Gov. Patterson Makes The Right Call

I must applaud New York Governor David Patterson for making the right call in terms of choosing not to replace MTA CEO/Executive Director Elliot Sander. Pete Donohue of the New York Daily News has the story:

Gov. Paterson has replaced more than a few high-ranking officials since taking office, but MTA CEO Elliot Sander is definitely staying on the bus.

“At a time when transportation agencies throughout the country are facing the hard choices that are the result of a national economic downturn, Lee has been a steadfast leader and an honest broker,” Paterson communications director Risa Heller told the Daily News about Sander. “We need his expertise now more than ever.

“He has the complete support of the governor as we all work together to find creative ways to increase efficiency and provide improvements to the best transit system in the country,” Heller said.

Not long after Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s sexcapades with a high-priced call girl led to his resignation earlier this year, there was speculation among government insiders that Paterson would want to install a CEO of his own choosing. Speculation flared again after a run of bad publicity, including reports that Sander negotiated a raise while MTA deficits ballooned.

Assemblyman Richard Brodsky (D-Westchester), a frequent MTA critic, shrugged off those controversies and said Sander has made significant improvements at the MTA over the last 18 months. They include fostering better relations between management and transit workers, who waged a strike in 2005, Brodsky said.

Relations between the MTA and its workers were “awful,” Brodsky said. “There needed to be a sense that workers were being treated fairly and someone was listening. I think Lee has done a remarkable job with that under difficult circumstances,” Brodsky said.

Sander himself said the much-maligned MTA has turned a corner.

“What I’m most proud of is this organization of 68,000 people has begun to implement a new vision of the MTA, one that is more customer-oriented and efficient by being leaner, flatter and more integrated,” Sander said.

Some of the milestones and initiatives since January 2007 by the MTA include:

* Record on-time performance by the commuter railroads. Buses going a record number of miles between breakdowns.
* The first bus route to New Jersey, linking Staten Island and the light-rail line in Hudson County. The MTA also has announced plans to run Metro-North trains from New Haven, Conn., to Secaucus, N.J., for Jets and Giants home games, further breaking down geographic boundaries.
* The first bus rapid transit route, the BX12 in the Bronx, with riders paying at bus stops before boarding.
* Placing three bus divisions under one manager instead of having three separate presidents.
* Creation of an emergency response center to coordinate responses to emergencies such as severe storms that have flooded the subways.

Still, Gene Russianoff of the Straphangers Campaign said he’d pencil “incomplete” on Sander’s report card. The big test is whether he is able to secure needed funding to continue maintaining, upgrading and expanding the system, Russianoff said.

“We hope in the coming months he will be a vocal champion on behalf of the needs of the system’s 9 million daily riders, not just a political buffer for Gov. Paterson,” Russianoff said.

Gov. Patterson absolutely made the right call in not replacing Elliot Sander as MTA CEO/Executive Director. At a time when the stability of the MTA is in question, the last thing needed is a change of a major leader. Most casual observers would call for his head due to the current state of the MTA & its finances especially with a fare hike most likely looming (more on that in a few minutes) next year.

However those of us who follow the MTA daily know he has been doing a great job considering the mess he inherited. Even with that, Elliot knows that his legacy as MTA CEO/Executive Director hinges on how he & the rest of the MTA brass get out of the financial mess they are in.

xoxo Transit Blogger

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MTA Plans & Finances Editorial

Yesterday’s edition of the New York Daily News had a very good editorial about the MTA’s “tunnel vision” in regards to their plans & finances. Here is the editorial:

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority gave the press a tour last week of a brand new mile-long excavation that’s supposed to turn the infamous Tunnel to Nowhere into the Tunnel to Somewhere.

And the thing is magnificent. From beneath Grand Central, it extends through bedrock to 63rd St., where it hooks up with a tube under the river to Queens, thus bringing the MTA closer to connecting the Long Island Rail Road with the East Side.

Never mind that the MTA started the project 40 years ago.

Never mind that the MTA is still, oh, $3 billion short of the estimated cost of completion.

Never mind that the MTA’s finances have been a festival of fantasies – with only the riders having to face reality in the form of fare hikes. Enough. It’s time for everyone to get real.

Chairman Dale Hemmerdinger and CEO Lee Sander are scheduled Monday to brief the MTA board on the state of the agency’s books and to clue the public in on Wednesday. Their financial plan better be damn good.

Hard facts. Credible facts that stand the test of time. No do-overs for at least a year, a standard officials generally live by.

The first question: How deep in the red is the MTA? The second: Will Hemmerdinger and Sander be savvy and tough enough to persuade Albany and City Hall to shield straphangers from fare hikes, maintain the system and complete expansion projects?

The first answer is easy – and ugly. The MTA’s deficit could hit $700 million because energy and labor costs are rising while a tanking economy is depressing tax collections.

To close the gap, riders are at high risk of a second fare hike in two years – despite having been promised a respite until 2010. Such a double whammy would be unfair. The deal was that riders would do their share and the state and city would do the rest. Former Gov. Eliot Spitzer committed to kicking in $600 million. He’s gone, but the pledge should stand.

The challenge for Hemmerdinger and Sander – as well as for former MTA chairman Richard Ravitch, who is heading a study of agency finances – is to push government into properly funding the region’s lifeblood.

There has to be light at the end of the tunnel. Not a dead end.

xoxo Transit Blogger

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MTA Text Alerts Coming To A Screen Near You

So the MTA is finally catching up with the times & providing real time text alerts in the case of emergency service disruptions. The steam picked up to implement this technology after the horrific flooding that practically shut the entire subway system down almost a year ago. Pete Donohue of the New York Daily News has the story:

If you get an e-mail or text message from the MTA this fall, it’s nothing to LOL about.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority expects to start sending alerts to commuters’ cellphones and computers with details about unplanned service problems in September, the Daily News has learned.

The notices will help riders alter their routines to avoid floods and other incidents that cause delays, or warn them away from a crippled system altogether, officials said.

The need for a communications upgrade was highlighted during the Aug. 8, 2007, deluge that flooded subway tracks, forcing the authority to cut electricity and halt trains.

Many riders, unaware of the severity of the widespread service disruptions, continued to their local stations and became ensnared in delays and line shutdowns.

“Communications with the public when you have this type of catastrophe is essential,” MTA CEO Elliot Sander said.

Efforts to improve communications began before last summer but intensified after the Aug. 8 storm, Sander said.

Riders will be able to sign up for the free service on the MTA’s Web site –

They can tailor their alerts by focusing on the routes they take most often, MTA deputy executive director Christopher Boylan said.

The authority has retained an outside firm to distribute the texts and e-mails, Boylan said. The distributor will be able to send more than 1 million missives within five minutes, he said.

NYC Transit doesn’t e-mail or text riders about unplanned service disruptions.

Metro-North and the Long Island Rail Road do send alerts but at times have trouble getting the information out in a timely manner. The MTA moves about 8.5 million riders a day.

I don’t know if I should focus on the positive that the implementation of this technology is almost here or the negative on how the MTA is as usual behind the times. I will look at it from both perspectives. Lets first look at the good which is that the millions of riders who depend on our system will have access to the best information possible in case of an emergency service disruption. This can only be seen as a good thing. Lets hope the ridership takes full advantage of such a service as it is only there to help us all in the long run.

However I must call into question why it took the MTA so long to implement technology that has been used by so many for an extended period of time. While they can say it was on the agenda all along, it should not have taken our system nearly being rendered completely useless to implement such technology. With that being said, there is no excuse for it taking about a year if not a little bit over that in the end to get this to the riding public. I always tell people it is better to be proactive than reactive. The MTA should seriously take those words to heart in all facets of their operations.

xoxo Transit Blogger

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Subway Groping Editorial

4 days ago I wrote an entry about an article that appeared in the New York Post about the MTA choosing not go through with their anti-groping advertising campaign. I personally felt the MTA was wrong in choosing not to go through with the ad campaign. A day later an editorial by Emily May & Sam Carter appeared in the New York Daily News. Here is their editorial:

When the city wants to cut down on littering in the subways, we launch an anti-littering ad campaign. Domestic violence, an anti-domestic violence ad campaign. Panhandling, check. Heck, even tree-killing beetles get their own ad space.

But subway gropers and flashers? Fuhgeddaboudit.

This week, news broke that the MTA’s quiet preparation of an anti-groping subway ad campaign was put to a halt by MTA officials, even after they had developed mockups. The campaign was planned in response to a recent study by Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer on sexual assault in the subway system – which found that 63% of respondents said they’d been harassed, and 10% said they’d been sexually assaulted.

The numbers are staggering, but we bet even these figures understate the facts. We and the thousands of New Yorkers we work with have experienced this epidemic firsthand – and we’re just plain sick of it.

That’s why in 2005 we started Holla Back NYC (, a movement to fight back against street harassment – by snapping photos of the perpetrators and posting them online. We understand that raising awareness and making perpetrators think twice are the best ways to bite the hands that grope us.

The MTA doesn’t get it. Their supposed reason for calling off the ad campaign? They’re reportedly afraid it might actually encourage more lewd behavior. As though a creep is going to decide to grope a woman only after he reads a subway advertisement.

They’re right about one thing: A campaign is likely to lead to an increase in harassment reports. But that’s a good thing.

In Boston, where trains and buses are adorned with posters shouting “Rub against me and I’ll expose you,” and “Flash someone and you’ll be exposed,” the number of reported groping incidents jumped from a reported 17 in June last year to 38 this year.

Chief Paul MacMillan of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority understood why: “We’ve brought attention to the fact that this is not acceptable behavior … and people are now reporting it more.”

Someone at the MTA seems worried about exposing the dirty underbelly of the city’s transportation network. They’d rather ignore it – and hope that it’ll go away. That’s a little like hoping the rats on the tracks will vanish if we avert our eyes every time they rear their beady little eyes.

Subway ads will work. First and most importantly, they will formalize the idea that subway groping is unacceptable. That will lead New York City women, like their Boston counterparts, to feel comfortable in calling out lewd pervs on their behavior. A likely rise in the number of incidents reported will be something to celebrate – because it’ll mean a rise in the number of men caught in the act.

On our Web site, we encourage women to “hollaback” to supposed “compliments” – or the all-too-common act of a rub or a grope – by taking pictures of their harassers and submitting them to our site, along with a short story.

When the site launched, it hit a nerve. Street harassment, we discovered, was just one piece of a much longer spectrum violence against women. As with more serious forms of assault and rape, women are often scared to speak up about their experiences.

Submissions to our site demonstrated the sad truth that women often blame themselves – because piggish behavior is so widely accepted. To make matters worse, those who stand up for themselves are often treated with hostility by the authorities.

Recently, Holla Back NYC has been flooded by stories related to assault, groping and public masturbation. In one devastatingly illustrative story, a woman wrote about being assaulted on a train. She did what was right and went to the authorities. Their response: get a gun.

That’s a reminder that greater public awareness on the subways alone will not be enough. It needs to go hand in hand with better police training and an additional public awareness campaign on the sidewalks of our city to address the scourge of mistreatment of women and its consequences.

But for starters, let’s get these ads off the drawing boards and into our daily commutes. If we have room for subway poetry and Dr. Zizmor, surely we can find space on our trains to take a stand against street harassment.

May and Carter are co-founders of Holla Back NYC.

Their last paragraph showcased the correct point of view beautifully. I could not have said it better myself.

xoxo Transit Blogger

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Service Diversions Updated 07/18 (Revised)

The service diversions have been updated with the latest scheduled diversions for the coming weekend & following week. The scheduled diversions for the 1 Train train has been posted.

xoxo Transit Blogger

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