Connect with us

MTA News

What To Expect From New Plan To Overhaul NYC’s Subways



andy byford

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.”


MTA News

What’s Up With This Green Ooze in a New York City Subway Construction Site?




l train subway tunnel

Construction for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s L train subway tunnel has been ongoing in Lower Manhattan, and recently, locals have noticed dumpsters filled with cartoonishly green ooze on the site. And no, this isn’t some setup to a Ninja Turtles joke.

The sludge, which was first reported on by Gothamist Wednesday, can allegedly be seen from above ground at the construction on Manhattan’s 14th Street in Alphabet City.

“It’s weirdly green off and on like that,” Penny Pennline, a 14th Street resident of more than 20 years, told Jalopnik over text. “It’s so nasty.”
It’s unclear if the dumpster contents are actually as green as they appear in the photos. The MTA said the container should just be holding water, concrete, and dirt, according to Gothamist, which first reported on the mysterious ooze.

When asked about the alleged sludge over the phone, MTA spokesman Shams Tarek seemed skeptical.

“Photoshopping would be pretty nefarious…We’re not buying green [dumpster] liners—that liner’s black. It might have something to do with the lights and the color balance on the camera” Tarek said. “We’re looking into it.”

Is it radioactive sludge? Probably not. Who knows! We probably wouldn’t recommend swimming in it, though.

“It’s usually not so bright, but I think that pic was at night so the lights were on it and made it glowing,” Pennline said.

Patrick Ferguson, Pennline’s neighbor and the photographer of the green sludge photo, blames what he said is a jet grouting operation on the site for the apparent sludge.

“Something in it is really green and it lights up in the street light,” Ferguson told Jalopnik over the phone. “It never gets fixed. They never get their jet grouting operation fixed.”

Ferguson also explained that the photo’s green-ness is likely played up by lighting.

“It’s lit up by the neon lights. It lights it up more,” Ferguson explained. “That stuff in the bin smells of sulfur and petroleum product.”
The construction seen here is part of the MTA’s Canarsie Tunnel reconstruction project for the L train subway line. The work, which has been ongoing for months, is part of the lead up to what’s set to be a 15-month shutdown of the line in Manhattan and its service to and from Brooklyn.

In addition to the alleged ooze, some locals who live on or near 14th Street in the area have complained about air, noise, and light pollution emanating from the construction site.
“When my nose started bleeding, I started freaking out,” Pennline told Jalopnik on the phone in October. “My doctor said, ‘You’re probably having allergies to whatever they’re digging.”

“As soon as I leave this neighborhood, within a few days, I’m good,” Pennline said.

The MTA, on the other hand, says it’s doing its due diligence in regards to the construction.

“We have had dozens of meetings with neighbors of the L Project, have developed extensive procedures to minimize the impact of construction, and welcome practical ideas on how we can further protect local quality of life,” Tarek said in an emailed statement. “We require our contractors to uphold strict guidelines regarding noise, vibration, air quality, and safety, are monitoring all of these impacts, and any suggestion otherwise is just false.”

When the L Train’s Manhattan service comes to a temporary end on April 27, 2019, around 275,000 subway riders will have to find a new way to get into Manhattan.

It’s going to be a mess. Ooze or not.


Continue Reading

MTA News

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.


Continue Reading

MTA News

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.”


Continue Reading