Thursday, May 02, 2013
Montgomery County officials have no intention of letting D.C.'s Metro back out of the Silver Spring Transit Center -- even though the project is two years behind schedule and millions of dollars over budget.
Thursday, April 25, 2013
Plans for a major highway in Northern Virginia are taking shape. Officials say the billion-dollar road would spur growth, but opponents say that premise is flawed.
Friday, March 29, 2013
(New York, NY - WNYC) The federal government is making available the balance of $2 billion promised to transit agencies hit hard by Sandy. U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood told transit managers, mostly in New York and New Jersey, that if they've got invoices for Sandy reconstruction and repairs, he's got $1.2 billion in reimbursements to dole out.
That's $545 million less than the amount available before cuts forced by sequestration.
Most of the funding will go to the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which runs buses, trains and subways in and around the city; the PATH train, which connects northern New Jersey to Manhattan; New Jersey Transit, which runs trains and bus in that state; and the NYC Department of Transportation, which oversees roads and bridges.
Here's the full text of LaHood's announcement:
U.S. Transportation Secretary LaHood Announces $1.42 Billion to Help Transit Agencies Recover From Hurricane Sandy
FTA meets deadline to get first $2 billion in aid to storm’s hardest-hit communities
WASHINGTON – U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood today announced a third round of Federal Transit Administration (FTA) storm-related reimbursements through the FY 2013 Disaster Relief Appropriations Act. The majority of the $1.4 billion announced today goes to the four transit agencies that incurred the greatest expenses while preparing for and recovering from Hurricane Sandy—the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), the Port Authority Trans-Hudson Corp. (PATH), New Jersey Transit (NJT), and the New York City Department of Transportation (NYC DOT). The remainder will be allocated to other transit agencies that incurred eligible storm-related expenses but have not yet received funds.
“Shortly after Hurricane Sandy made landfall, President Obama and I promised that we would do everything in our power to bring relief to the hardest-hit communities, and that is exactly what we have done,” said Secretary LaHood. “In less than two months’ time, we met our commitment to provide $2 billion to more than a dozen transit agencies that suffered serious storm damage, and laid the groundwork to continue helping them rebuild stronger than before.”
A total of $10.9 billion was appropriated for the disaster relief effort, which is administered through FTA’s Emergency Relief Program. (This amount was reduced by 5 percent, or $545 million, because of the mandatory sequestration budget cut that took effect on March 1.) Earlier this month, FTA allocated nearly $554 million of the first $2 billion in aid to reimburse certain transit providers in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Connecticut. With today’s allocation, FTA has now met the 60-day Congressional deadline to get the initial funds out the door in order to reimburse hard-hit transit agencies for expenses incurred while preparing for and recovering from the storm.
“Considering that over a third of America's transit riders use the systems most heavily damaged by Hurricane Sandy, it is imperative that we continue this rapid progress to restore these systems in the tri-state region,” said FTA Administrator Peter Rogoff.
The remainder of the $10.9 billion will be utilized for ongoing recovery efforts as well as to help agencies become more resilient in the face of future storms and disasters. The FTA has published an Interim Final Rule in the Federal Register this week for FTA’s Emergency Relief Program outlining general requirements that apply to all the funds allocated related to Sandy and future grants awarded under this program.
A summary of how the funds announced today are to be allocated is described below. A more detailed breakdown, and information on eligibility requirements, appears in the Federal Register:
$1.4 billion in disaster relief aid primarily to assist the transit agencies that incurred the greatest storm-related expenditures: the New York MTA, the PATH, New Jersey Transit (NJT), and the NYC DOT. These funds are made available on a pro-rated basis, based on damage and cost assessments FTA has made with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the transit agencies themselves.
A separate $21.9 million allocation to reimburse the NYC DOT as part of a consolidated request with other entities for various activities prior, during, and after the storm to protect the Staten Island Ferry, its equipment, and personnel, the East River Ferry service, and Governors Island, including the public island’s Battery Maritime Building ferry waiting room. Emergency measures included moving transit equipment to higher ground, operating ferry vessels at berths to prevent damage; debris removal; reestablishing public transportation service; protecting, preparing and securing Ferry Terminals at St. George and Whitehall, facilities and offices to address potential flooding; staffing and operating ferryboats at berths to prevent damage; and performing shelter-in-place operations for worker protection during the storm.
$422,895 to reimburse four additional transit agencies for expenses incurred preparing for and recovering from the storm. These are the Greater Bridgeport Transit District ($21,783); the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority ($344,311); the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority ($1,179) and the Connecticut Department of Transportation, which is receiving $55,622 just for CTTransit bus-related expenses, as FTA previously allocated $2.8 million to MTA for Metro-North rail service serving southwestern Connecticut.
A table listing total allocations for funding recipients to date and a summary of their reimbursable expenditures is available here.
Wednesday, December 19, 2012
(UPDATED) Rare is the meeting of NY Metropolitan Transportation Authority at which the secondary story is a vote to raise fares and tolls. But that was the case on Wednesday morning, when NY MTA chairman Joe Lhota presided over the system's fourth price hike in four years before announcing he'd step down on Dec. 31 to "explore" a run for mayor.
First, the money side: starting March 1, New Yorkers will pay $30 for a weekly Metrocard and $112 for a monthly card. The base fare for buses and subways will rise to $2.50. Riders of commuter rail lines will see an eight to nine percent increase in ticket prices. Tolls on the authority's bridges and tunnels will go up by about the same amount.
The board voted to adopt Lhota's fare and toll hike recommendations. The board also approved Fernando Ferrer, former Bronx Borough President, as the new MTA vice chairman.
According to the MTA, its 2013 budget "assumes small cash balances available at the end of 2013 and 2014 that will be rolled forward to help address deficits in the following years that will nevertheless total more than $330 million by 2016."
Or, as the agency's official twitter account tweeted: "Our Board has adopted a 2013 budget that is fragile and faces risks, but is balanced."
Thursday, December 13, 2012
As expected, the head of the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority is recommending the agency raise the base fare for subways and buses by 25 cents, and increase the cost of a 30-day MetroCard from $104 to $112.
Joe Lhota outlined his recommendation in a memo sent to MTA board members Thursday. The board is expected to approve the fare hike at its meeting next week. It would go into effect in March 2013.
Lhota says in his memo that the increase in fares and tolls will raise an additional $450 million annually for the agency.
To learn more, read the memo below, or download a pdf of it here.
Monday, November 05, 2012
(With reporting from Nancy Solomon) New Jersey commuters, many of whom still don't have power at home, struggled Monday morning to get to work. Gas is still in short supply, and New Jersey Transit's rail lines are only running limited service due to the "devastating damage" inflicted by Hurricane Sandy. The agency has set up emergency park-and-ride service and is using buses to get people into New York. But the wait time can be crushing: in South Orange, along the shuttered Midtown Direct line, train commuters waited two hours for buses.
The Department of Transportation says it's sending 350 buses to the state to fill in where commuter rail service has been disrupted. "The good news for commuters," writes Secretary Ray LaHood, "is that seventy of those buses will arrive ready for service this afternoon in New Jersey and many more will arrive throughout the week." Philadelphia's transit agency (SEPTA) has also sent 31 buses.
A spokeswoman for New Jersey Transit says the agency is trying to cope with multiple challenges and that it is difficult to add express bus service into New York.
For a slideshow of NJ Transit's storm damage, go here.
Friday, November 02, 2012
MTA head Joe Lhota stopped by the Atlantic Avenue-Barclays Center station in Brooklyn on Friday morning to greet passengers waiting in line for the buses over the Manhattan Bridge.
Lines are long but from this video it looks like they were moving quickly.
The buses will be in place until subway service between the two boroughs is restored.
Thursday, October 25, 2012
(New York, NY - WNYC) Joe Lhota, chairman of the NY Metropolitan Transportation Authority, was a guest on The Brian Lehrer Show Thursday, where he predictably resisted prompts to choose between two proposed flavors of subway and bus fare hikes: raising the base fare or the cost of unlimited cards.
"Reporters all want me to say what I want to do one way or the other," he said. "Here's what I want to do: I want to listen to the public." Eight public hearings on the fare and toll hikes will begin on November 7 in Long Island. Lhota said he'll participate in some of the hearings "until the wee hours of the morning," if necessary, to make sure every question has been answered.
(Go here for dates, times and directions to the hearings.)
Less predictably, Lhota held up President Ronald Reagan as an object lesson for Congressional Republicans who would cut mass transit funding. "We cannot be a car-only society," Lhota said, claiming that Reagan, too, "had that vision."
He then praised Reagan for dedicating six cents from an increase to the federal gas tax to mass transit.
"When I go to Washington and I talk to the folks in the majority in the House--and I have to deal with all of the Republicans, as well as the young Republicans who are part of The Tea Party movement--I'm constantly reminding them that the best and biggest supporter of mass transit in the 20th Century was Ronald Reagan," Lhota said.
Lhota also talked about Hurricane Sandy, which is expected to hit New York City on Monday. He said he'd already taken two conference calls to discuss preparations like "sandbags and getting buses to higher ground." But he didn't think he would have to shut down New York's subway and bus system, an unprecedented move that the authority took last year in advance of Hurricane Irene.
Listen to the entire interview:
Wednesday, September 12, 2012
(New York, NY - WNYC) NY Metropolitan Transportation Authority Chairman Joe Lhota wants to either take away or reduce the bonus money from subway and bus riders who use pay-per-ride Metrocards. Right now, riders get a 7 percent bonus when they put $10 or more on a Metrocard. Lhota says he’ll propose cutting the bonus as part of the transit agency’s effort to raise the $450 million needed to balance its budget next year.
"The stated fare price is $2.25 cents, and the average revenue we receive per rider is $1.63," he said. "It shows the depth of our discount system that goes on, and I think we really need to have a discussion of, 'Do we need a discount that deep?'"
Lhota says he'll formally propose the change next month. If the NY MTA Board approves the plan, which would be subject to public hearings in November, the bonus could be gone by March. That's also when fare and toll hikes of about 7 percent are scheduled to kick in.
For every $10 a rider adds to a Metrocard, the card comes out with $10.70, which brings down the cost of a subway or bus ride from $2.25 per trip to $2.10.
Gene Russianoff of the Straphangers Campaign, a transit watchdog group, said he opposes the idea of cutting the bonus because they're designed to help those with lower incomes. "It's accessible to poor people," he said. "You don't have to have $104 in your pocket the way you do with a 30-day pass, or $29 a week with the seven-day pass."
It was not hard to find riders at the Spring Street stop of the C / E train who frowned on the proposal. A.T. Miller, a temp worker and photographer from Brooklyn, claimed the bonuses have helped him. "If I'm going to do a gig for somebody and I'm shooting somewhere else, I usually end up using two and three rides and that becomes very expensive," he said. "And that helps out with the little bonuses that they give us for buying a $10 Metrocard."
Lower East Side resident Jasmine Villanueva was more direct: "I think that sucks, 'cause I'm already broke."
NY MTA spokesman Adam Lisberg countered that there's only three ways to raise the $450 million needed by the authority next year:
- Raise the base fare in increments of a quarter. (Raising fares by nickels or dimes adds too much to the cost of collecting fares.)
- Raise weekly and monthly pass prices in dollar increments.
- Reduce or eliminate the bonus for buying multiple rides on a Metrocard.
“It's going to be some combination of those three,” he said, adding an assurance that cutting the bonus will not allow the authority to take in more than an additional $450 million next year.
Lhota unveiled the initiative on Wednesday in a Crain's New York Business talk in Midtown Manhattan. Talking to reporters afterward, he portrayed the bonus as an odd vestige of New York's retail culture.
"It's like this unique New York concept of, you buy 12 bagels, you get 13," he said. "I can't figure out when that started. But we had that same theory going on when you bought tokens. You buy 10, you got one free. So the thought was, if you buy $10, you gotta get something additional for it."
In fact, the NY MTA used a 20 percent bonus in the late 1990s to help entice riders to give up their brass tokens and switch to the then-novel concept of a Metrocard. Over time, the authority reduced that bonus to 15 percent and then the current 7 percent.
Subway ridership dipped after the last bonus reduction and fare hike in 2010--but then rose past previous levels. That's part of why MTA Chairman Joe Lhota doesn't seem worried about reducing the discount, or eliminating it all together.
"There are some people who are basically saying, 'Look, if you don't give the discount, they won't buy a ten dollar card, they'll buy it individually.' I don't buy that, I don't buy it at all," he said. "New Yorkers love convenience."
Pay-per-rides with discounts are the most popular type of fare cards, accounting for more than a third of all Metrocards sold, and more than monthly or weekly passes.
Thursday, July 26, 2012
Sam Schwartz -- an engineer and former NYC traffic commissioner -- has been shopping a plan he says would make toll pricing more in New York City more rational and equitable. He talks about it on the latest episode of the public television show MetroFocus, starting with a tried and true thought experiment: the alien considering a human custom--in this case, the city's tolling policy--and finding it strange.
"If you were an urban planner from Mars," he said, "and you wanted to go to the center of New York City, you would assume it was Staten Island, because we charge everybody to go into Staten Island. That's crazy."
Instead, Schwartz would raise tolls on approaches to the central business district of Manhattan and lower tolls to geographically peripheral areas like Staten Island and The Rockaways. The plan is generating buzz among urban planners but Schwarz is still seeking a wider audience, knowing such plans in the past have proved a heavy political lift.
The rest of this week's show is devoted to New York City transportation, including the MTA's East Side Access project, bringing real-time bus information to passengers, and a profile of senior citizens in Brooklyn whom are agitating for pedestrian safety.
Bonus: you'll learn the backstory of how Schwartz coined the term 'gridlock,' which he says he can't take sole credit for.
If you're in the New York City area, the episode will air on WNET Thursday night at 8:30. Or watch below!
Thursday, July 19, 2012
(New York, NY -- WNYC) UPDATED New York's MTA will add five new bus routes, restore one route, extend 13 existing bus routes and add midday, night or weekend service on 11 bus routes in all five boroughs. The temporary extension of the G subway line to Church Avenue during reconstruction of the Smith/9th Street station will be made permanent.
Full list here.
In all, the service enhancements add new routes to rapidly growing neighborhoods like Williamsburg, Dumbo, and the Brooklyn Navy Yard (home to Steiner movie studios) where new housing and warehouses have been added to the city at a rapid clip. Manhattan's Far West Side, the South Bronx, and Brooklyn's East New York will also get brand new routes.
As unusual as the service additions are in a national environment where transit service is being routinely cut, they don't fully restore service to the level it was two years ago, before the NY MTA cut two train routes and dozens of bus lines, the biggest cuts in a generation.
In addition, Metro-North Railroad will enhance service on the Hudson, Harlem and New Haven l with increased half-hourly frequency. West of the Hudson, a new round-trip peak train will be added on the Pascack Line.
The Long Island Rail Road will provide increased service from Ronkonkoma every 30 minutes on weekdays after the morning rush and during some weekend periods. Extra trains will accommodate increased rider demand on the Long Beach, Port Jefferson and Montauk branches. Trains from Atlantic Terminal will also be extended until 2 a.m.
Brooklyn is getting two new bus routes -- including one along the fast-growing Williamsburg waterfront and another connecting Dumbo, Downtown Brooklyn, and the Brooklyn Navy Yard, home to Steiner movie studio
Services will be also restored on the following routes:
Bx13, Bx34, B2, B4, B24, B39, B48, B57, B64, B69, X27, X17, M1, M9, M21, Q24, Q27, Q30, Q36, Q42, Q76, S76, S93, X1, X17
Monday, June 25, 2012
Fare evasion costs New York City $100 million a year. And it's worse on buses than subways.
Putting an exact number on the city's problem is difficult, officials said at Monday's New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority committee meeting. Thomas Prendergast, the president of New York City Transit, said "I believe the number is between $50 and $75 million (annually)."
But later that morning, an MTA official said internal estimates put that number closer to $100 million a year -- with fare evasion on buses alone accounting for over $50 million a year.
MTA head Joe Lhota said he met last month with NYPD commissioner Ray Kelly. The result: police are stepping up enforcement and spot checks on buses -- and the effort involves both uniform and undercover officers.
"This new effort has just started," said Lhota, "and I think we'll see the fruit of this relatively soon."
So far this year (as of 6/24), police have made 1,228 "theft of service" arrests on city buses. That's up 72% compared to the same period last year.
Thomas Prendergast said he found some of the fare evasion numbers surprising. "We have the higher end of the rates in Staten Island," he said, "where there's a lot of school service and a lot of the fare evasion may be students."
So far this year there have been 60 arrests for fare evasion in that borough.
Prendergast said he wanted to produce a thorough report on the problem, "rather than just making anecdotal comments."
One board member asked Prendergast why fare evasion occurs more often on buses. "At the front end of my career," said Prendergast, "I drove a bus for 30 days and qualified as a bus operator in Chicago. And let me tell you, it's one of the most difficult jobs."
He then painted a stark picture of a situation drivers could find themselves in. "If you want to work midnight to eight, by yourself on a bus, and challenge somebody for a fare -- we require people to challenge once for a fare -- versus sitting in a booth and calling someone if someone doesn't pay a fare -- it's a very, very complicated issue."
And not a financially insignificant one. "Every dollar we can save from fare evasion is a dollar we can spend for other things," he said.
To give that $100 million figure some context: in 2010, the MTA cut 38 bus lines -- and reduced service on 76 more -- to save $93 million a year.
Saturday, May 05, 2012
How long would you be prepared to wait for a bus? Ten minutes – maybe twenty. Try three hours. Here in Motor City, for the many thousands of people here who don’t have a car, and that’s about a third, getting from A to B is proving almost impossible.
Some riders say the poor service has cost them their jobs, others are having to drop classes because they can't get where they need to go. Yet, Mayor Dave Bing says he’ll do "whatever it takes" to fix the problem. So far, no dice.
WDET reporter Quinn Kleinfelter talks to The Takeway about getting around the Motor City when you don't own a motor yourself.
Tuesday, May 01, 2012
Now it can be told: there are objective standards for measuring how good your Bus Rapid Transit system is. The Institute for Transportation Development Policy has issued new scoring system to see how good BRT systems around the world are.
Among the criteria for making a good BRT -- off board payment, segregated bus lanes, level boarding, and good integration with biknig and walking.
The scorecard will rank BRT corridors as Gold, Silver or Bronze Standard -- apparently every BRT deserves a medal. A BRT Standard committee will confer the rankings on bus systems akin to the Green Building Council bestowing different LEED level certifications.
2012 is a pilot year to test the scorecard.
Last year ITDP did a more informal ranking of systems worldwide. Bogota's got a 93. New York, the lowest rated system, got a 35.
Monday, April 23, 2012
The Bloomberg administration is on board with proposed legislation that may eliminate the "Wild West" atmosphere of intercity buses that many officials say is wreaking havoc on city streets, especially in Chinatown.
Tuesday, April 10, 2012
The New York City subway recorded 1.6 billion rides in 2011 -- the system's highest number since 1950.
According to the New York MTA, which posted 2011 ridership figures to its website, midtown Manhattan continues to be home to the most popular stations in the system. Times Square-42nd Street came in at number one, Grand Central was second, and stations along 34th Street occupied three separate spots on the top ten list.
Other trends of note: ridership to the Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens has almost doubled since a racino opened last year, the G train is increasingly popular, and the Yankees are more popular with straphangers than the Mets.
Although the subways are booming, bus ridership continues to drop -- not surprising, given the MTA's elimination of dozens of bus lines as a cost-cutting measure in June 2010.
Tuesday, April 10, 2012
The New York City subway recorded 1.6 billion rides in 2011 — the system's highest number since 1950.
TN MOVING STORIES: SF's Newest Subway Line Moves Forward; DC's Population Is Up, But Cars Are Down; LaHood Bearish On Transpo Bill
Tuesday, February 28, 2012
Top stories on TN:
NY MTA Board Member: Overnight Shutdowns Too Broad--And More are On the Way (Link)
Will High Gas Prices Hurt Obama’s Reelection Chances? (Link)
Residents Look at Ways to Bring Walkability Back to Old Houston Neighborhood (Link)
It's all systems go for San Francisco's newest subway. (San Francisco Chronicle)
DC's population is up, but car registrations are flat lining. (Or as WTOP puts it, "New DC residents: I couldn't 'car' less.")
Airline co-pilots would have to meet the same experience threshold required of captains—the first boost in four decades—under regulations proposed Monday by the Federal Aviation Administration. (AP via Mercury News)
Ray LaHood is bearish on Congress' chances of passing a transportation bill before the March 31st deadline. “I’m going to use past as prologue. We’ve gone 3½ years beyond the last bill...I don’t see Congress passing a bill before this one runs out, before this extension runs out." (Politico)
Meanwhile, state and local transportation officials are anxiously watching Washington for news about the transpo bill. (Politico)
Auto sales are growing so fast American auto makers can barely keep up -- which could lead to shortages that drive up prices. (NPR)
Lawyers for NYC are heading to court today seeking an appeal of a judge's order that the Taxi and Limousine Commission must submit a long term-plan for wheelchair accessibility. (WNYC)
Following safety concerns, NYC will unveil proposed changes to the Prospect Park loop in Brooklyn that would reduce cars to one lane -- and create two separate lanes for bicyclists and pedestrians. (New York Times)
Future roads will have new technology to ease congestion -- and more congestion because of the new technology. (Marketplace)
TransCanada says it will start building the Oklahoma-to-Texas portion of the Keystone XL pipeline. (NPR)
A bill calling for more transparency at the Port Authority was approved by a New Jersey state senate committee. (Star-Ledger)
New York Times' Room for Debate: how to make cities safer for cyclists and pedestrians? The answers: better street design -- and better enforcement. (Link)
One DC bus rider wrote a song about the errant #42 bus: "One bus, two bus, three bus, four/Can't seem to find those open doors/At this rate how am I gonna get anywhere." (Washington Post)
Thursday, January 26, 2012
Double Happyness - a Philadelphia-based bus company -- now can add a restraining order to its growing pile of legal notices from the federal government.
Last month the U.S. Department of Transportation ordered the company to immediately cease operations after declaring it an "imminent hazard to safety." On Thursday, the feds put some teeth into that order: the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania issued a temporary restraining order prohibiting the company from "operating in or affecting interstate passenger transportation service."
DOT head Ray LaHood said in a statement: “We will not tolerate irresponsible bus companies that jeopardize the safety of bus passengers and other motorists.”
The DOT says it sought the temporary restraining order "based on evidence that Double Happyness was selling bus tickets and conducting bus trips in direct violation of the agency’s previous orders to immediately cease all transportation operations. "
The company runs buses from Albany, Baltimore, and Wilmington, Delaware, to midtown and Chinatown in New York City.
Tuesday, January 24, 2012
The B61 -- Red Hook's only bus line -- will get some additional bus service this spring. New York's MTA said at a committee meeting Monday that it will tweak the schedule and add service on the beleaguered line.
This change follows a report put out last month by Brooklyn Councilman Brad Lander that said buses on the route don’t come often enough -- and bunch up when they do. Lander said he was happy the MTA plans to add buses to the line, but added there's more that could be done to improve service.
"We're looking forward to sitting down and talking with them about the crowding, about all the long waits, about all the buses that are skipping stops, and the need for real-time bus information and some route changes," he said, "but this is an important first step."
The B61 goes from Windsor Terrace to downtown Brooklyn. The MTA, which monitors schedules and makes adjustments to bus service quarterly, will put two additional buses into service along the route during the afternoon rush hour. But that's not the only bus service change this spring. The agency is making 82 bus schedule changes on 63 different routes. (See the list here, beginning on page 73 of the pdf.) Thirty-eight of those changes reflect increases in service frequency or running time. The remaining 44 represent reductions in frequency.
The changes go into effect in April.