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As city kicks cars off most of 14th St., fate of future street redesigns hangs in the balance

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After months of delays, the city on Thursday will finally launch its long-planned initiative to kick cars off the majority of 14th St., one of Manhattan’s busiest crosstown corridors.

The new rules will ban through traffic on the street between Third and Ninth Aves from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily, giving exceptions to trucks, buses and cars making drop-offs, pick-ups or accessing local garages.

Left turns will also be banned across the affected stretch, and cars that end up on the street will be required to take the first available right turn.

The restrictions, informally dubbed a “busway,” were supposed to go into effect on July 1, but the plan was blocked for three months after a lawsuit was filed by a collection of downtown community groups led by attorney and West Village resident Arthur Schwartz.

The plaintiffs have argued that the city did not go through a proper environmental review process, and the changes would cause gridlocked traffic on residential side streets.
A panel of appellate judges on Friday lifted a stay in the suit, giving the city the green light to move forward with the car restrictions. Now, DOT officials are ready to roll with their plan — but they acknowledge that their fight to boot cars from streets across the city is just beginning.

DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg told reporters Wednesday that the city has “never done anything quite this aggressive,” and reminded that the 14th St. restrictions are just an 18-month pilot that will be reassessed or scrapped altogether. Trottenberg added that the street changes are a “little bit of a trial run” for the car-taxing congestion pricing program set to launch in Manhattan in 2021.

Trottenberg and her staff said they think the restrictions will speed up buses by at least 25% on 14th St., and that DOT will closely monitor traffic on nearby residential streets.
If the bus speeds hit the DOT’s target, they’ll still run at a paltry 6.3 miles per hour. That’s much slower than the citywide average of 8 miles per hour, and a third slower than some other major cities London, where buses run at an average speed of roughly 9.5 miles per hour.

“Any well thought out experiment in re-configuring how the streets are used is a good thing,” said transportation analyst Charles Komanoff. “If this proves to be a clear success, it could really open the way to a big re-imagining of street space across the city.”

Enforcement will be key to that success, and it will take at least two months before the city is even allowed to ticket drivers who violate the new regulations.
Automated on-street cameras will issue tickets to cars that violate the rules beginning Dec. 30, and the city will send written warnings to violators until then.

In late November, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority will launch its own enforcement program by rolling out front-facing cameras on its buses that run on 14th St. If one of the cameras catches a car sitting in a bus lane for at least five minutes, the MTA will send the driver a ticket, according to the agency’s acting head of buses Craig Cipriano.

Trottenberg wouldn’t say whether the city was considering similar regulations on other congested areas like 42nd or 23rd Sts., but did point out that even the changes to 14th St. will be painful at first.
“I think we’re going to have a couple weeks where everything is going to settle in,” Trottenberg said.

Meanwhile, Schwartz is planning to continue his legal fight against the busway — he said his appeal will return to court in January.

“When you qualitatively change the way a street operates you have to study it under the environmental laws,” said Schwartz. “That’s still a point that has to be argued.”
If Schwartz ends up winning in court, he said that it would allow other suits to use environmental review laws to stop similar regulations.

Source: https://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/ny-14th-st-busway-launches-car-traffic-polly-trottenberg-20191002-cimyrj2sefbb5hlbu5552ps5ry-story.html

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MTA inspector general says four Long Island Rail Road workers padded overtime

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Four Long Island Rail Road workers who ranked among the highest earners in the MTA last year padded their overtime pay by claiming more than $140,000 in “excessive and unsubstantiated” travel time for driving to and from assignments, according to the MTA’s inspector general.

The four, foremen in the track and structures division of the railroad’s engineering department, made $650,836 in total overtime last year, Metropolitan Transportation Authority Inspector General Carolyn Pokorny stated in a letter dated Sept. 26 to LIRR president Phillip Eng.

The foremen received an estimated $146,800 combined in “questionable travel time payments” for 2018, highlighting a broader problem of inadequate management oversight, unreliable documentation of employee time and attendance, and lax supervision, according to Pokorny’s letter.

“We conclude that this has been a very costly and wasteful practice, brought about by years of managerial neglect that allowed a small group of workers to take advantage at taxpayer expense,” Pokorny wrote in the letter.

Eng, in a statement Wednesday responding to Pokorny’s letter, said the railroad “takes very seriously any confirmed abuses” and will seek to recover money that was not properly earned by the accused workers.

Only one of the four was identified by Pokorny — Raymond Murphy, 65, who retired last year and was accused in a separate inspector general’s investigation about cheating the railroad by claiming he was working when he was at or near his East Northport home. He made $280,950 in 2018.

The revelations come as several agencies, including federal and Queens prosecutors, continue to investigate potential overtime abuse among LIRR workers. The concerns of fraud stem from an April report by the Empire Center for Public Policy that revealed alarmingly high overtime rates among some workers. The MTA paid $418 million in overtime in 2018, up 16% from the previous year.

Source newsday.com

By Alfonso A. Castillo

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MTA New York City Transit Launches ‘Clean Slate’ Redesign of Brooklyn Bus Network

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Public Outreach Begins with Series of Community Open Houses to Gather Information on Customer Travel Patterns and Priorities

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Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA)

today announced the first series of public open houses this fall as part of a comprehensive redesign of the Brooklyn local and express bus networks, which will redraw the entire borough’s bus routes for the first time. This historic undertaking will use public feedback, multiple sources of data and analysis, and a thorough review of demographics and upcoming developments to create a bus network that reimagines service for 650,000 Brooklyn bus riders.

As part of the Fast Forward plan to modernize and transform New York City Transit services, NYC Transit is seeking to transform the entire city’s bus networks to speed up rides and improve bus service. Most of the city’s current bus routes were implemented decades ago, with many replacing old trolley lines from the turn of the 20th century. NYC Transit will redraw those routes to take into consideration the vast changes in usage, ridership, demographics and development the city has seen. Goals of these historic redesigns include providing bus service that runs more frequently and serves more customers throughout the borough’s major corridors. To achieve such goals, Transit will look for ways to straighten routes that are excessively circuitous, limiting redundancy while adding service where needed, and bolstering off-peak service and coverage.

MTA will thoroughly review all local, Select Bus Service, and express bus routes in Brooklyn. Planners and MTA officials will also conduct an analysis of current and future market needs, travel trends, and current bus performance and reliability. Collectively, this work will help identify enhancements such as new routes, changes to service frequency, transit priority treatments, or bus priority signaling technology. MTA staff met with the Brooklyn Borough Board in early October to provide details on public outreach and the redesign process that will take place over the coming months. Public feedback from meetings, surveys conducted in person and online, and public input sessions will help inform this process, which is scheduled for completion in 2020. Each step in the process will incorporate opportunities for public comment, including community meetings and workshops. A draft plan will undergo its own round of public outreach before a final plan is proposed, and that final proposal will also be accompanied by a round of public outreach when it is released in late 2020. The final plan will be subject to public hearing and an MTA Board vote before it can be implemented.

NYC Transit has scheduled 10 open houses to inform customers and Brooklyn residents about the project’s goals. The community is encouraged to attend and share their priorities for Brooklyn’s new bus network. Members of the public will work in tandem with MTA bus planning experts to consider factors such as frequency of service in high-ridership areas, ensuring adequate service throughout the borough and balancing bus stop spacing. Transit personnel will also conduct rider surveys at bus stops and online through a dedicated project website.

In addition, MTA personnel will be on site at locations across Brooklyn to provide information about the open houses, answer questions about the Brooklyn Bus Network Redesign and to help customer submit surveys online.

 

OUTREACH CALENDAR

 

More information about the redesigns is available here: new.mta.info/system_modernization/bus_network

A dedicated website on the Brooklyn redesign with the accompanying online survey, where customers can find reports as they are released, is available here: new.mta.info/brooklynbusredesign

Information about the Bronx redesign is available here: new.mta.info/bronxbusredesign

Information about the Queens redesign is available here: new.mta.info/queensbusredesign

 

 

ABOUT THE BROOKLYN BUS NETWORK:

  • 63 local routes serving approximately 640,000 weekday customers
  • 9 express routes serving approximately 9,000 weekday customers
  • The borough’s local bus ridership has declined 14% between 2016 and 2019
  • Brooklyn express bus ridership has declined 10% between 2016 and 2019
  • Bus speeds boroughwide are currently 7.7 mph, a decline of 3% since 2016

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Ferry frustrations -New York taxi scheme crippled drivers across the country — Erie County race a national bellwether

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Mayor Bill de Blasio’s New York City ferry system inspires a particular derision among a certain set of the city’s transit devotees. But who could hate transit that offers open air, a river breeze, skyline views and serves beer?

The issue, even transit advocates say, is that the city has sunk a huge pot of money into the ferries, which carry a tiny number of people when compared to the subways and buses. Newly-released data confirms ferry riders tend to be white and upper middle class.
As our Dana Rubinstein reports today, New York operates the second most heavily subsidized urban ferry system of its size in the country, trailing only New Orleans. The subsidy adds up to a hefty $9.34 for each ride.

Still, the city throws wads of cash at a lot of things, so what’s the beef with the ferries, which at least offer New Yorkers and tourists a new amenity? As with so many things, part of the problem may lie with de Blasio’s rhetoric. The mayor framed the new ferry system as part of the solution to the larger transit crisis, even though it carries too few people to make a dent. He called it a way to tackle historic “inequities,” even though the evidence suggests its riders are not disadvantaged.

While the mayor does not control the MTA (periodic reminder: Gov. Andrew Cuomo does), advocates would like to see him lavish as much attention and, more importantly, money on changes to city streets that would improve bus service, which is used by exponentially more riders.

If you accept the premise that the ferries are a problem, what’s the solution? Some would like to see the city keep the boats going, but charge more than $2.75 and free up money for other transit needs. Still, de Blasio is boxed in by his pledge to make the ferries affordable by pegging their cost to the subway fare. If he faces some backlash now, a move to hike the fare would surely spark a backlash of its own.

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