Category Archives: MTA

MTA to NYC: Drop Dead

So, it is the dawn of day 4 of the doomsday service cuts in NYC. My commute has been complicated a little by the changes – I have to leave home for work about 15 minutes earlier than before just to be SURE that I can get the bus to the subway station and get to work on time. 15 minutes is a lot of time, but some commuters are seeing 30 and 45 minutes added to their commutes, so I won’t complain too loudly.

The cuts eliminated two subway lines and dozens of bus lines, changed the routing of one subway line and now add additional wait times for everyone riding the subway or bus. The cuts could not come at a worse time when NYC is trying to drag itself out of the Great Recession and we experienced a heat wave the early part of this week.

Walder, the head of the Transit Authority, promises no fare increases this year. He would have been met with the stereotypical New York attitude if they even tried to pull that move – higher fares and less service? Fagetaboutit. However, fare increases WILL come in 2011. Brace for it. We’ll probably see $100 dollar monthly MetroCards, which is still a great deal for unlimited rides for 30 days. The most important thing at this point is to realize that we’ve been underpaying for the service and allow fares to be collected that are more in line with what rides are around the world for world class systems. The NY subway system is world class in some ways (24 hour service, access to all parts of the city) but in other ways, can use some serious technological upgrades that will improve the riding public’s experience and overall safety.

I don’t want to see a zone fare introduced – especially as someone who travels 32 miles round-trip on the subway each day. Instead, I want to see more realistic fares and discounted passes that really mean the agency can make money. Even in my poor/lower middle class neighborhood, most people I observe using the bus use unlimited cards. On average, that reduces the fare to around a dollar per ride. The agency cannot make money for operations like that.

Additionally, New York State and New York City need to step up and contribute to the MTA; the MTA system is the lifeblood of the city and deserves adequate funding for operations AND capital improvements.

I’ll keep an eye out for other changes coming down the pipe. This is definitely an interesting development going forward in transportation financing and operations.

Are you in NYC? Have you been affected by the service cuts?

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Transit Conflicts in Harlem

As promised, I got a few photos of transit conflicts in Harlem. (Update: I define conflicts as either structural or aestethic issues and pedestrian-bicyclist-motorized vehicle conflicts.), I will be going out again this week to take more photos. I think this set is very representative of the types of transit issues that happen in Harlem on a daily basis.

Transit Conflicts

Let me know if there’s a particular thing you’d like to see or whether you agree or disagree on some of these conflicts.

Exploring Harlem via Alternative Transit

75px-NYCS-bull-trans-1.svgI recently moved to HarlemManhattanville to be exact – and I have been exploring my neighborhood daily since moving in last week! I have found that my neighborhood is well served by buses, subways, sidewalks and taxis (both yellow and “black” cars).

I have been able to find a lot of the things I need to make life comfortable – grocery stores, the local laundromats, a dry cleaners, the post office, the police precinct and Chinese food.

However, the one thing missing from this great neighborhood is bike lanes! Bicyclists can use the bike/pedestrian paths at Riverbank State Park, but there are no bike lanes along Broadway or Amsterdam, the two major avenues in the area. Bicyclists must travel in traffic – sidewalk biking is not a good idea because of the large number of pedestrians. A comprehensive bike network would be a welcome addition to the neighborhood because it is hilly and bicycling is faster than walking or the bus during peak hours.

Pedestrians in Manhattanville are also at risk, because of speeding cars, the large number of buses up and down the avenues and general New York style impatience! There are wide sidewalks along the avenues, and less wide sidewalks on streets – but nonetheless, it is dangerous for a pedestrian to walk out from behind cars to cross the street. As proof positive, I saw the aftermath of a pedestrian-taxi accident on my way home today. In addition, I was almost hit by a taxi yesterday, although I had the right-of-way to cross the street. Impatience made the taxi driver turn right and almost directly into my legs as I crossed Broadway.

I will be posting pictures later this week of some transportation conflicts I see in my neighborhood – namely the horrible handicapped access to major subway stations, poorly maintained sidewalks and crazy drivers. If you have anything you’d like to see, let me know, and I’ll do my best to photo-document it. I’ll also be posting my photos from my trip to Roosevelt Island, an island between Manhattan island and Queens, New York.

Fare hikes still coming to NYC

Monday’s MTA meeting provided us with an opportunity to see what the new fares will be in June 2009, as well as get reassurances that there won’t be any service cuts, although some workers will be laid off, or positions will go unfilled. Read the Liveblog of the MTA meeting if you want to get some information first hand.

lightsout
© amintorres.com/blog/

Thanks to Benjamin Kabak at Second Avenue Sagas, here’s a quick look at what the new fares will be on June 28, 2009:

Fare Type Current New Change
Base Fare $2.00 $2.25 12.5 %
Bonus and Buy-In 15 % at $7.00 ($1.74) 15 % at $8.00 ($1.96) 12.5 %
1-Day Pass $7.50 $8.25 10 %
7-Day Pass $25.00 $27.00 8 %
14-Day Pass $47.00 $51.50 9.6 %
30-Day Pass $81.00 $89.00 9.9 %

What do you think? Are you disappointed at the new fares? Excited? Looking forward to the fare hikes? Wished Doomsday had happened? Let’s hear it in the comments.

Doomsday is coming for many transit agencies

While I have mentioned a few times that New York City’s Metropolitan Transit Authority is facing a May 31 doomsday of budget cuts and fare and service hikes, there are other transit agencies facing the same types of issues. Whether the issues are caused by lack of funding from the local and state levels, poor management of the agency or unforeseen budget problems, transit cuts are going to happen, whether we want them or not.

Sacramento Regional Transit 220 CAF 2004
Creative Commons License photo credit: jacksnell

The current economic crisis has made it difficult to guarantee funding for transit agencies. However, if the United States is ready to invest heavily in its future, let’s guarantee funding for transit agencies capital projects AND operations! With transit ridership at record levels, let’s continue that trend.

It goes without saying that transit is a more sustainable option for transportation than continuing to build roads, parking spaces, interchanges, etc. for personal vehicles. Other countries have fantastic public transportation systems – and so should we! Spain has a high speed train network that is rivaling France’s and Japan’s, most European countries ensure their citizens live within hundreds of meters of transit stops, and yet America only has public transportation in limited locales throughout our expansive countryside. Some cities have transit that is so unattractive, it has a hard time attracting riders other than the poorest of the poor.

I told a classmate a few days ago that transit can be a great class equalizer AND serve as a way to invigorate the economy. Jobs can be created in developing, building and operating transit and planning and building new transit oriented developments. The time is now – is America ready for a new future beyond doomsday?

Get up for people on the train… or get your photo taken!

A few weeks back, I discussed some tips to help you not be a jerk on public transit – however, I failed to mention that you shouldn’t take pictures of other riders.

Yes, that’s right – don’t take pictures of other riders! Why? Because the NYTimes will do a story on you, and the commenters will tear you apart like tissue paper!

priority seating
Frances Roberts for The New York Times

Long story short, there’s a guy on crutches in NYC (Mr. Muro) going around taking pictures of people sitting in the “disabled” seats on the subways. 99.94% of the time, the subjects have no idea that they are the focus of his irrational anger toward people without crutches sitting on the subway seats “reserved” for the handicapped. While Mr. Muro says that this experiment (blog) is mainly a source of entertainment for himself and his friends, I must wonder if this guy really knows the danger he is putting himself in by snapping photos of perfect strangers on the train – OR if he realizes that simply ASKING someone for a seat won’t hurt, no matter what the research says.

I was on crutches myself about 10 years ago, and it was a pain to sit down and then have to get up. The pain was horrible and even today, my leg aches on rainy days and it is simply easier to just stand on the subway than try to sit down and struggle to get back up. Back then, it was easier for me, even living in a place where cars ruled and transit was not even an option, to simply limp/crutch myself to where I had to go around campus, rather than getting a ride to/from class.

And on the danger point, Mr. Muro is forgetting one very important point – New Yorkers are not the friendliest bunch, nor are they the most helpful bunch. Take a photo of the wrong person on the wrong day, and Mr. Muro might be needing a full traction instead of just a pair of crutches.

Mr. Muro has been careful thus far to take photos of people whose eyes are closed, but he’s still taking a huge chance with his physical safety or at least his peace of mind. I often close my eyes on the train to block out the action of people shuffling around, looking around, reading, making faces, etc. – but that doesn’t mean I’m sleep! And it surely doesn’t mean that I can’t “feel” someone looking at me!

I can’t stress it enough – it is easy just to ask someone for a seat if you need one – for every person unwilling to give up their seat, there’s one who is willing to help a “handicapped” person out! Just ASK!

MTA “Doomsday” Budget Passed

But, it looks like help will be coming from Albany, after all. However, it doesn’t sound like a permanent solution, so we’ll be facing these same issues again in what – another year, two years, five years?

Base fare for NYC’s subways and buses will be $2.50 effective May 31. Express bus fares will rise, also. Other MTA operations – Long Island Bus, Long Island Railroad and Metro North Railroad are expecting fare hikes between 21-28%. All service will be modified in an effort to save money – some bus lines will be cut entirely, as well as subway lines.

Fuzzy MTA Math
Creative Commons License photo credit: Alain-Christian

St. Louis is facing the same problems as the MTA. Unfortunately, the stimulus funds cannot be used for operating existing service, which is pretty idiotic, if you ask me. The major problems with public transit in many places is its hours of operation and frequency of service.

Riders do not want to wait long for a bus or train to come along, especially when it is very hot or very cold. Bus shelters may protect riders from some of the elements, but imagine if there are more riders waiting than the shelter can accommodate and it is raining cats and dogs.

So what is the solution? Planners and community members need to work together to develop solutions to the funding crisis that do not include raising fares again and again,but create reasonable schemes to generate funds through retail, real estate and advertising. Additional savings can be found in streamlining the workforce. While I hate to see anyone lose their job, some personnel cuts will encourage less spending and more efficient operations.

Your thoughts?