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New head of NYC Transit is becoming local hero



andy byford

Andy Byford has headed New York City Transit for five months—normally long enough for disgruntled straphangers to start turning on him. But events this week showed that his honeymoon period isn’t over.

On the contrary: It’s just beginning.

Thursday morning, before some 400 transportation movers and shakers in an auditorium at NYU, the onetime London Tube station manager made his first public presentation of his 75-page plan to modernize the world’s largest subway and bus system.

It was a reprise of his Wednesday performance before the board of directors of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, where Byford introduced his blueprint, Fast Forward. And while he didn’t delve into what he called “the elephant in the room”—its cost—he made sure everyone in the NYU auditorium knew the plan was big.

“This needs to be a complete overhaul, not a tweak,” Byford said. “We must aim higher than just stabilizing what we have today.”

In the first five years, he would shut down chunks of the system on nights and weekends to replace an antiquated signaling system on five major lines with a communications-based-train-control system. He would buy more than 650 new subway cars capable of “talking to each other” and render an additional 1,200 cars CBTC-capable. At the same time, more than 50 new stations would be made wheelchair-accessible.

The MTA is installing new signals on the 7 and L lines, which will benefit 900,000 riders a day, and working at a rate that would require at least 40 years for a complete overhaul. His plan would benefit 3 million riders, tackling “the big movers, the heavy lifters,” including the 4, 5 and 6 lines.

“There are people saying, ‘It can’t be done,'” Byford said. “Well, we’ll see about that.”

His words were such music to the audience’s ears that he got a standing ovation.

Byford received a similar response Wednesday at the MTA’s monthly board meeting.

“There was sustained applause from the public who attended the meeting,” recalled Jon Orcutt, director of communications and advocacy at TransitCenter. “And those are usually people who are there to complain about something.”

Inspiring the public—and transportation advocates—may be Byford’s first order of business as he lines up political support for a plan that The New York Times reported could cost $19 billion. (Byford said the price tag is still being worked out—and carefully, to avoid the MTA’s usual practice of blowing through project budgets.)

“He did a really good job of getting people to buy into his vision of transformative change,” said Jack Davies, campaign manager at Transportation Alternatives. “It really underscored that he is the right person at the right time to fix our transit system.”


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Amtrak train cars detach as passengers head to New York City ahead for Thanksgiving




amtrak train

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.


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Private companies have worse track record than MTA in subway elevators




elevator subway new york

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.”


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MTA to buy Grand Central Terminal




grand central terminal new york

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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