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.”
Amtrak train cars detach as passengers head to New York City ahead for Thanksgiving
It was a frustrating and at times alarming Thanksgiving Eve for many train travelers in the tri-state area who were trying to get home for the holiday, CBS New York reports.
Amtrak Train 68, called the Adirondack, was traveling from Montreal to New York’s Penn Station when two of its cars separated near Albany shortly before 7:30 p.m. local time.
CBS New York said none of the 287 passengers or crew were injured, and the rail company said a recovery engine was dispatched to transfer affected passengers from the disabled train.
Chuck Reeves, a software engineer from Troy, New York, told The Associated Press was aboard the first car behind the locomotive and said when the train pulled away, he and other passengers heard a pop and a hiss, smelled electrical burning and felt a rush of cold air.
The AP also said some crying children were comforted by their parents, but for the most part nobody panicked. A state trooper soon boarded to make sure everyone was OK, according to AP.
Earlier in the day, NJ Transit service along the Northeast Corridor and North Jersey Coast lines was briefly suspended on one of the busiest travel days of the year due to overhead wire problems in New Jersey.
Crowds were packed to the brim at Penn Station New York after NJ Transit said plastic wrap became tangled in Amtrak-owned wires near the North Elizabeth station.
Service resumed after less than an hour, but eventually resumed with residual delays of up to 30-minutes.
NJ Transit and private bus carriers were cross-honoring rail tickets and passes, as were Path stations in Hoboken, Newark Penn Station and Herald Square.
It wasn’t immediately known when the passengers from the disabled Amtrak train would arrive in New York City.
Private companies have worse track record than MTA in subway elevators
When it comes to functioning subway elevators, the Barclays Center makes the MTA look good.
Barclays Center is among the private, non-government entities responsible for maintaining dozens of elevators at subway stations — and most do a lousy job of it, new data shows.
An elevator Barclays Center operates in the Atlantic Ave.-Barclays Center transit hub was out of service for 88 days between January and June, and worked just 52% of the time, says a study by The Transit Center, a research firm.
The Transit Center dubbed Barclays Center and seven other private groups that operate elevators the El-Evaders.
“It’s a travesty — I actually got stuck on this elevator about a year ago,” said Dustin Jones, an disability advocate who uses a wheelchair.
Jones, who’s attended basketball games and wrestling events at Barclays Center, was dismayed that the main elevator facing the station is so unreliable. It could force people with disabilities onto the hectic streets to find another way to access the station.
“Why should I have to navigate around busy Atlantic Ave.?” he asked.
One problem for Barclays Center is that the elevator’s manufacturer is out of business, making parts hard to find, said to Mandy Gutmann, spokeswoman for BSE Global, which owns the arena.
“We are well aware of the elevator’s operational issues and are frustrated that this is not resolved,” Gutmann said. BSE Global hopes to correct the problem by bringing in a new company to overhaul and service the elevator, she said.
Barclays Center ought to do better, said Councilman Brad Lander, whose district abuts the arena.
“They currently make the MTA’s elevator performance look stellar,” Lander said.
Elevators maintained by private real estate companies — 45 machines in total — had poor performance compared to those run by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
Privately-run subway elevators were out of service 19% of the time during the first six months of 2018, The Transit Center found. MTA-operated elevators were out of service just 3.6% of the time, the data shows.
“Our private sector partners must do their part to keep their parts of subway stations in good working order and we’re working closely with them to improve elevator and escalator availability and improve communication to customers when there is an outage,” MTA spokesman Shams Tarek said in a statement. “This is part of an all-out focus on elevator and escalator availability regardless of ownership.”
The companies responsible for two elevators at 42nd St.-Port Authority subway station — Tishman Asset Corporation and the Intercontinental Hotel — had to take one out of service for 57 days, giving it an availability rate of 68%. The other elevator was out for 34 days, and was in service for 80% of the time.
Hines Incorporated and Bank of China — the companies behind the 7 Bryant Park office tower — are responsible for an elevator at the 42nd St.- Bryant Park subway stop.
It was out of service on 36 days from January to June, with an average availability rate of 80%.
Hines spokesman Mark Clegg blamed the outages on vandalism from homeless people that lead to electrical malfunctions. He declined to elaborate, but said that “our elevators are never out for long and when something like this happens repeatedly, we do our best to get them back online as quick as possible.”
Colin Wright, advocacy associate at the Transit Center, said penalties under contract are not enough.
“Whatever contractual penalties are in place for these developers, they need to be strengthened,” Wright said. “They have an obligation to, not only to disabled riders all other riders, but there’s an obligation to the city when they’re accepting huge financial benefits to uphold their end of the contract.”
MTA to buy Grand Central Terminal
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority is planning to buy New York’s Grand Central Terminal for $35 million after years of renting.
The Wall Street Journal reports the MTA finance committee approved the purchase on Tuesday. The proposal will go before the full board on Thursday and is expected to pass. The deal also includes tracks used by the Metro-North Railroad.
The MTA currently pays close to $2 million a year to rent the terminal and tracks from investment group Midtown Tracking Ventures LLC.
The purchase would allow the MTA to get a share of the profits from developments built near the tracks.
It would also give the authority more control over the terminal before the Long Island Rail Road starts operating there in about four years.
Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed
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