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Posts from the "Straphangers Campaign" Category

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Manhattan Bus Routes Sweep the 2013 Pokey and Schleppie Awards

The Straphangers Campaign and Transportation Alternatives today handed out their annual awards for the slowest and least reliable NYC buses, with Manhattan routes taking the honors.

Photo: ##http://newyork.cbslocal.com/2011/12/01/manhattans-m50-crosstown-bus-wins-pokey-award/##WCBS##

Photo: WCBS

The M42 and the M50 tied for the 2013 Pokey award. Each crosstown bus was clocked at 3.4 miles per hour at noon on a weekday. That’s slower than a wooden row boat “in still water without wind,” according to a press release announcing the awards. In 2012, the M42 and M50 transported 14,829 and 3,383 riders, respectively, on an average weekday.

The B41 Limited (5.7 mph), the Bx19 (4.9 mph), the Q58 (7 mph), and the S48 (7.7 mph) were the slowest buses in Brooklyn, the Bronx, Queens, and Staten Island.

Taking home the Schleppie for least reliable bus this year was the M101/2/3. More than 30 percent of the route’s buses were bunched or separated by gaps, Straphangers and TA said.

In 2012, the M101 moved 29,341 riders on an average weekday, the M102 had 15,284 riders, and the M103 transported 12,548 people.

Other least reliable buses, according to Straphangers and TA: the Bx55 in the Bronx, the S74 in Staten Island, the B44 in Brooklyn, and the Q85 in Queens.

The Pokeys always make for a theatrical set piece underscoring the need to upgrade conventional bus routes. Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio has pledged to build a Bus Rapid Transit network of more than 20 lines. This week the Pratt Center for Community Development unveiled a plan for eight potential routes featuring separated busways with platform-level boarding.

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IBO: MTA Fares on Pace to Rise 50 Percent Over Next Decade

The 2009 MTA funding package passed by Albany included a plan to increase fares and tolls every other year. The most recent of those fare hikes, implemented in March, increased fares 8.4 percent, with the MTA anticipating another increase in 2015. If this pattern continued for the next decade, fares would rise 50 percent, to $3.75 per ride, according to an analysis by the city’s Independent Budget Office requested by NYPIRG’s Straphangers Campaign [PDF]. Unless city and state leadership act, fares will drastically outpace the inflation rate, even as crossing the East River bridges and driving to the most congested, transit-rich part of the city remains toll-free.

Under the MTA's current funding model, fares are set to outpace inflation, according to the city's IBO. Photo: Darny/Flickr

After the introduction of the MetroCard, which brought free bus-to-subway transfers in 1997 and unlimited ride passes in 1998, the average fare paid by riders, adjusted for inflation, fell by more than a third between 1996 and 2002. But since then, “increases in the average fare have outpaced inflation,” IBO says, and the initial gain for straphangers is set to be wiped out by 2027.

If fares kept pace with inflation, the base fare would be $3.25 in a decade — 50 cents less than the IBO projection, which forecasts fares rising 15 percent faster than inflation.

Burdened by debt-financed capital spending and rising health care and pension costs, the MTA’s expenses keep rising, and it has fallen mainly on straphangers to foot the bill.

“Constant fare hikes will overburden riders, discourage use of mass transit, and cannot be sustained over time,” Gene Russianoff of the Straphangers Campaign said in a statement, calling on Governor Cuomo and the legislature to find a solution.

The MTA is under the governor’s control, but a funding solution also needs support from the city’s political establishment. The city’s contribution to the MTA hasn’t increased since 1993, and the value of that contribution has decreased due to inflation. So far, many of the mayoral candidates have been eager to push the funding burden to people who don’t vote for them, by supporting the unlikely reinstatement of the commuter tax. Even John Liu’s bridge toll proposal would give city residents a free ride.

More realistic funding solutions have only attracted the attention of Democrat Sal Albanese, Independence Party candidate Adolfo Carrión, and Republican George McDonald, who have all endorsed a plan to toll traffic on bridges entering the busiest parts of Manhattan, while lowering tolls on bridges between the outer boroughs.

Given the mounting pressure on straphangers, which has received some attention from the Daily News and Times editorial boards recently, it’s time the other mayoral candidates step forward with some realistic proposals.

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This Awards Season, Manhattan Buses Rank as the City’s Worst

This woman waiting for the M4 in Washington Heights may have to wait a lot longer: it is the city's least reliable bus. Photo: Susan NYC/Flickr

Since 2006, Streetsblog has provided red carpet coverage of the annual Pokey and Schleppie awards, given out by the Straphangers Campaign and Transportation Alternatives to the city buses with the slowest average speed and the least reliable service, respectively. This year, Manhattan buses took the crown in both categories.

Although the awards spotlight the routes most notorious for crawling through traffic, stopping at every block, and bunched three in a row, there is a bright spot: Select Bus Service has been living up to its promises — with more routes set to get the speedier service in the coming years.

In the survey, the Bx12 SBS on Fordham Road and Pelham Parkway traveled at 7.9 mph, 19.6 percent faster than the Bx12 local’s 6.6 mph. Meanwhile, on First and Second Avenues in Manhattan, M15 Select buses moved along at 7.8 mph — 50 percent faster than the M15 local, which lumbered at 5.2 mph.

These numbers didn’t come from nowhere: Although not as robust as Bus Rapid Transit in other cities, SBS features limited-stop service, camera-enforced bus lanes, off-board fare collection and, in many cases, transit priority at stop lights. Buses without these improvements remain stuck in gridlock.

The result? This year, there is a tie for the Pokey award, with the M66 and M42 crosstown buses both clocking in at 3.9 mph. In a statement, Gene Russianoff of the Straphangers Campaign said these buses “would lose a race to an amusement park bumper car,” which can hit top speeds of 4.3 mph.

Straphangers and TA analyzed bus data citywide, and each borough has its very own Pokey award winner. The full list, plus the highly-anticipated Schleppie award results, after the jump.

Read more…

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Instead of More Fare Hikes, How About Bridge Tolls That Make Sense?

In one fell swoop, Governor Cuomo and the state legislature could drastically reduce NYC's traffic dysfunction while rescuing New Yorkers from the fourth fare hike in five years. Image: Sam Schwartz

Since the beginning of 2008 — right around the time that Albany legislators failed to enact congestion pricing — NYC subway and bus fares have been hiked three times. Now the fourth fare hike in five years is on the horizon, and with Albany lawmakers sitting on their hands as MTA revenues fail to keep up with costs, there’s no relief in sight for millions of transit-riding New Yorkers.

Today MTA Chair Joe Lhota announced four options under consideration for the 2013 fare hike. The scenarios are weighted so that the fare hike will either fall primarily on riders who buy unlimited Metrocards or on those who mainly buy pay-per-ride cards. Monthly unlimiteds could cost $21 more, or single fares could go up to $2.50 from $2.25. (The Straphangers Campaign has produced a handy chart [PDF] to see how each option would affect your expenses.)

Either way, this string of hikes puts the fare on pace to triple the rate of inflation, according to a recent report from Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli. While working families in New York City end up paying hundreds or even thousands of dollars more out of pocket to cover higher fares, Governor Cuomo and the state legislature haven’t shown any intention of stepping in to help. In fact, they’ve made the situation more precarious by raiding the MTA’s budget and weakening the agency’s dedicated funding.

It doesn’t have to be this way. At any point, Albany could help to lessen the burden on working New Yorkers while simultaneously eliminating a source of enormous dysfunction in the region’s transportation system: the discrepancy between the free East River bridges and the MTA’s tolled crossings, which produces debilitating traffic jams and will only get worse as fares and tolls rise under the status quo.

The solution? Cuomo and the legislature could enact “Gridlock” Sam Schwartz’s “Fair Plan” [PDF], as Gene Russianoff of the Straphangers Campaign noted in a statement today:

Blocking or reducing the fare increase is possible, if we get more help from Albany. One promising plan is to generate new revenue by both raising and lowering tolls on city bridges and tunnels in line with where there is the most and least congestion. Under this plan – developed by a former New York City traffic commissioner Sam Schwartz, known as Gridlock Sam ­– tolls would go down on some facilities (like the Throgs Neck and Verrazano-Narrow Bridges) and be instituted on others (Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges.) The State would need to authorize some of the tolls.

So far, Transportation Alternatives has collected more than 15,000 signatures asking Albany to stop the next fare hike. If you sign on, I suggest adding a note about the Fair Plan.

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Straphangers: Cuomo Funding Cuts Top 2011 Worst-in-Transit List

Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos and Governor Andrew Cuomo applaud the $320 million cut to the MTA payroll tax. Photo: Governor's Office

Looking back on 2011, there was a lot more bad news for New York City transit riders than good news. The Straphangers Campaign released its annual list of the ten best and worst events for subway and bus riders, and topping the “worst of” list are three separate ways that Governor Andrew Cuomo has attacked transit funding.

The news for transit riders wasn’t all bad. Straphangers put the one-year respite from fare hikes at the top of their list (a brief reprieve — the next one is scheduled for 2012). Other highlights include the launch of Select Bus Service on 34th Street, the launch of real-time bus tracking along some routes, and the reopening of the Cortlandt Street R station.

But those improvements and small kindnesses like the launch of the MTA’s 511 phone number or its Weekender site design can’t hold a candle to Cuomo’s $100 million raid on the MTA’s dedicated funding, his $320 million cut to the dedicated MTA payroll tax, or his nonchalant willingness to put three years of the MTA’s capital plan on a giant credit card, which transit riders will be paying off for decades to come. As Straphangers noted, trains and buses are being left in service long after they should have been sent into retirement and breakdowns are increasing.

Here are Straphangers’ two top ten lists in full:

Among the top ten worst New York City transit events in 2011 were:

1. The State swept a net $100 million from dedicated transit operating funds. For the second year in a row, State government diverted money from accounts created to fund mass transit. The cuts add pressure to hike fares and cut service. Legislation to make it harder to raid dedicated transit funds passed both houses of the State legislature, but then was watered down.

2. The NY State Legislature voted exemptions to the MTA payroll tax at an unknown cost to its riders. As The New York Times editorialized:  “Although the Albany leaders say that the state will make up any lost revenue, they have not determined a secure source of financing. Mr. Cuomo needs to make certain that the already cash-starved transportation authority doesn’t suffer. The last thing New York needs is to downgrade the system that gets so many people to and from their jobs.”

Read more…

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At Sloth-Like 3.5 MPH, M50 Bus Wins This Year’s Pokey Award

Bus ridership is down in Manhattan, but where Select Bus Service increased speeds on First and Second Avenue, New Yorkers are riding more than ever. Image: NYCDOT/MTA

Want to understand why more Manhattanites don’t ride the bus? Look no further than this year’s Pokey awards, given out annually by the Straphangers Campaign. Manhattan buses, as usual, top the list of the year’s slowest service.

The Pokey this year goes to the M50 crosstown bus, which averaged a mere 3.5 miles per hour at noon (imagine it at rush hour!). The 14 slowest lines are all in Manhattan, with the Bronx’s Bx19, which runs down Southern Boulevard and into Harlem, clocking in as the slowest bus in the other boroughs.

Those glacial speeds explain why Manhattan-wide, bus ridership is down five percent over last year. Some of that decline surely stems from broad economic and demographic trends, but speed clearly matters. Along First and Second Avenues, where Select Bus Service was installed and speeds rose dramatically, ridership jumped up nine percent.

The good news for New Yorkers is that the MTA remains on board with expanding Select Bus Service. “The past year established Select Bus Service as a game changer in New York, with 20 percent faster bus service now on three routes,” MTA spokesman Kevin Ortiz told Transportation Nation’s Jim O’Grady. “We are working with the city to expand the SBS network, bringing faster boarding, dedicated bus lanes and enhanced bus lane enforcement to more and more routes.”

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Here They Are: The Best and Worst City Transit Scenes

Photo: Sabrina Porter

The Straphangers Campaign and Transportation Alternatives have chosen the winners for their best and worst of New York City Transit photo contest. The top “Good Transit Scene” was “Break of Day ” by Sabrina Porter, while John Wehmeyer took the prize for best “Bad Transit Scene” with “”Reassuring? Not so much!”

Photo: John Wehmeyer

Porter and Wehmeyer will each receive a 30-day MetroCard. Check out honorable mentions here.

“These photos show our transit system at its best — and its worst,” said TA Executive Director Paul Steely White. “It’s time we had more of the former and less of the latter. The winning photos shine a spotlight on the real-world consequences of transit funding cuts and remind us what we stand to lose if nothing is done.”

Not to diminish Wehmeyer’s victory, but White reminds us of another transit tableau that is sure to go down in history as one of the most repulsive of all time:

Read more…

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Transit Photo Contest Down to Ten Finalists – Time to Vote

The transit photo contest held by the Straphangers Campaign and Transportation Alternatives has moved into the final round. Five finalists have been selected for the photo that most captures New York City’s transit system at its best, and five have been chosen to represent the system at its worst. You can vote for your favorite here.

The winning photographers will each receive a free monthly MetroCard, while the winning photographs will be used in an ad campaign making the case for better transit, so choose carefully.

Not to influence your vote or anything, but I voted for the two photographs above. In the “best of transit” category, I thought this shot of light streaming onto a subway was just beautifully composed, though the image of three boys showing off for the camera best represents my favorite moments on the train. In the “worst of,” I had to vote for the picture of sludge piled up at the Canal Street station; that station is right next to Streetsblog HQ, so that pick was personal. Let us know in comments which you voted for.

Be sure to check out the full photo galleries as well. Some of the best photos in each category didn’t make it into the final round at all, and they’re well worth a look.

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Submit Your Pics of the Best and Worst of NYC’s Transit System

This gorgeous photograph of the Beverley Road subway station in full bloom, brought to our attention by Brownstoner, somehow manages to make peeling paint look beautiful. Photo: flatbushnelson via Flickr

We often describe the importance of transit in numbers, like the fact that 54 percent of New York City households don’t even own a car. But even the most convincing stats can get a little dry. To help capture what the subways and buses mean to a city where the transit system is the closest thing to a shared experience for eight million people, the Straphangers Campaign and Transportation Alternatives are launching a photography contest. A picture is worth a thousand words, after all.

The contest will feature two categories: the things we love about transit — only-in-New York juxtapositions, for instance, or the system’s speed and ease — and the problems that make us fed up with the MTA. The winners will be featured in an ad campaign intended to make the case for better transit, said Straphangers Campaign Coordinator Cate Contino, while photos showing specific problems, like the mysterious dripping at certain subway stations or the shuttered bus stop a community once depended on, will be sent along to the MTA in the hopes of resolving the issues.

“We know that the MTA has been forced to make some really tough choices,” said Contino, explaining the goal of the ‘bad transit scene’ category. “We want to capture these declines that we’re seeing mostly anecdotally.”

The winners will each receive a 30-day unlimited MetroCard. To enter, submit your photos at straphangers.org by June 10.

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With No Plan for Transit, the Next Fare Hike Is Just Around the Bend

If state legislators don't act to undo the outcome of today's MTA Board meeting, it would mark the second straight year that fares have gone up, which is already a departure from the norm. And it's going to get worse, say Gene Russianoff and the Straphangers Campaign:

Without new financial help from Albany soon, the MTA says its current bad finances may mean another fare hike in 2010.

That would make it three years in a row for fare increases -- March 2008, June 2009 and early 2010 -- the worst record in the MTA's 40-plus year history.

It demonstrates a trend of shifting the costs of operating transit from some beneficiaries of the subways and buses -- such as motorists and businesses -- onto riders.  For example, the riders' share of operating costs for the subways will go from 69% to an astonishing 84%, according to the MTA, if the just-approved fare increases are implemented.

Under the plan proposed by former MTA chairman Richard Ravitch, no new fare hike would occur before 2011.

Meanwhile, the excuses for inaction are pouring in. GOP State Senator Marty Golden, a Brooklyn rep who never broke ranks to support the Ravitch plan, sent around a press release blaming the state's top Democrats for "closing the doors completely to Republicans." Senate Minority Leader Dean Skelos excused his party's monolithic opposition to the transit rescue effort in much the same way, and added that the MTA was asking for a "blank check" by seeking to fund its five-year capital program. As Liz Benjamin notes, that's exactly what the Fare Hike Four and Senate Dems have been saying.

It's a patently false claim. Any plan is subject to oversight and approval by the Capital Program Review Board. The leaders of the State Senate and the Assembly each appoint one voting member to the CPRB, as do the mayor and the governor. Any of the four voting members can veto the whole thing. Said Russianoff: "If they appropriated the money, they would still have power over how it's spent."