Monday, December 31, 2012
When a deadly and historic storm struck New York and New Jersey in late October, WNYC Radio became the hearth for a shell-shocked community to share needs, demand answers to pressing questions and get vital information.
On that evening of Oct. 29, WNYC lost electric service along with the rest of Lower Manhattan, but managed to stay on the air with generator power, austerity, and the sheer will of a dispersed staff. In a city without subways and tunnels, hosts, reporters and producers walked in the dark to reach our studios, and improvised to report from far-flung storm-ravaged areas.
Friday, December 28, 2012
Sandy's storm surge flooded hundred-year-old tunnels, drowned power stations, and inflicted a commuting nightmare on millions of Northeast residents for weeks. It also caused a mini-boom in bike ridership -- and elevated climate change to a hot topic in transportation planning.
New York and New Jersey were both hit hard, but each state planned --and responded -- differently. NJ Transit took heavy damage with major routes offline for weeks after parking trains in a flood plain, because, as one executive said, "we thought we had 20 years to respond to climate change." That decision cost the agency $100 million. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey was also hit by unprecedented flooding. While in New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo is saying the next generation of infrastructure must take climate change into consideration, we learned that across the river, Governor Chris Christie had deep-sixed his state's climate change research department.
The NYC subway was known to be vulnerable to a powerful storm surge, and flooded as predicted. In the storm's aftermath, the agency furiously tweeted updates and churned out service maps with lightning speed - .gif -- impressing even traditionally harsh critics. But while much of the damage was dealt with quickly, other assets -- like the South Ferry subway station, and the A train out to the Rockaways -- remain unrestored. Also unclear: how the agency will cover the $5 billion in damages. So far, the plan is to take on debt rather than pile on to an already scheduled fare hike.
Our complete Sandy coverage is here.
A New Tappan Zee Bridge Moves from Idea to Design Plan
The aging Tappan Zee Bridge is being replaced at the cost of several billion dollars -- making it the largest contract ever awarded in New York State. After a lengthy debate about adding transit, which some argued should at least include a plan for bus rapid transit, Cuomo said speed and cost outweighed the merits of adding a rail line. Transit advocates howled, and some key county officials held up a vote -- but the governor's vision ultimately prevailed: the bridge will be 'transit-ready' -- meaning plans for a rail link or a fully iterated BRT line have been tabled for a future date.
Meanwhile, the issue of how to pay for the bridge has yet to be resolved. The bridge wasn't included in the first round of federal TIFIA loans; the state has since re-applied. The governor said the brunt of the cost would come from tolls -- but the backlash to the idea of a $14 crossing was swift. A builder was chosen this month (see pics) and work will begin after the state comptroller okays the contract. The new bridge is scheduled to open in 2018.
Street Safety Investigations
We'll have more on this in the new year, but our work on monitoring safe streets in NYC continued with two investigative reports. In our report "Walking While Poor" we found that, in New Jersey, it is more dangerous to be a pedestrian in low income neighborhoods.
And in New York City, our report Killed While Cycling, uncovered why so few fatal bike crashes lead to arrest. The laws just aren't written to punish vehicle crashes with a criminal response and the NYPD has just 19 detectives assigned to investigate criminality when a car or truck hits someone or something. The department argues more lives can be saved by preventative methods, like speed traps. The result, families of those killed on NYC streets rarely feel justice is done.
After deadly crashes, Chinatown buses wane -- and Bolt and Megabus move in.
New York was the original nexus of a curbside bus network that became known as Chinatown buses because they picked up passengers from unofficial bus stops in Chinatowns up and down the Northeast corridor. But the busy corner under the Manhattan Bridge that was once the nexus of this travel network is now mostly empty.
After a deadly year of crashes in 2011, many said the industry was unsafe. While confused travelers tried to figure out just who regulates Chinatown buses, the government took notice. In June, the U.S. DOT shut down 26 bus companies that operate along the most popular routes: the I-95 corridor from New York to Florida. The DOT called it the “largest single safety crackdown in the agency’s history."
And while some Chinatown buses are still discreetly operating, they're losing market share: mainstream bus companies like Greyhound are expanding their curbside businesses, actively meeting with community boards to add stops in Chinatown itself.
This is one story that became way bigger than we expected. It started out simply enough: Transportation Nation asked readers to help map all of the abandoned bikes in New York City. (For those unfamiliar with NYC: abandoned bikes are strewn about our sidewalks like cigarette butts after a party, the detritus of modern mobility.) We wanted to know how many of these bike carcasses there were, and why they stayed so long encumbering walkways, taking up prime bike parking without being removed by authorities.
The response was overwhelming, both for our humble project and for the city. We found more than 500 busted bikes, cataloged in photos sent in from WNYC listeners. We mapped them through an online civic action platform (SeeClickFix )that anyone could update.
When we began to get inquiries from artists and abandoned bike fans (yes, they exist), we picked out our favorite bike photos from the stack and shared them with each other. WNYC listeners called in to confess and explained why they left cycles to rust away. The project spread to Washington, D.C. A nonprofit offered to recycle them. Several photographers sent in links to their own portfolios of abandoned bike art. And so we collected authentic abandoned bikes and turned them into an art exhibit. Meanwhile, the city also promised to collect more of them as they streamlined the process for reporting and removal.
See the full project here.
Lost Subways of New York
We kicked off 2012 with a look at the subway system that never was: dozens of tunnels and platforms that were either abandoned or were built but never used. They form a kind of ghost system that reveals how the city’s transit ambitions have been both realized and thwarted.
Wednesday, December 26, 2012
The state panel charged with investigating how power companies performed during Sandy made last-minute cancellations to the public hearings that were to take place Wednesday night and Thursday night, citing bad weather.
Wednesday, December 26, 2012
By Kate Hinds
Hoboken residents -- who endured seven-plus weeks of no PATH train service, post-Sandy -- are getting a month's worth of free rides.
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey said Wednesday it will provide 30 free days of PATH service to Hoboken residents who have registered 30-day SmartLink cards.
In a press release, the Port Authority said the free service was a way to show appreciation for the hardship that Hoboken residents experienced.
"We truly understand the extreme difficulties that closure of the Hoboken station put on our loyal resident riders,’’ said Stephen Kingsberry, PATH’s acting director and general manager. “We hope these residents understand the extraordinary efforts PATH workers and contractors made to reopen the station and will accept this free month as a sign of our appreciation for your patience.”
The PATH system was hobbled by Hurricane Sandy, and the Hoboken station experienced some of the area's worst flooding. The station was closed from October 29 until December 19, when service to 33rd Street resumed.
While the entire Northeast experienced massive transit disruption during Sandy, the PATH outage has been especially trying for Hoboken: it has one of the highest percentages of transit ridership in the nation. Bus service between Manhattan and Hoboken has been overcrowded and strained since Sandy, and ferry service -- which costs $9 one way -- is four times as costly as the PATH.
There is still no PATH service between Hoboken and the World Trade Center.
Tuesday, December 25, 2012
By Stephen Nessen : Reporter, WNYC News
Many Far Rockaway residents that were hit bad during Sandy are still living without heat this Christmas.
Monday, December 24, 2012
By Kathleen Horan : Reporter, WNYC News
The city's largest police union rolled out an ad campaign last week to focus on the more heroic aspects of the work cops do. Union officials said Hurricane Sandy presented the NYPD with a unique opportunity to counteract some of negative press over the past year.
Monday, December 24, 2012
Stress is often associated with Christmas along with its promise of holiday cheer. But for residents who suffered great losses from Sandy and its aftermath there are extra burdens. In some cases storm's victims are putting their lives on hold.
Saturday, December 22, 2012
By Bob Hennelly
Sayreville was one of the first places Governor Christie went to survey post Sandy damage in the days after the storm. Now, in the hard hit section of town near Raritan Bay, the houses stand empty and the attention is gone.
Friday, December 21, 2012
By Matthew Schuerman : Editor, WNYC
Senate Democrats said Friday they have enough votes to approve a more than $60 billion Sandy relief bill, overcoming objections that it includes too many pet projects unrelated to the storm.
Friday, December 21, 2012
On the heels of his announcement that he will explore a Senate run in 2014, Newark Mayor Cory Booker explains his decision. Plus: Robin Hood Foundation President Deborah Winshel describes how the organization will distribute their Sandy benefit proceeds; NJ DEP Commissioner Bob Martin on how the state is handling garbage and debris post-Sandy; and Slate's Dana Stevens reviews this season's holiday movies.
Wednesday, December 19, 2012
UPDATED* (Brigid Bergin, New York -- WNYC) Hoboken, NJ commuters are finally getting some relief Wednesday as PATH train service resumed on a limited schedule seven weeks after Sandy flooded the transit system. Though the new direct service into Manhattan was greeted like an early Christmas present to residents, larger management and transparency issues are surfacing about the agency that runs the bi-state rail system.
In the first weeks after the storm, when all trains into New York were interrupted, Irene Smith faced a commuting nightmare. She lives at the end of the NJ Transit Port Jervis line and commutes into Manhattan. It took her eight hours a day, she said, and involved a train, a ferry, and a bus to get to and from work. When NJ Transit service from Secaucus improved, her commute shortened to three hours. The last leg to return was the PATH train.
“Well it changed the last part of my trip from about half an hour, to an hour,” said Smith. “And I have a two hour trip before I get to Hoboken, so it was really rough.”
The PATH still isn't fully operational. There's no overnight service, though the agency hopes to restore it by New Year’s Eve.
Port Authority officials say the PATH system suffered catastrophic damage from the 10 million gallons of water they estimate flooded the tunnels. By Port Authority estimates that caused $300 million worth of damage -- just on the PATH system.
Just shy of a month after Sandy, acting PATH director Stephen Kingsberry took reporters into the damaged Hoboken station and PATH tunnel to show the media the extent of the storm damage.
Kingsberry pointed to photographs of flooding at the PATH stations. The images were released by the Port Authority after the storm and picked up by many local media outlets, including TN. For the tour, the photos were pasted to poster boards sitting on an easel behind him.
One picture shows water breaching an elevator shaft at the Hoboken station. There's also a shot of one of those pressurized floodgates. Those floodgates were purchased after the last time the system flooded during a powerful Nor'easter in December of 1992. That storm knocked out PATH service for 10 days.
But those floodgates are only four feet tall and Port Authority spokesman Ron Marsico explained via email, “The entrance flood gates were not designed for the unprecedented storm surge that occurred” during Sandy.
However, those aren’t the only floodgates the Port Authority has been investing in. There are budget lines dating back to 2009 for a “floodgates / flood mitigation” project. Officials confirm the Port Authority has spent $181 million on those projects. But it’s not clear what that money paid for.
The 2012 capital budget explicitly states the Port Authority completed installation of floodgates and interior strengthening in Tunnel F, one of the tunnels out of the World Trade Center site.
A spokesman for the Port Authority says those gates are part of a security project that's not scheduled to be operable until 2014. But that's all they'll say about the project.
The PATH system doesn't have a permanent director, leading to chatter within the transit community about management issues. The acting PATH director is Stephen Kingsberry. His former boss, Michael P. DePallo, left to run the transit system in Los Angeles October 13. . There's also been a lot of movement in the ranks of the Port Authority since the Ward left.
The Port Authority says there's a clear chain of command, but it also keeps a very strict approach to how it shares information.
*The initial version of this story incorrectly made reference to the Port Authority being without a permanent director. That is incorrect. Pat Foye has run the authority for over a year. TN regrets the error
Brigid Bergin is at email@example.com and you can follow her on Twitter @brigidbergin.
Wednesday, December 19, 2012
By Beth Fertig
The city has scrapped a change in policy that would have taken away the sibling priority for children who test into gifted and talented programs. In other news, the Panel for Educational Policy is poised to approve seven more charter schools and the teachers union says it won't continue to negotiate the details of a new teacher evaluation deal unless the chancellor clarifies how it will roll out in the schools.
Wednesday, December 19, 2012
Instead of importing mobile homes, the government is putting up people in hotels and short-term apartment rentals. The Bloomberg administration and the Federal Emergency Management Agency have also set up a program that connects teams of contractors with homeowners needing power, heat and hot water. But demand for those services have overwhelmed the supply, and storm victims on Staten Island are getting impatient.
Tuesday, December 18, 2012
Conservative opposition to the White House’s $60 billion storm relief package continues to grow. Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona argued on the floor of the U.S. Senate Tuesday that the bill is rife with unnecessary and unneeded provisions.
Tuesday, December 18, 2012
One of the longest running service outages caused by storm Sandy is about to end.
PATH train commuter service is about to resume to Hoboken, NJ, the Port Authority said in a tweet: "PATH's Hoboken-33 service resumes Wednesday 12-19-12 at 5 a.m. and operates every day from 5 a.m. – 10 p.m."
But there will be no direct service from Hoboken to the World Trade Center, and the Port Authority says that remains "several weeks away."
Some 29,000 riders use the Hoboken station every day. They've been without service to Manhattan for almost eight weeks.
PATH tunnels were among the most severely hit during Sandy, with water filling five miles of tubes.
According a Port Authority press release, the "announcement means weekday service between 5 a.m. and 10 p.m. will be back at all 13 PATH stations and on three of PATH’s four regular lines: Journal Square to 33rd Street, Hoboken to 33rd Street and Newark to the World Trade Center".
The Port Authority says critical equipment was damaged, but has offered few details on what was damaged, or what was entailed in restoring the service.
PATH says it will restore limited 24 hour service in time for New Year's Eve.
Many commuters take New Jersey Transit trains to Hoboken and transfer to the PATH. NJ Transit is operating curtailed service to Hoboken because of a damaged electrical substation. The agency tells TN that PATH service restoration will not lead to more NJ Transit service to Hoboken.
Monday, December 17, 2012
By Jim O'Grady
(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.
Monday, December 17, 2012
By Janet Babin : Economic Development Reporter, WNYC News
Despite ample evidence that big sand dunes protected some of New Jersey's coastal towns from Sandy's storm surge, the idea faces opposition from many local residents who don't want to give up their land or view.