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

Sea Walls, Wetlands, and Porous Streets: Designing a Storm-Proof New York City

Monday, November 12, 2012

Storm damage in Sea Gate, Brooklyn (photo courtesy of NYC Mayor's Office Photo/ Edward Reed)

Would a $20 billion sea wall, stretching from Sandy Hook to the Rockaways, have prevented damage done to New York by Hurricane Sandy's storm surge?

Engineer Fletcher Griffis, speaking on Monday's Brian Lehrer Show, says yes -- "but gosh knows what it will do to the ecology in New York Bay."

Other ideas kicked around during the interview: porous roadways that could reduce flooding,  increased wetlands, and "soft" solutions like zoning changes and ending subsidies for flood insurance.

Listen to the interview below. And check out a data visualization from the U.S. Census Bureau about population growth near the coastline.

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Transportation Nation

Flooded Out Staten Islander Preps for Second Blow From Nor'easter

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Stephen Drimalas surveys his flooded-out home in Ocean Breeze, Staten Island. (Jim O'Grady/WNYC)

Staten Islander Stephen Drimalas is one of thousands of New Yorkers who are still without power. He's digging out from Sandy, showing up sporadically to his city job and, as of Wednesday, riding out a nor'easter.

The 46-year-old Drimalas lives alone in a small house in Ocean Breeze, Staten Island, a neighborhood that the storm submerged under eight feet of water. He works for the city Department of Transportation, installing signs and Muni meters. Seven years ago, he moved from Brooklyn to this modest beachfront neighborhood on Staten Island's east shore because it was cheap, beautiful and near the water.

He knew flooding was a possibility. So a year ago, he built a new foundation and raised his house by four feet. The night Sandy hit, he stepped outside to smoke a cigarette and check on conditions.

"As soon as I opened the door, the water started pouring down," he said. "By the time I got to my car, the water was up to my shin. Another minute or two and I wasn't getting out. That's how fast it came in."

Drimalas fled with the clothes on his back and some papers he managed to grab. Everything else was destroyed, including a set of appliances he'd just loaded into his house at the end of a year-long renovation.

He escaped but his neighbor, 89-year-old Ella Norris, did not. "She lived with her daughter here on Buel," Drimalas said on Monday as he stood outside Ella's house, his neighbors circulating around him as they cleaned and salvaged what they could. "She and her daughter got trapped in the house. Her daughter survived. Ella's in the funeral home right now. They're having a service for her, as we speak."

Drimalas has spent the last ten days piling garbage on the street and digging out from the mud, calling FEMA and trying to contact his insurance company. On nights when a friend can't put him up, he sleeps in his car.

Now comes a nor'easter with snow and slashing rain, high winds and forecasts of flooding. When reached by cell phone, Drimalas described how he was preparing for a second blow.

"I'm getting all the garbage out in case any winds pick up," he said. He added that he was hoping to stay with a friend, before cutting short the call. "I'm working outside," he said. "I gotta go."

To see more photos of Drimalas and his neighborhood, go here.

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Transportation Nation

Climate Change Scientist: I Was Right About Subway Tunnel Flooding, Hurricane Damage

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Klaus Jacob, speaking from his home in Piermont N.Y., 12 miles north of New York City

TN's Andrea Bernstein spoke with Klaus Jacob in 2011, when she interviewed him for a story about how climate change could affect transit agencies. He modeled a storm like Sandy and brought his findings to the MTA. In forty minutes, Jacob says, all the East River Tunnels would be underwater. Jacob says he took those results to the MTA, and asked, if that happened, how long would it take to restore the flooded subway to a degree of functionality?

“And there was a big silence in the room because the system is so old. Many of the items that would be damaged by the intrusion of the saltwater into the system could not recover quickly.  You have to take them apart. You have to clean them from salt, dry them, reassemble them, test them and cross your fingers that they work.”

Now Jacob's home in Piermont, New York, has been damaged by Hurricane Sandy; he lost both his family cars to flooding. Watch him talk about it in the above video. You can also read the transcript in Columbia University's Earth Institute blog.

Sandy hit in terms of the storm surge here it was. It was one to two-feet above the FEMA 100-year flood zone, and therefore it affected a lot more people than those that normally get flood insurance, including myself, and it created havoc in this little village which is a microcosm of course for what happened in New York City.

This village, Piermont, is a disaster zone. You can hear probably the machines in the background. We had the National Guard here to clean up the pier. We have a wonderful fire department that takes care of people and pumped out all the houses. Now we are on our hands and knees to get the mud out of all the houses and the doors, the armoires and the hutches. It’s a lot of work!

We had a pretty good model so within a few inches I knew where [the water] would go. My wife and me, we simply went to sleep. We did not experience the flood. We got rattled in the house. It was shaking from the winds but we slept through the flood and didn’t go down until 6 or 7 o’clock in the morning to look at the mess. By then the water was gone of course, or most of it was gone.

I had raised my house in 2003 and I wanted to raise it much more above the FEMA flood zone but interestingly enough I couldn’t have done it or I would have had to give up my third attic floor. As I wanted to raise my house more, I hit the zoning laws which only allow 22 foot maximum height of houses in this particular neighborhood.

We had thought in 2003 ahead of time, once we knew that we couldn’t raise the house up anymore. So we did what we could. We lifted the dishwasher up on the kitchen counter. We raised the kitchen stove as much as we physically could before the arrival of the storm but it obviously was not enough. Not that we would have raised it more. We just didn’t have the muscle power and time and honestly not enough work horses to put all the stuff on it. It’s a learning experience. Another interesting case is that the village police and fire department recommended that we all bring our cars to a particular lot but I didn’t know what its elevation was nor apparently did they because both of my cars—my wife’s car and my car– got flooded up to the seats.

I am a seismologist. How in the heck did I ever get involved in this other mess? Well, very simple. As a seismologist I was concerned about the consequences of earthquakes. So in the 1990s we ran a five-year program with the help of FEMA in which we estimated what the consequences of a major earthquake in New York City would be. We finished that study a few months before 9/11. And you could not talk after 9/11 about natural disasters. But eventually, the climate community took notice of those loss estimates that we had made for New York City and they said, ‘Oh, can you do that for hurricanes and sea level rise and all those things that have to do with climate change?’ We said we don’t know, but we can try. So, we tried. And unfortunately we hit it right on the nose.

Essentially, the city.. and the other agencies like the MTA, which is not a city agency, and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, they all did something but obviously not enough to prevent the tunnels to flood, and that’s not surprising because we were still in the study stage rather than in the action stage.

So, we have to spend engineering time. Allow them to think about the best solutions and then discuss them in the public, which one we are willing to pay for. Because with enough money you can be as secure as we want but we are all short on money therefore there is a trade-off between costs versus benefits and we have to get to the bottom of that.”

One hears, and that has been going on for some time, shouting matches between potential winners and potential losers, and depending on which solution there are different groupings of losers and winners. We have to overcome that dissent and work towards a consensus. We are all sitting in the same boat.

There is clearly a political fallout from this event. The fallout should have occurred a year earlier when we had Irene knocking at our door. We missed the chance to come together after that and really take actions.

Certainly the victims of such events understand that sea level rise and climate change is a reality. It behooves the electorate to make a decision whether they want to have people in the government and therefore elect them that are climate deniers and we will continue to suffer the consequences. I wonder how long we as voters allow us to have representatives in the government that take threats of national importance not serious. I think it is inexcusable, it is irresponsible and it will have fatal and economic and livelihood consequences.



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Transportation Nation

Virginia Homeowners Fight 95 Express Lanes Ramp

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

A homeowners’ group in Alexandria is fighting a proposal by Virginia transportation planners to build a highway ramp near their homes.

Concerned Residents of Overlook, an upscale community adjacent to I-395, wants the Virginia Department of Transportation to relocate a ramp that will serve as the northern terminus of the 95 Express Lanes, 30 miles of high-occupancy toll lanes extending from the Edsall Road area in Fairfax County to Garrisonville Road in Stafford County.  The $1 billion public-private project is scheduled for completion in December 2014.

“The ramp is going to be about 75 feet from my house,” said Mary Hasty, who has lived in Overlook for ten years. Hasty says she's learned to live with the constant din of highway traffic but did not expect VDOT would ever build an exit ramp so close to her residence.

“You get used to the hum of traffic, but I certainly never anticipated that I’d have cars 75 feet from my house and my patio and garden,” she said.

The group claims VDOT failed to adequately study noise and air quality impacts that will result when traffic exits the new express lanes onto I-395 or local roads. The neighbors fear exiting highway traffic will back up and idle on the exit ramp.

“Our biggest issue is that they moved the end point, called the terminus, of the HOT lanes from Crystal City, Arlington County to our backyard and they did not do any studies specifically to determine the impact on our communities,” Hasty said.

Hasty’s friend and neighbor, Sue Okubo, said the ramp will ruin property values, too.

“Already a number of neighbors are putting their houses on the market,” Okubo said.

“Maybe there won’t be an impact.  I don’t believe that.  That’s why we are having independent studies to determine what the impact is. We are late in the game and it is a David vs. Goliath scenario, but we are pushing really hard.” Hasty added.

Construction of the ramp is already underway.  Relocating it is unlikely, according to state officials.

“It would be very difficult to make a change at this point having gone through a lot of the studies and approvals at the state, regional, and federal levels,” said John Lynch, VDOT’s regional transportation director for Virginia megaprojects. Lynch refuted the homeowners’ claims that the state failed to study traffic and pollution scenarios.

“We went through the federal requirements and developed an environmental assessment which includes analysis for both noise and air quality,” Lynch said.  “The bottom line is those studies met all the federal requirements and it was reviewed by both the Federal Highway Administration and Environmental Protection Agency. We wouldn’t have gotten approval to move forward with this project if it didn’t meet those requirements.”

Lynch said VDOT responded to residents’ concerns by extending auxiliary lanes to mitigate traffic congestion at the future interchange, adding that all the pertinent documents have been shared with the Overlook community.

“We have been very transparent in providing all of the information that they requested,” Lynch said.  “We’ve met with the community multiple times both in 2011 and 2012 during project development.”

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Transportation Nation

(LISTEN) Sandy Caused a Mini Bike Boom in NYC

Monday, November 05, 2012

Bicycle Habitat in SoHo did brisk business during the aftermath of Sandy, even without electricity. (Photo by Alex Goldmark)

When Sandy's storm surge flooded New York's subway and split the city into its island parts, normal commutes were washed away. City-mandated restrictions prevented cars with fewer than three people from entering Manhattan to try to limit vehicle traffic. So New Yorkers took to new modes to get around. HopStop, the transit trip planning website, reported a 1,300 percent spike in searches for bus travel in NYC and an 800 percent jump in non-train searches compared to the previous week.

And then there were bikes.

On Thursday, the NYC DOT counted 30,000 cyclists riding across the East River bridges, more than double the normal 13,000.  Though there's no official count for within Manhattan while the power was still out downtown and subways were halted, this audio postcard of a ride around town shows how Sandy created a mini-bike boom -- and a pop-up culture of cycling harmony.


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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

Staten Island Ferry Resumes Service at Noon on Friday

Friday, November 02, 2012

The first Staten Island Ferry since Sandy (photo courtesy of Bob Moses)

(UPDATED 11/2/12) The first Staten Island Ferry since Hurricane Sandy will depart at noon Friday, followed by half-hourly service in both directions.

New York City Department of Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan had Transportation Nation Thursday: "I'm hopeful that by tomorrow afternoon, I'll be talking to you live from the ferry terminal."

The city shut down ferry operations in advance of Hurricane Irene. Although the fleet wasn't harmed in the storm, the docks suffered damage.

Sadik-Khan also said high-occupancy vehicle restrictions would remain in place through midnight Friday. "Then we'll revisit it," she said, pending restoration of subway service.

The DOT has been working with the city's Metropolitan Transportation Authority to bridge the gap in subway service between Brooklyn and Manhattan, and has instituted special shuttle bus service and bus-only lanes to speed travel over the Manhattan and Williamsburg Bridges. Temporary bus lanes have also been set up on either side of the bridges on Third and Flatbush Avenues.

On a normal weekday, said Sadik-Khan, 728,000 people take the subway into Manhattan from the Jay Street, Atlantic Avenue/Barclays Center and Hewes Street subway stations. Over 200,000 people usually drive over the East River Bridges.

Sadik-Khan said the dedicated lanes were working. "Traffic was tough today," she said, "but it's pretty good flow considering the challenges that we face."

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Transportation Nation

NYC Transit: What's Running Friday Morning, MTA Subway, Buses, LIRR, Metro North and Long Island Rail Road

Thursday, November 01, 2012

You can always find the latest information in our Transit Tracker. But we thought it might be helpful to give you the rundown in a post as well. Here ya go.

As of late Thursday evening, here's the summary what's just come back on line from the MTA and then from NJ Transit:


The following restorations will be in effect for tomorrow’s commute:

Long Island Rail Road:

· Babylon Branch: Hourly service to Penn Station
· Huntington Branch: Hourly service to Penn Station

Metro-North Railroad:

· Hudson Line: Service between Croton-Harmon and Grand Central Terminal on the Hudson Line will operate on a regular weekday schedule.
· New Haven Line: Service will resume between New Haven and Stamford/Grand Central Terminal by midday.
· Harlem Line: Full service between Southeast and Grand Central Terminal will be restored tomorrow morning.

New York City Transit:

· #7 Service between Flushing Main Street and 74th St. in Queens, will begin by midnight tonight.
· In addition, Limited M service from Jamaica Center along Queens Boulevard, through the 63rd St. tunnel to 34th Street/Herald Square inManhattan, began this afternoon.

Other Public Transportation Restorations Updates:

Long Island Rail Road

· LIRR has been running hourly service fromJamaica to Atlantic Terminal, hourly service fromJamaica to Penn Station, hourly service fromRonkonkoma to Penn Station, and hourly service from Great Neck to Penn Station.

Metro-North Railroad

· Service on the Harlem Line was extended fromMountKisco through to Southeast Station, beginning this afternoon. Trains operated on a very limited schedule this afternoon.

New York City Transit

· More extensive restoration of normal service depends upon Con Edison’s restoration of feeds for Joralemon and Rutgers tubes, plus networks from those tubes up to 36th St. This would enable the New York City Transit to restore service on the 4, 5 and F lines, as well as to re-establish some service over the Manhattan and Williamsburg bridges. Restoration of these feeds would allow for robust Sixth Avenue service. Once power is restored, since the tracks are dry and signal testing has been completed done, the only thing that would remain would be to run a few test trains. Service could be restored within two hours. In addition, NYCT was prepared to establish a #5 shuttle train between Dyre Avenue and East 180th Street in theBronx, but is unable to do so because there is no station power.

MTA Bus Company/NYCT Bus

· Buses operated near normal service this morning with routes diverted as conditions required. In addition to weekday school closed requirements, buses operated the Atlantic, Jay Street and Hewes Street subway replacement shuttles and augmented M5 and M20 service in Manhattan where displaced subway customers were riding.
· Bus service will be curtailed at dusk in the areas of the city where power is still out as was done yesterday, for the safety of pedestrians and passengers. The Brooklyn bus bridge will continue to run past midnight.
· Access-A-Ride began fulfilling scheduled appointments as of noon today. Thirteen of the 14 carriers are providing vehicles to assist in the evacuation effort.
· Bus service will continue to operate the same service levels, as will the subway support service. Normal routes will be restored as soon as conditions allow, including routes supporting the Staten Island Ferry when ferry service resumes.


NJ TRANSIT is advising customers of the following:

Rail Service:

  • Northeast Corridor:  On Friday, November 2, service will resume between Trenton Transit Center and Newark Penn Station, operating on a special schedule.
  • North Jersey Coast Line:  On Friday, November 2, service will resume between Woodbridge and Newark Penn Station, operating on a special schedule.  Rail service between Bay Head and Woodbridge remains suspended. An assessment of rail infrastructure has revealed significant damage across the system, including:
    • Morgan Drawbridge in South Amboy sustained damage from boats and a trailer that collided into the bridge. 
    • There are wires and trees down, as well as rail washouts (no ballast under the tracks), between South Amboy and Bay Head.
  • Raritan Valley Line:  On Friday, November 2, service will resume between Raritan and Newark Penn Station only, operating on a special schedule.  Rail service between High Bridge and Raritan remains suspended.
  • Morris & Essex, Montclair-Boonton, Main/Bergen and Atlantic City Rail lines:  Service remains suspended.   An assessment of rail infrastructure has revealed significant damage across the system, including:
    • There is major damage due to downed trees between Summit and Millburn, as well as in Denville and Morristown.  There is also overhead wire damage, including signal wires, with support poles down in Lyons and Bernardsville.  In addition, rail washouts (no ballast under the tracks) occurred at Kearny Junction, where Midtown Direct service connects to the Northeast Corridor. Rail washouts also occurred at several tracks in Hoboken Terminal and at Netcong Station.
    • Elsewhere on the rail system, local power outages have prevented NJ TRANSIT rail operations from being able to further test crossing gates and operating signals.  In addition, hundreds of downed trees have fallen across the rail system, which have caused damage to overhead wires and signal wires.  Several rail stations have sustained flood damage, including Hoboken Terminal.


Bus Service:

  • Bus service is operating on 68 bus routes in northern New Jersey and 18 bus routes in southern New Jersey, providing service over the entire routes with no detours or truncations.   For a complete list, visit
  • Partial service is operating on 58 bus routes in northern New Jersey and 17 routes in southern New Jersey, with detours or truncations due to ongoing impacts from Hurricane Sandy.  For details, visit
  • Bus service on routes not listed remains suspended until further notice.  Power outages in local communities have resulted in the loss of traffic control devices critical to safe operation in some areas.  Downed tree limbs and power lines continue to make many roads impassable.  Personnel are in the field reviewing and assessing these conditions in order to ensure that service is restored as soon as it becomes safe to do so. 


Light Rail Service:

  • River Line is operating on a Sunday schedule between Trenton Transit Center and the Entertainment Center in Camden.
  • Hudson-Bergen Light Rail and Newark Light Rail service will remain suspended until further notice.  There is currently no estimated time for resumption of service.   An assessment of rail infrastructure has revealed significant damage across the system, including:
    • Newark Light Rail sustained flooding in Newark Penn Station, as well as major debris damage between Newark Penn and Branch Brook Park stations.
    • Hudson-Bergen Light Rail experienced track washouts at Port Imperial and West Side Avenue stations, as well as trees in the overhead wire in Weehawken and flooding in Hoboken.

Access Link:

  • Access Link service is operating in the following regions:
    • Region 2, which includes Burlington, Camden, Cumberland, Gloucester and Salem counties.
    • Region 3, which includes Atlantic, Cape May and Southern Ocean County.


Monthly Pass Extension:


NJ TRANSIT has extending the validity period for October monthly passes until Wednesday, November 7 for customer convenience.


Service Updates:


For the latest travel information, customers should listen to broadcast traffic reports, visit or access NJ TRANSIT’s Twitter feed at @NJ_TRANSIT. Additionally, NJ TRANSIT will provide the most current service information via the My Transit alert system (, which delivers travel advisories for your specific trip to your cell phone, PDA or pager. Service information is also available by calling (973) 275-5555.


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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

World Series Win Sparks Vandalism in San Francisco

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

A man vandalizes a SF city bus after the Giants won the World Series. Photo credit Susana Bates, special to the San Francisco Chronicle

Although it pales in comparison to the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, Sunday night’s sweep of the World Series by the San Francisco Giants left a human-powered path of flipped cars, trash fires, and vandalized and burned city buses in Bay Area streets.

Fans celebrating the Giants’ win set a MUNI bus on fire in San Francisco early Monday morning. The driver and eight passengers escaped unharmed from the bus, which had just undergone $300,000 worth of repairs.

Sunday night marked the second time in three years that the Giants have won the World Series.

San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr told the San Francisco Chronicle that the victory is not a license for destruction. “Two world championships in three years is worthy of celebration,” Suhr said. “But then at some point in time, after the original understandable celebration comes the almost mystifying belief that some people can just come and trash San Francisco.”

A photograph of a Giants’ fan smashing the front window of a bus began circulating on Facebook yesterday with this caption: “SHARE THIS PHOTO: Please help the SFPD locate this jerk that used the Giants celebration as a reason to destroy things and endanger people. This isn't what San Francisco is about. Be smart and safe and kind when you celebrate.”

In all, 36 people were arrested in connection with widespread vandalism and fires. No word on whether the man in the photograph was among those arrested.

A victory parade for the Giants is planned for 11am tomorrow in San Francisco.

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Transportation Nation

Manhattan, For the First Time Since 9/11, Is An Island Again

Monday, October 29, 2012

The Brooklyn Bridge, and all bridges into Manhattan are closed

The RFK Bridge is now closed.

The subway is closed.  The East River bridges are closed.  The Holland, the Battery, the George Washington -- all closed.

For the first time since the September 11 attacks, it's virtually impossible to get to or from Manhattan, other than for emergency vehicles.

The Lincoln and Queens Midtown Tunnels are still open.  So far. (UPDATE: the Queens Midtown Tunnel is closed.)

The Governors (both of them), Mayor Bloomberg, and virtually everyone else is counseling everyone to STAY inside.  Though, of course, people are not heeding that advice.

You can see our photos here, and keep an eye on re-openings here. That's assuming, that is, that the subways don't flood.

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Transportation Nation

PHOTOS: Sandy Halts Transportation, Floods Roads

Monday, October 29, 2012

We'll be updating this throughout the storm. Send your photos to or @transportnation.  'Cause we'd like to share them.

The entrance to the downtown 1 train at Broadway and 79th Street (photo by Kate Hinds)

Bike delivery workers still on the job as of 3:30 pm on Amsterdam Avenue (photo by Kate Hinds)

Bicycling in a hurricane on Columbus Avenue (photo by Kate Hinds)

from @DriversWantedNY: "NYC: subway is closed,airport is closed,but TAXIS r open.Raza working since 4am & now taking a $1bus home."

Photo from @DavidKesting

A tree fell on NYC Council member Brad Lander's Brooklyn home. (via @BradLander at 5:43pm)

From the NY MTA: Metro-North Railroad runs patrol trains to survey its tracks during and after storms. As Hurricane Sandy approached, this train struck a tree across the tracks and was briefly halted. (photo courtesy of MTA Metro-North Railroad)

Hatches are battened down at the South Street Seaport. Monday afternoon. (Photo by Alex Goldmark)

from NY Governor Cuomo's twitter account at 4:46pm: severe conditions at Rockaway, waves slamming into the bay wall.


Large floating debris and white caps under the base of the Brooklyn Bridge, Monday afternoon. (Photo by Alex Goldmark)


Rising water at Harlem River Park (photo by @HessMatthias)

Clinton Hill Rooftop overlooking The Brooklyn Navy Yard. (Photo by Jamie Boud)


The Hudson River at 3:30pm Monday (photo by Kate Hinds)

Entrance to the Holland Tunnel, 2:30 pm (photo by Richard Yeh)

The Croton River Bridge at about 1:15pm. It carries Metro-North Railroad's Hudson Line over the Croton River. Water has risen up to the level of the bridge. (Photo courtesy of MTA Metro-North Railroad / Robert Stinson)

The Island Park LIRR station tracks already largely under water as of 1pm Monday (photo by Alfonso Castillo via flickr)

Battery Park, 12:22pm Monday (photo by Jim O'Grady)

The flooded FDR Drive at noon Monday (photo by Caitlyn Kim)

Another view of flooding on the FDR Drive (photo by Caitlyn Kim)

Wait -- is that an MTA bus?? Never mind, it's for the police. (Photo by Caitlyn Kim)

Atlantic City (photo via @Mouselink)

A runway at JFK Airport in Queens, with water encroaching (photo courtesy of Port Authority of New York and New Jersey)

The view from Battery Park at 11:40am Monday: Statue of Liberty, rising waters (photo by Jim O'Grady)

The Broad Street subway station in lower Manhattan, sealed up (photo by Jim O'Grady)

Transit officers Romaniello and Wright in front of a sandbagged subway station (photo by Jim O'Grady)

The PATH station at the World Trade Center. The whole system is shut down. (Photo by Jim O'Grady)

(photo by Jim O'Grady)

An inflatable 'bladder" at the entrance to an office building (photo by Jim O'Grady)

Sandbags in front of the New York Stock Exchange (photo by Jim O'Grady)

More sandbags outside the Stock Exchange (photo by Jim O'Grady)

The Williamsburg Bridge on Monday morning -- light traffic, some bikes (photo by Jim O'Grady)

Sign taped to an M79 bus on Sunday (photo by Kate Hinds)

The Bronx Bees hives were getting ready for the storm on Sunday (photo via @BronxBees)

Manhattan's 79th Street Boat Basin, Sunday afternoon (photo by Kate Hinds)

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Transportation Nation

NYC DOT Study: Street Redesign Good for the Economy

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Union Square's pedestrian plaza (photo by Kate Hinds)

New York City's Department of Transportation says redesigned streets have been very, very good to small businesses.

A new report says that retail sales are up along city streets that have bike paths, pedestrian plazas, slow zones, or select bus service.

In some cases, the increase is dramatic: on Brooklyn's Pearl Street, where the DOT maintains retail sales have increased by 172 percent since a parking triangle was turned into a pedestrian plaza.

In Measuring the Street, the DOT lays out metrics for evaluating street redesign projects. These include benchmarks like injuries, traffic speed and volume. And now it includes retail sales data along redesigned routes.

The report casts the city's street redesign in a favorable light just as hundreds of planners descend on the city for the Designing Cities conference, happening this week at New York University.

"For the first time, we have years of retail sales that were reported to the Department of Finance, and we were able to look at that data and apply it directly to the SBS corridors, the bike lane projects, etc.," said DOT commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan.

Sadik-Khan ticked off a list of streets that she said economically benefited from being overhauled.

"On Fordham Road [in the Bronx], we saw the growth in the retail sales by local businesses -- and these are not chain stores -- grow 71 percent following the introduction of the SBS route there in 2008, which is three times the borough-wide growth rate."

The report says that along Ninth Avenue, retail sales are up 49 percent -- sixteen times the borough growth rate -- three years after that street's protected bike lane went in. Manhattan's Union Square, which was revamped in 2010, reports a lower commercial vacancy rate.

Sadik-Khan said the reason for increased sales is straightforward: if you build it, the people will come.

And presumably those people have wallets.

"We've seen anywhere between a 10 to 15 percent increase in ridership on all the SBS bus routes," Sadik-Khan said, "amid a citywide decline of 5 percent on bus routes."  She said more riders along a route means more people getting on and off the bus, which means more foot traffic.

The DOT looked at sales tax records reported to the city's Department of Finance. The data excludes large chain stores and non-retail businesses.




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Transportation Nation

New York Islanders Will Move to Brooklyn

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

(photo by Blue387 via flickr)

(WNYC newsroom, New York, NY) The New York Islanders are moving to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, sources said.

The Long Island-based team will make an announcement this afternoon with Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Islanders owner Charles Wang and Bruce Ratner, the developer of the Barclays Center.

The newly opened 18,000-seat arena already hosts the Brooklyn Nets team, currently playing pre-season games.

Last year, voters in Nassau County defeated a plan that would have allowed the county to use $400 million to redevelop the 40-year-old crumbling stadium.

Supporters of the redevelopment said the county stood to lose $243 million a year and more than 2,000 jobs if the Islanders leave and the Nassau Coliseum closes.

The team's lease at the Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, N.Y., expires in 2015.

To read more TN reporting about parking and transit at the Barclays Center, go here.

Andrea Bernstein contributed reporting.

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Transportation Nation

Maryland Expanding Audio Recording On Buses Over Privacy Objections

Friday, October 19, 2012

Half the MTA Maryland fleet of buses will be equipped with audio recording equipment by the end of the year. (MTA photo)

(Elliott Francis and Marti Johnson - Washington, D.C., WAMU) The Maryland Transit Administration is recording conversations between bus drivers and passengers, which is prompting critics to peg the audio recordings as violations of privacy.

The MTA began recording audio on 10 buses in Baltimore this week, with plans to expand to half the fleet by next summer. The agency runs local buses in the Baltimore-Washington area with commuter routes serving outlying communities. The buses are already equipped with video cameras that sport microphones — they just have to be switched on.

The state attorney general's office says the addition of audio doesn't violate Maryland's wiretapping law, but attorneys with the American Civil Liberties Union say bus riders shouldn't have to sacrifice their privacy rights.

The audio recordings are an attempt to increase commuter safety, says MTA information officer Terry Owens.

"We were convinced that this additional tool would help us better safeguard our system, so we have this system in place on ten of our buses, testing the technology to make sure it's effective," he says.

There are signs on the buses letting riders know they're being recorded. But the American Civil Liberties Union staff attorney David Rocah says recording the conversations violates riders privacy rights.

"I don't think public transit riders should have to give their legitimate expectation of privacy and their ability to have a private conversation as a condition of riding a bus," Rocah says.

MTA says the state attorney general's office says that there is no legal expectation of privacy on public buses, but some state legislators are ready to take up the issue in the next general Assembly, the ACLU says. State Sen. Brian Frosh says the General Assembly will most likely set standards for oversight and accountability.

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Transportation Nation

NYC Subway Station House Becomes Front Porch

Thursday, October 18, 2012

(images from MTA's Arts for Transit and Urban Design's Facebook page)

Pull up a rocking chair, sit on the front porch, and watch the world go by...while waiting for the Q train to arrive at Brooklyn's Avenue H station.

(courtesy of MTA)

The latest installation from the New York MTA's Arts for Transit and Urban Design takes place at the intersection of East 16th Street and Avenue H, at what the Landmarks Preservation Commission calls "the the city’s only shingled wooden cottage turned transit station house." It was built in either 1905 or 1906.

Come on by -- the MTA says the installation is permanent and the public is welcome to sit in the chairs. No word yet on whether they're serving up iced tea.

Exterior of the Avenue H station house (photo courtesy of MTA)

According to MTA's Arts for Transit Facebook page: "The artwork, along the north and south facades of the Station House, consists of casual groupings of cast bronze rocking chairs, anchored in place...Each chair, though similar in style to one another, is subtly different with a variety of weaves, colors and patterns. The colors of the rocking chairs recall and harmonize with the decorative hues of the surrounding Queen Anne and Colonial houses and recall the graciousness of front-porch society from days gone by."

For more information on the project, and to see pictures of artist Ed Kopel creating the artwork, go here.

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Transportation Nation

NYC Speeds Up $1 Billion in 'Unglamorous' Infrastructure Work

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

NY City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and Comptroller John Liu

New York will be accelerating more than $1 billion worth of work on infrastructure projects already in the city's capital plan.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg cautioned that these are not big ticket items. "The bulk of them are completely unglamorous," he said, adding that most of them can be completed within a 20-month time frame. The city is accelerating the work to take advantage of low interest rates.

A description of the authorized projects includes road and bridge repairs, waterfront infrastructure development, and improvements to city buildings and libraries. The mayor said an additional 300 miles of city roadways will be resurfaced, and it will also speed up the removal of PCBs from lighting fixtures in schools.

These are projects that are "ready to go, need to happen, and will be finished in the fixed timetable," the mayor said. He estimated that the work would create 8,000 jobs, mostly in the construction industry.

Read more about the project here, or watch a video of the announcement.

Bonus: hear the mayor announce the initiative in Spanish.

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Transportation Nation

Virginia County Approves $2.3B Tysons Corner Transportation Plan

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Metro Rail construction from Tyson's Corner to East Falls Church station on Route 267 in Northern Virginia. (Photo by Trevor Wrayton, VDOT)

The Fairfax Board of Supervisors has given final approval to a massive transportation funding plan for the future Tysons Corner.

The Tysons Plan looks 40 years into the future, anticipating 113 million square feet of new development by 2050 in a modern city rising west of Washington. The board on Tuesday approved $2.3 billion to build a new transportation network for the future Tysons Corner, which includes a grid designed for buses, pedestrians, and cars -- as well as four new Metro Stations. It will be paid for in part by commercial and residential taxes.

Fairfax County Board chairman Sharon Bulova heralded the move, calling it "a major step in the right direction" for the area. “Investing in Tysons is an investment in the future of Fairfax County," she said. "Never before has such a long range, comprehensive plan been developed to support a major redevelopment initiative."

But the vision of high-rise condos and gleaming corporate offices doesn't mean much to Lucille Weiner, a senior citizen who lives in a condo in Tysons and who spoke at a public hearing Tuesday before the board approved the plan. She said the tax increases on residential properties in Tysons Corner would make her life more difficult.

"As I read the reasoning around taxing the neighborhood that is Tysons Corner, I read the phrase 'the folks that will benefit the most,'" said Weiner. "It sure isn't me who will have to move if this happens. I appeal to my elected representatives to help stop this frivolous idea on the extra tax on the people who live in Tysons."

Michael Bogasky, the president of the residents association in Weiner's condominium, agreed with that assessment. "Let's create a new tax district so that we can pay more in taxes than anyone else in Fairfax County," he said.

Weiner believes the new taxes should not be on homeowners at all.

"When the Metro reached Greenbelt [Maryland], residents of Greenbelt did not get taxed, nor did residents of Vienna [Virginia]. when the Metro reached Vienna," she said.

Developers stand to gain the most from Tysons' future growth. One of them, CityLine Developers, supports the tax plan.

"If I ever thought there was a day that I would come and ask you to approve $13 a square foot in transportation proffers and ask you for a 7- to 9- cent tax on top of that, I probably should have retired," said Thomas Fleury a CityLine vice president, with a laugh. "That's what it takes to get the job done."

Other critics argue there is a risk to predicting tax revenues over 40 years and if the county's projections don't work out, the plan will fall apart.

But lawmakers say the plan is flexible enough to adjust to swings in the economy and the real estate market.

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