’s leisurely, I’ve always had to drive to sporting events. Now I can take the train to Devils games.”

To celebrate the long overdue changes, New Jersey Transit is offering a special promotion titled “Bring Friends & Family”. The promotional period will take place during the first two weeks of December. During the promotional period monthly pass holders can bring a friend for free and single ticket purchasers will get a second ticket free.

I used to live in Rockland County for 4 years back in the mid to late 90′s. Friends of mine would always ask why I always used the Red & Tan instead of train when going to the city as a teen. I gave them two reasons for my choice. The first reason is because the bus stop was literally down the block from my house going to NYC while I could get dropped off in front of my house coming back. However the biggest reason is because I never would see any trains at the station in Spring Valley.

Actually I will take that back, I think I saw a train once or twice in my 4 years of living there. I figure why bother hitching a ride to the train station when the bus was close by. If the train offered better service, I would have taken it at some point. I will say that even if it did, it would be hard to pass up the Red & Tan. The price to get to NYC was so low & the service quality was pretty good!

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I Wonder What Judy Thinks…….

Judy Jacobs
(Judy Jacobs; Photo courtesy of Nassau County Government Website )

Who is Judy you might ask? Judy Jacobs is the Presiding Officer of the Majority of the Nassau County Legislature. She represents district 16 which is made up of the communities of Bethpage, Cove Neck, East Norwich, Jericho, Laurel Hollow, Muttontown, Oyster Bay, Oyster Bay Cove, Plainview, Syosset, and Woodbury. So why would I care what she thinks?

While doing some research a short while ago about the Syosset gap story, I stumbled across a press release from the Nassau County government website. The August 11, 2006 press release discussed Judy Jacobs reaction to the at the time proposal by the Long Island Railroad to install a CCTV system at the Syosset station. Here is the full press release:

Nassau County Presiding Officer Judy Jacobs (Woodbury) today called a proposal by Long Island Railroad officials to install a $1.5 million “monitoring system” at the Syosset Rail Road station an “unacceptable” solution to the danger posed to passengers by the 15-inch gap that exists between the trains and platform. This week a teenager died when she slipped into a gap while waiting for a train at another station. The 15-inch gap at the Syosset station is most problematic because of the large curved platform.

Dermody announced the proposed safety measure today, but Legislator Jacobs fired off her third letter in as many days to Dermody to express her disapproval. I her third letter she wrote:

“I was just informed that one of your “solutions” at the Syosset rail road is the installation of $1,500,000.00 of surveillance cameras that would be able to allow you to see if, and how, anyone falls into the gap. This is totally unacceptable as a solution. Obviously, we need the same protection that exists on many New York stations, where extensions come out from under the platforms to close the gaps on the train. Anything short of that same type of installation is totally irresponsible and unresponsive to the protection of public safety.

Surveillance cameras cannot prevent a person from falling through the gaps. Surveillance cameras will not protect a person from being injured, or possibly killed.”

Jacobs is instead proposing that the LIRR install moveable gap fillers to serve as a bridge between the train and platform. Filler bridges are used at several stations in New York City.

“Syosset’s gap problem needs more than the stop-gap measure proposed by Dermody,” Jacobs said. “The LIRR knew about this problem since 1970.”

I happen to agree with Judy 100% on this issue. I have never heard of CCTV preventing such accidents. I also fail to see CCTV ever preventing such accidents. I also strongly agree that the installation of the CCTV system is nothing but the Long Island Railroad’s way of throwing a band aid on a would that needs much more attention!

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Yet Another LIRR Gap Accident!

Platform gap at LIRR Syosset station
(Presiding Officer Judy Jacobs points out the 15 and 1/2 inch gap at the Syosset train station. Photo courtesy of Nassau County Government Website )

The curse of the gap has once again reared its ugly head on the Long Island Railroad. Today’s incident occurred at the Syosset station on the Port Jefferson branch. The victim was a 60 year old woman who became stuck in the platform gaps that are as wide as 15 inches at the Syosset station.

Officials are not sure if she was entering or exiting the train when the accident took place. The accident took place at approximately 9:20 a.m. this morning. The train involved was the 8:55 a.m. train out of Huntington that was due at Penn Station at 10:05 a.m. According to LIRR spokesman Sam Zambuto, the woman got both of her legs entangled both legs in the gap. She immediately requested medical attention & was taken to Syosset Hospital with abrasions to both legs.

It seems the Syosset station is no stranger to gap accidents. According to statistics obtained by Newsday, there were 39 gap related accidents at the Syosset between 1989 and July 2007. We also learn that on one day in January of 1996, there were 3 separate gap accidents at the station.

This probably leads to people wondering why the MTA did not install mechanical gap fillers. As usual it comes down to money with them. According to a study, the MTA would have needed to spend $72 million dollars to install mechanical gap fillers system wide. They instead decided to install a CCTV system which came with 24 surveillance cameras that feature 12 on each platform.

Leave it to the MTA to penny pinch on such an important issue. One would think the MTA would have gotten their heads out of the sand after all the gap related accidents especially the national attention it dubiously earned from the Natalie Smead incident. Instead they felt $72 million dollars was too much, this coming from an agency that wastes money like it is going out of style! On a side note…….

I have to admit I wonder if this woman was entering or exiting the train. If I had to venture a guess, I would say she was running to catch the train. I say this based on the time of the accident along with the Port Jefferson timetable. The incident involved the 8:55 a.m. train out of Huntington due at Penn Station at 10:05 a.m.

The 8:55 a.m. train starts at Huntington (In case you didn’t know, a good percentage of Port Jefferson trains start & end at Huntington.) & is scheduled to arrive at 9:07 a.m. The incident occurred at 9:20 a.m. which means that train was 13 minutes late. I feel the odds clearly lean to the train being late & this woman running to catch the train which led to the accident.

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MTA Ready To Screw Up 7 Line Extension….

7 Train @ Queensboro Plaza
(Flushing-Main Street bound 7 train @ Queensboro Plaza; resized photo courtesy of Eye On Transit

One of the most unnecessary transit projects has made the news again. The project I am referring to is the 7 train extension that has been in the works for sometime now. As you might recall the extension was supposed to be one of the keys in helping NYC win the right to host the Olympics. We all know how that turned out….

Now it seems that most of the original plans might get scrapped.The MTA is expected to approve a $1.1 billion dollar contract to dig the tunnel from Times Square west to 11th Avenue, then downtown to a terminal at 34th Street. The original plan featured the creation of two new stops with one being at 41st St & 10th Ave. along with the terminal at 34th St. & 11th Ave.

As time went on, the MTA expressed concerns about not having the funds to fully build the stop at 41st St. & 10th Ave. However the agency did say they would look into creating a shell station at the location. While not cost effective, the shell would enable the MTA to fully build the station when funds became available.

Unfortunately over the weekend it was announced that the possible creation of a shell station in in danger. The cost of building the shell would be approximately $500 million dollars. The MTA at this point is not coming out of cost to build the extension as that is the city’s responsibility. The city agreed to this deal as part of their plan to develop the Hudson Rail Yards.

The dilemma for the MTA is the possibility of overruns. If the MTA were to agree to the shell station being built, they would be financially responsible for any overruns involving the creation of the shell station. The MTA as usual is crying poverty so this is a huge monkey wrench.

MTA board member Andrew Albert voiced his concerns about the shell station not being built. Here was his quote: “The real irony is that there are many more homes and businesses near the 10th Avenue station than near the Javits station. The bottom line is this is going to cost us a lot more later.”

Mr. Albert is 100% correct in his thinking. While I would personally like to see this extension scrapped as it is not needed, the MTA can not afford to screw this up. It makes absolutely no sense for the 7 to be extended as it is at capacity to begin with. However if you must go through with this, it would make perfect sense for the station to be at a location that benefits the majority of people. I am sure that many would agree that the 41st St. & 11th Avenue station is far more important than one by the Jacob Javits Center!

I have a trivia question for you. What major transit project followed a similar path as the 7 line extension? The path in question is a planned extension that always got changed or delayed due to money either running out or flat out not being put towards the project. I’ll give you a hint, the answer is 3 words long………

Time’s up! The answer: Second Avenue Subway!

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