Next Subway Arrival Board: 3 Years Away

One of the biggest technological advances in mass transit for riders was the implementation of arrival boards which tell you when the next train in each respective direction will arrive. The technology has been in place all over the world in places such as London, Rome, & in our own country in Washington D.C. Unfortunately for tri-state area residents, the most important system in the world continues to labor on without them. As usual the MTA is behind the rest of the world in terms of implementing transit technology or strategies even though are system is by far the most important & complex.

The agency did implement the technology on a smaller scale when they initiated a pilot program on the L Train. They had planned to implement it system-wide by 2006 but we all know that did not happen. We then were led to believe that the boards would be up & running by 2009. Now we learn that the date has been pushed back to sometime in 2011, a full 5 years later than originally anticipated. New York Daily News transit reporter Pete Donohue broke the news in this report:

Attention, straphangers: A project to display real-time train arrival times in 152 subway stations is now behind schedule – by five years.

The project, featuring electronic message boards posted above subway platforms, was originally expected to be completed in 2006.

NYC Transit has pushed back that date several times over the years, citing software development problems, technical glitches and other problems. Earlier this week, officials pushed the date back again, this time to 2011.

The delays in the $185 million project have frustrated riders and advocates who have seen such information provided in other cities around the world but not here.

“What a drag!” said Gene Russianoff of the Straphangers Campaign. “Riders really want to know when trains are due to arrive and when they are delayed.”

The transit agency in 2002 awarded the Public Address/Customer Information Screen contract to Siemens Transit Technologies, a joint venture between Siemens Transportation Systems and Transit Technologies.

The stations being rigged up are along the Nos. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 lines.

A smaller test program on the L line came on board last year. The balance of the system is slated to be equipped in a subsequent phase of the Siemens contract. A Siemens spokeswoman said she couldn’t immediately comment on the project Tuesday.

Click here for the complete report.

This is totally unacceptable & downright ridiculous. How could the most important & complex system in the world not have this technology implemented while others do? The tri-state area’s transit agencies should be leading the charge & be the model for others around the world. Instead through years of neglect, bad decisions, & no desire from the masses, our infrastructure is behind & has to be a follower instead of an innovator. Mark my words that by time this technology is up & running system-wide, other agencies will have implemented an even better method that will make these boards outdated. Pathetic………..

xoxo Transit Blogger

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The LIRR Knew All Along

As you have figured out by now, the LIRR has received plenty of attention on here & around other tri-state area media resources. The attention has not been for the right reasons as former employers are being investigated for manipulation the system to collect disability benefits. Unfortunately for the agency, the negative coverage continues as word as come out that the LIRR knew about this problem all along. Kenneth Lovett of the New York Daily News has more in this report:

ALBANY – A Long Island Rail Road official admitted the agency knew for a long time that many of its retirees collected disability payments, but never spoke up.

“It wasn’t our place,” the official told the Daily News. “We’re not part of the board making the decisions.”

The New York Times reported Sunday that virtually all LIRR employees retiring after age 50 in recent years had applied for disability – and that more than nine out of 10 got it. The Times said some 2,000 LIRR employees have retired since 2000.

The Railroad Retirement Board okayed the payments. The LIRR and MTA don’t have members on the board.

The Railroad Retirement Board requested information from the LIRR when considering each application, and told the agency who had been approved every month, the LIRR official said.

Despite the many names, the official said, no one put the situation together “because we weren’t informed in any systematic way. We didn’t know more than 90% were receiving them.”

Click here for the complete report.

More as it comes in….

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LIRR Disability Ripoff Editorial

The biggest transit story over the last few days has been the investigation into the LIRR as to whether or not employees purposely lied & manipulated their way into receiving disability payments. In continuing with this story, yesterday’s edition of the New York Daily News had a strongly worded editorial on the situation. Here is a sample of it:

Thousands of retired Long Island Rail Road employees are riding a gravy train that’s soaking taxpayers for millions – with the full complicity of the federal government.

A scathing report in The New York Times bares the shocking scam perpetrated by able-bodied LIRR workers who retire and then declare themselves disabled – eligible for federal benefits worth tens of thousands of dollars a year. Even more outrageous, the Railroad Retirement Board routinely approves their claims, on the flimsiest of evidence.

It has got to stop.

The average disability payment for an LIRR worker hired before 1988, who retired as early as age 50 with 20 years’ service, is $3,000 a month. Since 2000, that has totaled about a quarter-billion dollars to LIRR retirees.

Many of these supposedly disabled people use the same doctors and submit nearly identical applications. The board never seems to check their claims. Accordingly, many of these hurting retirees can be found playing golf on a Long Island course that’s free for the disabled.

Long Island Rep. Steve Israel has called for congressional hearings, and state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo is investigating.

Meanwhile, the state and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority must also take a hard look at contract provisions that let LIRR employees who are still on the job rob the public blind – by earning multiple days’ pay for a single day’s work.

Click here for the complete editorial.

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Federal Agents Raid Railroad Retirement Board Office

Over the last couple of days I have blogged about the LIRR being looked into for possible benefits manipulation. The drama continues to unfold as federal agents raided the Long Island office of the federal Railroad Retirement Board. Walt Bogdanich & Duff Wilson of the New York Times filed this report which will appear in today’s print edition:

Federal agents raided the Long Island office of the federal Railroad Retirement Board on Tuesday amid an intensifying investigation into the legitimacy of disability payments to thousands of former employees — including white-collar managers — of the Long Island Rail Road.

s former rail workers were arriving to file new disability claims, investigators showed up and closed the office in Westbury, eventually carting out nine file boxes and five personal computers.

The raid came two days after The New York Times reported that nearly all career employees of the railroad — from 93 percent to 97 percent of retirees every year since 2000 — retire early and soon after begin getting disability payments from the federal agency. The retirement board almost never turns down a claim, and since 2000 has paid more than a quarter of a billion dollars in disability checks to former Long Island Rail Road workers, The Times found.

Responding to the findings, Gov. David A. Paterson immediately directed the state attorney general to begin a wide-ranging inquiry into disability claims at the railroad. On Tuesday, he called on Congress to aid in that investigation.

Click here for the complete report.

More on this story as it unfolds…

xoxo Transit Blogger

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New York City Transit Requests Bus Fuel Contract Review

On Monday morning I blogged about the MTA getting price gouged on their bus fuel contract extension. The new contract extension with long running supplier Sprague Energy Corporation saw the costs to the MTA rise approximately $26 million dollars which is triple what it payed last year. Now on the heels of this news getting out, New York City Transit has asked the MTA’s Inspector General to review the extension. William Neuman of the New York Times has more in this report which will appear in today’s print edition:

New York City Transit has asked the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s inspector general to review a highly unusual contract that has added millions of dollars to the cost of buying diesel fuel for city buses, officials said on Tuesday.

The transit agency had to negotiate a one-year contract in late August under what it described as onerous terms as it faced the possibility of running out of fuel for its buses.

The transit agency rushed into its agreement, with Sprague Energy, after it had received no bids on a proposed contract to deliver the custom-made diesel fuel it uses, which is designed to minimize pollution.

Bids from Sprague and another company were due Aug. 21, just over three weeks before the previous contract, also with Sprague, was set to expire.

That gave the transit agency little time to find an alternative source, so it chose to negotiate a one-year extension with Sprague — at highly unfavorable terms — according to materials prepared for the authority’s board.

Barry L. Kluger, the authority’s inspector general, said on Tuesday that he had discussed the agency’s concerns about the contract last week with Howard H. Roberts, president of New York City Transit.

Click here for the complete report.

My opinions were posted in the initial entry which I linked to in the first paragraph.

xoxo Transit Blogger

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