Monthly Archives: February 2009

Why is there a push to restore train service NOW?

Many, many years ago… in the United States, there were literally dozens of train lines dotting the landscape of American cities. Most of those train lines are now gone, and depending on who you ask, car companies like GM are responsible for the disappearance of local public transit or cars are just a much better way to get around.

Whatever the reason is, many most US cities lack a comprehensive public transit system. Even major cities lack a full, comprehensive system like their European (and increasingly, Asian) counterparts have. Citizens’ livelihoods are tied to the car much like human life is tied to air and water.

There are pushes to restore train service now. One does not have to look further than NJTransit’s website for details on fantastic plans to restore service from the Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania through the Lackawanna cutoff to Hoboken, where riders could connect to PATH or ferry service into Manhattan, (or to New York Penn Station) eliminating the need for the up to 4 hour bus trips one-way to/from the Poconos for commuters and tourists alike. Or, the proposal to use existing and new rail infrastructure to create a new heavy rail line through Middlesex, Ocean and Monmouth counties, connecting commuters with New York Penn Station via the Northeast Corridor or the North Jersey Coast Line. Or, restoring the train line torn up to build – what else? – condos!

People in the northeast are generally more open to transit than other places in the country, but even Phoenix is getting in on the demand for transit. Albeit, they only have one line in an area that is extremely low density, but it does have connecting bus service.

The push to restore train service (or build new service) seems to be correlated to gas prices. Last summer, we all remember gas prices approaching and surpassing $4/gallon in the United States. It seemed like everyone began using transit to save money. Prices went down, but ridership is still up in some areas. My guess is that riders realized transit is not that bad. I mean after all, being car free does rock, but what will happen when (if?) the prices go back down and stay down? Will the novelty wear off?

I really can’t think of any other reason to spur the interest in restoring train service now, so if you have some ideas, let’s hear it in the comments.

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How would the MTA’s proposed service cuts affect you?

I am not living in NYC at the moment, but I am looking to move back as soon as the ink dries on my diploma. (No offense, Jersey, but I just don’t love you like I love NYC!)

NYC Subway Train
Creative Commons License photo credit: brokentrinkets

The proposed service cuts by the MTA (Metropolitan Transit Authority) will affect daily commuters who come from CT and NJ (and PA!) and must use the subway to connect to their offices from major transport hubs, as well as tourists who come into the city to sightsee and shop.

Check out the NYC Comptroller’s MTA Cuts Web Application – How will cuts affect your neighborhood?

If the economy improves and/or there’s a billion or three dollars magically found by the MTA, we’ll then have to face the effects of a lack of maintenance, job cuts and service cuts. Can we eliminate entire subway lines and bus routes today, then turn around two or five years later and expect them to work just like they did before we hit the switch?

23rd St. Subway
Creative Commons License photo credit: senorjerome

I really don’t think so. We have to work toward finding a solution to the current financial crisis. It is unfair and unreasonable to ask citizens to give up convenience and safety (even if it is perceived safety) because of blatant, continued mismanagement of funds. If anything, citizens need to demand changes within the MTA. Will new management help? Dedicated funding? Insistence of more/better oversight by the government or citizen groups? Change has got to happen. Whether that change is higher fares or tolls on the East River, the MTA has got to keep the current service levels – and possibly extend them to pick up additional transit riders, thus generating more revenue that can be used to finance operations.

Additionally, we have to solve this conflict about how the MTA is funded versus what reality looks like – dedicated annual funding is important, as well as the flexibility to use funds for operations and capital improvements as the agency sees fit. The MTA must also look into how to fund new and expanded subway and train lines (Can I get a subway directly from the Bronx to Queens to Brooklyn? Or the full 2nd Avenue Subway?). Rail transit has more influence on how to impact future growth – because it is permenant and dedicated right of ways ensure speed and quality of service. So let’s get on with it, keep the existing service and finance expanded service for a better New York.

While you are riding along….

what podcasts do you listen to? Do you have a favorite album you jam out to? Or do you read?

newbie
Creative Commons License photo credit: yosoynuts

Make some suggestions for those of us who are car-free and looking to enjoy our commute or pleasure car free trips.

Let’s hear it in the comments!

11 Reasons to Take the Train

Chris Brogan wrote a blog post titled, “11 Reasons to Take the Train,” and I just had to share it with you here.

I feel the same way as Chris, but more so about commuter trains and subways. There’s nothing like sitting back and watching the seasons change as I take the 1 hour trip from my town to NYC. Amtrak, in my experience, is slow and sometimes late, and it can make for a long, long trip.

I have taken Amtrak a few times from Trenton to Pittsburgh. The price couldn’t be beat – $45 round trip, but it did take about 8-9 hours to arrive at my destination!

Is speed or the ability to unplug more important to me? Honestly, I don’t know. It really depends on how I am feeling and what the purpose of my trip is. Vacations, unplugging is important, but if it is business, speed is most important!

What say you?

Why being car free rocks

I love being car free. Yeah, there are those times when I wish for a car, especially when I want to go places and do things in places without public transit. The weirdest thing is that I live in one of the most transit oriented places in America, but there are still dozens of places I cannot go without a car or the trip taking 3-4 hours!

Despite the difficulties of getting places on occasion, I can generally enjoy a pretty good life. I can get to meetings, restaurants, school, work, to visit friends, shopping, etc. without much difficulty.

With that being said, these are my top 5 reasons why being car free rocks!

1. I never have to look for parking. On any given weekday in my neighborhood, people circle the block time and time again to look for parking. Finding parking on the first try is rare, and the time wasted looking for a parking spot is astronomical.

2. I have more money! I do not pay for a car note, insurance, maintenance, parking, car washes and gas! When I had a car, I spent most of my time working to pay for my car. Now, I work to be able to enjoy social activities, traveling and just hanging out. My train pass and MetroCard are less than what I paid just for my car note. Amazing.

3. I have read more books in the last year than I read in the 2 years I had a car. Seriously! I have read an average of 4 books a week in the last year, compared to 3 books a month during the last year I had a car. That’s a huge difference. The knowledge I’ve acquired has made me a better student and person.

4. I get more “me time”. I actually have time to exercise and relax on a regular basis. I walk to the train, versus walking out of my door and getting right into a car. I walk up and down stairs, versus walking from my car right into a store or restaurant. I can nap on the train or bus – you definitely cannot nap while you are driving!

5. I can more carefully observe the change of the seasons and the development of the neighborhoods I travel through. Because I don’t have to keep my eyes on the road, so I can see and enjoy the snow, check out the construction of a new residential tower or mixed use development.

I enjoy being car free. For those times when I start thinking, “Oh, I’ll get another car one day,” I remember that I’m making an active choice to participate in an alternative lifestyle that provides many more benefits to myself AND society than we can probably count.