Federal Government Is Getting Serious On Mass Transit Financing

One of the rallying cries from this blog & many others like it is for all levels of government to get serious with financing mass transit throughout the country. Today’s edition of the Wall Street Journal looks into this as the U.S. Senate looks to increase funds for mass transit through the “Saving Energy Through Public Transportation Act of 2008“. Christopher Conkey of the Wall Street Journal has more on this issue in his report:

Momentum is building in Congress to increase funding for public transportation as transit agencies struggle to accommodate increased demand from Americans seeking to escape high gas prices.

The Senate banking committee will hold a hearing Tuesday to examine how the government can strengthen mass-transit options as a way to reduce dependence on imported oil. Meanwhile, House and Senate leaders debating a new energy bill are considering a range of incentives and new funding for transit agencies.

On Monday, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) said a measure that would provide as much as $2 billion in grants and other funding for public transportation appears likely to be included in energy legislation that could be voted on next week. The House has already approved a bill that would provide an additional $1.7 billion to transit agencies over two years. If Congress fails to pass a new energy package this month before adjourning for its election-season recess, a transit-funding boost could still be included in an end-of-session budget resolution.

The legislative push comes as high gas prices are spurring Americans to drive less and use public transportation more. Data being released Tuesday by the American Public Transportation Association show the number of riders on mass-transit systems is growing at an accelerating clip. After rising 2.5% in 2007 from 2006, public-transportation use increased 3.4% in the first quarter of 2008 from the same period a year earlier, and 5.2% in the April-to-June period.

The increased demand is straining many transit agencies, which are already coping with higher prices for fuel, steel and other commodities.

Click here for the complete report.

As I’ve stated previously, it is refreshing to see the government take a serious interest in helping fund mass transit. This for me goes beyond my region as I understand how vital mass transit is regardless of what state you reside in. This country is filled with too much pro auto agendas spearheaded by people with the clueless belief that most people have no interest in mass transit. However if these agenda ridden fools would take a second to actually understand a basic concept, they would see how flawed their logic is. How can anyone expect people to be interested in taking mass transit if you don’t give them the option to do so. You can’t ride what does not exist.

When you think about it, it is quite sad to see that it took ridiculously high gas prices for mass transit to possibly get the funding it deserves. However I’m at the point that I & many other mass transit advocates will take any victory we can regardless of how we got it.

xoxo Transit Blogger

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Is The Q Becoming The Next L?

Q train at 21st St-Queensbridge station during a G.O.
Q train at 21st Street-Queensbridge during a G.O. Resized photo courtesy of EyeOnTransit.com

Today’s edition of The New York Observer had a very interesting piece in the real estate section. The article took a look at the Q train & posed the question, can the Q be the next L? As you know all too well, the L train & the majority of neighborhoods it serves has gone under a major transformation over the last few years.

With the loads of gentrification that has occurred in Williamsburg, East Williamsburg, Bushwick, & such… the line & neighborhoods have become a mainstay for the artists, hipsters, & such who seem to take over neighborhoods & leave their lasting tough. Whether this is good or bad depends on who you ask.

Today’s article looks at how the Q could soon become the next L as many are finding the Q & the neighborhoods it serves to offer the right balance of suburban like peace & quiet combined with the close proximity of local community entertainment while being a short ride from Manhattan itself. Here is a look at a piece of Nicole’s article:

I love the Q train. O.K., I love the B, too, but it’s the Q that’s stolen my heart.

When I moved back to Brooklyn in January, the biggest factor in finding an apartment was its proximity to this train line, and especially to the 7th Avenue station (a nice change of pace after riding the G train for three years). It’s just far enough into Brooklyn that I am in a quiet, residential neighborhood, but also only the third stop into the borough, easily depositing me anywhere I need to go in Manhattan.

Like the L train of the early ‘00s, the neighborhoods along the Q/B line have seen new crops of people popping out of its stations along a path rumbling through central and southern Brooklyn, from Downtown, Park Slope, Midwood and Ditmas Park, through Sheepshead Bay and, via an expert right turn, Brighton Beach and Coney Island. The Q line even has some of the same digitally enhanced trains that graced the L line a few years back.

“I was delighted to be looking at an apartment off the Q/B line as it provided quick service to all of the major destinations in my life,” said Jennifer Rajotte, a special events coordinator for a nonprofit, of her move to Flatbush, off the Church Avenue stop, two years ago. “Both trains offer a quick ride to Atlantic-Pacific, where I can hook up with a ton of lines or quickly walk to the G or C, if I have to.”

Not only is the Q/B line convenient, with a recent sighting by Page Six Magazine of Brooklyn celebrity darling Michelle Williams dining with new beau Spike Jonze at popular Ditmas Park eatery The Farm on Adderley (off the Cortelyou Q stop), the perception of southern Brooklyn seems to be getting a makeover.

Click here for the complete article.

It is nice to see NYC neighborhoods being portrayed in a positive light. My only concern is I don’t want to see every neighborhood overrun with hipsters, trust fund babies, etc… with their holier than thou attitude. While I’m not calling for a crime ridden area, it would be nice to be able to live in areas that offer a more diverse & mature attitude without the pretentiousness of a Williamsburg or Park Slope. Lastly when I do move back to the city, I would like to find an area not inflated due to these same people. It seems where they go, increased costs go!

xoxo Transit Blogger

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A Must Read Editorial

Earlier this morning I finally got a few minutes to read a little of the New York Times. As I normally would do, I went to the back of the main section to check out the editorials & I’m glad I did. Today’s edition of the paper contained a must read editorial about the financial state & reality of our city’s transit system. While I am not thrilled with the mention of many’s favorite fallback crutch congestion pricing, it does accurately paint the dire situation our system is currently in.

New York City’s mass-transit system is deteriorating and desperately underfunded. The politicians know this, but they are still providing far too little in the way of financing. The result is that the system’s users, many of them already suffering from tough economic times, could be stuck with the bill.

Neither the city nor the state is paying its fair share, despite what they claim. With the Metropolitan Transportation Authority facing a budget gap of nearly $1 billion next year, direct subsidies from both governments last year totaled about $600 million, not much more than what they were a decade ago, according to the nonpartisan Independent Budget Office. Adjusted for inflation, subsidies have actually declined, saddling riders with an ever-increasing burden.

The main problem is that New York’s state legislators have failed to put a dependable source of financing — like congestion pricing — in place. Transit has been forced to rely on fluctuating taxes from real estate and other sources and, increasingly, rising fares.

Click here for the complete editorial.

The person who wrote this editorial is spot on with the financial state of our transit system. It is great when politicians call out the MTA for their ridiculous practices or decisions. However if they truly wanted to better our system, they would stop putting all the blame on the MTA & do two things. The first thing would be to admit their role in the situation that caused the MTA to be where it is today. Lastly they would actually step up to the plate & put an end to the financial shortchanging of the MTA year after year. Until these politicians are ready to complete both steps, the history of putting the burden on riders will only help but continue on.

xoxo Transit Blogger

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A Closer Look At The Double-Decker Buses

On Friday evening I posted an entry to let people know of the MTA’s photo/press opportunity this morning to announce a 35 day test run of double-decker buses in passenger service . April Dembosky of the New York Times’ City Room blog brings us more on today’s proceedings:

New York City Transit officials unveiled a new behemoth double-decker bus today that will cruise city streets in a 30-day trial run. Not since 1953 have the two-story vehicles carried nontourist passengers.

The 13-foot-tall, 45-foot-long, 81-seat bus will alternate service on local and express bus routes: BxM3 from Yonkers to Manhattan, the X17J between Staten Island and Manhattan, the M15 limited on First and Second Avenues, and possibly the M5 along Fifth Avenue (if the tree pruning along the bus lane goes well).

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority plans to talk with the driver and passengers to gauge how the bus handles in city traffic and how customers react.

“This is not just a show,” Howard H. Roberts Jr., president of New York City Transit, said at a news conference on Monday. “It’s not a movement to titillate the public.”

The agency, a unit of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, is considering bringing back the double-decker bus in light of increased ridership and the mounting cost of gas, said Elliot G. Sander, director and chief executive of the M.T.A.

Click here for the complete report.

I noticed one of the routes being used on the test is the M5. The route is not heavily used & would seem to be a waste as far as test use is concerned. I would think they would want to test it out on routes with decent ridership to get a real gauge as to their effectiveness & potential full time use throughout the city.

xoxo Transit Blogger

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Some Just Don’t Know How To Let Go

Back in mid-late June, the biggest story in & around the MTA was “PerkGate”. This scandal came about after a great Daily News exposé which alerted the masses how MTA Board members were abusing perks such as Free E-Z Pass tags, MetroCards, Railroad Passes, etc….. The MTA put up an initial resistance to eliminate the perks after New York State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo came calling. However their resistance was short lived & they voted to revoke the free travel perks. The last piece of responsibility was for board members to turn in their respective tags, passes, & such. However according to New York Daily News transit reporter Pete Donohue, only 80% of them have:

Former MTA honchos kept one in five lifetime passes that the agency recalled after a Daily News exposé – and their electronic freebies will be switched off within days.

Ex-Metropolitan Transit Authority big shots still have three free E-Z Passes, 10 MetroCards and at least 16 suburban rail passes more than two months after they were told to hand in a total of 143 perks, officials said.

“Our former board members have been very cooperative, and we expect to have all of the passes returned shortly,” MTA spokesman Jeremy Soffin said.

Soffin refused to name those who failed to return the passes and said some of them may not know about the recall because of summer vacations.

He noted that nearly 80% of the passes were returned.

The agency plans to pull the plug on the E-Z Passes and MetroCards by the end of the week, meaning some of the ex-bosses may find themselves stuck at bridge toll gates or subway turnstiles, officials said.

Click here for the full report.

It is ridiculous that it has taken them this long to turn them in. I’m sure we will hear the excuses such as vacations & such but that does not fly with me. If you couldn’t turn them in, have an associate do do. Should I believe that every possible person who could have turned them in was on vacation at the same time? Highly unlikely………

xoxo Transit Blogger

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