City Hall Bigwig Feels The MTA’s Decision Was Ill-Advised

Yesterday was a rough day in a relationship between the city & MTA that would never be confused as being healthy to begin with. The latest rough patch stems from the MTA Board approving a measure to start charging government agencies like the NYFD, NYPD, Parks Department, etc… tolls for using its bridges & tunnels. One City Hall bigwig more specifically City budget director Mark Page said the MTA’s decision was “ill-advised”. New York Daily News transit reporter Pete Donohue has more in this report:

he MTA may regret revoking the city’s free E-ZPasses, a City Hall bigwig warned as the move was ratified Wednesday.

City budget director Mark Page called the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s money-generating initiative “ill-advised” as the city and MTA have a complex financial relationship, with several big-ticket items in dispute.

“I think … an ill will arising from this proposal is probably more expensive – in terms of the likelihood of coming together on the extremely important issues that face all of us – than it is worth,” Page said.

Page is one of Mayor Bloomberg’s four MTA board appointees. His comments came just before the board voted, 7 to 6, to bill city departments for bridge and tunnel trips.

Those departments include the mayor’s office, the mayor’s Office of Emergency Management and the Sanitation, Police, Fire and Parks departments.

The policy change also affects some state and local agencies and will raise some $10 million for the MTA as it tries to close looming budget gaps.

Click here for the complete report.

This story to me is more than just the MTA trying to raise money by collecting tolls from local government agencies. The fact that the MTA’s decision to collect these tolls is considered an “ill-advised” idea just illustrates part of what is wrong in the big picture.

The MTA is clearly in a state of financial crisis & is correctly looking for any & all ways to dig itself from out of this hole. The fact that a plan which goes along with this line of thinking is considered “ill-advised” illustrates how the city truly neglects its financial responsibilities to the MTA & more specifically its riding public, you know the millions that both parties are supposed to serve!

The city should be applauding the MTA for trying to find ways to tighten its belt while also bringing in much needed revenue. Instead of focusing on the true issues at hand, we have adults sparring over petty nonsense. How is the riding public ever supposed to believe that things will change when many people in high places are more concerned for the little things instead of the real issues at hand? If these people can’t look in the mirror or within themselves to realize this, what hope does the riding public have?

Not much if you ask me……………………………

xoxo Transit Blogger

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MTA Approves Plan To Charge Government Agencies Tolls

A week ago I wrote about the MTA’s desire to charge local government agencies with the toll prices that average citizens pay. The plan which came endured sharp criticism from Mayor Bloomberg & his appointees on the MTA Board was approved by a margin of 7-6. The approval came after a lively debate at today’s MTA Board meeting. New York Daily News transit reporter Pete Donohue has more in this report:

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority voted Wednesday to start charging government agencies for police officers, firefighters and other public employees who cross its bridges and tunnels.

The MTA board approved the plan 7-6 after a debate that pitted Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s appointees against several of the other members.

City budget director Mark Page, one of the mayor’s four representatives on the MTA board, said “the ill will arising from this proposal” would probably outweigh the expected $10 million a year in additional revenue.

MTA Executive Director Elliot Sander said he sympathized with the city’s position but added, “This is an accounting issue. And it’s something that we need to do given the current state of the MTA’s finances.”

The plan will go into effect in six weeks and affects dozens of agencies including the New York Police Department, the New York State Police and the Nassau and Suffolk county police departments.

Click here for the complete report.

I’m with Elliot here in feeling this had to be done in light of the budget situation. While the amount of $10 million barely takes a spot in the overall deficit, it is still an amount that is better to have than not at all. In the times that the agency is in, every dollar counts & could help make or break them in the long run. Any possible ill will will have to be overlooked for the greater cause & even the sharpest critics of this plan should be able to understand that.

xoxo Transit Blogger

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A Detailed Look At The Extended NYC Subway Line Manager Program

A couple of days ago I wrote about the MTA’s intention to extend their line manager program after a successful run on the 7 Train & L Train lines respectively. Now more specific details have come out about the extension courtesy of a press release that was e-mailed to me. Here is the release:

Following the successful introduction of the Line General Manager program on the 7 and L lines late last year, MTA New York City Transit is continuing the move toward decentralization with the implementation of the first major managerial reorganization of the Department of Subways since the creation of the agency more than 50 years ago.

The current structure of centralized leadership is being replaced by a far more localized operation aimed at cutting through the red tape and inertia that can often affect large organizations. The reorganization creates a more direct system of responsibility designed to be immediately responsive to both customers and employees.

“The prime focus of the reorganization of the Department of Subways is to move the area of responsibility closer to the employees who provide the services and to the customers – who are the end users of those services,” said NYC Transit President Howard H. Roberts, Jr. “Our Line General Managers will be expected to take a hands-on approach to addressing everything their customers experience from service to the cleanliness of trains and stations. Our experience with the 7 and L demonstrates that services are more efficiently delivered when they aren’t filtered through a large, unwieldy bureaucracy.”

The 7 and L lines have been part of the Line general Manager program since December 2007. At that time a Line General Manager and a Deputy were installed on both lines. Since then this approach has been a success in several areas, outperforming other lines even though operating personnel remained in their divisions. When the roll-out is complete, approximately 19,000 employees will be moved from the central divisions into the lines themselves and a budget savings of more than $7 million is expected.

Full program implementation will see 18 Line General Managers covering the system’s 26 individual subway lines. While the majority of the Line General Managers will be responsible for a single line, in some cases a manager will be assigned to cover more than one line. This will be the case along lines where ridership is relatively low or share the same track. As examples, the N and W are grouped together as are the J, M, and Z.

The 18 Line General Managers would in turn report to five Group General Managers. Decisions regarding which lines were combined to create a group were based on a number of criteria, including service corridor, service level, route and track miles, and the number of employees.

The New York City subway system is one of the largest and most complex rapid rail systems in the world. The workforce alone totals more than 28,000 individuals. Trains travel over 231 route miles and either stop or pass through 468 stations. The car fleet of 6,400 is supported by 14 car maintenance facilities, two overhaul shops, and 23 subway yards. Train movements are guided by 118 towers. The 7 line alone, which is the 7th largest NYCT line in terms of ridership, is equivalent to the fourth largest transit system in the United States. Only Washington D.C., Chicago, and Boston surpass the Flushing Line.

The current plan to reorganize the Department of Subways reflects the successful reorganization of the Department of Buses almost 25 years ago, when that department was reorganized with a borough focus.

The managers are being required to take a hands-on approach to running “their railroads.” The Line General Managers will be able to direct staff as necessary to address priority issues, responding to contacts with customers and the results of the Rider Report Cards. Their duties also include making regular visits to their line’s stations, maintenance facilities, and crew quarters; making decisions concerning the best way to deliver service; and investing time each day engaging their employees and customers.

The Line General Managers will be evaluated in a number of areas, including safety, customer service, and employee morale. They will also be responsible for line performance indicators, such as On-Time Performance and Mean Distance Between Failures. The groups will be held firmly accountable for the quality of service on their lines. The customer service rating will originate with the customers themselves through the ratings provided by the Rider Report Card.

The reorganization will be rolled out in two phases. Initially, two groups will be created: IRT West, which incorporates the 1 2 3 and 7 lines, and IRT East, comprised of the 4 5 6 and 42nd Street Shuttle S. With these two groups, there are distinct lines of responsibility for the two corridors.
Phase Two will see the creation of three additional groups: the BMT Group, which would include the B D N Q W and Franklin Shuttle S; the BMT/IND group, consisting of the A C J L M Z and Rockaway Shuttle S; and the IND group, with the E F G R V. The majority of personnel within the groups would report to one of the 18 Line General Managers. Full roll out of the program could take place by early 2009.

xoxo Transit Blogger

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Next Subway Arrival Board: 3 Years Away

One of the biggest technological advances in mass transit for riders was the implementation of arrival boards which tell you when the next train in each respective direction will arrive. The technology has been in place all over the world in places such as London, Rome, & in our own country in Washington D.C. Unfortunately for tri-state area residents, the most important system in the world continues to labor on without them. As usual the MTA is behind the rest of the world in terms of implementing transit technology or strategies even though are system is by far the most important & complex.

The agency did implement the technology on a smaller scale when they initiated a pilot program on the L Train. They had planned to implement it system-wide by 2006 but we all know that did not happen. We then were led to believe that the boards would be up & running by 2009. Now we learn that the date has been pushed back to sometime in 2011, a full 5 years later than originally anticipated. New York Daily News transit reporter Pete Donohue broke the news in this report:

Attention, straphangers: A project to display real-time train arrival times in 152 subway stations is now behind schedule – by five years.

The project, featuring electronic message boards posted above subway platforms, was originally expected to be completed in 2006.

NYC Transit has pushed back that date several times over the years, citing software development problems, technical glitches and other problems. Earlier this week, officials pushed the date back again, this time to 2011.

The delays in the $185 million project have frustrated riders and advocates who have seen such information provided in other cities around the world but not here.

“What a drag!” said Gene Russianoff of the Straphangers Campaign. “Riders really want to know when trains are due to arrive and when they are delayed.”

The transit agency in 2002 awarded the Public Address/Customer Information Screen contract to Siemens Transit Technologies, a joint venture between Siemens Transportation Systems and Transit Technologies.

The stations being rigged up are along the Nos. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 lines.

A smaller test program on the L line came on board last year. The balance of the system is slated to be equipped in a subsequent phase of the Siemens contract. A Siemens spokeswoman said she couldn’t immediately comment on the project Tuesday.

Click here for the complete report.

This is totally unacceptable & downright ridiculous. How could the most important & complex system in the world not have this technology implemented while others do? The tri-state area’s transit agencies should be leading the charge & be the model for others around the world. Instead through years of neglect, bad decisions, & no desire from the masses, our infrastructure is behind & has to be a follower instead of an innovator. Mark my words that by time this technology is up & running system-wide, other agencies will have implemented an even better method that will make these boards outdated. Pathetic………..

xoxo Transit Blogger

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The LIRR Knew All Along

As you have figured out by now, the LIRR has received plenty of attention on here & around other tri-state area media resources. The attention has not been for the right reasons as former employers are being investigated for manipulation the system to collect disability benefits. Unfortunately for the agency, the negative coverage continues as word as come out that the LIRR knew about this problem all along. Kenneth Lovett of the New York Daily News has more in this report:

ALBANY – A Long Island Rail Road official admitted the agency knew for a long time that many of its retirees collected disability payments, but never spoke up.

“It wasn’t our place,” the official told the Daily News. “We’re not part of the board making the decisions.”

The New York Times reported Sunday that virtually all LIRR employees retiring after age 50 in recent years had applied for disability – and that more than nine out of 10 got it. The Times said some 2,000 LIRR employees have retired since 2000.

The Railroad Retirement Board okayed the payments. The LIRR and MTA don’t have members on the board.

The Railroad Retirement Board requested information from the LIRR when considering each application, and told the agency who had been approved every month, the LIRR official said.

Despite the many names, the official said, no one put the situation together “because we weren’t informed in any systematic way. We didn’t know more than 90% were receiving them.”

Click here for the complete report.

More as it comes in….

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