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.
Follow Transportation Nation on Twitter.
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.
Follow Transportation Nation on Twitter.
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.
(New York -- Jim O'Grady, WNYC) The MTA says it's investigating why 600 buses had to be abandoned during this week's blizzard, blocking snowplows and leaving bus drivers and their passengers without a way home. A combination of technical and supervisory failures appear to have led to the debacle.
A union official who drove a bus for 15 years, and who spoke on background, says the problems began because the MTA generally equips its buses with tires built for long life but little traction. The official says the authority then decided against putting chains on many buses to save on overtime costs because it takes two workers 30 minutes to fit each bus.
He further charges
The MTA says it's investigating why 600 buses had to be abandoned during this week's blizzard, blocking snowplows and leaving bus drivers and their passengers without a way home. A combination of technical and supervisory failures appear to have led to the debacle.
A fare increase will make almost every form of transit in the New York area more expensive on starting on Thursday. Subway and bus fares are going up, along with tolls on seven bridges and two tunnels. Prices will also rise on Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North trains.
MTA Inspector General Barry Kluger is looking at why three of the agency's four big projects are behind schedule and over budget by nearly $2 billion. He said in a new report that squabbling at the agency is a big part of the problem.
(New York -- Jim O'Grady, WNYC) The Inspector General of the New York area Metropolitan Transportation Authority slammed the agency in a report for ignoring procedures it had set up to keep mega-projects on budget and on schedule.
Predictably, says Inspector Barry Kluger, three of those projects are now nearly $2 billion over-budget combined and delayed by two to five years. That means subway riders and others must slog through construction zones all the longer while waiting for expanded service that is repeatedly postponed as taxpayers rack up greater and greater debt.
These “mega-projects have experienced well-publicized budget overruns and disruptive schedule delays that have seriously undermined public confidence in the MTA’s management,” the report said.
Two of the projects are already five years behind schedule: an extension of Long Island Railroad to Grand Central Terminal, now expected to be done by April 2018, and the first leg of the Second Ave. subway, now scheduled for completion in 2017. The Fulton Transit Center, with its projected finish in 2014, looks good by comparison. It’s only two and a half years late.
Only the 7 Train Extension, the last of the MTA’s four megaprojects, does not suffer from significant lateness or cost over-runs. The four projects have budgets totaling $15.32 billion.
Kluger says MTA Capital Construction, a subsidiary charged with overseeing the agency’s capital spending, clashed with an “independent engineering firm”—it did not name the firm—over who was in charge of monitoring the projects. His report says the engineering firm was at times given too much to do with too little information. And the firm wrote bad reports that lacked clear summaries or were too technically detailed to be easily understood. Sometimes, when the firm did make a plain recommendation, MTA Capital Construction ignored it.
At Kluger’s insistence, the MTA has separated the squabbling entities. The agency’s Office of Construction Oversight will now manage the independent engineer. The Office's mandate is to bring about “less conflict and more effectiveness to the oversight process.”
Kluger said another problem was megaprojects bidding against each other for a limited number of highly specialized contractors, which drove up prices. He warned that this might soon happen again as each project goes shopping for contractors to install signal and communications systems.
The Inspector General said MTA Chairman Jay Walder has accepted the report’s findings and used them to tell the Office of Construction Oversight to get a firmer grip on spending and scheduling.
Follow Transportation Nation on Twitter for more stories.
New Yorkers are famous for crossing streets whenever they feel like it, taking a blasé attitude toward crosswalk signals. But the signs tend to capture the attention of pedestrians when the "walk" and "don't walk" icons are lit up at the same time, which is the case at intersections all over the city.
(New York - Jim O'Grady, WNYC) New Jersey Governor Chris Christie stood up at a press conference on Thursday morning at the state house in Trenton and uttered what could have been a $128 million phrase.
“The offer was a nice start,” he said.
He was referring to a letter from federal Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood that offered a rebate in the above amount against a $271 million charge the feds have presented the state for preliminary work on the cancelled ARC rail tunnel under the Hudson.
Christie killed the project in October because of projected cost overruns. LaHood, in the letter, proposed to give the state $128 million back for projects that improve air quality by cutting traffic congestion. But only if New Jersey pays the whole bill by December 24.
The governor’s positive reaction on Thursday was a reversal of sorts. The prior two days, he’d refused to acknowledge the potential deal because the letter that contained it, dated Tuesday, hadn’t been sent to him. Instead, it was addressed to New Jersey Senators Robert Menendez and Frank Lautenberg. By Wednesday evening, though the offer had been widely reported, Governor Christie’s spokesman Michael Drewniak insisted it still hadn’t reached the state house.
“Neither the Governor’s Office or New Jersey Transit has heard from Secretary LaHood,” said Drewniak in a statement. “If and when we are contacted by the secretary, we will review their proposal.”
The disconnect may have had something to do with testy public relations between the Republican Christie and the Democrat Lautenberg.
The prospect of a $128 million rebate for New Jersey may be all that’s needed to calm the collision of personalities and political agendas at the center of the ARC Tunnel debate.