MTA Will Test Variable Speed Escalators In The Subway

Yesterday afternoon, the New York Times’ City Room Blog had a report about a new subway escalator pilot program being implemented by the MTA. The program which starts this coming Monday will feature 35 escalators that will operate at variable speeds. Sewell Chan has more in his report:

The 169 escalators throughout New York City’s subway system are not known for running smoothly — each averaged 68 breakdowns or repair calls last year — and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority now says it has a partial solution.

Starting Monday, 35 recently installed escalators at four stations will start operating at variable speeds as part of a pilot program. Using infrared motion sensors, the escalators will slow to a crawl of just 15 feet per minute when no one is on them, compared with the normal full speed of 100 feet per minute. The escalators will gradually accelerate to the full speed, over a period of a few seconds, once a rider steps on them.

Click here to read the complete report.

On paper this sounds like an interesting idea. However I am concerned about the possible safety issues that might come from such escalators. What happens if the escalator does not wait the allotted amount of time before changing speeds? This could lead to riders tripping or falling & causing a possible domino effect. While it might sound far fetched, it could happen considering this motion is electronic. I’ve seen things like this happen on treadmills which operated in a similar fashion.

Don’t get me wrong, I am all for saving energy which this would. I just don’t know if changing speeds while in motion is a good idea. I also am concerned at the costs of repairing these devices when they fail which you know they will. The MTA has problems up keeping normal escalators, imagine more hi-tech ones. I would bet that any repair would completely wash away the money saved from varying speeds depending on usage.

While reading the responses to the article, I noticed a mention of a way to shut them down when no one is using them. This line of thinking leads one to believe that they would save energy. While they bring up a point about possible savings, this would be an idea that in the end would backfire. As with the speed variation version, any sort of repair would most likely wash away any savings. Plus the main factor is such a mechanism would create a shorter lifespan for the escalator. Turning any sort of device on & off constantly is a sure fire way to fry its motor/starter,etc… before it normally would have.

I honestly think the MTA should first figure out a better way of maintaining their current crop of escalators before moving on to bigger & better things.

xoxo Transit Blogger

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Senator Clinton Introduces Major Transportation Bill

Back towards the end of June, I wrote about a major transportation bill that was overwhelmingly approved by the U.S. House of Representatives. The bill which is titled “Saving Energy Through Public Transportation Act of 2008” would call for a $1.7 billion financial aid package earmarked to help mass transit systems around the country lower fares & expand operations. $237 million of that aid would be earmarked for New York City.

As I stated in June’s entry, the bill had a long way to go before it successfully crossed the finish line. The bill while an overwhelming success in the House, struggled to make headway in the Senate due to lacking a Senate sponsor. However this past Friday the sponsorship issue was taken care of as New York Junior Senator Hillary Clinton (who should have been our next President) introduced “S 3380 IS” to the Senate.

Lets hope this bill can make it through the Senate & get to the President. My main concern is if the bill gets to Bush’s hands as he will most likely veto it. We know how he truly could care less about providing adequate funding for the country’s transit infrastructure. If this bill was catered to vehicles, He’d approve it in a second. Pathetic…..

xoxo Transit Blogger

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Bloomberg Talking Butts With The King

A few days ago I wrote about Mayor Bloomberg’s idea of starving off at least one potential fare hike by collecting on the taxes of cigarettes sold on Indian reservations. The entry revolved around a brief article in the New York Post. Now Mayor Bloomberg has teamed with Long Island Republican Congressman Peter King to write an article in the New York Post about the taxation idea. Here is a brief sample of their article:

The MTA says it’s broke and needs to raise fares. Not so fast.

In the private sector, the answer to every cash flow challenge isn’t to raise prices. That’s usually the last resort – companies facing budget deficits start by trimming their own spending. So should government agencies.

Ten months ago, with the economy showing signs of weakening, city agencies were directed to trim their budgets by 5 percent. They did – producing $1.1 billion in savings in city funds. The MTA should find similar efficiencies.

In a $10 billion budget, any good manager should be able to find cost efficiencies and other savings without diminishing services. You can always do more with less, as New York City government has proven.

Yes, the MTA says it has already cut its budget as far as it can. We know they can do more.

Click here to read the complete article.

As I stated in the original entry, I have my doubts about this plan. I am taking a wait & see approach before putting any stock in it.

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Congestion Pricing Plan Just Won’t Go Away

Readers of Transit Blogger know how I feel about congestion pricing. If you are new to the site, here is a sentence to describe my feelings on the plan. Congestion pricing is nothing but a modernized version of “Robbing Peter to Pay Paul.” So when I was browsing the New York Times site & saw congestion pricing continuing to be in the news, I was annoyed. However putting my feelings aside, I felt it was responsible to bring the report to my readers. Here is a brief sample of the two page report by Ray Rivera of the New York Times:

The financial crisis at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority is breathing new life into an idea the Legislature rejected just months ago: congestion pricing.

Facing a projected $900 million budget shortfall next year, the authority has proposed increasing transit fares twice in the coming three years, and has asked the city and state governments to provide hundreds of millions in additional aid.

But city and state officials, struggling with their own multibillion-dollar deficits, have urged the authority to cut its spending and find alternative sources of revenue. They have said they are counting on a commission led by Richard Ravitch, a former transportation authority chairman, to devise a plan to rescue the agency from its deepening financial hole.

Enter congestion pricing. Asked in a recent interview how seriously the commission was considering elements of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s traffic revenue plan to provide money that could bail out the authority, Mr. Ravitch replied, “Very.”

Click here to read the complete report.

Personally while I am not a big fan of Sheldon Silver, I do support his belief of how ridiculous the congestion pricing plan really was. A brief report on his feelings can be seen in an article by the New York Daily News’ Elizabeth Benjamin. Click here to read her article.

I sincerely hope the Ravitch Commission comes up with legitimate ways to help fund our transit infrastructure. While it is not solely the commission’s responsibility to come up with all the ways, it is important they come up with good ideas. Congestion pricing in any form is & never will be a good idea.

xoxo Transit Blogger

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Subway Station Conditions Will Not Improve Anytime Soon

East 143rd St-St Mary's St station
Decrepit conditions like this at the East 143rd St-St. Mary’s St. station will continue to be a regular sight for straphangers. Resized photo courtesy of EyeOnTransit.com

Lets face it, subway stations for the most part are in horrible shape & absolutely disgusting to look at. Don’t think the MTA does not know how you feel or notice the terrible shape they are in as they do, at least NYC Transit President Howard Roberts Jr. does. Unfortunately we straphangers better get used to it as the fixing up of these stations is a long way off according to Mr. Roberts. Angela Montefinise, Kathianne Boniello, & Jordan Edwards of the New York Post has the story:

The head of New York City Transit acknowledges that less than a quarter of the Big Apple’s subway stations are in acceptable condition – and says the agency is an “unbelievably long distance” from bringing the rest up to par, even with higher fares.

“There’s not anything out there that anybody is very proud of,” NYC Transit President Howard Roberts Jr. told The Post in a wide-ranging interview about the fundamental problems plaguing the city’s 468 subway stations as the agency slashes its budget and talks about raising fares twice more in the coming three years.

Click here to read the full story.

I have seen these conditions all over the subway since I was a kid. When I was younger, I thought it was just a temporary down period & our stations would eventually look as they should. Unfortunately I like any other kid was naive or even a dreamer. Our system is in horrible shape & I wonder if we will ever be able to be proud to call this ours.

The bottom line is Mr. Roberts is right about these changes being a long way off unless our elected officials are willing to help adequately found the MTA as they should. When I say help fund the system, I mean through legitimate means & not the ridiculous congestion pricing. I’m sure we will hear or read the rallying calls for it. I still ask any blogger, elected official, transit advocate, etc…to prove how congestion pricing is nothing but a modernized version of “Robbing Peter to Pay Paul.” Maybe I can give them a little more time to craft their b.s. response.

xoxo Transit Blogger

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