MTA Responds To Bus Report

In the entry below this, I discussed the bus report released this morning by the NYPIRG Straphangers Campaign. It did not take the MTA long to respond to the report. Here is what they had to say:

The Straphangers assertion that our bus customers are being “crushed by crowds” or that customers are “having to wait for more than one bus to go by” does not systemically occur on NYC Transit bus routes. It is equally untrue that NYC Transit has not kept pace with the increase in ridership which resulted from free bus-to-subway transfers and discounted fares. The fact of the matter is that the increase in bus ridership, most of which occurred by the end of 2001, was met with unprecedented increases in bus service.

To meet the demand in bus ridership of the late 1990’s resulting from the introduction of MetroCard and its free subway to bus transfers and fare incentives, NYC Transit added more service at the fastest pace of any major U.S. Transit agency in history. From 1997 to 2007, bus service increased by 29 percent with increases on virtually all bus routes city-wide. In addition, the bus fleet size grew by 1,026 buses, a 29 percent increase. Taken alone, the increase in fleet size would rank as the 11th largest bus fleet in the United States, larger than bus fleets in Miami, Boston or Minneapolis. By the end of 2001, the increases in service implemented by NYC Transit appropriately met ridership requirements. Since 2001, bus ridership has increased by only 2.8%, compared with a 4.4% increase in service levels.

Increasing service at such a rapid pace required NYC Transit to absorb $217 million in annualized costs, including hiring 1,900 new bus operators and 300 bus maintainers. The fleet additions required a $1.63 billion capital investment in new buses which allowed us to virtually replace the entire bus fleet while increasing its size and diversifying the fleet through the additions of articulated and express coach buses to provide greater capacity. Investments were also made in new facilities, including the Zerega Avenue and Grand Avenue maintenance shops.

Important in this discussion is the fact that in 1996, bus ridership was at its lowest point ever, with 492 million annual riders. The system was nowhere near capacity, allowing for much of the ridership growth since 1996 to be accommodated within existing available capacity.

NYC Transit regularly reviews operating conditions, ridership and passenger loadings to ensure buses are operating according to MTA Board-adopted loading guidelines. Service levels are based on peak direction and peak period travel, and provides for excess capacity in the off-peak direction and at other points along the route. On average, this ensures that buses operate within adopted passenger loading guidelines. Passenger loadings above guidelines can occur due to unusual weather, traffic and construction conditions. Significant traffic congestion is one of the reasons that NYC Transit has initiated the new Select Bus Service in the Bronx along the Fordham Road – Pelham Parkway corridor as a means to cut through congestion in major bus corridors.

The MTA comes off quite defensive in their response. However this is nothing new as they usually get antsy when the Straphangers Campaign calls them out. However this goes deeper than just the Straphangers Campaign. I ask the MTA this, besides the Straphangers Campaign, can the majority of your riders be wrong? The report only comes from one source but its message is shared by millions. The chances of all of them being wrong is next to nil.

I am not saying the MTA never responds to the changes in the fabric that make up their ridership. However it is a known fact they are usually slow to adapt to the ever changing ridership landscape. Instead of declaring this report inaccurate, they should open their eyes & see the story that gets played out from one bus route to another across New York City. If they do, it will only benefit everyone involved.

xoxo Transit Blogger

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NYPIRG Straphangers Campaign Releases Bus Report

B68 turning around in the Mermaid Bus Loop in Brooklyn
B68 turning around in the Mermaid Bus Loop in Brooklyn. Resized photo courtesy of Eye On Transit

This morning the NYPIRG Straphangers Campaign released a bus report highlighting what they feel is a lack of adequate bus service to match growing bus ridership. Here is their report:

The NYPIRG Straphangers Campaign today released an analysis showing that gains in weekday bus service lag behind increases in bus ridership.

The Campaign compared changes in weekday ridership to changes in weekday service over the past decade, between September 1997 and September 2007, using data from MTA New York City Transit.

For the city bus system overall, average weekday ridership increased 22% between 1997 and 2007, but weekday service only 15%.

Average weekday bus ridership rose by almost 450,000 daily, from two million in September 1997 to 2.45 million in September 2007 — up 22%. For the same period, service rose from 10.4 million “revenue seat miles” to 11.9 million — only 15%.

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Here We Go Again

Over the last month or so, the MTA has found its name in the spotlight for one piece of bad press after another. Just when you think this vicious cycle has slowed down, out comes the news of 60 MTA Bridge & Tunnel employees who receive employee cars with gas included as a perk. Alison Gendar and Pete Donohue of the New York Daily News has the story:

Despite a fiscal crisis that could trigger another round of fare and toll hikes, dozens of top-level MTA staffers not only get free E-ZPasses – they get gassed-up authority cars to boot.

The free riders – 60 strong – work for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s bridge and tunnel division as executives, engineers and supervisors. At least 37 make more than $100,000 a year, payroll records show.

Staffers are not supposed to use the late-model sedans for personal use other than commuting between their offices and home, according to MTA Bridges and Tunnels, which said the cars were doled out in case of emergencies.

The MTA division pays to maintain and fuel the cars, mostly Ford Crown Victorias, Ford Tauruses and Chevrolet Impalas, according to agency records.

“There is no reason people making good salaries can’t drive to work and then take a pool car to where they need to go,” said one bridge and tunnel worker who drives his own car to work, referring to MTA Bridges and Tunnels’ fleet of 40 cars that staffers not assigned cars can request for official business during working hours.

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Church Avenue F Station Now ADA Compliant

MTA officials at the Church Avenue F Station
MTA officials at the Church Avenue F Train station showcasing the newly installed elevators.

Earlier today the MTA’s New York City Transit division issued a press release to announce the grand opening of elevators at the Church Avenue station on the F Train. The installation of these elevators now makes the station the 66th one out of 468 to be ADA Compliant. Here is the press release:

New York City Transit customers with disabilities will now be able to take advantage of three new elevators at the Church Avenue F station. The elevators connect the street with the platform level on both platforms at the station, used by more than 9,000 customers on an average weekday. In addition, closed-circuit televisions and talk-back systems have been installed in the elevators, which will go into service following this ribbon cutting ceremony attended by MTA Executive Director and CEO Elliot G. Sander, MTA NYC Transit President Howard H. Roberts, Jr., Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, New York State Assemblyman Jim F. Brennan, Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke, New York City Councilman Bill DeBlasio, New York State Senator Eric L. Adams and community officials.

The completion of this project brings the number of accessible stations under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to 66 as NYC Transit continues to invest heavily in the installation and maintenance of elevators so that the subway system can be accessible to as many people as possible.

“Improving service for all our customers is one of the MTA’s top priorities,” said Elliot G. Sander, Executive Director and CEO of the MTA. “With the support and partnership of the region’s elected officials, all New Yorkers can benefit from transportation improvements large and small, from new elevators at a neighborhood station to mega projects that keep our region internationally competitive and environmentally sustainable.”

The station also received repair and modification of platform edge strips, the fare control area, lighting and handrails, all contributing to increased accessibility. The installation of Braille/Tactile signage and TTY public telephones was also included in the more than $15 million project. The project also included the renovation of the station’s two public bathrooms, which are now accessible to persons with disabilities.

“The subway system is an asset that should benefit everyone. Unfortunately, because the vast majority of the system was built without elevator access, many New Yorkers find it difficult or impossible to access this fast and efficient means of transportation. However, with every station we make accessible, more and more New Yorkers will be able to enjoy the system travel on their own schedule,” said NYC Transit President Howard H. Roberts, Jr. “Opening these elevators in effect opens up the City,” added Roberts.

While making the Church Avenue F station an ADA key station has always been a part of NYC Transit’s plan, Assemblyman Brennan’s allocation of $500,000 of capital funding significantly accelerated the timing of this project. The improvements at this station are particularly meaningful for the 100 legally blind persons who regularly use this station to and from their jobs at the New York City Industries for the Blind’s workshop, located nearby.

The new elevators are included in NYC Transit’s lift-net monitoring system so that technicians will be informed immediately in the event of an elevator breakdown, ensuring faster response and repair.

In 2007, sixteen ADA elevators were installed in six stations city wide. So far this year, eight ADA elevators have been opened in four stations and nine more are planned for completion in three additional stations. These accessibility improvements were funded through the MTA Capital Plan. Since 2000, including planned investments through 2009, NYC Transit will have spent $130 million on ADA-related investments at 10 key stations in Brooklyn.

As a reminder, NYC Transit operates the largest accessible bus fleet in the world, with 4,500 vehicles being equipped with either lifts or a combination of low floors and ramps. Additionally, more than 300,000 trips are provided by NYC Transit’s Access-A-Ride Paratransit service each month.

I look forward to the day when all 468 stations are ADA Compliant as that is something that should have been done by now!

xoxo Transit Blogger

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Increased Fare Evasion Penalty Begins Today

Towards the end of June, I wrote about the MTA board approving an increase to the fine one would pay if they are caught for fare evasion. The fine is now $100, up from the previous amount of $60. This past Thursday the New York City Transit division of the MTA issued a press release about the increase:

The penalty for fare evasion is increasing from $60 to $100. The increase, the first in 20 years, was unanimously approved by the full MTA Board at its June 25, 2008 meeting. The increased fine will go into effect for fare evasion summonses issued on Monday, July 7th, 2008.

Attached is a “Fare Evasion Will Cost You” poster, versions of which will be posted in subway stations and on board buses city-wide.

For more information on this and other penalties in our Rules of Conduct, customers can log on to our website at www.mta.info.

Fare Evasion Poster

xoxo Transit Blogger

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