Former Congressman Anthony Weiner says he’s interested in running for New York City mayor, two years after a Twitter sex scandal derailed his career. Weiner and his wife, Huma Abedin, granted an extensive interview to The New York Times Magazine, and swam right back into the political waters this week.
For the second time this week, a bribery scandal has ensnared elected officials in New York. On Thursday, federal prosecutors charged Bronx Assemblyman Eric Stevenson, who they say accepted cash bribes to help businessmen set up an adult day care center in the Bronx.
Most mayors get to persuade by the power of their ideas — and whether they work. Bloomberg gets to do that, as well, but his soaring fortune and willingness to lavishly dollop it across cash-strapped cities nationwide magnifies his ability to mobilize municipal governments.
Weekend ridership grew by 3 percent, matching the all-time historic high for weekend ridership set in 1946.
Word comes as the American Public Transit Association reports a record 10.5 billion trips on public transit.
The system was shut for two days around storm Sandy. Eight tunnels flooded, and many lines from Brooklyn to Manhattan were shut for a week. The system is still not completely restored.
The old, short, narrow and curving South Ferry station at the end of the number 1 line in Lower Manhattan is being brought back to service, just four years after it was decommissioned, as hopes for the relatively speedy restoration of the storm-ravaged newer station have receded. Officials say the older station will be ready for service by the beginning of next month.
The newer station was built with $530 million in 9/11 World Trade Center reconstruction funds. Though the old station suffered no 9/11 damage, replacing it was a long-sought after goal of Staten Island politicians, whose constituents were squeezed onto the older platform as they transferred from the Staten Island Ferry.
But storm Sandy completely submerged the new station (startling video here) , destroying the new signalling system. The new station, which connects with the R line, was built far deeper than the old one.
NY Metropolitan Transportation Authority officials estimate it will cost $600 million to restore the new station, and have said the project can't be launched until the authority develops a plan to protect it from future storms. It has recently become clear that the new station won't be up and running for at least two years.
The old station is a different, and cheaper, story. Putting it back into service, including a rehab of the gap fillers that expand and contract to fill the space between the curved platform and subway train doors, costs just $2 million.
MTA spokesman Aaron Donovan says restoring the newer station is still on the boards. The authority expects to receive federal Sandy aid funds for that project.
At a city council hearing last month, Acting MTA Executive Director Tom Prendergast said it would be at least 24 months until the old station could be up and running. But he hinted then that the old station could be ready "in two, three months."
It was a wistful good-bye for transportation secretary Ray LaHood at the 2013 National Bike Summit.
The Secretary, who began with a low-profile that he quickly raised in the biking community by, among other things, jumping on a table at the 2010 Bike Summit Meeting to promote bikes, gave a long a loving paean to his administration's efforts to promote bike share, bike lanes, and safe biking.
"I guarantee you this," LaHood said, close to the beginning of his speech. "Whoever my successor is. You'll not have a secretary of transportation stand on the table and speak to you, that will never happen again."
"Since he was appointed in 2009, LaHood has been a true believer in the power of biking and has raised the credibility of bicycles as transportation at the federal level," the League wrote in its blog. “Ray LaHood is the first and only transportation secretary that keeps talking about bikes — even after we’ve left the room,” said League President Andy Clarke.
"The President recently told me that he ran into someone who said something about Ray LaHood,” the Secretary said in his speech. “The president said, ‘You must be a cyclist’ — and he was.”
LaHood has promoted bike share, bike lanes, and biking to work, and has argued -- often to unsympathetic former Republican colleagues in the House -- that biking should be given respectability as a mode of transportation.
For that, he'll be missed in biking circles. "What a ride these four-and-a-half years with all of you. You’ve made a great difference; you really have," LaHood told the cyclists.
To which the League replied: "Right back at you, Mr. Secretary."
Beginning Sunday, monthly MetroCards will cost $110, single fares will cost $2.75, and each new MetroCard you buy will cost you $1. Long Island Railroad, Metro-North, express bus and MTA bridge tolls also rise.
The fare hikes have been planned since 2009, and were confirmed last summer. They were adopted on December 19, the same day Joe Lhota announced he was leaving the MTA to run for Mayor.
Here are the details, from the MTA.
New York City Subway, Buses in New York City, Staten Island Railway & Access-A-Ride
New fare rates for subways, buses, Staten Island Railway (SIR) and Access-A-Ride will go into effect at 12:01 a.m. on Sunday, March 3.
The base fare for subways, local buses, SIR and Access-A-Ride is rising to $2.50 from $2.25; the base fare for express buses is rising to $6.00 from $5.50. The pay-per-ride bonus discount will be reduced to 5% from 7%, but will now be available for adding as little as $5 onto a MetroCard, down from $10 previously. A Single Ride Ticket purchased from MetroCard Vending Machines is rising to $2.75 from $2.50.
The 30-day unlimited-ride MetroCard will cost $112, up from $104. The 7-day unlimited-ride MetroCard will cost $30, up from $29. The 7-day express bus plus MetroCard will cost $55, up from $50. Unlimited-ride MetroCards purchased on March 2 or earlier must be activated by Sunday, March 10, to obtain full value. Those activated after that date will allow travel through April 9 for 30-day cards and March 17 for 7-day cards. Any remaining time will be refunded on a pro-rated basis.
A $1 fee will be charged for each new MetroCard purchased at a MetroCard Vending Machine or station booth. At commuter rail stations, the $1 card fee will be applied to MetroCards providing bus and/or subway travel only; the $1 fee will not be applied to Joint Rail MetroCards providing subway, bus and commuter rail service. Customers can avoid this fee by keeping their MetroCard and refilling it at any vending machine or station booth. MetroCards now can be refilled with any combination of unlimited-ride time and/or pay-per-ride dollars. Customers turning in an expired or damaged card will be provided a new card at no charge. There are also exemptions for those who buy cards at out-of-system merchants or participate in the EasyPayXpress program or a pre-tax benefit program.
More information about fares on subways, buses and SIR can be found here: http://mta.info/nyct/fare/NewFares.htm
Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North Railroad
New fares will go into effect on the LIRR and Metro-North on Friday, March 1, for monthly, one-way, round-trip, and 10-trip ticket holders. For those using weekly tickets, which are always valid from Saturday through the following Friday, new fares take effect on Saturday, March 2.
On average, most commuter rail tickets will increase between 8.2% and 9.3%, depending on ticket type and distance traveled. The discounted CityTicket fare for one-way weekend travel within New York City will rise to $4.00 from $3.75, starting March 2.
More information about fares on the Long Island Rail Road can be found here:
More information about fares on Metro-North Railroad can be found here:
MTA Bridges and Tunnels
New toll rates on the seven bridges and two tunnels that are operated and maintained by the MTA will go into effect at 2 a.m. on Sunday, March 3. At most crossings, tolls are rising to $5.33 from $4.80 for E-ZPass customers and to $7.50 from $6.50 for cash customers.
For more details about ways to save on tolls, please see the attached press release.
President Barack Obama's new $50 billion infrastructure plan -- a remarkably consistent number he's pushed several times before -- has a twist. This time, the President wants to prioritize fixing roads and bridges over building new ones, which has been the previous focus of most U.S. government transportation spending.
"The new plan focuses on 'fix-it-first,' according to a U.S. DOT spokesman, "prioritizing the most crucial repair projects that we can fix right away to keep our economy moving. "
In his state of the union speech, the President raised the specter of 70,000 structurally deficient bridges. That's not a new number--nor does it mean those bridges are in danger of imminent collapse--but it's an alarming one.
President Obama has long argued for infusions of infrastructure spending to jump-start the economy, and to, um, pave the way for a more economically secure future.
But Congress hasn't passed any of them, and now Washington is deeply mired in strategies to avoid the cuts brought on by the so-called "sequester," a provision of the 2011 debt deal.
"The more the President talks about 'fix-it-first,' the better," said Phinneas Baxandall of U.S. PIRG.
Fifty billion dollars, by the way, is just about the same amount Congress just approved to fix damage caused by storm Sandy.
Speaking on the Brian Lehrer Show, Lhota said there were "numerous different planning events, tabletop exercises, including management as well as labor. That's a very important part of why the system came back as quickly as possible."
Lhota said that as soon as the extent of the storm surge became apparent, the MTA removed electronic relay boxes in the subway tracks. "By virtue of taking them out they weren't affected by the salt water. It made all the difference in the world."
Lhota resigned as MTA chief December 31 to run in the 2013 mayoral election as a Republican. He said Wednesday that he was in discussions as early as last June about running, but that he didn't make up his mind until after Sandy.
Republican mayoral candidate Joe Lhota said Wednesday that he began having "discussions" about running for office as early as last June, just months after he was sworn in as MTA chief. But Lhota said he made no decision until after Sandy.
In his final State of the City address Thursday, Mayor Michael Bloomberg took the long view. He spoke boldly of his administration’s accomplishments after 11 years in City Hall, and added a warning to any who would stand in his way.
For New York mayoral candidates, bike lanes are complex. That's why City Council Speaker Christine Quinn proclaimed them off-limits for dinner party conversation. It's why Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, who's criticized the way the city approves bike lanes, leapt Wednesday to issue a statement proclaiming "bike lanes make NYC streets safer."
On the one hand, some of the Democrats running for mayor use bike lanes as a signifier for what they see as Mayor Michael Bloomberg's high-handed, top-down approach to decision-making.
On the other hand, polls show New Yorkers like bike lanes--particularly environmentalists, Latinos, young people, and techies, all of whom may play unpredictable roles in the 2013 vote. Independent polls show pretty consistent majorities in almost all categories approving of bike lanes, and an even bigger majority approving of bike share.
And yet every single one of the major Democrats has at some point criticized the mayor for not fully consulting communities about where to install new bike lanes, even though the plans for such lanes must be approved by community boards.
So while today's New York Times article--headlined, "Anxiety Over Future of Bike Lanes"--captures a real fear among bike advocates that the next mayor may not be as friendly towards biking as Mayor Bloomberg, this dance isn't over yet.
"The need for safer streets for bikers, walkers, and drivers is one I feel in my core," de Blasio said in his statement. "For that reason, I fully support bike lanes and I want to see them continue to expand around the city. They are clearly making many NYC streets safer."
Okay, now wait for it:
"But I think we need to take an approach different from the Mayor’s. While more and more communities and riders want bike lanes, the City still hasn’t come around to proactively engaging those who are concerned by them. We need to increase our outreach and bring more residents and small businesses into the discussion early so we can fine-tune designs and parking rules from the get-go. Just going to community boards is not enough. Proactive outreach seems to be the Bloomberg Administration’s last resort. I think we need to make it uniform practice, and put it at the front end of every project.”
Watch this space. This is going to get interesting.
From the Department of Small but Useful Changes:
The MTA's got a new interactive map, though it's so basic you can't believe they didn't have it already. At the MTA.info site, the subway map is now "interactive," meaning you can move it around and zoom in on parts of it, for "easier viewing of fine grain details," as the MTA put it in a press release. Which also makes it easier to view on a tablet or smart phone. Before, there was just a static PDF.
The funds are the "first installment" of $10.9 aid to transit passed by Congress and signed into law last week.
The NY MTA estimates Sandy caused $5 billion in damages in what it's then-head Joe Lhota called the "worst devastation ever." For a sense of why the price tag on rebuilding is so high, consider this radio report on the destroyed South Ferry station in Southern Manhattan, a single project that could cost about half a billion dollars.
The $2 billion made available today in federal money will go to a mix of agencies battered by Sandy's floodwaters, not just the NYC subway. See below for the official announcement:
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood Makes $2 Billion in Federal Aid Available for Public Transit Systems Damaged by Hurricane Sandy
Assistance part of $10.9 billion emergency relief package to restore transit in 13 states
WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) today announced the availability of $2 billion through the Federal Transit Administration’s (FTA) new Emergency Relief Program to help protect, repair, reconstruct, and replace public transit equipment and facilities that were badly damaged by Hurricane Sandy. The funds are the first installment of $10.9 billion appropriated to the FTA through the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act of 2013, which President Obama signed into law on January 29.
“At DOT, we continue doing all we can to help our state and local partners make their storm-damaged public transportation systems whole again,” said Secretary LaHood. “The $2 billion we’re making available now will reimburse transit agencies for extraordinary expenses incurred to protect workers and equipment before and after the hurricane hit, and support urgently needed repairs to seriously damaged transit systems and facilities in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and elsewhere.”
FTA’s new Emergency Relief Program was established under the two-year surface transportation law, Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21). The funds will be awarded through the program on a rolling basis, in the form of grants to states, local governments, transit agencies and other organizations that own or operate transit systems damaged by the storm. Information about the funds and how to apply is available at www.fta.dot.gov/
“The Department has stepped up to address the worst transit disaster in U.S. history, which directly affected well over one-third of the nation’s transit,” said FTA Administrator Peter Rogoff. “We are pledged to distribute the emergency relief funding responsibly and as quickly as possible to ensure that transit riders have the reliable service they need and deserve—and lay a strong foundation to mitigate the impact of such disasters in the future.”
Following the storm, the Department developed a rapid-response strategy to assist transit providers in the short-run, while laying the foundation for the responsible administration of federal-aid transit funds available now. Notably, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and FTA have conducted continuing damage assessments and cost-validation work for both operating and capital costs associated with restoring and rebuilding transit in the impacted areas. These early joint efforts support FTA’s ability to compensate the affected transit agencies promptly while ensuring that taxpayer dollars are being spent responsibly.
Consistent with the requirements of the supplemental appropriations, the remaining disaster relief funds will be made available after FTA issues interim regulations.
For the most part, the FTA will cover 90 percent of the cost of transit-related operating and capital projects undertaken in response to Hurricane Sandy.
Last year, Jim O'Grady, Stephen Nessen and I got to take a cool tour of behind-the-scenes places at Grand Central -- the secret engines seven stories below that had to be guarded from Hitler, the hidden staircase behind the opal clock, the clock tower, and yes, the catwalks (pictured). Here are the highlights: (video: Stephen Nessen/WNYC)
The Brooklyn Nets may have been humbled by the Miami Heat Wednesday night, but their transit stop has never been better.
The NY MTA says Long Island Railroad ridership surged 334 percent since the Barclay's Center arena opened last fall, with an average of 3300 suburbanites taking the commuter rail to the arena each event night.
The night the Nets hosted the Knicks, 4852 riders arrived by LIRR, and 5377 riders departed, a record.
The arena was built with the highest ratio of seats to parking spaces in the country (about 19,000 seats, 500 spaces) in part to encourage transit usage (nine subway lines go directly to Barclays Center, 2 more nearby, plus the LIRR).
Other data compiled by TN of subway ridership also confirms game night surges.
Neighborhood groups predicted the arena would cause car traffic snarls, and a high demand for on-street parking, but so far, traffic on game nights hasn't met those predictions.
However, the arena's developers, Forest City Ratner, have yet to construct more than a dozen high-rises above and near the arena, slated to created the densest census track in the nation.
U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood is leaving his post, ending a term where he caught transportation advocates, Republicans and Democrats alike off-guard by his spry push for safety, high speed rail, and a broad view of transportation systems.
“I have let President Obama know that I will not serve a second term as Secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation,” LaHood said in an email to staff Tuesday morning (full text below.) “It has been an honor and a privilege to lead the Department, and I am grateful to President Obama for giving me such an extraordinary opportunity. I plan to stay on until my successor is confirmed to ensure a smooth transition for the Department and all the important work we still have to do.”
“Every American who travels by air, rail or highway can thank Ray for his commitment to making our entire transportation system safer and stronger," President Barack Obama said in a statement.
LaHood, a former Republican congressman from Peoria, was one of President Obama’s final appointments in his first cabinet, adding an “R” to diversify his cabinet. At the time, LaHood was little known outside his district, and no one expected him to make many waves.
Those people were wrong. “You — you’re the best thing that happened,” Senator Frank Lautenberg, a New Jersey Democrat, once remarked to LaHood, who vigorously and unsuccessfully tried to save the ARC tunnel – an under-Hudson rail tunnel killed by Republican New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.
“When they said it was going to be a Republican taking this job, I thought we had a Democrat who later on thought he was a Republican,” Lautenberg said. But New York U.S. Senator Charles Schumer interjected as the three made small talk before an event at New York’s Penn Station. "No, he gets along with everybody." Schumer credited former White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel -- now Mayor of Chicago -- with LaHood's appointment, a fact LaHood confirmed.
As the Tea Party’s ascendency in Congress made even highway spending a matter of caution, LaHood pushed forcefully for a federal role in infrastructure spending.
He tangled repeatedly with Congress on high speed rail and shutting down the FAA. An avid cyclist, LaHood once jumped on a table at a Washington, DC bicycle conference to emphasize his enthusiasm for cycling as transportation. A Buick driver, LaHood was especially passionate in his anti-distracted driving campaigns, pushing back not only against texting but also against shaving and applying make-up while driving. He was known to take immediate action if he witnessed distracted driving. "What I've been doing is kind of honking at somebody if I see him on a cellphone," he once told a local DC radio station.
LaHood shepherded through spending on high speed rail, stimulus funding, and innovative transportation projects like bus rapid transit. But he and the Obama administration were unsuccessful in convincing Congress to expand high speed rail and infrastructure funding. He also failed in convincing NJ Governor Chris Christie to save the NJ Transit tunnel under the Hudson.
LaHood, blunt, and candid, was a favorite among journalists for his propensity to speak frankly into a microphone, sometimes to the consternation of his own staff. He also answered questions from the public in his "On the Go" video chats -- two of which he did especially for Transportation Nation readers. (Watch them here and here.)
No word yet on a replacement.
The Secretary sent the following email to DOT employees across the country, informing them of his plans:
“I have let President Obama know that I will not serve a second term as Secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation. It has been an honor and a privilege to lead the Department, and I am grateful to President Obama for giving me such an extraordinary opportunity. I plan to stay on until my successor is confirmed to ensure a smooth transition for the Department and all the important work we still have to do.
As I look back on the past four years, I am proud of what we have accomplished together in so many important areas. But what I am most proud of is the DOT team. You exemplify the best of public service, and I truly appreciate all that you have done to make America better, to make your communities better, and to make DOT better.
Our achievements are significant. We have put safety front and center with the Distracted Driving Initiative and a rule to combat pilot fatigue that was decades in the making. We have made great progress in improving the safety of our transit systems, pipelines, and highways, and in reducing roadway fatalities to historic lows. We have strengthened consumer protections with new regulations on buses, trucks, and airlines.
We helped jumpstart the economy and put our fellow Americans back to work with $48 billion in transportation funding from the American Recovery and Investment Act of 2009, and awarded over $2.7 billion in TIGER grants to 130 transportation projects across the Nation. We have made unprecedented investments in our nation’s ports. And we have put aviation on a sounder footing with the FAA reauthorization, and secured funding in the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act to help States build and repair their roads, bridges and transit systems.
And to further secure our future, we have taken transportation into the 21st century with CAFE Standards, NextGen, and our investments in passenger and High-Speed Rail. What’s more, we have provided the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy with the funding and leadership it needs to prepare a new generation of midshipmen to meet our country’s rapidly-evolving defense and maritime transportation needs.
Closer to home, we also have made great strides. In December, the DOT was recognized as the most improved agency in the entire Federal government in the 2012 “Best Places to Work” rankings published by the Partnership of Public Service. Even more impressive, DOT was ranked 9th out of the 19 largest agencies in the government.
Each of these remarkable accomplishments is a tribute your hard work, creativity, commitment to excellence, and most of all, your dedication to our country. DOT is fortunate to have such an extraordinary group of public servants. I look forward to continuing to work with all of you as the selection and confirmation process of the next transportation secretary moves forward. Now is not the time to let up - we still have a number of critical safety goals to accomplish and still more work to do on the implementation of MAP-21.
I’ve told President Obama, and I’ve told many of you, that this is the best job I’ve ever had. I’m grateful to have the opportunity to work with all of you and I’m confident that DOT will continue to achieve great things in the future.
Thank you, and God bless you.”
In a program less than a hour long, Brooklyn, the Bronx, Manhattan, and upstate New York were heard from, or invoked.
In his second inaugural address, President Barack Obama wove in specific policy recommendations for building roads and combating climate change into a speech urging Americans to join in collective action for a better future.
"We, the people, still believe that our obligations as Americans are not just to ourselves, but to all posterity," President Obama said. "We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations. Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires, and crippling drought, and more powerful storms."
"The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult," the President added. But America cannot resist this transition; we must lead it. We cannot cede to other nations the technology that will power new jobs and new industries – we must claim its promise. That is how we will maintain our economic vitality and our national treasure – our forests and waterways; our croplands and snowcapped peaks. That is how we will preserve our planet, commanded to our care by God. That’s what will lend meaning to the creed our fathers once declared."
The president also declared road-building a collective responsibility.
"For the American people can no more meet the demands of today’s world by acting alone than American soldiers could have met the forces of fascism or communism with muskets and militias. No single person can train all the math and science teachers we’ll need to equip our children for the future, or build the roads and networks and research labs that will bring new jobs and businesses to our shores. Now, more than ever, we must do these things together, as one nation, and one people."
Three and a half years before Sandy, the NY MTA unveiled a new subway station, at South Ferry. The station would enable far faster turn-arounds for trains than the old station build a hundred years ago, speeding commutes for tens of thousands of straphangers each day.
The new station was "visible proof that when the MTA is provided with adequate capital funding, we build monumental works for generations of New Yorkers for decades to come," then MTA Chief Jay Walder said.
But Sandy completely submerged the station, wiping out the vital signaling room. Replacing it will cost $600 million, more than a tenth of the damage to the MTA during Sandy. It could take a year, or more.
And most critically, says Wynton Habersham, Chief Electrical Officer in charge of signals and power for NYC Transit, the relatively brand new signalling room was inundated with saltwater: live wires hardened, signals corroded, and even electronic track-moving equipment was rendered unusable. "It's like just taking your computer and dipping it in saltwater," Habersham says.
Habersham says crews tried to clean off the signals, but the corrosion reappeared, and the supplier advised junking them.
Four such relay rooms, out of some two-hundred systemwide, were submerged and rendered useless by Sandy.
Rebuilding the brand new South Ferry station, opened only three years ago after a laborious expansion using 9/11 recovery money, will cost $600 million. Habersham says no construction will take place until the MTA can figure out how to defend the station from future storms. Possible fixes include installing a horizontal barrier over the station's entrance, raising the signal room, and protecting components from saltwater.
MTA officials say no one is contemplating not rebuilding the station, which is normally used by 30,000 of the 70,000 people who ride the Staten Island Ferry on a weekday.