Search results for "MTA"

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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 Part of the problem is that the MTA relies on an outdated signal system to move cars through the tubes.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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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.
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Post Its for the Future

New York Historical Society to partner with MTA to preserve ‘Subway Therapy’ installation
Earlier today, Governor Cuomo announced that the New-York Historical Society will partner with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to preserve the spontaneous “Subway Therapy” installations that appeared throughout New York City subway stations in the wake of Donald Trump’s victory, which was largely predicated on openly racist, misogynist, and xenophobic rhetoric, as well as the denial of climate science. The project was created when artist Matthew Levee Chavez brought sticky notes and pens to subway stations in the days following the election results, and encouraged New Yorkers to “express their thoughts, feel less alone, and also become exposed to opinions different than their own,” Chavez said. Working with the artist, the New-York Historical Society will archive the sticky notes as “an emblem of emotion and humanity in the month following the [2016 national] election,” according to a press release. "Over the last six weeks, New Yorkers have proved that we will not let fear and division define us. Today, we preserve a powerful symbol that shows how New Yorkers of all ages, races, and religions came together to say we are one family, one community and we will not be torn apart," said Governor Cuomo. Louise Mirrer, president and CEO of the New-York Historical Society spoke of the way “ephemeral items in particular can become vivid historical documents,” and the importance of ensuring “future generations can understand the historical impact of present events.” “‘Subway Therapy’ perfectly evokes this historic moment,” Mirrer said of the participatory art piece. As the removal of the sticky notes is already underway, the public will still be able to participate in the project, this Tuesday through Inauguration Day on January 20th, by placing sticky notes on the glass wall inside New-York Historical Society’s front entrance, located on Central Park West at 77th Street.
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Railroaded Through

MTA seeks to develop its property any way it wants, regardless of local laws
In the final days of the state legislative session, it's common practice for participating parties to play Supermarket Sweep with the budget bill: Hundreds of special-interest items are piled into the document at the eleventh hour when legislators don't necessarily have the time to scrutinize each one. At the end of the last legislative session, the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) snuck a major item into the budget that would allow the agency to develop land it controls any way it chooses, regardless of local zoning. Senate Bill 8037, sponsored by Senator Jack M. Martins, a Democrat from Eastern Long Island, would repeal the problematic language. The bill maintains that the definition of "transportation purpose" is too broad, and could have "unintended consequences" for local governments. Martins's bill passed the Assembly and the Senate, and is waiting for a signature from Governor Andrew Cuomo. The Architect's Newspaper reached out to one of the bill's co-sponsors, Senator Liz Krueger, a Democrat who represents part of Manhattan's East Side, for comment on the legislation. A representative from Senator Krueger's office stated that there's no word yet on when the governor will take action on the bill.
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Open Car Ended

Governor Cuomo unveils MTA’s new station and subway car designs
On Monday Governor Cuomo unveiled designs for the renovation of 31 subway stations stations and hundreds of new subway cars. 1,025 cars will sport new features, inside and out, while 750 new cars will be "Open Car End" designs, so passengers flow will be enhanced but there will be no more fleeing the dreaded stink car. "The MTA is the circulatory system for the metropolitan area. If you want to grow the metropolitan area, if you want to sustain the metropolitan area, the answer cannot be that people get in their cars and commute to work. That just does not work," Cuomo said at a press conference. "The volume just cannot be handled by the current road transportation system. The MTA is going to have to increase their capacity to manage that higher volume." For those anxious that the MTA may draw on the vast reservoir of design talent in the city, worry not. The new stations and cars look sleek, but not radically so. The open-tube designs are intended to reduce crowding by more evenly distributing the number of passengers on the train while wider doors will speed up entry and exit time by one third. In addition to wi-fi and USB charging ports at stations and in cars, security is paramount: The governor highlighted the presence of surveillance cameras on platforms and inside trains. The investments are part of the agency's $27 billion, five-year capital plan. The MTA is using design-build contracts to speed up the project timeline: "We have had enough experience to know the best way to do this now is contract the entire project to a private sector developer who does this, who can design the project to your specifications, can build the project, is incentivized to get it done quickly, and is penalized if they are late. These endless construction projects, that just go on and on and on, and they seemingly have no end, have to stop. We need a different way to do business which is design-build," Cuomo declared. Stations will be completely closed during renovations to further expedite the process. The first of several Requests for Proposals for the renovations will be released this week.
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Tunnel Vision

L train shutdown will last 18 months or three years, says MTA
At a public meeting in the Marcy Avenue Armory yesterday, MTA chairman Thomas Prendergast was joined by agency heads and elected officials to explain L train repair scenarios and field questions from the community. After assuring the public that there would be no option for nights and weekends work, nor the money for a totally new tunnel, the agency laid out the pros and the cons of two scenarios: An 18 month total shutdown with no L train service between Manhattan and Brooklyn, or a three-year partial shutdown with very limited service between the two boroughs. 400,000 passengers ride the L train every weekday, a 236 percent increase since 1990. 225,000 of those straphangers travel through the tunnel between Manhattan and Brooklyn. If considered in isolation, the L would be the tenth busiest subway in North America. While other tubes could be repaired with nights and weekends works, the damage to the 92-year-old cast iron and concrete Canarsie Tubes (L train tunnel) is too extensive to be completed in that limited timeframe. The duct banks, where 37,000 feet of electrical cables with varying voltages are housed, were so corroded by saltwater during Sandy that contextual repairs are impossible; the entire network must be replaced. To repair the tunnel, moreover, crews drilling into the tunnel generate hazardous silica dust which could not be cleared from from the tubes in a safe and timely way over nights and weekends. Under scenario one, the 18 month closure, L trains would run from Rockaway Park in Canarsie to Bedford Avenue, with no L train service in Manhattan. Ferries, Select Bus Service (SBS), beefed-up regular bus service, bike- and ride-shares, plus enhanced service capacity on the G, J/Z, and M lines would accommodate L train refugees. The benefits to a total tunnel closure, the MTA notes, is that contractors will have total control over the work zone and 80 percent of riders will be less impacted by the same level of disruption. Work would begin in January 2019 and wrap by mid-2020. Scenario two, the three-year shutdown, would be more logistically complex. Trains would run from Rockaway Parkway to Lorimer Street, and from Bedford to Eight Avenue, with shuttle bus service in between Bedford and Lorimer. The benefit to this plan, Prendergast explained, is that it would preserve limited inter-borough L train service, but with significant drawbacks. Prendergast noted that during rush hour, the L line runs 40 trains per hour. Under a partial shutdown, only one of two tracks would be open, and trains would run every 12 to 15 minutes. 80 percent of the passengers who would want to ride the train wouldn't be able to board. The MTA is worried about overcrowding at stations and in the cars, as well as about unplanned closures—if one train stalls, or a passenger falls ill en route, the spillover effect could cause nightmare delays. With that in mind, Prendergast emphasized, "[minimizing] inconvenience is a top priority." Regardless of the plan that is chosen, riders will enjoy a new access point at Avenue A (!), new elevators at Bedford Avenue and First Avenue, a rehabbed pump station, and two new breaker houses, among other improvements. Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez, whose V-shaped district encompasses many L-dependent neighborhoods, was the first pol to bring up the impact of the shutdown on local businesses. She asked the assembled agency leaders whether there would be "a mitigating plan for small businesses," especially for residents and businesses on Bedford and Grand avenues. A second community meeting will be held later this month. More details can be found here.
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MTA Off Track: Record ridership just one of the problems facing New York City transit
Overcrowding on New York City subway trains is becoming a major problem for commuters. According to new data from the MTA, there were 14,843 weekday delays caused by overcrowding in December alone. The New York Post found that the number is up 113 percent from the same period a year ago. Fixing the overcrowding will not be easy for the MTA as it is trying to accommodate record ridership and still dealing with damage from Superstorm Sandy.
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MTA Gears Up to Consider Bike Lanes Across Verazzano Bridge
With the launch of the Citi Bike share program around the corner, New York City's bike advocates are focusing their efforts on the next cycling obstacle: the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. Harbor Ring, an advocacy project of the Regional Plan Association, is calling for a 50-mile cycling and pedestrian route encircling New York harbor. The group has published a new petition with over 1,000 signatures at press time pushing for the construction of a bike and pedestrian lane across the double-decked suspension bridge, which turns 50 next year. The Brooklyn Daily reported that bike advocates are hoping Governor Cuomo will support the proposal for the new bike path, which would not only connect Brooklyn and Staten Island, but also provide a critical connection for the Harbor Ring. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) has said it will “consider conducting a feasibility study,” but not until 2014 or later. MTA spokesperson Judie Glave told the Daily, "MTA Bridges and Tunnels is considering this issue as part of a future Belt Parkway ramp reconstruction project." This proposal to add a bike path isn't new: A  feasibility study conducted in 1997 by the Department of City Planning revealed that it would be possible to build a bicycle lane without removing any vehicle lanes, but could cost around $26.5 million.
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Pictorial> MTA Perseveres through Hurricane Irene
So Hurricane Tropical Storm Irene has come and gone, leaving most of New York City unscathed. It looks like some 700 trees were downed across the city and we're sure a few patio chairs ran away from home, but luckily for the city, the storm lost its might as it raged toward Gotham. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority prepared for the worst before the storm, shutting down the city's transit system electively for the first time (the system was also shut down after 9/11 and a power blackout). The agency has released an amazing set of photos of its preparation and cleanup after the storm including dramatic views of an abandoned Grand Central Station, mudslides, and flooded tracks. Take a look after the jump. Click on a thumbnail to launch the slideshow.
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MTA: To Dig or Not to Dig?
Not since the collapse of Lehman Brothers last year has a major bastion in the city seemed to fall apart so quickly and readily as the MTA over the past few weeks. As the Times succinctly puts it, "state legislators cut $143 million out of the authority’s budget; state accountants then determined that a payroll tax dedicated to mass transit financing would produce $100 million less revenue than initially thought. Finally, late last week, a court ruled that the authority must pay significant raises to transit workers, adding tens of millions of dollars in expenses." The MTA is required to fill the $400 million budget hole this created because it must end the year with a balanced budget. And so a range of service cuts were ratified today by the agency's board, including the elimination of subway and bus lines, reduced off-peak service and para-transit, and no more free rides for half-a-million students. While all these cuts—which do not take affect until July 1—are a disgrace to riders, the latter two may seem particularly onerous for good reason: they are so politically charged (think Helen Lovejoy) they will almost certainly be reversed, and indeed Governor Patterson has already called for the reinstatement of student MetroCards. But that only restores about $170 million, so what about the rest? We've been here before with these proposed service cuts, and the consensus among transit advocates is it will never come to that or super fare hikes. But with the MTA bailed out once already this year, a return to bridge tolls or other new revenue streams seems equally unlikely. Another proposal that has been gaining steam is dipping into the authority's capital funds, temporarily syphoning funds off, say, the Second Avenue Subway, to temporarily cover the gap. The Straphanger's Campaign has been pushing this approach, as its long-held belief is general service over flashy megaprojects, and it has been taken up by the City Council as well, a number of whose members rallied at today's board meeting. But the mayor has long opposed such a move because these projects are considered a boon to economic development, an argument echoed by the venerable RPA and upheld by the MTA. "Diverting money from the capital program as a one-shot stop-gap fix for the operating budget is what led the system into the decline that characterized the system in the 1970s and early 1980s," MTA spokesman Aaron Donovan said in an email. "It took decades to recover from that." Fortunately, this is only the beginning of the end, as we live to see another doomsday.

Doomsday for MTA

New Yorkers looking for a legislative express to rescue the flailing Metropolitan Transportation Authority got the bureaucratic equivalent of a garbage train this morning, as the MTA made good on threats to pass a budget and four-year capital plan marked by daunting service reductions and fare hikes.

In a series of 12-1 votes, the agency’s board approved the so-called “doomsday plan” that would slash service on train and bus lines and raise the monthly unlimited MetroCard’s cost to $103 from the current $81, among other desperate measures taken amid continued gridlock in Albany, where state legislators were still toiling to reach an agreement that would bolster the MTA’s budget.

On that front, the most powerful person in state government, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, kept pushing for a compromise among the state’s lawmaking bodies in the last hours before the vote. In February, the assembly appeared set to pass a plan to add tolls to East River bridges, along with a payroll tax to keep MTA capital projects alive. But the state senate, under fledgling majority leader Malcolm Smith, let that plan stall, and Silver has struggled to emerge as the straphanger’s hero.

“We’re trying very hard to reach a negotiated settlement,” Dan Weiller, a spokesperson for Silver, told AN yesterday. “Both the speaker and Malcolm Smith have said they may not make tomorrow’s deadline, but the MTA has said there’s a little wiggle room.”

In voting to turn a contingency budget into an operating plan, the MTA has strongly signaled that time’s up. The plan axes two subway lines—the Z, serving much of northeast Brooklyn from Bushwick to the Queens border, and the W to Astoria. Throughout the boroughs, 35 bus lines would also disappear, in addition to punishing weekend service cuts across the system. As New York’s transit-riding population keeps growing, and job centers disperse from midtown Manhattan, the cutbacks could well harm productivity and hamper access to jobs.

Yet Senate Democrats, new to the majority this year, did not organize to support either a previous plan spearheaded by former MTA chief Richard Ravitch or Silver’s compromise proposal, which lowered bridge tolls from their recommended level to around the cost of a subway ride. Said one transit advocate, insisting on anonymity due to ongoing discussions with the legislature: “Smith, who’s trying to say it’s all about MTA accountability, really can’t get the votes.”

Gene Russianoff, staff attorney for the advocacy group Straphangers Campaign, argued that Silver could bring lawmakers around to his way of thinking, even after the MTA’s vote. And how might he do that? “The way he can direct any major expenditure,” Russianoff told AN. “The power of the purse. He says to them, ‘You want your annual appropriations?’”

At this stage, Silver’s political gamesmanship is the last recourse for New Yorkers who’ll otherwise have to dig deeper into their pockets for $2.50 for a single ride beginning May 31.

MTA Doomsday Rally
Transportation Alternatives has planned a rally tomorrow to pressure Albany into rescuing the beleaguered MTA, a move supported by the Governor and Assembly but not yet, if ever, by the Senate. We can only hope the actual rally is as, uh, exciting as the video they produced to promote it. Stop by on your way to work and see if the dragons actually show up.