Sensationalistic Journalism?

I sure think so in regards to the latest article in the New York Daily News’ “Halt The Hike” campaign. The article is about the MTA squandering the opportunity to buy much needed fuel at a substantially lower price before the price of fuel skyrocketed. Here is a brief part of the article courtesy of The Daily News:

Bureaucratic bunglers at the MTA – which now wants a 3.8% fare and toll hike to fill a budget gap – blew a chance to save millions of dollars by not buying fuel before prices soared.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority board set aside $150 million in July to buy fuel to be used next year and in 2009.

Staffers didn’t realize until September that a key contract involving fuel delivery was expiring.

By then, the lower-price deal couldn’t be locked in because a new contract would have to be put out for bid, a long process, MTA Chief Financial Officer Gary Dellaverson told board members at a committee meeting yesterday.

Prices have “skyrocketed” since July, Dellaverson said, and the MTA has all but given up on the idea.

Here is the link to the full article.

So what is so sensationalistic about this piece? I’ll tell you, it is the way Pete Donohue,  some MTA officials & politicians are using this story to cry how the savings lost could have helped save off any sort of fare hike. Who are they kidding? Do you know the total amount the MTA blew in savings? The total amount is approximately $12 million dollars. Now don’t get me wrong I am not saying $12 million dollars is chump change but in the grand scheme of things it sure is. Math was one of my favorite subjects in school & I would like to think my skills are still pretty sharp. Lets test them out shall we….

We have the MTA saying they are facing upwards of a $6 billion dollar deficit in the near future & the savings lost here was $12 million. Last I checked there is just a tiny bit of difference between these two amounts. Just in case I made an error during mental math, I will take out my trusty pen & pad. Lets see $6 billion minus $12 million leaves us $5,988,000,000. So I was right, there is just a tiny bit of difference  between these two amounts!

Seriously lets get real here, I am all for criticizing the MTA for their mistakes as they are deserved. However it is one thing to justifiably criticize them & a totally different thing to unfairly criticize them so you can sensationalize your point. I expect this from politicians who love nothing more than a free chance to get a P.R. boost but I expected more from Mr. Donohue.

xoxo Transit Blogger

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The Harsh Reality Starts To Set In

When I last discussed the fare hike, I was writing about how Gov. Spitzer came to the rescue & helped keep the base fare at $2. Unfortunately the problem with his “heroic” effort was that it benefited a minority of riders, 14% to be more accurate. The other 86% of riders were going to feel the brunt of the fare hike since they are smart enough to take advantage of the tremendous discounts offered. Well the harsh reality is starting to set in on what we the 86% will face in terms of a fare hike.

The MTA announced yesterday that the average cost of commuter rail tickets, tolls at the city’s bridges & tunnels will jump by an average of 3.85%. This is a change from what was originally expected to be an average 6.5% increase in the same costs. How about the 86% of base riders who do not pay the base far you ask? Well get ready to shell out some more cash for that trusty discounted or unlimited Metrocard.

While details have yet to be released on the actual costs in the new plan that is expected to kick in at the beginning of March 2008, it doesn’t take rocket science to know the cards will see a significant increase. How could they not see such an increase when the base fares are scheduled to stay at $2 for the foreseeable future? I can imagine having to shell out $85-$90 for a monthly soon which will be a pain in the ass!

For more information & opinions on the MTA’s announcement, I highly recommend checking out these links:
Newsday, New York Times, & Second Avenue Sagas

So in the end it truly was a slick P.R. maneuver on the part of Gov. Spitzer. He comes out like a heroic winner, the MTA still imposes some sort of a fare hike, & the majority of riders are left out in the rain with no umbrella. If we were actually given superior service & facilities to the best level possible with our resources, I would fully support a fare hike.

Unfortunately I can’t fully support a fare hike until I see some results. We as riders have put up with years of inferior service & facilities although improved from the real bad times but far from where it should be. When we actually get to where we should be, I’ll be the first one standing & applauding. Maybe this new regime will get the job done over time but an immediate fare hike is a very tough pill to swallow from a population of riders who expect the worst.

In the end all I can hope for as far as this fare hike is concerned is to not see the costs of unlimited cards skyrocket too much! I better put that at the top of my wish list & fire it off to the North Pole! I am counting on Santa Claus to come through for me as well as my fellow riders!

xoxo Transit Blogger

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A Result Not Even Close To Its Name….

Brooklyn bound A train entering 2nd Avenue station during a G.O.; Resized photo courtesy of Eye On Transit

This is the case for the overall grade earned by the A train in its “2007 Rider Report Card”. The A train earned a C- from the 6,703 people who filled out the report card. If I am not mistaken this is the highest amount of responses received so far which is somewhat surprising as I expected that status to go to either the 4 or 6 train respectively. Anyhow lets go straight to the full breakdown shall we.

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

01. Reasonable wait times for trains
02. Minimal delays during trips
03. Adequate room on board at rush hour
04. Station announcements that are easy to hear
05. Cleanliness of stations
06. Train announcements that are easy to hear
07. Sense of security on trains
08. Cleanliness of subway cars
09. Sense of security in stations
10. Comfortable temperature in subway cars

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

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

Now here is the graded breakdown of all 21 categories:

Minimal delays during trips C-
Reasonable wait times for trains C-
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 D+
Cleanliness of subway cars D+
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 C-
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 start off by saying the biggest shocker to me was the A earning a C-. I really expected it to either get the same grade as the C train or get the first F. As far as the F grade is concerned, that might be reserved for the G train. I can not wait to see the results for the G’s rider report card. However let me not digress so lets get back to the A train.

The A like its fellow Eighth Avenue counterpart is a line that takes ages to go from one end to another & has its share of problems that give its riders nightmares. While the A serves as the Eight Avenue express traveling from 207th St./Inwood to multiple terminals including Far Rockaway, Lefferts Blvd./Ozone Park, & Rockaway Park, it does not give you the fast ride one might think. The line has sub par speed in between 125th St & 59th St Columbus Circle. The speed improves on the Brooklyn express run but many times that is short lived due to some sort of delay.

From my experience riding the A, the typical tendencies for it were long wait times, train bunching, & horrific levels of crowding. The sad part is when you would think at least one of the trains in the bunch would have fewer straphangers to then be surprised & see it is as packed as the previous ones. This occurrence is quite common for straphangers who depend on the A to get around. To be honest I am surprised that “Adequate room on board at rush hour” was not the 1st or 2nd highest priority. In my opinion this category deserved to be the highest priority although it is arguable that the top 3 are interchangeable.

Looking at the full graded breakdown of all 21 categories, I can’t really see outright flaws in grading judgment. While it can be argued that the A train deserved lower grades in a few categories, the final grade is not that far from reality. As usual the A train got the free square for the “Availability of MetroCard Vending Machines”. I am starting to find that category downright comical as it seems the grade is permanently etched into the report card.

As far as improvements go, I don’t know how much the MTA can do. If I am not mistaken the line is already running at capacity. If they can find a way to improve the headways on the line, it would serve as a welcome relief for those straphangers who depend on this line. Oh & if I had it my way this line would not run local at night. The ride as it normally is with its multiple express runs takes forever, so you can only imagine how horrible it is when the line has no express runs! I don’t think you could pay me to do a time chronicle on a fully local A train! There is a reason why you have not seen one of those done yet after all this time!

xoxo Transit Blogger

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The C Did Not C A Passing Grade….

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Brooklyn bound C train entering 2nd Avenue station during a G.O.; Resized photo courtesy of Eye On Transit

So the title is not the catchiest, it is the best I could come up with at 3:21 p.m.! Anyhow, the MTA has seen yet another line get a failing grade. The culprit is the dreaded C train which serves as the 8th Avenue local & runs from 168 St./Washington Heights to Euclid Avenue in Brooklyn. The C earned a pitiful but deserved D+ from the 3,967 people who responded. The number of responses is what I expected so no surprise there. Lets go straight to the breakdown shall we.

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

01. Reasonable wait times for trains
02. Minimal delays during trips
03. Adequate room on board at rush hour
04. Station announcements that are easy to hear
05. Cleanliness of stations
06. Train announcements that are easy to hear
07. Sense of security in stations
08. Cleanliness of subway cars
09. Sense of security on trains
10. Station announcements that are informative

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

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

Here is a report card that I feel the riders were accurate with their grades. The only argument that could be made is that the line deserved a lower overall grade & a lower grade in certain categories. Let me say for starters I try to avoid the Eighth Avenue lines as much as possible. The wait times are consistently poor, the trips are usually slow, & the crowds are horrific. To put it bluntly what I describe is an accurate vision of what it is like to ride the A or the C. However I will get to the A’s report card next so for now I will focus on the C.

For starters the C gets what I & other straphangers like to call the “stepchild” treatment. This sort of treatment is usually reserved for lines that clearly are not a priority in the eyes of the MTA. The C joins the family with such lines as the 3, 5, & G for starters. The C from end to end on a good day takes forever, however throw in the fact that most days are usually not good & you can see why the line got a D+ as its overall grade.

The times I have ridden the C, I wanted to pull my hair out. Every time I need to take the C, I feel like I am waiting at least 10-12 minutes before one shows up. Do you know how frustrating it is to see one A after another whiz by or stop on the express platform while I just stand & wait. Sometimes the ratio is 3-1 of A trains to C trains. Then when the train does arrive it is usually ridiculously crowded. This is not the kind of exacta people look forward too! Who wants to wait forever for a train to show up just for it to be packed. Lets not get started with the shady individuals who frequent this line especially in Brooklyn. I am always prepared for the worst riding any of the Eighth Avenue lines.

When you do finally get on the C, we now have to get used to the delays during the trip. The infamous line I would hear is the train is being delayed due to train traffic ahead of us. I don’t know if I should laugh uncontrollably or hit someone after hearing that one especially when we are in Brooklyn. I & others waited for what seemed like ages for this train to come, what the hell kind of train traffic are you facing? We are not sharing the local track with anyone & I know damn well we didn’t catch up with the previous C that arrived in the last decade!

The MTA needs to realize how pitiful this line is which is a shame as it has potential to be so much more. They have to realize why this line earned C’s & D’s in every category except one. Yes, the one B- came from the “Availability of MetroCard Vending Machines” category. I need to look back but I could swear every line has earned at least a B in that category. One could look at that category as the free square. Unfortunately for the C & the straphangers who depend on it, the reality is the free square is as good as it gets on this line.

xoxo Transit Blogger

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Rockaway Park Shuttle Fails Miserably!


Not the Rockaway Park Shuttle but a shuttle train nonetheless! Resized photo courtesy of Eye On Transit

Unfortunately for the MTA, the Rockaway Park Shuttle could not match the successful grade earned by its fellow shuttle counterpart, the Times Square-Grand Central shuttle. The Rockaway Park Shuttle earned a horrific overall grade of a D+. Now it is time to breakdown the full results.

Top 10 priorities that 42nd Street train riders’ would like to see improvement on:

01. Reasonable wait times for trains
02. Minimal delays during trip
03. Cleanliness of stations
04. Sense of security in stations
05. Cleanliness of subway cars
06. Sense of security on trains
07. Lack of scratchitti in subway cars
08. Train announcements that are easy to hear
09. Station announcements that are easy to hear
10. Working elevators and escalators in stations

Now here is the entire order of 42nd Street train riders’ priorities:

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

I rarely ride this shuttle so my comments are based on my limited experience of riding it. I think the number one priority is deadly accurate. When I have taken this shuttle, it felt like I was waiting forever for it to show up. The time of day one rode the shuttle did not seem to matter as far as waiting times were concerned.

One felt like they were waiting forever whether it was 8 a.m. 1 p.m. or 9 p.m. This is something that the MTA should look into as such inadequate service defeats the point of having a shuttle. Here is a link to the thread I posted on the Straphangers Campaign’s Rider Diaries forum about the shuttle’s report card grade. Based on the initial responses, it seems that the line was accurately graded.

The last thing I will leave you with is the amount of responses the MTA received for this report card. Drum roll please………. the total amount of responses received was 132! How absolutely pathetic is that? I should not be surprised considering the highest used shuttle, the Times Square-Grand Central shuttle only received 380. I think the funniest thing for me is how the MTA worded their acknowledgment in the opening paragraph for these results. Here is what they wrote:

Your Rider Report Card results are in.

First, let me acknowledge you for your enthusiastic participation. We asked for your opinion, and 132 of you responded – that’s outstanding. Thank you.

I felt the sarcasm oozing out of my monitor after reading that. I give kudos to Howard H Roberts Jr. if he really came up with that opener. If it was not him, I will extend the kudos to whomever it was. Either way I can always appreciate some great sarcasm especially when it is deserved.

xoxo Transit Blogger

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