Alex Goldmark

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What Does Acquittal of Chinatown Bus Driver Mean for Safety?

Friday, December 07, 2012

The World Wide Travel Bus that crashed March 2011, killing 15. (NTSB Photo)

The driver of a casino bus that crashed, killing 15, is not guilty of manslaughter. Prosecutors had argued Ophadell Williams was so sleep-deprived and drowsy behind the wheel that it was as reckless as if he were drunk.

But a Bronx jury was not convinced. Williams faced 15 counts of manslaughter and was acquitted on all of them. He was found guilty of one count of aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle and sentenced to 30 days in jail, which he has already served. He has to pay a fine of $500. When he heard the verdict, Williams covered his face with his hands and wept.

Though the consequences are relatively light for Williams,  the inter-city bus industry has suffered a considerable shakeup.

The Crash

It was a gruesome crash that instantly raised the profile of dangerous driving conditions at many so-called Chinatown buses, the fastest growing mode of inter-city travel.

Here's how the crash went down. In March, 2011, Williams was on a dawn run to New York from a Connecticut Casino, driving for World Wide Travel, a company with a track record of pushing drivers to work long hours.

A report by the Federal Motorcoach Safety Administration found that in the moments before crashing, he’d been driving 78 mph. As we've previously reported:

"According to the report, the bus swerved to the right off the highway, crossed an eleven-foot wide shoulder and smashed into a three-foot-tall steel guardrail. The bus plowed through the guardrail for 480 feet as it toppled onto its side. The bus’ windshield hit the post of a massive highway sign, which sheared the bus in two along the base of the passenger windows almost all the way to the rear. The bus came to rest on top of the crushed guardrail, its wheels in the air, facing the highway."

The Bronx crash was one of three inter-city bus crashes in the Northeast in March, 2011, which killed a total of 17 people and injured dozens of others.

There were more to come. A bus from North Carolina bound for New York flipped on its roof in late May, killing four. Operator Sky Express was shut down by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration within hours. Bloomberg reported that Sky Express had accumulated so many violations that it could have been shut down prior to the crash.

In July, a pair of fatal crashes in New York — one inbound from Canada that left the driver dead and another from Washington that killed two — occurred within days of each other.

There were 24 motor coach crashes last year, resulting in 34 fatalities and 467 injuries, according to an unofficial tally kept by Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety.

The industry was deemed unsafe by many. As confused travelers tried to figure out just who regulates Chinatown buses, the government took notice.

The Response

World Wide Travel was shuttered in June 2011, but the owner continued to operate bus service for other companies he owns, according to The New York Times. The practice of "reincarnation" had plagued regulatory efforts to punish the worst of the worst bus companies.

Not to be stopped by it's own regulations, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration the agency that oversees bus safety, along with the National Highway Transportation Safety Board ratcheted up investigations and actions against unsafe bus companies.

In May of 2011, U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood issued rules requiring new bus lines to undergo safety audits before they can sell their first ticket. And bus drivers could lose their commercial licenses if they violate drug and alcohol laws even while operating their own private car.

In July 2011, Anne S. Ferro, Administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, told Congress she needs more enforcement powers, including the ability to inspect every long distance bus at least once a year and to conduct surprise safety stops while buses are en route. She proposed paying for the additional enforcement through raising the fee for a company to obtain an operating license from US DOT.

She pointed out, a bus license costs $300 — $50 less than it costs a street vendor to sell hot dogs in Washington, DC. Ferro said she’d also like to see the fine for a bus safety violation raised from $2,000 to $25,000.

Inspections alone are unlikely to solve the problem, she argued. There just aren't enough of them. There are 878 federal and state inspectors able to conduct safety reviews of 765,000 bus and truck companies, or an average of slightly more than one inspector for 1,000 companies, the report said.

For a while it seemed like the tempers had cooled, and the regulators were backing off. Then the crackdown came.


In June 2012, the U.S. DOT shuts down 26 bus companies that operate along the most popular routes for so-called Chinatown buses: the I-95 corridor from New York to Florida. The DOT called it the "largest single safety crackdown in the agency’s history.

Federal safety investigators found multiple violations, including a pattern of drivers without valid commercial licenses and companies that didn't administer alcohol and drug tests to drivers. Ten people – company owners, managers and employees – are ordered to stop all involvement in passenger transportation operations, including selling bus tickets.

The intersection in Chinatown in New York City previously most associated with this class of bus was transformed, no longer a bustling hub roaring with the sound of diesel engines and ticket sellers competing for business with dueling calls of prices and destinations. It became a quiet side street and has remained so since.

What's to Come

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, who has made safety one of his top issues, is advocating for legislation with stronger teeth.

The Bus Uniform Standards and Enhanced Safety (BUSES) Act of 2011 called for a tighter controls and enforcement of bus driver screening, including calling for federal oversight of state requirements for commercial licenses.

The Motorcoach Safety Act of 2009 was also revisited after the 2011 string of crashes. It requires new buses to add seat belts and reinforced windows that prevent passengers from being ejected during an accident. The bus industry opposed both bills on cost grounds and neither became law.

New York City, which cannot regulate interstate bus safety, took the step to regulate bus stop permitting, giving more control to neighborhood leadership, known as community boards. Since then, there have not been new clusters of curbside buses competing with each other.

And as Chinese-run Chinatown buses remain discreet in New York's Chinatown, mainstream bus companies like Greyhound are expanding their curbside businesses, actively meeting with community boards to add stops in Chinatown itself.

(This report includes excerpts and descriptions from previous reporting on TN, by Alex Goldmark, Jim O'Grady and Tracie Samuelson.)

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NYC Vintage Buses Called into Service -- For Holiday Spirit

Friday, December 07, 2012

(Photo courtesy of the NY MTA)

The New York City Metropolitan Transportation Authority has a sprawling collection of vintage trains and buses. Many of the rail cars sit on display at the NY Transit Museum. Sometimes they get special assignments like carrying fans to big Yankee games, or to host a rolling costume swing dance party.

Buses are not to be left out. The MTA just released their plans to unleash a fleet of nostalgia omnibuses open to the public. Naturally, they'll run on the tourist filled routes, and through Midtown Manhattan where the average speed of cars -- let alone buses -- is below 10 m.p.h., so it shouldn't be too taxing for the antiques.

From the MTA:

This season’s vintage fleet ranges from 1949 to 1968 and represents models that served New Yorkers from 1949 through 1984.  A Mack bus will hit the road as well as a 1956 General Motors bus that, if it could talk, would boast of being the first air-conditioned bus to operate in New York City.  Staten Islanders will get a special treat riding one of the first Staten Island express buses.  A nice bus for the day, but it’s a far cry from our modern MCI and Prevost coaches in terms of comfort and efficiency.

All of these vintage buses will operate along the M42 (42nd Street Crosstown) Monday through Friday, departing from 42ndStreet and 12th Avenue at 8:30 a.m., 11:30 a.m. and again in the afternoon at 2:30 p.m. The fare is $2.25 in cash or swipe a MetroCard, just like our more modern, but far less interesting buses.

Aside from the in-service buses, a static display will be on view between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. at 6th Avenue and 35th Street and 14th Street at Union Square.  Buses will be parked at these locations for the viewing and picture-taking pleasure of New Yorkers who rode them and New Yorkers too young to remember them.

If you take a ride, tweet us a pic of yourself and the bus, to @transportnation.

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Taxi Documentary Delivers Cabbie Grit and Wisdom (VIDEO)

Friday, November 30, 2012

To be a good taxi driver in New York, you have to look ahead and think ahead. "You see a garbage truck in the street, you don't go into that street. It will take you 20 minutes to get out of there, and time is money." Another tip: "When you get in an accident, don't panic... The less you say the better."

Those sagacious gems of advice to a new taxi driver are captured in a documentary from Weinstein Film Productions about life as a cabbie called "Drivers Wanted." The filmmakers hailed rides around the city to interview mechanics, owners, and fiesty office clerks in a long-established cab company in Queens, NY and deliver a deeper look at an iconic, and "slightly seedy" NY institution: the yellow cab.

The highlight of the film, at least based on the early tid bits we've seen, is “Spider” a 93 year-old cabbie who just retired. To drive 12 hours a day for 45 years you have to have an unusual relationship with the city's 6174 miles of road, and "Spider" does: "I love the traffic. The worse the traffic, the better I like it. It keeps me alert."

The film opens in NYC tonight and to wider release in the coming weeks. Find theaters here.

NYC residents you might want to head over to Re:Bar in Brooklyn tonight for a live event moderated by WNYC reporter, and occasional TN contributor Kathleen Horan. Taxi drivers, get in touch with Kathleen Horan for free entry. She's @KathleenHoran on Twitter.

Watch the trailer:


And meet Spider:

"Spider," now a spry 93, dispenses wisdom for the camera. He recently retired after 45 years as a taxi driver.

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Data Art: NY Transit System as a Lite-Brite City Map

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

What if every bus, train and ferry in NYC were turned into a pretty light and seen from space? The latest transit data visualization making the rounds after being featured on Mashable shows 24 hours in NYC transit as colored dots zipping around a darkened map.

These space-eye views of cities-in-motion always get touted as mesmerizing, or stunning, or just plain cool. This is no different. But Mashable's Kenneth Rosen also added a more precise description likening the video to a "Lite-Brite time lapse." To me, it's more of a confetti dance.

That got us thinking about the choices in visualizing moving planes, trains and automobiles. Usually, they're represented as glowing tails, more like Tron cycles than kids toys.

For a good example of the glowing tail style of transpo dataviz see this one from London, showing a day in bike share usage during a Tube strike.

But the most original art from a day-in-the-life of transit data is also from New York. In place of confetti and Tron tails, subway trains are represented as Cello strings ... sort of. Artist Alexander Chen lays train departures over Massimo Vignelli's iconic NYC subway map and each time "trains" cross, a cello string plucks. It's quite soothing, in contrast to the pace and clatter of the subways it represents.

Anyway, back to the video of the day.

STL Transit is a You Tube channel that makes videos of transit systems using the General Transit Feed Specification (GTFS), a data feed of when and where buses and trains are at any given time.

My favorite part of the STL NYC video is watching Staten Island, where it's a bit less crowded with transit dots. You can see clusters of buses spread out simultaneously from the ferry terminal, and then a few seconds later (in the video) all converge back at the terminal, presumably timed to the launch of the next boat, festive colors dancing to a rhythmic order.

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Rental Cars Moved to New York Post Sandy -- But It's Not Enough

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Cars stuck in Sandy's flood waters, in Oyster Bay, New York. (Photo CC by Flickr user CasualCapture)

Rental car companies are driving in tens of thousands of extra vehicles to help avert a holiday shortage in the New York City region.  But it's not enough to ease the post-Sandy crush during an already almost impossible time to find a car in the area.

Sandy destroyed or damaged between 100,000 and 250,00 cars, according to the National Automobile Dealers Association and one rental car company estimate provided to TN. At the same time, the storm closed, hampered, or damaged rental car branches and vehicles throughout the New York area. The final blow is transit: Sandy injected enough uncertainty into regional rail and bus service schedules that many would-be riders booked rental cars. All just in time for the biggest travel weekend of the year.

"Tight availability is typical of any holiday weekend," explained Paula Rivera, a spokesperson for Hertz. "For those who haven't made reservations, the availability is extremely tight at this point in time. So the probability of securing a car for travel over Thanksgiving weekend is slim," she said.

Travel websites had scant options Tuesday afternoon. Travelocity returned no available rental cars at all. Orbitz had 18 cars in total for all of New York City. Other sites delivered more results, at higher than average prices, and often suggested cargo or moving vans as the cheaper options.

"We're suggesting for people who have not made a reservation at this juncture to maybe look outside of New York City... where it might be a little bit better," Rivera said.

Enterprise, which owns several rental car companies, said some neighborhood branches remained closed because they just didn't have cars. “Although we are working hard to increase our local fleet as quickly as possible, there are still significant waiting lists in some communities where residents are requesting replacements for their damaged vehicles,” said Matt Darrah and executive vice president at Enterprise Holdings. "Despite our best efforts to be prepared, the magnitude of the storm has simply outstripped our resources and manpower in some locations."

Car rental companies don't stockpile cars for disaster. That wouldn't make financial sense. An idle and unrented automobile on a company lot is losing money. So to adapt to spikes in demand, rental companies use sophisticated demand management systems that move cars from region to region.
Hertz said it is relocated "thousands" of cars to the New York City area in the days just following Sandy. Enterprise issued a detailed statement that said 12 thousand cars had been moved in from as far off as Colorado with another 5,000 on the way. An additional 10,000 new cars slated for other regions were being diverted to New York and New Jersey.
Philadelphia rental branches experienced shortages last week as business travelers turned to cars as a substitute for inconsistent rail service.

"These rental fleets, whether it's Enterprise or Hertz or Budget, they only carry so many excess vehicles because every vehicle sitting on the lot is something that they are paying for," said Paul Eisenstein of the Detroit Bureau, an auto industry expert.

Rental car companies he said, "are not in business to keep vehicles around for an emergency ... They are not going to be keeping tens or hundreds of thousands of extra vehicles around in case there is a hurricane. That's just bad business."

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Transit Tracker: NJTransit Montclair-Boonton Line

Tuesday, November 13, 2012


UPDATE 6 p.m.: New Jersey Transit train service has been restored on the Montclair-Boonton line. Starting Wednesday morning at 6 a.m., New Jersey Transit will run two trains per hour on the Montclair-Boonton line. One train to New York Penn Station, and one train to Hoboken Terminal. In the afternoon, trains will run only Westbound in the opposite direction.

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Another Transpo Impact of Sandy: Higher Used Car Prices

Friday, November 09, 2012

(Photo CC by Flickr user bcostin)

(Stacey Vanek Smith -- Marketplace) The Northeast is still picking up the pieces from Hurricane Sandy and the nor'easter earlier this week. Many people are still without power and thousands of homes were damaged. On top of that, an estimated 250,000 cars were totaled, a pile up that could affect American consumers across the country.

Hurricane Sandy is expected to tack $200 to $300 onto the price of a used car, according to Jonathan Banks, executive automotive analyst at the National Automobile Dealers Association, or NADA. "Many vehicles are going to be destroyed meaning that many consumers are going to have to replace their cars."

Some people will opt to buy used cars, and that will put the squeeze on an already tight supply, says Richard Arca, a senior analyst with "The problem with used cars over the past couple years is a lack of inventory."

That's because many Americans put off buying new cars during the recession. Now the number of used cars seven years and younger is at an all time low.

Used car buyers all over the country will feel the impact, says NADA's Jonathan Banks, "This impact will wash across the whole country and people will feel the price increases even as far out as California."

Auto dealers in storm-hit areas will start pulling in used cars from all over the U.S. to meet the spike in demand. Banks says we’ve seen this before. Hurricane Katrina pushed used car prices up three percent nationally.

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Amtrak, NJ Transit Tunnels Are Dry, More Penn Station Trains Can Roll on Friday

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Amtrak's has six tunnels under the East and Hudson Rivers. They are 102-years-old. This was the first time any of them flooded, and Sandy left four of them filled with water.

Amtrak pumped one dry two days later. It has taken another week for Amtrak to finish drying out the other three tunnels that were flooded by Sandy, but by Friday, Amtrak expects to add train service to New York's Penn Station nearly doubling capacity since the storm. Strained New Jersey Transit will also be able to add service.

One of the newly dried tunnels crosses the Hudson River and will allow extra Amtrak and NJ Transit service to New Jersey and to the south. With both trans-Hudson tunnels open, Amtrak expects trains to run 24 trains per hour across the river, 63 percent of normal capacity.

That may sound low, but it is double Wednesday's rate, offering desperately craved relief from long lines and strains on a commuter bus system trying to accommodate rail riders stripped of their normal commuting options. Lines for buses Tuesday afternoon snaked throughout the Port Authority bus terminal and added an hour or more of delay to many people's commutes home.

A project to build an additional trans-Hudson tunnel was begun, mostly funded, and then scrapped by NJ Governor Chris Christie who cited fears of cost overruns in the billions of dollars.

The other two tunnels coming back on line cross the East River and support Amtrak's Northeast Corridor Service, Empire Service and trains from the North and West of New York, including to Albany, NY. Those tunnels will open at 80 percent capacity, about 32 trains per hour, as repairs continue, Amtrak said in a statement.

"The return of all tunnel access to New York City will be a major milestone in the continued restoration of Amtrak and commuter rail service and for the larger recovery efforts of the Northeast region," said Amtrak President Joe Boardman in an emailed statement.

Full operational capacity may still be a ways away for Amtrak as it is for other area transit agencies battered by Sandy's storm surge. As a sample of the myriad puzzles involved in recovery, Amtrak offered this example: Some stretches of Northeast Corridor track retain the 1930's era equipment inherited by the Pennsylvania Railroad. Those use 25 hz current to power trains. The new standard is 60 hz. So the rail company can't just swap in replacement parts from other stretches of track, or easily identify alternate power sources.

Temporary bypass signaling must be rigged up in places, slowing capacity as well.

Amtrak's two other East River tunnels did not flood and have been running at capacity. Nine NY MTA subway tunnels flooded in Hurricane Sandy, all but one had been drained as of Wednesday afternoon.

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NJ Transit Ridership Up Despite Long Waits

Tuesday, November 06, 2012


New Jersey Transit is running trains on a damaged rail network, on reduced schedules, through stations with limited or even no electricity. And ridership is up 15 percent above normal.


Storm-Hobbled NJ Transit Bulging with Above-Average Ridership

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Lines at the Port Authority Bus Terminal on Tuesday, 11/6/12 (photo by Alex Goldmark)

New Jersey Transit is running trains on a damaged rail network,on reduced schedules, through stations with limited or even no electricity.

And ridership is up 15 percent above normal.

NJ Transit spokesperson Nancy Snyder told Transportation Nation her agency carried 150,000 people Monday into New York City during the morning rush. The normal weekday ridership into Manhattan is 136,000.

Riders who normally take PATH trains into Manhattan looked for other options since one of two PATH tunnels remains out of commission.  The Holland Tunnel is restricted to buses only, so drivers had fewer options as well. The result was a packed commute from New Jersey into Manhattan, one so crowded it closed some NJ Transit rail stations due to unsafe conditions.

"We closely monitored how our [plan] worked out. There was congestion in certain areas, we realigned our resources. ... This morning it went a lot more smoothly," Snyder said.

"In and around the South Orange, Irvington, Maplewood area ...  we are adding more buses to accommodate that increased demand. We are also looking at other key areas," she said.

NJT is running "emergency bus" service from park-and-ride locations like shopping malls shuttle carry passengers to places where they can grab alternative transportation to NYC, either by ferry or bus. Those locations were condensed, and some of the buses deployed to areas that experienced especially bad wait times for buses, like South Orange.

"Today was markedly improved in South Orange, N.J. at the morning commute, but I am still dreading the evening commute," said South Orange resident Ritu Pancholy. She said she would leave work in Manhattan early today to avoid what she feared would be excessive waits at the Port Authority Bus Terminal. She hoped to get home in time to pick up her son at daycare and still making it to her polling location to vote.

On Tuesday night at 6pm, lines at the Port Authority Bus Terminal were lengthy -- and growing. Some passengers on line for the 107 to South Orange said they had been waiting for almost an hour and a half. Still, some said, it was better than Monday's commute.


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More NYC Subway Service Restored, Voter Shuttle Routes and Updates on A, B, G, L Trains

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

MTA employees using a pump train are working around the clock to pump seawater out of the L train's tunnel under the East River. This photo shows activity on the afternoon of Monday, November 5. After the tunnel is pumped dry of water, work will begin to inspect tracks, signals, switches, electrical components, and third rail. (Photo: Metropolitan Transportation Authority / Patrick Cashin.)

The New York MTA is restoring  more subway service.

The A train is now reaching the Northern end of the line at 207th street. B trains are running again from the Bronx to Brooklyn.

The L, Z and G trains are still largely out of service but could return as early as tomorrow now that the L tunnel under the East River is dry.

Stations at the very southern end of Manhattan where flooding was ceiling high in some cases remain closed. Rockaway train service on the S and A is also out of service.

Voter bus shuttles are running for election day to various polling places around the city in places hit by Sandy. To find you shuttle, scroll to the chart at the bottom of this post.

Here's the full update on service restoration direct from the MTA:

MTA Service Advisory: More Subway Service Restored

Queens Midtown Tunnel is Open for Buses Only

Voter Shuttle Buses Carrying Voters to Polls in Staten Island, Coney Island & Rockaways

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) restored additional subway and, bus and services in time for this morning’s rush hour.

Service on the A has been restored in upper Manhattan to 207th Street which has allowed service on the C train to be extended to the 168th Street station.  The restoration of A service to 207th Street will alleviate overcrowding on the 123. The B train is now running between Bedford Park Boulevard in the Bronx and Brighton Beach in Brooklyn. The Q train is now operating from 57th Street – 7th Avenue in Manhattan to Brighton Beach.  Customers are reminded that some lines are still running with extended headways.

Work continues on restoring service on the G and L lines through northwest Brooklyn, where alternate service on the J and M trains remains crowded. The G’s Greenpoint tube under Newtown Creek has been pumped out but extensive work remains to repair the signal system. The L’s 14th Street tube under the East River is now dry and damage is currently being assessed.  NYCT is running extra buses on the B62 route to offer additional service through the area.  The Z and Rockaway Park S remain suspended.

The following stations remain closed:


·        Rector St 1, South Ferry 1 (South Ferry closed indefinitely)

·        Fulton St J, Broad Street J

·        City Hall R, Cortlandt St R, Rector St R, Whitehall St R

·         All L stations from 8th Avenue to 1st Avenue.


·        All G stations from Greenpoint Avenue to Church Avenue.  However, Hoyt-Schermerhorn is serviced by the AC and stations from Bergen Street to Church Avenue are serviced by the F

·        All L stations between Bedford Avenue and Bushwick Ave-Aberdeen Street.

·         All N stations along the Sea Beach line between 8th Avenue and Coney Island.

·         25th Avenue D, Bay 50th Street D, Coney Island D

·         Neptune Avenue F, West 8th St-NY Aquarium F, Coney Island F

·         Ocean Parkway Q, West 8th St-NY Aquarium Q, Coney Island Q



·         Court Square G, 21st Street G

·         All A stations between Howard Beach and Far Rockaway-Mott Ave and Rockaway Park-Beach 116th Street

Queens Midtown Tunnel Opens for Rush Hour Buses

MTA Bridges and Tunnels opened one lane of the Queens Midtown Tunnel for buses only this morning. One lane of the south tube opened for Manhattan-bound buses from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m., and for Queens-bound buses from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. The tunnel will be closed to traffic at all other times.

The Queens Midtown Tunnel was flooded with storm surge and sustained significant damage to its mechanical systems that must be repaired. No timetable has been established to reopen the tunnel to general traffic.

The Hugh L. Carey Tunnel, formerly known as the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel, was also flooded by storm surge. Pumping operations continue at the tunnel and there is no timetable for reopening it.

Voter Shuttle Buses

The MTA is also operating special “MTA Voter Shuttles” today to carry voters from damaged polling places to alternate sites established by the Board of Elections on Staten Island, in Coney Island and in the Rockaways.

The free Election Day shuttle buses will run every 15 to 20 minutes, in addition to other scheduled bus service in those areas.

The buses will be marked by “MTA Voter Shuttle” destination signs and will run from 5:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. to help voters, particularly those displaced by Hurricane Sandy, reach polling places.  MTA buses will also be dispatched to carry Board of Elections polling station workers from their Queens headquarters in Kew Gardens to their newly assigned polling stations in the three areas.  Routes for the “MTA Voter Shuttle” buses are described in the attached document.



Shuttle Bus Chart

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(LISTEN) Sandy Caused a Mini Bike Boom in NYC

Monday, November 05, 2012

Bicycle Habitat in SoHo did brisk business during the aftermath of Sandy, even without electricity. (Photo by Alex Goldmark)

When Sandy's storm surge flooded New York's subway and split the city into its island parts, normal commutes were washed away. City-mandated restrictions prevented cars with fewer than three people from entering Manhattan to try to limit vehicle traffic. So New Yorkers took to new modes to get around. HopStop, the transit trip planning website, reported a 1,300 percent spike in searches for bus travel in NYC and an 800 percent jump in non-train searches compared to the previous week.

And then there were bikes.

On Thursday, the NYC DOT counted 30,000 cyclists riding across the East River bridges, more than double the normal 13,000.  Though there's no official count for within Manhattan while the power was still out downtown and subways were halted, this audio postcard of a ride around town shows how Sandy created a mini-bike boom -- and a pop-up culture of cycling harmony.


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PATH Train Resumes Some Service Between NJ and NYC after Sandy

Monday, November 05, 2012

PATH limited service map as of Tuesday November 6, 2012

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said it would take seven to 10 days to get the PATH train running again between New Jersey and Manhattan. A bit over a week later, some trains will roll through a tunnel that had been turned into a five-mile interstate canal by Sandy's storm surge.

Starting Tuesday, November 6, limited PATH service will run on the Journal Square - 33rd Street line from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. Trains will not stop at Christopher Street or 9th Street stations.

The Exchange Place - World Trade Center line remains out of service as workers continue to repair and replace damaged equipment, "including those for signaling and train control. PATH engineers are repairing or replacing this equipment as quickly as safely possible," the Port Authority writes on its website.

With one route closed, riders should expect significant crowding. That's why the 9th Street and Christopher Street stations will be closed. Structurally sound, the 104-year old stations were not designed to accommodate normal levels of crowding, so with expected overcrowding they become unsafe. Passengers can use the 14th Street station.

Port Authority spokesman Steve Coleman says of the Exchange Place - WTC line, "we're still working on dewatering issues." He added "I wouldn't want to project" a timeline for resumption of service for that line.

You can always find the latest transit service updates for every agency (MTA, NJ Transit, PATH and others) in our Transit Tracker.

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The Official NY Area Transit Tracker

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Hurricane Sandy wrought havoc on all area transportation, closing bridges, flooding tunnels and drowning the NYC subway system. We will stay on top of the damage and the schedules for resumption of service. Check back regularly. We'll also tweet any openings, so follow us on Twitter to know when we update the Tracker below.

MTA Metro-North Railroad employees using a crane to remove a boat that had washed up on the tracks at Ossining. (Photo courtesy of MTA)


Sign up for our daily email to get a digest of all our reporting on Hurricane Sandy transportation impacts and recovery.


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NYC Subways Run Under East River for First Time Since Storm, System 80% Operational

Saturday, November 03, 2012

New York City Transit employees are pumping water out of the Cranberry Street Tunnel, which carries the A and C trains between Brooklyn and Manhattan underneath the East River, Nov. 03, 2012 (Photo: MTA New York City Transit / Leonard Wiggins)

Remember you can always find the very latest information on what is running and what isn't at our Transit Tracker.

This just in from the MTA and the NY Governor's office:

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) has restored 80 percent of the New York subway system including subway service between Brooklyn and Manhattan, restoring a vital transit link that was severed by Hurricane Sandy.

The 4, 5, 6 and 7 trains are fully restored. The Staten Island Railway will resume service hourly today, move to half hourly service later today, and will be fully restored in time for the Monday morning rush.

The F, J, D and M will be fully functional by later this morning.

"This is a major step forward in the resumption of regular subway service in New York City," Governor Cuomo said. "Once again, subway customers have a direct link between Brooklyn and Manhattan, giving them a fast and reliable way to get to their jobs, their schools and their homes."

The resumption of service is made possible by Con Edison's continued work to restore power to darkened sections of lower Manhattan. Engineers from the MTA and Con Edison worked together to plan an orderly restoration of power so the subway system would have an adequate supply of electricity without destabilizing the network.

"We have worked closely with Con Edison to bring back the subways as soon as possible without jeopardizing the progress they have made in restoring Manhattan's electric grid," said MTA Chairman and CEO Joseph J. Lhota. "Our dedicated workers are continuing to pump water, test signals and bring back more of the subway network that 5.5 million customers depend on each day."

Governor Cuomo also announced that the MTA will be able to restore limited service on the Staten Island Railway as soon as Con Edison is able to supply power. The railway will initially run trains hourly.

Governor Cuomo earlier announced the MTA Metro-North Railroad would resume full train service Saturday morning on the Hudson Line from Poughkeepsie to Grand Central Terminal, completing the restoration of all main lines east of the Hudson River.

Additionally, a tweet from the MTA said the A train will be ready for the Monday morning rush.

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Lhota: Give Us Electricity, We'll Give You F, and 2/3 Subways in Two Hours

Thursday, November 01, 2012

MTA Chair Joe Lhota said subway trains can run between Manhattan and Brooklyn soon after power is restored

In a press briefing with Governor Cuomo, the transit chief said two of the tunnels that were flooded by Hurricane Sandy will be ready to go.

"As soon as we get power on the [in the 4/5 tunnel] we will be able to run service through the Rast Tiver into Manhattan and connect the 4 and 5 trains all the way up to the Bronx." The same goes for the F train he said.   The tunnel is ready to go. The same applies to most track south of 34th street in Manhattan.

Lhota said service could be up and running on closed stretches of track as quickly as two hours after power is restored. "We can't do it without electricity."

Other transit is coming back on line as well. You can always find the latest information in our Transit Tracker.


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NYC Transit: What's Running Friday Morning, MTA Subway, Buses, LIRR, Metro North and Long Island Rail Road

Thursday, November 01, 2012

You can always find the latest information in our Transit Tracker. But we thought it might be helpful to give you the rundown in a post as well. Here ya go.

As of late Thursday evening, here's the summary what's just come back on line from the MTA and then from NJ Transit:


The following restorations will be in effect for tomorrow’s commute:

Long Island Rail Road:

· Babylon Branch: Hourly service to Penn Station
· Huntington Branch: Hourly service to Penn Station

Metro-North Railroad:

· Hudson Line: Service between Croton-Harmon and Grand Central Terminal on the Hudson Line will operate on a regular weekday schedule.
· New Haven Line: Service will resume between New Haven and Stamford/Grand Central Terminal by midday.
· Harlem Line: Full service between Southeast and Grand Central Terminal will be restored tomorrow morning.

New York City Transit:

· #7 Service between Flushing Main Street and 74th St. in Queens, will begin by midnight tonight.
· In addition, Limited M service from Jamaica Center along Queens Boulevard, through the 63rd St. tunnel to 34th Street/Herald Square inManhattan, began this afternoon.

Other Public Transportation Restorations Updates:

Long Island Rail Road

· LIRR has been running hourly service fromJamaica to Atlantic Terminal, hourly service fromJamaica to Penn Station, hourly service fromRonkonkoma to Penn Station, and hourly service from Great Neck to Penn Station.

Metro-North Railroad

· Service on the Harlem Line was extended fromMountKisco through to Southeast Station, beginning this afternoon. Trains operated on a very limited schedule this afternoon.

New York City Transit

· More extensive restoration of normal service depends upon Con Edison’s restoration of feeds for Joralemon and Rutgers tubes, plus networks from those tubes up to 36th St. This would enable the New York City Transit to restore service on the 4, 5 and F lines, as well as to re-establish some service over the Manhattan and Williamsburg bridges. Restoration of these feeds would allow for robust Sixth Avenue service. Once power is restored, since the tracks are dry and signal testing has been completed done, the only thing that would remain would be to run a few test trains. Service could be restored within two hours. In addition, NYCT was prepared to establish a #5 shuttle train between Dyre Avenue and East 180th Street in theBronx, but is unable to do so because there is no station power.

MTA Bus Company/NYCT Bus

· Buses operated near normal service this morning with routes diverted as conditions required. In addition to weekday school closed requirements, buses operated the Atlantic, Jay Street and Hewes Street subway replacement shuttles and augmented M5 and M20 service in Manhattan where displaced subway customers were riding.
· Bus service will be curtailed at dusk in the areas of the city where power is still out as was done yesterday, for the safety of pedestrians and passengers. The Brooklyn bus bridge will continue to run past midnight.
· Access-A-Ride began fulfilling scheduled appointments as of noon today. Thirteen of the 14 carriers are providing vehicles to assist in the evacuation effort.
· Bus service will continue to operate the same service levels, as will the subway support service. Normal routes will be restored as soon as conditions allow, including routes supporting the Staten Island Ferry when ferry service resumes.


NJ TRANSIT is advising customers of the following:

Rail Service:

  • Northeast Corridor:  On Friday, November 2, service will resume between Trenton Transit Center and Newark Penn Station, operating on a special schedule.
  • North Jersey Coast Line:  On Friday, November 2, service will resume between Woodbridge and Newark Penn Station, operating on a special schedule.  Rail service between Bay Head and Woodbridge remains suspended. An assessment of rail infrastructure has revealed significant damage across the system, including:
    • Morgan Drawbridge in South Amboy sustained damage from boats and a trailer that collided into the bridge. 
    • There are wires and trees down, as well as rail washouts (no ballast under the tracks), between South Amboy and Bay Head.
  • Raritan Valley Line:  On Friday, November 2, service will resume between Raritan and Newark Penn Station only, operating on a special schedule.  Rail service between High Bridge and Raritan remains suspended.
  • Morris & Essex, Montclair-Boonton, Main/Bergen and Atlantic City Rail lines:  Service remains suspended.   An assessment of rail infrastructure has revealed significant damage across the system, including:
    • There is major damage due to downed trees between Summit and Millburn, as well as in Denville and Morristown.  There is also overhead wire damage, including signal wires, with support poles down in Lyons and Bernardsville.  In addition, rail washouts (no ballast under the tracks) occurred at Kearny Junction, where Midtown Direct service connects to the Northeast Corridor. Rail washouts also occurred at several tracks in Hoboken Terminal and at Netcong Station.
    • Elsewhere on the rail system, local power outages have prevented NJ TRANSIT rail operations from being able to further test crossing gates and operating signals.  In addition, hundreds of downed trees have fallen across the rail system, which have caused damage to overhead wires and signal wires.  Several rail stations have sustained flood damage, including Hoboken Terminal.


Bus Service:

  • Bus service is operating on 68 bus routes in northern New Jersey and 18 bus routes in southern New Jersey, providing service over the entire routes with no detours or truncations.   For a complete list, visit
  • Partial service is operating on 58 bus routes in northern New Jersey and 17 routes in southern New Jersey, with detours or truncations due to ongoing impacts from Hurricane Sandy.  For details, visit
  • Bus service on routes not listed remains suspended until further notice.  Power outages in local communities have resulted in the loss of traffic control devices critical to safe operation in some areas.  Downed tree limbs and power lines continue to make many roads impassable.  Personnel are in the field reviewing and assessing these conditions in order to ensure that service is restored as soon as it becomes safe to do so. 


Light Rail Service:

  • River Line is operating on a Sunday schedule between Trenton Transit Center and the Entertainment Center in Camden.
  • Hudson-Bergen Light Rail and Newark Light Rail service will remain suspended until further notice.  There is currently no estimated time for resumption of service.   An assessment of rail infrastructure has revealed significant damage across the system, including:
    • Newark Light Rail sustained flooding in Newark Penn Station, as well as major debris damage between Newark Penn and Branch Brook Park stations.
    • Hudson-Bergen Light Rail experienced track washouts at Port Imperial and West Side Avenue stations, as well as trees in the overhead wire in Weehawken and flooding in Hoboken.

Access Link:

  • Access Link service is operating in the following regions:
    • Region 2, which includes Burlington, Camden, Cumberland, Gloucester and Salem counties.
    • Region 3, which includes Atlantic, Cape May and Southern Ocean County.


Monthly Pass Extension:


NJ TRANSIT has extending the validity period for October monthly passes until Wednesday, November 7 for customer convenience.


Service Updates:


For the latest travel information, customers should listen to broadcast traffic reports, visit or access NJ TRANSIT’s Twitter feed at @NJ_TRANSIT. Additionally, NJ TRANSIT will provide the most current service information via the My Transit alert system (, which delivers travel advisories for your specific trip to your cell phone, PDA or pager. Service information is also available by calling (973) 275-5555.


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Ferry Update: East River Ferries Coming Back, SI Ferry No Timeline

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

UPDATED Wednesday 8:20 pm: East River Ferry service is coming back Thursday broken into two loops. The northern loop connects Long Island City and North Williamsburg to 34th Street. The southern loop connects North Williamsburg, Brooklyn Bridge Park and Wall Street.

Ferry landings in Greenpoint and South Williamsburg will remain closed due to Hurricane damage.

The ferries will run from 7 a.m. to 6.p.m.

POSTED Wednesday 5:45 pm: The NY DOT is still repairing the Staten Island Ferry terminals and doesn't have an estimate for getting the boats out on the water again following Hurricane Sandy's storm surge on Sunday night.

New York Waterway  resumed some ferry service along the Hudson River Wednesday.

The NY Department of Transportation, the agency that operates that Staten Island Ferry explained, “"There was considerable damage to the terminals and to the electrical components of the docks that operate the movable ramps, all of which were submerged in the storm surge. As we've cleaned the terminals around the clock and closely assessed and repaired each slip we're getting closer to having all the pieces necessary to restore service safely. We still have more damage assessment and recovery left at St. George in particular before we will have a firm estimate on when service will resume." The agency hopes to make an announcement "soon."

The ferries themselves were undamaged in the storm and are ready to go. That was achieved by mooring them at a maintenance facility with full crew and engines online throughout the storm.

On Sunday, 47,000 runners will head to Staten Island to start the New York Marathon ... most will want to use the SI Ferry.

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Amtrak to Restore NYC Train Service Friday

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Amtrak said limited Northeast Corridor service to New York City will resume on Friday.

Until then,  train travelers heading south need to get themselves to Newark where Amtrak service cuts off until New Haven, Conn. On Friday, regional service will run, but not the Acela. A schedule will be released Thursday.

Amtrak is still pumping water from tunnels under the Hudson river and running modified service on 10 routes with three lines canceled.

The Northeast corridor is the busiest rail corridor in the nation. More travelers use the train between New York and Boston and Nwe York and Washington than all airlines combined.

For the latest update information always check our Hurricane Transit Tracker. And for context see our last dispatch on Amtrak recovery, our broader past coverage on the rail company.
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Here's the New Subway Map, and Other Hurricane Sandy Recovery Details

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

(IMPORTANT NOTE: The text is in this post doesn't reflect the latest service additions, which are occurring rapidly.  For full updates, please keep an eye on our transportation tracker.  The subway map above is self-updating, but there's a lag between service updates and the map. We're updating the tracker regularly.)

As of 11/2: The New York City subway opened Thursday for the first time since the nation's largest transit system preemptively shut down Sunday evening in preparation for the arrival of Hurricane Sandy. When power is restored, Governor Cuomo says service can be restored in two hours. Partial commuter rail service on Long Island Rail Road, Metro-North, and NJ Transit has restarted, joining city buses that have been running since Tuesday night.  Through Friday, all New York service will be free. A pdf map of the latest service can be found here.

Subway Service is operating on the 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, the Times Square Shuttle, A, D, F, G, J, L (but not in Manhattan), M, N, and R trains. There will be no service on the 3, B, C, E, G and Q lines. Subways will run every ten minutes. There is still no subway service in Manhattan below 34th Street.

There will be 330 buses forming the "bus bridge" from Brooklyn crossing on the Brooklyn Williamsburg Bridge and heading up 3rd Avenue. Stops will be at 54th St, 42nd st, 33rd st, 23rd St, 14th St, 9th st, Delancey and Bowery, Spring and Bowery.  The buses will travel on special bus priority lanes, with 24 hour enforcement by NYPD, the NYC DOT says.

The Atlantic Avenue and Jay Street routes will operate via a new, two-way bus lane across the Manhattan Bridge and into Manhattan via bus-priority lanes on Bowery and Third Avenue all the way up to East 55th Street.  Outbound buses will travel down Lexington, East 23, and Third Avenue.

The shuttle bus from Hewes Street will operate over the Williamsburg Bridge and Delancey Street, then via Bowery and Third Avenue before returning downtown via Lexington Avenue, East 23rd Street, Third Avenue, and Bowery.
Per Governor Cuomo:

1 trains are operating local between 242nd Street (Bronx) and Times Square-42nd Street.

2 trains are operating between 241st Street (Bronx) and Times Square-42nd Street, with express service between 96th Street and Times Square.

3 trains are suspended.

4 trains will operate in two sections making all local stops: · Between Woodlawn (Bronx) and Grand Central-42nd Street
· Between Borough Hall and New Lots Avenue5 trains will operate express in Brooklyn between Atlantic Avenue-Barclays Center and Flatbush Avenue.

5 trains are operating between E. 180th St and Dyre Ave in the North Bronx; also in Brooklyn

6 trains are operating local between Pelham Bay Park and Grand Central-42nd Street.

7 trains are now running between Main Street and 74th Street - Broadway

42nd Street Shuttle S trains will operate between Times Square and Grand Central.

A trains will operate in two sections making all local stops:· Between 168th Street (Manhattan) and 34th Street-Penn Station
· Between Jay Street/MetroTech and Lefferts Blvd.
B and C service is suspended.

D trains operate in two sections:· Between 205th Street (Bronx) and 34th Street-Herald Square making all local stops
· In Brooklyn, between Atlantic Avenue-Barclays Center and Bay Parkway making express stops between Pacific Street and 36th Street

E trains are suspended.

F trains operate in two sections making all local stops:· Between 179th Street (Queens) and 34th Street-Herald Square
· In Brooklyn, between Jay Street-MetroTech and Avenue X

G trains are suspended.

J trains operate between Jamaica Center and Hewes Street making all local stops.

L trains operate between Broadway Junction and rockaway Parkway making all local stops.

M trains are running in two sections operate between Myrtle Avenue-Broadway and Metropolitan Avenue.

N trains operate between Ditmars Blvd. (Queens) and 34th Street-Herald Square making all local stops.

Q trains are suspended.

R trains operate in Brooklyn between Jay Street-MetroTech and 95th Street making all local stops.

Both the Franklin Avenue and Rockaway Park S shuttles are suspended.

All shuttle buses will operate north on 3rd Avenue and south on Lexington Avenue.
1. Between Atlantic Avenue-Barclays Center and 57th Street-Lexington Avenue via the Manhattan Bridge
2. Between Jay Street-MetroTech and 57th Street-Lexington Avenue via the Manhattan Bridge
3. Between Hewes Street and 57th Street-Lexington Avenue via the Williamsburg Bridge

(We always put the latest updates in our Transit Tracker, so check there before you plan your commute.)

According to the MTA, buses will bridge the gaps in subway service, going over the Manhattan and Williamsburg Bridges. Commuters should add at least an hour to their commute times.

Three of the seven East River subway tunnels that were flooded have been cleared. The MTA is reporting that the tunnels carrying the 4, 5 and F trains are now dry. There will be no subways south of 34th Street in Manhattan where most neighborhoods are still without the power needed to run the subways.

MTA Chairman Joe Lhota said service would increase. "There will be more on Friday and even more on Saturday," he said Wednesday afternoon. He acknowledged that buses this morning were "packed" and "tight" as the the MTA tried to accommodate some of the 5.5 million daily subway riders without their normal way to work. Lhota said he would have bus ridership numbers later in the day, even though buses were not charging fares.

He said he is talking with city officials about instituting dedicated bus lanes.

Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North Railroad has begun to provide service. Metro-North is operating close to regularly scheduled service on: the Hudson Line, the Harlem Line, the New Haven Line. The LIRR info is below.

LIRR service will operate as follows:

The LIRR is providing hourly service on its four busiest branches: the Port Washington Branch, the Port Jefferson Branch from Huntington to Penn Station, the Ronkonkoma Branch and the Babylon Branch.

Brooklyn - (Jamaica-Brooklyn): Hourly service

City Terminal – (Jamaica - Penn Station): Suspended (anticipate shuttle between these stations later tonight)

Babylon Branch: hourly service between Babylon and Penn Station. Westbound trains depart Babylon at 35 minutes after the hour; the first train is at 12:35AM. Eastbound trains depart Penn 4 minutes after the hour; the first train is at 12:04AM. Schedule info here.

Huntington Branch: hourly service between Huntington and Penn Station. Westbound trains depart Huntington at 35 minutes after the hour; the first train is at 12:35AM. Eastbound trains depart Penn on the hour; the first train is at 12:00AM. Schedule info here.

Ronkonkoma Branch: Westbound trains departing Ronkonkoma 37 minutes after the hour. Eastbound trains depart Penn Station 9 minutes after the hour.

Port Washington Branch: Shuttle train service between Port Washington and Penn Station is continuing with westbound trains departing Port Washington every 35 minutes past the hour and eastbound trains departing Penn Station every 14 minutes past the hour.

SUSPENDED for now: service on the Montauk Branch, Hempstead Branch, Long Beach, Far Rockaway, Oyster Bay Branch, West Hempstead.

Keep checking our Transit Tracker for the latest information on service restoration.

Click for PDF of what subway service will look like Thursday

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