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.
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.
Friday, November 02, 2012
By Martin DiCaro : WAMU
The agency that operates Dulles International and Reagan National Airports and the $6 billion Silver Line rail project engaged in unethical hiring and questionable contracting practices and its officials accepted lavish gifts in violation of the agency's own policies – all enabled by a “culture of favoritism” and lacking internal checks – according to an audit released Thursday by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s inspector general.
The audit detailed questionable dealings at the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority from January 2009 to June 2011. During that period, MWAA awarded 190 contracts that exceeded $200,000 but only 36 percent were awarded with full and open competition, the audit said. These contract awards failed to comply with MWAA’s own contracting manual and were inconsistent with the intent of the Airports Act of 1986, the audit said.
MWAA’s hiring practices were also criticized. “In some cases, senior officials abused MWAA’s student program to hire employees who were not students, using personnel documentation that falsely showed student status. MWAA’s lack of oversight also resulted in employees with known criminal convictions working at the Authority in sensitive and management positions for more than a year,” the audit said.
While the audit did not name names, it named positions. For instance, MWAA’s Vice President for Human Resources hired two relatives to work at the agency and then denied it. The vice president, Arl Williams, resigned in advance of the audit’s release.
While Williams’ individual behavior was troublesome, the problems at MWAA also resulted in structural deficiencies.
"According to MWAA’s ethics code, MWAA employees may not hire, supervise, or work with family members. However, MWAA lacks controls to detect and prevent these prohibited relationships… which makes it difficult to determine whether the relationship would constitute nepotism…” the audit said.
MWAA’s vice president for information and telecommunications, George Ellis, received two tickets to the 2009 Super Bowl among other expensive gifts from a contractor in clear violation of established MWAA policy. Ellis was fired in the spring.
In another case mentioned by auditors, a former board member, Mame Reilly, was hired by MWAA CEO Jack Potter to fill a vaguely defined position for an annual salary of $180,000. Reilly stepped down after a public outcry but was paid a year’s severance. Neither Reilly nor Potter was mentioned by name. None of the contractors who received lucrative no-bid contracts was named, either.
The 51-page report is loaded with examples of contracting practices that, while not explicitly illegal, raise serious questions about decision making at the powerful agency. One unnamed former board member received 16 no-bid contracts. The MWAA board of directors was not consulted about any no-bid contracts that totaled $6 million dollars.
The DOT auditors closed their report by issuing twelve recommendations while acknowledging that MWAA has already taken steps to overhaul its policies and put in place internal checks.
At a press conference Thursday afternoon, Potter and MWAA board chairman Michael Curto addressed the audit’s findings, promising to work to regain the public’s trust while defending their record in handling the 23-mile Silver Line project.
“We are gratified that the final report acknowledges the actions we have taken since the May Interim Report, as well as our ongoing initiatives, to bring greater transparency and accountability, efficiency, and integrity to our operations and governance,” Curto said.
“We are extremely transparent,” said Potter, referring to the rail project. “There is definitely a firewall between the toll road and rail project and the authority.”
“There is work to be done,” added Potter. “I see it as my job that we restore the trust in this institution through very solid policies. I’ll be embarrassed if two years from now these same things are a problem.”
Friday, November 02, 2012
Governor Cuomo says the 4-5 train could be running under the East River soon. At a news briefing on Friday morning, Cuomo said: "We spoke with Kevin Burke in Con-Ed this morning, he's been making good progress especially in downtown Manhattan, he believes the power is going to be back on in what's called the Joralemon tunnel, which will facilitate the MTA bringing power back into the subway system in that area."
On Thursday, MTA Chief Joe Lhota said once power was on, subways could run on the F and 4/5 lines within two hours.
On Friday, Cuomo said he expects an announcement this afternoon.
"If Con-Ed is correct and they re-power downtown Manhattan, and if the Joralemon tunnel is correct you'll see more trains coming on line and we'll have that announcement later today as we see exactly the effect of the re-powering," Cuomo said.
An hour later, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said he'd hoped mass transit would be close to normal "soon."
Friday, November 02, 2012
By Kate Hinds
(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."
Thursday, November 01, 2012
By Kate Hinds
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."
Wednesday, October 31, 2012
By Kate Hinds
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.
Tuesday, October 30, 2012
By Kate Hinds
UPDATE: Tuesday 4:50 PM: The MTA's Charles Seaton says not all bus routes will be running Wednesday morning, that limited routes will be running. Those will be announced later Tuesday evening.
UPDATE Tuesday 11:50 AM: The latest on MTA and NYC transpo is always at our Transit Tracker.
Some bus service will begin at 5 p.m. on a Sunday schedule.
There is no timetable yet for subway service resumption. Governor Andrew Cuomo and MTA Chairman Joe Lhota said in a joint press conference Tuesday morning they hope to have full bus service restored Wednesday morning. No fares will be charged through Wednesday.
Portions of subway service will return in pieces as it is able. Buses will be used to connect fractured sections.
Flooding could keep east river crossings shut for some time. The Clark, Steinway, Rutgers and Strawberry Street tubes under the East River are all flooded. Lhota said pumps are clearing the Joralemon Street tube and will have it dry in a few hours.
No buses or trains were damaged because of effective shut down preparations. Assessment of the extent of the damage on the tracks "will take a little bit more time than we thought," Lhota said.
Lhotoa said flooding at the South Street subway station was "literally up to the ceiling."
Pumping is underway in the Battery Tunnel.
Metro-North has no power from 59th Street to Croton.
POSTED Tuesday 9:05 AM: MTA chair Joe Lhota spoke to WNYC's Soterios Johnson Monday morning about the extent of the damage to the subway system. Listen to the interview below, and read the partial transcript of his remarks.
Lhota said he knew last night there was a problem. "Last night I was downtown and it was pretty obvious...I saw the water surge coming up, realizing that the systems were going to be affected. Our electrical systems, our alarm systems, tell us when there's water down there. They basically shut off. It's an automatic system...they would only shut off if there was water down there."
Johnson asked Lhota just how bad the flooding was. "The assessment is ongoing. Dawn is just cracking right now," Lhota said, adding that the sunlight would help with the assessment process, "which is going to be ongoing. We'll report back to New Yorkers later in the day as to what we have assessed, and determine how long it's going to take to get the system back up and running. One thing I do want everyone to focus on is the fact of how dynamic and how robust the New York City subway system is." And New Yorkers need to understand: "We're going to be flexible, we're going to try to be creative. Those systems that can be up and running, those portions of the system that can be up and running -- I want them up and running as quickly as possible. Then use our bus service and our buses -- re-route them in such a way that they supplement and complement each other. And that's what I mean by creativity: if there's a portion of the system that's going to take longer to repair, that doesn't mean the whole system is down...we're New Yorkers, we adapt very very well."
Johnson asked if salt water had flooded the subways. "I can't imagine that it's fresh water, it's going to be at best brackish, but for the most part it's salt," Lhota said. "Water and electricity never mix properly, but when you add salt to it, once the water is gone, the salt leaves a film...the way electronics work on the subway system is two pieces of metal running together conducting electricity. And it there's anything in between those two pieces of metal -- like film left over from salt -- that needs to be cleaned off because the connections need to be clear and straightforward for us to manage the process of making the subway system safe."
Johnson asked Lhota what his worst-case scenario for restoration of subway service. "I literally can't answer that until later today," Lhota said. "his happened overnight, it's been ongoing, the assessment's been ongoing, and we've called...all of our workers backs." "Are we talking days or weeks?" asked Johnson. "It's unfair to me -- I'm going to try to get this up and running as quickly as I possibly can," said Lhota. "I really don't want to be tied down to answering that question the way you've asked it because it'll be something that will linger out there...it would be a scientific wild guess on my part to answer it that way and I just need to get better information and then determine it."
As to when the bridges and tunnels will be open: "I literally just sent a text message to Pat Foye, the head of the Port Authority," said Lhota. "He and I need to figure out how to open up the bridges, how to open up the tunnels. The wind has calmed down significantly...the tunnels, if they're dry, the assessment can be relatively straightforward. [But] the bridges, given the extent of the wind, we're going to need a couple hours having the engineers assess that there's no damage to any of the bridges. We experienced at the Triborough - RFK bridge wind gusts over 100 miles an hour last night. That's extraordinary. We've got to make sure that the integrity of the bridge is there. I'm confident that it is, but out of an abundance of caution we're going to need at least two hours for our engineers to go through and assess to make sure that the bridges are safe. I think they're safe -- in fact I'm almost positive they're safe -- but out of an abundance of caution, we will do the work we need to do."
Johnson asked about the Metro-North and Long Island Rail Road commuter rail lines. "First off," said Lhota, "we're trying to count the number of trees that are downed on Metro North and it's going to be in the hundreds...we're going up in a helicopter today to assess the entire system from the air to determine where we have our problems. The Long Island Rail Road experienced an enormous amount of flooding all through the South Shore, the Babylon branch all the way out to ...Montauk. We're assessing that right now and will determine how far we can go." He continued: "I am very worried about power....the power is a problem. It's an electric subway system for the most part. Some of our commuter rail system is electric as well, some it's diesel, or a combination...we need electricity to run. So this power problem in the tri-state area is significant for getting us up and running on the commuter rail front...the power on Metro North is down from 59th Street in Manhattan all the way up to Croton-Harmon on the Hudson line, all the way up to New Haven, Connecticut on the New Haven line. We have no power on the system at this time."
In terms of the actual conditions of the rails: "We're going to have to evaluate it," Lhota said. "We're going to have to walk ths system to determine the extent of it and we're also going to have to cut up all the trees that are in the way and get them out of the way."
With reporting by Alex Goldmark
Monday, October 29, 2012
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.
Monday, October 29, 2012
UPDATED WITH A WHOLE BUNCH OF NEW INFO FROM THE MTA: New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and his MTA chief, Joe Lhota, say the danger of flooding of the East River subway tunnels is quite real.
"Our subway system and salt water do not mix," Lhota said in a briefing with the Governor this morning. "Salt water can corrode switches quite easily." Lhota added that would put the general ability for the system to function "in jeopardy."
Salt water corrosion of switches - some of them 100 years old -- could have long-term, unknowable effects on the subway system.
According to a press release sent late Monday, "MTA New York City Transit has taken strong measures to protect the subway tunnels that cross under the Hudson and Harlem rivers. However, the unprecedented levels of storm surge predicted to accompany Hurricane Sandy present a significant threat to those tunnels and to the speedy restoration of service after the storm." (FULL RELEASE BELOW)
An hour after the Governor's briefing, Mayor Michael Bloomberg downplayed the threat of subway flooding. "If a little water gets in, you pump it out," the Mayor said, arguing that the biggest threat would be inundated trains.
His office offered no immediate explanation for the differing views of the threat of salt water to the subway system.
Five subway tunnels that run under the East River could be in danger, according to an analysis by Columbia University: the A-C, the 2-3, the 4-5, the R, and the F. MTA spokesman Charles Seaton says the MTA has stationed personnel at the mouth of each of the tunnels to monitor flooding. That information is transmitted to a dispatcher. The personnel will remain there "as long as it is safe," Seaton said.
During Tropical Storm Irene, as WNYC reported a year ago, the city came within a foot of seeing the subway tunnels flood. Officials just predicted Sandy will peak at 11.7 feet above flood stage, versus 9.5 feet for Irene.
From my earlier report:
Columbia Univeristy Professor Klaus Jacob has worked with the MTA to model what would happen if you couple sea level rises – the FTA says to expect four feet by the end of this century – with intense storms like Irene. 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.”
In a best-case scenario, Jacob calculated that it would take 29 days to get the subway working again. But in the meantime, a halted subway would almost halt the city’s economy, which, he says produces $4 billion a day in economic activity.
Here's the full statement from the MTA, released about 4 pm Tuesday:
MTA New York City Transit has taken strong measures to protect the subway tunnels that cross under the Hudson and Harlem rivers. However, the unprecedented levels of storm surge predicted to accompany Hurricane Sandy present a significant threat to those tunnels and to the speedy restoration of service after the storm.
Station entrances and sidewalk vent gratings in low-lying areas such as lower Manhattan have been covered with plywood and reinforced with several feet of sandbags. However, those measures are designed to slow the entrance of water into the system, not to prevent flooding. In addition, the pumps installed throughout the subway system to remove water run on electricity, and will not function if electric power to the system is interrupted.
NYCT personnel and New York City police officers are monitoring conditions in all stations, and patrol trains travel the entire subway system looking for signs of water infiltration. NYCT personnel are also removing stop motors, which interact with automatic brake equipment at track level, so they would not be damaged during any flooding.
If the threat of tunnel flooding appears likely, NYCT is prepared to remove power from the signal system. Because water conducts electricity, and salt water conducts electricity particularly well, signal equipment that is submerged in seawater would be especially vulnerable to damage if power remained on.
When salt water is removed from the system, salt deposits will remain on contact surfaces that will accelerate corrosion, causing potential failures. All those surfaces must be thoroughly cleaned, but they cannot always be cleaned in the field, and some cannot be cleaned at all and must be replaced.
It is difficult to predict the amount of time required to pump water from a flooded tunnel and bring its equipment, as well as adjoining stations, back into service. It depends on the height of the storm surge, how rapidly it penetrates the protective barriers, the length and diameter of tunnel tubes and the extent of flooding into adjacent underground sections and stations.
NYCT has three pump trains available to remove water from under-river tunnels. But the wide range of variables means that merely pumping out water from flooded tunnels – before restoring signals and other equipment – is estimated to take anywhere from 14 hours to more than four days. And as a general rule, the longer a tunnel is flooded, the longer it will take to return to service.
The last time subway tunnels under rivers flooded was December 11, 1992, when all subway lines were suspended for a time and three tunnels filled with water. Some were restored the same day, but the Canarsie Tube carrying the L line under the East River was out of service for several days.
Thursday, October 25, 2012
By Kate Hinds
(UPDATED with Port Authority comment) A top New Jersey Democrat has issued subpoenas to four executives of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
Assemblyman John Wisniewski, who chairs the state Assembly's Transportation, Public Works and Independent Authorities committee, said the agency has failed to adequately respond to repeated requests for information on toll increases, the cancellation of a trans-Hudson tunnel, and possible patronage hiring.
“We gave the Port Authority numerous chances to cooperate and time and time again it failed to adequately do so,” Wisniewski said. “The Port Authority is an out-of-control agency that has forgotten it serves the public. It would prefer to hide information on toll increases, the decision to halt the tunnel project and potential patronage, but it’s time to get straight answers. The Port Authority can no longer obfuscate. It must now finally respect the public.”
This is the latest skirmish in a series of rancorous exchanges between elected officials and Port executives. Last year, in the midst of a public outcry over toll and fare hikes at the agency’s bridges and tunnels, outside consultants took a detailed look at the authority and described a dysfunctional bureaucracy with a debt load that had more than doubled, due, in part, to ballooning redevelopment costs at the World Trade Center site. Also last year, the Automobile Association of America brought suit against the NY-NJ Port Authority, claiming it was using toll revenue to fund the WTC -- a charge the agency denies. That suit is still pending.
And this spring, a Senate hearing ostensibly about the fairness of the 2011 toll hike went off the rails when Port executive Bill Baroni went after New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg -- an ugly exchange that generated still more correspondence between Democrats and the agency.
Wisniewski's subpoenas were delivered to Patrick Foye, the Port's executive director; Bill Baroni; deputy executive director; Karen E. Eastman, board secretary; and Daniel D. Duffy, Port Authority of New York and New Jersey FOI administrator. According to the subpoena, they are required to respond by November 8.
Ron Marsico, a spokesman for the Port, said: “We have received the subpoenas and are reviewing them. In addition to previously turning over thousands of pages of documents to the Committee, the Port Authority’s finances were thoroughly reviewed by two international consulting firms.”
You can read one of the subpoenas here.
Thursday, October 25, 2012
By Jim O'Grady
(New York, NY - WNYC) Joe Lhota, chairman of the NY Metropolitan Transportation Authority, was a guest on The Brian Lehrer Show Thursday, where he predictably resisted prompts to choose between two proposed flavors of subway and bus fare hikes: raising the base fare or the cost of unlimited cards.
"Reporters all want me to say what I want to do one way or the other," he said. "Here's what I want to do: I want to listen to the public." Eight public hearings on the fare and toll hikes will begin on November 7 in Long Island. Lhota said he'll participate in some of the hearings "until the wee hours of the morning," if necessary, to make sure every question has been answered.
(Go here for dates, times and directions to the hearings.)
Less predictably, Lhota held up President Ronald Reagan as an object lesson for Congressional Republicans who would cut mass transit funding. "We cannot be a car-only society," Lhota said, claiming that Reagan, too, "had that vision."
He then praised Reagan for dedicating six cents from an increase to the federal gas tax to mass transit.
"When I go to Washington and I talk to the folks in the majority in the House--and I have to deal with all of the Republicans, as well as the young Republicans who are part of The Tea Party movement--I'm constantly reminding them that the best and biggest supporter of mass transit in the 20th Century was Ronald Reagan," Lhota said.
Lhota also talked about Hurricane Sandy, which is expected to hit New York City on Monday. He said he'd already taken two conference calls to discuss preparations like "sandbags and getting buses to higher ground." But he didn't think he would have to shut down New York's subway and bus system, an unprecedented move that the authority took last year in advance of Hurricane Irene.
Listen to the entire interview:
Wednesday, October 24, 2012
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.
Monday, October 22, 2012
By Kate Hinds
The "energy highway" proposed by New York Governor Cuomo at this year's State of the State address now has a blueprint.
The plan, which was released at a cabinet meeting in Albany, details plans to increase energy transmission in the state.
Read the press release below. The full blueprint can be found here.
GOVERNOR CUOMO RECEIVES PLAN TO MODERNIZE THE STATE'S ENERGY INFRASTRUCTURE AND SPUR BILLIONS OF DOLLARS IN PRIVATE SECTOR INVESTMENT
Plan for Up to 3,200 MW in Additional Electric Generation and Transmission Will Spur $5.7 Billion Investment, Helping Ensure Clean, Reliable, Affordable Power for New York's Future
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today received the Energy Highway Task Force's Blueprint, a comprehensive plan that will add up to 3,200 megawatts (MW) of additional electric generation and transmission capacity and clean power generation through up to $5.7 billion in private investments. The 3,200 MW outlined in this blueprint would provide enough energy to power approximately 3.2 million homes.
The Energy Highway initiative, introduced in the 2012 State of the State address, is a centerpiece of the Governor's Power NY agenda, which was put in place to ensure that New York's energy grid is the most advanced in the nation and promotes increased business investment in the state.
"As we work to grow New York's economy, we need reliable, affordable, and clean power to leverage significant private sector investments, to allow businesses to grow, and to create jobs," Governor Cuomo said. "The energy highway will ensure that businesses and residential consumers across New York State have access to the affordable power they need to plan for not just today, but also for the future. An economy built to last requires a power infrastructure that gives businesses the confidence and security they need to hire new workers and plan for years to come, and this Blueprint continues to position New York State as a national leader in clean energy production and investment."
The Blueprint includes specific actions designed to add up to 3,200 MW in new generation and transmission, including plans to:
· Invest $1 billion for 1000 MW of new electric transmission capacity
· Initiate $250 million in new renewable energy projects, leveraging $425 million in private investment and creating 270 MW of new power
· Modernize and repower existing inefficient, high emission plants to create 750 MW of power, enabled by approximately $1.5 billion investment.
· Generate 1,200 MW of additional capacity through approximately $1 billion investment to help meet reliability needs to address retiring power plants across the state.
· Accelerate $1.3 billion of investment in existing transmission and distribution projects to enhance reliability, improve safety, reduce cost to customers and reduce emissions.
· Invest $250 million to develop Smart Grid technologies and create the most advanced energy management control center in the country.
· Initiate field studies of Atlantic Ocean offshore wind development potential
The interagency Energy Highway Task Force will begin swift implementation of the proposed actions. These steps will significantly reduce the time required for development of energy infrastructure and includes a first-of-its-kind solicitation of new transmission projects by the Department of Public Service.
The Blueprint reaches every corner of the state with both locally focused and statewide actions to provide system reliability and economic development benefits. In Northern New York, strategic investments in transmission system upgrades will facilitate access for renewable energy projects to electricity markets. Western New York will undergo an immediate review of the viability of repowering options for power plants that have announced retirement plans and could benefit from a new Community Support Plan in the event plants are closed. Repowering, reducing transmission congestion, and offshore wind initiatives in the downstate region will help to green the power plant fleet supplying the highest energy demand area of the State. Upgrades throughout the state will support regional job growth and economic development.
The Energy Highway Task Force created the Blueprint after reviewing 130 responses provided by 85 entities including investor-owned utilities, private developers and investors in response to its Request for Information (RFI), issued in April. Public comments submitted on the RFI responses were also considered in the development of the plan as were publicly available reports and analyses. In April, along with the issuance of the RFI, the Task Force convened two conferences—an Energy Highway Summit at which power industry leaders explored the State's energy issues and challenges, and a Conference of RFI Respondents and Interested Parties.
Governor Cuomo provided his vision for the Energy Highway in his 2012 State of the State address. He named Gil C. Quiniones, president and chief executive officer of the New York Power Authority, and Joseph Martens, commissioner of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation as co-chairman of the Task Force. Joining them on the Task Force are Kenneth Adams, president, chief executive officer and commissioner of Empire State Development; Garry A. Brown, chairman of the New York State Public Service Commission; and Francis J. Murray, Jr., president and chief executive officer of the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority.
To view the Energy Highway Blueprint, visit www.NYEnergyHighway.com.
Thursday, October 18, 2012
By Martin DiCaro : WAMU
The operators of Virginia’s I-495 Express Lanes unveiled the highway’s incident command center on Wednesday where traffic monitors will watch the flow of vehicles on a widescreen monitor displaying a dozen camera angles. The new lanes are expected to open by the end of fall.
The center will operate 24/7 with staffers monitoring traffic volume in order to compute toll rates. The new roadway – connecting the Dulles Toll Road to the I-395/I-95/Springfield interchange 14 miles to the south – will charge drivers dynamic tolls, meaning the price will change depending on traffic volume. The more traffic, the higher the toll.
The express lanes’ private sector operator, Transurban, is required to keep traffic moving at least 45 m.p.h., so if traffic slows due to heavy volume tolls, will be significantly increased to deter further drivers. Transurban invested $1.5 billion into the lanes as part of a public-private partnership with Virginia, and will receive toll revenues for the next 75 years.
“Three times per mile we will have detector stations that will give our control center here information regarding what is the volume of traffic and what is the speed of traffic,” said Transurban operations manager Rob Kerns. “Our dynamic pricing is scheduled to update every fifteen minutes.”
Transurban has not released precise toll rates because of the dynamic nature of the pricing system. Moreover, once the highway opens, staffers will need some time to determine what rates work best.
“The tolls are set minute to minute based on what's actually happening out there. We won't know until the road opens how drivers are reacting to different toll prices,” said Jennifer Aument, a project spokeswoman.
The average toll will be between $3 and $6 during busy periods, said Aument, who said the Express Lanes are designed for use a couple times a week when drivers need a dependable ride. The new lanes will run parallel to 495’s regular travel lanes that are often clogged bumper-to-bumper.
Aument is encouraging drivers to familiarize themselves with the coming changes to the Beltway at 495ExpressLanes.com and to sign up for an E-ZPass as soon as possible. Only E-ZPass will be accepted in the new lanes, with HOV-3, buses, and motorcycles riding free. However, carpoolers will still need to obtain an E-ZPass Flex transponder.
Wednesday, October 17, 2012
By Kate Hinds
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.
Bonus: hear the mayor announce the initiative in Spanish.
Wednesday, October 17, 2012
By Kate Hinds
Although the second question in Tuesday night's presidential debate was about gas prices, those hoping for conversation about transportation policy -- or even the word "transportation -- were disappointed.
And while President Barack Obama once spoke frequently about the need to renew the country's infrastructure, that word also wasn't uttered by either candidate.
But here's what was talked about: a transcript of the conversation shows the word “gas” 30 times.
In response to a question about how much the U.S. can control gas prices, President Obama said: "The most important thing we can do is to make sure we control our own energy. So here's what I've done since I've been president. We have increased oil production to the highest levels in 16 years. Natural gas production is the highest it's been in decades." A few moments later, he said that during his administration, "we doubled fuel efficiency standards on cars. That means that in the middle of the next decade, any car you buy, you're going to end up going twice as far on a gallon of gas."
Governor Mitt Romney disputed the president's numbers. "Oil production is down 14 percent this year on federal land, and gas production is down 9 percent," he said, adding that "I'll get America and North America energy-independent. I'll do it by more drilling, more permits and licenses. We're going to bring that pipeline in from Canada." This led to a spirited exchange about domestic oil production.
Later in the debate, the candidates sparred over the auto industry bailout, but during the debate the words “transportation,” “infrastructure” and “transit” weren’t mentioned once.
President Obama did use a “bus driver” as a salary example during a tax policy question; he also said he’d take the money the country has been spending on war and “rebuild America — roads, bridges, schools.”
No matter what their commitment to transit, one thing is certain: one of these men will be gracing a D.C. fare card in January.
Wednesday, October 17, 2012
By Martin DiCaro : WAMU
Dennis Martire and the agency he worked for would be paid little attention – if not for the responsibility running one of the largest public transportation projects in the country: the Silver Line Metro rail to Dulles International Airport.
Wednesday morning Martire officially resigned from his position as a member of the board of directors of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) after months of criticism directed from high places at both his professional behavior and the conduct of the airports authority itself.
In his first interview since settling a costly legal dispute with Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell's administration and agreeing to resign, Martire -- a high-ranking official with the labor union LiUNA -- defended the agency’s record and denied any wrongdoing.
‘We have a policy that allows us to go to airport conferences. It’s not like we pull out a globe, spin it, and say 'we’re going here today,'” Martire said.
A Washington Post editorial in May accused Martire of spending more than “$38,000 attending five conferences in 2010 and 2011,” including a nine-day trip to attend a 36-hour conference in Sardinia.
“It was a three-day trip [the editorial board] made into a nine-day trip. The conference was only three days. I flew from there to somewhere else on my dime, not on MWAA’s dime,” he said.
In August, the federal Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood sent MWAA a letter expressing outrage at “ongoing reports describing questionable dealings including the award of numerous lucrative no-bid contracts to former Board members.” MWAA (pronounced "em-wah") has publicized reforms of its spending, travel, and contracting practices, but Martire believes the board of directors and the agency’s leadership allowed their opponents to turn such issues into a distraction from MWAA’s stewardship of the Silver Line.
“The airports authority has handled this project remarkably well,” said Martire, who said a project labor agreement (PLA) -- a pro-union provision voluntarily undertaken by the prime contractor in the Silver Line’s Phase 1 construction -- kept the project on-time, on-budget, and with a strong record of worker safety.
“Compared to other major infrastructure projects in northern Virginia like the Springfield interchange or the Woodrow Wilson Bridge, it’s a model project. Those projects were all hundreds of millions of dollars over budget. The taxpayer is the one who has to eat that money,” he said.
Martire said “it’s a disgrace” that the state of Virginia has provided only $150 million dollars for Phase 2 of the Silver Line, which has an estimated price tag of $3 billion, and he urged the federal government to provide additional funding to bring down the projected toll increases on the Dulles Toll Road. Under the current financing arrangement, those tolls will cover 75 percent of Phase 2’s costs. A full, round-trip toll would rise to $9 in 2015 under current MWAA projections.
“You’re going to have rail to Dulles and beyond, but the tolls are still my major concern. This could be a boondoggle if it’s built out there with $10 tolls,” Martire said.
Martire also shrugged off criticism for supporting the use of a non-voluntary PLA in planning process for Phase 2, accusing its critics of opposing organized labor.
“I do work for a labor union,” Martire said. “There’s no doubt that the governor of Virginia and Congressman [Frank] Wolf, both Republicans, do not like labor. They don’t like what labor stands for.”
Wednesday, October 17, 2012
By Martin DiCaro : WAMU
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.
Wednesday, October 17, 2012
By Jim O'Grady
(New York, NY - WNYC) With the company that owns the Yankee Stadium parking system staring down bankruptcy, Mayor Bloomberg called the situation "sad," and said his administration is "trying to help them."
Speaking during a press conference Q & A, the mayor addressed the issue of the stadium's foundering garages and lots, which have been only 42 percent full this season, according to this latest report.
"There just wasn't the business there that the owners, who made the investment, thought that there was going to be," the mayor said in answer to a question posed by a WNYC reporter. "If the owners of the parking garage can't make money, that's sad. We've got to find a way to help them."
The Bloomberg administration has already tried to help the company by having the city's Economic Development Corporation attempt to broker a deal with a real estate developer to build affordable housing and stores on some of the underused lots near an existing retail mall. But those talks have ended without a deal.
NYC EDC spokesman Kyle Sklerov wouldn't give specifics on the failed negotiations. Nor would he comment on an idea by Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. to have the Bronx Parking Development Company build a hotel atop an empty garage. Sklerov would only say:“New options to develop the site will be considered moving forward as part of a larger effort by the BPDC board to get back on sound financial footing."
The scramble to find new revenue for the BPDC was set off by the company's long slide into default on $237 million in tax-free bonds. The NYC EDC acted as the conduit for those bonds, not the seller, so taxpayers aren't holding the debt.
Still, the default is a blow to the agency's reputation. Before the Yankees' new stadium was opened in 2009, Bronx residents and some civic groups tried to warn the city and the team that 9,000 parking spots spread across eleven lots and garages weren't needed. Their concerns went unheeded and the EDC facilitated the tax-free bonds that created a parking system sized to suit the Yankees' misguided desire.
The lots and garages have been underused--even during seasons, like this one, when the Yankees make the playoffs--and the BPDC is now in financial free fall.
Perhaps Mayor Bloomberg said it best when first asked at the press conference about the stadium parking: "Not everything works."