What A Nightmare Commute!

Today’s edition of AMNY has an exclusive story on the nightmare commute of airport worker Miguel Diaz. The paper feels his daily commute qualifies him to be called an “AMNY Extreme Commuter”. After reading his story, I can’t disagree with the paper’s designation for him.

Mr. Diaz’s commute starts in Williamsburg at the Marcy Avenue stop on the J, M, & Z lines. He takes the J or Z to Broadway Junction where he transfers to the A train to Howard Beach. When he arrives at Howard Beach, he hops on AirTrain to Terminal 4 at JFK Airport. Unfortunately his commute does not end there as he works in Hanger 81 which is only a short distance from Terminal 4. The problem for him & others who work there is the fact that there is no pedestrian access to the hanger. So when he & others arrive at Terminal 4, they must catch the Q3 to take them to the hanger.

The problems tend to start for Mr. Diaz & others when they get off from work during the overnight hours. At that time of night, the Q3 runs only once an hour. So sometimes he & others have to wait an hour just to get on a bus to take them to the trains to get them home. For someone like Mr. Diaz this is a nightmare as it takes about an hour for him just to get to Terminal 4 alone!

I seriously think the MTA needs to do something about this problem. While I know not everyone can get perfect service to suit their needs, something can be done to fix an obvious problem for a lot of airport workers. They should not have to endure commutes like this where a simple ride to a train station could save 45+ minutes off their commute due to poor scheduling. Hopefully the MTA will do what’s right here although that is always a dicey proposition.

xoxo Transit Blogger

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The Answer Is Probably Yes….

The question you might ask is are the fare hearings a waste of time. This question was posed in an article written by AMNY’s Marlene Naanes in today’s paper. Here is the entire article courtesy of AMNY:

Misha Jemison says she is the face of the fare hike.

A Lehman College sophomore who works two jobs to make ends meet, Jemison says that the $76 she pays for a monthly MetroCard already stretches her budget thin. “When you add money to our fares you are hurting the middle class, the students,” she told board members at one of the eight Metropolitan Transportation Authority public hearings held on the fare hike. “We are the face of the fare hike.”

Despite riders’ testimony of the hardships of a fare increase, so far, only two board members have told amNewYork that they will vote against the hike when the board meets in December. Five of the board members did not return calls. And of the remaining nine, one declined to comment, while the other eight said that the public’s opposition hasn’t cemented their vote one way or the other.

Like Jemison, dozens of straphangers also have spoken out against the proposed increase during the public comment process that wrapped up this weekend with a forum. State and federal law requires the MTA to hold hearings for fare hikes, and the meetings are intended to offer a sounding board for riders. The comments, in turn, are supposed to impact board members’ decision making process.

“We need to be mindful of their concerns,” Dale Hemmerdinger, the new MTA board chairman, said of the public testimony. “It strikes a chord with anybody who hears them.”

Nevertheless, when asked by amNewYork about his vote, Hemmerdinger said he’s undecided. He said he is waiting for more information about the MTA budget and developments that could impact it.

The MTA has said that it needs to increase fares to deal with the billions of dollars in deficits it is facing in the next four years.

“There is more than the public hearings that go into the decision making process,” said board member, Barry Feinstein, who also is undecided about the increase. History has shown that public hearings only have been able to stop one out of eight proposed MTA fare hikes since 1981, said Gene Russianoff, staff attorney with the Straphangers Campaign.

But it’s often not a complete loss, he said, as ideas that reduce the sting of a fare increase typically surface as a result of the hearings. Russianoff pointed out that a 14-day discounted pass the MTA introduced with this year’s proposed hike was floated at hearings in the past.

Riders who turned out for the public hearings said they realized their testimony will likely not sway the board against the hike but they felt it was important to have their say.

“I told my co-workers about it [the public hearing] and they said it was like spitting in the wind, ” said Sahre Davis, a receptionist and community college student from Greenpoint who also testified at a hearing. “I’d rather spit because I know it will land somewhere.”

amNewYork polled MTA board members on how they will vote on the proposed fare increase.

Dale Hemmerdinger, Chairman; Undecided.

David Mack, Vice Chairman; Undecided.

Andrew Saul, Vice Chairman; Did not respond.

John Banks III; Undecided.

Donald Cecil; Did not respond.

Barry Feinstein; Undecided.

Jeffrey Kay; Refused to comment.

Mark Lebow; Did not respond.

Mark Page; Undecided.

Mitchell Pally; Against the hike.

Francis Powers; Undecided.

Norman Seabrook; Against the hike.

Nancy Shevell; Undecided.

Nov. 28: The MTA will present an updated financial plan to the board with possible changes to the fare increase proposal.

Dec. 19: The board votes on the MTA’s final plan.

Early 2008: If approved, a fare hike takes effect.

I happen to agree with Misha Jemison when she says she is the face of the proposed fare hike. The majority of riders will seriously be hurt with this fare hike. The cost of living is already so high & it is sure out pacing salaries so the saying every dollar counts has never rang more true. Unfortunately for riders like Misha Jemison, the MTA has the attitude of too bad it has to be done even though we have surplus money & refuse to fight for the money we rightfully deserve from each level of the government! As I have said in the past, “It Sucks To Be You Now Doesn’t It“!

xoxo Transit Blogger

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On Display: Plans For The Hudson Rail Yards

Last month, I wrote about the MTA seeking & receiving bid proposals for the rights to develop the Hudson Rail Yards. The 26 acre land is highly sought after real estate where plans call for turning the area into a huge waterfront destination filled with everything from businesses to residences mixed in with shopping for everyone.

Yesterday the MTA issued a press release stating the 5 proposals will be on public display in the form of an exhibit. The exhibit will take place between the hours of 8 a.m. & 8 p.m. every day from today November 19th until December 3rd. The only day the exhibit will be closed is on Thanksgiving Day. The exhibit is located at 335 Madison Avenue which is a storefront that can be accessed at the corner of 43rd Street and Vanderbilt Avenue.

Here is the entire press release courtesy of the MTA:

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) today announced the opening of a public exhibition of the proposals the agency has received for development of its rail yards on Manhattan’s Far West Side. The exhibit will be open to the public from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. from Monday, November 19 through Monday, December 3, with the exception of Thanksgiving Day.

The exhibit will be held at 335 Madison Avenue, a storefront that can be accessed at the corner of 43rd Street and Vanderbilt Avenue.

“We are very excited to be able to present these proposals to the public for their review and feedback,” said Elliot G. Sander, Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer of the MTA. “We are committed to incorporating public input into the selection process as we look for a proposal that will provide critical funding for our capital plan and tremendous benefit to the city.”

The exhibit, which is located directly across the street from Grand Central Terminal, features models and other presentation materials prepared by each of the five development teams: Brookfield Properties Developer LLC; Extell Development Company; Hudson Center East LLC and Hudson Center West LLC (A Joint Venture of Vornado Realty Trust and The Durst Organization, Inc.); The Related Companies; and TS West Side Holding, LLC (A Joint Venture of Tishman Speyer and Morgan Stanley). Comments will be accepted via comment card at the exhibit beginning on Monday, and online in the near future.

The input will help inform the selection process. The proposals are now being reviewed by a selection committee with a majority of its members appointed by MTA and with two representatives from Hudson Yards Development Corporation. The recommended proposal(s) for each yard will then go to the MTA Board for consideration in the first quarter of 2008.

The Newsday also has an article about the exhibit. Here is the full article courtesy of Newsday:

Read the rest of this entry »

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MTA Public Engagement Workshop

As many know this past Saturday, the MTA held a public engagement workshop on fares & tolls. I had wanted to attend the event but a scheduled engagement coupled with the fact that I had next to no energy prevented me from going. However fellow transit blogger Benjamin Kabak of “Second Avenue Sagas” attended. I highly suggest everyone read his entry about attending the workshop as it is a good read. Click here to read his report.

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MTA Vice Chairman Opposes The Fare Hike

I don’t know if I should consider this a surprise or a PR move to cover one owns ass but MTA Vice Chairman Andrew Saul has publicly announced his opposition to the proposed fare hike. As I am sure you recall, Mr. Saul was one of the 3 board members who missed every single public hearing on the proposed fare hikes. Here is a complete article on Mr. Saul’s views courtesy of New York Daily News transit reporter Pete Donohue:

The Halt the Hike campaign got a big boost Friday when a key MTA board member changed course and came out against fare increases.

“I am against this fare hike proposal,” board Vice Chairman Andrew Saul declared. “A fare increase is always a hardship and the last option I consider to cover budget shortfalls.”

Instead of seeking higher fares from millions of daily subway, bus and commuter train riders, Saul – who also heads the board’s finance committee – said he would continue to pursue savings within the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

He also pledged support to lawmakers seeking more mass transit funding from Gov. Spitzer and the state Legislature. Spitzer unveils his first budget and the Legislature reconvenes in January.

State Assemblyman Richard Brodsky (D-Westchester) welcomed Saul on board the campaign to keep fares and tolls stable.

“The momentum is shifting, there’s no question about that,” Brodsky said.

Saul is the third MTA board member to voice opposition to increases that were proposed earlier this year by Spitzer’s transit chief, MTA CEO Elliot Sander, and Sander’s top deputies.

The board has 16 voting members, including three suburban representatives who share one vote. Mayor Bloomberg has four reps that traditionally vote as a bloc.

Bloomberg hasn’t embraced the proposal but hasn’t rejected it either. The board will vote on a 2008 budget next month.

Brodsky and approximately 100 state legislators have urged the MTA to at least delay possible implementation to April from February, providing more time for them to seek more funds in Albany.

If they succeed, riders could be spared the third round of increases since 2003.

Director of a nationwide chain of clothing stores, Saul is one of several board members appointed by former Gov. George Pataki. The Republican also has launched a campaign for a Democrat-held congressional seat.

Though Saul recently told the Daily News he wouldn’t support delaying the fare hike, he insisted yesterday he never intended to vote for the hike.

“Although the state Legislature has historically been unable to come up with the funding we needed to avoid fare increases, I am hopeful that this time they will be successful,” he said.

The MTA has a large surplus but expects huge deficits in 2009.

While it is nice to hear one of the higher ranking officials oppose the fare hike, I do question the sincerity behind his position. The timing of the announcement raises eyebrows considering the criticism he & the other 2 board members received from all levels of the media including such blogs as this one. This would not be the first or last time I will question someone’s true motive but can you blame me, this is the MTA we are talking about. The agency has perfected the art of lying to people right in their face without blinking an eye. If Mr. Saul is honestly against the proposed fare hike, then these last few weeks until the vote shall prove to be even more interesting if that is even possible!

xoxo Transit Blogger

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