So Some Are Not Too Thrilled….

Many politicians & riders are thrilled by the MTA announcing that the $2 base fare will remain unchanged through the end of 2009, others like State Senator Dean Skelos are crying foul. The Rockville Centre Republican had this to say about the MTA’s promise to keep the base fare at $2; “Gov. Spitzer gave a Thanksgiving gift to New York City subway riders at the expense of overburdened Long Island commuters.” Here is an article on the situation courtesy of Steve Ritea of Newsday:

Some of the sting of a proposed fare hike for the Long Island Rail Road and the rest of the MTA’s transit empire will be soothed by a $220-million surplus discovered literally over the past few days, officials announced yesterday.

Some officials applauded the announcement but a few questioned whether riders from the suburbs are being treated fairly when the $2 base fare for city subway and bus riders is not being hiked.

State Sen. Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) ripped the scenario as benefiting strap- hangers over his constituents, saying, “Gov. Spitzer gave a Thanksgiving gift to New York City subway riders at the expense of overburdened Long Island commuters.”

Metropolitan Transportation Authority officials, at a news conference hastily called at Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s Manhattan office, could not say by how much the proposed 6.5 percent increase on commuter rails would drop, pending more number-crunching.

But “the increase will be much lower,” said Spitzer, flanked by MTA Chief Elliot Sander and MTA Board Chairman H. Dale Hemmerdinger.

As the fare-hike proposal is revised, the only thing guaranteed to remain unchanged is the $2 base fare for single rides on city subways and buses, paid by about 15 percent of all riders. MetroCard and unlimited monthly pass buyers could see an increase – and that amount, too, is not yet known.

Hemmerdinger, however, said the MTA board will be looking for a plan that spreads the surplus throughout the system. “The board is very concerned about the equity and distribution of this $220 million,” he said, adding the board still plans to vote on a rate hike next month.

Sander said his staff expects to deliver a revised fare proposal in coming weeks. It was unclear whether it would be ready for a Monday meeting of the MTA’s finance committee.

Whatever plan the board approves would be likely to take effect in March, officials have said. Sander vowed those fares will remain unchanged through the end of 2009.

LIRR Commuter Council President Gerard Bringmann called preservation of the $2 base fare “window dressing,” saying few riders pay it.

The MTA’s surplus instead could be used to hold off any board vote on a fare hike until the state budget is prepared, he suggested. Some lawmakers have said they might find enough money in April to avert any increase.

Spitzer was not encouraging on that front, but promised to work with the agency. “We’d all like to have more money to spend, but we have a $4.3 billion deficit in Albany,” he said.

Sander said the MTA was not pressured by the state.

Board member and hike opponent Mitch Pally said he believes the full board will approve a lesser increase. “While the impact is less, there still is an impact, and I don’t see why we should do it now,” he added.

The additional funds are non-recurring and consist of $60 million from an expected 1 percent increase in ridership, $60 million from greater-than-expected real estate tax revenue, $60 million in unspent monies and $40 million from lesser-than-anticipated debt service costs.

I find it hard to feel sorry for people who are complaining about this being unfair. New York City riders have had to put up with far inferior service to our suburban counterparts. Plus in all honesty what are they complaining about as most of us who reside in the city are still going to get hit with increases. As I discussed here, only 14% of riders pay $2 per fare to begin with. So in theory we are still getting the raw end of the deal just like our suburban counterparts. So in the end Mr. Skelos should cut out the game of trying to look good for his constituents as it is not fooling me one bit!

xoxo Transit Blogger

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LIRR Service Alert As Of 6:25 A.M.

The MTA has posted a service alert affecting 4 of their branches. The service alert reads:

Wednesday, November 21, 2007 6:25 AM

Hempstead, Port Jefferson, Ronkonkoma and Oyster Bay Branch Customers:

Service is suspended on the Main Line through Queens Village because of a disabled westbound Hempstead train at Queens Village. The suspension of service is affecting Hempstead, Port Jefferson, Ronkonkoma and Oyster Bay Branch trains and as a result there is limited westbound service west of Jamaica.

Just great, a crappy start to the morning commute on one of if not the busiest travel days of the year. Oh joy joy!!!

xoxo Transit Blogger

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MTA To Reduce The Proposed Fare Increase

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Q Train Idling @ 21st St.-Queensbridge during a G.O. earlier this year. Resized photo courtesy of Eye On Transit

Sorry for being late with this entry but I was swamped all day yesterday. Anyhow by now I am sure you have all heard or read the news that the MTA has announced that they will not be raising the $2.00 base fare on buses & subways. The announcement comes after Gov. Spitzer called for the MTA to not go through with raising the base fares. Let me start by sharing the press release that was issued by the MTA yesterday:

MTA Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer Elliot G. Sander and Chairman H. Dale Hemmerdinger today committed to giving straphangers and commuters a break and reducing the amount of the proposed fare and toll increase at a press conference with Governor Eliot Spitzer. The announcement was prompted by feedback from public hearings and the arrival of updated budget forecasts, which added $220 million to the MTA’s year-end balance.

Governor Spitzer expressed his support for the responsible long-term fiscal planning in the MTA’s financial plan, but also urged the MTA to ease the burden on its riders. The MTA committed to revising its fare proposal to hold the $2.00 base fare for subway and bus riders and return the full $220 million to MTA customers over a two year period.

“The MTA’s long-term fiscal picture remains difficult, but right now riders are facing tough financial times and I am pleased that the MTA has agreed to reduce the increase,” Governor Spitzer said.

The MTA announced year-end projections $220 million above the figures projected in July, when the agency’s preliminary financial plan was released. The additional $220 million was derived from the following sources:

Farebox revenue: $60 million due to an approximately one percent increase in anticipated ridership

Real estate taxes: $60 million higher than expected

Underspending: $60 million saved

Debt service costs: $40 million saved

The MTA announced that it would reduce its proposed 6.5 percent fare and toll increase to return the entire $220 million to riders over the next two years, shared proportionately across the MTA’s operating agencies. The reduction will allow the MTA to hold the base fare for subway and bus riders at $2.00.

“The MTA is grateful to Governor Spitzer for his commitment to funding public transit and our four-year financial plan,” Sander said. “We are glad that revenues came in high enough to allow us to limit the fare increase and still address $6 billion in deficits over the next four years.”

MTA Chairman H. Dale Hemmerdinger joined the Governor and Sander in the announcement, and pledged to work with the Board to reach a conclusion in December.

“When I was confirmed I said I would listen to the public and review the numbers and I am thrilled that we are able to give something back,” Hemmerdinger said. “I believe this is a compromise that helps our customers without compromising our fiduciary responsibility, and I look forward to discussing it further with my fellow Board members.”

Continue reading for my opinion on this latest twist in the fare hike saga


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Second Avenue Subway Gets Guaranteed Federal Funding

Yesterday the MTA issued a press release announcing the guarantee of $1.3 billion dollars in federal funds to help build the first phase of the Second Avenue Subway. The news comes as a formality instead of breaking news since this allotment of funds was first brought up in September. However here is the full press release in all its glory courtesy of the MTA:

Governor Eliot Spitzer today joined James Simpson, Administrator for the Federal Transit Administration, in announcing an agreement that guarantees $1.3 billion in federal funding for the construction of the first phase of the Second Avenue Subway. The first phase of the subway project will run along Second Avenue north from 63rd Street to 105th Street, creating three ADA-accessible stations at 72nd, 86th and 96th Streets.

The line will relieve overcrowding on the Lexington Avenue subway line (4, 5 and 6 trains) and is projected to carry 213,000 riders daily. At first, the line will be served by the Q train, which will continue to Coney Island, Brooklyn, via the Broadway express and Brighton Beach local lines.


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Sorry B, Straphangers Will C You Later…


Bedford Park Blvd. bound B train speeding by Neck Rd. Resized photo courtesy of Eye On Transit

***BREAKING NEWS***

The MTA has had one of their subway lines earn an average or just below average grade in their respective 2007 Rider Report Card. Please work with me here folks as one can only say the same thing in so many ways. As with many of its peers, today’s culprit is considered average or just below average. Today’s culprit which happens to be the B train, earned a C- for its overall grade. Now lets get straight to the full breakdown.

Top 10 priorities that null train riders’ would like to see improvement on:

01. Minimal delays during trips
02. Reasonable wait times for trains
03. Adequate room on board at rush hour
04. Courtesy and helpfulness of station personnel
05. Station announcements that are informative
06. Cleanliness of subway cars
07. Comfortable temperature in subway cars
08. Working elevators and escalators in stations
09. Station announcements that are easy to hear
10. Train announcements that are easy to hear

Now here is the entire order of null train riders’ priorities:

01. Minimal delays during trips
02. Reasonable wait times for trains
03. Adequate room on board at rush hour
04. Courtesy and helpfulness of station personnel
05. Station announcements that are informative
06. Cleanliness of subway cars
07. Comfortable temperature in subway cars
08. Working elevators and escalators in stations
09. Station announcements that are easy to hear
10. Train announcements that are easy to hear
11. Train announcements that are informative
12. Cleanliness of stations
13. Signs in stations that help riders find their way
14. Ease of use of subway turnstiles
15. Signs in subway cars that help riders find their way
16. Lack of graffiti in stations
17. Sense of security in stations
18. Sense of security on trains
19. Lack of graffiti in subway cars
20. Availability of MetroCard Vending Machines
21. Lack of scratchitti in subway cars

Now here is the graded breakdown of all 21 categories:

Minimal delays during trips C-
Reasonable wait times for trains D+
Adequate room on board at rush hour D+
Sense of security in stations C
Sense of security on trains C
Working elevators and escalators in stations C-
Signs in stations that help riders find their way C+
Signs in subway cars that help riders find their way C
Cleanliness of stations C-
Cleanliness of subway cars C-
Station announcements that are easy to hear D
Station announcements that are informative D+
Train announcements that are easy to hear D
Train announcements that are informative D+
Lack of graffiti in stations C+
Lack of graffiti in subway cars C+
Lack of scratchitti in subway cars D+
Courtesy and helpfulness of station personnel C
Comfortable temperature in subway cars C
Ease of use of subway turnstiles B-
Availability of MetroCard Vending Machines B-

I will be the first to admit the B is not a line I ride often. However based on my experiences riding the line over the years, I feel this report card is pretty accurate. When I have ridden the B the train seems to always have at least one snag that seems to take forever. I’ve noticed this usually takes place in either midtown or as it is going over the Manhattan Bridge.

I also have noticed that for as nice of an express run the B provides along the Brighton Line, the Q is much more consistent. I would always see people get off to catch the express but we would usually always beat them as the B took more than 2-4 minutes to show up. So the express advantage definitely tends to be negated when comparing it to the local Q train.

The only shock to me in regards to this report card is the placement of station announcements at #10. I happen to agree with Benjamin Kabak of Second Avenue Sagas a 100% in regards to the quality of the announcements & its rank on the list. I would have thought this would have been in the top 5 at most as far as priorities are concerned. I suggest you check out Benjamin’s breakdown of the B’s “Rider Report Card” since he has much more experience with the line especially being a daily rider. He brings up excellent points as to why it will be hard if not impossible to improve parts of B service.

I will end this by saying the number of responses received was quite low. I guess I am not as surprised especially considering this is a part time line.

xoxo Transit Blogger

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