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Link Up

L.A. Metro takes multi-pronged approach to improving aging Blue Line
The Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority (LAMTA) is working toward making a series of modest but necessary improvements on the 27-year-old Blue Line light rail line connecting Downtown Los Angeles with downtown Long Beach. The 22-mile-long transit link was the first modern transit line built in the region and with 83,612 boardings per day, is considered one of the transit system’s workhorse lines. The LAMTA recently approved a $81.5 million contract to move forward on several practical improvements to the line that would boost efficiency, shorten disruptions caused by maintenance work, and speed up overall travel. The biggest item on the list of improvements for the line consists of the addition of four new interlocking segments to the route. Interlockings provide opportunities for trains to bypass certain segments of track in the event of a stalled train or while maintenance work is being performed on a certain section of track, for example. The transit line currently features only six such interlockings, a situation that can create waits of up to 40 minutes when track maintenance is being performed. These delays typically disrupt service for several hours after the fact, when they do occur, snarling the transit system’s already spotty on-time performance throughout the day. The new interlockings are expected to reduce these types of delays substantially, allowing trains to run every 15 to 20 minutes or so, while maintenance work is performed. The transit authority has also begun switching out the line’s aging fleet with new rail cars. The line’s train fleet has not been substantially upgraded since the early 1990s, so the aging Kinkisharyo P865 trains will be replaced by newer P3010 trains, the same locomotives that run on the system’s Gold and Expo Lines. The first of the new trains went into service in May of this year and are going be completely rolled out by the end of 2018, according to The Source.   Long Beach is also working toward implementing a long-delayed light synchronization improvement plan throughout the line’s final stretch in downtown Long Beach, Longbeachize reports. The improvements would coordinate traffic signals along the parallel and intersecting streets that run around the transit line in order to assure Blue Line trains hit green lights at each intersection, speeding the line’s passage through the downtown area. Delays along this stretch due to the lack of synchronization reportedly increase travel times by between five and 30 minutes. The transit authority has also studied creating express lines between Downtown Los Angeles and Downtown Long Beach but has not released any plans to implement such measures.
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$1 Billion Life Line

Cuomo declares state of emergency for New York's subway system

The cheek of it. Governor Andrew Cuomo waltzes into a press conference and announces he is going to save the subway. After years of denying the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) the funds to upgrade the subway, Cuomo on Thursday declared that the system was in a state of emergency and pledged $1 billion to fix the issue. But a knight in shining armor he is not. New Yorkers know how overdue this is, and so does he.

According to the New York Times, Cuomo fled the scene immediately, revealing no details as to where that money would come from. The New York State Governor will also reportedly sign an executive order to usher in repair work and new gear to bring the subway up to speed.

The announcement comes after an A Train derailed earlier this week, leaving 17 hospitalized and others with minor injuries. Other subway horror stories abound. This is the culmination of a beleaguered 112-year-old system that has been crying out for help for decades since its popularity boomed in the early 1990s. As more and more use the system, the worse it gets. In 2007, 94 percent of 1 Trains were on time. Fast forward ten years and that performance meter has dropped to 70 percent. That's better than the rest of the subway's lines which, on average, are punctual 59 percent of the time. The problem is overcrowding (which accounts for more than a third of delays today) and, of course, this means more delayed passengers angrily tweeting venting their frustration—so the more we hear about it. (The Architect's Newspaper recently spotted this poster at the 49th Street N/Q/R/W subway stop.) Signals, way outdated and faulty beyond belief, are also the source of other delays, as are faulty tracks and switches.

Though ironically delayed, Cuomo's rhetoric will be welcomed by subway riders more accustomed to hearing about train traffic ahead of them. “We need new ideas, delivered faster," the governor told reporters and entrepreneurs who attended the speech. “It will no longer be a tortured exercise to do business with the MTA,” Cuomo continued, announcing an ideas competition to improve the subway.

Put in place to oversee to all this is the new chairman of the MTA, Joseph J. Lhota. "The governor has made it clear he wants a new MTA, a new approach," he said. “We know what we need to do. He mentioned the subway’s aging signal system. We live in a digital age. Our signal system isn’t even analog. It’s mechanical.”

Lhota now has 30 days to change the turn the MTA into an agency that "performs a function." In addition to this, Lhota, who only heard about the $1 billion pledge at the conference himself, must review the MTA's capital plan within 60 days. Though deriding the subway system as it is, Lhota is optimistic. "I know what the subway system was, and it can be the crown jewel of New York,” he said. “No idea is too crazy. No idea is too ambitious.”

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Salk This Way

Salk Institute launches architectural endowment focused on historic preservation
The Salk Institute announced yesterday that it is launching a new preservation-focused endowment called the Architecture Conservation Program, which will be designed to facilitate the restoration of the Institute’s Louis Kahn–designed headquarters in La Jolla, California. The announcement comes as the Institute completes work on limited conservation efforts aimed at restoring the nearly-60-year-old complex. For the project, architects Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates, Inc. of Pasadena, California replaced and rebuilt the building's iconic teak wood exterior paneling systems. The $9.8 million restoration was funded by the Getty Conservation Institute’s Conserving Modern Architecture Initiative and will extend the lifespan of those components by another 50 to 70 years, according to a statement. The organization also recently completed a comprehensive conservation management plan for the complex that was funded by the Getty Foundation’s Keeping It Modern Initiative. But still, the improvements will not be enough to halt time’s slow and steady grind. Anticipating the Institute’s future preservation needs, Elizabeth Blackburn, Salk Institute president, said, “Despite the wonderful success of the teak restoration, the Salk Institute will continue to need care as the years go on.” She added, “Our next project will be restoring the concrete of the buildings, which is beginning to wear.” To aid in the restoration, the Institute has created an unspecified endowment to fund the “future needs of this beloved masterpiece,” said Elizabeth Shepherd, wife of Jonas Salk's son, Jonathan Salk. (Sheperd and Salk have made a "lead gift" toward the new program, according to the Salk Institute.) No word yet on how much money will ultimately be allocated to the restoration of the complex's concrete components, nor has a timeline been established for these improvements. For more information, see the Salk Institute website.
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Go East, Angelino!

L.A. pushes ahead with $1.4 billion light rail extension despite lack of full funding
Officials in Los Angeles are forging ahead with plans to extend the city’s Gold Line 11.5 miles east through the suburban communities of Glendora, San Dimas, and Claremont. The $1.4 billion project will extend the route’s northern branch for a second time in its 13-year history, following an 11-mile expansion that opened last year. The Los Angeles Metropolitan Transit Authority (LAMTA) voted this week to approve funding and partnership agreements necessary for construction to start in September 2018. The Claremont extension will be the first project directly funded with revenue generated from the county-wide Measure M sales tax that was approved last November. Because the route crosses into San Bernardino County, which is not covered by Measure M, funding for the last leg of the route will be contingent on San Bernardino County contributing to the project, which is expected to occur. In the meantime, the transit authority will apply for a $249 million grant from California’s Transit and Intercity Rail Capital Program to make up for the shortfall. The fund provides transit funding to state municipalities using revenue generated from the state’s carbon "cap and trade" market. The transit authority will also dedicate $26 million in savings resulting from the construction of the previous Gold Line extension toward the project, with an additional $100 million in funding coming from Measure R, a previous L.A. County–wide sales tax aimed at boosting transit across the region. The announcement for the new extension caps off the busy period following the November election. In the eight months since, the transit agency has moved toward plotting out which potential projects will move forward and in which order; the Gold Line extension is at the top of the list. LAMTA is also studying several alignments for a southern extension of the Gold Line and is partway through work on the Regional Connector, an underground link crossing Downtown Los Angeles that would connect the northern branch of the Gold Line with the Long Beach–bound Blue Line, creating a new, continuous north-south line. The Connector would also link the southern branch of the Gold Line with the Santa Monica–bound Expo Line, establishing a true east-west connection across the region. The agency has also had to fight for transit funding promised during the Obama administration that current administration officials have been reluctant to administer. The extension is expected to open in 2026.
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F.A.R. Out

Midtown East rezoning proposal one step closer to final approval
The rezoning of Midtown East in New York City is one step closer to approval after the latest proposal was presented at yesterday’s City Council meeting, although not without significant opposition from the public. The rezoning proposal has made an arduous, five-year-long journey with support and roadblocks along the way. The Department of City Planning (DCP) has pushed the proposal forward, claiming that it will incentivize the development of new office buildings, preserve landmarked buildings, and improve the public realm in the area. The designated site runs from 39th Street to 57th Street and is bordered by Madison Avenue from the west and 3rd Avenue from the east. With Hudson Yards luring away businesses and the Financial District offering newer buildings with larger floor space, the DCP has primarily made it their goal to make the proposed Midtown East sub-district area a premier business area. If this latest proposal passes, it would add a potential 16 new developments in the area and allow developers to build up to 40 percent taller and bulkier than is currently permitted in Midtown. In exchange, they would be required to either complete improvements to below-grade transit infrastructure (i.e. improve major subway stations), rebuild legally overbuilt floor areas of pre-1961 buildings, or if they transfer landmark development rights, pay a minimum contribution ($78.60 per square foot) to a public realm fund. “We expect hundreds of millions of dollars to go into this fund,” DCP’s Director Edith Hsu-Chen said. The fund is expected to improve aboveground infrastructure, including widening pedestrian streets and creating shared streets. Another part of the proposal includes the Pfizer headquarters building. Since it was built before the 1961 Zoning plan, it will automatically get a free density boost of floor area ratio (FAR) 10 to FAR 15 and possibly incentivize the pharmaceutical company to sell the building and leave the city, as The Real Deal reports. While infrastructure improvements to subway stations were applauded (especially concerning the latest MTA woes), concerns were expressed from councilmembers about the transparency of the use of the public realm funds and whether developers could “game the system,” according to Councilman Daniel Garodnick, a long-time supporter of the proposal. Other questions raised included the potential—and highly likely—increased traffic in the 116 traffic intersections that will be affected, the increased shadows overcast, as well as the lack of new public space, which has been an issue for many of the proposal’s opponents. Since developers are already gaining extra FAR from contributing to the public fund, they do not have to take part in the POPS (Privately Owned Public Spaces) program, a voluntary zoning mechanism where developers get more floor space by building a public space. The meeting saw many community members pushback against rezoning without the mandatory inclusion of open, public space. “What remains to be determined, after all this time, is what the public will be receiving,” said a representative for Vikki Barbera, chair of Community Board 5. “Open space is not some optional amenity, it is essential for all good planning.” The City Council will meet later this month to vote on the latest proposal.
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$1.6 Billion

Governor Cuomo announces long-awaited plans for Penn Station and the Farley building

The James A. Farley Building on 34th Street and Eighth Avenue will be given a $1.6 billion overhaul as it is repurposed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) from being a former post office to a rail hub.

Governor Cuomo announced the plans last Friday, but he had originally floated the idea back in September. The Farley Building sits to the west of Penn Station and under Cuomo's scheme, it will go from once holding letters to instead accommodating 700,000 square feet of retail, commercial, and dining areas with the Moynihan Hall serving as a train hall for Amtrak and LIRR services.

"Fifty years after the loss of the original Penn Station structure, passengers will once again experience a world-class rail hub worthy of New York," Cuomo said in a press release. "The Farley Building’s Moynihan Train Hall is two decades in the making, and we are proud that this project is finally a reality. With better access to trains and subways and state-of-the-art infrastructure, the Moynihan Train Hall seamlessly joins history, architectural design, and function, bringing the nation’s busiest rail station into the 21st century."

McKim, Mead and White designed both the Farley Building and the original Penn Station. The latter was lost in 1963 but now the New York architecture firm's work will once again be used for the station, serving as a grand entrance. Inside Moynihan Hall, where nine platforms and 17 tracks will be accessible, a 92-foot high skylight will be built above the hall's iconic steel trusses. The hall will also facilitate access to the Eighth Avenue Subway as well as provide an entrance to the station from 9th Avenue.

In addition to the work being done at Moynihan Hall, the width of the 33rd Street Corridor will be almost tripled as part of a "comprehensive redesign" of the LIRR concourse. Cuomo's office also stated plans for "extensive renovation" to the adjacent Seventh and Eighth Avenue subway stations. Furthermore, additional changes to Penn Station include upgraded lighting and signage, new digital screens, and adding LED panels that projecting blue skies.

According to Crain's New York, Cuomo's plans will only aid around a fifth of Penn Station's 600,000 daily commuters. The work is scheduled to be complete by the end of 2020. That, however, might not be soon enough for those in line for what Cuomo has described as an upcoming "summer of hell" with track shutdowns for repairs set to cause commuter despair. "You'll see… breakdowns for the foreseeable future," said Cuomo. "We need major renovations at Penn and… an organization that can actually do them."

"We would be crazy to do something without Vornado," Tom Wright, president of the Regional Plan Association, who was named Cuomo's committee for the Penn Station project, told Crain's. "They have shown themselves willing to put skin in the game, and they see what's good for the public is also good for them. An improved station boosts the value of so much of Vornado's real estate."

The plan is being carried out and financed by Empire State Development and Related Companies, Vornado Realty LP, and construction firm Skanska's U.S. arm. Divided up, $550 million will be state supplied and $420 million will come from Amtrak, the MTA, the Port Authority and federal grants. The remaining $630 will be provided by Vornado and Skanska who in return for building it will have the right to run the new commercial concourse.

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Choo Choo Ch'Boogie!

The MTA is circulating free e-books on the subway this summer
Instead of staring vacantly into a phone on the train, the MTA and New York City's three public library systems would like straphangers to bury their noses in e-books, gratis. Starting today, the New York Public Library, the Brooklyn Public Library and the Queens Library will be offering hundreds of free short stories, books, and book excerpts for download through each station's wireless network. Available for six weeks only, Subway Library will let you read titles in the library system as well as selects from five publishers' catalogues. And who doesn't like books? Even Governor Andrew I-don't-control-the-MTA Cuomo had kind words for the program. “I am thrilled that the New York Public Library, Brooklyn Public Library, and Queens Public Library are kicking off the summer reading season and offering free e-books to subway riders through the MTA’s TransitWirelessWiFi™,” Cuomo said, referring to the private wireless services provider for the subway system. “The Subway Library will encourage adults and children to explore new worlds through reading during their daily commute, while spreading awareness of our Wi-Fi and connectivity services underground.” To promote the program, the MTA's gone all out and decked out a real train: Inside, the promotional car is gussied up to resemble the Rose Main Reading Room at the New York Public Library's main branch on 42nd Street: The industrial grey-blue seats are transformed into faux wood benches as book-lined wallpaper edges the car, though the titles are more suggestive than substantive. Curious riders can catch the special train on the E and F lines' 6th and 8th Avenue corridors.
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Right of Way

MTA considering a car-free busway on 14th Street ahead of L train shutdown
In anticipation of the upcoming L train shutdown in 2019, the Department of Transit (DOT) and Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) are examining the possibilities for a car-free busway for a portion of, or the entirety of, 14th Street in Manhattan. According to a Streetsblog NYC article, the agencies presented four potential options to a Manhattan Community Board 6 transportation committee last night. These options are meant to alleviate traffic that will inevitably result from the L train offload, which amounts up to 275,000 people daily. Here’s what was presented: A “standard” Select Bus Service (dedicated lanes with no physical separation), an “enhanced” Select Bus Service (additional turn and curb restrictions), a car-free busway in the middle blocks of 14th Street, and a completely closed-off, river-to-river street dedicated only to buses. The presentation also included three alternative bus route plans between Brooklyn and Manhattan; one would run from the Grand Street L stop and over the Williamsburg Bridge, heading up First Avenue to 14th Street, and the other two routes would link to the Broadway-Lafayette station. The MTA has already ordered an additional 200 buses for the duration of the 15-month-shutdown. They have anticipated that between 75 to 85 percent of the daily riders will use other subway lines, while only 5 to 15 percent of riders will turn to bus services—which could easily turn the J/M/Z and G subway lines into a nightmare. These new, “attractive” bus options could help increase bus ridership, officials said at the meeting. “The difference for the average user is really dramatic,” said Transportation Alternatives organizer Tom DeVito to Streetsblog. “They made the point loud and clear that they want those 200 buses to be moving people as efficiently as possible.”  
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Breaking It Down

MTA will pay for big new projects instead of subways that run on time
The board of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) has approved a capital plan that gives money to roads and bridges but not to enhancing service on New York City's beleaguered subways. Out of a five-year, $32.5 billion capital plan, the board gave $3 billion in extra funding to projects that Governor Andrew Cuomo supports, including $1.5 billion for a new LIRR track, $400 million for cashless tolling for bridges and tunnels, and $700 million for phase two of the Second Avenue Subway. Cuomo is in charge of the authority and appoints six of its 14 members, more than any other entity. (In a quirk of home rule, the MTA, a state agency, oversees the subway, which serves New York City only.) Although the new plan adds more funding for these expansion projects, subway spending remained almost flat, the New York Times reported. As almost any commuter could confirm anecdotally, there are more straphangers than ever, with trips—especially during rush hour—marred by frequent delays. Part of the problem is that the MTA relies on an outdated signal system to move cars through the tubes. This new capital plan doesn't provide additional funding for a system that would allow trains to run more efficiently, even with the occasional sick passenger. “Investing in the M.T.A. is a good thing, but these changes won’t address riders’ core concern of the increase in crowding, breakdowns and delays,” John Raskin, executive director of passenger advocacy group the Riders Alliance, told the paper.
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Model-Mania

Inside Gulliver's Gate: New York's model-making treasure trove
I put an oversized plastic key into an illuminated lock, turned it, and out popped Queen Elizabeth II from Buckingham Palace. Another lock summoned Scotland's Loch Ness Monster and another sent a helicopter flying above New York City's skyline. Where was I? Gulliver's Gate. Inside the former New York Times office building, there's some large-scale small-scale building going on. Today, Gulliver's Gate opened its doors to the public, unveiling a $40 million new tourist attraction to Times Square. On show is a 50-nation display with 300 small-scale scenes, covering more than 6,500 square foot. The first location visitors encounter after receiving their own key at the ground-floor reception is a miniature Manhattan. The model was made in Brooklyn by a team of 16 who took 358 days to craft the 950-square-foot scene. The almost year-long effort, though, was worth it. Details down to vases for bars and free standing coffee machines can be seen if you look close enough, meanwhile, New York's skyscrapers, truncated by the ceiling, are exhibited as light forms. "These are an interpretation, New York is a city of light," a spokesperson told The Architect's Newspaper (AN) at the opening ceremony. Additionally, visitors can see a myriad of dramas (almost all transport-based) played out on New York's down-sized streets: from an overturned flatbed truck to fire engines rescuing people stranded on rooftops. These scenes are static, though the overall experience is kinetic and interactive. A section of Manhattan cuts through Grand Central Station, highlighting the station's ornate interior complete with its signature ceiling. Below, the story continues as Amtrack and MTA Subway trains pass underneath, travelling surprisingly freely without interference of train traffic or other bizarre disturbances. The selling point (or rather, key to success) for Gulliver's Gate, however, is its interactivity—an unusual quality for a miniature model exhibition, where typically no touching is ever allowed. Of course, the same applies here, but to quell the thirst of your inner five-year-old yearning to play, keys handed out to each visitor allow you call all sorts of moving diorama's into action. Sadly (though probably for the best) the moving trains, cars, and boats are not controllable. New York City may be the first location visitors see, but it is certainly not the only one on display. The Middle East, mainland Europe, Britain, Niagara, Russia, South America and Asia all feature, boasting their most iconic architecture. OMA, I.M. Pei, Moshe Safdie, Daniel Libeskind, Santiago Calatrava, Bjarke Ingels, Pelli Clarke Pelli, Frank Gehry, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, and Gensler just to name a few, all have their buildings on display at 1:87 scale. An odd number, the scale is used in conjunction with the H0 Gauge model railroad locomotives on display—the gauge (gap between the tracks) is per the standards set by the National Model Railroad Association. The only location not to adhere to this is Britain, where the standard scale is 1:76, a scale that works with the established 00 Gauge for railroad models and thus British model railroad accessories. There are more than 1,000 trains on show, not to mention 10,000 cars and trucks and roughly 100,000 people. At the grand opening, AN spoke to Head of Model-Making, Adrian Davies. Davies, from England, was working on a scale airplane, but took the time to explain that he and his team of 20 are continuing to build despite today's opening. He also said that models were made using architects' plans as well as photography and "lots of Google Earth." Unlike other miniature model mega-exhibitions, Gulliver's Gate is proudly a work in progress. Such openness is usually only reserved for traveling railroad model exhibits, where community emerges from informality as enthusiasts flaunt their back-of-house rolling stock. Lighting and other electrics are managed by a nuclear-style control system, the operation of which is on view to the public. An airport scene, designed in collaboration with Ben Krone of Gradient Architecture, is in the works and can also be seen. Africa and Mars too, staff told AN, are being built, but are currently hidden away. Visitors can also make their own models... of themselves. A full-body scanner and 3-D printer allow you to create miniature versions of yourself which you can either take home or leave behind as a permanent “model citizen” of Gulliver’s Gate. Gulliver's Gate can be found at 216 West 44th Street and is open from 10 a.m. until 10:00 p.m. every day (last entry at 9:30 p.m.).
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BQX-ed Out?

Leaked memo suggests Brooklyn-Queens streetcar might not pay for itself
Picture the Brooklyn-Queens waterfront, seven years from now: There will be a new garment district, design fairs, and expanded ferry service, but the city wants residents to see a streetcar, carrying passengers between the neighboring boroughs. Leaked information suggests, though, that plans for the brand new line may have to wait. Politico this week released a draft of a confidential memo from the Mayor Bill de Blasio's BQX advisory team to Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen that outlines some of the challenges behind its developer-driven financial model, among other issues. The mayor officially declared the Brooklyn Queens Connector (BQX) a priority project during his February 2016 state of the city address. The proposed 16-mile, $2.5 billion streetcar line would run along the waterfront, connecting Sunset Park, Brooklyn, to Astoria, Queens. Unlike a new subway line under Utica Avenue or phase two of the Second Ave Subway, supporters say BQX could be built without financing from the MTA, which is run by the state, not the city. Instead, local backers like Doug Steiner and the Walentas family have endorsed a value-capture model, where the project would be financed by rising property values along the streetcar route. Another selling point was its tight timelines. The city estimated that the project could break ground two years from now and begin ferrying passengers up and down the waterfront by 2024. At one community meeting, a representative from Sam Schwartz, the project's transportation consultant, noted that relocating below-grade utility lines would be a challenging (and costly) aspect of the project, but it turns out the city is having serious second thoughts about the feasibility of relocating gas, water, and sewer mains: "Utility relocation continues to be the biggest single cost factor and if policies cannot be implemented to limit the impact, it has the possibility to make the project unaffordable and render implementation timelines unfeasible," the memo states. The letter outlines three possible timelines, fast to slow, to gauge the costs and benefits of breaking ground sooner rather than later. The memo suggests taking more time to study and review the project before making a final decision, though that would delay the groundbreaking, now set for 2019. But, the memo cautions, every year the project is delayed adds tens of millions more to the bill. Construction on the line was initially expected to take five years, but if the city chooses a longer timeline, construction costs will rise approximately $100 million per year. Ouch. The BQX team, according to Politico, meets bimonthly to discuss the project. If value-capture won't work and the streetcar proves too costly, the city may look into other financing models, or the BQX may be abandoned.
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Ta-Dah

The MTA says new stops on the Second Ave Subway are coming
Better bus service? A shorter L-mageddon? New Second Avenue Subway stops?? The MTA says yes, you betcha, to all these projects and a few more. Today the MTA Board voted on a number of initiatives it says will improve service and boost turnaround time on major projects, including phase two of the Second Avenue Subway and L train tunnel repairs. The Board also voted to spiffy up train stations and add new buses citywide. “Today’s votes will bring convenience and better service to the millions of New Yorkers who use our system every day,” said interim executive director Ronnie Hakim, in a prepared statement. “Improvements include modernized train stations in Astoria and a shorter closure of the Canarsie Tunnel, which will lessen the impact on L train riders as we undertake these necessary Sandy storm repairs.” Phase two of the Second Avenue Subway, which now ends at 96th Street, will eventually bring Q trains zooming north to 125th Street. In the spirit of git-'er-done, the Board voted to grant a $7.3 million contract for outreach services in advance of two new stations at 106th and 116th streets. A partnership between Spectrum Personal Communications and transportation planners at Sam Schwartz Engineering will bring a community information center to East 125th Street this spring. At the center, English- and Spanish-speaking staff will be on hand to answer questions about the subway; lead educational events; and prepare plans for the Community Boards and elected officials. Be on the lookout for a project schedule once the (already underway) phase two preliminary design and engineering work wraps up. Downtown, the MTA is pushing for L train tunnel work to be completed in 15 months, three fewer than initially projected. The $492 million project was awarded to Judlau Contracting and TC Electric, though Judlau is the same firm behind construction delays on the Second Ave subway (¯\_(ツ)_/¯). Over in Queens, $150 million will go towards improving above-ground subway stations on the N and W line in Astoria. Improvements will add security cameras, art, better lighting, and countdown clocks, the commuter's godsend. F0r a preview of what's in store for the borough, look no further than the work being done on the first group of stations in this project, along 4th Avenue in Brooklyn. Buses were not left out amid the many new things for trains. The city will get 60-foot articulated buses (53 in all) to replace the aging 40-footers in its fleet. These new buses will be suited up with, among other features, turn warnings for pedestrians, wifi, USB charging ports, and passenger counter.