Wednesday, October 31, 2012
By Kate Hinds
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced Wednesday night that he was "declaring a transportation emergency" and authorized the MTA to waive fares on subways, buses, and rail lines through Friday.
Cuomo said that decision was prompted in part by the grueling traffic in Manhattan on Wednesday. He called the gridlock "dangerous" and said he wanted to encourage people to use transit.
But the subway system that will be up and running Thursday will not be the system New Yorkers are used to. Only 14 of the 23 lines will be operational, and even those will be running in segments. LIRR service is being slowly phased back in. Cuomo said one bright point was that roughly 50% of regular customers would have normal service on the Metro-North commuter rail line.
"Bear with us," said MTA head Joe Lhota, who was seated next to the governor at the last-minute press conference. He called the damage done by Hurricane Sandy the "most devastating event ever to happen to the MTA."
There are still subway tunnels flooded with water from "floor to ceiling," said Cuomo. Beginning Thursday, the Army Corps of Engineers will begin deploying 250 "high-speed pumping devices" to aid water removal. These will be operated around the clock until the tunnels are clear.
Meanwhile, to shuttle passengers between Brooklyn and Manhattan, the MTA will put 330 buses into service to act as a bus bridge. Late Wednesday night the New York City Department of Transportation released more details about how the bus lanes will be structured. DOT spokesman Seth Solomonow said the city was creating a "surface subway."
Starting at 6am tomorrow -- timed to coincide with the start of the subway -- buses will operate over Manhattan Bridge via a two-way bus lane on the lower level. These bus-only lanes will be operational 24/7 and will be enforced by the NYPD. Buses will also go over the Williamsburg Bridge. In both cases, buses will make major stops on their way uptown via the Bowery and Third Avenue along a dedicated curbside lane -- which he said will also be enforced by the NYPD.
The buses will run up to 55th Street, then turn around and head back to Brooklyn on Lexington Avenue.
For more information about transit service in New York, visit our Transit Tracker.
Monday, July 16, 2012
By Jim O'Grady
(New York, NY - WNYC) Several Brooklyn-to-Manhattan commuters were baffled at 7:45 this morning to find an unexpected boarding ritual taking place at the head of the gangway leading to their ferry. Mayor Michael Bloomberg and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, a likely candidate for mayor, stood there waiting to shake hands.
"Congratulations!" Quinn told the riders, one by one. "You're among the million passengers to take the East River Ferry!"
That's a million paid customers in just over a year, more than double the initial projection of 409,000 annual riders. But that success comes at a price to the city: a $3.1 million subsidy per year over the three-year life of the pilot program.
The money comes from the city's Economic Development Corporation. Private ferries that criss-cross the Hudson River, connecting New Jersey to various parts of the harbor, do not receive subsidies.
The East River Ferry started with 12 days of free service last June. From the beginning, it proved popular with New Yorkers and tourists. The boats follow a route that goes from Wall Street to East 34th Street in Manhattan with stops along the way -- four in Brooklyn and one in Queens. Then they ply the trip in reverse. (Bloomberg and Quinn boarded at the North 6th Street stop in Williamsburg, Brooklyn for a three stop ride to Wall Street.) In spring and summer, the ferry adds a Brooklyn harbor loop and makes the short hop from Lower Manhattan to Governor's Island.
Weekend service is especially popular in the warm months. Billy Bey, the company running East River Ferry, says it has had to operate larger vessels on the weekends to hold the crowds, and a new landing at Brooklyn Bridge Park has been fitted with wider gangways to speed boarding and disembarking.
The ferry isn't cheap: $4 for a one-way trip, compared to the $2.25 base fare per subway ride with a Metrocard; and the ferry charges $140 for a monthly commuter pass, compared to $104 for a 30-day unlimited ride MetroCard.
But sometimes a passenger like Bloomberg can catch a break. The mayor ordered a $2 cup of coffee from the on-board concession stand, which a woman who gave her name as Jennifer served up gratis. Jennifer said she was happy to do it "because he's the mayor," although she initially called him Mayor Giuliani. But Jennifer also noted a Bloombergian particularity: the mayor added milk to his Joe but, true to his crusade against empty calories, no sugar.
Wednesday, February 08, 2012
By Kate Hinds
Delancey Street -- a busy multi-lane street on Manhattan's Lower East Side -- will be getting a major safety overhaul.
"We've got a plan to make it even easier to cross Delancey and really make it more of a street again," said New York City Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan.
The city will widen sidewalks and change the timing of lights to give pedestrians more time to cross. All told, 14 of the street's 19 crosswalks will be shortened. Some left turns will now be restricted, and a service lane will be eliminated. "We're going to make it much clearer for pedestrians and drivers to understand how to cross and use the street," said Sadik-Khan, who called it "the most concerted effort that's ever been brought to bear on Delancey Street."
She said the redesign will add 14,000 square feet of additional pedestrian space to Delancey between Norfolk and Clinton Street. Large planters, maintained by the local business improvement district, will help delineate the space.
The street leads to the Williamsburg Bridge and is considered among the city's most dangerous; in a statement today, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer called it "a nightmare for pedestrians." The city has made safety improvements over the years, but the issue vaulted to the forefront last month when a 12-year old girl was killed while crossing the intersection of Delancey and Clinton Streets.
“The problems along Delancey have been hidden in plain sight for decades,” said Sadik-Khan. On Wednesday night, the proposed changes will be presented at a special meeting of Community Board 3.
New York State Senator Daniel Squadron, who said he created the Delancey Street Working Group last year in order to make the street safer, was pleased with the DOT's response. "These changes on their own don't solve every problem, and we're going to need to monitor them," he said. "What they are is they are a dramatic change in a short time frame, and it's going to make a real improvement."
The city said it wants to implement the changes this June. To see the plan, go here (pdf).
Wednesday, July 20, 2011
By Jim O'Grady
(New York, NY - WNYC) In the summery glare of a July morning, transportation advocates drove antique cars to a wooden toll booth they'd set up on the Manhattan side of the Williamsburg Bridge. Among them, in bow tie and straw hat, was former New York City traffic commissioner Sam Schwartz. He eased his roadster to the booth, stopped and pointedly proffered a dime to pay a toll that had been abolished 100 years ago to the day.
They said eliminating the tolls has cost the city $31 billion in inflation-adjusted revenue, part of which could've been used to maintain the Williamsburg Bridge.
"Every one of those steel beams is new," Schwartz said, gesturing toward the bridge, which underwent a top-to-bottom renovation lasting more than a decade and finishing not long ago.
Those new beams on the Williamsburg Bridge replaced old ones that had become so corroded by the 1980s, the city closed the bridge down. At the same time, the Manhattan Bridge was shaky enough that trains were prevented from crossing it. On the Brooklyn Bridge, a cable snapped and killed a tourist.
It was only then that the city paid for repairs to all of the East River Bridges.
Schwartz says if bridge tolls hadn't been discontinued by Mayor William Gaynor in 1911, who thought the dime payment was too much of a burden, the city would have had enough money for bridge maintenance and major infrastructure projects like the Second Avenue subway.
East River Bridge tolls met their most recent defeat in 2009, when then Lt. Governor Richard Ravitch proposed a bailout plan for the financially strapped NY MTA that included East River bridge tolls and a tax on employers in the suburban counties surrounding New York. Ravitch argued that it makes no sense that some East River's crossings collect tolls--like the Midtown Tunnel and the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge (formerly the Triborough Bridge)--while the Queensboro, Willamsburg, Brooklyn, and Manhattan Bridges do not.
But his plan met stiff opposition in the then-Democratically-controlled State Senate. Rather than bailing out the MTA, senators argued that the MTA was too wasteful to justify a bridge toll hike. In the end, the legislature rejected Ravitch's toll proposal, much as it rejected congestion-pricing a year earlier. Elected officials, like Mayor Gaynor a century before them, saw no reason to burden drivers.
Governor Andrew Cuomo has shown little predilection to support additional fees for drivers (check out his remarks against congestion pricing during the campaign) and the Republican State Senate hasn't either. The see as their constituency men like the driver of a dark blue late-model American car, who was in too much of a hurry to give his name as he waited for the light to turn and cross the Williamsburg Bridge to Brooklyn. Through his rolled-down window, he said: "No, no, no, no. No tolls. None. None whatsoever."
He was feet away from the vintage automobiles and advocates demonstrating for a return of the tolls. But on policy, as befits the divide between drivers and transit riders, he was miles apart.
Tuesday, July 19, 2011
By Jim O'Grady
Transportation advocates drove antique cars to a wooden toll booth they had set up on the Manhattan side of the Williamsburg Bridge Tuesday morning — lamenting the loss of East River tolls that some groups say has cost the city $31 billion in inflation-adjusted revenue.