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Posts from the "Straphangers Campaign" Category

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The Most Important Bus Routes in NYC Tend to Perform the Worst for Riders

Photo:

The M79 moves slower than flowing lava, reports the Straphangers Campaign. Photo: Kris Arnold/Flickr

The slowest bus in New York City is the M79, and the least reliable is the local M15, according to the Straphangers Campaign and Transportation Alternatives, which today awarded these two routes the “uncoveted” Pokey and Schleppie awards, respectively.

On weekdays at noon, Straphangers measured the crosstown M79 at an average speed of 3.2 miles per hour, slower than many people walk. On the M15 local, meanwhile, 33 percent of buses don’t arrive anywhere close to the posted schedule, meaning they’re either bunched tightly together or spread far apart, forcing riders to wait.

The Pokey and Schleppie call attention each year to bus service that gets bogged down by city traffic or delays caused by an inefficient fare payment system. Usually, it’s the bus routes with the most passengers that rank lowest in terms of speed and reliability, because they tend to travel on highly trafficked streets and spend a lot of time stopped as people pay to board.

The M15 local has some of the highest ridership of any local route in Manhattan, and the bus routes that Straphangers and TA singled out for poor performance in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island (the Bx19, Bx15, B41, B44, Q58, S48/98, and S78) all have a lot of passengers relative to most other routes in those boroughs. (With about 17,000 average weekday trips, the M79 has substantial but not exceptional ridership for Manhattan.) The takeaway is that the most important bus routes in the city tend to perform the worst for transit riders.

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Are the Subways Getting Worse? Depends on How You Measure It

Yesterday the Straphangers Campaign released a report that shows the number of subway incidents that result in a significant delay in 2013 rose 35 percent from 2011. ”The increase in alerts is a troubling sign that subway service is deteriorating,” said Gene Russianoff of the Straphangers Campaign.

The MTA responded that despite the report’s findings, the reliability of service has remained steady over recent years. “Since 2011, the amount of time customers have had to wait for a train throughout the system has remained flat,” the authority said in a statement.

Why the discrepancy, and who is right? They both are, but they each used a different metric to reach their conclusions.

The Straphangers report used a novel metric to come to its conclusions: It tracked the number of alerts the MTA sent out via text message and email warning customers of delays.

According to the MTA, “Email alerts are issued for any incidents reported… that will result in a significant service impact expected to last 8 to 10 minutes or more.”

The Straphangers Campaign documented each actual incident of delay over eight minutes that was caused by events such as signal or mechanical problems. The report distinguished between “uncontrollable” delays, those involving a sick passenger or police activity, and “controllable” delays.

The MTA, on the other hand, uses “wait assessments” to track the level of service. Wait assessments measure headways, or the time between trains, and track whether the next train arrives within a certain time period after the previous train departed — in this case the delay cannot be more than 25 percent longer than the scheduled headway. In other words, a train with an expected headway of eight minutes is considered on time if it arrives within ten minutes.

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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.

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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.”

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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:

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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.