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Train Talk

Here are key takeaways for architects from Cuomo's 2018 State of the State address
If everything goes according to the governor's plan, New York City could get a new subway line to Brooklyn, and a new park in Jamaica Bay. Today New York Governor Andrew Cuomo outlined plans for 2018 and beyond in his State of the State address. Over the course of 92 minutes, the 56th governor of New York unspooled a long list of major projects and new investments, many of which could shape the cities we live in, change how commuters get to work, and add to what we see when we step away from the city outdoors. Citing the Red Hook waterfront's "untapped potential," the governor wants to study the possibility of a subway from Red Hook, Brooklyn to lower Manhattan. Red Hook, a low-slung, low-lying, largely low-income waterside neighborhood, still hosts shipping operations, but in the past two decades, artists and other creative types have flocked to the area and opened up restaurants, galleries, and interesting shops—with chains like IKEA and Fairway fronting the harbor. Despite the influx of new residents and businesses, the neighborhood has remained relatively sedate, in part because it's so hard to get to by public transportation. To spur growth, Governor Cuomo is asking the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) to improve transit access by relocating the shipping industry industry. The move, Cuomo said, will revert the waterfront to "more productive community uses" that could enable the MTA to add an underwater subway tunnel to lower Manhattan. The Port Authority would have to move the 80-acre Red Hook Container Terminal about two miles south to the South Brooklyn Marine Terminal in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. In 2012, the port handled only 110,000 containers annually, a paltry load compared to the three million containers processed by nearby ports. While the terminal provides roughly 100 jobs, it has been operating at a loss since the mid-1990s. As recently as last year, though, the Port Authority said it did not have plans to develop or sell the site. Politico noted the Red Hook plans bear strong resemblance to a study AECOM produced on South Brooklyn that proposed a 1 train extension to Red Hook. AECOM executive Chris Ward was the Port Authority executive director, but quit in 2011 due in part to his fraught relationship with Cuomo, who was sworn in that year.

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The new subway tunnel wasn't the only one on the governor's mind. Cuomo floated a tunnel for vehicles under the Long Island Sound to connect Long Island with Westchester County or Connecticut. He also pledged to accelerate the L.I.R.R. modernization project, announcing the state would kick $6.6 billion towards adding new rail lines and fixing up stations up and down Nassau and Suffolk counties. All of those L.I.R.R. trains terminate at the beleaguered Penn Station. The governor didn't hesitate to fire shots at the busiest—and arguably most miserable—transit depot in the U.S. "I call it the seven levels of catacombs," he said. Cuomo emphasized the need to rebuild Penn Station, citing ongoing construction on the conversion of the James A. Farley Post Office into the Moynihan Train Hall as one way to relieve capacity on the overburdened station, which receives trains from New Jersey and Long Island. He even invoked the state's ability to seize land for public projects via eminent domain, a veiled shot at Madison Square Garden, the arena and venue across from Penn Station that some experts say should be converted to transit uses only. The subways were another hot spot in the speech. The governor proclaimed funding to fix the broken-down subway system must be provided "this session." His comments on funding follow a New York Times investigation on the subways' performance that revealed political indifference at the state and local level prompted overspending on splashy new projects at the expense of routine maintenance. "We can't leave our riders stranded anymore, period," he said.

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The governor also touched on another controversial project only a few blocks away. Late last year, stakeholders reached a compromise on the lawsuit-plagued Thomas Heatherwick–designed Pier 55 in Hudson River Park on Manhattan's West Side, and plans for the development are moving forward. Cuomo said a full completion plan for Hudson River Park, which will stretch from West 59th Street to Battery Park City, will roll out this year. Cuomo also unveiled the third round of investments in the New York State downtowns. First introduced in 2016, the Downtown Revitalization Initiative gives select cities and towns all over the state and gives them $10 million apiece to invest in their core commercial districts. This latest round allocates $100 million for development, and the Regional Economic Development Councils will select the cities. There were some curveballs, too. The governor revealed plans for a new, 407-acre state park on Jamaica Bay, a wetland estuary which sits between Brooklyn and Queens. The Architect's Newspaper (AN) reached out to the governor's office for comment on the park but has not yet heard back.
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Railroad Housing

MTA to deck over a 4-acre stretch of Brooklyn rail with mixed-use development
Eager to combat a serious housing shortage in Brooklyn’s Borough Park neighborhood, State Senator Simcha Felder (D- Southern Brooklyn) announced Tuesday that the MTA would be opening a Request for Proposals (RFP) for developing a 3.8-acre stretch of rail bed that runs through the area. Decking over the site and building residences, similar to what’s happened in Hudson Yards and proposed for Sunnyside Yards, could bring thousands of units to an area of south Brooklyn that’s grown rapidly in recent years. The Long Island Railroad (LIRR) Bay Ridge Branch section cuts from 61st Street between Fort Hamilton Parkway, and 8th Avenue, and is seldom used apart from the freight trains that might pass through once or twice a day. Looking to create a long-term revenue stream from the site, the MTA released their RFP for developing the site’s airspace, at least 22 feet over the rail bed, on Thursday, available here. Calling for private developers to apply, the RFP demands that teams would not only be responsible for the architectural aspect of the residential buildings on the site, both market-rate and affordable, but also retail and office space as well as parking lots. Additionally, any scheme has to leave the rail track in place, and engineering solutions must be included for decking over a gap that ranges from 82 -feet wide in some places to 118 feet in others. This is no easy feat, especially as utilities must also be supplied to the site and would presumably run through the decking; it’s no wonder that the MTA is requiring the entire project to be privately financed. The cost of decking over the much larger, 180-acre Sunnyside Yards has been projected to cost up to $19 billion for similar reasons, though no cost estimates have been released for this stretch of the LIRR yet. The fight to build over this stretch of tracks has been going on for years, with local community groups only recently embracing the plan. Senator Felder stressed that any new construction would have to fit the character of the surrounding neighborhoods. “The vision is to create residential development that is consistent with the character of the neighborhood,” said Felder. “The location of this project presents a significant opportunity to create additional housing units on a gigantic parcel of land that covers a few city blocks.” Interested applicants have until April 27th, 2018, to submit a proposal.
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Brain Train, Now Boarding

19 finalists announced for MTA’s Genius Transit Challenge
The New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) announced the 19 finalists in three categories for the MTA Genius Transit Challenge today. Winners will be declared in early 2018 and will receive up to a $1 million genius award (or the profit of 363,636 card swipes, according to the New York Times). The MTA assembled a panel of technology and transportation experts to review the 438 submissions, narrowing it down to 64 and then 19. During phase two of the competition, the final contenders refined and elaborated on their original submissions. The three categories are: to improve signaling, to identify strategies to better deploy subway cars, and increase communications infrastructure. Each submission in these categories was reviewed on “its ability to fulfill the Challenge’s core objectives, whether it could be implemented in a rapid timeframe throughout the Subway System, innovativeness, and cost-reasonableness.” With the recent release of the RPA’s newest plan, we can only hope at least a few improvements are made, genius or otherwise. FINALISTS IN THE SIGNALS CATEGORY AECOM: Intelligent Alignment of Service Delivery to Customer Demand Alstom: Train-Centric Peer-to-Peer CBTC Ansaldo STS: Video Odometry, Heads-Up Display and Augmented Reality Arup: Acorn: Autonomous Car Operating Rail Network Robert James (Individual): Connected Vehicles & Ultra-Wideband for Communications & Location Metrom Rail : Positive Train Control System based on Ultra-Wideband Siemens : Dramatically Accelerate Communications-Based Train Control Deployment Thales Group: Several Integrated Ideas to Accelerate Communications-Based Train Control Deployment Thales Group: Next Generation Positioning: Autonomous Train Car Platform FINALISTS IN THE CARS CATEGORY Alstom: Upgrades to Improve Subway Car Reliability Craig Avedisian (Individual): Modify Cars to Enable Trains to Have 4 More Cars Bombardier: Modular Car Concept Utilizing a Common Vehicle Platform CRRC MA: Technology-Advanced Cars with Shorter Vehicle Lifecycle CSINTRANS: Open Information System to Improve Operations Efficiency & Customer Communications Faiveley (Wabtec): Newly Developed Brake Control System FINALISTS IN THE COMMUNICATIONS CATEGORY Alcatel-Lucent (Nokia): Standards-Based Trackside Private LTE Network with an IP/MPLS Backbone Alstom: Multi-Service High Capacity, Flexible Network Bechtel: The Big B: Semi-Automated Robotic System Transit Wireless: Dedicated LTE Network to Connect Trains to Tunnel Entrances and Trackside Radios The MTA Genius Transit Challenge Finalist Judges Sarah Feinberg, Former Administrator, Federal Railroad Administration Daniel Huttenlocher, Dean and Vice Provost, Cornell Tech Charles Phillips, CEO, Infor; Former Co-President and Director, Oracle Kristina Johnson, Chancellor-elect, SUNY Nick Grossman, General Manager, Union Square Ventures Eliot Horowitz, Co-founder and Chief Technology Officer, MongoDB Balaji Prabhakhar, Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, Stanford University Joe Lhota, Chairman, MTA Pat Foye, President, MTA Veronique “Ronnie” Hakim, Managing Director, MTA Janno Lieber, Chief Development Officer, MTA
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Bus Up

MTA reveals comprehensive L train shutdown plan
Today the city and the MTA released a long-awaited plan to get riders to Manhattan during the L train shutdown. Among the many proposed transit tweaks, Manhattan's 14th Street will be transformed into a bus-only thoroughfare to keep rush hour running smoothy. In both boroughs, new bus routes and bike lanes will help ferry 225,000 daily would-be L train commuters to their destinations. The MTA is also beefing up service on L-adjacent lines, in part by opening up disused subway entrances in Brooklyn and running longer trains on the G line. There will also be new high-occupancy vehicle rules for those driving over the Williamsburg Bride, AMNY reported. The L train's Canarsie tunnel was badly damaged by flooding during Hurricane Sandy and has to be closed for 15 months so the MTA can perform extensive repairs. The closure, which will suspend Manhattan-to-Brooklyn service, is expected to commence in April 2019 and last through June 2020. During the shutdown, the L will run mostly normally though Brooklyn until it reaches Bedford Avenue, the final station before the tunnel. The MTA will increase service on the J, M and Z lines, and bus service along new routes will pick up riders at subway stations to carry them over the Williamsburg Bridge and through lower Manhattan. To carry an estimated 3,800 bus riders per peak hour, the lanes will be restricted to trucks and vehicles with three-plus passengers. The plan should alleviate residents' and business owners' fears over the effects of the shutdown. In Manhattan, a multilane crosstown busway on 14th Street between Third and Ninth avenues will supersede all regular traffic except local deliveries, while 13th Street will get a dedicated two-way cycling lane.
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At MCNY

New exhibit explores 50 years of public art in New York City
Whatever your feelings about public art, there's a lot of it in New York City. A new exhibition at the Museum of the City of New York reflects on the origins and future of the city's public sculptures, murals, and more ephemeral works, fifty years after artists and curators brought art out of the galleries and into the streets. Of course, New York has always had civic statues and monuments, but the public art movement really took off in the 1960s with Sculpture in Environment, a 1967 Parks Department exhibition that brought work by 24 artists to parks and buildings in Manhattan. The installations were the city's attempt to beautify itself in the face of disinvestment and decay, as well as a response to changing urban conditions that coincided with Kennedy-era positioning of American art and culture as a worldwide export. A timeline in the forecourt of Art in the Open gives a concise and colorful overview of public art from the 60s to today, with "Go See It!" stickers affixed to work that's endured, like Isamu Noguchi's Red Cube in front of 140 Broadway. A walk in the gallery is a greatest hits parade, organized by theme. A red Keith Haring mural, Crack is Wack, greets visitors who enter Art in Public, the opening category that engages the role of art in shaping shared spaces. Art in Place features site-specific works like The Gates, the 23 miles of orange banners Christo and Jeanne-Claude threaded through Central Park; A Subtlety, Kara Walker's arresting installation inside the Domino Sugar Factory; and a throwback, Wheatfield—A Confrontation, Agnes Denes's amber waves of grain in front of Minoru Yamasaki's World Trade Center. The third and final grouping, Art in Action, is devoted to performance and interactive installations. Tania Bruguera's Immigrant Movement International, a community center for migrants in Corona, Queens, and Rudy Shepherd's Drawing Cart, a table in front of a Harlem laundromat where the artist drew with neighbors, are thoughtful exceptions to the blockbusters. Exhibition curators collaborated with the city's major public art organizations to realize Art in the Open. There's art from MTA Arts & Design, the transit arts program that brings straphangers mosaic murals and Poetry in Motion, video stills and ephemera from Creative Time, the nonprofit behind A Subtlety, as well as many other works featured. The Public Art Fund, the group behind Ai Wei Wei's current citywide installation, shared its archives with MCNY for the show. Full-scale photographs of the art in situ contextualize the work, most of which (if decommissioned) is scaled to the sky, too massive to fit inside the gallery—a tension the show highlights. There's a lot to take in, and for New Yorkers, the show will jog memories of art that shapes the city, love it or hate it. Art in the Open: Fifty Years of Public Art in New York, is on view tomorrow, November 10 through May 13, 2018.
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Reflection zone

African Burial Ground memorial and mixed-use development approved for Harlem
While completing work on the Willis Avenue Bridge in East Harlem in the early 2000s, an unexpected discovery was made. A building adjacent to the bridge – a bus depot operated by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) – seemed to have been built on top of a colonial-era African burial ground. In 2011, the MTA hired a consultant to complete a formal archaeological study (Phase 1A), which found that the depot grounds had indeed been an active burial site from the late 1660s to at least 1856. In 2015, the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) completed a Phase 1B archaeological assessment and the depot was shut down, its operations relocated offsite. The nearby Elmendorf Reformed Church – a descendant church of the burial ground – were involved in the extraction of more than 140 bone fragments from the site, which will be preserved and reinterred within a memorial. As the MTA and NYCEDC discovered, the site had been the cemetery for descendants of Africans in the colonial era when the neighborhood was a Dutch settlement called Nieuw Haarlem. An adjacent cemetery for white parishioners was relocated to the Bronx when its attendant church moved, but the ground holding the Africans' remains was repeatedly resold and developed over, its history obscured and desecrated. Yesterday New York City Council approved a zoning application giving developers the go-ahead to construct a memorial at the historic burial ground, as well as a mixed-use housing and commercial complex including about 730 residential units, 80 percent of which will be made affordable. Before development begins, additional archaeological work will be conducted by the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) and the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPS), supervised by the Harlem African Burial Ground Task Force (HABGTF), which has advocated for the site's formal recognition since 2009. The development, intended to be about two-thirds residential and one-third commercial, will center itself around the outdoor burial ground memorial and include up to 15,000 square feet of indoor memorial or cultural center space. The memorial itself will be allocated about 18,000 square feet, a wedge-shaped area near First Avenue. The overall site will span the entire city block. In the HABGTF's original design proposals for the memorial, the names of the deceased are carved into walls of black granite surrounding a reflecting pool with its ripples illuminated onto the ceiling by internal light fixtures. Reverend Doctor Patricia A. Singletary of the Elmendorf Reformed Church managed to find the names in the church's records. The promenade, also etched with quotes from black luminaries like Frederick Douglass and Martin Luther King, Jr., can double as a presentation space for guest lectures "pertinent to the site's history and larger issues concerning the legacy of slavery and colonization." The memorial corridor, lined with bronze sculptural reliefs depicting scenes of slavery and Native Americans, extends out onto an open, public lawn dotted with fiber optic lights that illuminate the grasses at night. The NYCEDC plans to issue an RFP for development proposals for the site in 2018, with the final team selected in late 2018 or early 2019. The site is scheduled for construction on a tentative timeline from 2020 to 2023.
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But It's Farley From Over

New renderings revealed as Moynihan Train Hall reaches major construction milestone

Moynihan Station today, 10:45 a.m. – Dramatic stage lighting in New York colors illuminates bare steel trusses, a backdrop to the podium where the governor will talk up the new train hall, any minute now. Tables in the far back of the room, behind a crowd of hundreds of construction workers and sweaty guys in suits, are loaded with Penn-Farley coasters and free cider donuts. It's humid, dark, and a little dusty, but despite the large gathering, there was just a little news at the former post office today: The project's about to start full-on construction.

Governor Andrew Cuomo was in the city to announce a construction milestone at the Penn-Farley complex, the soon-to-be bigger and (hopefully) better train station on Manhattan's West Side. This was the last time the James A. Farley Post Office, re-christened as the Moynihan Train Hall, will be open to the public before it's transformed into a transit hub by SOM. Contractors had just knocked out the McKim Meade and White–designed hall's second-floor mezzanine, a move that allows the major interior build-out to begin.

In June, the Empire State Development Corporation (ESD) inked a $1.6 billion deal with a developer-builder team to transform the structure into a retail-office complex and train station. The three companies—Related Companies, Skanska, and Vornado Realty Trust—will contribute the largest share ($630 million) towards the project, with New York State kicking in $550 million. Money from Amtrak, the MTA, the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey, and federal grants round out the project costs.

The 255,000-square-foot station will serve Long Island Rail Road and Amtrak riders. Like the World Trade Center Oculus, or its slightly older cousin at Fulton Center, Moynihan's skylit concourse will be ringed by retail, more than 700,000 square feet of it. To make transfers easier, the just-completed West End Concourse will connect Moynihan to Penn Station, just across 8th Avenue. Construction began in September and the train hall is expected to be complete in 2021.

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Taking Its Toll

Governor Cuomo proposes congestion pricing as a way to fund transportation repairs

With New York City’s subway system in a dire state—extensive delays, people getting trapped in subway cars, derailments—public officials have been scrambling to find a way to repair its aging infrastructure. Last week, Mayor Bill de Blasio proposed a "millionaire's tax" for wealthy city residents that would pay for infrastructure upgrades and reduced fares for other riders.

Now, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo revealed his own plan to raise funds and ease traffic at the same time: congestion pricing.

Congestion pricing was brought up by former Mayor Michael Bloomberg ten years ago but was quickly shut down because of concerns that it favored Manhattan residents. Cuomo is bringing it back as a solution to the city’s current transit crisis, according to The New York Times.

By putting tolls on roads and bridges leading into Manhattan, a constant funding stream will be created. It will also help to reduce traffic flowing into the city and on gridlocked streets. Congestion pricing is already in place in other cities like London, Stockholm, and Singapore.

Cuomo is piggy-backing on Bloomberg’s failed plan to create a new congestion pricing scheme that will win crucial support from stakeholders, including the State Legislature. “Congestion pricing is an idea whose time has come,” Cuomo said to the Times, though he added that his plan would be significantly different from Bloomberg’s.

Move NY, an independent transportation group, revealed its own congestion pricing proposal, offering a glimpse of what Cuomo’s plan may look like. Drivers would pay a toll of $5.54 in each direction for the four bridges that cross the East River into Manhattan, and also a toll to cross 60th Street in Manhattan northbound or southbound. The plan also proposes lowering tolls at other crossings. Move NY estimates that this system could yield around $1.47 billion in annual revenue, of which most would go towards repairing infrastructure. Alex Matthiessen, leader of Move NY, told The Times that group is talking with Cuomo's administration about developing the proposal.

While both de Blasio’s tax plan and Cuomo’s congestion pricing proposal have been getting attention, it does not solve the immediate issue of raising $800 million for emergency funds to finance immediate repairs on the subway. The state has already contributed $400 million and expects the city to fund the rest.

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Ride On

NYC to add more bike lanes in response to surging demand

New York City streets are a decadent mass of pedestrians, cabs, delivery trucks, and the crosstown bus, all scooting somewhere quickly. But even as rideshare apps are pushing more cars on the pavement, there's one green and steadfast transit option that's seeing a surprising surge in popularity.

Right now, the city's streets host 450,000 bike rides per day, an increase of 280,00 trips from 2005. To meet accelerating demand, the New York City Department of Transportation (DOT) promised on Monday to add 50 miles of painted bike lanes and ten miles of protected paths each year.

Over the last decade, New York has seen an explosion of bike infrastructure. Crain's reports that cyclists now cruise over 1,133 miles of bike lanes, up from a little over 500 miles in 2006. Of those, around 40 percent are shielded from automobiles by concrete or other physical barriers. These are the gold-standard tracks because of the protection they provide relative to painted paths.

But even this relatively robust network can't stop bike fatalities. Nine in ten cyclists killed while riding are killed outside of bike lanes. In response, the DOT plans to ramp up safety efforts in three Queens and seven Brooklyn neighborhoods where many bike fatalities and injuries occur.

Still, officials are optimistic that bikesharing, which was introduced only four years ago, will become further enmeshed in New York's urban fabric. City Councilmember Ydanis Rodríguez, who represents Upper Manhattan and serves on the council's transportation committee, would like to one day see free transfers between Citi Bike, the city's bikeshare system, and the MTA. (An annual Citi Bike membership costs $163.) Citi Bike broke ridership records with more than 70,000 riders on one day in June of this year, while last year, the system logged more than 14 million rides.

Despite their low cost relative to cars, and emissions-free crunchy-green aura that renders bicycles anodyne in most quarters, New Yorkers haven't embraced bike culture universally. On the Upper East Side last year, residents objected to bike lanes near a school, worried that speeding cyclists could mow down young ones. Though those crosstown lanes were ultimately approved, out in Corona, Queens, longtime Community Board 4 member (and unrepentant xenophobe) Ann Pfoser Darby called bike lanes in her neighborhood a waste of money, claiming they would be empty after President Trump deported the area's undocumented immigrants.

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Growth Plan

Midtown East rezoning gets unanimous approval from land use and zoning committees

Following several key revisions, Midtown East’s rezoning plan was unanimously approved by both the City Council Land Use Committee and the subcommittee on zoning and franchises today.

The rezoning of Greater East Midtown has been in the works for five years and has been making its way through the public review process. The plan, which hopes to rejuvenate and attract businesses back to the area, will pave the way for more than six million square feet of new office buildings. It allows developers to increase the floor-to-area ratio (FAR) of their buildings, provided that they either make specific transit infrastructure improvements or buy landmarked air rights.

Several amendments were made to the proposal during the zoning committee meeting before it was approved.

A hotly contested topic, the sale of air rights from landmarked buildings, was one of the main changes. The mandatory public contribution decreased to $61.49 per square foot, down from $78.60 since it was last presented to the City Council, according to The Real Deal. The money from those sales will go towards a public realm improvement fund that will deal with aboveground infrastructure, and the city has committed $50 million to kick-start the fund.

“This is what we call a fair compromise,” Councilman David Greenfield said at the land use meeting, defending the decision to lower the air rights minimum. “When everyone around the table is not happy, it means we probably got it right.” The Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY) had asked for a much lower minimum, claiming that even with the new minimum, the price point was too high to attract and induce deals.

Under the revised plan, five blocks from 46th to 51st streets along Third Avenue will be left out, following opposition from Turtle Bay residents who said that their neighborhood was mainly residential and should be excluded. Other changes include the requirement that for any building larger than 30,000 square feet, developers must improve Privately Owned Public Spaces (POPS). This will bring an estimated 16 new POPS to the area.

Transit infrastructure improvements were specified in this new proposal as well—if developers choose to go this route, they will have to create new street-level exits and widen staircases for subway stations in the area. The city estimated that $500 million will go towards these improvements.

Councilman Daniel Gardodnick, one of the project’s main supporters, proclaimed “East Midtown is back,” on the steps of City Hall after the subcommittee approved the vote. "This is a plan that will re-establish East Midtown as the crown jewel of our business districts, as an economic engine for our city and and will strengthen its future for many years to come.”

The full council, which usually adheres to the committee’s decision, is expected to meet for the final vote on August 9.

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Action Plan Onboard

Subway service stinks and the MTA has a new plan to fix it
[UPDATE 7/26/2017: This article was amended to include a statement that MTA Chairman Joseph Lhota made at the press conference on 7/25/2017 regarding his and the MTA's accountability for the plan outlined here.] This afternoon MTA Chairman Joseph Lhota laid out a short-term plan to improve declining service across the New York City subway system. Lhota began by outlining some of the causes of the current deterioration of service, including a record volume of customers (6 million riders a day, due in no small part to increased number of tourists), lack of capital investment, and aging infrastructure. The first phase of the MTA's efforts will tackle the causes behind 79 percent of major delays. While medical incidents, track fires, car malfunctions, water damage, and station malfunctions were each the blame, more than half of the major delays were due to signal, track, and power problems. Lhota's list of countermeasures was extensive, but included:
  • Speeding up the replacement of the 1,300 most troublesome signals (40 percent of signal mechanisms are more than 50 years old)
  • Starting a Emergency Water Management initiative to seal leaks and clean grates
  • Increasing the number of train car overhauls from 950 to 1,100 per year
  • Creating a new MTA app and a separate online dashboard to keep riders informed on MTA activities and improvements (the dashboard will be available in the next month to six weeks)
  • Initiating a pilot program to remove some seats from select cars on the Shuttle (S) train between Grand Central/42nd and the L train
  • Adding seven more EMT teams at various stations to handle sick customers
  • Initiating a public awareness campaign to stop littering on the tracks, which can lead to track fires
  • Increasing the rate of station cleaning from every six weeks to four weeks
  • Adding 12 emergency teams to 12 locations to speed up incident response times
  • Eliminating recorded announcements on subway cars
The cost will be a challenge—this yearlong "stabilization" phase will cost $456 million in operating costs, plus $380 million in a one-time capital. Without access to funds from the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority, the federal government, or increased fares, the city and the state will have to food the bill. Lhota said that he and Governor Andrew Cuomo are proposing the two entities split the cost evenly. In discussing the ever-prickly funding issue, Lhota, echoing Cuomo, made sure to note that the MTA runs the subway, while the city owns it (the mayor's office disputes this interpretation of the subway's rules). Phase Two will include implementing the designs of the MTA Genius Transit Challenge, new subway cars, and an entirely new signal system. Lhota stated this second phase may cost $8 billion. During the conference, Lhota said the MTA would take responsibility for executing this plan. "Hold me accountable for everything that I've talked about today," he stated in response to a reporter's question, "because I do believe the responsibility begins here and ends here with everyone at the MTA and everyone at the transit authority." Hours after the press conference, Mayor Bill de Blasio held his own presser inside the City Hall R/W station to address Lhota's remarks. He called the agency's plan a "positive" and "important" first step to getting subway service back up to par, noting that the state needs to apply the resources it already has at its disposal. "The MTA is finally beginning to own up to its responsibility," he said. All good, right? Less than two hours later, Lhota issued a salty response to de Blasio's comments, fanning the flames of a city-state saga that's already sardine-packed with petty jabs, light shows, messy snacking, and a whole heap of grandstanding:
“It is befuddling that the Mayor praised the MTA repair plan, but said he would not agree to fund it 50/50 with the State. One-half of a repair plan won’t make the trains run on time. The MTA is looking for the city to be a funding partner that assists the 6 million New Yorkers, the mayor's constituents, who use the subway."
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Summer of Hell

Governor Cuomo’s bridge lighting plan draws criticism amid MTA stalls and shutdowns
Last year, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo excitedly discussed plans to illuminate seven bridges across New York City with multicolored LED lights choreographed to music. Those bridges, along with the Empire State Building and One World Trade, were first slated for installation in winter 2017. Now, among massive stalls and shutdowns at MTA stations across the city—dubbed “the summer of hell” for commuters and tourists alike—critics are gearing back up to question how the city is spending on public infrastructure. A spokesperson for Governor Cuomo, Jon Weinstein, emailed Politico to say the bridge lighting project “is definitely NOT being paid for by the MTA,” indicating the costs could be split between the New York City Power Authority and Empire State Development. The MTA and the New York Power Authority (NYPA) seem to think otherwise: In March, the NYPA’s Board was shown a $216 million estimate for the plan with the MTA picking up the tab, although this was an unaudited financial plan with the project cost as a placeholder. Critics have been quick to distinguish cosmetic from reparative lighting—for instance, bridge and tunnel fixtures repaired after Hurricane Sandy. For example, recent upgrades to one of these post-Sandy projects, the rehab of the tunnel and exit plaza on the Manhattan side of the Queens Midtown Tunnel, included $7.3 million in additional funds to create a decorative blue-and-gold tiling pattern that reflects the state's official colors. Additionally, the Port Authority has officially withdrawn the George Washington Bridge from the lighting portion of the collective plan, which has been dubbed New York Crossings. However, that initiative doesn’t end with its lights. The governor's office has framed New York Crossings as a public art project that would address a number of other civic concerns: incorporating automatic tolling designed to reducing commute times, increasing checkpoint security (through facial recognition software at these stations), seismic updates to each bridge (the plan also incorporates reinforced concrete armoring units underwater), and sustainability (introducing LED units wherever possible). The projected end date for New York Crossings is currently May 2018, even as the governor's office claims the MTA is spending no money on the initiative. An independent review by watchdog group Reinvent Albany estimated the agency has spent roughly $40 million on the decorative towers and LED lighting so far.