New York Governor Andrew Cuomo made the case for a progressive policy agenda in his third annual state of the state, pivoting towards issues such as women’s equality, raising the minimum wage, campaign finance reform, reducing greenhouse gases emissions and enacting gun control.
To better survive the economic impact of big storms like Sandy, New York needs a "world class" bus rapid transit system. That's one of the major recommendations in a draft report commissioned by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo on how to rebuild New York infrastructure post-Sandy.
Bus Rapid Transit -- basically, fast buses which run on segregated lanes where users pay off board -- mimics a subway system by planning bus routes that can run almost as quickly through streets as trains can underground.
Such a system could be less vulnerable to floods and more able to restart service after big storms. It would also be able to connect neighborhoods that would otherwise be stranded by subway service disruptions.
"A world class BRT network would enhance the resilience and redundancy of the overall transit system," according to a draft copy of the report which was leaked to the New York Times. The report contained no specific recommendations for funding the system.
It also doesn't address the thorny political question which frequently accompanies BRT proposals -- that of of turning over road space traditionally used by cars to buses only.
The recommendation is part of a set of proposals drawn up by the NYS2100 Commission, one of three large commissions set up by Governor Cuomo to address rebuilding New York in the wake of storm Sandy, which caused over $30 billion in damage. The two other commissions, on emergency response and preparedness, delivered their findings directly to the governor last week. No word on when the final 2100 report will be presented to the Governor, or whether or how he'll adopt its recommendations.
BRT advocates, like the Institute for Transportation Development Policy, argue that BRT can be built far more quickly and cheaply than subways. The Second Avenue subway has been under development for half a century, by contrast.
"Financial support from the State would be welcome in helping to bring New York City’s ongoing bus system improvement efforts closer to world class ‘gold standard’ BRT," said ITDP CEO Walter Hook in a statement. "A world-class BRT system would not only have fully dedicated lanes that keep the buses separate from traffic, and off-board fare collection, but also beautiful iconic stations with platforms that allow people to step directly onto the bus."
The NYS2100 commission is co-chaired by Rockefeller Foundation Chairwoman Judith Rodin and financier Felix Rohatyn. (Rockefeller also funds Transportation Nation.)
The Governor's office didn't comment on the draft report, and an MTA spokesman, Adam Lisberg, said the report's recommendations had not been shared with the MTA.
During storm Sandy, the MTA's temporary "bus bridge," which replaced subway service during the period when all the East River tunnels were flooded, came as close to New York has seen of having a true BRT. Though there were long lines to board the buses, the buses, aided by police officers stationed at every corner, zipped through city streets. The ride from the East Village to Barclay's Center in Brooklyn took about 12 minutes.
The city has also installed several "select bus service" lines, which adopt some features of BRT, including off-board payment.
"BRT corridors that serve as connectors to the subway system would provide riders with muliple options for connections and access to the core," the report said.
The draft report suggests creating a bus line that would run the length of southern Brooklyn, connecting the D, F, B and Q lines, and a east-west corridor connecting neigborhoods like Bedford Stuyvesant to lines that run through Brownstone Brooklyn, Midwood, and Coney Island.
The draft report notes that transit ridership has increased 60 percent since 1990, but bus line speeds overall have decreased by 11 percent.
Andrea Bernstein, WNYC News Metro editor, talks about Joe Lhota's resignation as MTA chief to explore a run for mayor, and his tenure as deputy mayor under Giuliani.
UPDATED Joe Lhota, the head of the largest transit agency in the U.S., is stepping down to run for New York City Mayor, less than a year after he was officially confirmed for his current job.
"I will be submitting my resignation to Governor Cuomo today," Lhota said Wednesday after an MTA board meeting where fare hikes were approved. Lhota said the resignation will take effect December 31 and he will "explore" a run for Mayor. Lhota descried the decision as "bittersweet."
The move roils both the Mayor's race and the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority as it struggles to recover from storm Sandy, described by the Republican Lhota as "the worst devastation in our 108-year history." The NY MTA is estimating its damage at $5.2 billion, not including ways to fortify the system against future storms.
It also leaves New York Governor Andrew Cuomo in the uncomfortable position of choosing a new transit chief as he begs Congress for $60 billion in recovery aid. Lhota was selected after a large committee interviewed several candidates, then sent its top recommendations to the Governor.
Former Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer, who was elected Wednesday to serve as the Vice Chair of the MTA board, will now serve as its acting chair. Ferrer was the Democratic candidate for Mayor himself in 2005.
Lhota, an ex-deputy Mayor under Rudy Giuliani, has also worked for Madison Square Garden, a subsidiary of Cablevision.
Word comes, literally, on the eve of the MTA's vote to hike fares and tolls.
You can read the full story on the WNYC website.
UPDATED. MTA Chief Joe Lhota is preparing to step down from his job to enter the race for mayor of New York City. The decision, which has been privately and publicly backed by former Mayor Rudy Giuliani, roils both the 2013 race and the future of the MTA as it faces $5.2 billion in reconstruction costs after the devastation caused by Sandy.
One of the longest running service outages caused by storm Sandy is about to end.
PATH train commuter service is about to resume to Hoboken, NJ, the Port Authority said in a tweet: "PATH's Hoboken-33 service resumes Wednesday 12-19-12 at 5 a.m. and operates every day from 5 a.m. – 10 p.m."
But there will be no direct service from Hoboken to the World Trade Center, and the Port Authority says that remains "several weeks away."
Some 29,000 riders use the Hoboken station every day. They've been without service to Manhattan for almost eight weeks.
PATH tunnels were among the most severely hit during Sandy, with water filling five miles of tubes.
According a Port Authority press release, the "announcement means weekday service between 5 a.m. and 10 p.m. will be back at all 13 PATH stations and on three of PATH’s four regular lines: Journal Square to 33rd Street, Hoboken to 33rd Street and Newark to the World Trade Center".
The Port Authority says critical equipment was damaged, but has offered few details on what was damaged, or what was entailed in restoring the service.
PATH says it will restore limited 24 hour service in time for New Year's Eve.
Many commuters take New Jersey Transit trains to Hoboken and transfer to the PATH. NJ Transit is operating curtailed service to Hoboken because of a damaged electrical substation. The agency tells TN that PATH service restoration will not lead to more NJ Transit service to Hoboken.
You can finally file a claim for a lost or stolen card on the world wide web.
Until today, if your Metrocard was lost or stolen, you had to call the NY Metropolitan Transportation Authority. Once you got through to a person, that person would take your information, including when and where you bought the card, your credit card number and address, and they'd send you a new one. If you called after hours, you would have to leave your number and wait for someone call back.
Since pretty much no one calls anymore, that was kind of, um, crazy.
Okay, there's another way to replace a Metrocard. Go to a subway station and locate the token booth clerk--not always easy, especially at a large station--and ask for a card replacement form. You then have to fill out the form, find a stamp and remember to put it in a mailbox.
Now, you can do all it online: efixmetrocard.mtanyct.info
Oh, by the way, the actual train that runs through Silicon Valley, aka the CalTrain? You can't pay on board. So, you see. Even the Silicon Valley train could use a bit of updating.
New York City Bike Share, delayed from its initial summer, 2012 launch, is being delayed again. The city is now setting a May, 2013 launch date. Officials are citing damage from storm Sandy.
According to a DOT press release: "Hurricane Sandy’s storm surge flooded NYCBS’s facility at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, which sits along the East River, and where about two-thirds of the system’s equipment had been stored before the Oct. 29 storm. While portions of the system’s equipment were not significantly damaged, including bike frames and hardware, many parts of the system containing electrical components must have individual parts refurbished or replaced.
"NYCBS is currently working to identify, repair and replace these damaged parts, aided through insurance and supplemented by equipment that wasn’t stored at the Navy Yard, as well as by additional equipment from its supplier and from elsewhere in the delivery pipeline."
The bike share was initially scheduled for July, then August, then delayed until March 2013. Bike share systems in Chicago, San Francisco, and an expansion in Washington have also been delayed. All four cities share a vendor, Alta Bike Share.
Launching bike share has been a part of the city's PlaNYC, a blueprint for reducing the city's carbon footprint and combating climate change. Climate change has been cited as a reason for Sandy's intensity and destruction.
The city also says some neighborhoods won't get bike share even at the newly delayed launch date.
"The timeline will affect the phasing for neighborhoods in the initial launch area. The 5,500 bikes will be located in the densest and most geographically contiguous parts of the service area in Manhattan south of 59th Street and in Brooklyn as work continues to extend to 7,000 bikes in the remaining parts of the Brooklyn service area and into Long Island City, Queens, by the end of 2013. Details will be announced as planning continues. And while planning is underway to launch the initial system in May, we remain committed to bringing the system to 10,000 bikes."
In a statement, Transportation Alternatives Executive Director, Paul Steely White, was philosophical. “New Yorkers are eager for this new transportation choice but we all know the damage Hurricane Sandy wrought on our city," Steely White said. "Every day, a new cost is added to the toll of destruction, and the damage to the bike share equipment is merely the latest. We’re thankful the storm spared so much of the equipment and grateful to see the program will still launch in the spring.”
Tri-State Transportation campaign offered a more grimly sanguine twist: "If a 150 percent increase in bicycling over the East River bridges in the days after the storm is any indication, bike share will help New York City’s residents and commuters weather the next storm even better."
New Jersey Transit lost $100 million in trains and equipment during storm Sandy, NJ Transit chief James Weinstein told a U.S. Senate panel Thursday.
The $100 million is part of a $400 million bill Sandy left for NJ Transit. The total includes damage to all 12 rail lines, which suffered flooding and some 630 downed trees. This is the first public accounting of the Sandy-related damage to NJ transit equipment.
The transit agency has been scrutinized in the wake of its decision to store trains during Sandy at two facilities that are in high-risk areas for flooding during hurricanes. By contrast, the New York MTA moved its trains out of Coney Island and Queens, two areas in New York's evacuation zone.
"Based on the information that we had in terms of the likelihood of flooding occurring at the Meadowlands complex, or at the Hoboken yard, that indicated there was a likelihood in the 80 to 90 percent range that no flooding would happen," Weinstein told the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Infrastructure, Safety, and Security, chaired by Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ).
In 2011, as TN has reported, the Federal Transit Agency issued a study warning transit authorities that storm surge-related climate change would create risks for transit agencies, and exhorted local transit agencies to move their trains out of harm's way during storms. The FTA said the risk of flooding would increase over the years.
But just months ago, NJ Transit specifically rejected a climate change adaptation plan, as the Bergen Record reported this week. "At a symposium of state and federal transportation officials in March, NJ Transit executive David Gillespie said he had told climate-change consultants working for the agency to skip any analysis of potential impacts on train cars and engines," The Record wrote.
By contrast, the NY MTA had developed a climate change adaptation plan and appointed two officials to oversee the MTA's response to hurricanes.
Weinstein maintained NJ Transit had little choice. He said the agency has few options about where to store trains. "That combined with the history led us to conclude that [yards in the Meadowlands and Hoboken were] the appropriate place to put the equipment, based on the information we had at the time we had to make the decision."
In response to a question from Senator Lautenberg, Weinstein said "this was the best decision, especially in light of what happened during Irene." Weinstein said during that storm, NJ Transit stored equipment in Pennsylvania -- where it was stranded as a result of inland flooding and trees falling on the tracks. "That's another factor that informed our decisions," Weinstein said.
"Some of that equipment was new, up-to-date?" Lautenberg interjected.
"Yes, sir," Weinstein responded. "We had some new locomotives that hadn't been accepted yet. Water penetrated up to the axles where the bearings are."
Then Lautenberg tossed Weinstein a lifeline: "It didn't sound like there were other choices to be made," said the senior U.S. Senator from New Jersey -- who, like Weinstein, is in a position of pleading for relief funds from the federal government in the middle of difficult negotiations over tax hikes and spending cuts to avert the so-called "fiscal cliff."
"If you lay a flood plain map over our rail map there are very few places that are not prone to flooding," Weinstein said. "I had 630 trees come down. If that starts coming down on equipment, it damages equipment every bit as badly as flooding would."
New York needs more coastline protections in the wake of climate change. So says New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg Thursday, in a major address on rebuilding after storm Sandy delivered Thursday. Bloomberg was introduced by former Vice President Al Gore.
"Over the past month," Mayor Bloomberg said, "there has been a lot of discussion about sea walls. It would be nice if we could stop the tides from coming in, but King Canute couldn’t do it – and neither can we, especially if, as many scientists project, sea levels continue rising. However, there may be some coastline protections that we can build that will mitigate the impact of a storm surge – from berms and dunes, to jetties and levees."
We'll have more soon. Meantime, you can find the full transcript of the remarks here.
A selection committee has recommended a futuristic design for the new Tappan Zee Bridge, with suspension supports leaning outwards, giving the bridge the look of a stripped-down building by Santiago Calatrava.
Calatrava has designed the World Trade Center transit hub, the Milwaukee Museum of Art, and the Athens Olympic stadium.
The New York State Thruway Authority -- the agency in charge of the project -- will consider the design, along with two others, for a new Tappan Zee Bridge. The three designs were released at Governor Cuomo's cabinet meeting Wednesday.
The designs range from $3.142 billion to $4.059 billion when all estimated costs are totaled. All three proposals are being called "transit ready," though images of the bridge being recommended don't show buses or transit on the roadway.
Details of how the proposals will be financed still haven't been released. Governor Cuomo said both the bridge's full cost and the amount of federal financing (still unknown) would have to be tallied before a bridge financing plan could be released.
The three designs will be considered December 17th by the Thruway Authority board.
The state had said the bridge would cost $5.2 billion, but had been hoping the cost would be adjusted downward -- in part to lower future tolls on drivers.
For more on why the bridge matters nationally, and the planning process to date, see our previous coverage.
More soon on the design details.
There's been a ton of talk since last night about how much the relatively low unemployment rate in Ohio and the descending rates in Michigan and Wisconsin helped President Obama with his so-called "Mid-Western firewall."
The ironies couldn't be thicker:
The President's bailout of major car companies soon after he took office offended many Democratic voters.
“I feel they should’ve gave the people the money to spend to keep the companies going,” retail clerk Linda Webb told me in 2010, while pushing her grocery cart out of the Walmart in Jackson, Michigan. “But they did the opposite. They gave it to all the big people that didn’t need the money. If they handed me money like they handed them, I could’ve went and bought a car — it would have kept them in production.”
In 2010, the hiring spurred by the bailout wasn't quite so easy to see, but since then, it's set in.
Then there's the industry itself -- not exactly a natural Obama ally.
The auto industry has had its own reasons to resist the Obama presidency, including implementation of regulations requiring cars to get a minimum of 55 miles per gallon by next decade.
But at the end of the day, a prediction that a top Democratic official made to Transportation Nation back in June proved true: swing states jobs numbers, he said, would be "determinative" in the fall. Here's what we wrote then:
Buoyed in part by automobile hiring, employment in swing states looks far better than the nation as a whole, providing a possible path to victory for President Barack Obama, who bailed out the big three auto manufacturers with a clothespin on his nose.
In Michigan, Ohio, Indiana and Missouri, the auto industry has been adding jobs at rapid clip, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. So that even though things were really bad in those states, they’re now less bad. Which is good news for the President.
“We know that this thing is going to be super tight,” said a senior Democratic official. “But we are absolutely of the belief that the swing states jobs numbers will be determinative in the fall.”
By now, the national narrative is well known. May’s employment numbers were meh, signalling a heap of trouble for the President. “He is the underdog,” opined NPR’s Mara Liasson, who then ticked off things that could only make the electoral picture worse for the Democrats: the Euro crisis, the Chinese economy, etc. That pretty much sums up the conventional wisdom.
In the swing states, things are markedly better than they were two years ago, and in many of them, the employment picture is a whole lot brighter than the nation as a whole.
Here's the rest of that post.
Eight days ago, the subway system shut down. Seven days ago, it suffered the worst devastation in its history. All seven tunnels under the East River were flooded.
By Monday morning's commute, most of the subways were running under the East River. The R and the L were not (more on that in a minute).
By Sunday night, the MTA had restored all of the numbered lines across the East River (2, 3, 4, 5 & 7), as well as many lettered lines. This morning, at the last minute, the A, C and E were also connected. The #1 train ran all the way downtown to Chambers Street.
The link was to the restored subway map.
(Lhota, by the way, is a Republican -- a former Deputy Mayor under Rudy Giuliani.)
MTA spokesman Adam Lisberg says MTA workers have been working "around the clock" to replace signals corroded by salt water. Lisberg said increased headways -- or time between trains -- was due to reduced power and signalling issues caused by damaged signals.
Commuters, for the most part, were patient as they crowded onto train cars that were running about a third as frequently as usual. In two-and-a-half hours of riding the rails, I didn't hear any sighing, moaning, or cursing at the MTA, or at fellow passengers, a frequent accompaniment to the squeal of the trains on a morning commute.
WNYC's Jim O'Grady reports a similar amount of patience -- for now -- at the J train in Williamsburg, now the backstop for both the L and G. Jim describes the lines as "immense," but says straphangers were so relieved to be able to get into Manhattan that frustration was far from the boiling point.
But at least one straphanger was deterred. "Holy God," he said, seeing the subway line. "Looks like I'm working from home today.
On Sunday, rider Rachel Tillman applauded outright when the F train re-connected under the East River. "Good!' she exclaimed, giddily, "It's going all the way. When I heard the announcement I thought it was a mistake. Once we reached Jay Street-Metrotech I realized it was going all the way. It makes me very happy."
Reporters, experts and listeners provide news and information from around the region as the region continues to clean up and recover.
Governor Cuomo says the 4-5 train could be running under the East River soon. At a news briefing on Friday morning, Cuomo said: "We spoke with Kevin Burke in Con-Ed this morning, he's been making good progress especially in downtown Manhattan, he believes the power is going to be back on in what's called the Joralemon tunnel, which will facilitate the MTA bringing power back into the subway system in that area."
On Thursday, MTA Chief Joe Lhota said once power was on, subways could run on the F and 4/5 lines within two hours.
On Friday, Cuomo said he expects an announcement this afternoon.
"If Con-Ed is correct and they re-power downtown Manhattan, and if the Joralemon tunnel is correct you'll see more trains coming on line and we'll have that announcement later today as we see exactly the effect of the re-powering," Cuomo said.
An hour later, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said he'd hoped mass transit would be close to normal "soon."
Compare that map with this one we posted a year ago after Hurricane Irene gave us a taste of what water could do to a transit system.
Four days after Hurricane Sandy slammed New York, a huge chunk of New York’s subway remains closed. Experts say the cost to the economy could run to the hundreds of millions.
Turns out they say the threat of rising sea levels coupled with big storms like Sandy’s to the city’s subway system – and its economy – was both predicted and predictable under models of rising sea levels.
New York’s Governor, Andrew Cuomo says New York has to rebuild its subway system to make it less vulnerable to storms like Irene and Sandy, which hit New York just fourteen months apart. “Part of learning from this is the recognition that climate change is a reality, extreme weather is a reality, it is a reality that we are vulnerable,” Cuomo said.
On Monday night, as Sandy’s storm surge hit, salt water rushed into all five subway tunnels linking Manhattan with Brooklyn.
More people ride through those tunnels then ride through every other transit system in America. MTA Chief Joe Lhota described the scene the next day. “The MTA faced a disaster as devastating as it has ever faced in its history.”
The MTA had been aware of the danger.
About a year ago I spoke to Columbia University’s Klaus Jacobs. He modeled a storm like Sandy and brought his findings to the MTA. “And there was a big silence in the room,” Jacob said. “Because the system is so old. Many of the items that would be damaged by the intrusion of the saltwater into the system could not recover quickly.”
That’s a prediction that came eerily close to reality. Without power, pumping out the tunnels is slow. MTA officials need to dry out the parts, and then check each one of them before fully opening the subway.
More than a year ago, Jacobs produced a subway with the flooded lines colored in deep blue, looking like skeletal fingers under the East River. Last night, the MTA released its own map of the new subway. The closed lines almost exactly reflect Jacob’s model.
By Thursday none of the five flooded tunnels under the East River had reopened, though Lhota said two were within hours of operation if power could be restored. In the subway, announcers intoned: “Ladies and Gentlemen, there is no train service between Brooklyn and Manhattan.”
Officials set up shuttle buses to replace the subways, but the transfers were choked. A line at Brooklyn’s brand new basketball arena, Barclays Center, stretched fully around the arena – the same day the Arena was to host the Nets v. the Knicks season opener.
The MTA says it will provide a schedule for service restorations by midday today.
(Check our Transit Tracker regularly for any updates)
In a statement, MTA Chairman and CEO Joseph J. Lhota said he'd be able to discuss a timetable for service restorations by "midday" Wednesday.
Real time locations for all buses in Staten Island and the Bronx, and others in Brooklyn and Manhattan are available now, here .
Current bus information is here.
“The extent of Hurricane Sandy's devastation became clear today, and its impact on the MTA system is severe. The New York City subway’s South Ferry station was flooded up to the ceiling. The Long Island Rail Road confronted 11 electrical substations in a row with no power. Metro-North Railroad crews found a boat across their tracks in Ossining. Each tube of the Hugh L. Carey Tunnel is filled with 43 million gallons of water.
“These are just a few of the many unprecedented challenges the MTA is facing as it tries to restore service. Our employees have been assessing the damage all day and will continue to work through the night. In many places, they have been able to begin the process of recovery by pumping water and clearing tracks. New York City buses went back on the road for limited service, and will be almost at normal strength by morning.
“Still, our dedicated employees are beginning to make progress. By midday, we will be able to discuss a timetable for service restorations.”
Andrea Bernstein fills us in on what Governor Cuomo said this morning about assessing damage and restoring power and transit following the storm.