(New York, NY - WNYC) Peregrines prefer peaks. In New York City, that means the flat tops of tall bridges. Once again, it's time to cinch up the safety harness, scale a few feats of infrastructure and count hatchlings.
The NY Metropolitan Transportation Authority, always casting about for ways to improve its perennially embattled image, has in recent years embraced and promoted its role as Haven of Hatcheries. The authority has allowed the city Department of Protection to build shelters for raptors atop its bridges, and to let city conservationists go into them once a year and band the newborn birds they find. The shelters are no-frills affairs with guano-speckled roofs. And the banding, according to Chris Nadareski, the conservationist in the video, doesn't hurt the birds--though it must be said, those chicks don't seem pleased.
This year's total of newborn falcons on three bridges operated by the MTA: seven. Their wide-eyed adorableness on a scale of 1 to 10: 10. Interesting stat: when diving for prey, peregrines can exceed 200 miles per hour, making them the fastest birds in the world. It also puts them in sync with the city's unofficial motto: "Move swiftly or starve. "
New York City is home to more than 20 pairs of peregrine falcons. Two of the newest ones are called Lief and Skye, which are names you can soon expect to be attached to Brooklyn tots. The birds were nearly wiped out in the 1960s because of pesticides and remain on the New York State endangered list. But, thanks in part to the MTA's hospitality, it is increasingly common to see a raptor in search of a fish wheeling in the sky above the harbor. Hence the video's closing invitation+ warning:
"Look for the peregrine falcons...but not while you're driving."
Some City Council members are pushing for subway station grading system similar to the one used to rate restaurants’ cleanliness – but the MTA is red-lighting the proposal.
(New York, NY - WNYC) Don't even think of driving to the Barclays Center when it opens on September 28. That was the thrust of a traffic management plan presented by consultant Sam Schwartz at a public hearing in downtown Brooklyn on Tuesday.
"We're going to reduce the number of cars coming to the arena," Schwartz emphasized. "That's our mantra."
The plan would cut parking at the Barclays Center, future home of the Brooklyn Nets, from 1,000 to 541 spots. Ticket-holders will be urged to arrive by Long Island Rail Road or one of eleven subway lines that meet beneath the arena. Schwartz says another way of keeping vehicles out of the heavily congested area will be to encourage drivers to park at a half-priced lot a mile away near the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, and take a free shuttle bus.
However, the arena's website makes clear that suite-holders will get priority parking: " You will have a reserved spot within a one to two block radius from the premium entrance. Important to note that our parent company controls parking both on the Arena site and surrounding areas that will enable us to deliver the most convenient parking access possible to our suite customers." Jane Marshall, a spokeswoman for arena developer Forest City Ratner, said 150 of the 541 spots will be reserved for suite and season-ticket holders.
The Schwartz plan also calls for HOV spaces for cars with three or more people. And if drivers want to park near the arena, they'll be encouraged to go online and pay for a reserved spot at a lot or garage before leaving. Schwartz said that should cut down on drivers circling the area while deciding where to park. And the plan offers yet another incentive to leaving the motorized vehicle at home: 400 bicycle parking spots.
Despite such measures, car owners who live near the Barclays Center still worry that people driving in to attend a Nets game or concert will take up all the parking spots in nearby neighborhoods, especially now that the Schwartz plan seeks to slash the number of spots at the arena.
Those residents learned that the city won't be granting their request for residential parking permits any time soon. The New York City Department of Transportation's Christopher Hrones said his agency is still studying the issue.
"We're not in a position, for several reasons, to have a residential parking permit in place when the arena opens on September 28th," he said. He added that even if the city were to approve a parking permit program, it would need permission from the state, and that takes time. Because of the format of the evening -- questions submitted on cards with no possibility of follow-up -- there wasn't an opportunity to get further clarification on residential parking permits.
Around Yankees Stadium in the Bronx, motorists continue to look for on-street parking to the consternation of local residents, as we've reported.
The arena's traffic management plan now enters a 30-day public review period.
You’ll want to think twice, or maybe even a third time, before deciding to drive to Barclays Arena when it opens on September 28. The parking plan for Barclays is being cut from 1,000 to 541 spots.
(New York, NY - WNYC) Readers of TN know that transportation is not just a way of life, it is the key to the meaning of life. And now the George Mason University Class of 2012 knows it, too, after listening to a commencement address by National Transportation Safety Board Chairwoman Deborah Hersman.
"Congratulations, Patriots," Hersman began, referring to the school's sports teams, before orienting her audience to the intensity of her job as head of the federal agency charged with showing up after a deadly crash and figuring out what happened.
"I have been at 19 major accident scenes and there is nothing - nothing - that makes the point about the importance of family and friends more than seeing how things change in the blink of an eye," she said. "You can send a loved one off on a routine trip and then nothing is ever routine again."
Her conclusion? "Treasure each day ... each moment ... each other."
In case that wasn't sobering enough, Hersman added this statistic: "Since I graduated from high school in 1988, more than 300,000 people have been killed in impaired driving accidents."
She blamed part of the problem on the dangers of distraction. "We've seen what can happen when pilots don't monitor their airspeed, locomotive engineers run a red signal, or drivers are distracted," she said.
Her conclusion? "Life is fleeting and precious. Be present ... be there ... be in the moment."
Avoiding distraction is especially important for transportation professionals, Hersman declared. "Sadly, in our investigations, too many times we see the consequences of tired transportation workers. Pilots who overfly their destinations and don't respond to air traffic controllers, drowsy bus drivers on overnight trips...and more."
She then used a--what else?--transportation metaphor to describe the relentlessness of change. "In transportation, cables and pulleys were replaced by hydraulic systems, and these in turn, are being replaced by electronic sensors," she said. Conclusion: "You can resist change ... or you can embrace it. I recommend the latter."
Hersman wrapped up by describing her main satisfaction as head of the NTSB: "Our work saves lives. It doesn't get any better than that."
She acknowledged that humans have been known to celebrate large achievements, lke graduating from college, with alcohol. Conclusion: "Please make the life-saving choice to designate a driver or take a cab home."
(New York, NY - WNYC) The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey is beefing up customer service at area airports — and getting some James Cameron-style help in the form of avatars.
The avatar is a life-sized flat screen in the shape of a woman who activates when a customer approaches. In a perky, smirky, sexy voice, she dispenses flight information and tips about airport services like the location of shuttle buses, rest rooms and taxis. She gives the same spiel to every customer.
Port Authority Executive Director Pat Foye unveiled one of the computerized avatars at a press conference at LaGuardia Airport Monday morning. He said the machines are meant to supplement the airport's 350 flesh-and-blood customer representatives, who will soon be joined by 70 new hires.
A total of five avatars are scheduled for installation at LaGuardia, JFK and Liberty Newark airports in early July. Unlike most humans, they won't be interactive. But Foye said he hopes a future iteration of the talking machines will hold conversations with passengers.
That didn't stop the demonstration avatar from extolling her advantages over human employees: "I never take a break, don't charge overtime, hardly ever take sick leave and I don't need a background check." Later, she smiled suggestively and said, "I can...be just about anything you want me to be."
(In the video above that's PA Chief Pat Foye, with white beard and glasses, in the background around the 35-second mark.)
The Authority also unveiled new airport apps and dozens of information kiosks and electronic device charging stations to help travelers.
Air passengers will also soon encounter what the Port Authority is calling the first use of avatar technology at North American airports: holograms in the form of customer service representatives.
(New York, NY - WNYC) Documents released by federal investigators show the driver involved in a deadly Bronx bus crash when returning from a Connecticut casino last year was hired in 2007 to drive a city bus. An MTA background check kept Williams off the road, but only until a private company hired him.
On his job application with the MTA, driver Ophadell Williams admitted his driver's license had been suspended from 1996 to 2003 because of "child support." He also wrote, "I made a couple of mistakes in my life."
That did not stop the MTA from hiring him. But then a background check revealed Williams had failed to disclose a pair of felony convictions. A superintendent, on finding that out, wrote in a memo that "It is imperative that Mr. Williams" termination be completed as soon as possible." Williams resigned a few days later, after two weeks on the job. The MTA says Williams never got behind the wheel of a bus with passengers.
Private tour bus operator World Wide Travel hired Williams as a driver in 2010. He was driving a bus for the company in March, 2011, when he crashed on I-95, killing 15 passengers.
National Transportation Safety Board documents released today show that Williams' cellphone and rental car were in almost continuous use during the three days before he made a pre-dawn run from Connecticut to New York City--times when he said he'd been sleeping. A preliminary report last year said Williams was speeding at 78 miles per hour shortly before he lost control of the bus, which struck a highway signpost.
A toxocology test cleared Williams of drug use, and a breath test that he took at the scene of the accident showed that he hadn't been drinking.
The NTSB says it will release "an analysis of the collision, along with conclusions and its probable cause" on June 5. Williams has pleaded not guilty to charges of manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide.
Documents released by federal investigators show the bus driver involved in a deadly Bronx crash when returning with passengers from a Connecticut casino last year was hired in 2007 to drive a city bus.
(New York, NY - WNYC) Ten NY transit workers are set to be arrested Friday for allegedly falsifying records about how many subway signals they inspected in the years prior to 2009. But the low-level inspectors aren't the real criminals in the so-called "signalgate" scandal, says Transport Workers Union president John Samuelsen. He slammed the planned arrests, saying managers are the culprits.
The NY Daily News first reported the story; a spokesperson for Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance confirmed to TN that the arrests are pending.
The signals keep trains moving smoothly and prevent them from crashing into each other. The MTA's own investigation released in 2010 found maintenance goals were not being met and records were falsified "on a widespread basis" to cover that up.
Samuelsen said the workers, who are expected to be charged with felonies, are low level signal maintainers and managers who were assigned excessive workloads. He said their supervisors may also have falsified their inspection records without the workers' knowledge.
"It's astounding to us that the senior level bosses that orchestrated this entire charade, this entire issue that led to fraudulent signal inspections, have been untouched by the district attorney," Samuelsen said.
He said senior management "put severe pressure on low-level field level supervisors and signal maintainers to perform fraudulent signal inspections."
Samuelsen further maintained that that a bar code system used to verify work "was so corrupt that any over-zealous manager could input an employee’s identification credentials and sign for as much equipment as he felt necessary."
The real perpetrators of subway signal inspection fraud, he claims, have so far gone untouched despite an investigation by NY MTA Inspector General Barry Kluger. "There's an absolute witch hunt going on here against transit workers and low level supervisors," Samuelson said, " while the big bosses hide behind the curtains."
Neither the Manhattan District Attorney's office nor Kluger would comment further on the case.
But MTA spokesman Adam Lisberg weighed in. He said, "If Mr. Samuelsen has any information that people involved in fraudulent signal inspections have not been prosecuted, he should present it to the district attorney."
NY MTA Signal Division Chairman John Chiarello told WNYC that TWU members arrested in the Signalgate investigation could expect to be backed by the union as they make their way through the legal system. "Leadership of the union is going to stand behind the members and we’re going to defend them," he said.
Transport Workers Union President John Samuelsen slammed the planned arrests on Friday of 10 NY MTA workers for faking signal inspections in the subway. The workers allegedly falsely claimed they checked the signals that keep trains moving smoothly and prevent them from crashing into each other.
The NY Metropolitan Transportation Authority's Fast Track program, which shuts down large portions of subway lines entirely overnight, isn't just for Manhattan any more. Outer borough riders who take the subway late at night will see the pilot program expanded--possibly to their chagrin.
Each Fastrack shutdown lasts Monday to Friday, from 10 at night until 5 in the morning. The program, started in January, allows crews to work for seven straight hours on long stretches of track without stopping to let trains pass by. But that means late night riders have to scramble to find a shuttle bus or trek to another subway to get to where they want to go. The NY MTA website warns they should expect to add about 20 minutes to each trip.
The NY MTA explains the need for the program this way: "Fastrack is a safer and more efficient way to maintain and clean New York City's sprawling subway — a system that never closes...800 MTA employees are able to inspect signals, replace rails and cross ties, scrape track floors, clean stations and paint areas that are not reachable during normal train operation."
Originally, the shutdowns were only supposed to take place in Manhattan, and only this year, for a total of 16 weeks of inconvenience. But already the NY MTA has declared it a success because of how much maintenance is getting done. And now spokesman Kevin Ortiz says Fast Track will continue into next year, when it will expand to lines in the outer boroughs and possibly the N, Q and R trains along Broadway in Manhattan.
Fast Track continues this week with the suspension of the B,D,F and M lines between 57th and West 4th Streets, starting Monday night
(New York, NY) Subway and bus ads are the latest battleground between Mayor Michael Bloomberg's health department and soda makers. The newly formed New York City Beverage Association is taking a huge mass transit ad buy as part of a $1 million campaign to rebut the city's claim that soda is unhealthy.
For months, the city has been running public service announcements linking sugary drinks to mountains of fat and waterfalls of sugar, including a graphic video that claims drinking a can of soda a day can add ten pounds in a year by showing a man pouring fat out of a can of soda and drinking it.
Health Department Commissioner Thomas Farley elaborated on those objections in a statement to Transportation Nation: “Americans are literally drinking themselves fat, consuming 200-300 more calories daily than 30 years ago, with the largest single increase due to sugary drinks."
Farley also defended the city's anti-soda campaign in light of the association’s public relations offensive. "The Health Department will continue providing New Yorkers with the facts about the dangers of this overconsumption.”
The Beverage Association is fighting back with ads of its own on 570 subway cars, 75 buses and 120 subway platforms. The ads claim soda makers are fighting obesity and other health risks by offering low-cal drinks, smaller serving sizes and clearly displayed calorie counts.
Despite the timing of the ad campaign, association spokesman Stefan Friedman insisted his industry isn't quarreling with the health department.
"Look, we face some issues with the city but it's important for us to tell our story," he said. "All evidence is clear that the obesity epidemic comes from a number of different sources. Sugar-sweetened beverages comprise just 5 percent of the American diet."
Friedman added the beverage industry directly employs more than 8,000 New Yorkers and contributes $1.5 billion dollars to the local economy.
The MTA's Fastrack program, which shuts down large portions of subway lines overnight, isn't just for Manhattan any more. The pilot program will be expanded to the outer boroughs - possibly to the chagrin of late night riders.
Subway and bus ads are the battleground between Mayor Michael Bloomberg's health department and soda makers. The newly formed New York City Beverage Association is taking a huge mass transit ad buy as part of a $1 million campaign to rebut the city's claim that soda is unhealthy.
More than a third of all long subway delays are caused signal problems, according to an analysis of 3,000 text alerts sent by the NY MTA last year.
(New York, NY - WNYC) More than a third of all long subway delays are caused signal problems, according to an analysis of 3,000 text alerts sent by the NY MTA last year by the Straphangers Campaign.
The report tallied "significant incidents that often generated subway delays" of 8 minutes or more and found signal problems caused 36 percent of such delays, followed by mechanical problems at 31 percent. Rail and track problems caused a combined 19 percent of long delays.
Straphangers spokesman Gene Russianoff said he's not surprised, given what he saw of the signals at one location. "The MTA took us on a tour of the West 4th Street Station, where 7 lines and hundreds of thousands of riders go through every day and we went to the dispatcher's office where the signals are kept and they were built in 1932 and looked like the controls on the deck of His Royal Majesty's ship, the Titanic," he said.
The report only looked at delays in the control of the MTA and not incidents such as police actions and sick passengers. The lines with the most delays were the 2 and 5 trains, which each had 8 percent of total delays. The line with the fewest delays was the G, which connects Brooklyn and Queens and is the only line that does not go into Manhattan.
Manhattan had the most delays at 43 percent. The Bronx had the fewest with 11 percent.
The MTA said it is upgrading signals, tracks and subway cars as part of its capital construction program. The authority launched its free text alert system in November 2008; it has more than 76,000 subscribers.
The Straphangers Campaign is a public interest research group that advocates for improvements in mass transit.
Long Island Railroad riders might not see service to Grand Central Terminal on the East Side of Manhattan until 2019, a year later than expected.
(New York, NY - WNYC) Long Island Railroad riders might not see service to Grand Central Terminal on the East Side of Manhattan until 2019, a year later than expected.
Joe Lhota, chairman of the NY Metropolitan Transportation Authority, told business leaders on Long Island that the tunnel project has bogged down beneath a railyard in Sunnyside, Queens, where contaminated soil and an unexpected abundance of underground brooks and springs have slowed digging. He said the authority has brought in tunneling experts from Europe to help solve the problems.
The project, called East Side Access, will bring Long Island Railroad trains beneath the East River to Grand Central Terminal. Now, all LIRR trains go to Penn Station, on Manhattan's West Side.
Lhota called East Side Access the first major expansion of the LIRR in 100 years. He said that, on completion, it would shave about 40 minutes off commuting time for Long Islanders who work on the East Side of Manhattan and would increase capacity of the railroad by 41 percent.
“There are 800,000 people per day that go through Penn Station,” Lhota said, according to Long Island Business News. “And 60 percent of those are Long Island Rail Road riders. East Side Access should relieve a lot of that burden.”
The project, which was originally scheduled for completion in 2015, has been delayed several times. (The NY MTA's website still lists an obsolete end date of 2016.)
NY MTA spokesman Adam Lisberg later walked back Lhota's remarks. He said, "Chairman Joe Lhota did say this morning that a very preliminary study that he saw has a risk of the deadline going into 2019. We’re in the process of re-evaluating the deadline on East Side Access and will report to the board on it at the end of May."
Lisberg said NY MTA engineers are looking at "several different types of studies" to determine whether to stick with or push back the current 2018 deadline. "It’s complex tech stuff and the experts don’t always agree," he said.
The NY MTA has said previous delays were caused in part by conflicts with Amtrak, which is also working on construction projects at the Sunnyside Railyards in Queens, slowing digging for East Side Access. Lisberg said those problems have been solved. "In January, at one of our meetings, there was discussion of problems with scheduling work in coordination with Amtrak," he said." Now we’re very well coordinated."
And now comes this statement from the MTA press office:
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority is reevaluating the risks in the construction schedule for the East Side Access project, and plans to present its findings to the Capital Program Oversight Committee later this month. One preliminary analysis of risk factors has indicated the completion date may move to 2019, as East Side Access construction intensifies in the busiest passenger rail yard and the largest passenger rail interchange in the nation.
The analysis is not complete, and the MTA is identifying ways to mitigate those risk factors to allow the project to be completed as early as possible. The MTA continues to work with its partners at the Federal Transit Administration to update the East Side Access funding agreement to reflect the new schedule.
Amtrak and the MTA are working closely together on East Side Access and improvements to the East River tunnels and the Harold Interlocking to accommodate the roughly 500,000 passengers who rely on 1,200 train movements through the region each day. Senior executives at Amtrak, the MTA and NJ Transit regularly meet to coordinate construction activities and do everything possible to keep work moving forward.
(New York, NY - WNYC) The New York City Department of Transportation continues to show community boards in Brooklyn and Manhattan where it's planning to install Bike Share stations in those boroughs.
NOTE: WE'VE TURNED THIS INTO AN INTERACTIVE MAP, VIEW IT HERE.
NYC DOT has promised to post a map of the entire system online once it's done. But the department is sticking by its refusal to release the draft maps, though it's supposed to have the actual program up in running by mid-July, a mere 10 weeks from now.
There is a way to glimpse what the city has in mind, and that's to go to a community board meeting and sit through the department's presentation of bike share locations. Hence our presence, with cell phone camera, at Thursday night's meeting of Community Board 1's Planning and Infrastructure Committee.
We photographed five slides, like the one above, that show where the bike share docks would go around Lower Manhattan. By our count, CB 1 will hold 42 of them.
The locations were whittled down through a series of meetings with department staff and community board members. Kate Fillin-Yeh, director of New York City Bikeshare, said any proposed location that had been red-flagged in a previous meeting did not make the cut.
Of the 42 that remain, twelve would require the removal of parking spaces--"three or four" per location, according to Fillin-Yeh. The stations would also be installed on street sites not used for parking, sidewalks, parks and plazas, and private property.
She said the department tried to spread the the bike docks evenly throughout Lower Manhattan, and place them near subway stations, large institutions like New York Law School, and tourist sites like south Street Seaport and the boat to the Statue of Liberty.
Board members reacted positively to the plan, with some praising the DOT for the way it has run its consultation with the community. The plan will be presented to the full board in the coming weeks.