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Transportation Nation

TN Moving Stories: MTA Defends Performance During Blizzard, and Disconnect Over Transit Btw. Candidates and Voters in Chicago Mayoral Race

Monday, January 17, 2011

MTA officials went before the New York City Council to defend their handling of the recent blizzard.  Speaker Quinn: "It really left me not feeling any greater level of confidence that the MTA can handle the next storm." (Wall Street Journal)

The Chicago Tribune says that transit is a sleeper issue in that city's upcoming mayoral race--and highlights a big disconnect between candidates and voters. "Transportation issues are not raised on the candidates' campaign Web pages, and no one has put together a position paper.  But a new public-opinion poll on mass-transit issues found that the Chicago electorate cares greatly about CTA service, extending even to individuals who don't ride the system."

Are drivers just eminently distractible? USA Today looks at federal distracted driving efforts and wonders if the focus on phones and texting is misplaced.  One hospital researcher says that cellphones are "yet another thing that's distracting people," but a "flood of new distractions are being built into vehicles."

Edmonton, the only city in Canada that doesn’t allow alcohol advertisements on its buses and rail, wants to overturn a long-standing ban on transit ads for liquor. (Edmonton Journal)

Top Transportation Nation stories that we're following: The new GOP chief is not a fan of high speed rail.  One study says that biking infrastructures create more jobs than road-based ones. And Governor Cuomo appointed a state DOT commissioner.

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Transportation Nation

Wanted: More Conversation on the Subway

Friday, January 14, 2011

Urbanist, Alex Marshall has a proposition for New York City Transit: add a conversation car to subway trains. In his gentle modest proposal published in the Daily News, Marshall waxes nostalgic for a day before iPods and kindles invaded the frenetic but friendly subway.

"Subway cars now resemble libraries or monasteries. That's why the recent altercation over New Jersey Transit's Quiet Commute program, with commuters arguing over the precise definition of what constitutes "quiet," is especially silly. With a pair of earbuds, we can all have as much solitude as we'd like.

"But what about someone who wants to engage in an activity that used to be normal: talking to the stranger next to him or her? What if, instead of treating your morning commute like a yoga retreat, you actually wanted to take a (wholesome, noncreepy) interest in one or two of the several thousand human beings around you. Where's the car for that? Where, on your bus or train, do you go for decent conversation?"

Have we lost a social space in the subways? What do you think?

Read the rest of his argument here.

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WNYC News

Raids Uncover More Faked MTA Subway Inspections

Thursday, January 13, 2011

WNYC

A pair of raids at MTA locker rooms in the past week have turned up evidence that subway workers are continuing the widespread practice of faking signal inspections.

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WNYC News

Fake Reports Put Straphangers in Danger, Says Council

Friday, January 07, 2011

WNYC

Inspectors faked 90 percent of the reports they filed and claimed unfinished work was completed for more than a decade, according to an MTA report.

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WNYC News

MTA to F and G Train Riders: Fugettaboutit!

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

WNYC

F and G train riders can say Farewell and Goodbye to regular service for the next two years.

Comments [11]

WNYC News

MTA Touts Gate-Less Tolls on WNYC

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

WNYC

The NYC Metropolitan Transportation Authority is spending $13,000 to support WNYC programming.

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Transportation Nation

TN Moving Stories: New Fees on Metro North/LIRR Trains, Houston Revives its Rail Building Program, and Skateboard Commuters Want Legitimacy

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

(LIRR ticket; photo by Michael Caruso/Flickr)

A raft of new fees on Metro North and the Long Island Rail Road can be even more costly to riders than the recent 8.8 percent rise in prices. (WNYC)

Unsnarling Penn Station: "The MTA is investigating whether it can run trains through Penn and into New Jersey, shaving precious minutes off the amount of time each spends on a platform, freeing up some capacity. It's also looking at running some Metro-North trains into Penn once a project to provide LIRR access into Grand Central Terminal is finished." (Wall Street Journal)

After nearly halting light rail projects last year because of mistakes in its planned purchase of rail cars, Houston's Metropolitan Transit Authority is reviving its rail building program as it becomes more confident the federal government will deliver a $900 million grant. (Houston Chronicle)

As Virginia lawmakers try to figure out funding transportation maintenance, some are looking at targeting overweight vehicles to cover the costs of repairing the damage they cause.  "They see some really remarkable things: the roadway being squeezed out like toothpaste when they stop at a traffic light. And the weigh station just can't catch them all." (WAMU)

Seven insurance companies have sued Toyota in an attempt to recover money paid to cover crashes they blame on sudden acceleration. (Los Angeles Times)

F is for "fix it up:" two Brooklyn F train stations will be partially closed until May while being rebuilt. (New York Daily News)

The NYC MTA's inspector general will be investigating how the agency handled the blizzard. (Wall Street Journal)

Volkswagen and Porsche move closer to a merger. (Marketplace)

Who will speak for the skateboard commuter? Skateboarders across the USA are pushing to end bans so they can legally use longboards — a more stable type of skateboard than those typically used for skate park tricks — as a means of transportation. (USA Today)

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WNYC News

MTA Railroad Fees Can Be More Costly Than A Ticket

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

WNYC

A raft of new fees on Metro North and the Long Island Rail Road can be even more costly to riders than the recent 8.8 percent rise in prices.

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Transportation Nation

Claim: MTA's Technical, Supervisory Failures Led to 600 Snowbound Buses

Thursday, December 30, 2010

MTA bus stranded in blizzard

Stranded bus driver wants some help.

(New York -- Jim O'Grady, WNYC) The MTA says it's investigating why 600 buses had to be abandoned during this week's blizzard, blocking snowplows and leaving bus drivers and their passengers without a way home. A combination of technical and supervisory failures appear to have led to the debacle.

A union official who drove a bus for 15 years, and who spoke on background, says the problems began because the MTA generally equips its buses with tires built for long life but little traction. The official says the authority then decided against putting chains on many buses to save on overtime costs because it takes two workers 30 minutes to fit each bus.

He further charges

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WNYC News

Claim: MTA's Technical, Supervisory Failures Led to 600 Snowbound Buses

Thursday, December 30, 2010

WNYC

The MTA says it's investigating why 600 buses had to be abandoned during this week's blizzard, blocking snowplows and leaving bus drivers and their passengers without a way home. A combination of technical and supervisory failures appear to have led to the debacle.

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Transportation Nation

New Subway Fares in NYC -- All You Need to Know

Thursday, December 30, 2010

New tolls and subway fares take effect in New York City today. In case you missed our primer on the changes, you can find it here.

It answers questions like how to calculate the best Metrocard to buy and how to make sure your old cards don't expire unexpectedly on you.

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Transportation Nation

Tolls and Transit Fares Rising in NYC — A Primer

Monday, December 27, 2010

(New York -- Jim O'Grady) A fare increase will make almost every form of transit in the New York area more expensive starting Thursday. Subway and bus fares are going up, along with tolls on seven bridges and two tunnels. Prices will also rise on Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North trains.

The base fare for subways and buses remains $2.25. But a monthly unlimited ride will jump from $89 to $104. Seven-day unlimited rides on subways and buses increase from $27 to $29 -- on express buses, from $45 to $50.

Falling to the axe are 14-Day passes and 1-Day Fun Passes. Moral: there will be no more fun in the transit system, even if you could pay for it. Bonuses and discounts on many kinds of tickets will shrink or disappear. For example, the Pay-per-ride bonus is dropping from 15 to 7 percent.

It takes a lot of words and numbers to explain the MTA fare increases. (Photo by Jim O'Grady)

Get ready for more percentages, all of them upward. On the Long Island Rail Road,

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WNYC News

Your Guide to the Transit Fare Hikes

Monday, December 27, 2010

WNYC

A fare increase will make almost every form of transit in the New York area more expensive on starting on Thursday. Subway and bus fares are going up, along with tolls on seven bridges and two tunnels. Prices will also rise on Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North trains.

Comments [3]

WNYC News

MTA Squabbling + Poor Management = Years of Delays and Nearly $2 Billion Over Budget on Mega-Projects

Thursday, December 23, 2010

WNYC

MTA Inspector General Barry Kluger is looking at why three of the agency's four big projects are behind schedule and over budget by nearly $2 billion. He said in a new report that squabbling at the agency is a big part of the problem.

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Transportation Nation

MTA Squabbling + Poor Management = Years of Delays and Nearly $2 Billion Over Budget on Mega-Projects

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

(New York -- Jim O'Grady, WNYC)  The Inspector General of the New York area Metropolitan Transportation Authority slammed the agency in a report for ignoring procedures it had set up to keep mega-projects on budget and on schedule.

Predictably, says Inspector Barry Kluger, three of those projects are now nearly $2 billion over-budget combined and delayed by two to five years. That means subway riders and others must slog through construction zones all the longer while waiting for expanded service that is repeatedly postponed as taxpayers rack up greater and greater debt.

These “mega-projects have experienced well-publicized budget overruns and disruptive schedule delays that have seriously undermined public confidence in the MTA’s management,” the report said.

Two of the projects are already five years behind schedule: an extension of Long Island Railroad to Grand Central Terminal, now expected to be done by April 2018, and the first leg of the Second Ave. subway, now scheduled for completion in 2017. The Fulton Transit Center, with its projected finish in 2014, looks good by comparison. It’s only two and a half years late.

Only the 7 Train Extension, the last of the MTA’s four megaprojects, does not suffer from significant lateness or cost over-runs. The four projects have budgets totaling $15.32 billion.

Kluger says MTA Capital Construction, a subsidiary charged with overseeing the agency’s capital spending, clashed with an “independent engineering firm”—it did not name the firm—over who was in charge of monitoring the projects. His report says the engineering firm was at times given too much to do with too little information. And the firm wrote bad reports that lacked clear summaries or were too technically detailed to be easily understood. Sometimes, when the firm did make a plain recommendation, MTA Capital Construction ignored it.

At Kluger’s insistence, the MTA has separated the squabbling entities. The agency’s Office of Construction Oversight will now manage the independent engineer. The Office's mandate is to bring about “less conflict and more effectiveness to the oversight process.”

Kluger said another problem was megaprojects bidding against each other for a limited number of highly specialized contractors, which drove up prices. He warned that this might soon happen again as each project goes shopping for contractors to install signal and communications systems.

The Inspector General said MTA Chairman Jay Walder has accepted the report’s findings and used them to tell the Office of Construction Oversight to get a firmer grip on spending and scheduling.

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Transportation Nation

NY Subways Replacing Poetry With Service Update Ads

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) The Metropolitan Transportation Administration for the New York City area is removing poetry from the subway ad spaces.

The MTA is replacing Train of Thought (seen above) with a new ad campaign designed to communicate subway service advisories and improvements to straphangers. Goodbye, Kafka and Herodotus; hello MTA service advisories.

An MTA spokesman said there wasn't enough room in subway cars for both the literary placards and the ads that the agency wants to run touting the work they're doing.

“There’s a small percentage of ad space in the subway and bus and commuter rail system that’s reserved for the MTA,” Jeremy Soffin said. “We use it to communicate with our customers.We don’t advertise on television or in the newspapers, so this is it the one bit of space that doesn’t cost anything and we can use it to tell our customers what we’re doing in the system.”

He added that it was time for a change. “We’re overhauling how we’re doing business, and we’re taking the same approach to this space.”

It's the first time in 18 years subways have not made room for some form of literary musings and thoughtful straphangers like Manhattan's Tom Murphy is sorry to see them go.

"I see them and I appreciate them,” Murphy said. “It gives people a voice and there's room and it’s a noisy city. And anything that touches your heart and moves you in a different way is good for everybody."

The feature, not noticed by all on their travels, is something that Janet Dunne -- also from Manhattan -- suspects she will miss.

"It’s something I think that will be more noticed when it's taken away -- that you don't have that respite from being sold things or the big bustle," Dunne said.

WNYC has a suggestion. Why not combine the two? If the MTA doesn't have space for both literature and service updates, do them together.

Can you combine the wisdom of Thucydides with an announcement of signal work on the C line? Marry the wit of Mark Twain with the rehabilitation of the Dyckman Street 1 train platform?

WNYC reporter Jim O'Grady gets the ball rolling with his Dante-esque ode:

In the middle of the journey of my life,

I find myself astray in a dark wood,

Where the straight way has been lost...

...But really I'm just in the

Underground warren that is

Fulton Street station

As it undergoes a massive reconstruction

With Phase Four scheduled for completion

In March 2012

Take it away, New Yorkers. Comment below! Or update or post them to WNYC. There are already a couple transit poems from readers posted.

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WNYC News

Do New Yorkers Really Have To Choose Between Literature and Service Announcements?

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The MTA is replacing the subway literary placards with a new ad campaign designed to communicate subway service advisories and improvements to straphangers. But why not combine the two?

Comments [12]

Transportation Nation

TN Moving Stories: Ireland Wants More Bikes, US Airlines Report Profits, and Ethanol Gets Taxpayer Boost--What Do Taxpayers Get?

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Does ethanol deserve a multi-billion dollar tax credit? (NPR)  And: a new EPA rule from the fall allowed for more ethanol to be mixed in with gasoline, but now automakers are suing, stating that the new blends aren't safe for cars. (Marketplace)

The New York Post says there's been a 16% rise in vehicle/bicycle collisions this year.

U.S. airlines report highest profits in at least four years. (Los Angeles Times)

Ireland's transportation minister, in an effort to promote bicycling, has announced that local authorities must include specific cycling policies and objectives in future development plans. (Inside Ireland)

New York subway ads now have less literature, more MTA self-promotion. (New York Times) And your TN correspondent has composed a haiku to mark the occasion: Goodbye, poetry/Hello, line improvements tout/but whither Dante?

GM says it is recycling oil-drenched boom material from the BP oil spill and turning it into plastic resin to be used in the Chevy Volt. (Wired)

Toyota will be fined $32 million for failing to swiftly recall defective vehicles. (New York Times)

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WNYC News

Some Para-Transit Riders Are About to See Yellow

Thursday, December 16, 2010

WNYC

The city has launched a new pilot program that will allow some disabled Access-A-Ride customers to take taxis instead.

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WNYC News

New Subway Link for Brooklyn Riders

Friday, December 10, 2010

Subway riders have a new transfer option in Brooklyn.

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