(New York - Jim O'Grady, WNYC) The clock is ticking on a proposed deal between the feds and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie over his decision in October to cancel the ARC rail tunnel under the Hudson because of projected cost overruns.
Christie has until the end of today to decide whether he will reimburse the Federal Transit Administration $271 million spent on ARC. In exchange, the agency would then turn around and hand back $128 million to the state for projects that improve air quality by cutting traffic congestion.
Meanwhile, earlier today Christie told Bloomberg TV: "We're having conversations with Mayor Bloomberg and others regarding the extension of the No. 7 train to Secaucus, New Jersey, which would do what we really wanted the ARC tunnel to do originally." (See WNYC for the full story.)
Governor Christie has said the state doesn't owe the money. Last month, he directed New Jersey Transit to hire Patton Boggs, a high-powered Washington law firm, to make the case for him with the federal government--by lawsuit, if necessary. The firm now stands ready to file suit if an agreement isn't reached in the next several hours.
"We have until midnight tonight," said Christie spokesman Michael Drewniak earlier today. "We have about seven hours and forty-nine minutes, something like that. We expect that our attorneys in Washington will be filing a timely response today."
Asked at a transportation conference in Washington how the negotiations were going, FTA Administrator Peter M. Rogoff declined to comment. The agency has already granted the state two extensions on an original deadline of December 24.
After a slow start, Select Bus service on First and Second Avenues is consistently faster than the old M15 express bus service, according to new data from the MTA.
"We're here to usher in a new era in toll collection," said MTA chairman Jay Walder when announcing that drivers are one step closer to cashless tolling on the agency's nine crossings, "the beginning of the end of the toll booth."
(New York - Jim O'Grady, WNYC) If U.S. Senator Charles Schumer was spoiling for a fight when he addressed a business breakfast this morning about regional transportation policy, he got one--from New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. That's because the heart of his forty-minute speech was a scathing critique of Christie's decision to kill the $9 billion ARC rail tunnel under the Hudson.
"I believe pulling the plug on ARC was a terrible, terrible decision," Schumer said.
He pointed out that bridge and tunnel crossings between New York and New Jersey are now at capacity as more than a quarter million people commute from and through New Jersey to New York each day, a number that is expected to grow at least 25% in coming decades. He also said the tunnel would have brought thousands of construction jobs to the region and raised property values in large parts of New Jersey. And construction on it had already begun.
"This was not just a project in the planning stages," Schumer said. "There were explicit funding commitments from the Port Authority and the federal government. It was the largest public works project in the country, coming right here."
If Senator Charles Schumer was spoiling for a fight when he addressed a business breakfast about regional transportation policy Tuesday morning, he got one from New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. That's because the heart of his 40-minute speech was a scathing critique of Christie's decision to kill the $9 billion ARC rail tunnel under the Hudson.
(New York - Jim O'Grady, WNYC) First, U.S. Senator Schumer took the podium at a business breakfast this morning and slammed New Jersey Governor Chris Christie for killing the $9 billion ARC rail tunnel under the Hudson River.
Easy for you to say, retorted a spokesman for Governor Christie, when New York will be on the hook for "zero, zilch, nothing" if the project goes over budget--perhaps by several billion dollars.
In response, a spokesman for Schumer accused Christie of "throwing the baby out with the bathwater" by not negotiating with the Feds about relief from potential cost overruns, thereby costing area workers "tens of thousands of jobs in the near future and ease travel for millions of commuters." He added that by terminating the tunnel, Governor Christie had "flushed $6 billion in federal and Port Authority money down the tubes.”
Now Christie's spokesman, Michael Drewniak, has made yet another reply. "We are very comfortable with our decision on behalf of New Jersey and its taxpayers," he said. "Senator Schumer embraces deficit spending, we do not."
Drewniak concluded by implying that Schumer's 30 years in Congress have made him something of a free-spender: "He’s been in Washington a long time."
(New York, NY -- Jim O'Grady, WNYC) If words were wrestling holds, Senator Schumer just slipped Governor Christie's suplex and countered with a double-knee facebreaker. Or at least their spokesmen did.
This morning, Schumer told local leaders at a breakfast that Christie made a "terrible, terrible decision" in October by shutting down the ARC commuter tunnel under the Hudson River. In response, Christie spokesman Michael Drewniak said it was all too easy for Schumer to call for the reinstatement of a "boondoggle" with projected cost overruns that would be borne by New Jersey but cost New York "zero, zilch, nothing." He added that the only way Schumer could have made his remarks was if he "didn't brush up on the topic before he spoke" or was merely scoring political points.
Now Schumer spokesman Mike Morey has answered back.
“The people who are out of work in New York and New Jersey are not interested in insults, they are interested in jobs," Morey said in an email to WNYC. "Thousands of people could be put to work today on a project that will create the infrastructure we need to create tens of thousands of jobs in the near future and ease travel for millions of commuters. You don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater, and in this case thousands of jobs. Rather than come to the table and work with federal officials to deal with overruns, and preserve an asset everyone agrees is needed in the region, the Governor’s decision flushed $6 billion in federal and Port Authority money down the tubes.”
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(New York - Jim O'Grady, WNYC) Governor Christie's spokesman Michael Drewniak isn't pulling his punches over New York U.S. Senator Charles Schumer's criticism on the ARC tunnel. Earlier today, Schumer blasted Christie for making a "terrible, terrible" decision to kill the $9 billion commuter rail train under the Hudson.
"Where was the senior senator from New York with funding alternatives to a project that was predicted to run billions over projections – all of which were to be borne by New Jersey and its taxpayers?," Drewniak said. "This was a ‘bi-state’ project for which Senator Schumer’s state and the federal government were set to pay zero, zilch, nothing for the cost overruns. We can live with the criticism while protecting taxpayers from this boondoggle, which was simply a bad deal for New Jersey."
Drewniak went further in questioning Senator's Schumer's timing and motivation in slamming Governor Christie's decision on ARC, which was made in October.
"I’ll also give Senator Schumer the benefit of the doubt and assume he didn’t brush up on the topic before he spoke. Unless, of course, his remarks are merely political, which is always a possibility," Drewniak said.
No reply yet from Senator Schumer on this latest round of comments.
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A pair of raids at MTA locker rooms in the past week have turned up evidence that subway workers are continuing the widespread practice of faking signal inspections.
(New York - Jim O'Grady, WNYC) Joyce and Bob Fliegel decided last night that the snowstorm would not keep them from getting to the city from their home in Merrick, Long Island. They’re due on a Caribbean-bound cruise ship departing from a Manhattan pier at 4 p.m. today. Taking no chances on missing it because of a snow-stranded train, they left yesterday and spent the night in Penn Station.
“We spent it with a lot of homeless people,” Bob Fliegel said with the good cheer of a man leaning on a suitcase full of sunscreen and Hawaiian shirts. He and his wife napped on chairs in the Long Island Railroad waiting room until station cleaners kicked them out at 3 in the morning. They then bought train tickets to Newark, which was the cheapest way to gain access to the all-night Amtrak waiting area.
“It was pretty creative,” he said.
Airline passengers were not so lucky. Read more on WNYC.org.
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A Long Island couple, determined to make their Caribbean-bound cruise, spent the night at Penn Station and are among the passangers who waiting out the snow storm at area train stations and airports. “We spent it with a lot of homeless people,” Bob Fliegel, of Merrick, said Wednesday morning.
(New York, NY -- Jim O'Grady, WNYC) MTA Chairman Jay Walder held a press conference this afternoon to outline transit preparations for the blizzard bearing down on New York. In opening remarks, he said: "Service during a winter storm is always fraught with difficulty. If you don't need to travel tomorrow morning please don't."
Walder then talked about lessons learned from his agency's poor performance during the late December blizzard and detailed operational upgrades now in place to prevent stranding hundreds of buses in the streets and passengers on trains.
But his statement implies the agency is anticipating serious service disruptions throughout the region tomorrow on subways, buses and trains.
Transportation Nation is seeking clarification on the strength of the recommendation that non-essential workers in the New York area stay home during Snowpocalypse II and avoid mass transit.
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Inspectors faked 90 percent of the reports they filed and claimed unfinished work was completed for more than a decade, according to an MTA report.
Parking meter prices will remain the same in the outer boroughs and above 86th Street in Manhattan thanks to a budget deal reached between Mayor Bloomberg and the City Council.
Construction on the F and G subway lines in Windsor Terrace, Red Hook and Park Slope has been postponed in anticipation of snowfall this weekend, a transit official said.
F and G train riders can say Farewell and Goodbye to regular service for the next two years.
(Jim O'Grady, WNYC)
No cell, no song
in peace we travel
New Jersey Transit train riders first came across this Zen-tastic bit of doggerel in September. It was printed on pale blue placards posted on coaches that the agency had dubbed Quiet Commute cars.
Where before it was up to riders to silence a loudmouth on the 7:03 from Morristown--techniques ranged from icy stares to garment-rending confrontations--it was now the policy of a pilot program that cell phones and MP3 players must snooze in certain train cars, that passengers might be able to do the same. Riders cocooned in silence could presumably also read a book while gazing out now and then at a lace-winged egret fishing the shallows in front of an oil refinery. (We're talking Jersey, after all.)
As of yesterday, New Jersey Transit has not only made the Quiet Commute car program permanent--but extended its reach.
The agency has added quiet cars to all peak period, peak direction trains that begin or end their trips at New York Penn Station or Newark Penn Station. Quiet cars--one at each end--will also be offered on trains that arrive in Newark or New York between 6 a.m. and 10 a.m., and trains that depart Newark or New York between 4 p.m. and 8 p.m.
Website and electronic customer surveys have revealed enthusiasm for sonic liberation from "cell phones, pagers, games, computers and other electronic devices." Riders on quiet cars are also required to keep the headphone volume low and speak in a "subdued voice" that can't be heard by other passengers. Should a boor insist on verbalizing the logistics of his life, conductors press a business card in his hand with a "gentle" reminder to shut his pie hole. But nicely worded.
The agency says it will keep polling riders about the program, which now covers the busiest train lines, with an eye toward further expansion to trains that begin or end their trips at Hoboken Terminal.
To close, here's a bit of hushed history from a New Jersey Transit press release giving credit where it's due--to another train line:
"The Quiet car concept was born in late 1999 when a small group of regular Amtrak commuters asked their conductor if one car of their early morning Philadelphia-Washington train could be designated as 'cell phone-free.' The conductor agreed and Amtrak quickly expanded the concept. Within months, most weekday Amtrak trains on the Northeast Corridor featured Quiet Cars."
So far, New Jersey Transit has found silence to be golden in the Garden State. Commuters surveyed have shown enthusiasm for the sonic liberation from "cell phones, pagers, games, computers and other electronic devices."
The NYC Metropolitan Transportation Authority is spending $13,000 to support WNYC programming.
A raft of new fees on Metro North and the Long Island Rail Road can be even more costly to riders than the recent 8.8 percent rise in prices.