The Brian Lehrer Show

Once and Future Lhota

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Andrea Bernstein, WNYC News Metro editor, talks about Joe Lhota's resignation as MTA chief to explore a run for mayor, and his tenure as deputy mayor under Giuliani.


Comments [21]

The Brian Lehrer Show

MTA Fare Changes

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Jim O'Grady, transportation reporter for WNYC and Transportation Nation, talks about the transit fare and toll increases approved by the MTA board on Wednesday.

Summary of Changes Starting March 1:

  • The base fare for buses and subways will rise to $2.50
  • New Yorkers will pay $30 for a weekly Metrocard
  • Monthly card is now $112, up from $104
  • Riders of commuter rail lines Metro North and LIRR will see an 8-9% increase in ticket prices 
  • Tolls on the authority’s bridges and tunnels will go up by about the same amount. Details:
  • Cash tolls on the Queens-Midtown Tunnel, Throgs Neck Bridge, Hugh L. Carey Tunnel, Bronx-Whitestone Bridge and Robert F. Kennedy Bridge will rise by a dollar to $7.50. E-ZPass users will pay $5.33, up from $4.80
  • Toll for the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge will be reduced for Staten Island residents. Those with a valid resident E-ZPass who plan who make one or two westbound trips per month per account, will be charged $6.36 per trip. Those who make three or more trips per month will be charged $6.00 a trip. For non-residents, tolls will be $10.66 for E-ZPass users, and $15 for cash users.
  • Express bus fares will rise by 50 cents, to $6

Comments [17]

The Brian Lehrer Show

Going Places

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Yesterday's big news from the MTA includes fare and toll hike approval and Joe Lhota's resignation as chairman, which opens up the possibility of him running for mayor. Plus: The disputed expansion of Columbus Avenue's protected bike lane and its potential impact on retailers; the series with Judith Rodin of the Rockefeller Foundation continues with a look at infrastructure resilience; and Slate's Farhad Manjoo answers your questions on tablets.

Transportation Nation

Breaking: MTA Approves Fare Hike -- and Lhota Officially to Resign This Month

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

MTA head Joe Lhota announcing his "bittersweet"'decision to resign as chairman. (Photo by Jim O'Grady)

(UPDATED) Rare is the meeting of NY Metropolitan Transportation Authority at which the secondary story is a vote to raise fares and tolls. But that was the case on Wednesday morning, when NY MTA chairman Joe Lhota presided over the system's fourth price hike in four years before announcing he'd step down on Dec. 31 to "explore" a run for mayor.

First, the money side: starting March 1, New Yorkers will pay  $30 for a weekly Metrocard and $112 for a monthly card. The base fare for buses and subways will rise to $2.50. Riders of commuter rail lines will see an eight to nine percent increase in ticket prices. Tolls on the authority's bridges and tunnels will go up by about the same amount.

The board voted to adopt Lhota's fare and toll hike recommendations. The board also approved Fernando Ferrer, former Bronx Borough President, as the new MTA vice chairman.

According to the MTA, its 2013 budget "assumes small cash balances available at the end of 2013 and 2014 that will be rolled forward to help address deficits in the following years that will nevertheless total more than $330 million by 2016."

Or, as the agency's official twitter account tweeted: "Our Board has adopted a 2013 budget that is fragile and faces risks, but is balanced."

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Transportation Nation

NY MTA Head Formally Backs Fare Hike

Thursday, December 13, 2012

As expected, the head of the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority is recommending the agency raise the base fare for subways and buses by 25 cents, and increase the cost of a 30-day MetroCard from $104 to $112.

Joe Lhota outlined his recommendation in a memo sent to MTA board members Thursday. The board is expected to approve the fare hike at its meeting next week. It would go into effect in March 2013.

Lhota says in his memo that the increase in fares and tolls will raise an additional $450 million annually for the agency.

To learn more, read the memo below, or download a pdf of it here.

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MTA Plan May Hit Tourists and Motorists More Heavily

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Tourists and motorists could see the bulk of fare increases if a proposed plan gaining traction with MTA board members goes through later this year.


The Brian Lehrer Show

New MTA Fare Hike

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Pete Donohue, transportation reporter for the Daily News, explains the details of the proposed MTA fare and toll hike plan.

Comments [33]

The Brian Lehrer Show

All the Options

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The MTA is mulling options for a fare hike. Pete Donahue of The Daily News explains what’s on the horizon. Plus: Avik Roy of the Manhattan Institute on what it would mean to change the Medicare eligibility age; Radio Rookie Bree Person talks about sickle cell anemia and Dr. Suzette Oyeku of Montefiore talks about developments in treatment; how parents navigate digital tech for their kids; and all the reasons to love New York.

Transportation Nation

NY MTA Enters 21st Century--You Can Now Claim a Lost or Stolen Metrocard Online

Monday, December 10, 2012

At long last, the R train runs through Silicon Valley.

You can finally file a claim for a lost or stolen card on the world wide web.

Until today, if your Metrocard was lost or stolen, you had to call the NY Metropolitan Transportation Authority. Once you got through to a person, that person would take your information, including when and where you bought the card, your credit card number and address, and they'd send you a new one. If you called after hours, you would have to leave your number and wait for someone call back.

Since pretty much no one calls anymore, that was kind of, um, crazy.

Okay, there's another way to replace a Metrocard. Go to a subway station and locate the token booth clerk--not always easy, especially at a large station--and ask for a card replacement form. You then have to fill out the form, find a stamp and remember to put it in a mailbox.

Now, you can do all it online:

Oh, by the way, the actual train that runs through Silicon Valley, aka the CalTrain? You can't pay on board. So, you see. Even the Silicon Valley train could use a bit of updating.

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Transportation Nation

WATCH: Superstorm Sandy: The Devastating Impact on the Nation's Largest Transportation Systems

Thursday, December 06, 2012

(The hearings have ended.  Here's our story. Follow along with the live webcast of a Senate subcommittee hearing here . It begins at 10:30 eastern time.

We will be tweeting highlights -- so follow along.

Here's who's on tap to testify.

Witness Panel 1

  • Honorable Charles Schumer
    United States Senator, New York
  • Honorable Robert Menendez
    United States Senator, New Jersey
  • Honorable Kirsten Gillibrand
    United States Senator, New York

Witness Panel 2

  • Mr. John Porcari
    Deputy Secretary
    U.S. Department of Transportation

Witness Panel 3

  • Mr. Joseph Boardman
    National Railroad Passenger Corporation (Amtrak)
  • Mr. Joseph Lhota
    Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer
    Metropolitan Transportation Authority
  • Mr. Patrick Foye
    Executive Director
    Port Authority of New York and New Jersey
  • Mr. James Weinstein
    Executive Director
    NJ Transit
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Transportation Nation

Senate Hearing Will Detail Hurricane Sandy's Transit Damage

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

The heads of transit agencies affected by Sandy will testify on Capitol Hill Thursday, in what will be the most public assembly of the top brass of the NY MTA, NJ Transit, Amtrak and the Port Authority of NY &NJ in one public place for the first time since the storm.

New Jersey senator Robert Menendez called Hurricane Sandy the "largest mass transit disaster in our nation's history" last week. Thursday's Senate hearing should reveal additional details about the damage and destruction.

The transit agencies of both New York and New Jersey are largely functional -- but none are back at 100 percent. New York's MTA suffered $5 billion worth of damage. One-quarter of New Jersey Transit's passenger rail cars were flooded. And the Port Authority still can't say exactly when its Hoboken PATH train terminal will reopen.

Because so many Northeasterners use transit to commute, Senator Menendez said last week Hurricane Sandy affected 40 percent of the nation's mass transit users.

Thursday's hearing is being chaired by New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg. A spokesman for the senator said "the hearing will allow Senator Lautenberg and his colleagues to further review the devastation to the region's infrastructure and move forward rebuilding New Jersey's transportation systems so they're stronger and better prepared to handle the next storm."

One question expected to come up: why New Jersey Transit parked so many rail cars in an area that had been predicted to flood.

Lawmakers from both states are eager to receive federal disaster relief. New Jersey estimates that it suffered $37 billion worth of damage; New York is requesting $42 billion in aid.

We'll be live tweeting the hearing, which starts at 10:30am. Follow along on @TransportNation.


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What to Keep in Mind If You Get Stuck on the Subway Tracks

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Following the death of a man pushed onto the subway tracks, many New Yorkers are wondering what their best shot at survival in the unlikely event they wind up on the tracks.


Transportation Nation

R Train To Go Further South in Manhattan, But Not Crossing To Brooklyn -- Yet

Sunday, December 02, 2012

More of the NYC hurricane recovery subway map will be shaded in on Monday morning at 6am (click for large version)

New York's R train -- which hasn't gone south of 34th Street since Hurricane Sandy -- will make it as far south as Whitehall Street beginning Monday morning.

In an email, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said “the resumption of service to the Whitehall Street station will restore a vital link to midtown’s west side for Staten Islanders and also ease crowding along the Lexington Avenue Line."

The Whitehall station is located near the ferry terminal. The South Ferry #1 station, which was completely flooded during the storm, is still being repaired. The MTA has ballparked the cost of restoring both stations at $600 million.

Cuomo's email called the restoration of service a "herculean task" that required "repairing and replacing track, third rail, communications systems, pumping equipment, electrical feeds and controls."

But straphangers planning to exit at Whitehall could be working out their quadriceps. According to the MTA: "Customers should be aware that only one escalator at this deep station, leading from a landing above the platform to the mezzanine located at the south end of the station nearest the ferry terminal entrance, will be in operation. The escalator at the north end of the station (Stone Street entrance) had previously been removed from service for replacement and remains out. The two escalators at the southern end sustained extensive damage in the wake of the storm but one has been restored to service. We urge anyone who has difficulty climbing stairs to consider using the Rector Street station instead. "

The Montague Tube, the tunnel which carries R trains between lower Manhattan and Brooklyn, was flooded during the storm and is still being repaired. Service on the R between the two boroughs is expected by late December.

Want to watch subway service return, post-Sandy? Check out this GIF.


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Transportation Nation

NY Gov. Cuomo: It's Going to Cost $5 Billion To Repair the MTA, Post-Sandy

Monday, November 26, 2012

On Monday, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo huddled with the state's congressional delegation to go over his federal disaster aid request. "This state has suffered mightily," he said. (Watch the press conference, above.)

As in $42 billion worth of mightily.

Howard Glaser, a senior policy advisor to the governor, broke that figure down at a press conference. The number to restore transit, roads, and bridges, was "very big," he said, and "the big piece there is the MTA."

Glaser said the damage to the transit agency totalled $4.8 billion. "That's damage to the tunnels, to the rail system, to the subway system. This amount of money, the 4.8 (billion), would just restore it to where it was before the storm," he said, adding that "the signal systems in many of the tunnels have to be completely replaced, for example, and that's a lot of money."

(To put that number in perspective, that's about a year's worth of the agency's capital budget.)

At a committee meeting earlier Monday, the MTA tallied up what it said was a "not exhaustive" list of damages -- including flooding to under-river tunnels, subway stations, and track washouts, but didn't include a cost breakdown.

Read New York State's breakdown of Hurricane Sandy recovery needs here.


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Transportation Nation

Sandy Data Shows NYC Commuters Are Transpo-Adaptable: Report

Monday, November 26, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Transportation Nation

The H Train Rides Again in the Rockaways

Monday, November 19, 2012

(For the full NYC subway map, go here.)

The H train is rolling where the A train can't.

Starting Tuesday, residents of the storm-battered Rockaway Peninsula will get a free subway shuttle known as the H train. To connect Beach 67 Street to Beach 90, the train will incorporate a piece of rarely-used track known as the Hammels Wye.

Currently, A train service to Queens terminates at Howard Beach. According to a press release issued by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, the tracks over Jamaica Bay were "almost completely destroyed by the storm." Residents have been using shuttle buses to connect to mainland Queens as well as navigate the peninsula.

There are no estimates yet as to when full A train service will be back up and running.

(Note: according to the MTA, the appellation "H" is unrelated to Hammels. Shuttle service began on the Rockaways in 1956; by 1962, it was called the "HH." )

To get subway service out to the Rockaways, the MTA loaded subway cars onto flatbed trucks in Ozone Park, Queens, drove them over the Cross Bay Veterans Memorial Bridge, and lifted them back on the rails at the Rockaway Park-Beach 116 station. That work can be seen in the below video.

The H still exists on the rolls of the MTA -- as captured in the 2008 photo below.

An H train, spotted in 2008 (photo by SaikoSakura via flickr)

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Sandy Leads to Delays in Outfitting Subway Stations with Internet

Monday, November 19, 2012

The scheduled rollout of Wi-Fi and cell phone service in 30 more New York subway stations will have to wait until next year.

View  a map of which stations are wi-fi ready.

Comments [1]

Transportation Nation

VIDEO: Drying Out the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

One tube of the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel (now known as the Hugh L. Carey Tunnel) is now open to traffic, and New York's MTA has released a video of the recovery process.

Hurricane Sandy flooded the tunnel with millions of gallons of sea water "from floor to ceiling," according to New York Governor Cuomo. (Exactly how much water isn't clear. Earlier reports said the tunnel had taken on 43 million gallons; in the above video, the tunnel's manager, Marc Mende, says the tunnel was flooded with 80 million gallons. Whatever the amount, you can see footage of water in the tunnel at about 38 seconds in -- and it's daunting.)

That was a new experience for the MTA's tunnel employees. "We've never had a leak," said Mende. "We never had a puddle. The only water we ever had in this tunnel came off of vehicles."

The Brooklyn Battery Tunnel remained completely closed to traffic for over two weeks while workers pumped out the water and repaired electrical, lighting, communications, surveillance, and ventilation systems. Cuomo says it will another "few weeks" before the second tube is open.

Here's the scene, after Sandy:

Mouth of the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel, after Sandy (MTA photo)


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Transportation Nation

How NY's MTA Restored the Subway Map

Thursday, November 08, 2012

The MTA's Chuck Gordanier, holding up the Hurricane Sandy Recovery Service subway map (photo by Kate Hinds)

If you looked at the MTA’s website in the days following Hurricane Sandy, you probably saw a subway map (pdf) that wasn’t what most straphangers were used to.

To protect New York City’s subway system, all transit shut down in advance of the storm. But then the under-river subway tunnels flooded, and the MTA had to convey to riders what was and wasn’t running.

That’s Chuck Gordanier's job, and he began booting up his Mac before the storm even ended.

He’s a manager at the transit agency. His task was -- and is -- to quickly translate the continuous service changes into a stripped-down map. So he began subtracting subway lines and stations. At first he thought the result was almost too harsh.

"But then once I saw this I thought ‘hey, that kind of fits the mood, doesn’t it?’" he said. "So I just kept stripping it down, taking everything off. The ferries weren’t going, why should they be there? The parks were closed, remember? So why should the parks be there? So I just took out everything that wasn’t actually happening and ended up with this."

The map, shown on screen in Adobe Illustrator. (Photo by Kate Hinds)

'This' is the subway recovery map, and it’s a stark contrast to the normal one. No perks, like neighborhood names, landmarks, or even the street grid. Just colored lines on a gray and white background showing what’s operational, and shaded out lines showing what isn’t. Gordanier’s been working 14-hour days to keep the map current. As in: power’s been restored to lower Manhattan? Color in the 1 train. The Joralemon Tunnel’s been pumped dry? Color in the four and five. Lather, rinse, repeat.

A list of the dozens of changes Gordanier made to the subway map since Hurricane Sandy. (Photo by Kate Hinds)

"When I had it done," he said, "and it was right, then we’d put it on the website right away and we’d roll out a quickie print version to post." Gordanier says it’s a matter of turning on and off some of the 50-plus layers that make up the map. He demonstrates how to power up the G line. "First I've got to find the G train layer," he said, clicking the mouse to unlock it. "There’s the G train--see that, 30 percent? Boing. There it is. Full strength."

(He got to do that for real Wednesday, when it began running again.)

Gordanier says he’ll keep updating the MTA’s subway recovery service map until things get back to normal. Until then, it’s a work in progress.

"Today, later," he said, "it will probably be different."

Example: two hours before this story aired on WNYC, the MTA restored full service on the L line.

Watch the return of subway service below.
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Transportation Nation

VIDEO: How To Drain and Repair a Flooded Subway Tunnel

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Hurricane Sandy flooded all eight under-river subway tunnels in New York (nine if you count the G train, which runs under the Newtown Creek). The last one to have been pumped dry is the L train's 14th Street tunnel, which runs under the East River between Manhattan and Queens and cuts through the population-accreting neighborhoods of Williamsburg and Bushwick, Brooklyn.

The MTA has said restoring L service is its highest priority. On Wednesday, it released a video of workers repairing tracks and signals. Watch it below.

Earlier this week, MTA chairman Joe Lhota described for WNYC the process of restoring service on flooded lines. Workers, he said, are “cleaning [signals] by hand, literally. First you had to pump out the water, then you had to wipe down the mud that was left down there, then you had to literally wipe down the rail, and then fix each and every one of the switches by cleaning them and making sure there was no salt to prevent the electric conductivity.”

You can listen to that interview here.

The L train tunnel on the afternoon of Monday, November 5. (Metropolitan Transportation Authority / Patrick Cashin)

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