What They're Gonna Do About the MTA

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

(Marc A. Hermann / MTA New York City Transit)

The MTA has set up a Transportation Reinvention Commission, an advisory board on how the system can deal with growing ridership, climate change, and other challenges. Ray LaHood, former U.S. transportation secretary and now co-chair of the MTA's Reinvention Commission, talks about how they're taking public comment and what comes next.


Ray LaHood

Comments [25]

Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY

I have always found it an irony that riders that are using the subways want the MTA to improve them, but they always want anyone but them to foot the bill when it comes to funding. I feel that transit along with the fares is already funded in a perverse way that includes tolls and gas taxes, which is why so many motorists are opposing this. Trying to fund it via road pricing will always be seen as a regressive tax, because those that can't afford to live near good transit will be hurt the most by it. Before anyone cries foul on fare hikes, keep in mind that tolls go up much higher and more constantly, plus they don't go up in quarters like fares do. In reality, you guys are paying way less than it's worth, while those of us that are stuck with no viable alternatives are the ones getting the royal screw job here. Seriously, if you can afford to live in pricey parts of the city, you can afford higher fares. The original purpose of tolls was to pay off the bonds for what they were placed on, and they were supposed to be removed long as soon as they were paid off, but making them a revenue source for other things is really a bad idea and made them go up even higher than they should. BTW, the state of NY has the highest gas tax and possibly the highest tolls on average, but the roads they are supposed to be going towards are still in bad shape, which makes me question where a lot of it is really going to. Overall, I do support helping with mass transit, but I feel that it should be proportionally to those that use it the most, not less.

Jul. 29 2014 03:54 PM

RE Regional Fare Card:

The metrocard infrastructure is aging, and much of it will need to be replaced for metrocards to continue to be used. The plan is instead to put together a more capable fare payment system, it will probably be in use by 2020. Getting agencies not part of the MTA to cooperate is something the MTA can't control. Just to start worry about LIRR and MNR.

RE MTA needs to automate to reduce the payroll costs:

Ignoring buses that are run as a social service of sorts, they would be profitable at current fares without the driver, but that's some years off. Modern signaling can let trains run themselves. But the L still has two employees per train. And LIRR has about 900 conductors, most of whom wouldn't be needed in a POP system. You need a governor willing to tolerate the unions endorsing his opponent, or wreaking havoc with a strike, one who will get them to agree to a phasing out of many positions. Cuomo is not that governor.

RE How could you build a new bridge in 2014 without mass transit options? a safe bike option? a safe pedestrian option?:

The bridge does have a planned bike path/pedestrian walkway.


It was a bad plan. It didn't go to Grand Central, it didn't go to existing Penn, it had no connection to allow through running trains into Queens or Westchester. It's best feature was that it was moving forward. Now that it isn't it would be better to go with a better plan.

RE high-speed rail going up to Orange, Ulster and Sullivan:

Per rider that would be very expensive. Running more subways to underserved parts of the city would benefit far more people per dollar spent. Not to mention the larger land impact and energy use might not be desirable.

RE Federally subsidized transit in Rockland county:

Suburbs are built around cars, they are served inefficiently by transit. You would need a massive subsidy, it's better spent elsewhere. Better as in you could help more people.

RE highway median rail:

If people can drive to the highway, they want to drive the whole way. Within the city there are better places to build subways, that people could walk to, where more development would lead more people to walk to, where people would prefer to walk, because it isn't a highway. For suburban lines? More subways would move more people per dollar spent, those lines should be the priority.

Jul. 29 2014 03:18 PM
Yusef Jeffries-El from Brooklyn

@Capp from NYC

The handrails on the newer cars are designed to keep passengers away from the doors (and the doors between the cars) in order to prevent people from blocking them.

Jul. 29 2014 01:01 PM
Larry from Nyack

(1) In the suburbs like Rockland County there is much dispersed trip generation to other suburbs even to Conn. & NJ. Why not have a fleet of owner-operated comfortable share-vans to trip-generators with regional coordination of routes, schedules and systems plus federal subsidies?

(2) Much talk and planning goes into the "one-seat ride" to get commuters out of their cars and into buses and trains. It's a fallacy: when I tried to get a direct bus to NYC I had to drive [to a park-and-ride] for 15 minutes to Nanuet or 20 min. to Yonkers. We need to get more people to work at home or have a 4-day work-week and accept the "park-ride points" that can get people to mass transit stops, as does the Tappan Zee Express bus to Metro North.

(3) Comparably, the failure to do a "New T Z Bridge" comprehensive transportation solution [because the Governor chose rather to replace the bridge quickly] precluded a regional mass transit hub in Rockland. There can be reproductions of regional parking structures [White Plains, Metropark in Iselin NJ] where bike paths and highways could feed directly into thousand-car parking OVER THE HIGHWAY to allow the express buses, trains, vans and shuttles to merge and transport us to the dispersed trip-generators. At the TZ bridge, the west terminus has a 600 foot diameter loop intersection between I-87/I-287 and Rte-9W that could have been the basis for such a regional garage and transit station.

(4) Research has resulted in new bridge designs. Is the Federal Transportation Dept. doing [or has it done] research into new technologies to retro-fit rail lines onto existing highway rights of way? There is almost none of this in the NY Metro area, but we can see examples in the AirTrain over Van Wyck Expwy. or the Chicago CTA Blue line in the median of Kennedy Expressway. We need to develop efficient engineering solutions to deal with interchange bridges and utilities to enable light or heavy rail in the median of highways.

Jul. 29 2014 11:43 AM

What a batch of GOOD IDEAS listeners have posted here.

What a mystifyingly disappointing guest Mr. LaHood is. He either knows VERY little--or is deliberately keeping mum about anything he does know. Cheeze.

Jul. 29 2014 11:17 AM
Charles from Downtown

Why are Double Decker and out of state Charter Tour buses allowed to use MTA bus stops and bus lanes for free? They completely disrupt and prevent MTA buses and passengers from safe loading and unloading. Why don't these private companies pay the MTA and NYC a usage fee or toll for the privilege of using the MTA stops and bus lanes?

Jul. 29 2014 10:58 AM

Regional Fare Card
(or equivalent)

There should be one method of payment that works for all transit modes throughout the region. Managing tickets, card, passes, etc for several systems is nuisance, a disincentive for riders, and probably an inefficiency for carriers. More than one way to do it. Could be done by getting NJ and Conn carriers to accept Metrocard, or a new system based on debit cards, or something else.

Jul. 29 2014 10:53 AM
Capp from NYC

Why don't they make realistic ceiling rails for people to grab hold off within the door area. They tried to do that towards the center of the cars, but they're too high and no one ever uses them. They're needed near the door areas.

Jul. 29 2014 10:52 AM

Useless guest.

Jul. 29 2014 10:51 AM
Nancy from NYC

If we had high-speed rail going up to Orange, Ulster and Sullivan counties, those areas would boom as suburbs for folks who work in NYC. We wouldn't need gambling up there to revitalize those areas.

NOW is the time to do it, since borrowing costs are near zero and there are many, many people who need jobs.

We KNOW how to revitalize these areas, but don't do it because of GOP hysteria about government debt. Revitalizing these huge swaths of near-upstate NY would permit us to pay down debt, due to the industry and business and real estate that high-speed rail up there would create.

Jul. 29 2014 10:50 AM
martha r from Greenpoint

I am a bit shocked at LaHood's apparent paucity of ideas, other than "private sector," "private sector," private sector!"
He seems to know very little about actual proposals for the area, and (luckily for the public) is not too familiar with Sam Schwartz's neoliberal fee-imposing positively Singaporean ideas.
I agree that Congress should be lobbied and persuaded to fund PUBLIC transport. But don't count on LaHood to be the guy to do it.
You know, more money to carry out sensible plans for upgrading is the only solution that we should be seeking.

Jul. 29 2014 10:50 AM
Amy from Manhattan

In the days of subway tokens, you could count your tokens & know how many rides they'd pay for & when you'd need to buy more. With the current Metrocards, you have to take your card to a subway station & swipe it to find out how many fares are on it. I live 3 blocks from a station & still forget to go in & check. Many people don't live anywhere near a subway station & have to take at least 1 bus just to get where they can check their card balance & refill their card. Can't we either get more advanced cards that people could read w/their cell phones or install standalone card readers away from subway stations?

Jul. 29 2014 10:49 AM
frank schiro

Reinvent the mta completly. Trains are discreate. They can only hold a certain amount of passangers and have limits.

We need a continuous transit system. Like a always moving rail with a loading system that puts small cars on and off.

We can open the doors for people to submit designs or even make an open source program to create a design for a continous transit system. We can use the new tunnel were digging on 2nd avenue to test it.

Trains are ancient technology. I want a continous transit system

Jul. 29 2014 10:48 AM
victoria from manhattan

The commissioner keeps mention our aging tunnels. I wonder what he thinks of the ARC tunnel disaster and if he'd suggest reviving the proposal.

Jul. 29 2014 10:46 AM
Jay from Manhattan

Can you embrace a more regional solution -- including CT, NJ and the Hudson Valley of NY?
Try working with rapid rail to the Hudson Valley and to some of the ravaged towns of CT and NJ, that could be reinvigorated, broadening the housing options and relieve the pressure on the core. It is way too expensive to build all this affordable housing in the city -- it makes more sense to embrace regional solutions and provide more choice and options for all.

Jul. 29 2014 10:45 AM
Kim from Brooklyn

Why didn't the new Tapanzee Bridge get a rail line?
How could you build a new bridge in 2014 without mass transit options? a safe bike option? a safe pedestrian option?
I don't believe a word this guy is saying…just a politician.

Jul. 29 2014 10:44 AM

I want a database that resolves license plate numbers to an email or cell phone number so that I can message a driver about safety situations - low tire pressure, various bulbs out, tailgating. In order to avoid abuse - harassment, etc. - messages may have to be forwarded by the state motor vehicle commissions.

Jul. 29 2014 10:43 AM

MTA needs to automate to reduce the payroll costs which swamp everything and make expansion and more service impossible. The agency has become a black hole for money. Back in China most of the systems are highly automated despite low labor costs and run like clockwork.

Jul. 29 2014 10:41 AM
Bobby GG from East Village

The MTA needs to stop borrowing so much damn money, and Mr. LaHood needs to persuade his Republican colleges in Congress to support mass transit.

Jul. 29 2014 10:36 AM
Sharon Houlihan from Elmhurst

There needs to be more escalators & elevators to make it easier for the aging population as well as the numerous younger population dealing w/knee & hip problems, AND the many people who haul baby carriages, tables and other paraphernalia necessary for life in the City. A more accessible subway would reduce card use as well as possibly Access-A-Ride use.

Accessibility is not just for the elderly, it benefits everyone.

Jul. 29 2014 10:33 AM
Cynthia from Brooklyn

The shrieking exit alarm gates add an additional level of hell for subway commuters.

Jul. 29 2014 10:28 AM

Why do tickets expire so soon? Or at all?

Last I was in Wash. DC, and in Chicago, my old Metro/Transit tix were just fine. Which encouraged me to buy more, because I knew they'd still be good for my next trip.

On Metro North, I used to get 10-trips; I now just buy my senior ticket on the train--it wastes everyone's time, but I've been burned on expired tix too many times.

Jul. 29 2014 10:10 AM

How about dedicated EXITS? So that during rush hours we don't have to do battle for a free turnstile to get out.

Jul. 29 2014 10:03 AM
Sheldon Teicher from Forest Hills

I have a long ongoing interest in urban transportation. Subways are especially a strong concern of mine. NYC has one of the greatest systems in the world although the degree of under-investment is disappointing when compared to Seoul (the best system in the world)and to Tokyo ( equally superb). There countless improvements that should be made if we had the will and the resources but a few present themselves at the top of the list:
1. Reduce "headways" between trains to 2 minutes;
2. Move stairways from encroaching upon the platform profiles (this will allow greater loading & easier access to trains);
3. Move towards a "no-fare" MTA system by imposing broad-based taxation regime on the tax base of the state.
4. Engage in an honest negotiation expedition with the TWU to introduce part-time employment to satisfy rush-hour personnel requirements.
Thank you.

Jul. 29 2014 09:47 AM
CC from Brooklyn

So many basic things need to happen to improve the system...train frequency and delays are currently a major problem. Not sure what causes the deafening screeches but it would be incredible to have a quieter ride. One way turnstiles and one way staircases could create a uniform flow of traffic. Having a clear barrier wall between track and platform could eliminate accidental track deaths (similar to the Hong Kong system). I would love to see accurate train arrival countdown clocks in every station and additional train lines to link Brooklyn to Queens.

Jul. 29 2014 06:19 AM

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