Transportation Nation

Washington Governor Proposes New Fuel Tax For Education

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

(photo by Larry Darling via flickr)

(Derek Wang - Seattle, KUOW) Washington Governor Chris Gregoire is proposing a new wholesale vehicle fuel tax to help cover the costs of getting kids to school.

Currently, school districts help pay for students' transportation needs, but a recent court ruling says state government is not doing enough to support education. That includes education-related transportation.

Gregoire’s solution? A new tax on refineries to basically pay for school bus costs. Her plan was included in her 2013-2015 budget proposal, which is required under state law. Gregoire said her fuel-tax proposal is directed at oil producers, not consumers.

"Let’s be clear," she says, "the five top oil companies in America, in the first six months of this year, had over $60 billion in profits. So I expect them to do this without passing this on to consumers."

[Also at KUOW: Not Easy To Find Room For Ocean Energy]

Gregoire’s proposal would cost fuel wholesalers about 5 cents a gallon in the first year, 8 cents a gallon by 2015 and 12 cents a gallon in 2017.

State Senator Andy Hill is the likely chairman of the Senate budget committee. He opposes the plan and predicts that the new fuel tax would get passed down to consumers. “That really hurts the middle class as they fill up their tanks," explains Hill. "I think when you ask the average voter, when you ask about transportation, they think about roads, bridges, tunnels, ferries. They don’t think about school buses.”

Fellow Republicans say the state doesn’t need to raise taxes to pay for education.

[Also at KUOW: Another Dock Washes Ashore In Wash., Possibly From Japanese Tsunami]

Gregoire’s plan would need to be approved by two-thirds of the Legislature and Governor-elect Jay Inslee. A spokesman for Inslee wouldn’t say whether the incoming governor supports Gregoire’s plan. The spokesman said Inslee will lay out his own budget plan during the upcoming legislative session.

Follow Derek Wang on Twitter.

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Transportation Nation

VIDEO: Transportation Nation's Mug. It Can Be Yours.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Action shot from "Multi-Modal Mug" shot film by Amy Pearl / WNYC

At Transportation Nation, we serve up serious news, with flair, style, and a flash of java.

Rejoice. (And get a tax deduction, too.) You can own a Transportation Nation coffee mug.

'What's so exciting about a coffee mug?' you might ask. 'It doesn't run on a smart grid or move at the speed of a bullet train." But, friends, it is a reminder to you of all the value this site has brought you in 2012. And your donation shows our reporters here at TN that you care.

Plus, the video is hilarious. We present to you the multi-modal mug. Yours as a thank-you gift for a donation of $5 / month to our ad-free, nonprofit public media project.

If you won't donate, consider sending this around to your friends who might.

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Transportation Nation

What Does Acquittal of Chinatown Bus Driver Mean for Safety?

Friday, December 07, 2012

The World Wide Travel Bus that crashed March 2011, killing 15. (NTSB Photo)

The driver of a casino bus that crashed, killing 15, is not guilty of manslaughter. Prosecutors had argued Ophadell Williams was so sleep-deprived and drowsy behind the wheel that it was as reckless as if he were drunk.

But a Bronx jury was not convinced. Williams faced 15 counts of manslaughter and was acquitted on all of them. He was found guilty of one count of aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle and sentenced to 30 days in jail, which he has already served. He has to pay a fine of $500. When he heard the verdict, Williams covered his face with his hands and wept.

Though the consequences are relatively light for Williams,  the inter-city bus industry has suffered a considerable shakeup.

The Crash

It was a gruesome crash that instantly raised the profile of dangerous driving conditions at many so-called Chinatown buses, the fastest growing mode of inter-city travel.

Here's how the crash went down. In March, 2011, Williams was on a dawn run to New York from a Connecticut Casino, driving for World Wide Travel, a company with a track record of pushing drivers to work long hours.

A report by the Federal Motorcoach Safety Administration found that in the moments before crashing, he’d been driving 78 mph. As we've previously reported:

"According to the report, the bus swerved to the right off the highway, crossed an eleven-foot wide shoulder and smashed into a three-foot-tall steel guardrail. The bus plowed through the guardrail for 480 feet as it toppled onto its side. The bus’ windshield hit the post of a massive highway sign, which sheared the bus in two along the base of the passenger windows almost all the way to the rear. The bus came to rest on top of the crushed guardrail, its wheels in the air, facing the highway."

The Bronx crash was one of three inter-city bus crashes in the Northeast in March, 2011, which killed a total of 17 people and injured dozens of others.

There were more to come. A bus from North Carolina bound for New York flipped on its roof in late May, killing four. Operator Sky Express was shut down by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration within hours. Bloomberg reported that Sky Express had accumulated so many violations that it could have been shut down prior to the crash.

In July, a pair of fatal crashes in New York — one inbound from Canada that left the driver dead and another from Washington that killed two — occurred within days of each other.

There were 24 motor coach crashes last year, resulting in 34 fatalities and 467 injuries, according to an unofficial tally kept by Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety.

The industry was deemed unsafe by many. As confused travelers tried to figure out just who regulates Chinatown buses, the government took notice.

The Response

World Wide Travel was shuttered in June 2011, but the owner continued to operate bus service for other companies he owns, according to The New York Times. The practice of "reincarnation" had plagued regulatory efforts to punish the worst of the worst bus companies.

Not to be stopped by it's own regulations, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration the agency that oversees bus safety, along with the National Highway Transportation Safety Board ratcheted up investigations and actions against unsafe bus companies.

In May of 2011, U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood issued rules requiring new bus lines to undergo safety audits before they can sell their first ticket. And bus drivers could lose their commercial licenses if they violate drug and alcohol laws even while operating their own private car.

In July 2011, Anne S. Ferro, Administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, told Congress she needs more enforcement powers, including the ability to inspect every long distance bus at least once a year and to conduct surprise safety stops while buses are en route. She proposed paying for the additional enforcement through raising the fee for a company to obtain an operating license from US DOT.

She pointed out, a bus license costs $300 — $50 less than it costs a street vendor to sell hot dogs in Washington, DC. Ferro said she’d also like to see the fine for a bus safety violation raised from $2,000 to $25,000.

Inspections alone are unlikely to solve the problem, she argued. There just aren't enough of them. There are 878 federal and state inspectors able to conduct safety reviews of 765,000 bus and truck companies, or an average of slightly more than one inspector for 1,000 companies, the report said.

For a while it seemed like the tempers had cooled, and the regulators were backing off. Then the crackdown came.


In June 2012, the U.S. DOT shuts down 26 bus companies that operate along the most popular routes for so-called Chinatown buses: the I-95 corridor from New York to Florida. The DOT called it the "largest single safety crackdown in the agency’s history.

Federal safety investigators found multiple violations, including a pattern of drivers without valid commercial licenses and companies that didn't administer alcohol and drug tests to drivers. Ten people – company owners, managers and employees – are ordered to stop all involvement in passenger transportation operations, including selling bus tickets.

The intersection in Chinatown in New York City previously most associated with this class of bus was transformed, no longer a bustling hub roaring with the sound of diesel engines and ticket sellers competing for business with dueling calls of prices and destinations. It became a quiet side street and has remained so since.

What's to Come

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, who has made safety one of his top issues, is advocating for legislation with stronger teeth.

The Bus Uniform Standards and Enhanced Safety (BUSES) Act of 2011 called for a tighter controls and enforcement of bus driver screening, including calling for federal oversight of state requirements for commercial licenses.

The Motorcoach Safety Act of 2009 was also revisited after the 2011 string of crashes. It requires new buses to add seat belts and reinforced windows that prevent passengers from being ejected during an accident. The bus industry opposed both bills on cost grounds and neither became law.

New York City, which cannot regulate interstate bus safety, took the step to regulate bus stop permitting, giving more control to neighborhood leadership, known as community boards. Since then, there have not been new clusters of curbside buses competing with each other.

And as Chinese-run Chinatown buses remain discreet in New York's Chinatown, mainstream bus companies like Greyhound are expanding their curbside businesses, actively meeting with community boards to add stops in Chinatown itself.

(This report includes excerpts and descriptions from previous reporting on TN, by Alex Goldmark, Jim O'Grady and Tracie Samuelson.)

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Transportation Nation

NYC Vintage Buses Called into Service -- For Holiday Spirit

Friday, December 07, 2012

(Photo courtesy of the NY MTA)

The New York City Metropolitan Transportation Authority has a sprawling collection of vintage trains and buses. Many of the rail cars sit on display at the NY Transit Museum. Sometimes they get special assignments like carrying fans to big Yankee games, or to host a rolling costume swing dance party.

Buses are not to be left out. The MTA just released their plans to unleash a fleet of nostalgia omnibuses open to the public. Naturally, they'll run on the tourist filled routes, and through Midtown Manhattan where the average speed of cars -- let alone buses -- is below 10 m.p.h., so it shouldn't be too taxing for the antiques.

From the MTA:

This season’s vintage fleet ranges from 1949 to 1968 and represents models that served New Yorkers from 1949 through 1984.  A Mack bus will hit the road as well as a 1956 General Motors bus that, if it could talk, would boast of being the first air-conditioned bus to operate in New York City.  Staten Islanders will get a special treat riding one of the first Staten Island express buses.  A nice bus for the day, but it’s a far cry from our modern MCI and Prevost coaches in terms of comfort and efficiency.

All of these vintage buses will operate along the M42 (42nd Street Crosstown) Monday through Friday, departing from 42ndStreet and 12th Avenue at 8:30 a.m., 11:30 a.m. and again in the afternoon at 2:30 p.m. The fare is $2.25 in cash or swipe a MetroCard, just like our more modern, but far less interesting buses.

Aside from the in-service buses, a static display will be on view between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. at 6th Avenue and 35th Street and 14th Street at Union Square.  Buses will be parked at these locations for the viewing and picture-taking pleasure of New Yorkers who rode them and New Yorkers too young to remember them.

If you take a ride, tweet us a pic of yourself and the bus, to @transportnation.

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Transportation Nation

Virginia Governor Promises Action on State's Transportation Funding Woes

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Interstate 495 - Virginia (photo by Doug Kerr via flickr)

Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell offered no specifics in his “comprehensive transportation funding and reform” plan to raise an additional $500 million per year to prevent the state from running out of money to build roads by 2017.

Speaking in Fairfax County at his annual transportation conference, Governor McDonnell called on lawmakers to stay in session next year until they find a solution to Virginia’s long-term funding woes, which are exacerbated by the transfer of money from the state’s construction fund to required highway maintenance projects.

“I don’t think we can wait any longer,” McDonnell said. “I don’t think I can continue to recruit businesses to Virginia and see the unemployment rate go down unless we are able to get a handle on and provide some long-term solutions this session to that problem.”

The Republican governor, who is one year from leaving office, did not specify what he will ask lawmakers for when they convene in Richmond in January.

“I’ll tell you when we’re ready… before the session,” the governor said in brief remarks to reporters following his speech. “These are plans that take a lot of work to put together.”

He refused to take a position on whether the state’s gas tax should be increased, although he indicated that doing so alone would not generate adequate revenue. The tax of seventeen-and-a-half cents per gallon, which currently accounts for about one-third of the state’s transportation funding, was last increased in 1986. It has lost 55% of its purchasing power when adjusted for inflation.

Improved automobile fuel efficiency and the rising costs of highway construction materials have reduced the gas tax’s buying power, McDonnell said.

“A key ingredient of asphalt has increased by approximately 350% over that same time,” he said.

Critics contend the McDonnell administration cannot be trusted to direct new revenues wisely. One of the most vocal critics points to a record of highway construction instead of transit projects as evidence, especially from the $4 billion dollar package approved for the administration by the legislature.

“He squandered most of that,” said Stewart Schwartz, the executive director of the Coalition for Smarter Growth. “It’s gone to rural highway projects that have very low traffic demand and are not high priorities given the traffic congestion within northern Virginia and Hampton Roads.”

Schwartz listed State Rt. 460 in southern Virginia, the Coalfields Expressway, bypasses in Charlottesville, and plans for an “outer beltway” in northern Virginia as examples of poor spending priorities by the administration, while transit projects like the Silver Line Metro rail and existing roads like I-66 need help.

“They are not targeting the areas of greatest need. You are not getting the best bang for your buck. You are spending a few billion dollars on the wrong things,” said Schwartz.

New revenues would likely be directed to construction projects under the state’s transportation trust fund, which currently loses hundreds of millions of dollars annually to required maintenance.  The trust fund’s formula directs fifteen percent of its monies to transit projects.  The remainder is for road building.

Governor McDonnell denied his administration is neglecting transit and other modes of transportation.  “It’s going to be a multi-modal approach.  Road, rail, and mass transit, all of those will be beneficiaries of a funding plan,” he said.




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Transportation Nation

Prediction: D.C. Area Highway and Transit Crowding Will Get Worse

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Washington DC - I-395 from D NW (photo by thisisbossi via flickr)

(Washington, D.C. -- WAMU) The Washington metropolitan region faces worsening traffic congestion and transit crowding as its population and job growth expand over the next three decades, according to a forecast released on Wednesday by a regional planning group.

The forecast by transportation planners at the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments says large investments in infrastructure and improved land use policies are necessary to reduce the burden on an overtaxed highway and rail system.

“We’ve had a long period of time of inadequate funding for transportation,” said Ron Kirby, the director of the council’s Department of Transportation Planning, whose forecast says transit and roadway congestion will increase despite the expected billions of dollars in investments between now and 2040. It will take even more money, he said.

“The issues of Metro’s rehabilitation are well known but perhaps less well known is the lack of capacity expansion. We haven’t gotten to eight-car trains on Metro rail,” Kirby said, referring to Metro’s ongoing multi-billion dollar rehab project that does not include the addition of rail cars.

If 50 percent of Metro trains consist of eight cars by 2040, the forecast says the red, orange, yellow, and green lines will be congested (100-120 passengers per car) or highly congested (120+ passengers per car). Only the blue line would be rated satisfactory. If 100 percent of Metro trains consist of eight cars by 2040, the orange, yellow, and green lines will still be congested, according to the forecast, which is an aggregation of statistics and projections provided to the council by its member jurisdictions.

The forecast for the region’s highways is similar. Morning congestion traveling in the direction of the region’s core will worsen along I-95 in Prince William County, I-70 East in Frederick, I-270 South in Frederick and Montgomery Counties, I-66 East in Prince William and Fairfax, and the Dulles Toll Road Eastbound in Loudoun and Fairfax. The inner and outer loops of the Beltway will be more congested in Maryland, the forecast says.

“Carpooling is expected to increase some, because we do have some facilities coming on line,” said Kirby, referring to the just-completed 495 Express Lanes and under-construction 95 Express Lanes. “But there’s been relatively limited new highway capacity. At the same time, we are having very strong growth in the outer jurisdictions where there is relatively little transit. So those trips, whether they are work trips or non-work trips, are very dependent on the road system.”

The forecast says the region’s population will grow by 24 percent to 6.5 million by 2040. Employment is projected to grow by 37 percent, adding 1.1 million jobs.

As people and jobs flock to D.C. and its suburbs, choice of transportation mode will not dramatically change, according to Kirby’s projections. By 2040, 57 percent of all commuting trips will be made by people driving on their own, a four percent decrease from current levels. Carpooling is expected to increase from 11 to 14 percent of commuting trips, transit will remain steady at 24 percent, and biking and walking will increase from four to five percent.

Some lawmakers who sit on the Council of Governments board take issue with the forecast, saying its extrapolations do not account for changes in policy and other factors.

“It would be a mistake to think that’s what the future is going to be,” said Chris Zimmerman, a member of the Arlington County Board and proponent of transit-oriented development.

Zimmerman disagrees with the forecast’s projection that employment will grow fastest in the outer jurisdictions of Virginia, although the highest concentration of jobs will remain in D.C., Fairfax County and Montgomery County.

“The real question is where do you want the growth in jobs and population to be? That’s not a foregone conclusion,” Zimmerman said.  “Almost all the growth in this region and the rest of the country is happening in more developed areas because the market is pushing it that way. If land use regulations change in ways that accommodate what the market wants to do, we’ll see an accelerated trend.”

Zimmerman says the future should not be seen as a competition between either cars or transit; transit-oriented development that combines retail, office, and residential properties in close proximity to a Metro station also encourages more walking.

“The reason for doing transit-oriented development is not simply to get more people on transit, but to get more people out of having to use any kind of vehicle for five, six, seven trips a day,” he said.

Zimmerman acknowledges the highway system will always need significant funding for maintenance and improvements, but if a million more jobs are coming to the region by 2040 it makes more sense – in his view – to attract them to places that workers can reach without a car.

Kirby’s forecast says the average number of jobs accessible within 45 minutes by transit will increase from the current 419,000 to 499,000 in 2040, a projection Zimmerman says will change with better land use policies.

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Transportation Nation

NY MTA Takes On Major Debt Rather Than Raise Tolls & Fares To Pay For Sandy

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

NY MTA Chairman Joe Lhota.

(New York, NY - WNYC) The NY Metropolitan Transportation Authority held a board meeting Wednesday -- its first after Sandy -- and the main topic was how to solve a conundrum: filling the $5 billion hole that the storm blew in the agency's budget while simultaneously rebuilding New York's damaged transportation system.

NY MTA Chairman Joe Lhota seemed determined to assure the public that the agency, at the very least, had a plan. He began by saying revenue will not be raised by additional increases to planned toll and fare hikes in 2013 and 2015.

"The burden of Sandy will not be upon our riders," he said. "I have an enormous amount of confidence in our federal government that we will receive a substantial amount of money to get us back to the condition of functionality we had the day before the storm."

He said he didn't expect to see service cutbacks--though he didn't rule them out--and that he'd stick to a pledge to add or restore $29 million in subway and bus service.

Lhota said he is expecting FEMA and insurance to pick up 75 percent of the $5 billion tab. And he's hoping FEMA will boosts its reimbursement up to 95 percent. But the MTA can't count on that. As of now, the authority is on the hook for $950 million, which it needs right away to rebuild.

They'll get it by issuing $950 million in bonds. Lhota said the move will add $125 million to the authority's debt burden over the next three years. The best Lhota could say about where the money would come from is "cost-cutting measures" that are "unidentified at this time."

The MTA is paying $2 billion dollars in debt service this year. By 2018, debt service is expected to gobble up 20 percent of the authority's revenue. That's before figuring in the nearly $1 billion in debt that it voted to add Wednesday.

Lhota said the budget setback would not stop the authority's megaprojects, which are funded by its capital program. The Second Avenue subway, the East Side Access tunnel between Long Island and Grand Central Terminal, and the 7 train extension are essentially funded and nearing completion. Sandy delayed their construction but didn't flood them.

Today's decision to bring on more debt raised an alarm with Gene Russianoff of the New York Straphangers Campaign, an advocacy group. "Funding these needs by MTA bonds will increase pressure on fares through increased debt service - and it sets a troubling precedent for the funding of the next five-year capital program starting in 2015," he said in a statement.

Lhota added that all of the $5 billion will be spent on restoring transit to its pre-Sandy state. (Repairing the South Ferry Station alone is projected to cost $600 million.) None of the funds will be used to harden the system against future storms. That's going to take a whole other pile of money that hasn't been located yet.

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Transportation Nation

Sandy Data Shows NYC Commuters Are Transpo-Adaptable: Report

Monday, November 26, 2012

In the days following Hurricane Sandy, when New York's regional transit systems were either completely shut down or barely limping along, commuters still found a way to work -- by biking more, embracing ferries, temporary "bus bridges" and HOV lanes, even leveraging social media to find rides or temporary office space.

According to a new report from New York University's Rudin Center, the storm's aftermath brought out a uniquely New York commuting creativity.

"In many U.S. cities, which are limited to cars, buses or other singular transportation modes," the report states, "the disruption caused by Hurricane Sandy would have, at least temporarily, crippled the economy." Not so in New York, where residents "displayed impressive inventiveness to maintain their mobility. Individuals created new routes and combinations of modes to get to work, using a variety of systems."

The report surveyed 315 commuters about modes of transport and commute times. That's a small sample considering the millions of people affected. And asking a commuter to estimate how long they took to get to work can invite exaggeration, the Rudin report is an impressive attempt to quantify the chaos of ad-hoc mobility choices during the storm.

While almost everyone saw their commutes increase, Staten Islanders fared the worst. For residents of that hard-hit borough, commute times in the days following Sandy nearly tripled.

It was no picnic on the roads, either: "Commute times by private car for survey respondents nearly tripled, from an average of 47 minutes pre-Sandy to an average of 115 minutes post-Sandy."

The report also praises New York's MTA for keeping the public updated about service changes, and recommends the agency maintain its adaptable subway map. But other transit providers don't come off as well: "During the Hurricane, the Port Authority [which operates the PATH train system] and NJ Transit provided remarkably limited information throughout and following the storm about their service."

Read the full report here. See an impressive interactive timeline of Sandy's impact on transportation.

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Transportation Nation

Virginia to Study Traffic over Potomac River

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Woodrow Wilson Bridge, stretching over the Potomac River in Virginia (photo by catface3 via flickr)

The Virginia Department of Transportation will study traffic volume over the Potomac River in an effort to determine where the most people and goods will cross as the region’s population grows, the agency said Tuesday.

The study – scheduled for completion next spring – will not recommend a solution but instead provide a basis for consultations with transportation officials in the District of Columbia and Maryland about how best to improve transportation across the river from Point of Rocks in the west to the Route 301 bridge in the east.

“We want to essentially gauge and develop the data from which we can make some informed decisions regarding the best alternatives to deal with the current traffic conditions and what we expect in the future,” said Virginia Secretary of Transportation Sean Connaughton in an interview with Transportation Nation.

Connaughton downplayed the possibility his office would push for the construction of a new bridge over the Potomac.

“We’re really not prejudging anything. In fact, we’re not really getting into what’s the best alternative,” he said.

The study already has its critics, who say the Republican administration of Governor Bob McDonnell has been pushing for a new Potomac River bridge for years.

“They are pushing for another bridge even though the real fixes we need to make are at the American Legion Bridge,” said Stewart Schwartz, the executive director of the Coalition for Smarter Growth, which supports expanding mass transit instead of road expansions.  To Schwartz, a new bridge connecting Virginia and Maryland would lead to more congestion and sprawl.  He favors implementing transit options on the American Legion Bridge.

“In the near term, that can be buses on dedicated bus lanes with frequent service, connecting the Red Line and the Silver Line, connecting Tysons Corner and Fairfax County job centers with the Montgomery County job centers,” he said.  “Fortunately, Fairfax County and Montgomery County have already met and are pursuing the transit investments that are needed both short term and long term.”

Connaughton disputes the allegation the McDonnell administration is after a new “outer beltway” at the expense of mass transit investments.

“This is one of the things that will be the hallmark of the McDonnell administration, is that we are pursuing increased transit opportunities, as well as dealing with congestion on our roadways, and looking for bike paths and pedestrian paths.  We are doing everything.  This is not a one-solution-fits-all,” he said.

If Virginia officials privately favor building another Potomac River span, they may meet resistance across the river.  In an October letter to Secretary Connaughton, Acting Maryland Secretary of Transportation Darrell Mobley clarified his agency’s position.

“The Maryland Department of Transportation’s (MDOT's) highest priority remains the preservation of our existing infrastructure and the safety of the traveling public. MDOT does not intend to revisit the years of debate regarding new crossings of the Potomac River,” the letter said. “We are interested in the study of potential improvements to existing crossings, including: the Governor Nice Bridge along the US 301 corridor, the American Legion Bridge on the Capital Beltway, and the potential addition of transit across the Wilson Bridge.”

Connaughton said he believes D.C. and Maryland officials are in agreement that a study of future traffic volume is necessary. As far as a possible solution, he said, “we haven’t gotten there yet.”

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Transportation Nation

Poll Captures Storm Surge Of Positive Feelings For NY MTA, Gas Rationing

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

NY MTA chairman Joe Lhota, flanked by NY Governor Andrew Cuomo and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, looking pleased while announcing the re-opening of a flooded tunnel last week.(photo by Jim O'Grady / WNYC)

(New York, NY - WNYC) Poll results show that Superstorm Sandy has remade two kinds of landscapes in New York: physical and psychological. Beachfront is gone, trees are uprooted and whole communities have been forcibly rearranged by a monster tide. No less dramatically, a majority of New Yorkers are expressing love not only for their elected officials but everyone's favorite bureaucratic whipping boy, the NY Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

You read that correctly.

The latest Quinnipiac University poll finds 75 percent of New Yorkers rated the authority's performance during and after Sandy at "excellent" or "good." That's better than the Red Cross's 66 percent approval rating, and the dismal 37 percent approval for the region's utility companies, which struggled at times to bring the power back.

NY MTA chairman Joe Lhota was highly visible in the days and weeks following the storm as his workers methodically pumped out no less than seven under-river tunnels and, one by one, got them back to carrying trains and vehicular traffic.

The NY MTA also showed a fair degree of nimbleness by running shuttle buses over cross-river bridges until the subways were dried out. (Taking a cue, the NY Department of Transportation today announced its plan to run a temporary ferry from the hard-hit South Shore of Staten Island to Manhattan.) And the authority captured the public imagination with an online map that showed the the subway recovering in real time.

The Quinnipiac poll, which surveyed more than 1,000 registered voters in New York, also reported that Mayor Bloomberg's odd-even gas rationing system won favor by 85 to 12 percent. Other winners: President Obama, New York Governor Cuomo and, with the best numbers, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. See the full results here.

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A Damaged School But a Posh Bus

Thursday, November 15, 2012

About 15,000 students are in schools relocated to other buildings after storm Sandy. The students at P.S. 288 on Coney Island are adjusting to the new routine. Some said the comfortable coach buses make it feel like a field trip that happens every day.

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Transportation Nation

Storm-Hobbled NJ Transit Bulging with Above-Average Ridership

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Lines at the Port Authority Bus Terminal on Tuesday, 11/6/12 (photo by Alex Goldmark)

New Jersey Transit is running trains on a damaged rail network,on reduced schedules, through stations with limited or even no electricity.

And ridership is up 15 percent above normal.

NJ Transit spokesperson Nancy Snyder told Transportation Nation her agency carried 150,000 people Monday into New York City during the morning rush. The normal weekday ridership into Manhattan is 136,000.

Riders who normally take PATH trains into Manhattan looked for other options since one of two PATH tunnels remains out of commission.  The Holland Tunnel is restricted to buses only, so drivers had fewer options as well. The result was a packed commute from New Jersey into Manhattan, one so crowded it closed some NJ Transit rail stations due to unsafe conditions.

"We closely monitored how our [plan] worked out. There was congestion in certain areas, we realigned our resources. ... This morning it went a lot more smoothly," Snyder said.

"In and around the South Orange, Irvington, Maplewood area ...  we are adding more buses to accommodate that increased demand. We are also looking at other key areas," she said.

NJT is running "emergency bus" service from park-and-ride locations like shopping malls shuttle carry passengers to places where they can grab alternative transportation to NYC, either by ferry or bus. Those locations were condensed, and some of the buses deployed to areas that experienced especially bad wait times for buses, like South Orange.

"Today was markedly improved in South Orange, N.J. at the morning commute, but I am still dreading the evening commute," said South Orange resident Ritu Pancholy. She said she would leave work in Manhattan early today to avoid what she feared would be excessive waits at the Port Authority Bus Terminal. She hoped to get home in time to pick up her son at daycare and still making it to her polling location to vote.

On Tuesday night at 6pm, lines at the Port Authority Bus Terminal were lengthy -- and growing. Some passengers on line for the 107 to South Orange said they had been waiting for almost an hour and a half. Still, some said, it was better than Monday's commute.


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Transportation Nation

More NYC Subway Service Restored, Voter Shuttle Routes and Updates on A, B, G, L Trains

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

MTA employees using a pump train are working around the clock to pump seawater out of the L train's tunnel under the East River. This photo shows activity on the afternoon of Monday, November 5. After the tunnel is pumped dry of water, work will begin to inspect tracks, signals, switches, electrical components, and third rail. (Photo: Metropolitan Transportation Authority / Patrick Cashin.)

The New York MTA is restoring  more subway service.

The A train is now reaching the Northern end of the line at 207th street. B trains are running again from the Bronx to Brooklyn.

The L, Z and G trains are still largely out of service but could return as early as tomorrow now that the L tunnel under the East River is dry.

Stations at the very southern end of Manhattan where flooding was ceiling high in some cases remain closed. Rockaway train service on the S and A is also out of service.

Voter bus shuttles are running for election day to various polling places around the city in places hit by Sandy. To find you shuttle, scroll to the chart at the bottom of this post.

Here's the full update on service restoration direct from the MTA:

MTA Service Advisory: More Subway Service Restored

Queens Midtown Tunnel is Open for Buses Only

Voter Shuttle Buses Carrying Voters to Polls in Staten Island, Coney Island & Rockaways

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) restored additional subway and, bus and services in time for this morning’s rush hour.

Service on the A has been restored in upper Manhattan to 207th Street which has allowed service on the C train to be extended to the 168th Street station.  The restoration of A service to 207th Street will alleviate overcrowding on the 123. The B train is now running between Bedford Park Boulevard in the Bronx and Brighton Beach in Brooklyn. The Q train is now operating from 57th Street – 7th Avenue in Manhattan to Brighton Beach.  Customers are reminded that some lines are still running with extended headways.

Work continues on restoring service on the G and L lines through northwest Brooklyn, where alternate service on the J and M trains remains crowded. The G’s Greenpoint tube under Newtown Creek has been pumped out but extensive work remains to repair the signal system. The L’s 14th Street tube under the East River is now dry and damage is currently being assessed.  NYCT is running extra buses on the B62 route to offer additional service through the area.  The Z and Rockaway Park S remain suspended.

The following stations remain closed:


·        Rector St 1, South Ferry 1 (South Ferry closed indefinitely)

·        Fulton St J, Broad Street J

·        City Hall R, Cortlandt St R, Rector St R, Whitehall St R

·         All L stations from 8th Avenue to 1st Avenue.


·        All G stations from Greenpoint Avenue to Church Avenue.  However, Hoyt-Schermerhorn is serviced by the AC and stations from Bergen Street to Church Avenue are serviced by the F

·        All L stations between Bedford Avenue and Bushwick Ave-Aberdeen Street.

·         All N stations along the Sea Beach line between 8th Avenue and Coney Island.

·         25th Avenue D, Bay 50th Street D, Coney Island D

·         Neptune Avenue F, West 8th St-NY Aquarium F, Coney Island F

·         Ocean Parkway Q, West 8th St-NY Aquarium Q, Coney Island Q



·         Court Square G, 21st Street G

·         All A stations between Howard Beach and Far Rockaway-Mott Ave and Rockaway Park-Beach 116th Street

Queens Midtown Tunnel Opens for Rush Hour Buses

MTA Bridges and Tunnels opened one lane of the Queens Midtown Tunnel for buses only this morning. One lane of the south tube opened for Manhattan-bound buses from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m., and for Queens-bound buses from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. The tunnel will be closed to traffic at all other times.

The Queens Midtown Tunnel was flooded with storm surge and sustained significant damage to its mechanical systems that must be repaired. No timetable has been established to reopen the tunnel to general traffic.

The Hugh L. Carey Tunnel, formerly known as the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel, was also flooded by storm surge. Pumping operations continue at the tunnel and there is no timetable for reopening it.

Voter Shuttle Buses

The MTA is also operating special “MTA Voter Shuttles” today to carry voters from damaged polling places to alternate sites established by the Board of Elections on Staten Island, in Coney Island and in the Rockaways.

The free Election Day shuttle buses will run every 15 to 20 minutes, in addition to other scheduled bus service in those areas.

The buses will be marked by “MTA Voter Shuttle” destination signs and will run from 5:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. to help voters, particularly those displaced by Hurricane Sandy, reach polling places.  MTA buses will also be dispatched to carry Board of Elections polling station workers from their Queens headquarters in Kew Gardens to their newly assigned polling stations in the three areas.  Routes for the “MTA Voter Shuttle” buses are described in the attached document.



Shuttle Bus Chart

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Transportation Nation

Tuesday Commute: NY MTA, NJ Transit Update

Monday, November 05, 2012

Subway alert on 11/5/12 (photo by Kate Hinds)

For your Tuesday New York-New Jersey commute, some updated information from the MTA and NJ Transit. The press releases are below.

1. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) has restored additional subway, bus and commuter rail services in time for the Tuesday morning rush hour. Sections of the A, B and C Trains Will Reopen For Tuesday Morning Rush

Service on the A train will be restored in upper Manhattan to the 207 St station. That will allow service on the C train to be extended to the 168 St station. The B train will begin running between Bedford Park Boulevard in the Bronx and Kings Highway in Brookyn. The Q train will extend service from 57 St – 7 Av in Manhattan to Brighton Beach in Brookyn.

There was significant crowding Monday morning on the 1-2-3 trains on the West Side of Manhattan. MTA New York City Transit is studying ways to adjust signals for the 1 train in lower Manhattan that will allow them to turn around faster, improving the frequency of service and reducing crowding.

The top subway priority is now restoring service on the G and L trains through northwest Brooklyn, where alternate service on the J and M trains was extremely crowded. The G tunnel under Newtown Creek has been pumped out but extensive work remains to repair the signal system. The L tunnel under the East River is still being pumped. NYCT will run extra buses on the B62 route to offer additional service through the area.

Queens Midtown Tunnel Opens For Rush Hour Buses
MTA Bridges and Tunnels will open one lane of the Queens Midtown Tunnel for buses only during rush hour Tuesday. One lane of the south tube will be open for Manhattan-bound buses from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m., and for Queens-bound buses from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. The tunnel will be closed to traffic at all other times.

The Queens Midtown Tunnel was flooded with storm surge and sustained significant damage to its mechanical systems that must be repaired. No timetable has been established to reopen the tunnel to general traffic.

The Hugh L. Carey Tunnel, formerly known as the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel, was also flooded by storm surge. Pumping operations continue at the tunnel and there is no timetable for reopening it.

MTA Voter Shuttle
The MTA will provide special “MTA Voter Shuttle” buses Tuesday on Staten Island, in Coney Island and in the Rockaways to carry voters from damaged polling places to alternate sites established by the Board of Elections.

The free MTA Voter Shuttles will run in 15- to 20-minute intervals from 5:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. to help voters, particularly those displaced by the storm, get to polling stations. They are in addition to other scheduled bus service in the affected areas.

MTA buses will also be dispatched to carry Board of Elections polling station workers from the Queens headquarters in Kew Gardens to their newly assigned polling stations in the three areas.

Long Island Rail Road
The MTA Long Island Rail Road will restore train service between Ronkonkoma and Riverhead on Tuesday, with connecting bus service from Riverhead to Greenport. The LIRR continues to operate a modified schedule on all branches except the Long Beach branch, and east of Speonk on the Montauk branch.

The LIRR’s modified service is required since two of Amtrak’s four East River tunnels are out of service from flooding associated with Hurricane Sandy. Modified service will be restored to Hunterspoint Avenue and trains will be added between Freeport and Atlantic Terminal.

Because service will be limited, waits will be longer and trains will be more crowded.  In the evening rush hour, customers should expect crowded conditions in Penn Station.  Customers are advised to stagger work hours and travel in off-peak hours, if possible, to help reduce crowding in the peak periods.


Newark, NJ -
NJ TRANSIT has made a number of adjustments and refinements to its emergency trans-Hudson transportation plan based on this morning’s commute to most efficiently match the available bus, rail and ferry resources with the needs of state citizens.

The adjustments include the consolidation of eight emergency park & ride lots to four, based on Monday’s real-time ridership. Buses that were used in emergency service at Bridgewater, Woodbridge and Willowbrook Mall, as well as Newark Liberty International Airport have been redistributed to alleviate crowding on buses traveling through South Orange, Jersey City, Hoboken and Newark, to New York.

Customers utilizing the emergency bus service plan can ride the buses at no cost.  Customers utilizing ferry and light rail services will still be responsible for paying normal light rail and ferry fares except Statue Cruise Lines in Liberty State Park.

Buses will operate to and from the following limited-capacity transportation hubs:

Ramsey (Ramsey/Rt. 17 Station)

  • Suburban Transit/Coach USA to operate 15 buses from Ramsey/Rt. 17 Station to Weehawken/Port Imperial from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. for light rail/ferry connections.
  • Suburban Transit/Coach USA to operate 15 buses from Weehawken/Port Imperial to Ramsey/Rt. 17 Station from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Meadowlands, MetLife Stadium, Lots J&K (1 MetLife Stadium)

  • Suburban Transit/Coach USA to operate 25 buses from Meadowlands MetLife Stadium to Weehawken/Port Imperial from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. for light rail/ ferry connections.
  • Suburban Transit/Coach USA to operate 25 buses from Weehawken/Port Imperial to the Meadowlands MetLife Stadium from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Holmdel, Garden State Parkway Exit 116 (PNC Arts Center)

  • Academy Bus to operate 130 buses from the PNC Arts Center from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. to:
    • Lower Manhattan
    • Port Authority Bus Terminal
    • Newark Penn Station
  • Academy Bus to operate 130 buses between 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. from:
    • Lower Manhattan
    • Port Authority Bus Terminal – 41st between 8th and 9th
    • Newark Penn Station – Greyhound Bus Stop

Jersey City (Liberty State Park, Liberty Science Center)

Community/Coach USA to operate 10 buses from Liberty State Park to shuttle customers to Statue Cruise Lines Ferry Service to Battery Park from 6 a.m. to 8 a.m., 1 p.m. to 2 p.m., and from 4 p.m. to 8 a.m.  Ferry service from this location will be offered free of charge.

Emergency bus service to Lower Manhattan has been coordinated following the approval of, and collaboration with the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey as well as the New York City Department of Transportation. Pick-up and drop-off locations will take place at the following, designated Suburban Transportation bus stops:

  • Greenwich Street between Battery Place & Morris Street
  • Trinity Place between Rector & Thames Streets
  • Church St. between Warren & Chambers Streets
  • Church St. between Reade & Duane Streets


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Transportation Nation

Low on Gas and Trains, NJ Struggles to Get to Work

Monday, November 05, 2012

South Orange commuters waiting in line for a bus (photo by Nancy Solomon)

(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.


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Transportation Nation

Line By Line: Here's What's Running For Monday's Commute: MTA Subways, Buses, LIRR, Metro North, NJ Transit

Sunday, November 04, 2012

The MTA says more than 80 percent of the subway network has been restored, but "it will carry less than 80 percent of normal capacity" on Monday.  Governor Cuomo, Mayor Bloomberg and transit officials are all warning customers to expect delays and crowding during the morning commute.

Jerome Hauer, NYS Commissioner of Homeland Security and Emergency Services, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and MTA Chairman Joseph J. Lhota discuss the response to Hurricane Sandy before a press conference at the Jacob Javits Center

Jerome Hauer, NYS Commissioner of Homeland Security and Emergency Services, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and MTA Chairman Joseph J. Lhota discuss the response to Hurricane Sandy before a press conference at the Jacob Javits Center, Sunday, Nov. 4. (Photo: MTA/Adam Lisberg)

The numbered trains are in the best shape -- service on the 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7 lines is running normally, with few delays and problems this weekend.  The 1 train is the exception in Manhattan -- service was slowly being restored south of 14th Street Monday morning.  On Sunday, Gov. Cuomo announced that “the South Ferry station, which at one time was a large fish tank, has been pumped dry.”

Riders on the C, G and L trains will likely have the hardest time this week -- the MTA is not releasing an estimate for when problems on those lines will be resolved.

Here is a map of subway service, as it stands now.  More information below:

The L train from Brooklyn to Manhattan and G train from Brooklyn to Queens are unlikely to be carrying passengers early this week.  MTA Chairman Joe Lhota said the flooding in the L tunnel was "of particular concern" and was "hopeful" for restoration this week.  Service on both lines is suspended with no estimated time for resuming service.  From Williamsburg and Bushwick to Manhattan, the best alternative to the L is the J and the M, which were restored Sunday.  The L is running in Queens, between Broadway Junction and Rockaway Parkway.

N, Q and R trains: There is no service in Manhattan south of 34 Street.  A temporary ferry service may fill in gaps for some rush hour commuters between the Brooklyn Army Terminal in Sunset Park, Brooklyn and Wall Street/Pier 11 and East 35th Street.  Here's schedule and fare information.  The Q began running again on Sunday and is now restored from Kings Highway in Brooklyn to Ditmars in Astoria over the Manhattan Bridge.

B, D, F and M trains: The F will be ready for the morning commute.  It returned to full service Sunday, with the exception of Coney Island at the end of the line in Brooklyn, where trains stop at Avenue X, instead of Stillwell Avenue.  D trains are also running normally, with the exception of Coney Island -- the last stop in Brooklyn is Bay Parkway.  Riders on the M train can get into Manhattan from Queens, but trains were not going south of 34th Street Sunday.  B train service remains suspended.

A train: in Manhattan, there is no service on this line below 34th Street and above 168th Street, to Inwood.  Service picks back up in Queens, where passengers in Ozone Park can get on at Lefferts Boulevard and ride to Jay Street/MetroTech.  There is no service to JFK or the Rockaways through Howard Beach.  In the Rockaways, the A train remains suspended because of "extensive damage" around Broad Channel.  The MTA hopes to restore limited train shuttle service from Beach 116 Street to Mott Avenue with trains they bring back onto the Rockaway Peninsula by truck.  Passengers would still have only a shuttle buses to get them from the Rockaways to the Howard Beach station, once service is restored there.  Today, the MTA said "no timetable has yet been established for this service."

C and E trains: Service was restored late Sunday night on both lines through Queens, Manhattan and Brooklyn.

J and Z trains: J trains will run between Jamaica Center and Essex Street, but had some signal problems Sunday.  Z trains remain suspended.

Franklin Avenue Shuttle: restored


NJ Transit will only be able to operate 13 trains into New York during the peak period tomorrow morning -- normal level would be 63.  "Emergency Bus Service" will run in Hoboken, Weehawken, Jersey City and Manhattan Monday.  Gov. Christie says the temporary move aims to "provide approximately 50% of NJ TRANSIT’s normal rail rush hour service."  Routes will end at ferries, light rail and shopping areas.  Here's pickup, dropoff, schedule and route information.

One piece of good news for riders with monthly passes: NJ Transit announced that it will honor October monthly passes until Friday.

NJ Transit says 90 percent of its bus service is now operating again.  The largest obstacle for remaining lines are power outages, which have left traffic lights out and led drivers to declare the routes unsafe.

Here's the latest, line-by-line from NJ Transit on Sunday evening:

Montclair-Boonton Line: service remains suspended, with a bleak outlook.  Overhead wires, especially on the Montclair Branch, suffered heavy damage in the storm.  Flooding in Kearny has caused also rail washouts, making rail traffic impassable.

Morris & Essex Line:  service remains suspended, with a bleak outlook.  Summit, Milburn, Denville and Morristown took big hits to overhead wires.  The flooding in Kearny is also affecting service here.

North Jersey Coast Line: service resumed Sunday between Woodbridge and Penn Station New York, currently on a modified schedule.

Raritan Valley Line: service resumed Sunday between Raritan and Newark Penn Station.  On Monday, it will also follow a modified schedule.  Rail service between High Bridge and Raritan remains suspended.

Northeast Corridor Line: service between Trenton Transit Center and Penn Station New York on a modified schedule.

Main/Port Jervis Line: service resumed Sunday between Port Jervis and Secaucus Junction, currently on a modified schedule.

Pascack Valley & Bergen Line: service remains suspended, due mostly to power outages affecting signals, switches and crossing gates.  As power comes back on, these lines are expected to run again quickly.


All PATH service remains suspended due to damage to signal, control and substation equipment in multiple stations.


Metro North trains are running from Poughkeepsie on the Hudson Line, Southeast on the Harlem Line and New Haven on the New Haven Line.

Monday, Metro-North will resume regular service on the Wassaic Branch of the Harlem Line.  Service will also resume from Waterbury and Danbury in Connecticut.  The New Canaan Branch will be served by buses

West of the Hudson, The Port Jervis Line is running trains between Port Jervis and Secaucus Junction, but there is no service to or from Hoboken

The Newburgh-Beacon Ferry and the Haverstraw-Ossining Ferry will return to service Monday morning, but service remains suspended on the Pascack Valley Line.


Sunday night, the Long Island Railroad said travelers should expect 10-15 minute delays systemwide during Monday morning's commute.

Trains will operate on a modified schedule Monday on all branches except the Long Beach Line. The Ronkokoma Line will not run east of Ronkonkoma, and the Montauk Branch won't be running east of Speonk.

The October monthly ticket will be valid for travel on Monday, November 5.

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Transportation Nation

VIDEO: All Aboard the Brooklyn-Manhattan "Bus Bridge"

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.


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Transportation Nation

PHOTOS: Hurricane Damage Devastates NJ Transit

Thursday, November 01, 2012

The totality of the damage done to New Jersey Transit by Hurricane Sandy can't be fully ascertained at this point, but the list on the agency's website is daunting.

Rail lines have suffered catastrophically: washouts, downed trees, waterlogged equipment, and track damage. The iconic Hoboken Ferry Terminal is flooded. The agency reports that even the Rail Operations Center--"the central nervous system of the railroad"--is engulfed in water. Although most bus service returned Thursday, nine of its bus garages continue to operate on back-up generator power. And in a letter requesting federal aid, Senators Lautenberg and Menendez write: "the only passenger rail tunnel into New York City—which connects thousands of people to the city each day—is shut down."

Earlier this week, Governor Christie said it could take seven to 10 days to resume PATH train service.

There is no timeline for resumption of rail service. The agency says it is continuing to inspect the system and that "the blow delivered by Hurricane Sandy will continue to impact customers for days to come."



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Transportation Nation

Bus Bridge from Brooklyn: Jay Street, Not Barclays, Best Bet Right Now

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Brooklyn "bus bridge" locations

(SEE UPDATE BELOW) Manhattan-bound Brooklynites: Go to Jay Street, not Barclays -- it will immeasurably improve your ride into Manhattan.

We're getting reports this morning that Thursdays' Brooklyn-Manhattan commute is proving...challenging. But once riders clear daunting lines at the three bus bridge locations in Brooklyn, traffic over the bridges into Manhattan is moving quickly.

But because the line at Barclays Center is longer than the line at Jay Street -- and Jay Street is closer to the Manhattan Bridge -- riders are being directed to the bus bridge stop at Jay.

Here's what we know: this morning, TN's Andrea Bernstein was at the Barclays Center in downtown Brooklyn. The arena was built at this site because of its 11 subway lines and Long Island Rail Road service. And now it's functioning as the site of one of three MTA-operated "bus bridges" that must shuttle passengers between the two boroughs until the subway tunnels can be restored.

(Subway and LIRR service to Atlantic Avenue-Barclays Center was relatively uneventful -- even uncrowded. To encourage transit use, the MTA isn't collecting fares.)

Subway fares have been waived (photo by Caitlyn Kim)

But as those transit riders pour out of the Atlantic Avenue terminal, they are confronted by bus lines that she says wrap entirely around the arena.

"Thousands of them are in line," Andrea said. She said MTA workers were getting people onto buses as quickly as they can -- but once the bus is loaded, it must confront traffic. "They are waiting for a police escort to help take them down Flatbush Avenue across the Manhattan Bridge," she said.

People whose commute normally takes 45 minutes told Andrea that it's taken them an hour and a half just to get to the Barclays Center, and that's before taking the bus to Manhattan.

The line to board a bus on Hewes Street, Brooklyn (photo by Jim O'Grady)

Meanwhile, in Williamsburg, WNYC's Jim O'Grady said Hewes Street isn't quite that crowded--but not by much.

Speaking by cell phone, he said "I'm looking at a line that is a block long." Or it was a block long, before another J train disgorged dozens more people who promptly got in line for the bus over the Williamsburg Bridge.

Boarding the Hewes Street bus (photo by Jim O'Grady)

Jim said the crowds boarding buses was reminiscent of a Tokyo subway: "There are MTA workers in orange vests, and they are pushing people onto the buses and forcibly closing the doors on them."

It sounds dire, but Jim said the 10 MTA workers were efficient and doing a good job.

But, like Barclays Center, the buses are pulling out into traffic.

Jim said police are checking to make sure each vehicle has three passengers in it -- ensuring compliance with the new HOV rules. Once drivers clear that checkpoint, he said, traffic seems to be moving well over the bridge.

(UPDATE 10:20) Once buses make it to the Manhattan Bridge, the ride over is a stark contrast to the line gridlock.

Or, as Andrea says: "That was awesome! I got to Manhattan so quickly that I missed my stop!"

Later, Andrea reported that she was seeing a lot more police officers directing traffic. "They were really there, they were really doing it."

It sounds like the dedicated bus lanes are working as intended: they are speeding traffic over the bridge. Andrea also said that southbound riders told her they made great time from 57th Street to Spring Street -- it was a 15 minute trip.

Andrea reports that someone on the bus was so happy with the speed it was traveling he told her: "imagine if we had rapid bus transit, then the buses would be like this all the time."

Remember, transit riders: MTA head Joe Lhota warned riders Wednesday night that the commute would be tough. “Be flexible about your travel times," he added in an emailed statement. "We have come a long way in a short time to repair the damage from the most devastating event to strike our transportation system.”

For more travel info, visit our transit tracker.


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Transportation Nation

Put Away That MetroCard: No Transit Fares in NY on Thursday, Friday

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Flooding at the South Ferry subway station (photo courtesy of NY MTA)

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced Wednesday night that he was "declaring a transportation emergency" and authorized the MTA to waive fares on subways, buses, and rail lines through Friday.

Cuomo said that decision was prompted in part by the grueling traffic in Manhattan on Wednesday. He called the gridlock "dangerous" and said he wanted to encourage people to use transit.

But the subway system that will be up and running Thursday will not be the system New Yorkers are used to. Only 14 of the 23 lines will be operational, and even those will be running in segments. LIRR service is being slowly phased back in. Cuomo said one bright point was that roughly 50% of regular customers would have normal service on the Metro-North commuter rail line.

"Bear with us," said MTA head Joe Lhota, who was seated next to the governor at the last-minute press conference. He called the damage done by Hurricane Sandy the "most devastating event ever to happen to the MTA."

There are still subway tunnels flooded with water from "floor to ceiling," said Cuomo. Beginning Thursday, the Army Corps of Engineers will begin deploying 250 "high-speed pumping devices" to aid water removal. These will be operated around the clock until the tunnels are clear.

Meanwhile, to shuttle passengers between Brooklyn and Manhattan, the MTA will put 330 buses into service to act as a bus bridge. Late Wednesday night the New York City Department of Transportation released more details about how the bus lanes will be structured. DOT spokesman Seth Solomonow said the city was creating a "surface subway."

Starting at 6am tomorrow -- timed to coincide with the start of the subway -- buses will operate over Manhattan Bridge via a two-way bus lane on the lower level. These bus-only lanes will be operational 24/7 and will be enforced by the NYPD. Buses will also go over the Williamsburg Bridge. In both cases, buses will make major stops on their way uptown via the Bowery and Third Avenue along a dedicated curbside lane -- which he said will also be enforced by the NYPD.

The buses will run up to 55th Street, then turn around and head back to Brooklyn on Lexington Avenue.

For more information about transit service in New York, visit our Transit Tracker.







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