New York City’s vast subway system is an iconic piece of American infrastructure that moves nearly six million riders a day. But lately, it has become plagued by overcrowding, breakdowns and delays. After a series of incidents in the summer of 2017, Governor Andrew Cuomo declared a state of emergency and brought on board Andy Byford, an internationally recognized transit turnaround specialist. How big a problem is Byford facing? What is his plan for getting the subway back on track? Bill Whitaker reports from under the streets of New York for 60 Minutes on Sunday, Oct. 21 at 7:30 p.m. ET and 7 p.m. PT on CBS.
New York’s century-old subway relies on antiquated equipment, including a signaling system that dates back to the early 20th century. Whitaker gets a rare, behind the scenes look at the aging equipment in action. In one station, operator Rakiya Spady showed him how she switched traffic on the tracks using a machine built in 1917. “I call it ‘Old Trusty,'” Spady tells Whitaker, “It’s moving the trains.”
Byford became president of transit for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority in January. In his first months on the job, he drew up a top-to-bottom modernization plan that, if approved, could cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $40 billion. “It will not be quick. It will not be cheap and it certainly won’t be easy,” Byford tells Whitaker. “Our job is crystal clear. We need to turn this around for New Yorkers.”
Byford has worked on transit systems all over the world, but he says he’s facing his toughest test in New York. 60 Minutes cameras tagged along with him as he pitched his plan to skeptical New Yorkers, who would have to endure service disruptions during the upgrades. Byford says, “My message to New Yorkers is there’s no gain without a bit of pain. This will be worth it.”
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
How Leaves, Icicles and an Old Bridge Can Complicate Commutes
Each day this week, New Jersey Transit has heaped extra frustration onto its clients by warning them that their morning trains may very well be delayed by “slippery rail” circumstances.
To some beleaguered riders, that clarification appeared like a concocted excuse for the railroad’s persevering with wrestle to function on time. A number of even challenged it.
Slippery rail circumstances? I like the creativity but it surely’s 55 levels and barely misting.
— Neil Shapiro (@neilsshapiro) November 5, 2018
Slippery rails is, in reality, an issue and is simply one of many causes New Jersey has cited to elucidate the delays and disruptions which have plagued its service. Others have included “manpower scarcity,” annulments, a malfunctioning Portal Bridge and the mysterious “ice patrol.” (One clarification that veteran commuters take severely is “trespasser incident,” which they know means somebody was hit by a prepare.)
Right here’s a translation of those numerous bêtes noires and why any one among them can damage a commuter’s day.
Do prepare tracks actually get slippery in Autumn?
Monday by Thursday, New Jersey Transit mentioned its prepare service may very well be delayed by as a lot as 30 minutes due to rails made slippery by fallen leaves. The company mentioned that is an “age-old” drawback that impacts all railroads within the Northeast within the fall.
Certainly, commuter railroads from Boston to Philadelphia had been citing slippery rails as a reason behind delays this week. Slippery tracks had been blamed for railroad delays even in England this week.
The situation is brought on by the heavy metal wheels of trains crushing fallen leaves and producing an oily residue or the tracks, New Jersey Transit mentioned. When the trains can not get traction, they’ve hassle braking and getting as much as full velocity between stations, it mentioned.
The railroad tries to reduce the consequences by trimming bushes alongside the tracks and by dispatching trains with particular tools, generally known as Aqua Observe, which energy washes the rails.
What’s a Portal Bridge and why does it get caught so usually?
Final week, the reason for prepare delays was not slippery rails however a balky outdated bridge. The Portal Bridge, a 108-year-old swing bridge that carries trains over the Hackensack River, is an notorious choke level on the Northeast Hall between New York Metropolis and Newark.
The bridge pivots to permit boats to move by however usually fails to lock again into place, blocking visitors to and from Pennsylvania Station in Manhattan. When that occurs, Amtrak, which owns and operates the bridge, could need to dispatch a crew to hammer the rails till they line up once more.
New Jersey Transit mentioned there had been 326 delays within the final 12 months “associated to Amtrak Portal Bridge points.”
Amtrak has partnered with New Jersey Transit and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey on a plan to interchange the bridge with a better, fastened span. However that undertaking is estimated to value $1.5 billion and the sponsors are hoping the federal authorities will cowl about half of that quantity.
Is the Ice Patrol actual or a whimsical excuse?
Credit scoreÁngel Franco/The New York Instances
Veteran commuters know that as certainly as winter follows fall, the “ice patrol” will succeed slippery rails as a reason behind delays.
Far-fetched as it could sound, throughout spells of very chilly climate, Amtrak sends a crew into the tunnels beneath the Hudson River to take away icicles. The ice that varieties on the ceiling of the century-old tunnels interferes with the flexibility of trains to attract energy from the overhead electrical wires.
Staff clear the icicles the old style method: they stand on a rail automobile and whack them with lengthy poles which have hammer heads. However whereas they’re doing that just one observe is out there between New York Metropolis and New Jersey, a state of affairs generally known as “single-tracking.” Hardened commuters know that single-tracking can wreak havoc on their journeys to work or again dwelling.
Why is Amtrak being blamed?
CreditJohn Taggart for The New York Instances
A pet peeve of many New Jersey Transit riders is the railroad’s propensity to assign blame for delays to Amtrak. The 2 railroads have a landlord-tenant relationship that at many instances has been lower than pleasant.
The stress stems from New Jersey Transit’s reliance on Amtrak property, together with Penn Station and the tracks that lead from all of it the way in which previous the state capitol in Trenton. Amtrak’s rails, bridges and indicators usually malfunction, inflicting delays for all commuters heading to or from New York Metropolis. When that occurs New Jersey Transit makes clear in its bulletins that that is an Amtrak drawback.
The Portal Bridge alternative is an element of a bigger undertaking, generally known as Gateway, that would come with including two tracks in a brand new tunnel beneath the Hudson River. Whether it is accomplished, Gateway might cut back conflicts between the 2 railroads.
Is there a employee scarcity and does it trigger annulments?
Throughout the summer season, New Jersey Transit had a rash of cancellations of scheduled trains. But it surely described lots of these cancellations as “annulments,” a time period that irritated some clients.
Nancy Snyder, a spokeswoman for the railroad, defined that it reserved the time period “canceled” for trains that began their runs however didn’t full them due to a breakdown or another drawback. Trains that by no means began their scheduled runs had been “annulled.” she mentioned. She mentioned there had been three,539 annulments and 705 cancellations this 12 months, which mixed amounted to 1 of each 43 scheduled trains.
The reason for lots of these of annulments and cancellations was a scarcity of engineers to drive the trains and the sidelining of locomotives to put in an automated braking system, generally known as Constructive Prepare Management. Unable to satisfy its schedule, even after lowering service this spring, New Jersey Transit pared again its schedule once more in October.
However the railroad has continued to cancel trains, although it has dropped references to annulments. “Cancellation is a time period extra broadly used and understood,” Ms. Snyder mentioned.
This fall, New Jersey Transit’s go-to clarification for canceling trains has been a “manpower scarcity.” State officers have taken a number of steps to recruit and prepare extra engineers, together with waiving a requirement that they dwell within the state. This week, New Jersey Transit introduced that it had obtained greater than 5,000 functions in its quest “to revive the railroad to a full complement of educated engineers.”
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