Even as the MTA has tried to patch up the subways, straphangers have demanded to know how officials plan to fix them for good. The clearest answers yet may come this week when Andy Byford, the president of New York City Transit, unveils his corporate plan to overhaul the agency that helps New Yorkers get around the city.
Since taking the helm of the MTA in January, Byford has promised a “radical” plan to modernize the subway system and tackle its myriad problems. He offered a taste last month with his vision for turning around the city’s bus system, which advocates praised as ambitious.
But Byford has said the corporate plan will take on all facets of the city’s transit system, from its infrastructure to its operations.
“It will be bold. It will be wide-reaching, even controversial in its ambition,” Byford said at a Regional Plan Association event last month, according to NY1.
Transit advocates expect the plan to include big-ticket items the subways desperately need, including new signals, train cars and upgrades to make more stations accessible to the disabled. It’s also likely to tackle less splashy but still critical operational issues such as contracting and management.
But the success of Byford’s likely pricy plan will hinge on whether state lawmakers — including Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who controls the MTA — will pony up funding for improvements that likely won’t be finished until long after they’re out of office.
“For the first time in my career I actually have faith that the authority is going to do the right thing (and) come up with a comprehensive plan,” said Nick Sifuentes, the executive director of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign. “I have next to no faith that elected officials are going to step up to their end of the bargain, which is funding.”
The scope of Byford’s plan will likely be much bigger than the Subway Action Plan, MTA Chairman Joe Lhota’s $836 million initiative to tackle the system’s short-term problems.
It’s time for long-term fixes now that Lhota’s plan has “stabilized the patient,” Sifuentes said: “This phase two plan needs to be the open heart surgery plan.”
The idea of such a sweeping plan hearkens back to the 1980s, when the officials Richard Ravitch, Bob Kiley and David Gunn overhauled the MTA and New York City Transit by laying out clear solutions and reporting on progress, said Jon Orcutt, the director of communications and advocacy for TransitCenter.
“Some of that transformation was very visible, not day to day but year to year,” Orcutt said.
Replacing the subway system’s ancient signals will be a linchpin of Byford’s plan, advocates say. The existing system is decades old and frequently causes train delays.
The MTA has previously estimated that resignaling the subways would take 40 years. That’s too long for commuters to wait, advocates say, so Byford’s plan could include a more aggressive timeline for that work.
The subway’s trains are also getting old and many need to be replaced. Rolling out new cars and adding substations to increase the amount of electric power going into the system could boost reliability and allow trains to run more frequently, advocates said.
State officials will need to help pay the multibillion-dollar bill for that infrastructure overhaul, said Danny Pearlstein, a spokesman for the transit advocacy group Riders Alliance.
“He (Byford) can’t conjure up billions of dollars but the fact is under the state constitution, the governor is someone who can,” Pearlstein said.
Byford’s plan may also build on his pledge to make the city’s public transit more accessible to disabled riders, advocates said. About a quarter of the subway stations are currently accessible and projects to increase that number are underway, Byford has said.
Sifuentes said he wants the subways to reach 100 percent accesibility within 30 years. “We should at least try to get to the halfway mark in the next decade,” he said. Byford has promised to study how much it would cost to make every station accessible.
The behind-the-scenes aspects of the plan will be just as critical as the things commuters will be able to see and touch, advocates said.
The MTA’s contracting practices and deals with labor unions are reportedly to blame for the enormous costs of big capital projects such as East Side Access, the construction of a Long Island Rail Road station at Grand Central Terminal. Work rules also reportedly played a role in forcing trains to slow down near tracks where construction is underway.
Byford has tried to make public transit friendlier by hiring a chief customer officer, openly apologizing for failures and trying to engage more directly with riders.
But he’ll need to speed up procurement, overhaul management and change the agency’s culture for real progress to happen, Sifuentes said.
“He’s going to have to grind against the bureaucracy,” Orcutt said. “It’s been doing things its own way for a long time. But I don’t think that’s insurmountable. He’s the boss and if he says go, they have to go.”
The plan’s success, though, will depend on funding. If it’s as ambitious as Byford’s bus proposal, it could require multiple new revenue streams, Sifuentes said, including congestion pricing and Mayor Bill de Blasio’s proposed tax hike for wealthy New Yorkers.
Advocates have urged state lawmakers to adopt congestion pricing — a proposal to toll cars entering part of Manhattan that could raise as much as $1.5 billion annually for the MTA —as a long-term transit funding strategy. The city also contributes funding to the MTA.
But the legislative session in Albany ends in about a month and has so far produced only small pieces of that plan, including a surcharge on trips in taxis and other for-hire vehicles in the recently approved state budget.
The picture seems bleak — despite the recent heat Cuomo has taken for the subway’s failures, there’s been a “startling lack of political accountability for transit over the past generation,” Pearlstein said. But lawmakers could benefit from supporting Byford’s potentially bold plan.
“If Albany can get behind it with the resources and let him work, it will end up being a great legacy for Cuomo,” Orcutt said. “As much as people have tagged the subway crisis to him, this can sort of erase that if it’s working.”
LIRR Debuts Atlantic Ticket with Brooklyn and Queens Officials
LIRR customers traveling between Brooklyn and Queens can now take the train using the “Atlantic Ticket.”
MTA Long Island Rail Road President Phil Eng joined Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, Queens Borough President Melinda Katz and members of the New York Senate, New York Assembly and New York City Council to celebrate the LIRR’s newly introduced “Atlantic Ticket,” which offers discounted fares for customers traveling between Brooklyn and seven stations in Queens on a temporary basis. Atlantic Ticket is part of a six-to-12-month field study will measure what impact the lower fare will have on ridership on the LIRR and New York City subways and buses. The field study builds upon a program first proposed by the New York City Transit Riders Council, and has had the strong support of elected officials in Brooklyn and Queens.
Elected official attending this morning’s press conferences at Queens Village and Atlantic Terminal were Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, Senator Leroy Comrie, Assembly Member Clyde Vanel, Assembly Member Tremaine Wright and City Council Member I. Daneek Miller. For quotes from the officials please see the quote sheet below.
Under the study, the fare for a one-way LIRR ticket between Brooklyn and the seven Queens stations will be $5.00, a reduction of 51% from the current peak fare of $10.25, and a reduction of 33% from the current off-peak fare of $7.50.
The combined one-way fare covering the LIRR and NYC Transit portions of a trip will be $7.75 ($5 for the LIRR Atlantic Ticket and $2.75 for NYC Transit pay-per-ride fare). “This one-way fare is intended to attract customers traveling occasionally, or interested in trying out LIRR before purchasing the weekly pass,” Chairman Lhota said.
For commuters interested in more frequent travel on LIRR, the MTA will also offer a $60.00 joint weekly unlimited-ride ticket valid for LIRR travel between the selected stations and transfers to NYC subways and buses. (This amount is almost the same as the $59.50 current express bus weekly unlimited fare, which also offers unlimited trips on subways or local buses.)
Compared to the current fares, the special $60 weekly ticket will offer a 42.5% discount over the combined current two-system fare of $104.25.
The 10 LIRR stations listed below are covered under the field study. The stations with convenient subway connections are noted below.
East New York at Atlantic Av
Customers can purchase the discounted LIRR tickets at ticket machines or from ticket sales offices and will have the option to add a $5.50 New York City Transit fare to their one way or round trip tickets. The tickets for this field study will not be available via the MTA’s eTix app.
The tickets offered in this field study will also not be available for purchase from conductors on board trains. Customers requesting tickets on board trains will be charged the existing higher on board sales rates: $16 for a peak-hour one-way rail-only ticket, or $14 for an off-peak one-way rail-only ticket. Weekly tickets are not sold aboard trains.
The $60 weekly tickets, like current LIRR weekly tickets, will be valid from 12:01 a.m. every Saturday through midnight on the following Friday for travel on LIRR and valid for 7 days after first swipe for travel on local buses and subway. The $5.00 one-way ticket, like the current CityTicket, will be valid on the day of purchase only.
At Hollis, Laurelton, Locust Manor, Queens Village, Rosedale and St. Albans, the LIRR offers rush hour service roughly every 20 minutes and hourly off-peak service. Off-peak trains serve Brooklyn stations directly. For some peak-hour trains, customers will need to change trains at Jamaica.
Between Brooklyn and Jamaica, the LIRR offers direct rush hour service of roughly every 10 minutes, and off-peak service every 30 minutes.
As part of the metrics it evaluates, the MTA will seek to evaluate whether existing LIRR customers who travel to Penn Station will switch their travel to Atlantic Terminal. The LIRR last offered discounts to Atlantic Terminal in summer 2017, when service to Penn Station was affected by track reconstruction work being conducted by Amtrak.
Here’s what officials and electeds had to say about the Atlantic Ticket:
LIRR President Eng said: “It is important that the LIRR find ways to better serve the entire metropolitan area, both the suburbs and the city. The LIRR is asset for the city, and city residents may not be taking full advantage of it, so we want to see if this lower fare encourages more city residents to use the service. We are looking forward to conducting this field study to gauge whether lowering LIRR fares has an effect on ridership of the LIRR, subway and express buses.”
Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams said: “I applaud the MTA for heeding the call of straphangers and advocacy organizations, such as the New York City Transit Riders Council and Tri-State Transportation Campaign, by introducing the Atlantic Ticket. This change, which forms part of the Freedom Ticket pilot program that I called for last year, will undoubtedly benefit commuters living in central and eastern Brooklyn as well as southeastern Queens — areas of the city that have long-endured poor transit options, with few reliable ways of getting around. We must maximize the opportunity this field study presents us to expand commuters’ options, and ensure this pilot becomes a permanent solution to empowering our city’s residents to be able to travel to their destination seamlessly.”
Queens Borough President Melinda Katz said: “Residents in southeast Queens have some of the longest commute times to work in the entire City of New York. The reduced fare Atlantic Ticket will make ridership on the LIRR a more attractive option for many more Queens residents. Any alternative transit option that reduces the cost and offers time efficiencies in our commutes is most welcome. We still hope.”
Senator Leroy Comrie said: “Atlantic Ticket represents a positive step in the direction of integrating our transit systems and making commuting quicker and more affordable for countless New Yorkers who live in transit deserts like Southeast Queens. I thank LIRR President Phil Eng and his entire team for hearing the community’s concerns and working with us to implement this pilot program, as well as my elected colleagues, especially Council Member I. Daneek Miller, for their tireless advocacy for this pilot program. I look forward to continuing the spread the word about this new affordable transit opportunity.”
Assembly Member Clyde Vanel said: “We are excited about the Atlantic ticket and South East Queens has been known to be a transportation desert. Therefore this study is a great way to close the transportation gap. Our residents are excited about this program and they are hoping for it to be extended long term. I want to thank the MTA and LIRR for working with the community to help improve the quality of life for our residents.”
City Council Member I. Daneek Miller said: “After years of planning, organizing, and campaigning, we are one step closer towards our goal of achieving commuter rail equity for all underserved New Yorkers. The residents of my Southeast Queens district who have long endured prolonged and costly commutes from the far reaches of St. Albans, Queens Village, Locust Manor and Hollis will surely benefit from the reduced fare, faster commute time, and optional subway or bus transfer the ‘Atlantic Ticket’ will offer them. I thank MTA Chair Joe Lhota, LIRR President Phillip Eng, and NYC DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg for their support of this program. I especially want to thank the Permanent Citizens Advisory Committee to the MTA for its partnership in advocating for the full ‘Freedom Ticket’ proposal that would also include LIRR rides to Penn Station and provide the same benefits to Metro North riders. Our work continues.”
Permanent Citizens Advisory Committee to the MTA and New York City Transit Riders Council Chair Andrew Albert said: “The Atlantic Ticket is a breakthrough for the MTA and for Brooklyn and Queens transit users as it gives riders options for a faster and more convenient trip, makes use of otherwise empty seats on LIRR commuter trains, and potentially generates additional fare revenue. We are excited to begin this new chapter and strongly encourage the MTA and its agencies to inform potential riders of this new fare option” said . “Atlantic Ticket means not only a quicker ride, but also new possibilities for areas that have long been promised improved transit service.”
from official MTA website
Metro-North Receives Top Honor from American Public Transportation Association
Metro North is officially the gold standard when it comes to safety.
MTA Metro-North Railroad today announced that it has earned the highest safety award from the American Public Transportation Association (APTA). The commendation, known as the Gold Award for Safety, was awarded to Metro-North for implementing a free, community outreach program designed to educate and promote rail safety.
The program, known as TRACKS – an acronym for “Together Railroads And Communities Keeping Safe” – is a project of Metro-North Railroad’s Office of System Safety, and is modeled on a similar long-standing program at the Long Island Rail Road.
Safety awareness and education around grade crossings and tracks form the foundation of Metro-North’s TRACKS outreach program. TRACKS is designed to reach as many students (grades K-12), pedestrians, drivers (civilian and commercial), train riders and residents throughout Metro-North’s territory as possible.
Since its inception in 2016, TRACKS has reached over 191,000 people, and the program has an ever growing scope of safety education elements. In 2016, TRACKS focused primarily on rider safety, grade crossing and trespassing. In 2017, the program expanded to include campaigns about emergency preparedness, gap safety and bridge plate safety, targeting efforts to prevent customer injuries and change risky behavior around trains and tracks. TRACKS continues to expand in 2018 to include suicide prevention partnerships.
To make the program more appealing to younger children, TRACKS introduced safety ambassadors, a safety super-hero known as, Metro-Man, and his faithful companion, a dog named Tracks. The characters are incorporated into safety presentations and are featured in coloring and activity books that help reinforce the safety message. Metro-Man – a Metro-North employee dressed in a special costume that features a voice modulator and LED display – and his sidekick Tracks, who is played by a MTAPD canine, also make appearances at community events and safety presentations.
TRACKS outreach includes connecting with students through programs at schools, camps and community youth organizations, reaching Metro-North customers through posters, overhead train announcements, seat flyers, social media and the Traintime App/email, and connecting with local residents and drivers (commercial and non-commercial) through community events, billboards and driver education courses.
“We’re proud to receive this honor from the American Public Transportation Association,” said Metro-North President Catherine Rinaldi. “Earning the Gold Award is a recognition of our intense focus on promoting a culture of safety throughout the organization. TRACKS allows us to take a focused, proactive and aggressive approach to promoting rail safety. Whether educating the public about the ‘safety do’s and don’ts’ of riding the train, driving through a grade crossing or walking near the tracks, the TRACKS program can save lives.”
For information about the TRACKS program, visit http://web.mta.info/mnr/tracks. If you know of any businesses, organizations or community groups that would benefit from our program, please have them reach out by phone 914-461-0459, or email MNRTracks@mnr.org to obtain more information or schedule a free presentation.
This is the second time in three years that Metro-North Railroad has been honored with APTA’s Rail Safety Gold Award. Metro-North won the Gold Safety Award in 2016 for developing a state-of-the art enhanced employee protection system known as EEPS. EEPS is a technology-based system created by Metro-North that allows the supervisor in charge of a work site to prevent trains from entering a given stretch of track by receiving confirmation that protection is in place along with a random, confidential “release code” via a smartphone or pager.
from official MTA website
Half-priced MetroCards near reality for NY’s poorest subway riders, sources say
The City Council and Mayor Bill de Blasio reached an agreement in principle early Thursday morning to fund the Fair Fares plan, according to two sources.
Under the tentative agreement, $106 million from the city’s budget would pay for half-priced MetroCards for the rest of the year to nearly 800,000 eligible New Yorkers who are living under the poverty line, a source said.
“They haven’t really got into the particulars yet, but the deal is there, on principle,” the source said.
During an appearance Thursday evening on NY1’s “Inside City Hall,” Council Speaker Corey Johnson said the proposal was still being worked out. “We are moving in a good direction, but we don’t have anything to announce tonight,” he told host Errol Louis.
Eric Phillips, a spokesman for the mayor, said no deal had been reached. “We have more work to do,” he said in a statement.
Politico first reported the tentative agreement Thursday afternoon.
De Blasio has repeatedly said he wanted the state to be responsible for the Fair Fares funding and included it in his millionaire’s tax proposal to the legislature.
“I believe in the idea. I have said constantly I don’t think it’s the city’s responsibility to pay for it. I think it’s the MTA’s responsibility,” de Blasio told reporters in April.
Johnson has pushed for city funding of Fair Fares as one of his top agenda items as speaker. He had called publicly on the mayor to include the proposal in his budget and joined other council members and supporters in various advocacy efforts.
Last month, Johnson launched a digital call for action that encouraged New Yorkers to “call the mayor” on their social media accounts with the hashtag #FairFares.
The proposal has been touted by transit advocates for years as a way to bring equity to the transit system. John Raskin, the executive director of Riders Alliance, said the tentative deal at City Hall is “a game changer.”
“Public transportation should bring access to jobs and economic opportunities, but today many people can’t afford to get on the bus or subway. Fair Fares will change that,” he said.
Advocates estimated that it would cost the city $212 million a year to fund the program.
“The biggest hurdle is securing the funding, and that’s what this budget negotiation is about,” Raskin said.
David Jones, an MTA board member and the president of the nonprofit advocacy group Community Service Society of New York, said he also was pleased to see that the city is looking more likely to commit to Fair Fares.
“This is a big ticket,” he said. “It’s not inexpensive and once you go down this road, you can’t stop and back away from something like this.”
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