LIRR Earns Millions From Scrap Metal

Earlier today the MTA’s Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) division issued a press release highlighting the $3 million dollars earned from the sale of salvageable scrap metal. Here is the full release courtesy of the MTA:

MTA Long Island Rail Road President Helena Williams reported today that the sale of scrap metal salvaged by the LIRR has brought in more than $3 million since 2006, including $718,469 so far this year.

“We know that our neighbors appreciate a clean right-of-way,” said Williams. “Clearing debris has obvious environmental benefits and is important for safety. But it has also become a revenue source that helps offset the cost of our cleaning efforts. Wherever feasible, ‘trash for cash’ is the way the Long Island Railroad is going.”

This initiative comes as MTA Executive Director Elliot G. Sander has ordered the LIRR and other MTA agencies to tighten their belts by reducing expenses and operating more efficiently in the face of budget pressures brought on by a worsening economy. Sander has ordered all MTA agencies to reduce spending by six percent during the next four years. The LIRR ‘trash for cash’ program generated an extra $400,000 that will help close this year’s budget gap.

Since 2006, more than 6,000 gross tons of scrap – mostly old running rail replaced during routine maintenance – has been collected by LIRR workers doing targeted clean-ups with a high-rail crane equipped with a giant magnet. Old train wheels and axles, metal shavings, copper wire and railroad tie plates and fasteners are also part of the salvage sold off.

With 700 miles of track, cleaning the right-of-way is an ongoing effort. In some cases, debris has accumulated along the track bed over many years. To ensure it is getting a fair price for the used metals, the LIRR uses a truck scale at the Hillside Maintenance Facility in Hollis, Queens to weigh the salvaged materials.

In 2007, LIRR workers combed 69 miles on the Hempstead, Main Line, Oyster Bay and West Hempstead branches removing over 2,700 tons of scrap, 183,089 old railroad ties and 29,750 cubic yards of debris.

Through April of this year, crews have so far removed 1,399 gross tons of scrap metal, 38,761 railroad ties and 9,350 cubic feet of debris. In each of the last three years, the revenue from scrap metal sales has exceeded the LIRR’s own projections.

The scrap metal recycling program is in keeping with the Railroad’s efforts to meet environmental goals set in April by the MTA Commission on Sustainability. The Commission was created last year to study ways the agency could become more environmentally friendly.

The Railroad is taking steps to reduce its hazardous waste output, working to recycle waste at each of its stations and using only environmentally safe cleaning products.

“We are working closely with the Commission on Sustainability and the MTA and are committed to using more renewable resources, minimizing waste and decreasing our impact on the environment,” said Williams.

Once again I am really impressed at the improvement shown by the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) in terms of their operation since Helena Williams took over. Lets hope the agency continues to earn solid revenue from an activity that not only helps the bottom line but the environment as well.

xoxo Transit Blogger

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Another Perk Bites The Dust

Three days ago I wrote about how Alison Gendar and Pete Donohue of the New York Daily News exposed how 60 MTA Bridge & Tunnel employees were given the use of MTA owned vehicles which also came with no expense for gas. Due to their report, MTA CEO/Executive Director Elliot Sander has called for an end to the practice. Pete Donohue of the New York Daily News has the story:

The MTA is curbing the use of authority-owned cars by staffers who don’t even have to pay to fill the tank, officials revealed Wednesday.

Metropolitan Transportation Authority Chief Executive Officer Elliot Sander ordered the cost-cutting in a memo to top administrators that was dated Tuesday – a day after a Daily News report about Bridge and Tunnel workers using authority sedans to commute.

“The budget problems we are facing are daunting,” the memo states. “The severe drop in proceeds from our real estate taxes, coupled with dramatic increases in fuel prices, are creating great stress on our operating budget.”

By September, miles traveled by “nonrevenue vehicles” must be slashed by 15%, according to the memo, which also ordered cuts on out-of-town travel, food, beverages, cell phones and BlackBerrys.

Planned hirings also are to be delayed by two months.

Citing burgeoning budget deficits and inadequate state and city funding, Sander has warned that further fare and toll hikes could be necessary next year.

The savings ordered by the memo will amount to approximately $5 million and is the first salvo in an initiative in which Sander expects to find even more savings, MTA spokesman Jeremy Soffin said.

Under a prior directive, agency heads were told to find annual budget savings of 6% over four years, which would total about $80 million over the next year.

William Henderson, executive vice president of the Permanent Citizens Advisory Committee to the MTA, said such administrative belt-tightening could give the authority “some necessary breathing room.” But the large budget gaps will require “a more comprehensive solution that provides reliable, stable and inflation-sensitive funding to operate vital transportation services.”

Gov. Paterson last month created a blue-ribbon panel to recommend ways to increase transit funding. It is expected to issue a report in November or December.

On Monday, The News reported that 60 MTA Bridges and Tunnels supervisors have division-owned cars in case of emergencies that require them to respond from home.

The vehicles also are used for daily commutes. The division also has 40 so-called pool cars that staffers not assigned their own set of authority wheels can request for official business during working hours, The News reported.

I think this is a wise decision by Elliot considering the dire financial situation the MTA is currently dealing with. From a P.R. perspective, it is also a smart move as well. One of the major reasons given for the current financial mess the MTA faces is rising fuel costs. Well if that is the case (which it is in this instance), how could you justify employees being allowed to use agency owned vehicles that come with free gas? There is no way you could justify that at this time, especially when over half of the employees taking advantage of this perk make over $100,000 a year.

xoxo Transit Blogger

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Drunk Man Survies Fall Onto Tracks

Yesterday evening a drunk man survived after falling onto the tracks at the Metro-North’s Brewster Village station. The Associated Press (via The New York Daily News) had the brief story:

BREWSTER, N.Y. – Metro-North police say a “highly intoxicated” man who fell off the platform as a train pulled into the Brewster Village station has escaped serious injury.

Police say the train rolled right over the man but most of his injuries were the result of his fall.

The incident occurred as the train was entering the station about 8:30 p.m. Wednesday. The man toppled about 5 feet onto the tracks but apparently landed parallel to the rails.

A witness called 911, and firefighters were able to extricate the man from beneath the train. He was taken to Putnam Hospital.

The man’s name was unavailable Wednesday.

People who can not handle their alcohol make me sick. While it is a good thing this man did not get behind the wheel, it does not mean he should be riding public transportation. His actions could have been just as costly as if he did step behind the wheel. Hopefully he is thankful for surviving a fall most wouldn’t have & uses this opportunity to make better decisions in the future.

xoxo Transit Blogger

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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.

xoxo Transit Blogger

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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.

xoxo Transit Blogger

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