Search results for "MTA"

Placeholder Alt Text

Underground Upgrade

MTA releases 10-year plan to improve subway and bus services
Within ten years, a modernized signal system on 6 subway lines and more than 180 new subway stations are among many new improvements to New York City’s public transportation promised by the MTA. In a package released by New York City Transit Chief Andy Byford and the MTA, called “Fast Forward: The Plan to Modernize New York City Transit,” (PDF) the transit provider also guarantees repair work at more than 300 stations, new subway cars and CBTC-modified car, a redesign of bus routes and a new tap-and-go fair payment system to be in place in the next decade. The improvements come with a cost. According to The New York Times, the groundbreaking proposal will cost more than $19 billion for the first five years. The plan will also entail closures, including continuous night and weekend closures for up to 2.5 years per line. Byford’s plan is thought to be ambitious, as work previously estimated to take 40 years would be completed within the next ten years. The two-stage proposal will benefit a cumulative eight million daily riders. The outdated transportation infrastructure has caused delays and frustration. The “state-of-the-art” communications-based train control (CBTC) is believed to deliver greater reliability and better prospects for future capacity growth. In the first five years, lines 4, 5, 6, 7, A, C, E, F, M, R, G will be upgraded with the advanced train control signal system; in the next five years, lines 1, 2, 3, B, D, S, N, Q, R, W too will be upgraded. The bus network will be reimagined across the five boroughs, promising customer focused routes, faster and more reliable travel times, and more comfortable and environmentally sustainable buses. However, the plan has an issue with funding. Amidst the quarrel between Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio on who should pay to rehabilitate the subway, a spokesperson for de Blasio told The New York Times that the city is not willing to help pay for Byford's plan. He advised that the MTA should instead resort to existing resources and the state should endorse new revenue sources such as the millionaire's tax that de Blasio has proposed.
Placeholder Alt Text

It looks like the MTA system can't handle the L train shutdown
For the estimated 24,100 New Yorkers who cross between Manhattan and Brooklyn on the L train every hour, 2019 is not looking so good. After being pushed back year after year, the 15-month L train shutdown to allow for repairs to the Canarsie Tunnel for Hurricane Sandy-related damage is finally happening next April. The city is hoping that riders will use alternative subway connections, or even alternatives to the subway, and is implementing changes across the subway system as well as establishing new shuttle bus routes and usage restrictions on the Williamsburg Bridge and 14th Street. At a May 16th town hall meeting in Williamsburg, according to The Village Voice, city and MTA officials were reluctant to reveal how many more trains can cross the Williamsburg Bridge on the J/M/Z lines, one of the proposed solutions for displaced L train commuters. But the answer eventually came: 24 trains an hour—in a best-case scenario. This number is just three trains over current capacity. A large part of the issue is due to the fact that the tracks feature S-curves on both sides of the bridge, which requires trains to slow down significantly to safely make the turns without derailing. The MTA is adding and reducing trains at other points in the system in an attempt to alleviate some of the problems for L-train commuters. Even still, this leads to a net reduction of capacity by 12.5 train cars, or 25,000 riders per hour, according to The Village Voice. This also means that beyond longer treks and numerous transfers, waits on platforms to get on packed trains may become even worse. There are currently plans to restrict travel on the Williamsburg Bridge to buses, trucks, and carpools and to restrict 14th Street to buses and local deliveries during peak hours, but borough politicians say this isn’t enough, and that restrictions to bus service and high occupancy vehicles needs to go beyond peak hours during the L train shutdown and call on the city to develop a 24-hour plan. Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer sent a letter on Monday to Mayor Bill de Blasio calling on the city to provide 24-hour busway alternatives. As Adams and Brewer point out, they represent 24/7 communities and stated, “If we hope to persuade New Yorkers to continue to rely on public transit while the L train tunnel is closed, we must provide shuttle bus service that is seamless, efficient and reliable whenever our constituents need to ride.” The mayor has thus far opposed a 24-hour busway in favor of restrictions and shuttles for yet-to-be-defined peak hours. Many residents are divided on the issue. Regardless, as the shutdown rapidly approaches, the city must finalize a 24-hour plan to deal with the significant blow the loss of the L train will deal to commuters.
Placeholder Alt Text

Look on the Sunnyside

PAU confirmed as Sunnyside Yard master planner
Alicia Glen, New York’s Deputy Mayor for Housing and Economic Development, and Amtrak Chairman Anthony Coscia, announced at a media briefing yesterday that master planning for Sunnyside Yard in western Queens would begin summer of 2018. A steering committee made up of local stakeholders and technical experts will be guiding the process, while Vishaan Chakrabarti’s PAU will be leading the master planning team (confirming a leak from late March). PAU’s team and the steering committee will utilize the results of the feasibility study commissioned in February of 2017 as a starting point in planning for the future of the 180-acre active rail yard. Over the next 18 months, the steering committee and planning team will establish long-term plans for how to best develop the site, and what the most feasible first steps will be. Regular check-ins with the community will also be scheduled, as the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) and Amtrak want to keep the process forward-facing. Co-chaired by the city and Amtrak, the 35-person steering committee includes several members of Sunnyside’s Community Board 2; President of the Regional Plan Association Tom Wright; President of LaGuardia Community College Gail Meadow; and representatives from developers, construction associations, Amtrak, NYCHA, and other groups with a vested interest in the project. Also of note was the appointment of Cali Williams, a long time NYCEDC employee as the Director of Sunnyside Yard. Any of the resulting plans will involve decking over an extensive portion of the rail yard while keeping it running for the Amtrak, Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) and New Jersey Transit trains running below. To that end, the actual master plan consultant team is something a who's-who of New York firms. Thornton Tomasetti will be handling the structural engineering, Sam Schwartz Engineering will be responsible for the mobility planning and engineering, and Nelson Byrd Woltz has been tapped as the landscape architect. The Italian firm Carlo Ratti Associati has also been selected as the project’s “futurist”, to help guide expand the team’s thinking about what’s possible. The initial NYCEDC feasibility study determined that decking over 80 to 85 percent of the site was possible, with the potential to build out up to 24,000 residential units, 19 schools, and 52 acres of parkland, at a cost of $19 billion. While monetary considerations weren’t raised explicitly at the May 2nd meeting, it was pointed out that this project would be a significant investment to Western Queens. Right now, the steering committee will be dedicated first and foremost to deciding how to advance what the community wants most out of the development. The steering committee’s formation comes at a critical time for the yard, as the MTA will also be working at the site to bring the East Side Access project online (allowing LIRR trains to reach Grand Central). Governor Cuomo has promised that that particular project will be ready by 2022.
Placeholder Alt Text

State of the State

NY state budget declares Penn Station area an "unreasonable" public risk, and other shakeups
After a tumultuous series of negotiations over New York State’s 2018-19 budget that came down to the wire, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed off on a finalized $168 billion bill late last Friday. While a congestion pricing plan and the removal of density caps for NYC residential developments failed to pass, sweeping changes that could preclude a state seizure of the Penn Station area have made it through. The finalized budget provides a bevy of changes and funding initiatives that will affect New York-based architects and planners. In a move to stabilize city’s deteriorating subway system, $836 million was authorized for the MTA’s Subway Action Plan–with the requirement that the city government would have to foot half of the bill. As AN has previously reported, the money would go towards stabilizing the subway system by beefing up track work, replacing 1,300 troublesome signals, tracking leaks, and initiating a public awareness campaign to reduce littering. At the time of writing, the de Blasio administration which has repeatedly claimed that the city already pays more than its fair share, has agreed to contribute their $418 million portion. Congestion pricing, proposed by Governor Cuomo’s own transportation panel, failed to make it into the final legislation. The plan would both reduce traffic on Manhattan’s streets and could potentially raise up to $1.5 billion for subway repairs, but couldn’t muster enough support to pass. Instead, a surcharge on for-hire cars will be enacted below 96th Street in Manhattan; $2.75 for for-hire cars, $2.50 for yellow cabs, and $0.75 for every pooled trip. The terminally underfunded New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) will also be getting a boost, as Cuomo has pledged $250 million for repairs across the agency’s housing stock. However, the boost is somewhat undercut by the federal government’s recent decision to restrict NYCHA’s access to federal funds as a result of the lead paint scandal rattling the agency. To save time and money, the budget has implemented design-build practices–where the designer and contractor operate as one streamlined team–for future NYCHA projects, the forthcoming Rikers Island transformation, and the delayed Brooklyn-Queens Expressway restoration. While one controversial plan to remove Floor Area Ratio caps in future New York City residential developments didn’t make it into the final draft, another even more contentious proposal did. According to language in the final budget, the area around Penn Station has been deemed an “unreasonable risk to the public". This formal declaration could be used in future negotiations between the state and Madison Square Garden as leverage, or even as a pretext for eventually seizing the area via eminent domain. The budget, which the New York Times described as a broadside against Mayor de Blasio, ultimately exerts greater state intervention across a swath of local issues, from education to urban planning. More information on the final 2018-19 budget can be found here.
Placeholder Alt Text

State v. City

Cuomo adds controversial, last-minute proposal to control Penn Station-area development
As New York State’s 2018-2019 budget negotiations come down to the wire, Governor Andrew Cuomo's office has reportedly slipped in a proposal that would give the state virtually unrestricted development authority over the area surrounding Penn Station. According to the anonymous sources who briefed Politico yesterday, if passed, the state would gain the ability to build without restrictions on height or density, the need to conduct any environmental review, or to win community approval. Through the use of the Empire State Development Corporation and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority­–both controlled by the governor’s office–the state would redevelop from 30th to 34th Streets between 6th and 8th Avenue. After facing serious blowback from city leaders, especially over how the proposal would exempt the state from local zoning or preservation laws, the governor’s office released the following statement:
“Penn Station is currently untenable. It is congested, chaotic and poses a serious threat to public safety in this time of heightened terrorist threats,” said Dani Lever, press secretary for the governor, in a statement to the New York Times. She emphasized that any potential development would be done in “consultation with community leaders and elected officials, environmental reviews and local government reviews.”
The Cuomo administration has previously played a major role in the redevelopment of the Penn Station area, including backing the transformation of the James A. Farley Post Office into the Moynihan Train Hall. While the city has reportedly been in talks with the MTA and developers Vornado Realty Trust, who own much of the property surrounding Penn Station, Wednesday was apparently the first time that any party outside of Albany had seen the proposal. When reached for comment by Politico, Cuomo spokesperson Peter Ajemian suggested that their reporting on the day-old plan was already outdated.
"Throughout the budget process, documents are exchanged hundreds of times over to advance solutions for New Yorkers," said Ajemian. "The document you’re basing your story on is outdated, inaccurate and not comprehensive."
The governor’s office has suggested that the original broad outline was simply a starting point, and would likely be narrowed down in the back-and-forth as budget negotiations continued. Still, with Governor Cuomo’s self-imposed March 30th deadline looming, it’s unclear if the plan will make the final cut. The full version of the leaked document can be found here.
Placeholder Alt Text

Robots anyone?

Winners of MTA's first genius award announced
The winners of the MTA’s Transit Genius Challenge, which was first announced last spring, have been selected. The award, which set aside $3 million to be split among winners in three categories, is part of the city’s plan to modernize the aging subway system, which has been experiencing ever increasing delays and other issues affecting its nearly 6 million daily users. The MTA has been in an official state of emergency since the summer of 2017. Of the 19 finalists, of which 17 are major corporations and current MTA contractors, eight have been selected as winners to split the three $1 million prizes. In the category of signalling, Robert James and Metrom Rail have both won for a proposal to use ultra-wideband technology, a wireless technology that eliminates the need for more costly, cumbersome equipment and that the MTA has the ability to implement immediately. Using ultra-wide band technology would cut decades off the 40-year plan to overhaul the subway’s signaling system. Also in signalling, Ansaldo STS and the Thales Group have won the contest with plans for using sensors and cameras to track train positions and allow them to travel closer together more effectively. In the second challenge category, subway cars, three winners have been chosen for three different approaches to the problem. Lawyer and transit aficionado Craig Avedisian took home $330,000 for a plan that combines longer, higher capacity trains with new loading procedures to significantly increase train capacity with only minor changes to underlying technical infrastructure. CRRC has proposed a $50 million initial investment to develop an entirely new train car with materials such as carbon fiber, and proposes shorter lifecycles on subway cars to be able to continually phase in the newest technologies. Finally, CSiT wants to harness the power of big data to quickly identify maintenance issues and create a more reliable rider experience. In the final category, communications, Bechtel Innovation has won for a plan to implement a semi-automatic robotic system to install communications and control systems. The Big B, as the robotic solution is called, could even nimbly climb off railways, into stations, onto platforms, and into service bays. Transit Wireless and Alcatel-Lucent (Nokia) received honorable mentions in the category. Although it is not immediately clear how and if the winning changes might be phased into subway operations, the MTA was inspired by the success of the Transit Genius Challenge and intends to create a recurring challenge, the “Transit Innovation Partnership.”
Placeholder Alt Text

Plastic Surgery

NYC subways get $250 million cosmetic upgrades package
A $1 billion update to New York City’s subway system is coming, and although the resulting renovations will shutter six stations for the next few months, transit advocates are outraged that $250 million has been designated for cosmetic upgrades. In a 10-3 vote by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) board yesterday, the body approved a station improvement funding package, backed by Governor Andrew Cuomo, which will refurbish 33 stations across the city. But the package leaves out necessary upgrades that would bring aging stations in line with Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements. The $250 million will instead go towards installing USB and lightning chargers in the affected stations, as well as adding glass barriers, better lighting, and new surface-level entrance vestibules. The passage of Governor Cuomo’s Enhanced Station Initiative was far from a sure thing, especially after MTA board members appointed by Mayor Bill de Blasio successfully blocked an initial vote. Criticizing the plan’s selection of stations in need of repair, failure to allocate money for elevators or to address the system’s failing infrastructure (and the share of the bill that the city would have to foot), the vote was rescheduled pending further study. Now it seems that the MTA board has ultimately sided with Governor Cuomo, as Andy Byford, the new president of New York City Transit (the subsection of the MTA responsible for the subway system) sided with the Governor. Byford defended the Enhanced Station Initiative as more than a cosmetic upgrade, and told the New York Times, “To wait for perfection at every station? Some will fall into a dangerous state of disrepair, and you will fall into my scenario of, ‘Yes it’s ADA-compliant but oops’.” As a compromise, New York City Transit has hired an outside consultant that will evaluate the cost and feasibility of bringing all of New York’s 355 inaccessible stations, or nearly 80 percent, into compliance; though so far, retrofitting these stations has been an uphill battle. The first $240 million dispersed from the initiative will go towards renovating a set of highly trafficked stations in Manhattan. The 23rd Street and 57th Street stations on the Sixth Avenue lines, the Lexington Avenue line's 28th Street station, the 34th Street-Penn Station, the 145th Street station in Manhattan and 174th-175th Street and 167th Street Grand Concourse line stations in the Bronx will all undergo modernization. While a start date for the construction hasn’t been announced yet, all of the aforementioned stations except Penn will be closed for the duration. Although subway service work typically lasts six months on average, no exact length for the repairs was given.
Placeholder Alt Text

RPA-OK

Tristate regional plan proposes more equitable, resilient future with better mass transit
Picture New York, 2040: Buses replace the subway at night, but when they’re open, subways are quieter, wheelchair-accessible, and clean. Everyone’s ditched tiny apartments for cozy mother-in-law units, built into single- family suburban homes. Working in the Bronx and living in Brooklyn isn’t a two-hour slog anymore, because there is rail service from Co-op City to Sunset Park. Craving fresh air? The national park in the New Jersey Meadowlands is a one-train ride from Queens, or there’s a long-haul hike from the Catskills to the Pinelands. This is a sliver of the tristate future envisioned by the Regional Plan Association (RPA), a nonpartisan, nonprofit Manhattan-based organization that periodically analyzes the region from exurbs to downtowns to generate recommendations for a thriving future. When all 782 towns and cities in the tri-state area do their own planning and zoning, true regional planning seems daunting. The almost 400-page doorstopper of a plan, the RPA’s fourth since 1922, contains recommendations on a range of issues, from closing health disparities to fairer school redistricting and property tax reform, to making it easier to reverse-commute or travel from suburb to suburb without a car. The New York-New Jersey–Connecticut area is home to 23 million people, and only a third of them live in New York City proper. With that distribution in mind, the RPA identified four top priorities that affect everyone’s life. The group believes that, for the next 25 years, a thriving region depends on fixing the MTA, constructing more affordable housing to prevent displacement, building equity in one of the most unequal regions in the area, and adapting to rising sea levels. “Our plans carry zero weight of law, but they are very influential,” RPA President Tom Wright told reporters at a November briefing. It’s not possible to analyze all of the plan’s 61 prescriptions here, but there are key takeaways for architects, planners, and policymakers who live and practice in the region. The idea that the subway needs a total overhaul is a no-brainer to anyone who has been late due to massive train delays. To improve the system, the group wants to reconsider around-the-clock subway service. Surface transit would replace trains between 12:30 a.m. and 5 a.m. on weeknights, as only 1.5 percent of daily riders use the service during these four and a half hours, almost 20 percent of the day. Ending 24/7 service, the RPA argues, would allow the beleaguered MTA to make needed repairs faster, now that there are more riders than ever. New Yorkers didn’t take kindly to the idea. Commuters took to Twitter to denounce “the worst idea ever,” and even Mayor Bill de Blasio weighed in, calling full service a “birthright.” If current trends continue, the city’s growth rate from 2015– 2040 will be half of its 1990–2015 rate, but NYC officials say the city doesn’t have enough infrastructure to support more than nine million residents, even though the RPA believes the region (including NYC) could accommodate four million more people and add two million jobs. The organization argues that more and better transit options— and more affordable housing— will prevent the region from turning into California’s Bay Area and make it easier to grow inclusively. Packed trains and sky-high rents reflect many people’s desire to live in the New York City area, but unchecked housing costs could put a damper on growth. Adding more units—two million more— would alleviate the real estate crunch over 25 years. To meet demand, the RPA estimates that changing zoning near train stations could allow 250,000 homes to be created just on surface parking near rail lines while maintaining the neighborhood balance of schools and social spaces. Reforming zoning restrictions could also encourage homeowners to create accessory dwellings units (mother-in-law apartments) within the existing building envelope, while NYC’s 12 FAR cap could be lifted to build up density. Value capture from real estate development, especially those that benefit from big-ticket projects, could fund affordable housing near transit. All housing construction will be in vain, however, if the region doesn’t step up to address the immediate and terrifying effects of climate change. The RPA wants to reduce carbon dioxide emissions via a California-style cap-and-trade plan, and convene a regional commission to help local governments adapt to extreme weather and rising seas. But, according to the RPA, the carbon pricing system we have isn’t comprehensive enough; the region should switch to California’s model, which does more to reduce emissions by covering those from buildings, transportation, power production, and industry. One million people from Connecticut to New Jersey live in areas likely to flood, and municipalities are gearing up to fight Hurricane Sandy-like storm surges. There is less emphasis, though, on the everyday flooding that’s likely to result from sea-level rise in the near future; the RPA says areas that can’t be protected should be gradually transitioned to higher ground. A tristate regional coastal commission would help communities plan for sea-level rise, and a small surcharge on property insurance would be used to fund resiliency measures like buyouts and coastal hardening. The retreat from vulnerable areas is painful for people who have built lives there, but there are opportunities in the changes. A national park in the marshy, industrial Meadowlands would provide recreation space and educate visitors on climate change mitigation. Denser Meadowlands towns like Secaucus, New Jersey, would be protected from sea-level rise, while the Teterboro Airport and surrounding communities would retreat, and nature would take over. To illustrate these recommendations more richly, the RPA applies its thinking to nine sites, imagining what they could be in 2040. In that year, Jamaica, Queens, has capitalized on its rich transit connections and proximity to JFK Airport to become a destination in its own right, while retaining its income and ethnic diversity. Further east, Long Island’s central Nassau County is a “model suburb” thanks to regionally integrated schools and a new North Shore–South Shore rail link that’s made it easier to access job centers in Hempstead and Garden City. “Nothing is off the table,” Wright said.
Placeholder Alt Text

L-pocalypse Plans

City and MTA reveal alternate transit plans for L train shutdown
Last night the two agencies in charge of transit in New York kicked off an open house series for the public to learn more about plans to move commuters between Brooklyn and Manhattan during the 15-month L train shutdown. The events are being held over four weeks in neighborhoods that will be most impacted by the closure.
About 70 people filled the cafeteria of Williamsburg's Progress High School for the first open house, which was jointly hosted by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) and the New York City Department of Transportation (NYC DOT). Employees of both agencies stood by boards outlining transit options, science fair–style, as members of the public approached to ask questions about the bus, train, ferry, and bike routes that will carry them to Manhattan and back. The shutdown begins April 2019. During that time, the Canarsie Tunnel under the East River will close so workers can replace infrastructure that was damaged by flooding from 2012's Hurricane Sandy. Each weekday, 225,000 riders move through the tunnel, and 50,000 rides take the L just in Manhattan. The agencies are in the process of soliciting community feedback on the transit options; no plan has been determined yet. In Brooklyn, proposed changes include three-person HOV restrictions on the Williamsburg Bridge during peak hours, as well as new protected bike and bus lanes to ferry riders between the J/Z/M and G trains, L-adjacent lines the city expects 70 to 80 percent of affected riders will utilize to get across the river. Work is being done to ensure these lines can handle additional capacity, and the bus routes could be upgraded to give buses priority over private vehicles. The city estimates an additional 5 to 15 percent will use buses only, with new Williamsburg Bridge–bound buses, dubbed L1, L2, and L3, slated to carry approximately 30,000 riders, or 13 percent of the weekday total. After that, the agencies say five percent of straphangers will switch to the ferry, two percent will cycle to work, and between three and ten percent of riders may use taxis or ride-sharing services for their commute. In Manhattan, 14th Street (the crosstown thoroughfare under which the L train runs) would be converted into a busway, with only local private car access allowed. A block south, protected two-way bike lanes would be added to 13th Street to accomodate cyclists headed to and from the Williamsburg Bridge, which touches down on the Lower East Side. The next public meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, January 31, from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the 14th Street Y in Manhattan.
Residents had many questions—and more than a few concerns—about the proposed routes. "The main impetus of the plan is to keep people out of North Brooklyn," said Felice Kirby, a longtime Williamsburg resident and board member of the North Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce. "There are a couple of thousand small businesses and manufacturers who, along with residents, made this area famous. We're in a lot of trouble if people can't get into our area to eat, shop, and work." She grilled an MTA official on why ferry service wasn't being expanded to increase the percentage of L-train riders who might use the boats to get to work.
"It's a timid and meek approach," she added.
Lifelong Williamsburg resident Vikki Cambos has already started thinking about alternative travel plans. Though she lives off the Grand St L and works off Hewes Street J/M, she is weighing the shutdown as she job-searches. "I don't want something directly off the L, because that will be a headache," Cambos said. As another option, she's considering jobs in lower and upper Manhattan that are easily accessible by trains other than the L. She's worried too that the proposed shuttle will add crowds in a neighborhood that's already undergone extensive gentrification.  "I'm excited to see people move out," she said. Jeff Csicsek, a software engineer who volunteers with the North Brooklyn arm of transit advocacy group Transportation Alternatives, wants Grand Street in Brooklyn to be for bikes, buses, and pedestrians only—no private cars allowed. He cited Downtown Brooklyn's no-car Fulton Street, one of the city’s most profitable retail corridors, as an example of how the streetscape could be retooled to favor pedestrians and mass transit on Grand.  "I don't think it's physical changes [that are needed] so much as policy," he said. "A do-not-enter sign for private cars would make this actually work." Even Andy Byford, the newly-appointed president of MTA New York City Transit, showed up to hear the public's questions. DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg was also in attendance. "We simply have to get this right," he told a small crowd of reporters. The MTA, he added, is soliciting community feedback to decide on final transit options. "The plan is not set in stone," he said.  This post has been updated with the MTA's map of possible transit alternatives during the shutdown.
Placeholder Alt Text

Not On My Block

Residents fight subway elevators, citing terrorism concerns
New York City's Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) might be in a highly publicized “state of emergency” over its failing infrastructure at the time of writing, but much less attention is paid to how much it falls short in meeting federal accessibility guidelines. Only 24 percent of New York’s 472 subway stations are accessible overall; a fact not lost on disability advocates. But a recent New York Times article highlighted a case of community-based opposition to new elevators that would make a downtown station more accessible. Only blocks from the World Trade Center complex in Manhattan, residents on Broad Street have been trying to push back against a $20 million pair of elevators that would connect to the J/Z Broad Street station on their block. The elevators are a concession on the developer Madison Equities' part, in exchange for an extra 71,000 square feet of buildable area at the 80-story, mixed-use tower at 45 Broad St. Urbahn Architects will oversee the project. The elevators will provide access to a subway line that only has five accessible stations out of a total of 30. However, at a Community Board 1 meeting last month, approximately 270 residents of 15 and 30 Broad Street had signed a petition opposing what they called “dangerous structures.” Residents cited terrorism concerns, specifically a fear that the glass elevator booths would turn into shrapnel if a bomb went off. But disability activists have called the fear a thin veil for NIMBY-ism. “It’s total NIMBY,” Edith Prentiss, president of Disabled In Action, told The Times. “It’s ‘Don’t affect my property values, don’t affect my — I love this — my iconic view.’ I can understand that they paid a lot of money, I’m sure, but that does not abrogate my civil rights.” As the back-and-forth over elevators at this particular stop continues, so do several lawsuits brought against the MTA by a coalition of disabled residents and advocacy groups. The lack of elevator-accessible trains directly contradicts the Americans with Disabilities Act, but the MTA has claimed that bringing such service to every station would be an undue financial burden. For its part, the agency has responded that they are already spending $1 billion to bring 25 stations into compliance and that overhauling the entire system would cost $10 billion. As the NYC subway system runs 24 hours a day, and because retrofitting a station typically modifies how service runs there for several months, any planned upgrades will likely stress the already straining subway service even further. Still, with some of the deepest and highest subway platforms currently inaccessible to disabled riders, and as funding for much-needed MTA fixes are up in the air, it remains to be seen whether these concerns will be addressed in the near future.
Placeholder Alt Text

MTA Woes

Governor Cuomo’s transportation panel releases final report, suggested fixes
As New York City’s subways continue to crumble and traffic congestion increases, Mayor Bill de Blasio and Governor Andrew Cuomo have been at odds over the best way to fund mass transit improvements. That may all be about to change, as Governor Cuomo’s Fix NYC Advisory Panel has released their final report and called for the creation of congestion pricing zone in Manhattan. Mayor de Blasio has historically supported a “millionaire’s tax” on the city’s richest residents, while Governor Cuomo has proposed a congestion pricing scheme for vehicles crossing Manhattan’s 60th Street in either direction. In light of Fix NYC’s findings, Mayor de Blasio has seemingly shifted his position and voiced a willingness to implement some form of congestion pricing, if the funds were locked into improving the city’s transit network. Originally formed in October of last year, the Fix NYC panel invited policymakers, real estate developers, planners, MTA employees and other stakeholders to come up with policy fixes to improve mobility across the New York City region. The panel has ultimately recommended splitting any improvements across three phases. Phase one would see a focus on realistic, short-term reforms at the ground level. These range from studying transportation improvement opportunities across the outer boroughs and suburbs, to improving traffic law enforcement, and most importantly, beginning the installation of “zone pricing” infrastructure. This infrastructure would encircle a certain area and allow drivers to be charged for entering or leaving a certain area at specific times or days of the week. Phase two leans heavily on implementing congestion pricing. A central business district would be established as everything south of 60th Street in Manhattan, and for-hire vehicles and taxis would be charged every time they crossed the district’s border. Phase three would ramp up the second phase’s congestion pricing plan, first for trucks, and then to all vehicles entering the district by 2020. While trucks would pay $25.34, for-hire cars would likely only pay $2 to $5, with the overall affect of reducing traffic congestion during the busiest times of the day. Personal vehicles would have to pay up to $11.52 to travel through Manhattan during the busiest times of the day. Drivers would be offered some relief, however. “The Panel believes the MTA must first invest in public transportation alternatives and make improvements in the subway system before implementing a zone pricing plan to reduce congestion. Before asking commuters to abandon their cars, we must first improve mass transit capacity and reliability,” reads the report. It’s estimated that the pricing scheme could raise an additional $1.5 billion a year for the city’s ailing MTA. Governor Cuomo’s response to the report’s findings was muted, and in a statement, he promised to study the proposal more in-depth. Congestion pricing plans have never taken off in New York City despite being proposed regularly since the 1970s, and it remains to be seen whether the mayor’s office or state legislature will seriously take up the issue.
Placeholder Alt Text

Don't Stop Believing

What’s going on with the Brooklyn-Queens streetcar?
With the recent revelation that New York City’s proposed Brooklyn-Queens Connector (BQX) streetcar project had missed its deadline for launching the public review process at the end of December, new questions have arisen over how feasible the project is. As the city’s Economic Development Corporation (EDC) has instead chosen to begin a review of the streetcar’s cost and feasibility this year, it’s worth looking back at the BQX’s bumpy ride through 2017. The last time AN wrote about the BQX, it was to report on the release of a leaked memo from Mayor Bill de Blasio’s advisory team to Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen in April. While the 16-mile-long BQX line was originally envisioned as a way to transport residents up and down a revitalized Brooklyn-Queens waterfront by April 2024, the memo called into question the rising costs of relocating below-grade utilities along the line’s route. It was additionally suggested that the use “value-capture” for the $2.5 billion project, which would finance the BQX through rising waterfront property values, might not be enough. Fast forward to November 9th, when two anonymous sources with connections to the project told the New York Post that “It’s going to die.” Citing the contentious relationship between Mayor de Blasio and Governor Andrew Cuomo, and breaking with the mayor’s assertion that the BQX would require no state-level intervention, the sources broke down why the streetcar relied on the governor’s approval. Several parcels of land along the BQX’s proposed route are owned by the state government and would need permission to build over, and the MTA has stated that it would not cross-honor BQX tickets for the bus and subway systems. Killing the “last mile” aspect of the streetcar is especially important, as the project was initially pitched as linking neighborhoods that lacked mass transit options. Four days later on the 13th, the nonprofit group Friends of the Brooklyn-Queens Connector unveiled a life-sized streetcar prototype at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. The mockup featured enough room for 150 passengers and open gangways, while Friends of the BQX have promised that the streetcar would have an average speed faster than the busses it would share the street with. As December drew to a close, the BQX missed a major milestone in failing to launch the public review process. As the EDC begins an in-depth review of the project, Crain’s has noted that the review would save taxpayers $35 million if plans for the streetcar were scrapped, but would delay the project’s launch another six months, potentially costing up to $100 million every year that it’s delayed. Only a few days after, on December 28th the Post reported that the Department of Transportation would need to repair the decaying Brooklyn-Queens Expressway directly over the proposed streetcar route, potentially delaying the project further. While the Friends of the BQX and the mayor’s office have remained adamant that funding for the project can be found, there are still significant hurdles in the way. A route has to be finalized, some sort of agreement between the city and MTA must be worked out, and protection measures for flooding will need to be discussed as the entire line runs along the most climatologically vulnerable part of the waterfront. As 2018 progresses, it will be worth keeping an eye on whether the BQX can meet its original 2019 groundbreaking date. A Friends of the BQX spokesperson gave AN the following statement in regards to the project's future. "The BQX will dramatically increase opportunity for the hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers along the Brooklyn-Queens waterfront who are clamoring for better access to jobs, education, healthcare and recreation. We're optimistic that the project will take significant, concrete strides forward in 2018."