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New York has a new, bold plan to fix the subways: Make car drivers pay for it

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If you live in New York City, or follow its dramas from afar, you know two things: The city’s subway is falling into disrepair, and the mayor and the governor do not get along. But today, it seems that the former dilemma has superseded the latter. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has agreed to cooperate with Governor Andrew Cuomo on a 10-point strategy to fix the subway and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority that manages it.

Crucial to this plan is an answer to the classic “how will we pay for it?” question. Cuomo has, since his re-election in November, been vocal about his support for congestion pricing as a means to raise money for the MTA. The scheme would place a toll on cars entering New York’s Central Business District (CBD is the part of the city below 61st Street in Manhattan), both to disincentivize car use in the area and generate a pool of funding for the city’s transit systems. Private cars would be charged around $12 per trip into the CBD, trucks around $25, and for-hire vehicles between $2 and $5. Emergency services vehicles and vehicles designated for transporting people with disabilities would be exempt.

De Blasio has spoken out against congestion pricing in the past, saying that it would increase the cost burden on working people who drive into the CBD. But, as it turns out, wealthier people are statistically much more likely to commute into the city via car, and will be the main source of funding that goes into the “lockbox” created by a congestion fee. Lower-income people, who mainly rely on mass transit to get in from the outer boroughs, will benefit from improvements to the subway and bus systems.

As of today, De Blasio and Cuomo have agreed to jointly backing a congestion pricing plan that would come into effect in 2020 and raise around $15 billion–a significant portion of the MTA’s estimated $40 billion in capital shortfall. Additional taxes on internet services sales and legal marijuana would also deliver more funds to the MTA.

In implementing congestion pricing, New York City would join other cities like London, Singapore, Milan, and Stockholm that have already rolled out similar policies. In addition to the monetary benefits it will bring to the beleaguered MTA, congestion pricing is one of those strategies that addresses several critical concerns in one fell swoop.

One is traffic: In New York City, cars in the CBD move at a glacial pace of 4.7 miles per hour–no faster than an especially quick walker, and slower than a cyclist. A fee on cars will hopefully discourage drivers from entering this morass, and in turn, free those cars that do need to pass through Manhattan to do so more quickly and efficiently.

Another is emissions: Only a fraction of a percent of of all cars on the road in the U.S. are electric, so as long as our roads are clogged with them, our carbon footprint will remain high. Removing polluting cars from city streets will help places like New York rein in emissions. Research from Stockholm has found that congestion pricing results in healthier lungs among residents. From a health and safety perspective, congestion pricing also delivers benefits to residents. Since London introduced congestion pricing, incidences of lethal crashes between vehicles, cyclists, and pedestrians plummeted. In U.S. cities, where deaths by vehicle continue to rise, this type of policy will be vital for protecting people who choose not to travel by car.

On top of congestion pricing, Cuomo and de Blasio have pledged to consolidate all six of New York’s transit agencies–including the MTA, the bus network, and the regional rail networks–into one operation. This, they said in a joint statement, will streamline issues like repairs and generate new ideas for providing services to riders.

An efficient, responsive, and well-funded transit network is possibly one of the most vital aspects for a city aiming to address two of the 21st centuries most pressing challenges: climate change and inequity. New York needs to recognize that its most economically vulnerable residents depend on good and functional transit in order to exist in the city, and the city itself can no longer support the human and environmental dangers that excessive car traffic poses. Congestion pricing is a way to address both, and it’s now incumbent on the city and its leaders to make sure it works as promised.

Source: https://www.fastcompany.com/90312348/new-york-has-a-new-bold-plan-to-fix-the-subways-make-car-drivers-pay-for-it

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Why New York’s Lettered Subway Lines Are ‘Cursed’

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Subway officials in New York City held a news conference recently to celebrate the system’s progress. The on-time rate for trains hit 76 percent, they boasted, signaling a “renaissance” for the floundering system.

But that figure masks a surprising disparity.

While the numbered lines have seen a notable boost in reliability, many of the lettered lines are still delivering poor service. The F train has a miserable on-time rate of about 50 percent — the lowest in the system.

“It seems like there’s always something, from a sick passenger to signal problems,” said Paul Galloway, an F train rider who lives in Brooklyn and works at the Museum of Modern Art. “It just seems like a cursed line to me.”

It is clear that the subway is improving after hitting rock bottom in the summer of 2017, when a train derailed in Harlem and the on-time rate dipped below 65 percent — the worst of any major transit system in the world. The subway’s leader, Andy Byford, has won accolades for making the system more reliable.

But the diverging fates of the lines represented by letters and numbers can feel like A Tale of Two Subways — a system where some riders see signs of hope while others continue to endure constant pain.

Subway leaders say there are several reasons for the gulf: schedule changes on the numbered lines that boosted the on-time rate; a computer system on the numbered lines that allows workers to more efficiently dispatch trains; the opening of the Second Avenue subway, which eased crowding on several numbered lines; and signal upgrades that improved service on another numbered line.

The trend has left some riders wondering how to game the system to get where they are going on time.

“The numbered lines have more stops, but they arrive more regularly and are less prone to problems,” said Benjamin Kabak, who writes the Second Ave. Sagas subway blog and lives near several lines in Brooklyn. “Do you roll the dice and take the ideally faster way, or do you take the way you know is going to work?”
The seven numbered subway lines are on time about 79 percent of the time, compared to about 68 percent for the fifteen lettered lines. Trains are considered on time if they reach the final stop within five minutes of the schedule.

One reason the lettered lines are lagging is that they have older equipment. Some lettered lines are slated to get modern signals, which should improve reliability. But Mr. Byford’s plan to modernize the entire subway will cost billions of dollars, and it is not clear whether state leaders will approve new funding streams for the transit system this year.

Still, every line has improved as part of a broader effort to make trains run faster, said Sally Librera, the head of the subways department. Workers are increasing speed limits on parts of the system and replacing faulty signals that slowed trains.

Transit officials point to other statistics that show subway service is improving, including fewer major incidents that delay 50 or more trains.

“We recognize that we have more to do,” Ms. Librera said. “But we’re encouraged by the progress that we’re seeing.”

The subway now has its best on-time rate in four years — a figure that Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo is highlighting as he presses state lawmakers to approve congestion pricing, a proposal to toll drivers entering the busiest part of Manhattan to raise money for the transit system. Mr. Cuomo, who controls the subway, is also pushing for reforms at the transit agency, though the State Senate issued a separate reform proposal.

Critics have raised concerns over the schedule changes in late 2017 that made it easier to ensure that certain numbered trains are on time. On the No. 6 line, five trains were eliminated at Grand Central Station in Manhattan during the morning rush from 7 to 9 a.m., according to documents obtained by The New York Times.

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There were 68 trains scheduled on the 6 line during the morning rush in June 2017. The number fell to 63 last year. The on-time rate for the 6 train jumped to 72 percent in January, up from 52 percent in September 2017.

“I’m inherently skeptical when they say we changed the schedule, and now everything is running on time,” Mr. Kabak said. “You’re running the risk of padding the schedule.”
Subway officials denied padding the schedule and said the changes were needed to accurately reflect how long it took to route trains through the system.

“Adjusting schedules to accurately reflect actual system conditions allows for less train congestion and faster, more reliable service,” said Maxwell Young, a spokesman for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which runs the system. “This, along with other significant factors such as the $800 million Subway Action Plan and deliberately improved operating procedures, have led to the recent subway performance gains.”

Though fewer trains are scheduled, the same number of trains are running on the 6 line during the morning rush — an average of about 61 trains, Mr. Young said. Officials also cut service on the No. 1 and 5 lines, which each lost two scheduled trains in Midtown Manhattan during the morning rush.

While fewer trains could help raise the on-time performance, they also can lead to more crowded trains and less capacity on the system. Each train can carry roughly 1,000 passengers.

Most riders never learned about the schedule changes. The authority’s board did not approve them because they only vote on “major” service changes, said Shams Tarek, a spokesman for the authority. The schedule changes on the numbered lines were considered “minor” and the board was merely notified.

An investigation by The New York Times in 2017 revealed that the transit agency was running fewer trains. The Lexington Avenue line, which carries the 4, 5 and 6 trains, regularly failed to meet its schedule, effectively canceling dozens of trains and reducing the system’s capacity by tens of thousands of riders. At Grand Central Station, just 77 of 90 scheduled trains regularly ran through the stop from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m.

For years, the lettered trains actually had better on-time rates than the numbered trains, but that shifted in January 2018, shortly after the schedule changes took effect. Ms. Librera cited two other factors behind the resurgence: The Second Avenue line opened on the Upper East Side of Manhattan in January 2017, drawing riders who had previously used the overburdened 4, 5 and 6 lines, which bolstered the on-time rate for those lines. New signals on the No. 7 line also improved service.

Most experts agree that the system is bouncing back. Andrew Albert, a board member who represents riders, said he noticed trains running faster along the Lexington Avenue line in Manhattan where they used to move at a snail’s pace.

“Absolutely, it’s getting better,” he said. “I’m thwarted less often, and I notice the running times are much faster.”

Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/20/nyregion/subway-lines-schedule-on-time.html

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MTA looks to extend accessible e-hailing pilot through end of 2019

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The MTA is moving to extend its wildly popular pilot that allows disabled New Yorkers to hail accessible taxis on demand — though the future of the program is still up in the air.

The authority will propose to its board a plan to extend the program through the end of 2019, the MTA announced Sunday. The pilot, currently slated to end next month, would still be available to its current, small pool of 1,200 Access-A-Ride users at $2.75 per trip.

“Improving accessibility and service for our customers with disabilities is one of the four pillars of our plan to modernize transit in New York City,” said NYC Transit President Andy Byford in a statement. “While forging ahead with making the subway more accessible and enhancing our fully wheelchair-accessible bus fleet, we’re also modernizing and improving the Access-a-Ride service that more than 150,000 New Yorkers depend upon.”

While Access-A-Ride requires riders to book trips a day in advance, pilot participants can hail a yellow or green taxi any time through an app, similar to other e-hail services. Since its launch in the fall 2017 as a one-year test, the MTA has extended the program but had difficulty grappling with its cost; the authority widely underestimated how many people would use the service and has had to bolster it with additional funds.

There has been a great deal of anxiety among wheelchair users and accessibility advocates over the fate of the program, which they feel greatly improves travel flexibility. But Sunday’s announcement did little to abate those concerns.

Joe Rappaport, the executive director of the Brooklyn Center for Independence of the Disabled, said he was worried that the MTA would eventually alter the pilot to make it more cost-effective.

“The announcement raises more questions than answers,” Rappaport said.

“The MTA is absolutely not committing to keeping the very popular version of on-demand going,” he continued. “Really what will happen is the MTA will have to sit down with riders, with public officials and with advocates to explain what it wants to do, why it wants to do it and whether something closer to the current design of the program can be preserved.”

The MTA said in its news release that it will continue to “establish how and if [the pilot] can be made more sustainably permanent and even expandable.” The authority did not respond to questions related to ridership and funding of the e-hail pilot. About 26,000 trips a month are completed through the program, according to MTA spokesman Maxwell Young.

The MTA also touted in its release a relatively new initiative called “enhanced broker service” that aims to put more AAR riders in taxis and black cars, a cheaper alternative to the AAR’s fleet. Rappaport said that program has been rocky since its start on March 1.

“What we’ve heard is that it’s been a very rough change for riders — that they don’t get the rides they asked for and even get abandoned. They’re not picked up,” he said. “This might work better for riders and, ultimately, the MTA. But so far not so good.”

Source: https://www.masstransitmag.com/alt-mobility/shared-mobility/car-sharing/news/21072596/mta-looks-to-extend-accessible-ehailing-pilot-through-end-of-2019

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MTA looks to extend accessible e-hailing pilot through end of 2019

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accessible taxis new york

The MTA is moving to extend its wildly popular pilot that allows disabled New Yorkers to hail accessible taxis on demand — though the future of the program is still up in the air.

The authority will propose to its board a plan to extend the program through the end of 2019, the MTA announced Sunday. The pilot, currently slated to end next month, would still be available to its current, small pool of 1,200 Access-A-Ride users at $2.75 per trip.

“Improving accessibility and service for our customers with disabilities is one of the four pillars of our plan to modernize transit in New York City,” said NYC Transit President Andy Byford in a statement. “While forging ahead with making the subway more accessible and enhancing our fully wheelchair-accessible bus fleet, we’re also modernizing and improving the Access-a-Ride service that more than 150,000 New Yorkers depend upon.”

While Access-A-Ride requires riders to book trips a day in advance, pilot participants can hail a yellow or green taxi any time through an app, similar to other e-hail services. Since its launch in the fall 2017 as a one-year test, the MTA has extended the program but had difficulty grappling with its cost; the authority widely underestimated how many people would use the service and has had to bolster it with additional funds.

There has been a great deal of anxiety among wheelchair users and accessibility advocates over the fate of the program, which they feel greatly improves travel flexibility. But Sunday’s announcement did little to abate those concerns.

Joe Rappaport, the executive director of the Brooklyn Center for Independence of the Disabled, said he was worried that the MTA would eventually alter the pilot to make it more cost-effective.

“The announcement raises more questions than answers,” Rappaport said.

“The MTA is absolutely not committing to keeping the very popular version of on-demand going,” he continued. “Really what will happen is the MTA will have to sit down with riders, with public officials and with advocates to explain what it wants to do, why it wants to do it and whether something closer to the current design of the program can be preserved.”

Source: https://www.amny.com/transit/mta-accessible-e-hail-taxi-1.28628800

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