Jim O'Grady

Jim O'Grady appears in the following:

Report Says Improving Outer Borough Bus Service Is Key To NYC Job Growth

Saturday, February 26, 2011

(New York, NY - Jim O'Grady, WNYC) The outer boroughs of New York City are creating jobs, but the newly employed might have some trouble commuting: New York's bus service has not kept pace with employment growth. Those are claims in a report just released by the Center for an Urban Future, a think tank in Lower Manhattan.

The report says that over the past two decades, the number of outer borough residents commuting from borough to borough or within their borough has been increasing much faster than the number who make the more traditional trip into Manhattan's business districts. Because the subways are generally oriented toward moving riders to and from Manhattan, many outer borough residents with outer borough jobs take the bus.

The report's author, David Giles, says the outer borough bus system is straining under the weight of 60 percent more riders since 1990.

"Despite the fact that transit ridership patterns have been shifting, with more people working in the boroughs, the MTA and NYC Department of Transportation have not made the investments necessary to keep up with these trends," he writes.

The study, called "Behind the Curb," concludes that "the biggest losers in all this have been New York City’s working poor."

The report goes on to say that New York has the slowest bus speeds in the country. Not surprisingly, outer borough bus riders have the longest median commutes.

But the outer boroughs are where New York's new jobs are. Giles says Manhattan had a net loss of 109,029 jobs between 2000 and 2009. But during the same period, the outer boroughs saw employment gains:  Staten Island with 4,045 jobs (a 4.6 percent increase); Queens  with 11,584 jobs (2.4 percent); the Bronx with 16,557 jobs (7.7 percent); and Brooklyn with 35,010 jobs (7.9 percent).

Those jobs were mostly produced by the health care and education sectors. But other large employers--like the new Hunts Point Market in the Bronx with 20,000 employees and JFK Airport in Queens with 50,000 employees--complain that it’s getting harder for their employees in the boroughs to reach work because, in part, the buses are getting more crowded. Additionally, as new employers spread out, some of them are far from existing bus lines.

The Center recommends the city speed up the roll-out of Select Bus Service--buses with dedicated lanes and, in some cities, technology to move faster by keeping lights in their favor. It also calls for the state to commit to a dedicated revenue stream for the MTA, something transit advocates have been saying for years.

Listen to the report's author, David Giles, discuss his findings on WNYC Radio.

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Police, MTA Timelines Differ in Accused Stabber's Subway Capture

Thursday, February 24, 2011


The MTA and New York Police Department have differing accounts of how they coordinated efforts to capture accused stabber Maksim Gelman on a subway train earlier this month.

Comments [5]

Love on the Subway P.S.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

(Photo by bitchcakesny / Flckr-Creative Commons)

(New York - Jim O'Grady, WNYC) This post-Valentine bon bon just landed from Praxedes Arias, who read yesterday's post about Love on the Subway. It describes her encounter on a downtown train. She writes: "He looked older and Irish American...I liked that look.  Beard, mustache, blond...completely opposite of my family or Spanish men (I was born in Havana)."

When this story takes place, she's 27...and ready.

"I met my husband on the A train. I was performing my final play at the American Academy of Performing Arts and was reviewing my lines. It was a Sunday afternoon so the car was pretty empty but I looked up and suddenly he was there sitting in front of me. The guy I had seen in the neighborhood and on the train for weeks and months but never spoke to.  He nodded and said 'hi.'  I said 'hi' and immediately looked down at my playbook. 'Oh my gosh, he spoke to me,' I thought; my heart beating a mile a minute. I was really shy so starting a conversation was out of the question. I needed to find another way. I pulled out a flier of the play from my backpack and circled my name with a note. I waited until we got to Columbus Circle and gave him the flier right before I exited the train and said 'I hope you can make it.' I performed that evening and greeted my guests afterward...and was a little disappointed he wasn't there. I assumed he was married. A few weeks later, I was running late and ran for an overcrowded A train. I made it, and stood there looking disheveled and tired. I felt a tap on my shoulder. I turned around and it was him. He apologized for not having attended the play because he had a previous engagement. Then he asked me out to lunch. Of course I said, 'yes.'  He took me to Phoebe's restaurant and the American Museum of Natural History...a perfect first date. We are now married 16 years and have three beautiful little boys. We are still in love and the best of friends."

To have your heart warmed even more, go to for audio versions of a pair F train love stories--one of them a marriage proposal.

p.p.s. Click "more" to read the above story by the man in question, James O'Driscoll.

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Love Can Happen Anywhere - Even on the NY Subway

Monday, February 14, 2011

Be mine. (Photo by Ed Yourdon / Flckr Creative Commons)

(New York -- Jim O'Grady, WNYC) You’d think Cupid, being a Roman god, wouldn't hang out in the subway. But he does. We put the word out for couples who met on mass transit and heard back from so many that we concluded the God of Desire has an unlimited Metrocard.

It was November 2009 and Daniel Espinosa, in town from Connecticut, had wrapped up a business meeting and was waiting for the downtown 6 train at 33rd street. He sensed a woman standing behind him. He turned and saw Rebecca Stepler. It was 6:30 on a Thursday evening. She was headed home to Brooklyn from work.

"I asked her if she knew of a good place to go for a drink," he recalled. "You know, I was playing a little dumb."

He may have been an out-of-towner but he knew where the bars were. In fact, he had plans to meet friends at a bar in a couple of hours.

Rebecca rattled off a list of establishments. Daniel listened politely, without really listening. When she finished, he got to the point. "Will you join me?" he asked. She thought to herself, "I'm not that kind of person." Then she thought: "What the hell. It's only a drink."

They took the train, got off at 14th Street, and walked a couple of blocks to Nevada Smith's. Over beers, the strangers warmed to each other. "She thought I was genuine, I guess," Daniel said. Rebecca said their conversation was unusual for two people who'd just met because it was "so natural."

Two hours later, Daniel reluctantly left to join his friends. Except that's not where he was going. Rebecca says, "He actually had a couple of hours to kill because he had a date."

A date?

"Yeah," said Rebecca. "I'm the one who usually tells that part of the story."

They laugh about it now because after that chance encounter on the platform, they began spending weekends together. Four months later, he moved into her apartment in Downtown Brooklyn. In March 2010 they married.

We heard the same story arc, with varying details, from others.

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Love Can Happen Anywhere - Even on Mass Transit

Monday, February 14, 2011


One would think Cupid, a Roman god, wouldn't hang out in the subway. But given the responses we received after asking couples who met on mass transit to share their stories, we concluded the God of Desire has an unlimited Metrocard.

Comments [2]

Sea Level Rise From Climate Change Could Turn New York Into Venice

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Malcolm Bowman (photo by Jim O'Grady)

(New York, NY - Jim O'Grady, WNYC) Malcolm Bowman, an oceanography professor from Stony Brook University in Long Island, stood at the snow-covered edge of the Williamsburg waterfront and pointed toward the Midtown skyline. "Looking at the city, with the setting sun behind the Williamsburg Bridge, it's a sea of tranquility," he said. "It's hard to imagine the dangers lying ahead."

But that's his job.

He said that as climate change brings higher temperatures and more violent storms, flooding in parts of the city could become as routine as the heavy snows of this winter. We could even have "flood days," the way we now have snow days. Bowman and other experts say the only way to avoid that fate and keep the city dry is to follow the lead of the Dutch and build moveable modern dykes. Either that or retreat from the shoreline.

The city got a glimpse of such destructiveness with the December nor'easter of 1992, when massive flooding shut down the PATH train and the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel. Again, in the summer of 2007, a flash storm dumped so much rain so quickly that the subways were paralyzed. Afterward, the MTA removed 16,000 pounds of debris from its tracks and spent weeks repairing electrical equipment.

For the rest of the story,  maps and other images showing New York's vulnerability to extreme storms in an age of climate change, go to

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Sea Level Rise Could Turn New York Into Venice, Experts Warn

Wednesday, February 09, 2011


Malcolm Bowman, an oceanography professor, recently stood at the snow-covered edge of the Williamsburg waterfront and pointed toward the Midtown skyline. "It's a sea of tranquility," he said. "It's hard to imagine the dangers lying ahead."

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Initial Reaction to Gateway Tunnel, Son of ARC, is Positive

Monday, February 07, 2011

Route of defunct ARC project in blue; route of proposed Gateway Tunnel in red.

(New York - Jim O'Grady and Kate McGee, WNYC) Gateway Tunnel--bride, son, mutant offspring of ARC--you choose--has been unveiled.

Amtrak President Joseph Boardman joined New Jersey Senators Frank Lautenberg and Robert Menendez on Monday to pledge $50 million for an engineering and planning study of a new trans-Hudson rail link between New York and New Jersey. It was the first of many steps if the $13.5 billion project is to come to fruition.

Like ARC, which was canceled by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie for potential cost overruns, the Gateway Tunnel is meant to address a bi-state rail crisis.

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Problems Facing Metro-North's New Haven Line Were Years in the Making

Sunday, February 06, 2011


Riders on Metro-North's New Haven Line will wake up Monday to find their rush hour service on already overcrowded trains cut by 10 percent. Railroad officials are blaming bad weather for a backlog of repairs that has left them with too few train cars to meet the demands of regular service. But don't count on good service was once the wintry conditions pass.

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Metro North Debacle Won't End Soon

Friday, February 04, 2011

(New York -- Jim O'Grady, WNYC) Riders on Metro-North's New Haven Line will wake up Monday to find their rush hour service on already overcrowded trains cut by ten percent. Railroad officials are blaming bad weather for a backlog of repairs that has left them with too few train cars to meet the demands of regular service.

The line carries commuters to New York City from points north, including Connecticut. Explanations of the debacle imply good service will be back up once the wintry conditions pass.

Don't count on it.

For the rest of the story, read here.

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Some Brooklyn Bus Riders Get Real Time Bus Info

Wednesday, February 02, 2011


Riders of the B63 bus from Cobble Hill to Bay Ridge can now track their bus by mobile phone or computer.

Real-time information about buses along the route is available by Google Map and a dedicated website. Riders can also text a code number for their stop and be texted back about when the next bus should arrive.


MTA Pilot Program Lets Riders Use Phones to Track Buses

Wednesday, February 02, 2011


Riders of the B63 bus from Cobble Hill to Bay Ridge through Park Slope and Sunset Park can now track their bus by mobile phone or computer.


NYC Mass Transit Facing Another $100 Million Cut

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

(New York - Jim O'Grady, WNYC) The MTA says New York

The NYC MTA is facing a sharp cut to an already tight budget.

Governor Andrew Cuomo's call for a $100 million cut from its already squeezed budget will be painful. But the authority insists it can be done without additional fare hikes or service cuts. Still, riders might see dirtier buses and trains.

Bill Henderson of the Permanent Citizens Advisory

Committee to the MTA says all of the low-hanging fruit has been plucked from the authority's budget. Last year the MTA cut two trains, dozens of bus routes, added several minutes to most commute times, halved the cleaning schedule for trains, and laid off hundreds of workers. Henderson says he worried the new round of cuts could mean longer waits for riders, postponed maintenance and less frequent cleaning of stations, trains and buses.

"That's a lot of money and until I see where the money is coming from that doesn't have an impact on the riders, I'm going to be nervous about impacts on the riders," he said.

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Cuomo to Cut MTA Budget By $100 Million

Tuesday, February 01, 2011


The MTA said Governor Andrew Cuomo's call on Tuesday for a $100 million cut from its already squeezed budget will be painful but can be done without additional fare hikes or service cuts. Still, riders may see dirtier buses and trains.

Comments [4]

Planners Say NY's Economy Will Strangle If Airports Don't Expand

Thursday, January 27, 2011

(New York - Jim O'Grady, WNYC) Managing air traffic at New York's major airports is like coaxing three large men through a skinny door: the squeeze is tight and there's no room to grow. That's why the Regional Plan Association issued a report on Thursday calling for a major expansion of Kennedy and Newark airports. The only way out, they say, is to build.

Planners kibbitz at a conference about airport expansion in New York

New York's three major airports, which already lead the nation in congestion and delays, can expect an increase of almost 50 million yearly passengers by the 2030s. The Association says the way to handle all those people is to build new runways to handle more flights.

LaGuardia has no room to expand. So RPA is proposing to add a runway to Newark-Liberty by demolishing and rebuilding a terminal and moving two cargo areas. It also recommends adding a runway to JFK by filling in part of Jamaica Bay. Total estimated price tag: $15 billion.

Taking advantage of the new runways depends on installing a new flight control system that replaces radar with GPS, allowing planes to follow more efficient flight patterns while flying closer to each other. The Federal Aviation Administration is in the early phase of a 20-year, $22 billion roll-out of the technology, called NextGen, which will need to prove itself in field conditions.

RPA considered other options, such as shifting some of the burden to local airports like Stewart in Newburgh and MacArthur in Long Island, along with improving rail connections to the airports and between cities. The report says those improvements would bring gains but not nearly enough.

Area airports currently move 236 flights per hour during peak hours. In 20 years, given increased demand, they will need to add 78 additional peak hour flights. RPA concluded that only more runways and a drastically improved flight control system will add enough flights to approach that number.

But airport expansions, besides being costly, bring more noise to local neighborhoods and carry environmental costs. On the other hand, expansion advocates say, doing nothing will slowly overwhelm area airports and, by 2030, cost the regional economy as many as 125,000 jobs, $6 billion in wages and $16 billion in sales each year.

At a conference on Thursday that brought together business and political leaders to absorb and discuss RPA's findings, a group of planners chatted during a break about the political battles that surely lay ahead. Then grew quiet until one of them said: "Are you ready? Strap in."

Listen to Jim O'Grady discuss this story on WNYC's Financial 411:

Follow Transportation Nation on Twitter.

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Expanding Area Airports Is a Must to Answer Demand, Say Planners

Thursday, January 27, 2011


Two of New York's major airports will need major expansions to handle the expected increase of 50 million passengers annually by the 2030s, according to a report issued by the Regional Plan Association Thursday.


Comments [2]

NJ Refuses to Repay $271 Million to Feds for Axed Arc Tunnel

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


New Jersey Governor Chris Christie told the Federal Transit Administration Tuesday night that he would refuse the agency's demand to have the state pay $271 million for early work done on the cancelled trans-Hudson ARC Tunnel. 

Comments [4]

Down to the Wire on Whether NJ Will Pay $271 Million for Cancelling ARC Tunnel

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

(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.

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East Side Buses, After Sluggish Start, Now Save Riders Time

Friday, January 21, 2011


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. 


MTA Moves Closer to Electronic-Only Tolling

Thursday, January 20, 2011


"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."