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E train seat removal pilot’s success tough for MTA to call

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Subway riders and their advocates groaned last fall when the MTA launched a pilot to remove some seats from E trains and now, nearly seven months later, the authority can’t say if the project has impacted service.

Last October, the MTA undertook two projects on the E line simultaneously: one to remove seats on some 260 cars and the other to replace every car’s “master controller,” which is responsible for the braking and acceleration of trains.

The mechanical work “attack[ed] a significant cause of failures on these cars,” while the seat removals attempted to get more riders into cars “in a more efficient manner,” MTA chairman Joe Lhota said in a statement announcing the work.
While the controller replacements seem to have paid off in limiting car breakdowns, it’s unclear if the seat removals have had any benefit to service. Shams Tarek, an MTA spokesman, said that there were too many variables that impact service to truly make a determination. He stressed that the pilot was primarily to add capacity inside E trains.

“The refurbished car pilot has been a success with the mean distance between car failures on the E line improving substantially since October,” Tarek said in a statement. “Overall line performance is also dependent upon myriad other factors including signals, track, debris, and issues on other lines that spread to others, and that incredibly broad agenda is exactly what [New York City Transit] President [Andy] Byford is focused on tackling head-on with the fully funded Subway Action Plan and his upcoming corporate plan for NYC Transit.”

E trains are running longer without breaking down since the work took place, according to data provided by the MTA. Trains on the line broke down every 216,693 miles, according to a three-month average of data leading up to last October. Those trains now break down every 306,836 miles, a 41.6 percent increase, according to the three-month average leading into March 2018.

Train sets running with fewer seats could accommodate between 80 and 100 additional commuters, according to the MTA. Adding that extra space might not have made boarding any more efficient — though the impact is difficult to divine because just 100 of the 260 cars running on the E had some seats removed.
Based on the metric Capacity Provided, the percentage of scheduled trains that are actually provided during rush hours, E service actually got slightly worse after the seats were removed, dropping from 93.4 percent of scheduled trains provided in October 2017 to 92.8 percent in March 2018, the latest data available.

And statistics from the metric known as Additional Platform Time, which measures the additional time commuters spend waiting on platforms for their trains by comparing schedules and MetroCard swipes, remained flat at 1.2 minutes when comparing October 2017 data to March 2018.

“If the MTA can’t quantify how much performance has improved or not improved due to the removal of these seats, that’s a problem,” said Jaqi Cohen, campaign coordinator at the NYPIRG Straphangers Campaign. “If they’re going to move forward with any other similar pilot program they should at least know measurably how well this worked.”
Tarek said the MTA is looking into differences in dwell times, or the time trains spend at stations. He declined to comment on whether the MTA is considering canning the idea of removing seats or expanding it to other lines.

After a few months in service, riders were mixed on the change.

“I never sit, so for me having that extra standing room is great,” said Joe Giuffre, a sanitation worker who commutes from Suffolk County into Penn Station, where he transfers to the E to Spring Street. “I like the split hand poles they installed, too. I’d like to see them (remove seats) from more cars.”

But riders who had to endure longer commutes on the line were less enthused, among them Ronda Justiniano, a nursing assistant who commutes to midtown from Queens.

“I have mixed feelings about it because the extra space is nice, but there are people with disabilities or pregnant women who need those seats,” she said. “It feels like a Band-Aid. We shouldn’t be waiting 10 to 15 minutes for those trains.”

When Lhota first announced that the MTA would try the idea as part of his $836 million Subway Action Plan, he cited Boston, where the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) launched a similar pilot nearly ten years ago — though to little success.

At the time, the MBTA removed all the seats from two of the 218 cars running on its Red Line. In response to rider feedback, the MBTA restored close to two-thirds of the seating in both cars, according to MBTA spokeswoman Lisa Battiston. Those cars with fewer seats, nicknamed the “Big Reds,” are set to be retired in the years to come as the authority replaces the entire fleet along the line. None of the new cars are to be delivered with any seats removed.

Marc Ebuna, the co-founder and president of Transit Matters, a transportation advocacy group in Boston, said the move to remove the seats was “widely unpopular” in the city.

“This underscores why it’s important for the agencies to focus on the big picture rather than trying some of these small fixes,” Ebuna said. “When the Big Reds were introduced the data collection at the T also wasn’t nearly as robust … so quantitatively justifying these sorts of measures is really difficult, when at the end of the day what the riders are asking for are reliability and frequency.”

Source: https://www.amny.com/transit/e-train-seat-removal-1.18576794

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To save cash, MTA could make cuts to Select Bus Service, subway cleanings

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The cash-strapped Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) is looking for ways to save $562 million over the next few years and its planning to do so by halting the expansion of Select Bus Service in the outer boroughs, cutting subway car cleaning positions, and eliminating overtime payment to NYPD officers for extra far evasion patrol, reports the Wall Street Journal.

The MTA is expecting to save around $4 million annually by cutting increased fare-evasion patrol that results in the agency paying overtime to the NYPD; the agency also thinks that it could save $28 million over the next four years by postponing the expansion of the Select Bus Service into “transit deserts” in Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx until 2021. Additionally, agency officials plan to save the agency $8.4 million annually by reducing staff at some terminals for subway car cleaning, and another $2.4 million could potentially be saved by reducing fare-evasion patrols on some select bus service routes.

According to the WSJ, internal emails highlight that MTA board members are worried about the measures being taken to reduce costs for the agency, despite still planning to hire more than 1,000 workers under the Subway Action Plan. The emails suggests that some board members were not aware of the specifics of the service-related cuts when MTA Chief Financial Officer Robert Foran presented the board with an overview of the plan in July.

Nevertheless, during an interview on Monday, MTA Chairman Joe Lhota stated that the reductions are not service cuts and that it is simply a “redeployment of resources.” He also highlighted that the MTA still intends to add more than 700 positions over the next few years.

“The financial plan was built with three ironclad requirements—maintenance of service levels, absolutely no layoffs, and avoidance of any unplanned fare/toll hike—all of which were accomplished,” said MTA spokesperson Jon Weinstein. “In fact, the headcount at New York City Transit is increasing– while hitting savings targets – which is allowing us to accomplish significant amounts of badly needed repairs and maintenance work.”

New York City Transit Authority president Andy Byford said in an August 3 email to board members that the reductions are “intended to be temporary in nature while the necessary funding and revenue stream discussions sort out.”

Source: https://ny.curbed.com/2018/8/15/17693128/mta-budget-cuts-select-bus-service-subway-action-plan

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Bronx transportation options now include NYC Ferry service to Manhattan

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The city’s ferry system on Wednesday launched its first-ever service out of the Bronx, providing a new commuting alternative for those in the transit-starved borough.

The NYC Ferry Soundview Route connects Clason Point Park in the Bronx to Wall Street/Pier 11, making stops at East 90th Street and East 34th Street along its route.

Clason Point residents who took the boat the morning of the launch said they were thrilled to have a faster and more picturesque way into the city.
“I love it — it’s a great alternative for transportation,” said Millie Campuzano, 57, who works as a legal assistant near the ferry’s final stop downtown.

Campuzano said she lives near the route’s starting point in the Clason Point section of the Bronx, where her options for getting to work were limited and time-consuming. The area is not accessible by subway. In the past, she either drove to work or took the Bx39 or Bx27 bus to the closest subway station, and both commutes took roughly an hour and fifteen minutes during rush hour.

The Soundview Route, on the other hand, takes about 45 minutes. At $2.75, a one-way ticket costs the same as a subway ride.

For residents who enjoy Manhattan but are tired of slow and unpredictable subway service, the ferry is a breath of fresh air, said one longtime local.

“I go to Manhattan a lot for pleasure, and traveling from the Bronx to New York is usually not a pleasure,” said Bill Folchi, 66, a retiree who said he goes into the city to enjoy the museums about twice a week.

His trek would normally take about an hour and a half, he said.

Folchi had no complaints about the ferry, on the other hand.

“It seems to be on time,” he said. “And you breathe some fresh air.”

The 9:22 a.m. ferry Wednesday morning was sparsely populated with just a few dozen travelers.

The NYC Ferry has served more than five million riders since premiering in May 2017, but that ridership is significantly dwarfed by other forms of transit — the subway, for instance, serves more than five million riders daily — leading to criticism that the city is overspending on the waterborne service.

Mayor Bill de Blasio in May announced the city will dedicate nearly twice as much taxpayer money as originally planned to the ferry service, funneling an additional $300 million into the program to serve an annual ridership of 9 million by 2023.

NYC Ferry service also will soon be offered to the Lower East Side. A planned 32-minute route, launching on Aug. 29, will run from Wall Street/Pier 11 to Long Island City, stopping at Corlears Hook, Stuyvesant Cove and East 34th Street.

Source: https://www.amny.com/transit/nyc-ferry-bronx-1.20484145

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Drunk MTA Bus Driver Smashes Into Parked Cars, Found at 3.2x Legal Limit Behind Wheel in Brooklyn: Complaint

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An MTA bus driver was busted for allegedly being drunk behind the wheel as he drove erratically, with passengers, in Brooklyn over the weekend and smashed into three parked cars, according to a criminal complaint released Monday.

Lenny Lachman, 24, was driving the B82 bus with nine passengers around 1:30 a.m. Sunday when the bus hit parked cars on Flatlands Avenue and East 46th Street, the complaint says. No one was hurt; the vehicles all were scratched.
Responding officers found the driver displaying signs of intoxication, including watery eyes, slurred speech and the smell of alcohol on his breath, officials said. He agreed to take a chemical test to analyze his blood alcohol content, and it tested at 0.257 percent, more than three times the legal limit, the complaint says.

He was charged with DWI and reckless driving. Attorney information wasn’t immediately available.
The MTA said it has “absolutely zero-tolerance” for the driver’s alleged actions.

“This bus operator has been removed from service immediately without pay and we are working with NYPD to ensure a thorough investigation is carried out.”

He was hired in 2017, officials said.

Source: https://www.nbcnewyork.com/news/local/MTA-Bus-Driver-Drunk-DWI-Brooklyn-Arrest-490156441.html

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