Skip to content

Posts from the MTA Category

20 Comments

Keep L Train Passengers Moving With Great BRT

Full-BRT---Brooklyn-Side

Claiming street space for full-fledged BRT can help L train riders weather the impending Canarsie Tube closure and meet the long-term transit needs of northern Brooklyn better than a waterfront streetcar. Click to enlarge. Map: Sahra Mirbabaee/BRT Planning International

The news that Sandy-related repairs will require closing one or both directions of the L train under the East River (the “Canarsie Tube”) for one to three years has understandably caused panic among the estimated 230,000 daily passengers who rely on it. Businesses in Williamsburg that count on customers from Manhattan are also concerned about a significant downturn in sales. When the Canarsie Tube was shut down on weekends only last spring, it was bad enough for their bottom line, and this will be much worse.

Fixing the Canarsie Tube is imperative, but it doesn’t have to result in a massive disruption that threatens people’s livelihoods. The key to keeping L train passengers moving is to create new, high-capacity bus rapid transit on the streets.

Since the potential closure went public, several ideas have been floated to mitigate the impact. None of them do enough to provide viable transit options for L train riders. Only setting aside street space for high-capacity BRT can give riders a good substitute for the train. This can be done in time for the impending subway closure while also creating long-term improvements that address surface transit needs in northern Brooklyn much better than a waterfront streetcar ever could.

The Inadequacy of Current Proposals

While some L passengers will be able to switch to other subway lines, a huge number will face significant inconveniences. Passengers from Bedford Avenue to Union Square, for example, will face up to three new transfers.

Read more…

10 Comments

On Transit Funding, Emperor Cuomo Has No Clothes

Governor Andrew Cuomo’s executive budget includes no new funds for the MTA capital program — a brazen departure from the funding pledge Cuomo made just a few months ago. Transit advocates laid out the broken promises at a press conference in Brooklyn this morning.

Back in October, Cuomo reached an agreement with Mayor de Blasio that the state would contribute $8.3 billion to the MTA’s five-year, $26 billion capital program if the city chipped in $2.5 billion. Cuomo didn’t reveal how the state would meet its obligation, however.

Then earlier this month, Cuomo announced his 2016 transportation agenda at the New York Transit Museum in Brooklyn, committing to “thinking bigger and better and building the 21st century transit system New Yorkers deserve.” Was that the prelude to a big reveal with specifics on the governor’s plan to pay for transit?

Transit advocates say the governor's proposed budget breaks his promise to fund the MTA capital plan. Photo: David Meyer

Transit advocates held Governor Cuomo to his October pledge to fill the gap in the MTA capital plan, funding that’s nowhere to be found in his executive budget. Photo: David Meyer

Nope. The budget Cuomo put forward later that week includes no additional funding for the capital program. The state had previously provided $1 billion to the MTA, leaving a hole of $7.3 billion unaccounted for.

Instead of spelling out where that money will come from, Cuomo’s budget delays any allocations until after the MTA has exhausted other means of paying for the capital program. In vague, non-binding language, the document says the state doesn’t have to meet its obligation until 2026, which would enable Cuomo to kick the can until he’s out of office.

Speaking outside the museum this morning,Veronica Vanterpool of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, Gene Russianoff of the NYPIRG Straphangers Campaign, and Riders Alliance Executive Director John Raskin said Cuomo’s transit commitment was not really a commitment at all.

Read more…

1 Comment

MTA to Boost Frequency of Q70 to LaGuardia

The Riders Alliance says improved Q70 service could revolutionize travel to LaGuardia Airport. Image: Riders Alliance

Service on the Q70 to LaGuardia will run more frequently — the Riders Alliance says more can be done. Image: Riders Alliance

The MTA announced this morning that it plans to increase service on the Q70 Limited bus to LaGuardia Airport and hopes to roll out Select Bus Service on the route later this year. Riders Alliance Executive Director John Raskin applauded the news as “a great step toward implementing a real airport shuttle from the subway” but said the MTA can do more.

A November report from the Riders Alliance suggested that rebranding the route as a “Free LaGuardia Subway Shuttle” would provide travelers with easy transit access to the airport at minimal cost to the MTA. The proposal contrasts with Governor Andrew Cuomo’s billion-dollar AirTrain to LaGuardia project, which would actually be slower than existing transit options.

The Q70 runs between the 61st Street-Woodside LIRR/7 train stop, Jackson Heights, and the airport. It currently runs every 12 minutes during peak hours and every 30 minutes overnight. Starting this spring, the MTA will increase frequency to every eight minutes during weekday peak and evening hours, every 10 minutes on weekends, and every 20 minutes overnight. The agency says it will roll out off-board fare collection later this year, further cutting trip times.

The Riders Alliance plan calls for a few other steps, including the elimination of fares and improving the branding and signage for the service, which can be hard to find, especially for travelers new to NYC. The November report highlighted the fact that 90 percent of Q70 riders transfer to the subway or LIRR, so making the bus free would have a minimal revenue impact.

Read more…

47 Comments

Less Service on the L Train? Wring More Efficiency Out of the Streets

The morning commute on the Williamsburg Bridge on November 1, 2012, when Sandy had knocked out the downtown subway network. Photo: Elizabeth Press

Gothamist dropped a bombshell earlier this week: To repair Sandy-inflicted damage to the L train tubes between Manhattan and Brooklyn, the MTA will have to suspend service through the tunnel for large chunks of time.

The repairs can get done fastest if the MTA halts service around the clock, but that would still last one to two years, according to Ben Kabak at Second Avenue Sagas. The agency can maintain some service by doing the repairs one tube at a time, but that would drag out the process to at least three years.

Either way, we’re talking about a significant hit to transit capacity that will affect hundreds of thousands of people — on peak days there are close to 300,000 trips through the tunnel.

Mayor de Blasio told reporters yesterday that this isn’t the city’s problem since the state runs the MTA. That argument makes sense in many cases, but not this one. Regardless of how the MTA conducts the repairs and adjusts service on other lines, the city will have to play a large role in planning for this shock to NYC’s transportation system.

After Sandy knocked out a huge portion of the city’s downtown subway network, the city and the MTA teamed up to repurpose streets and bridges for high-capacity bus service, including buses that took riders over the Williamsburg Bridge. Some sort of service like that will have to happen again while the L train tunnel is repaired.

Read more…

No Comments

Here’s the Risk to Straphangers of Kicking the Can on the MTA Capital Plan

Rumors are swirling that the long-awaited answer to the key question vexing the MTA — how the state’s $8.3 billion share of the unfunded portion of the MTA capital plan will be paid for — is that dreaded four-letter word: D-E-B-T.

According to the terms of a deal reached by Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio in October, any additional debt should not be backed by MTA fares. But that deal could unravel — now, or in the future, when Cuomo is out of office.

What is the risk to straphangers if the deal implodes? I took a shot at calculating the answer, using my Balanced Transportation Analyzer model (Excel file).

The bottom line is that if the October agreement doesn’t hold up, financing the entire $8.3 billion “on the backs of transit users” would raise fares around 22-23 cents per ride. That would equate to an average 12 percent fare hike on top of the current average fare of $1.92. (That figure takes into account unlimiteds, free transfers, senior discounts, etc. and thus is well below the nominal $2.75 single-ride rate.)

The current 30-day unlimited price of $116.50 would rise by $14.00, shooting to $130.50, with the annualized increase of $168 surpassing the $149 cost of a Citi Bike membership. And the increase would be on top of the 4 percent biennial fare hikes the MTA has programmed indefinitely to cover rising operations costs.

As harsh as that would be, it’s a mere half of the impact I estimated here last May, before the MTA trimmed both the scope and cost of its 2015-2019 capital plan and before Governor Cuomo offloaded $2.5 billion in financing obligations onto Mayor de Blasio, reducing the state’s unfunded commitment to $8.3 billion.

On the other hand, holding the hit to 12 percent assumes favorable financing, notwithstanding the Federal Reserve’s boost in interest rates last month as well as the potential strain on the state’s borrowing capacity from other infrastructure projects that the governor announced last week. Just a one point increase in the MTA’s borrowing rate, to 5 percent instead of the 4 percent I’ve assumed, would tack another three or four cents onto the required fare hike.

In addition to further impoverishing millions of low-income New Yorkers, a 12 percent increase in subway and bus fares would be projected to have these consequences, based on the BTA model:

Read more…

47 Comments

Cuomo’s Long Island Growth Plan: More Trains and More Traffic

This morning, Governor Cuomo announced plans to move forward with the Long Island Railroad’s project for a third track on the main line between Floral Park and Hicksville in Nassau County. At the same time, Cuomo wants to study a car tunnel linking Long Island to either the Bronx, Westchester, or Connecticut.

The governor is proposing the construction of a third track along this 9.8 mile stretch of the Long Island Railroad. Image: Long Island Index

Cuomo wants to move forward with a third track to increase capacity along this 9.8-mile stretch of the Long Island Railroad. Image: Long Island Index

The LIRR project will lay 9.8 miles of track, primarily in the existing right of way, increasing capacity and hopefully spurring walkable development along one of the railroad’s busiest corridors. Expanding the main line will help existing commuters and wring more value out of the region’s most expensive mega-project, the East Side Access tunnel connecting LIRR to Grand Central.

Currently, nearly two-fifths of LIRR riders use the main line’s two tracks. With the Ronkonkoma, Port Jefferson, Montauk, and Oyster Bay branches all converging on the main line, service in the peak direction runs on both tracks during rush hours, severely constraining travel in the other direction. Small hiccups in operations often lead to major delays. With the additional track, ridership is expected to increase 40 percent, Cuomo said.

Regional transportation advocates have been calling for a third track for years. A 2014 study by the Long Island Index estimated that, in the 10 years following its completion, the project will bring 14,000 jobs, 35,000 residents, and $103 million in annual property tax revenue to the region.

“This is a project that is critical for Long Island,” said Tri-State Transportation Campaign Executive Director Veronica Vanterpool. “It’s critical if Long Island wants to address their congestion issues. It’s critical if Long Island wants to be a community that sheds its bedroom community status.”

Read more…

2 Comments

DOT: Full Woodhaven Boulevard Upgrades Coming Sometime Next Decade

DOT's proposal for the 2017 launch of the new Woodhaven Boulevard SBS will feature far fewer miles of main road bus lanes than originally expected. Image: DOT

Woodhaven Boulevard SBS will launch in 2017, but several miles of center road bus lanes have been pushed to the indefinite future. Image: DOT

DOT and the MTA will roll out enhanced bus service on Woodhaven Boulevard in 2017, but several miles of the promised bus lanes won’t come until the 2020s, agency representatives said yesterday.

While DOT says the Woodhaven overhaul will be built, the city is providing no certainty as to when the Department of Design and Construction will complete the street reconstruction required to deliver the whole project. The vagueness surrounding the construction timetable casts doubt on the future of the full six miles of center road bus lanes DOT had committed to.

Yesterday, at a presentation to the project’s Community Advisory Committee [PDF], the agency said enhanced bus service would begin running on Woodhaven in 2017, including 1.3 miles of dedicated bus lanes next to medians that separate the center roadway from service lanes. Those bus lanes are superior to ones that run next to the curb or the parking lane (which will also be added in 2017), because they’re less susceptible to getting blocked by illegally parked drivers. Earlier this year, DOT said that design would apply to six miles of Woodhaven Boulevard.

Yesterday the agency had no timetable for implementing the rest of the center road bus lanes, which will accompany the reconstruction of the street by DDC. However, Riders Alliance organizers who attended yesterday’s meeting were told to expect the full project to be completed sometime in the 2020s.

Detailed design and engineering will continue next year, with Select Bus Service beginning in 2017. In addition to main road bus lanes and median stops between Park Lane South and Rockaway Boulevard, the 2017 phase will add curbside bus lanes to several other sections of the corridor, as well as off-board fare payment and signal priority for buses.

The BRT for NYC Coalition says the 2017 project will be an important step in convincing Queens residents of the merits of bus rapid transit. “We look forward to the 1.3 miles of BRT and the meaningful results in safety and commute times it’ll offer for Queens,” said Masha Burina of the Riders Alliance. “We’d like to see a timelier implementation of [main road bus lanes] throughout the corridor and anticipate a productive relationship with the DOT/MTA to ensure all of Woodhaven Boulevard receives high-quality BRT as soon as possible.”

DOT said the Woodhaven timetable is consistent with how other SBS projects have been implemented:

Read more…

10 Comments

DOT, Chaim Deutsch, and CB 15 Set Stage for Latest MTA Pedestrian Death

When Council Member Chaim Deutsch and Brooklyn CB 15 objected, DOT dropped a plan that would have eliminated B36 turns at the intersection where an MTA bus driver killed Eleonora Shulkin, indicated by the red arrows. Image: DOT

When Council Member Chaim Deutsch and Brooklyn CB 15 objected, DOT dropped a plan that would have eliminated B36 turns at the intersection where an MTA bus driver killed Eleonora Shulkin, indicated by the red arrows. Image: DOT

An MTA bus driver killed a pedestrian in a crosswalk in Sheepshead Bay Monday. The crash happened at an intersection where DOT planned to eliminate bus turns, but the project was shelved in response to opposition from City Council Member Chaim Deutsch and Brooklyn Community Board 15.

Eleonora Shulkin, 62, was crossing E. 17th Street at around 6 p.m. when she was struck by the driver of a B36, who was turning left from Avenue Z.

The intersection where the crash occurred has marked crosswalks and traffic signals, with no apparent dedicated turn phase for vehicles. Shulkin was crossing east to west in the E. 17th Street crosswalk, according to WABC. Anonymous police sources told News 12 the victim had the right of way, but the NYPD public information office could not confirm. Police have not released the driver’s name and no charges were filed as of this morning.

MTA bus drivers have killed at least four people walking since November 1. Three of the four victims were in the crosswalk and were hit by bus drivers making turns.

Reducing conflicts between pedestrians and turning buses is one Vision Zero strategy to reduce pedestrian injuries and deaths. Last summer DOT and the MTA proposed to straighten the B36’s circuitous route on Avenue Z and Sheepshead Bay Road between E. 17th Street and E. 14th Street. By keeping buses on Avenue Z, where stops would have been centralized, DOT aimed to improve safety at a number of crossings where collisions are frequent — including the site of Monday’s crash, where the left turn for B36 buses would have been eliminated.

Read more…

1 Comment

Rukhsana Khan, 41, Third Pedestrian Killed by MTA Bus Driver in November

MTA bus drivers killed three people walking in November. The most recent victim was Rukhsana Khan, a 41-year-old mother of six. Image: News 12

MTA bus drivers killed three people walking in November. The most recent victim was Rukhsana Khan, a 41-year-old mother of six, struck on Thanksgiving eve. Image: News 12

New York City motorists killed three people walking over the holiday break.

At around 6 p.m. last Wednesday, November 25, an MTA express bus driver hit 41-year-old Rukhsana Khan on Ocean Avenue between Avenue J and Avenue K.

Rukhsana Khan. Photo via Daily News

Rukhsana Khan. Photo via Daily News

From the Daily News:

“The lady was in the middle of the street crossing,” said William Bizaldi, 64, who later discovered he had lived in the same building with the victim. “I heard like a boom and she looked like a plastic doll when she got hit.”

Albert Britton, 45, was onboard the bus at the time, and said the impact sounded like the bus “hitting a pothole.”

Khan, who had six children, was pronounced dead at New York Community Hospital.

Ocean Avenue is a wide, flat street, with four lanes for motor vehicle through-traffic at the location where Khan was struck. Video of the crash published by News 12 shows the bus driver traveling at a high rate of speed at the moment of impact. Video and photos taken at the scene showed that the bus was damaged on the front driver’s side.

In a second report, the Daily News spoke with people who said the bus driver was speeding, and that reckless driving is common on Ocean Avenue.

Neighbors implored the city to crack down on fast drivers. Witnesses said the bus was speeding, and urged officials to install speed bumps near the site.

“This area right here, they come speeding, 60 or 65,” said Wanda Bizaldi, 52, a neighbor. “Whether she was right or wrong, that’s too fast. It’s a shame that she died right here in front of the building.”

Drivers have injured dozens of people on Ocean Avenue this year, according to DOT crash data. The 70th Precinct, where the crash occurred, issues an average of between one and two speeding tickets a day.

NYPD filed no charges against the bus driver who killed Rukhsana Khan. MTA bus drivers have killed five pedestrians and one cyclist in 2015, including three pedestrians in November, according to crash data tracked by Streetsblog.

Read more…

20 Comments

Will Council Members Who Want Transit Improvements Back Toll Reform?

At yesterday’s City Council transportation committee hearing, chair Ydanis Rodriguez hoped to engage the MTA and DOT concerning areas of the city that need more transit options. But despite being invited, according to Rodriguez, the MTA refused to send anyone.

Instead, DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg promised to pressure the MTA to invest in transportation projects to improve commuter times between Manhattan and the edges of the city.

A bill introduced by Rodriguez and Daneek Miller would require DOT and the MTA to assess transportation availability in neighborhoods identified as “transit deserts.” Another bill would mandate that the two agencies study the feasibility of a new light rail system. Trottenberg requested that those proposals be folded into a study already underway, commissioned by the council earlier this year, on options for improved bus rapid transit.

Since Mayor de Blasio has upped the city’s MTA contribution, the administration is in a position to “exert pressure” on the MTA “to see that they are equitably serving the parts of the city that have traditionally been so under-served,” Trottenberg said. “That is very high on our agenda.”

Council members expressed skepticism that the MTA would pull through on outer-borough transit projects. Miller said that new Hudson Yards subway service, a capital project funded by the city, serves far fewer passengers per day than proposed projects in eastern Queens. “We want to make sure the services are being provided equitably, and I think right now they are not,” he said.

Bronx rep Jimmy Vacca urged Trottenberg to act urgently on improving express buses. “People in my district, and people in the Bronx, are asking for relief,” he told Trottenberg. “Now that we’re having this discussion, we can’t wait for long-term plans. We have to do what we can do now.”

Among the specific projects discussed was expansion of the MTA CityTicket program, which makes commuter rail tickets cheaper for city residents. The council is currently considering a resolution calling on the MTA to equalize the cost of commuter train travel within city limits with the cost of a subway ride.

Read more…