Category Archives: solutions

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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Driving and Texting now banned in Georgia

I lived for four years in the beautiful state of Georgia. While its traffic leaves much to be desired, Georgia offers great recreation, outdoor activities almost year round and a moderate climate most of the year (though the summers do get hotter than a cat on a hot tin roof).

Finally, Georgia catches up with the times and passed a law banning driving and talking or texting by drivers 17 or younger. In the same law, adults 17 and older are banned from texting and driving. A huge step forward in driving safety, in my humble opinion. Georgia drivers tend to drive long distances on some very dangerous roads and highways. The more steps we take to encourage safe driving habits, the safer everyone is – whether they are commuters on a bus or commuters driving solo.

A lot of accidents are caused by people who are not paying attention. I’d walk and bike more easily if I knew that drivers were not texting and driving and teens were not distracted by phone calls and driving. Of course, there are people who do not agree with the law. They may feel this infringes on your rights or they feel that they are safe drivers regardless, but the truth of the matter is that a distracted driver is a dangerous driver to themselves, other drivers and pedestrians.

I hope the next law Georgia passes bans biking and texting or walking and texting. Both are dangerous in their own rights, too. Drivers aren’t the only ones who can cause accidents because they are distracted!

I’m Still Car Free and Other Thoughts

It’s been a long time since I’ve updated this blog, but the my car free world is still walking and using public transport to get from point A to point B.

It’s been easy to stay car free since I live in New York City. Previously, I counted using a taxi cab or car service as ‘cheating’ at being car free, but I have had a change of heart. Since the cab or car service isn’t for my exclusive use 24-7, I am still car free. I haven’t taken a taxi cab or car service recently, but I did find that it is far faster to take a taxi 1/3 of the way to work on Sundays and then get on the subway. The time saved is about 25 minutes. Unfortunately, the cost is $12-15. The benefit-cost analysis I go through each Sunday morning is priceless. Some Sundays I have born the cost of the taxi cab because I couldn’t deal with the bitterly cold winds racing down Amsterdam Avenue as I waited for the bus. On other Sundays, like today, I knew I wanted to buy lunch out while at work, so I had to decide between a comfy, quick ride 1/3 of the way to work or taking the bus to the subway (and transferring at Herald Square to a second subway).

I have been reading about alternative transit and ways to make life easier for people interested in living car free. One of the recurring themes is building or redeveloping walkable cities. Walking is good exercise and if people have stores, businesses and entertainment within walking distance, they are more likely to walk than to drive or even use public transit to get there. I know that walking is not feasible for everyone, but for the vast majority of people, walking to the grocery store could be an option if we build smaller, neighborhood groceries and encourage businesses to hire local employees, we could make huge strides in improving our communities and lessening the demand for new roads. Even if we begin building toll roads in earnest, we still won’t have the funds necessary to maintain the roads we have preexisting. America is truly at a crossroads in terms of transit. Some have predicted that within 20 years most people will be forced to be car free, rather than it being an option, simply because of traffic jams, the cost of oil and poorly maintained roads.

What are your thoughts?

World Carfree Day is September 22

What are your plans for World Carfree Day? Are you going to participate in activities in your city? Or will you take transit instead of driving?

carfree day logo

I will be doing my usual slate of activities – taking public transit and walking to/from work and on personal errands. I do want to have a few minutes to check out the crowds and see how many people are going car free, even if it is for one day only.

Staten Island Ferry Adds “Quiet Zones”

Ever wanted to just get away from the noise? If you take the Staten Island Ferry, here’s your chance (h/t to Gothamist and the Staten Island Advance:

The Department of Transportation has agreed to relegate space on the middle deck of the Staten Island Ferry to become a designated “Quiet Zone.” The SI Advance says that the area will be a place where passengers can seek solace to “avoid loud cell phone conversations, general chatter and ferryboat preachers who seek a captive audience.” For now the Quiet Zones will be voluntary and self-policed, but City Councilman Ken Mitchell is drafting legislation for the DOT and NYPD to be able to enforce the new rules as well. Mitchell and State Senator Diane Savino pushed for the areas, similar to ones employed on Amtrak and LIRR trains, because Staten Islanders face the longest average commute in the nation. After a survey went out to Ferry riders asking about their commutes, Savino says, “Everyone of them said that they wanted some place to go on the boat where they could go and just contemplate their life.” The signs will be posted on the Bridge Deck of the three newest Molinari-class ferryboats; Savoy says she is brainstorming how to make the plan work for older ferry models as well.

Staten Islanders have some of the longest commutes in the United States, so a quiet place to just think, read or catch some sleep is valuable.

How noisy is your commute? Are people on their cell phones? Can you often hear someone’s music from their iPod? Mine is by bus and subway in NYC, so I deal with a lot of noisy cell phone talkers on the bus, but most people are quiet on the subway. However, the subway itself is noisy, sometimes unbearably so. Two not-so-noisy systems I’ve enjoyed are in Washington, DC and Atlanta. Is transit (the actual buses or trains) noisy where you are?

Do you have a backup plan?

I started a new job this week, and I’ve been commuting about an hour and a half via subway to my job. As a survivor of the 2003 Northeast Blackout, I can’t help but wonder how I will go about getting home in case of another blackout or subway outages. I work about 16 miles from home. Walking would take about 5 hours on a good day, so what should I do?

us_overflight 2003 blackout

My first plan is to stay put at my office. It might be the safest place to be, especially since I have snacks in my desk. If this is not possible for whatever reason, then I will try to get buses home, which might take up to 5 hours, too. The masses of people trying to get home would block streets and bridges, but at least I would be able to make it home if I absolutely had to.

During the Northeast Blackout of 2003, I was fortunate enough to pair up with some people in my office who found a rental car with a 1/4 tank of gas and made it home to Jamaica, Queens. However, I may not be as lucky this time as I work in Brooklyn and live in Harlem. Most of my neighbors don’t have cars and none of my coworkers live near me.

What’s your plan if the transit system shuts down or some emergency prevents you from getting home car-free?

World Carfree Day – September 22

carfree

World Carfree Day is September 22. Do you have any special plans? If so, add your event online at: World Carfree Day And join the World Carfree Day Page on Facebook!

World Carfree Day is an annual celebration of cities and public life, free from the noise, stress and pollution of cars. Each year on September 22, people around the world organize events of all sizes to showcase alternatives to the automobile. World Carfree Network invites organisations and individuals everywhere to join!

Every September 22, people from around the world get together in the streets, intersections, and neighbourhood blocks to remind the world that we don’t have to accept our car-dominated society. 2009 should be no different.