One Year Later

Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) President Helena Williams
Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) President Helena Williams; Photo courtesy of the MTA

Pete Donohue of the New York Daily News takes a look at Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) President Helena Williams first year on the job. Here is his report:

Long Island Rail Road President Helena Williams has been fixated on the “Jamaica Crawl.”

It’s not a dance craze but the maddening deceleration of LIRR trains when they go through Jamaica, Queens, the railroad’s busiest and most complicated juncture – where multiple branches converge.

“No matter what, trains slow down to 15 mph and under even if not stopping in Jamaica,” Williams said.

It was just one year ago that Metropolitan Transportation Authority CEO Elliot Sander hired Williams as president of the LIRR, the first female head of the nation’s largest commuter train operation.

The first 12 months have gone “incredibly fast” as she tackled such complex issues as how to best modernize the dizzying array of signals and switches at Jamaica so the LIRR can speed trains through the hub, Williams said.

“I don’t think the customers or employees care if the president is male or female,” she added. “They just care that the president is getting the work done.”

So far, there has been one notable achievement. The railroad’s on-time performance last year was 94.07% – its best ever.

“We’re just extremely proud of that, and our employees are very proud of that as well,” Williams said.

Williams, a mother of three, has had a career marked by top-level transportation management and government positions, including president of MTA Long Island Bus and Nassau County deputy executive. A lawyer, she began her career in the mayor’s office of municipal labor relations.

That background paid off.

Sander hired Williams in June 2007, extending a contract paying her $215,000 – plus a monthly housing allowance and retirement contributions. The terms of the contract, signed before the MTA’s fiscal crisis erupted, granted a $14,000 raise Jan. 1 and will grant another raise of that sum next January.

I feel Helena was an excellent hire by Elliot Sander during his short tenure at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. One can argue that she has been his best hire so far. The employees I know who work for the Long Island Rail Road have noted how efficient operations have become since she was hired. I have heard this on multiple occasions so there is definitely something to her way of doing things. I along with many others can only hope the next year brings even more improvement for the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR).

xoxo Transit Blogger

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Teens Turned Away From A City Bus

A trip for two teenage girls trying to pick up their report cards turned into more than they bargained for on Friday. The teens were going to pick up their report cards from Bishop Kearney High School when they ran into problems due to their student MetroCards expiring. Pete Donohue & Carrie Melago of the New York Daily News has the full story:

A group of Brooklyn schoolgirls heading to pick up their report cards was turned away from a city bus Friday because their student Metrocards had expired – by one day.

The students from Bishop Kearney High School in Bensonhurst were ordered off two buses and ended up trekking 2 miles home.

“They should have understood that we had to get our report cards. They should have been more lenient,” said Christina Hiltunen, 16, who said one driver told her to “take it up with the MTA.”

When their student Metrocards came up “expired” yesterday morning, Hiltunen and three friends pleaded with a sympathetic B3 bus driver to take them on first leg of their 5-mile trip.

But when they tried to transfer to the B9 near Kings Plaza, the driver made them get off.

While waiting about a half-hour for the next bus, the girls pulled together enough change for two fares, used a regular Metrocard for one of the girls and convinced the next driver to let the fourth student on for free.

The girls fared worse going home. The B9 driver let them on, but the B3 turned them away, forcing them to hike 2 miles.

Kevin Hiltunen, Christina’s dad, was outraged, particularly since the Daily News exposed that so many MTA executives have been receiving free Metrocards and E-ZPasses.

“In light of what’s been going on with the MTA in the last couple of weeks, those idiots fighting for free E-ZPasses, this is bull,” he said. “It’s a small word, but it means a lot – it’s common sense.”

Private and parochial school students are eligible for MetroCards for either full or partial fare, but the cards follow the city school calendar. And Thursday was the last day for city schools.

The MTA stood by the drivers telling the kids to leave the buses.

“This not a case of common sense. It’s a case where the MetroCard was expired,” said Charles Seaton, NYC Transit spokesman. “The bus operator has no way knowing if there are extenuating circumstances and acted correctly.”

I have to side with the bus drivers in this case. While it is understandable why someone would feel bad for the kids, the drivers were doing their job. How are they supposed to know where the teens were going? A bus driver would have no idea of where these or any kids or teens would be going. If the card says it is expired, then he is trained to follow certain procedures. I admit I wouldn’t be surprised if the tone was harsh with the “take it up with the MTA” comment but either way it still doesn’t change my opinion.

As far as Christina’s dad is concerned, he is within his rights to be outraged. However comparing his daughter’s situation to the free perk scandal & common sense is misguided. It is not “common sense” for the bus driver to let his daughter technically ride for free illegally which is what he would have been doing if she was allowed to stay on.

I do wonder about something though, did the girls know when the cards expired? I would imagine that all students would be notified as to when their MetroCards would cease to work due to the school year being over. If they were notified, I do not feel sorry for them. However if they were not, I could be more understanding of their frustration.

xoxo Transit Blogger

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F Train Service Alert

The MTA has posted a service alert regarding F Train service. The service alert states:

Due to switch problems at the Jay Street-Borough Hall Station:

Jamaica-bound F Train trains are running on the F Train line from the Bergen Street Station to the Jackson Heights-Roosevelt Avenue Stations.

Selected Coney Island-bound F Train trains are terminating at the World Trade Center Station.

Please expect delays in service on the F Train train at this time.

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Mayor Bloomber Promises To Help GOP

So it seems Mayor Bloomberg is like an everyday person after all. This revelation stems from his promise to help the GOP due to their support on his failed congestion pricing plan. Kenneth Lovett & Kathleen Lucadamo from the New York Daily News has this report:

Mayor Bloomberg is paying back New York Republicans for supporting his failed congestion pricing plan by promising to help the struggling party retain its majority in the state Senate.

“I’ve said repeatedly, I’ll help those who help this city. The Republicans in the state Senate were willing to vote for congestion pricing and the Democrats were not,” Bloomberg said Thursday. In a phone call this week to new Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, Bloomberg pledged to lend him a hand in fighting the Democrats during elections this fall.

The Democrats are two seats away from taking control of the Senate. It’s not clear if Bloomberg’s aid will come in the form of cash but the billionaire Democrat-turned-Republican-turned-Independent has plenty to spare.

Bloomberg is bitter that the Democratic-controlled Assembly refused to vote on his plan to charge motorists to drive on Manhattan’s most congested streets.

“There is a whole bunch of things where they [Republicans] have been there to help us. If the Democrats help us, I’ll support them as well,” Bloomberg told reporters

Just great, all our transit infrastructure need is the same faces in power who will further neglect our needs. Thanks Bloomberg, millions of us than you from the bottom of our heart & wallet.

xoxo Transit Blogger

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LIRR Implements Timetable Corrections

The MTA’s Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) division issued a press release yesterday to highlight the implementation of timetable corrections to its current schedules. Here is the press release:

The MTA Long Island Rail Road will implement corrections to its June 16- September 1, 2008 timetable effective Friday, June 27. The changes include schedule adjustments on three different off-peak weekday trains. In addition, some trains are being reclassified as off-peak trains and some trains will have platform changes. Revised timetables with the adjustments will be available in the near future.

The affected trains and their adjusted times are as follows:

Long Beach Branch
The 11:55 PM weekday train from Penn Station to Long Beach will depart 3 minutes later at 11:58 PM and is now scheduled to arrive in Long Beach at 12:55 AM.
The 2:56 PM weekday train from Long Beach to Penn Station will depart 6 minutes earlier at 2:50 PM and is now scheduled to arrive in Penn Station at 3:44 PM.

Montauk Branch
The 6:39 PM weekday train from Patchogue to Babylon will depart 9 minutes earlier at 6:30 PM and is now scheduled to arrive in Babylon at 7:03 PM.

The following trains are reclassified as off-peak trains:

* 8:33 AM weekday train from Ronkonkoma to Penn Station
* 9:09 AM weekday train from Hicksville to Penn Station
* 3:50 PM weekday train from Jamaica to Oyster Bay

Read the rest of this entry »

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