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Transportation Nation

After Poisoning And Whacking Doesn't Work, NYC Transit Tries Birth Control On Rats

Sunday, March 24, 2013

A "smoothie" like this will contain rat birth control. (photo by Mary Harris)

(Mary Harris, WNYC) If you're scared of New York City subway rats, hanging out with Paul Jones is a bad idea. He's the man who manages the NY Metropolitan Transportation Authority's trash rooms, and he knows where the rats are hiding. He even knows their favorite foods.

"They want the good stuff: the Red Bull, the lattes. They love lattes!" Jones said.

Jones has watched the NY MTA try various tactics to rid itself of rodents. They've hired exterminators. They're putting trash in mint-flavored bags, which are supposed to repel pests. They've even reinforced trash room doors to make it harder for rats to make it to the buffet table.

Now they're trying a new approach. The National Institutes of Health has just given Loretta Mayer, and her company, Senestech, a $1.1 million grant to tempt rats into consuming birth control.

Mayer's product, which is still in development, works in the lab by speeding up menopause in the female rat. She's quick to add that it doesn't affect human fertility because the compound is rapidly metabolized.  "It’s just like if you take an aspirin for a headache it'll numb your headache, but if you give an aspirin to your cat it would kill it," she said.

Senestech researchers (photo by Mary Harris/WNYC)

At the moment, she's trying to find the ideal flavor to appeal to the New York subway rat's palate. In Asia, she's flavored her bait with roasted coconut, dried fish, and beer. Here, she's  considering lacing the bait with pepperoni oil. It will be mixed into a bright pink smoothie--not solid food--because underground rats can find food easily but are constantly searching for liquid.

Mayer isn't the only scientist chronicling the lives of New York's rats. At Columbia University, Professor Ian Lipkin has been sending teams of researchers into the subways to collect rodent samples. He's trying to discover what kind of germs they're carrying.

"They’re little Typhoid Marys running around excreting all kinds  of things that are problematic for humans," Lipkin explained.

Lipkin then puts the risk into perspective: he said he worries more about shaking hands with someone with a bad cough than he does about crossing paths with a subway rat. But he wants to know what the rats are carrying.

"We have every year a whole host of diseases that occur in people--encephalitis, meningitis, respiratory diseases, diarrheal diseases--that are largely unexplained. And one potential mechanism by which people become infected is through exposure, directly or indirectly, to infectious agents that would be carried by rodents," Lipkin said. "We need to know what kind of bugs these animals carry so we can respond more effectively to them."

Back underground, Mayer's research team is gathering results from the initial taste tests. They're encouraged: the rats seem to be enjoying their smoothies.

But Paul Jones has seen exterminators come and go. And even the bluntest of weapons has failed to drive the rats off. He keeps blunt objects in the trash rooms so he can lay a good whack on the aggressive rats.

Paul Jones holds the keys to all of New York City's trash rooms. And he knows where all the rat nests are. (Photo by Mary Harris/WNC)

"We've hit them with shovels and pitchforks - they just flip over and run off. And they don't go away," he says with a sigh. "They're very hard to die."

To comment on this story, check out TN's Facebook page.

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Transportation Nation

"I was right!" Combatants Clash Over Subway Trivia At NY Transit Museum (AUDIO)

Monday, January 21, 2013

Contestants drink beer and prepare to do battle at The New York Transit Museum's firs annual subway trivia night. (Photo by Jim O'Grady)

New York subway buffs are male and female, young and old, and come from many backgrounds. What unites them is their quest to prove they know more about the transit system than you do. And now there's a gladiatorial forum for that: The New York Transit Museum's Subway Trivia Night.

About 170 contestants formed into teams and jammed around tables in a low-ceilinged room to grapple with 60 questions posed by quizmasters Stuart Post and Chris Kelley. The museum is housed underground in the former Court Street subway stop in Downtown Brooklyn. The space has no internet connection so the trivia buffs were forced to rely on an antique information device: the human brain.

Post gave the first question: "What shape was cut out of the very last version of the New York City subway token?"

Contestant Jen Petey polled her teammates. Two suggested the "Y" in NYC. She overruled them and wrote "pentagon" on the team's answer sheet.

Post said, "The shape cut out of the last token is ... [dramatic pause] ... a pentagon."

Petey banged her hand on the table. "I was right!"

Trains and train systems have long drawn devotees. The most rabid are called "foamers" because they figuratively foam at the mouth while displaying their mastery of the arcane. This crowd was gentler, less foamer than nerd.

The answer that got the loudest response was to the question, "Whose office do you reach when you call 212-594-SKIN?

Answer: Dr. Jonathan Zizmor, famous for decades of graphic ads that promise to cure all manner of disgusting dermatological disturbance.

In the end, first prize went to a team named, The Takers of Pelham 1-2-3, a play on the title of the movie. They got 54 1/2  out of 60 questions right, beating out teams with like Whole Lhota Love, My Fare Lady, and No se apoye contra la puerta (Don't lean against the door.)

The Transit Museum declared the event a success and promised a rematch in 2014. Nerds, you have twelve months to get ready. (Click here to see more photos of the event.)

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Transportation Nation

Death On The Tracks: Its Human Cost & The Labor Fight It Has Provoked

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

NYC subway train operator Ed Goetzl, an 11-year vet, has been at the controls for a pair of 12-9s, transit shorthand for someone hit by a train.

(New York, NY - WNYC) A spate of deaths on the subway tracks has led to a confrontation between the NY Metropolitan Transportation Authority and the union representing train operators. The two sides disagree about how to reduce the number of deaths, which take a serious toll on the train operators who witness them while piloting their trains.

Train operator Ed Goetzl has had two 12-9s -- transit shorthand for hitting someone with a train. In both cases, a woman tried to commit suicide by lying on the tracks. One lived, the other did not. He says he took no more than five days off to recover, and claims that's because he didn't blame himself for the incidents.

"See, I didn't kill them," Goeztl said. "They committed suicide and I was the instrument of their suicide. That's how I look at it."

On average, three people a week are hit by subway trains and one dies. Sometimes these incidents come in clumps. Right now, we're in a clump.

Twelve people have been hit by subway trains in the three weeks since a woman pushed Sunando Sen in front of a 7 train in Queens on December 27th. Sen died, and the woman has been charged with second degree murder.

The Transport Workers Union says each death leaves a train operator prone to nightmares, trauma and the impulse to withdraw from others. After a 12-9, operators get three days off at full pay. They can also take unpaid or disability leave for up to a year. It usually takes them three to six months to return to the job.

This week, the union distributed a flyer and sent a sharp letter to MTA management. The union wants the MTA to order trains approaching stations to slow down from 30 miles per hour to 10 miles per hour to give operators more time to brake if there's a person on the tracks.

The authority doesn't like the idea. Spokesman Adam Lisberg says operators who slow trains without permission are taking part in an illegal job action that could get them suspended. It would also lead to fewer trains running per hour at some times, and potentially to overcrowding on platforms, a danger in an of itself.

Ed Goetzl disapproves: "What's really offensive is management's concept that this is about a work slow down rather than what it's really about, which is the safety of the riding public." And of train operators.

Psychologist Howard Rombom has been treating train operators for 15 years. He says motormen react in many different ways after 12-9s, but that all of them are deeply affected. At his office in Great Neck, where hundreds of traumatized train operators have sat in a chair and looked out the window at the waters of Manhasset Bay, he talks about how a 12-9 can shake up the strongest-seeming train operator.

"I remember one worker, he was a big guy, the kind of guy you wouldn't think would get upset by a situation just by virtue of the physical presence," Rombom said. "He was involved with a 12-9 episode where he hit someone coming into the station. Someone jumped in front of the train -- smiled, waved and jumped."

The operator stopped the train and calmly went through the required procedures: he found the body, did interviews with the police and MTA supervisors and submitted to a drug test. His wife and children were supportive. But as time went by, his mind kept replaying the scene. He couldn't concentrate or sleep at night and had trouble connecting to the people around him.

"He felt sort of out of it, socially separate from everybody else. He said, 'I just don't feel like myself. I want to be alone,'" Rombom said.

The man needed months of therapy, sleep medication and conversations with his fellow operators before he felt better, Rombom says. Then one day, he was ready to drive a train again.

Such recoveries are usually private affairs. But the spate of recent highly publicized deaths has spurred the union to collective action. In the end, train deaths are rare--an average of 50 out of 1.6 billion riders per year. The MTA says that number is tragically high, but not high enough to slow the entire system down.

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Transportation Nation

Post-Sandy Gaps In The NYC Subway Map Remain Stubbornly Unrepaired

Monday, December 17, 2012

Pre-Sandy view from the window of the A train to Rockaway Peninsula. (photo by roboppy / Flickr)

(New York, NY - WNYC) The New York City subway system still has three large gaps in service due to damage by Sandy. The R train tunnel connecting Brooklyn and Manhattan is not operating, A train service into the Rockaways remains suspended, and the South Ferry station in Lower Manhattan is closed.

NY Metropolitan Transportation Authority spokesman Kevin Ortiz said the agency is "hoping" to have The R train tunnel, the last of eleven subway tunnels flooded by Sandy, back in business by Friday -- if repairs continue to go well.

The earthen berm supporting the causeway that carries the A train across Jamaica Bay into Rockaway Peninsula has been shored up: water no longer flows through two large breaches opened by the storm. But NYC Transit president Tom Prendergast says the tracks and signals won't be repaired until spring.

In the meantime, rush hour service on the Q53 bus will start a half hour earlier, at 4:30 a.m., to help relieve overcrowding from train commuters in the hard-hit Rockaways who now take the bus along Cross Bay Boulevard as a substitute for the A train.

And Prendergast says the authority is still doing a damage assessment on South Ferry station, which was renovated at a cost of $527 million and re-opened only three and a half years ago. It'll take at least another year before it opens again. The station was flooded floor to ceiling.

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Transportation Nation

Restoring Last Parts Of NYC Subway Is The Hardest

Monday, November 26, 2012

Salt-encrusted circuit board from a New York City subway tunnel. (Photo by Jim O'Grady.)

(New York, NY - WNYC) Seven of the eight subway tunnels flooded by Sandy are back in service. But New York City Transit president Tom Prendergast said it will probably be months before the authority finishes fixing the eighth tunnel, which carries the R train under the harbor between Brooklyn and Manhattan. He said the problem is with the tunnel's electrical systems, such as the switches that keep track of train locations.

"Electrical equipment doesn't like water for obvious reasons -- water is conductive," he told reporters at the Midtown headquarters of the NY Metropolitan Transportation Authority. "But salt water is very conductive and when salt water dries, it leaves salt, which is also conductive when it gets re-wet."

Prendergast said the authority does expect to get the R train running between 34th and Rector Streets--a normally busy stretch in Manhattan--within two weeks.

But he said the South Ferry subway station is also months away from re-opening. Sandy flooded that station to the ceiling, leaving little inside it untouched.

"You've got wall tiles that are down, you've got railings that are damaged," Prendergast said. "You've got possible damage behind wall surfaces, you've got electrical equipment in the form of elevators and escalators." (See a pic of drowning subway escalators here.) And as with the R train tunnel under the harbor, the station's electrical switches are coated in salt water and must be replaced.

The R train tunnel is one of the longest under-river crossings in the system and took more time to dry out, leaving more equipment damaged than in other tunnels.

A spokesman for New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said the MTA's price tag for damage caused by Sandy tops $5 billion.

(Click here to see what parts of the NYC subway system are still down.)

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Transportation Nation

NYC Subway Announcements Go From "Grrble the Dmffbll" to (Mostly) Clear

Thursday, October 04, 2012

"Next stop, Times Square." (Photo by David23 / Flickr)

(New York, NY - WNYC) "This is 72nd Street. Transfer is available to the 1 train .... watch the closing doors!"

New York City subway announcements, like the one above, are  getting clearer. That's the verdict of a new survey by advocacy group Straphangers Campaign.

The group said 85 percent of announcements on subway cars that give basic information are clear and accurate -- as are the majority of subway car announcements about delays and disruptions. The group said those are the best results for the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority since 1997.

“We found that transit officials are doing a better job keeping riders informed,” said Straphangers Campaign field organizer Jason Chin-Fatt.

The group says automated announcements on the 4 train are clear and accurate 100 percent of the time. The R train ranked last because it gave garbled or wrong information almost half the time.

Straphangers said the MTA gives train conductors a list of 18 official delay announcements, including “unruly person on the train ” and “waiting for connecting train.” Conductors are supposed to make an announcement immediately after a delay, and again within 2 minutes.

The group said staff members who conducted the survey came across their share of "meaningless announcements," or phrases that did little to inform passengers about what was wrong and when they could expect to be moving again.  Those included, “we have a red signal, ” “this local is now an express ” (with no explanation), or jargon such as, “we have a schedule adjustment."

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Transportation Nation

Straphangers' NYC Subway Report Card: 'Q' Is For Quality, 'C' Is For Crummy

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

(New York, NY - WNYC) For the fourth year in a row, the C train ranked last among New York City's 20 major subway lines. That's according to The Straphangers Campaign, an advocacy group, which says the C performed worst or next to worst on several measures:

Amount of scheduled service
Delays caused by mechanical breakdowns
Subway car cleanliness
Announcements
Style points

OK, we threw in that last one. But the train's rolling-tin-can look is part of what makes it so mockable. The R32 cars used on the line are nearly 50 years old, and have a hard time showing up more often than every ten minutes during peak periods. That's last among lines.

On the bright side, the C plied its route between East New York in Brooklyn and Washington Heights in Manhattan in a way that made it above average in two categories: regularity of service--which means it is infrequent but tends to be on time--and chance of getting a seat during rush hour. That matters because the cars' suspension produces a rocking ride that is better experienced sitting down or on Dramamine.

The NY Metropolitan Transportation Authority did commit last year to spending $24 million to spruce up the cars on the line, which are among the oldest in operation in the world. But that was merely to stretch out their use until 2017.

The best-ranked line was the Q train, which Straphangers found to be clean with clear announcements, and least plagued by delays from mechanical breakdowns. It was the Q's first time in the top spot since 2001.

This is the Straphangers' 15th annual report card on the New York City subway system. The group said it's seeing "a positive trend for subway car breakdown rates and announcements," but that trains are getting dirtier. The group concludes: "Future performance will be a challenge given the MTA's tight budget."

To see the report, which includes profiles and comparisons of subway lines, go here.

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Transportation Nation

Mermaids, Mermen Ride The NYC Subway

Friday, June 22, 2012

(Courtesy of the NY MTA)

(New York, NY - WNYC) Many of the thousands of half-human / half-mythical / one-quarter-clad creatures marching in Saturday's 30th Annual Coney Island Mermaid Parade will arrive not by dolphin or clamshell but by subway.

(Courtesy of NY MTA)

Coney Island-Stilwell Avenue is the last stop of the D, F and N lines, and one of several beachside stops on the Q.

(Courtesy of NY MTA)

A pleasure of the festivities is to watch summertime's version of a Halloween-themed perp-walk pour off the trains and make its flesh-flaunting way to the boardwalk. And before that, as the trains ply the rails toward la playa, straphangers see some of the year's most arresting scenes in public transport.

(Courtesy of NY MTA)

The New York Transportation Authority knows it and has decided to show it off with a fabulous Flickr page. It's here. Enjoy.

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Transportation Nation

NY MTA Upping Service On L Train To Reduce "Sardine Crush" Of Riders

Monday, June 11, 2012

It's not uncommon for riders during the morning rush to let an overcrowded L train go on without them. (Runs With Scirssors/flickr)

(New York, NY - WNYC) Several New York City subway lines are at or above capacity. Relief is coming for some riders because of technology.

The chronically overcrowded L train, which connects Manhattan to Brooklyn's fastest growing neighborhoods, is now running 98 more times a week. The NY Metropolitan Transportation Authority just finished installing a new radio-based signal system that allows trains on the line to travel closer together and, as a result, more frequently.

Brooklyn Democratic District Leader Lincoln Restler, who joined elected officials at a press conference outside the Bedford Avenue stop in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, said it's about time. "The complaint I receive most frequently about quality of life for Williamsburg residents is L train service," he said. "It is terrible. We've been unable to fit onto trains for too long."

Ridership on the L train has grown 141 percent since 1998 because of a population boom in Williamsburg and Greenpoint, the chosen enclaves of NYC's hipster set and more recently, a hub of new condo construction. It's not unusual for riders during the morning rush to let a packed train pass because there's no room to board it.

The NY MTA announced a plan to increase service on the line eight months ago, which led to a squabble with its largest union over why the new schedule would take so long to implement.

Riders will now see 16 more trains on weekdays and 18 more trains over the course of a weekend.

The MTA says, during the morning rush, customers can shave 30 seconds off their wait with trains now arriving every 3 minutes. Non-rush hour weekday riders, as well as Saturday night revelers, can expect a train every six minutes, down from 7 ½ minutes. And Sunday evening straphangers can expect a train every 6 minutes, down from 8 ½ minutes.

State Senator Daniel Squadron said those improvements should lessen claustrophobia on the line. "That means that you're going to spread out that sardine can crush. It'll still be standing room only but it'll at least get us below over-capacity."

The NY MTA said the added service will cost $1.7 million annually.

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Transportation Nation

MTA Fastrack To Expand To Beyond Manhattan

Monday, May 14, 2012

NY MTA workers repairing subway track during a Fastrack service shutdown. (MTA Photos/flickr)

The NY Metropolitan Transportation Authority's Fast Track program, which shuts down large portions of subway lines entirely overnight, isn't just for Manhattan any more. Outer borough riders who take the subway late at night will see the pilot program expanded--possibly to their chagrin.

Each Fastrack shutdown lasts Monday to Friday, from 10 at night until 5 in the morning. The program, started in January, allows crews to work for seven straight hours on long stretches of track without stopping to let trains pass by. But that means late night riders have to scramble to find a shuttle bus or trek to another subway to get to where they want to go. The NY MTA website warns they should expect to add about 20 minutes to each trip.

The NY MTA explains the need for the program this way: "Fastrack is a safer and more efficient way to maintain and clean New York City's sprawling subway — a system that never closes...800 MTA employees are able to inspect signals, replace rails and cross ties, scrape track floors, clean stations and paint areas that are not reachable during normal train operation."

Originally, the shutdowns were only supposed to take place in Manhattan, and only this year, for a total of 16 weeks of inconvenience. But already the NY MTA has declared it a success because of how much maintenance is getting done. And now spokesman Kevin Ortiz says Fast Track will continue into next year, when it will expand to lines in the outer boroughs and possibly the N, Q and R trains along Broadway in Manhattan.

Fast Track continues this week with the suspension of the B,D,F and M lines between 57th and West 4th Streets, starting Monday night

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Transportation Nation

Soda Ad Fight Bubbles Up On NYC Transit

Monday, May 14, 2012

Photo by Roadsidepictures / Flckr creative commons

(New York, NY) Subway and bus ads are the latest battleground between Mayor Michael Bloomberg's health department and soda makers. The newly formed New York City Beverage Association is taking a huge mass transit ad buy as part of a $1 million campaign to rebut the city's claim that soda is unhealthy.

For months, the city has been running public service announcements linking sugary drinks to mountains of fat and waterfalls of sugar, including a graphic video that claims drinking a can of soda a day can add ten pounds in a year by showing a man pouring fat out of a can of soda and drinking it.

Health Department Commissioner Thomas Farley elaborated on those objections in a statement to Transportation Nation: “Americans are literally drinking themselves fat, consuming 200-300 more calories daily than 30 years ago, with the largest single increase due to sugary drinks."

Farley also defended the city's anti-soda campaign in light of the association’s public relations offensive. "The Health Department will continue providing New Yorkers with the facts about the dangers of this overconsumption.”

The Beverage Association is fighting back with ads of its own on 570 subway cars, 75 buses and 120 subway platforms. The ads claim soda makers are fighting obesity and other health risks by offering low-cal drinks, smaller serving sizes and clearly displayed calorie counts.

Despite the timing of the ad campaign, association spokesman Stefan Friedman insisted his industry isn't quarreling with the health department.

"Look, we face some issues with the city but it's important for us to tell our story," he said. "All evidence is clear that the obesity epidemic comes from a number of different sources. Sugar-sweetened beverages comprise just 5 percent of the American diet."

Friedman added the beverage industry directly employs more than 8,000 New Yorkers and contributes $1.5 billion dollars to the local economy.

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Transportation Nation

Report: Signal Problems Cause Most Delays in NYC Subway

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Side view of an old school NYC subway signal. (Photo by mementosis / Flckr creative commons)

(New York, NY - WNYC) More than a third of all long subway delays are caused signal problems, according to an analysis  of 3,000 text alerts sent by the NY MTA last year by the Straphangers Campaign.

The report tallied "significant incidents that often generated subway delays" of 8 minutes or more and found signal problems caused 36 percent of such delays, followed by mechanical problems at 31 percent. Rail and track problems caused a combined 19 percent of long delays.

Straphangers spokesman Gene Russianoff said he's not surprised, given what he saw of the signals at one location. "The MTA took us on a tour of the West 4th Street Station, where 7 lines and hundreds of thousands of riders go through every day and we went to the dispatcher's office where the signals are kept and they were built in 1932 and looked like the controls on the deck of His Royal Majesty's ship, the Titanic," he said.

The report only looked at delays in the control of the MTA and not incidents such as police actions and sick passengers. The lines with the most delays were the 2 and 5 trains, which each had 8 percent of total delays. The line with the fewest delays was the G, which connects Brooklyn and Queens and is the only line that does not go into Manhattan.

Manhattan had the most delays at 43 percent. The Bronx had the fewest with 11 percent.

The MTA said it is upgrading signals, tracks and subway cars as part of its capital construction program. The authority launched its free text alert system in November 2008; it has more than 76,000 subscribers.

The Straphangers Campaign is a public interest research group that advocates for improvements in mass transit.

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Transportation Nation

Ode to Poetry's Comeback In The New York City Subway

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

New Poetry in Motion poster on the 1 train in NYC. (Photo by Jim O'Grady)

The MTA, once roundly cursed,
For removing verse
From subway trains
Is today taking pains
To announce the return of Poetry in Motion.

There was a riderly commotion
When it ended in 2008
And the MTA realized too late
That nobody cared to contemplate
The in-house promotional placards that replaced them.

And now a literate lilt has returned underground
Where can be found
Dickinson, Frost and Ezra Pound
And more besides
As a straphanger rides from Dyckman to Canarsie.

As well, you may perchance
to read a couplet by The Bard
on the back of a Metrocard.
'Tis true,
You can scan a stanza and then swipe it through.

That's Poetry in Motion, back on a train near you.

 

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Transportation Nation

LOOK: NYC's First Ever Late Night Subway Map

Monday, January 30, 2012

In the city that never sleeps, the subway rolls on through the night, but with enough route changes to befuddle even the most seasoned straphanger. The result is passengers, guided by a daytime map, waiting on empty platforms for the trains that don't run, or equally frustrating, letting a train rumble past that could have worked while trying to sort out if the nighttime route would work, or why the A is on the F line in the first place.  So, for the first time ever, the NYC MTA has released a Late Night Subway Map (full size).

During the overnight hours three subway lines stop running, three become shuttles, six express trains go local and one extra shuttle poofs into nocturnal existence (at the Queens end of the A line). Now there's a map that shows all that. This map is in effect, roughly, from midnight to 6 a.m.

In text form, here's what's different at night, captured on the map:

  • There are no B, C, or Z trains on the map, nor the 42nd Street Shuttle.
  • Five subway lines offer shorter service than usual:
    • The 3 terminates at Times Square.
    • The 5 runs as a shuttle in the Bronx between E. 180 St and Dyre Av
    • The M runs as a shuttle between Myrtle Av, Brooklyn, and Metropolitan Av, Queens.
    • The Q terminates at 57 St/7 Av in Midtown Manhattan.
    • The R runs as a shuttle in Brooklyn between 36 St and 95 St.
  • Six lines make additional stops they don’t make during the daytime.
    • The 2 makes all local stops in Manhattan.
    • The 4 makes all local stops in Manhattan and Brooklyn and is extended to New Lots Av, Brooklyn.
    • The A makes all local stops in Manhattan and Brooklyn; it runs to Far Rockaway but not Lefferts Blvd or Rockaway Park, which are served by shuttle trains.
    • The D runs local via Fourth Av in Brooklyn.
    • The E runs local via Queens Blvd.
    • The N runs local via the Financial District.
  • There is no skip/stop service on the J, which terminates at Chambers St on weekend overnight periods
  • Six subway lines (the 1, 6, 7, F, G, and L) and Franklin Avenue Shuttle run their normal routes as local trains. (There is no 6 or 7 express service.)

Map.

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Transportation Nation

What Does Subway Wifi Sound Like?

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Now that wifi has pulled into New York subway platforms, Brian Lehrer checks in with listeners to hear what it sounds like to have cell phone service on the platforms.    Some of the comments:

"I can't hear you over the train!"

"A train is coming, I have to go."

"Everyone is looking at me."

Listen to your subway future, here.

 

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Transportation Nation

Subway Station Severely Damaged on 9/11 Now Fully Restored

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

 

NY MTA Chairman Jay Walder (center) cuts the ribbon on newly restored Cortlandt Street subway station. (Photo by NY MTA.) Also pictured (L to R) Assemb. Daniel Squadron, Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Walder, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, City Councilwoman Margaret Chin

(New York, NY - WNYC) When the Twin Towers hit the ground on 9/11, large parts of the nearby Cortlandt Street subway station collapsed onto itself. Steel beams, concrete, conduit wires and assorted debris crashed down on the tracks, clogging and closing a key part of Downtown Manhattan's transportation system.

Ten years later, minus five days, the station has at last been fully renovated.

The NY Metropolitan Transportation Authority joined various New York elected officials to cut the ribbon on the R line's new downtown platform, which has been closed since 2005.

"We made a commitment to fully reopen the Cortlandt Street station in time for the tenth anniversary of 9/11 and we are here today to fulfill that commitment," said NY MTA chairman Jay Walder.

City Councilwoman Margaret Chin said ten years of near-constant construction at the site has served as an uneasy reminder of 9/11's long reach.

"It told us that the subway is not complete, we're still missing something," she said. "But now ten years later, we're finally going to open this station. And then when we take the R train, we're going to feel the sense of rebirth, that finally it's done."

The station was shuttered for a year after the attacks on September 11th. It operated under makeshift conditions from 2002 to 2005 before undergoing a series of partial closings that allowed for a thorough renovation and the addition of a new underground passageway.

This latest and final bout of work cost $20 million and was paid for by the New York and New Jersey Port Authority and the NY MTA's capital construction budget.

The renovation restored twelve large ceramic murals installed in 1997 and collectively titled, "Trade, Treasure and Travel." The murals, which contain real and mythical creatures mingled with dollar signs and other signifiers of the nearby Financial District, were not damaged in the attacks. But they sat in storage until the station was ready to show them off again.

Cortlandt station mural (photo by Jim O'Grady/WNYC)

 

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Transportation Nation

WiFi And Dial-tones Coming to NYC Subway Platforms...S l o w l y

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

(Photo by AZY_NYC / Flickr)

(New York, NY - WNYC) WiFi is coming to NYC subway platforms, but not for another four years -- and there will be no connectivity in tunnels.

The subway station project was delayed for nearly three years while Transit Wireless, the company chosen to set up the system at no cost to the NY MTA, got its financing in order. The authority's board selected the company in 2007 but didn't give it a "notice to proceed" until Broadcast Australia decided to back the company in July 2010.

New York City straphangers are of two minds about the lack of WiFi and cell phone service in the subway. They see it as either a galling void or a sanctuary from modern life's near-constant connectivity.

There's something for both sides in the NY Metropolitan Transportation Authority's current project to bring the internet and phone use underground.  For those who want the service because it'll help emergency responders communicate and help riders use transit apps on their mobile devices--or because they absolutely MUST check their emails or headlines--they'll have it at three stations by the end of the year.

For those who don't want to hear a stranger discuss his grocery list at high volume, it'll be a full four years before the system's remaining 271 platforms are wirelessly enabled.

First to see the service will be the platforms, stairs and mezzanines of the 14th Street stations at 8th and 6th Avenues and the 23rd Street C / E station in Manhattan.

Transit Wireless will charge telecom companies for use of the wireless signal and then split the profits with the MTA. The authority says it expects to earn at least $30 million dollars over ten years from the deal.

The NY MTA also says there will be WiFi and cell phone service in a non-subway tunnel -- on its Metro-North commuter line between 97th Street and Grand Central Terminal, and in the terminal itself. The authority wouldn't give a completion date for that project.

NY MTA spokesman Aaron Donovan said the main benefit would be improved safety on platforms. “We send out real-time email, text message and Twitter alerts to our customers in the event of an emergency or other service disruption,” he said. “Having cell service in our underground platforms expands the reach and usefulness of those alerts.”

 

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Transportation Nation

NYC Subway Music Winners Picked

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

The Lost and Wandering Blues Band (Marlon Bishop/WNYC)

(New York, NY -- Marlon Bishop, WNYC) Coming soon to NYC underground:  a Japanese mandolin player playing Italian classics, Baroque harp music, and a full blown Afro-jazz group. They're just some of the 19 individuals and groups chosen by the MTA's Music Under New York (MUNY) program to join the roster of musicians officially sanctioned to perform underground.

Last week, 68 groups tried out for the program in front of a panel of judges culled from New York's cultural scene in an alcove of Grand Central Terminal. The new acts will join about 350 sanctioned groups already in the program. Although anybody can play in the subway legally, MUNY artists can display official banners, use amplification, and have dibs on some of the best and busiest spots underground.

To listen to one of the winners, click here.

The Lost and Wandering Blues Band (Marlon Bishop/WNYC)

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Transportation Nation

NYC Subway Map Becomes Digital Work of Musical Art

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Massimo Vignelli's 1972 New York City Subway map

(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) WNYC's Gallerina interviewed Alexander Chen, the musician/graphic designer who turned a 1972 version of the New York City subway map into a digital work of musical art.

"Each time two trains intersect, you hear the sound of a note being plucked on a cello -- turning the visuals into an abstract musical improvisation."

Read the story -- and watch the composition unfold -- over at WNYC.

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New App to Crowd-Source NYC Subway Delay Information

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation)  Using the NYC MTA's information page, or any of the apps based on it can be an exercise in imagined bliss. On the one hand, it's thrilling to get information on subway status, and whether a line is running before setting out for a subway stop. On the other hand, the information can come late, or be insufficiently detailed.

Here at Transportation Nation, we've often asked ourselves why subway information isn't crowdsourced. If the A train is delayed, hundreds or thousands of riders know it before the MTA relays that information. Now Roadify, the Brooklyn-based app outfit that started crowdsourcing arrival data for the B-67 bus, is adding all NYC subways lines to its crowdsourcing system.

True, the subways aren't wired.  But Roadify's Dylan Goelz says the hope is that a combination of information coming in from above-ground riders, riders leaving the subway, and riders entering stations will create a more complete and immediate picture than the MTA's own info page.

Tell us how it's working!

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