MTA Statement On Capital Program Deferrals

The MTA has issued a statement on their capital program deferrals.

The MTA has a limited allocation of capital funds, and it is required to keep its spending within this budget. A nationwide run-up in construction costs has dramatically increased the price of many critical MTA projects. To stay within the overall capital budget, the MTA has been forced to defer some projects. As a result, last month the MTA proposed an amendment to its capital program that defers projects that are budgeted at approximately $2.7 billion.

Every project in the capital program is important, but the proposed deferrals, including several fan plants, are projects that were chosen because they can be delayed without impacting the safety of the system. All of the MTA’s underwater tunnels are protected with new fan plants in case of emergency, and the MTA continues to invest in other initiatives to significantly reduce the risk of fire and smoke. The MTA’s transportation network is safer than ever, and none of the proposed deferrals put that safety record at risk.

In light of the significance of the projects on the deferral list, we intend to complete them as quickly as possible. If the Ravitch Commission identifies funding for them, and the State Legislature allocates it during the life of the current 2005-2009 Capital Program, the MTA will submit a new amendment that reinstates these projects. However, delaying the current capital program amendment will force the MTA to halt work on critical projects currently in the plan, including: mega projects like Second Avenue Subway and East Side Access; 23 station renovations in the Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn and Manhattan; purchase of new subway cars; new signals in Queens; safety improvements on the LIRR; and Metro-North train rehabs.

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Metro-North Introduces Hand Held Ticket Machines

Earlier today the Metro-North division of the MTA issued a press release highlighting the introduction of hand held ticket machines. The goal of the machines is to modernize & simply the process of on-board ticket purchasing. Here is the release courtesy of the MTA:

After a successful pilot program last year, Metro-North Railroad is introducing ticket machines to all its conductors to modernize and simplify on-board ticket issuing. This technological innovation will improve customer service as well as the railroad’s operating efficiency.

Using wireless connection, the devices will be able to receive text messages from Rail Traffic Controllers, which will give train crews up-to-the-minute information during service disruptions. This will enable train crews to keep customers better informed when delays occur.

“These text messages will provide more information faster to more trains, which will improve the crews’ ability to inform customers when service is disrupted for whatever reason,” said Metro-North President Peter A. Cannito. “Text messaging will supplement, not replace, radio contact with the Rail Traffic Controllers that all trains maintain.”

The devices are being phased in beginning this month. So far, 200, about a third of all train conductors, have been equipped with these hand-held ticket machines and separate receipt printers. This approach is a first in the passenger railroad industry and was developed by Metro-North’s own Information Technology Department. The software has been copyrighted and several railroads have expressed interest in purchasing the program.

The new machines are replacing the old “duplex” ticket blanks currently used for on-board ticket sales. Duplexes require a conductor to use a hole puncher to mark the boarding station and destination, the fare zone, whether the trip is peak or off-peak, and the ticket type – adult, senior, etc. Then the two sheets are pulled apart with one part going to the customer as a receipt and the other going in the conductor’s pocket for manual tallying later.

Using the new device, a conductor will select from a menu the departure and arrival stations. The device then calculates the fare and issues a receipt using a wireless printer.

Another benefit of the hand held device is its ability to store ticket sales data that will simplify record keeping for conductors as well as produce a database of actual zone-to-zone ticket sales by ticket type, time and train number.

Conductors will be able to download daily sales information and save time by eliminating manual record keeping, eliminating mathematical errors and eliminating data entry. This also will improve revenue accounting and auditing capabilities.

The software and hand held devices were tested last year by about 30 conductors. The system got excellent reviews from customers and employees and performed well. Conductor training is ongoing.

The railroad also is working with banks to implement – for the first time – consumer-protected, secure credit and debit card purchases on board trains.

The start-up cost for the hand helds, including the devices, software, new receipt stock and training is $3.6 million, including a one-year, $420,000 contract to Verizon Wireless to enable the system.

The railroad has purchased 1,000 handheld devices from Intermec of Everett, Washington and 1,000 printers, which use perforated, pre-numbered rolls of paper, from Zebra of Vernon Hills, Illinois.

These machines sound like a great idea & a step in the right direction in terms of modernizing our commuter railroad system. I am quite curious as to the size of these machines along with the receipt printers that will have to be carried. Hopefully a picture will become available soon.

Speaking of which, will this technology tempt the MTA to up the fees for purchasing on-board? This is the MTA we are talking about so it would not surprise me to see them raise the already ridiculous fees which are nothing more than highway robbery. Lastly will the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) see this technology anytime soon? I sure hope so as the archaic system of using a hole puncher has to go.

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Poughkeepsie Station Restoration

Metro-North's Poughkeepsie Station
Poughkeepsie station sign on the southbound platform. Resized photo courtesy of Eye On Transit

Earlier today the Metro-North division of the MTA issued a press release highlighting a $5.8 million dollar restoration that will take place at the Poughkeepsie station. Here is the press release courtesy of the MTA:

The original roof on the landmarked Poughkeepsie train station is getting a $5.8 million restoration, including new clay tiles, cornice, gutters and waterproofing. The building also will get a much-needed upgrade to its original sewer system.

This beautiful station, built between 1912 and 1918, is in the Beaux-Arts style and designed by Warren and Wetmore, prominent architects of the period who also designed Grand Central Terminal.

“Grand Central’s roof has been restored and it stands to reason that its contemporary in Poughkeepsie needs to be replaced too,” said Metro-North President Peter A. Cannito. “As stewards of these legacy buildings, Metro-North intends to bring the Poughkeepsie Station back to its former glory. At Yonkers, which also was designed by Warren and Wetmore, we completed restoration work in 2004.”

All the old tiles will be removed and the sheathing will be inspected and replaced as needed. A new ice and water shield will be applied. The “Yankee” gutters, which are recessed inside the building, will be relined and new leaders (downspouts) also internal to the building will be installed. Then a new layer of reddish clay tiles will be installed.

The elaborate terracotta cornice that encircles the building just below the roof line also will be restored. Using the few existing intact pieces of terracotta, replicas will be fabricated of the same material which will be molded, baked and glazed with a light grey glaze to resemble limestone.

A major portion of the funding for this project, $2.1 million, was a legislative earmark from State Senator Stephen Saland of Poughkeepsie. The remainder was funded by the MTA’s 2005-2009 Capital Program.

GEM Construction and Restoration of Union City, NJ, which has rented office space in Dooley Square for the duration of the 33-month project, is expected to begin work in August.

The work will begin on the peaked canopy above the new staircase from the center island platform to the Main Street Bridge. This just-completed canopy is covered with a high tech rubber roof. But to ensure that it is historically sympathetic to the rest of the station, it will be covered with clay tiles.

Then work will move to the two elevator towers, which also will get new clay tile roofs.

Then work move to the 6,000-square foot roof of the main station building, beginning in the rear and including replacement of the flat roof deck behind the parapet wall.

When work begins on the front of the roof, a year and a half from now, a three-story scaffold will be erected along the front facade.

A separate contract will be awarded in about two years to replace all the windows and doors throughout the four-story, brick and concrete station. The two upper floors (the Main Floor and the Second Floor) are visible on the east from the street front. Two-story wings to the north and south bracket the taller, grand Main Waiting Room space that is central to the building.

Asbestos and lead abatement on the unoccupied fourth floor was completed last month in preparation for the roof work at a cost $800,000. No additional interior work is planned at present.

Work at Poughkeepsie also will include an upgrade to the entire sewer system for the building, which still has original 1912 pipes. A contract will be awarded in the fall to replace the 14-inch pipes along the back side of the building with a new tie in to the city sewer system.

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6 Train Service Alert

Due to ongoing track maintenance between the Parkchester Station and the Pelham Bay Park Station, please expect delays in service in both directions on the 6 Train trains at this time.

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MTA Could Lend A Hand To West Hempstead

If anyone has been to West Hempstead lately, you will know of a particular building that is seen as the worst eyesore ever to its residents. The building is known as the Courtesy Hotel, a not so hot spot known for being a hotbed for crime & drugs. Community leaders & residents have been trying their hardest to get this building torn down but one thing after another has delayed it from happening.

Now, news has come out that of all people, the MTA could possibly help speed up the process due to a 1 acre parcel they own next to the Courtesy Hotel. Eden Laikin of Newsday has the story:

An MTA-owned 1-acre parcel next to the controversial Courtesy Hotel in West Hempstead – a site residents have called a hotbed of drugs and crime – appears to offer a solution to the nearly decade-long impasse that has prevented tearing the hotel down.

That parcel, when added to a developer’s proposal to build 176 units of housing on the 2.7-acre site, would reduce housing density to a potentially acceptable level, people close to the negotiations said.

The sliver of vacant land between the hotel and the West Hempstead train station would bring the proposal closer to the Town of Hempstead’s plan to redevelop a larger area that includes the hotel.

The proposal by developer Trammell Crow Residential calls for 65 units per acre, triple what the town’s zoning allows in most areas. Adding the MTA parcel would reduce density to 45 units per acre, a density allowed in designated areas of the town – and the same density proposed in the town’s plan for the 10 acres surrounding the hotel.

The MTA land is used to support “railroad activities,” according to LIRR officials.

LIRR spokesman Joe Calderone confirmed that the railroad has had “preliminary discussions” with the town. “The LIRR is very interested in supporting transit-oriented development in the town,” he said.

Hempstead Supervisor Kate Murray said she’ll “continue to explore every option possible to resolve the problems presented by the hotel.”

Town officials said they had met with Trammell Crow representatives about the MTA property and that if negotiations are successful, the plan would be presented to the town board at a public hearing.

While those negotiations proceed, the town is moving forward with its Urban Renewal plan. Board members are expected to vote today whether to authorize a lawsuit seeking to condemn the hotel property and take it through eminent domain, then offer it to developers.

The hotel’s owners, who have been in contract with Trammell Crow for a private sale for between $11 million and $13 million, have said they would fight condemnation.

Police reports show dozens of calls to the hotel each month.

Trammell Crow representative Maria Rigopoulos said the company “remains hopeful that we can come to some kind of compromise. With the cost of gas, why aren’t you putting as many apartments next to the train station as possible?”

Lets hope the MTA can somehow help speed up the process of tearing down this hotel. I have a few friends who live in West Hempstead & they have shared a number of horror stories about events that have taken place in & around the hotel. When people are afraid to directly walk by the property, you know something bad must be going on!

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