Joe Lhota, the recently-installed chairman of the MTA. Credit: Stephen Nessen/WNYC

THE COMMUTE: Joe Lhota was confirmed last week as the new MTA chairman. So the big question is: Will we see positive changes at the MTA or will it just be business as usual? Judging from his initial comments, my guess is the latter. A chairman needs to think broadly and Lhota appears to be myopic. When the Staten Island Advance told Lhota of desires to extend bus service from the gates of the College of Staten Island to operate within the campus, his immediate response was that, although the need is recognized, the MTA cannot afford it.

The MTA estimated the additional annual cost as between $250,000 and $1,000,000, which is really minimal — $1,000 to $4,000 a day. How is the MTA deriving their costs? Are they including revenue, or just operating costs, and why such a large range? Lhota rejected not only that proposal, but any proposal to increase service. That shows no change in thinking from previous administrations.

The MTA needs a way to prioritize requests from different communities and act on the most pressing ones first. The fact that he also cited a reduction in the payroll tax as a reason for rejection, despite Governor Cuomo’s promise that the amounts lost will be made up by the state, makes it appear that he is just looking for excuses to say no, which has always been the MTA’s modus operandi.

According to former Chairman Jay Walder, when interviewed at his new Hong Kong job, he stated to reporters that, while in New York, he was able “to put the system back on firm financial footing.” So where is the problem? Why is Lhota rejecting all service improvements?

Responsibility

The point is, the MTA continues to plan and makes its decisions shrouded in secrecy and say and do whatever it wants without explanation and with little or no oversight. They reject all ideas to improve or expand service without providing a transparent methodology. Its planning guidelines are still not available on its website. Like Walder, Lhota claims to believe in transparency. Walder did make improvements in this area by making more information publicly available, but did so in a manner that still involves a lot of digging on its website to find what you want, and most of time you have to know what you are looking for; sometimes the information is conflicting. If the MTA wanted to know what we think, there would be a complaint or suggestion button right on the home page.

The MTA needs to be more effective and responsive to its riders instead of the real estate industry. A new chairman needs to be focusing on better serving the passengers. He should be analyzing the corporate culture, for example, how the MTA operates, how bickering between departments and blame shifting often prevents the MTA from being efficient — in other words, how to make the MTA more functional. He did say he wants to streamline the agency, but does he have a plan? Why, after 40 years, is the MTA still not streamlined? As President Obama stated when campaigning four years ago, streamlining must be done with a scalpel not a machete. I hope Lhota recognizes that. You want to cut the fat, not the meat, and that takes a lot of work.

MTA managers earning over $100,000 per year need to earn their salary. It is unconscionable that there are still some high paid managers without any subordinates and others get by just doing the minimum amount of work possible. Those are exceptions, not the rule, and this is where the MTA needs to use their scalpel. Good work needs to be rewarded, instead of promotions being based on how well you agree with your boss, with creative thinking discouraged.

A former co-worker told me a story last year of how he uncovered a problem with a piece of equipment. Rather than being acknowledged and rewarded for discovering the problem he was admonished by his boss, because he was now required to take some action to correct the problem and that meant extra work. The employee now became the “problem,” as the boss saw it. I am sure that was not an isolated incident.

When I was at New York City Transit, employee evaluations were more or less of a joke, with some bosses even too lazy to write them. They either had another employee, who may not have even personally known the employee being evaluated, write the evaluation, or else let the employee write his own evaluation, which the boss then reviewed. The boss first decides who should receive a merit, and structures the evaluations accordingly instead of the other way around. Someone could think he is performing well all year, and then finds himself with a poor evaluation because there are only so many merit increases available. All this is moot now since the budget has not allowed any merits in approximately four years and that does not exactly stimulate high morale.

When Being Economical May Not Make Sense

Also while speaking to the Staten Island Advance, Lhota was asked about light rail for Staten Island’s north shore, a subject I discussed last week. He responded that the MTA is leaning toward Select Bus Service instead because it is more economical. That is not how the subway system was built. The IND was planned for future growth of a city with 12 million inhabitants by building stations with expansive mezzanines because planners did not forecast the growth of the automobile and suburban sprawl. They did not choose the most “economical” plan. What is viewed as most economical today may be viewed as foolhardy 20 or 40 years from now.

Building a busway instead of light rail will mean that a direct light rail trip over the Bayonne Bridge will never be possible. Sometimes being economical is not the correct choice. Why did the original subway flooring last 100 years, while the tile installed during the last 20 years is already falling apart and being maintained with mismatched colors or concrete patching? Was the MTA trying to be economical?

Who Does The MTA Serve?

What Lhota is really saying is that Staten Islanders do not deserve light rail, but at the same time the MTA is thinking of extending the #7 to Secaucus via a new tunnel, because New Jersey does deserve rail. Okay, it may never happen without the proper political support, but why should the needs of people from another state be placed above the needs of the people in New York’s outer boroughs, who have been promised numerous subway extensions for decades?

The answer is that, rather than having a rational planning process, we have decisions made on a purely political basis. We have a #7 being extended to the Javits Center at the same time Governor Cuomo announces plans for a new convention center near JFK with the Javits Center proposed for demolition.

Now this week we learn that Mayor Bloomberg had considered a site near Willets Point for a new convention center. So, why did he insist on extending the #7 to the Javits Center? Was it to make the land more valuable for residential development which will replace the Javits Center so the “one percent” can get richer? Why was there controversy over the payment terms the MTA agreed to when leasing the Hudson Yards, and allegations that Atlantic Yards was sold by the MTA for below market value? Are the mayor and the MTA serving the public or the real estate industry? The fact that most Board members come from the real estate and banking industries rather than being transit experts should provide a clue.

Lhota may not be able to choose the MTA Board, but he will have to decide if he is aligning himself with the riders or big real estate. We will know for sure when the MTA disposes of its current headquarters in Midtown and its former offices at 370 Jay Street in Downtown Brooklyn, which has long remained vacant. The MTA leases 370 Jay from the city. Will the MTA receive a fair price, or will they again be accused of giving away the store? But, what I don’t understand is why the MTA is determining the building value when the city actually owns the property, and who would be the beneficiary of the funds?

The Need For Innovation

The MTA needs to be innovative and one way is to analyze various fare structures such as a time-based fare, discounts for families, or a greatly reduced fare to someone who is willing to layout money for a pass valid for 60 days to a year. Any plan must meet its designed purpose and not be subject to abuse, which was one reason for the discontinuance of the popular one-day Fun Pass. It was intended for tourists, not messenger services.

The MTA tries its best to prevent round trips from being made for a single fare, as if that is the worst crime a passenger could commit. When someone uses their car, they frequently combine several trip purposes at once. Without a monthly pass, that is impossible on the MTA system since you are charged every time you leave the system, no matter how short the trip is.

If as many trips as possible that could begin within a 90-minute or two-hour period were allowed for a single fare, combining trips would be possible and additional discretionary off-peak travel would be encouraged when system capacity usually is available. Instead, under the current system, which allows you only one out-of-system transfer within a two-hour period, you are not even guaranteed that one fare will get you to your destination, more so with recent service cutbacks. Also, sometimes, it is quicker to take a bus to a train to a bus than making the entire trip using two buses. The MTA would encourage more train usage and be able to reduce some bus service, actually saving them money if passengers were not constrained by the number transfers allowed for one fare.

The lesson to be learned is that the MTA needs to start thinking outside of the box. Mr. Lhota merely stated that he would continue to seek biennial fare increases.

The MTA also needs to ask the riders what they want and consider their desires, instead of pretending to be the experts having all the answers. Not only does the MTA not listen to the public, one department usually dismisses ideas from within the agency, but from outside their department, and many departments do not even encourage suggestions from within their own department. There is much talent within the agency that goes untapped because of strict bureaucratic rules, such as not going over your boss’ head. Jay Walder’s biggest accomplishment was to allow outsiders to design applications for mobile devices, abandoning some of the MTA’s paranoia over not trusting anyone outside the agency. Lhota has not mentioned any new ideas thus far.

We need the new chairman to be innovative. Instead, in his interview with the New York Daily News, Lhota responded that he is most bothered by things like flaking paint and improving the MTA’s image. Really, are those the most important things he can think of? It will take a lot more than cosmetic improvements to improve the MTA’s image. He also doesn’t say anything enlightening here either, during an interview he gave to amNewYork.

Flaking paint also bothers me and probably most other subway riders. It makes no sense to skimp on something as cheap as paint. Unless you are painting over an area with water damage, which you are not first correcting, you get the biggest bang for the buck simply by repainting. Stations used to be painted on a regular schedule, approximately every 10 years. Apparently that schedule has been lengthened so much that it doesn’t seem to exist anymore. Lhota is correct in wanting to give painting a higher priority, but subway cosmetic improvements shouldn’t even be a concern of his. That should be the job of NYCT President.

Lhota also told The Daily News that he will be a “rider-chairman” with the power to get any problems he sees fixed. That beats taking a limo to work, but he is fooling himself if he thinks taking the IRT a few stops to work every day will give him an idea of what bus riders face every day in Brooklyn or Staten Island. Gee, if I were chairman, I could also call up the NYCT President everyday to say, “I want that fixed.” And for everything that is fixed for the chairman, something else will remain unfixed.

Conclusion

Walder did not fare well with Albany or the unions. Although he was considered a transit expert, perhaps he did not have the right personality for the job. Lhota is supposed to be more of a down to earth kind of guy and may do better in that area. Let us hope so, but he must also bring original thinking to the table, thinking that involves the big picture. So far, nothing he has said has inspired me. He clearly is a bright guy. Let’s hope he isn’t myopic, blindly believing everything he is told by his underlings, and can be a real leader.

The Commute is a weekly feature highlighting news and information about the city’s mass transit system and transportation infrastructure. It is written by Allan Rosen, a Manhattan Beach resident and former Director of MTA/NYC Transit Bus Planning (1981).

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  • http://www.stationreporter.net/ Subway-buff

    Mr. Rosen needs to get his facts straight:
    1-NYCT already has a 7 day and a 30 day unlimited MetroCard.
    2-They are available from any staffed booth or if you prefer from vending machines and even from some out of system merchants.
    3- The two hour limit only Applies to MetroCards with money such as 10.00, $25.00, etc.  Unlimited MetroCards can be used every 18 minutes.

    I am a retired NYCT Station Agent

    • Allan Rosen

      Please reread the article. Nothing you state which is all true, contradicts with anything I have written.

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  • Ryan

    I wish there were more articles like this. Really like the level of detail, and very impressed that it dives into tactics of middle management (once you assume the unions are completely unhelpful that becomes the biggest level for improvement). That said, also really wish the writer understood better the political realities of the job. And frankly I’m shocked that if he worked in operations planning, he doesn’t have a better understanding of how unprofitable all service is and why the chairman is really just fighting not to cut service. The major decisions and innovation are often restricted by the politics. All relatively minor critiques, but I have to say the fact that the author doesn’t recognize how exceptional Jay Walder was (far from business as usual from a Chairman, and he only left because it IS business as usual from the politicians and unions), does take away credibility. 

    • Allan Rosen

      First, I wouldn’t assume the unions are completely unhelpful. I think that has been part of the problem, making that assumption. You will find that if you treat people with respect, you will get different results. I don’t think the MTA has treated them with respect.

      I have a very good understanding how unprofitable service is but I also realize that there are multiple ways of calculating costs. You can include all overhead and make everything seem unprofitable or you can consider incremental costs, and not consider fixed costs like pensions and debt service, and come out with quite different results. If every route is unprofitable, does that mean all service should be discontinued? That certainly is one argument you can make or does the MTA havevsomevsort of social obligation to run service to serve the people regardless of costs. That is another. Please explain how Jay Walder was so exceptional. Thanlk you.

      • Ryan

        I think the unions’ track record speaks for itself, but not really what I want to focus on, because those arguments are circular not sure the two of us could add much to what others have said. Also not sure it makes sense to get into a definition of marginal cost – would just be arguing over what they do and don’t count. I think more broadly my critique is that the MTA is not the politicians. It operates under the constraints of the politicians, so it’s not really up to them to decide the social value of providing service. Their job is to most efficiently allocate resources to provide the most service to the most people. The state provides the subsidies and when those fall short (they always do) then the MTA has to ration. Asking the MTA to fund incremental service only comes at the expense of either higher debt payments down the road or deteriorating capital stock. Walder was the first Chairman to really have any meaningful savings. Also the only chairman to ever have any layoffs of any meaningful size (I realize they coincided with service cuts but the layoffs went way beyond the labor reductions from the service cuts). You have to take the financial context into account to really have any appreciation but basically he overcame a $1b funding shortfall. Of that $500m efficiencies. Chairman come and go – Walder knew that between Cuomo’s short-termism and a few other pitfalls, it was only a matter of time before once again the MTA itself gets blamed. To me it’s pretty obvious that that the only constant at the MTA is that it’s ultimately run by the politicians. 

        Anyway these are same old same old arguments, but really the only notable group/person who didn’t think very highly of Walder is the TWU and other labor allies. Though you have lots of socialist/populist rhetoric in your piece, you also have lots of good insight so it’s surprising you would come to that conclusion. 

        • Allan Rosen

          I found it much easier to deal with the union people than those in management positions.  The union people are more likely to tell it like it is, than management who is much less truthful, giving you less honest answers, more likely to shift blame, give you conflicting answers and interpret data in a dishonest manner.

          Regarding Walder, I agree with you on most of the efficiencies he made although I don’t agree with all the station attendant layoffs or how the service cuts were implemented.  They were not done as you say to most efficiently allocate resources to provide the most service to the most people which should have been the goal.  I believe politics played a larger role than most people realize.  Walder was the first Chairman to publicly admit that the MTA was not efficient and could operate much better.  He deserves an A for that admission.

          My biggest problem with Walder is that he made a committment and didn’t stay to complete the job.  I also hope Lhota doesn’t also leave as soon as he sees a better opportunity.  Contracts ought to work both ways.

  • Anonymous

    At times like this,when the economy is bad,and gas prices are high,there is more need than ever for increased bus and train service.Instead the MTA looks to make cuts. The people who need the service are made to suffer. They never look at the idea,that expanding service,would bring in more revenue. But the priority seems to be,on spending money on management,and the unions.

    • Allan Rosen

      The problem is if the extra revenue that is brought in necessitates service increases, you are further behind financially. That is how a private corporation would view it. The entire reason for creating an agency such as the MTA is for them to see they have a social responsibility to provide service whether it pays for itself or not. The MTA has lost sight of that because everyone they put in charge have their expertise in business, not in transportation or social planning. Every decision they make is driven by what will it cost in the short run and what can be done the most economically.

      • Ryan

        Who would fund this expansion of service? 

        • Allan Rosen

          It may not be possible now to expand service, but the MTA has never wanted to expand service even in good economic times.  They are always looking to cut.  Remember the last time there was a surplus?  Instead of reinvesting it back in the system, they decided to give it back to the passengers by providing free trips as a Christmas present. When ridership rose 30 percent they only increased service about 3%.  As soon as there  is the slightest decrease in ridership, they immediately decrease service which leads to a downward spiral of reducing ridership further.

          • Allan Rosen

            I should say not possible to expand service to a major extent.  But they may be able to make small increases where the change could pay for itself.  Sometimes a schedule could be rewritten to provide more service without increasing operating costs.

          • Andrew

            Nonsense.  When ridership at the peak load point grows to the point that loading guidelines are exceeded, service is increased.  When ridership at the peak load point declines to the point that loads are well below guidelines, service is decreased.

            When MetroCard fueled a massive bus ridership increase, service was increased by a lot more than 3%.  It didn’t all happen right away, because I don’t think there were enough buses available right away.

            I don’t think you will find many transit advocates or current MTA employees (management or union) who thought the holiday bonus was a good idea.  That was a political move made by the Kalikow administration.  That was three chairmen ago.

          • Allan Rosen

            Yes, that is what they supposed to be doing. Who is overseeing them to make sure it actually happens? Is it you?

            The MTA admitted themselves that service was increased nowhere to the amount revenue increased. They laimed it wasn’t necessary since most of the increase in ridership occurred when capacity was already provided, according to them. Passengers however claimed the trains were more crowded.

            Doesn’t matter how many chairmen ago it was. It was still the MTA.

          • Andrew

            Yes, that is what they supposed to be doing. Who is overseeing them to make sure it actually happens? Is it you?

            A year ago, we had an extended discussion about this document, which shows both increases and decreases.  These are routine guideline-based adjustments, up and down, as called for by changes in ridership.  (Since bus ridership has been dropping, it should come as no surprise that there are more downs than ups.)

            The MTA admitted themselves that service was increased nowhere to the amount revenue increased. They laimed it wasn’t necessary since most of the increase in ridership occurred when capacity was already provided, according to them.

            New riders who aren’t passing through the peak load point don’t need more service – the existing service is already sufficient.  Only if they’re passing through the peak load point, and increasing the load beyond the guideline, is an increase warranted.

            (Revenue has nothing to do with loading guidelines.  This is really, really basic stuff on how any transit agency determines headway requirements.)

            Passengers however claimed the trains were more crowded.

            Passengers always claim that trains are crowded, but no transit agency bases headways passengers’ claims of crowded trains!  That’s why there are traffic checkers.

            Doesn’t matter how many chairmen ago it was. It was still the MTA.

            Was, past tense.  Isn’t this an article about Lhota?

  • Andrew

    The fact that he also cited a reduction in the payroll tax as a reason for rejection, despite Governor Cuomo’s promise that the amounts lost will be made up by the state, makes it appear that he is just looking for excuses to say no, which has always been the MTA’s modus operandi.

    I’m glad to hear that Cuomo managed to convince someone.  Cuomo doesn’t have a stellar track record when it comes to transit funding, so I’ll believe that he’ll follow through when I see the money.  By the way, do you assume that the state will make up the difference next year, and the following year, and the year after, and every year after Cuomo is out of office?

    Also while speaking to the Staten Island Advance, Lhota was asked about light rail for Staten Island’s north shore, a subject I discussed last week. He responded that the MTA is leaning toward Select Bus Service instead because it is more economical. That is not how the subway system was built. The IND was planned for future growth of a city with 12 million inhabitants by building stations with expansive mezzanines because planners did not forecast the growth of the automobile and suburban sprawl. They did not choose the most “economical” plan. What is viewed as most economical today may be viewed as foolhardy 20 or 40 years from now.

    The MTA has a massive hole in its capital and operating budgets.  Now is not the time to be grandiose.  Sorry.

    What Lhota is really saying is that Staten Islanders do not deserve light rail,

    No he isn’t.

    but at the same time the MTA is thinking of extending the #7 to Secaucus via a new tunnel, because New Jersey does deserve rail.

    The MTA is doing nothing of the sort.  The mayor is studying it.

    Okay, it may never happen without the proper political support, but why should the needs of people from another state be placed above the needs of the people in New York’s outer boroughs, who have been promised numerous subway extensions for decades?

    Ask the mayor.  The MTA has no interest in extending the 7 to New Jersey.

    The answer is that, rather than having a rational planning process, we have decisions made on a purely political basis. We have a #7 being extended to the Javits Center at the same time Governor Cuomo announces plans for a new convention center near JFK with the Javits Center proposed for demolition.

    This is rich.  The MTA is to blame for accepting the city’s money to extend the 7 to the West Side because a future governor would later announce that Javits would be closed?

    By the way, the line isn’t being extended to serve the Javits Center.  It’s being extended to serve “26 million square feet of new office development, 20,000 units of housing, of which almost 5,000 units will be affordable units, 2 million square feet of retail, and 3 million square feet of hotel space.”

    Now this week we learn that Mayor Bloomberg had considered a site near Willets Point for a new convention center. So, why did he insist on extending the #7 to the Javits Center? Was it to make the land more valuable for residential development which will replace the Javits Center so the “one percent” can get richer?

    No, it was to spur new development.  There was no plan to tear down Javits until a few weeks ago.

    Why was there controversy over the payment terms the MTA agreed to when leasing the Hudson Yards, and allegations that Atlantic Yards was sold by the MTA for below market value?

    I don’t know.  Why don’t you ask Peter Kalikow?  What does this have to do with Joe Lhota?

    Are the mayor and the MTA serving the public or the real estate industry? The fact that most Board members come from the real estate and banking industries rather than being transit experts should provide a clue.

    I don’t like the structure of the MTA Board, but it’s what we have, as defined by state law.  If you don’t like the individual members, complain to the elected officials who appointed them.  Kalikow and Hemmerdinger were real estate people who knew little about transit, and it showed.  Walder proved himself to be far more competent, but I can’t blame him for leaving when the new governor wouldn’t give him the time of day.  I’m skeptical about Lhota, but he just started, so I’m willing to give him a chance and not jump to conclusions.

    The MTA needs to be innovative and one way is to analyze various fare structures such as a time-based fare, discounts for families, or a greatly reduced fare to someone who is willing to layout money for a pass valid for 60 days to a year.

    What’s your rationale for discounts for families?  

    Ideally, I think the fare should be lower for people who take short trips, for people who ride off-peak, and for people who stay away from the peak load point, although it’s hard to tell where exactly people are riding without exit swipes.

    Any plan must meet its designed purpose and not be subject to abuse, which was one reason for the discontinuance of the popular one-day Fun Pass. It was intended for tourists, not messenger services.

    Nonsense.  The abuse that led to the elimination of the Fun Pass was abuse by scammers, who would collect cash and swipe people in every 18 minutes.  There’s nothing wrong with a messenger taking lots of short off-peak trips, which, as you know, cost the agency little.  (And most messengers probably use 30-day cards anyway.)

    The MTA tries its best to prevent round trips from being made for a single fare, as if that is the worst crime a passenger could commit. When someone uses their car, they frequently combine several trip purposes at once. Without a monthly pass, that is impossible on the MTA system since you are charged every time you leave the system, no matter how short the trip is.

    I agree that this would be very nice.  But it would also come at a cost, since a lot of people who now pay multiple fares would pay only one.  I think it should be incorporated into a fare increase: raise the base fare a bit more than would otherwise be called for, but offset the increase by offering unlimited transfers within two hours.

    I guarantee that you are not the first to suggest it.  I hope it happens soon.

    (By the way, when you use a car, you also pay more for a long drive than for a short drive.  Do you want to see that also adopted on the subway?)

    If as many trips as possible that could begin within a 90-minute or two-hour period were allowed for a single fare, combining trips would be possible and additional discretionary off-peak travel would be encouraged when system capacity usually is available.

    Slightly.

    Instead, under the current system, which allows you only one out-of-system transfer within a two-hour period, you are not even guaranteed that one fare will get you to your destination, more so with recent service cutbacks.

    Almost all trips that could be made with one fare can still be made with one fare.

    Also, sometimes, it is quicker to take a bus to a train to a bus than making the entire trip using two buses. The MTA would encourage more train usage and be able to reduce some bus service, actually saving them money if passengers were not constrained by the number transfers allowed for one fare.

    Possibly.  I’m skeptical that there are enough riders for whom this applies to make a measurable difference, but it’s plausible.

    The lesson to be learned is that the MTA needs to start thinking outside of the box. Mr. Lhota merely stated that he would continue to seek biennial fare increases.

    Good for him.  As I’ve said before, the fare should keep pace with inflation.

    The MTA also needs to ask the riders what they want and consider their desires, instead of pretending to be the experts having all the answers.

    Most riders don’t respond to surveys, and those who do are often not a representative sample.  Rider input is an important factor, but it isn’t everything.

    Not only does the MTA not listen to the public, one department usually dismisses ideas from within the agency, but from outside their department, and many departments do not even encourage suggestions from within their own department.

    In other words, you had bad experiences when you worked there.  We know. (By the way, we’ve only heard your side.)

    There is much talent within the agency that goes untapped because of strict bureaucratic rules, such as not going over your boss’ head.

    Yes, the MTA is a bureaucracy.  That’s news?

    Jay Walder’s biggest accomplishment was to allow outsiders to design applications for mobile devices, abandoning some of the MTA’s paranoia over not trusting anyone outside the agency. Lhota has not mentioned any new ideas thus far.

    Lhota just started!  Give him a chance.

    Lhota also told The Daily News that he will be a “rider-chairman” with the power to get any problems he sees fixed. That beats taking a limo to work, but he is fooling himself if he thinks taking the IRT a few stops to work every day will give him an idea of what bus riders face every day in Brooklyn or Staten Island. Gee, if I were chairman, I could also call up the NYCT President everyday to say, “I want that fixed.” And for everything that is fixed for the chairman, something else will remain unfixed.

    You mean the Staten Island where Lhota just announced the new BusTime system last week?  Seems like a pretty significant improvement to me.  And the X22A pilot starts up soon.

    I certainly hope that MTA chairmen get around by transit.  I haven’t seen Lhota yet, but I did run into Walder a few times on the subway.

    • Allan Rosen

      You seem to have an answer for everything, don’t you?

      I’m not going to do a point by point rebuttal with you but just make a few 
      comments.

      Well, I guess, Lhota publicly calling his boss a liar is the way to start off a good relationship.   And he can’t make any improvements now because in 4 years the next governor may cut the MTA’s funding. Got ya. Maybe the MTA should also stop all construction now since the Mayan’s predict the end of the world on December 22nd?

      Okay so it is the mayor’s  idea to extend the 7 to Secaucus and paying for it 
      to boot. Will they also be subsidizing the MTA to run the line once it is in 
      operation? Or will the MTA have to reduce service elsewhere to pay for it?  You know that zero cost increase thing the MTA is so big on. Yes, the MTA could have said, Thanks but no.

      The reason given for the #7 line when it was suggested by Bloomberg was to serve the Javits Center. I believe that was around 2007. Selling the Hudson Yards air rights for development goes back to 2001. There never was any mention of the 7 line back then. It would look pretty dumb to extend a line for something that is going to be demolished so history is just rewritten to say that the original intention was for Hudson Yards Development. Yeah that may have even been the real reason, but if it were publicly stated before construction started, do you think it would have gotten any public support? 

      Why would anyone support a major expenditure to make the land more valuable and increase profits for big real estate, when there are so many other pressing needs for improved transit service for existing needs, not future needs? The official reason was to serve the Javits Center. And since the MTA owns Hudson Yards which it will now serve, they are just as guilty as the mayor.

      Atlantic Yards has nothing to do with Lhota and I never said that it did. 

      The rationale for family discounts is that a round trip for a family of 4 costs $18, $36 if two fares are required. And yes, there are trips requiring two fares and as more bus routes are cut severing connections, more trips will require double fare.  

      You can dismiss the number by saying it is only 1% of the trips. Hey, what percent of the population is murdered? Is that only 1% too? So let’s not bothering trying to catch murderers. I just love it when people say only a small percent are affected so it doesn’t matter, even if that number is in the thousands.

      The Funpass was abused by scammers. They are also abusing unlimited passes. Should we get rid of them also? The funpass was bought up in large numbers by messenger services who shared them among employees, so instead of maybe six rides being taken on one pass as projected, more like 50 were taken with each pass and it was costing the MTA more than they projected. The reason I gave was not nonsense.

      I never said rider input was everything so don’t put words in my mouth. 

      If what I say is only based on my bad experiences, why do I receive so many comments from other transit workers that I am hitting the nail on the head when I share my experiences?

      Lhota didn’t promise to use the system more because that would be good. He just said that he would take it to and from work. 

      And now you are giving him credit for bringing BusTime to Staten Island which he had nothing to do with.

      I realize he is brand new and I am not condemning him. I said I hope he turns out to be a leader because that’s what the MTA needs. I just don’t think he is off to a good start.

      • Andrew

        You seem to have an answer for everything, don’t you?

        There’s actually quite a bit I didn’t comment on.

        Well, I guess, Lhota publicly calling his boss a liar is the way to start off a good relationship.   And he can’t make any improvements now because in 4 years the next governor may cut the MTA’s funding. Got ya. Maybe the MTA should also stop all construction now since the Mayan’s predict the end of the world on December 22nd?

        Wow, you really don’t get it.  The governor cut one of the MTA’s secure funding sources and made an obscure promise that, don’t worry, he doesn’t know how, but the state will make up the difference – and you think the MTA should take that to the bank?  This is a governor who has shown no interest in supporting transit, in a state that has repeatedly stolen tax revenues earmarked for transit, and you seriously think the MTA should take him at his word?  I sincerely hope I’m wrong about this, but there is not a chance in hell that the MTA will see that money.  Spending money based on a nebulous promise is highly irresponsible.

        Okay so it is the mayor’s  idea to extend the 7 to Secaucus and paying for it to boot. Will they also be subsidizing the MTA to run the line once it is in operation? Or will the MTA have to reduce service elsewhere to pay for it?  

        I’m not sure who will be paying for operations.  But if the Hudson Yards is built up to the extend projected, the new station will be extremely busy, so this is one case where fares will probably cover operating costs.

        You know that zero cost increase thing the MTA is so big on. Yes, the MTA could have said, Thanks but no.

        Complain to Peter Kalikow about it.  (By the way, cost neutrality only became a requirement after the economy tanked in 2008.)

        The reason given for the #7 line when it was suggested by Bloomberg was to serve the Javits Center. I believe that was around 2007. Selling the Hudson Yards air rights for development goes back to 2001. There never was any mention of the 7 line back then. It would look pretty dumb to extend a line for something that is going to be demolished so history is just rewritten to say that the original intention was for Hudson Yards Development. Yeah that may have even been the real reason, but if it were publicly stated before construction started, do you think it would have gotten any public support?

        I’m sorry, you are dead wrong.  Hudson Yards development has been an ongoing goal since 2001 (yes, the Giuliani days), and an extension of the 7 has always been an integral piece of the plans.  The EIS, released in 2004 and approved in 2005, specifically includes an extension of the 7.By the way, “Hudson Yards” refers to the planned development.  The existing LIRR yard is called West Side Yard.

        Atlantic Yards has nothing to do with Lhota and I never said that it did.

        So why do you bring it up in a post on Lhota?By the way, “Atlantic Yards” refers to the planned development.  The existing LIRR yard is called Vanderbilt Yard.

        The rationale for family discounts is that a round trip for a family of 4 costs $18, $36 if two fares are required.

        That’s a reason for a family to want a discount.  It’s not a rationale for a transit provider to provide one.  A family of four takes up exactly as much space on the bus or train as four unrelated people.(And it actually costs $16.82, since you forgot to take into account the existing bonus.  You also forgot to mention that, if the family includes children shorter than 44 inches, it costs less, since they ride free.)

        And yes, there are trips requiring two fares and as more bus routes are cut severing connections, more trips will require double fare.  

        Yes, they exist.  They are very small in number, and most of them are trips that families would probably have little interest in taking by transit in the first place.

        You can dismiss the number by saying it is only 1% of the trips. Hey, what percent of the population is murdered? Is that only 1% too? So let’s not bothering trying to catch murderers. I just love it when people say only a small percent are affected so it doesn’t matter, even if that number is in the thousands.

        You have a strange sense of moral equivalence.

        The Funpass was abused by scammers. They are also abusing unlimited passes. Should we get rid of them also?

        I doubt they are, because they’re probably afraid that their expensive passes will be confiscated if they’re caught.  A Fun Pass is (or was) a relatively small outlay.

        The funpass was bought up in large numbers by messenger services who shared them among employees, so instead of maybe six rides being taken on one pass as projected, more like 50 were taken with each pass and it was costing the MTA more than they projected. The reason I gave was not nonsense.

        There’s nothing wrong with sharing an unlimited among multiple people as long as only one is riding at a time.  And most messenger trips probably don’t cost the MTA anything.Why would messenger services not use 30-day unlimiteds?

        I never said rider input was everything so don’t put words in my mouth.

        Then I don’t understand your objection.  Many recent service changes, including the upcoming X22A, have been made in response to rider input.

        If what I say is only based on my bad experiences, why do I receive so many comments from other transit workers that I am hitting the nail on the head when I share my experiences?

        Because people like to complain.

        Lhota didn’t promise to use the system more because that would be good. He just said that he would take it to and from work.

        The article you cite says that Lhota “expects to ride the rails regularly as head of the MTA.”  It says nothing about commuting to or from work.

        And now you are giving him credit for bringing BusTime to Staten Island which he had nothing to do with.

        I’m not giving him credit; I’m just pointing out that he might have an idea of what bus riders face in Staten Island.

        I realize he is brand new and I am not condemning him. I said I hope he turns out to be a leader because that’s what the MTA needs. I just don’t think he is off to a good start.

        And I think you’re basing your assessment on media clips and off-the-cuff quotations taken out of context rather than on anything substantive.

        • Allan Rosen

          I must have missed the part where Cuomo said he doesn’t know where he will
          find the money.

          Extremely busy is a relative term. The 7 is only one line and the new station surely can’t be
          as busy as a station with many lines such as Times Square, Grand Central, etc.
          There will be much commercial space, but only a small portion of the
          residential will be for affordable housing. 
          Taxis and limos may be the more popular choice of transportation for
          most of the residents than transit.It
          will also take years for Hudson Yards to be fully occupied when transit will be
          ready on Day 1.  What about the deficit
          for the first ten years or so even if the station eventually becomes profitable
          which is only conjecture anyway?

          Cost neutrality was the MTA’s premise long before 2008.  One of my bus proposals was rejected in 2003
          solely because it would cost $50,000 more annually.  That amounts to less than $150 a day and the MTA made zero
          allowance for additional revenue.  In
          1975, their maximum additional amount that could be spent on bus service
          changes was $250,000 or less than $1,000 a day, so it is safe to say they
          always believed in cost neutrality or near cost neutrality. They also never considered
          additional revenue improved service may bring to offset additional costs.

          Family discount – Four unrelated people have four separate incomes. A family
          of four has only one or two.  That was
          just an example.  There are families
          with more than 2 children. If someone has six children and they are over 44
          inches, shouldn’t they be able to go to Coney Island and back for less
          than $33.64?  They also need to spend
          money on rides and food which could easily bring the total bill to over $100 and are often on a limited income. They deserve a
          break. 

          “Because people like to complain.” 
          See you do have an answer for everything.

          If he hasn’t ridden the buses in Staten Island, he doesn’t have an idea what
          the riders face.  True, that article
          says he will ride the rails regularly whatever that means.  I thought I read that he would be traveling
          from Lincoln Square to his office but I must have been wrong because he stated
          he lives in Brooklyn Heights. That means he will take the Lexington Line to
          Grand Central or use the same line to go to meetings during the day at 2 Broadway (Bowling
          Green).  That hardly constitutes riding
          the rails.  You can be assured he won’t
          use the subway to go to a meeting in Jamaica or Concourse Yards.

          The article wasn’t only about Lhota. 
          It also was about the MTA which is why I brought up Atlantic Yards, etc.
          asking the question if he will be a different type of chairman or business as
          usual with the MTA and the City being more concerned with real estate industry
          profits than serving the public.If you are correct about Hudson Yards and the
          #7 extension planned from the beginning to serve it, it only proves that point.
          Even if the MTA isn’t funding it, they still will be operating it.  Let’s see if they will be just as willing to
          build a new line to serve the new convention center in the outer boroughs as
          they are to serve Manhattan (Reactivation of Rockaway LIRR) . Then we will know if Lhota will be different or
          not.

          “And I think you’re basing your assessment on media clips and off-the-cuff
          quotations taken out of context rather than on anything substantive.”  Perhaps so, but that is all I have to go
          on.  I hope I am wrong about him, but
          you don’t seem to be optimistic either about him.

          Regarding your other reply about bus service being reduced because of the
          service guidelines, you mention that it is only necessary to increase service
          when guidelines at the peak load point is exceeded. You assume that
          the MTA is diligent in this effort. If such is the case, how do you explain
          this http://www.sheepsheadbites.com/2010/10/is-the-mta-a-private-bus-service-for-kcc-students/  where virtually all buses were jam packed
          and 14 buses in a row flagged a stop during the midday? And if the MTA is doing such a great job to ensure its
          guidelines are met why does Kingsborough and other Colleges have to operate
          their own services? The MTA is very quick to reduce service, but not so quick
          to add it. I am sure there are many other instances where guidelines are exceeded and service is not added. 

           

           

           

          • Andrew

            I must have missed the part where Cuomo said he doesn’t know where he will find the money.

            I have no idea if he said it explicitly. I think it’s pretty well known that the state isn’t in superb financial condition, and Cuomo has shown his disdain for transit repeatedly, most notably, last year, by diverting funds earmarked for the MTA elsewhere. So when he announces that’s he’s going to give the MTA money, with no information on the source, why would anybody believe him?

            To put it another way – if the MTA were to take Cuomo at his word and use those funds to increase service, what would we say if (or when) those funds don’t materialize?

            Extremely busy is a relative term. The 7 is only one line and the new station surely can’t be as busy as a station with many lines such as Times Square, Grand Central, etc.

            Those are station complexes, each comprising several stations. The new station on the 7 will be a single station, and, once the development is complete, I repeat, it will be an extremely busy station.

            There will be much commercial space,

            Most of the space will be commercial.

            but only a small portion of the residential will be for affordable housing. Taxis and limos may be the more popular choice of transportation for most of the residents than transit.

            WOW. Are you seriously suggesting that most people who don’t qualify for so-called affordable housing don’t ride the subway?!

            It will also take years for Hudson Yards to be fully occupied when transit will be ready on Day 1.  What about the deficit for the first ten years or so even if the station eventually becomes profitable which is only conjecture anyway?

            If the development occurs, I don’t think there’s much conjecture about it.

            Cost neutrality was the MTA’s premise long before 2008.  One of my bus proposals was rejected in 2003 solely because it would cost $50,000 more annually.  That amounts to less than $150 a day and the MTA made zero
            allowance for additional revenue.  In 1975, their maximum additional amount that could be spent on bus service changes was $250,000 or less than $1,000 a day, so it is safe to say they always believed in cost neutrality or near cost neutrality. They also never considered additional revenue improved service may bring to offset additional costs.

            Perhaps the MTA didn’t think your proposal was particularly worthwhile. If it were cost-neutral, it could have been implemented if the MTA was convinced that the riders would prefer it. Without cost-neutrality, a stronger case needs to be made, since the operating budget needs to be increased.

            Family discount – Four unrelated people have four separate incomes. A family of four has only one or two.  

            Strange assumption. Four unrelated people could also be four unemployed job hunters or students. And a family of four could have three or four incomes.

            If you think that the unemployed should have discounted transit rides, I don’t think that’s a bad idea (although I don’t think the discount should be subsidized by the transit system).

            That was just an example.  There are families with more than 2 children. If someone has six children and they are over 44 inches, shouldn’t they be able to go to Coney Island and back for less than $33.64?  

            Not if they go by transit – why should they? They’re eight people making round trips. Why should they pay any less than eight other people making round trips?

            They also need to spend money on rides and food which could easily bring the total bill to over $100

            Why don’t you insist that Wonder Wheel and Nathan’s give family discounts?

            and are often on a limited income.

            But you didn’t propose discounted fares for people on limited incomes. You proposed discounted fares for families, whether or not on limited incomes. Why should a well-to-do family qualify for a discount while an individual on limited income not?

            They deserve a break.

            Odd use of the word “deserve.” What has a family done to “deserve” a break (at the expense of all other riders)?

            If he hasn’t ridden the buses in Staten Island, he doesn’t have an idea what the riders face.  

            I don’t know if he’s ridden the buses in Staten Island, and neither do you.

            True, that article says he will ride the rails regularly whatever that means.  I thought I read that he would be traveling from Lincoln Square to his office but I must have been wrong because he stated he lives in Brooklyn Heights. That means he will take the Lexington Line to Grand Central or use the same line to go to meetings during the day at 2 Broadway (Bowling Green).  That hardly constitutes riding the rails.  You can be assured he won’t use the subway to go to a meeting in Jamaica or Concourse Yards.

             
            You’re welcome to assume whatever you like to assume, but I’m not sure how you get that out of his statement to the press.

            The article wasn’t only about Lhota.

            Pardon me for being misled by your title.

            If you are correct about Hudson Yards and the #7 extension planned from the beginning to serve it, it only proves that point.

            If I am correct? Did you even glance at the EIS that I linked to in my earlier comment?

            What “point” does it prove? There is nothing wrong in my book with building a subway line to serve a dense mixed use commercial/residential area. This may come as a surprise, but increased supply of housing reduces housing costs elsewhere in the region. Housing is expensive in New York because of the supply-demand imbalance – increasing the supply helps to reduce the imbalance just a little bit.

            Let’s see if they will be just as willing to build a new line to serve the new convention center in the outer boroughs as they are to serve Manhattan (Reactivation of Rockaway LIRR) . Then we will know if Lhota will be different or not.

            I highly doubt there’s going to be a convention center in Ozone Park, but I’m surprised you’re in favor of a line that would primarily serve to bring people from Manhattan to a Queens convention center. Isn’t that Manhattan-centric?

            Perhaps so, but that is all I have to go on.  I hope I am wrong about him, but you don’t seem to be optimistic either about him.

            You could wait and see before penning a long article about his presumed faults. I’m skeptical as well, but I’ll give him a chance.

            Regarding your other reply about bus service being reduced because of the service guidelines, you mention that it is only necessary to increase service when guidelines at the peak load point is exceeded. You assume that the MTA is diligent in this effort. If such is the case, how do you explain this http://www.sheepsheadbites.com/2010/10/is-the-mta-a-private-bus-service-for-kcc-students/ where virtually all buses were jam packed and 14 buses in a row flagged a stop during the midday?

            I’m confused. You yourself state that “I don’t think more buses are the answer in this particular case.” Have you changed your mind?

            In any case, you saw 23 buses pass in a 33 minute period. That’s an incredibly high level of service, and I don’t think buses can realistically be scheduled any closer than that. If the exit surge from Kingsborough is so intense that it basically fills up that many buses, I don’t think there’s much that the MTA can do alone aside from building a rail line.

            By the way, loads are compared to guidelines not on a bus-by-bus basis but averaged over some period of time, probably an hour, so if some buses within the hour are overcrowded while others are nearly empty, the average bus is probably within guidelines. It also presumably takes a few years to check all of the bus routes in the city, so if ridership has increased on the B1 during a particular time period since the last check was made, the service increase is going to have to wait until the next check.

            Here are some upcoming adjustments:

            http://www.imagebam.com/image/6a23d4171010103
            http://www.imagebam.com/image/e6c1f8171010291
            http://www.imagebam.com/image/ddc11c171010377

            There are plenty of changes in either direction. The B49 was checked, and it’s going to have a very slight increase in April. Some lines are carrying impressive loads – look at the Saturday Bx16, slated for a 32.5% increase!

          • Allan Rosen

            I can’t keep going on with you forever. I’ll just say this. The conjecture was your statement tat the station would be profitable.

            If the MTA didn’t think my proposal was worthwhile, they didn’t say so. They only cited the cost It brought the walking distance to the route closer for hundreds of families at a cost of less than $200 a day not counting additional revenue.

            The title was not misleading.

            The reactivation of the Rockaway line would also improve travel for residents of southern Queens to Manhattan and other. queens destinations.

          • Allan Rosen

            I did say that the existing buses could fit additional passengers but that is not the point. You stated that the MTA is diligent in adhering to their guidelines. I was merely making the point that how could this be so when buses are so overcrowded during the off-peak when the guideline is 100% seated capacity.

            And they have been adding buses as enrollment increases, but the number of buses is always insufficient although the College provides its own buses carrying about 25% of the stiudents.

          • Andrew

            The conjecture was your statement tat the station would be profitable.

            Skim the Hudson Yards EIS.

            If the MTA didn’t think my proposal was worthwhile, they didn’t say so. They only cited the cost It brought the walking distance to the route closer for hundreds of families at a cost of less than $200 a day not counting additional revenue.

            It might have been worthwhile if it had been free. They decided that the benefit didn’t justify the cost.

            The reactivation of the Rockaway line would also improve travel for residents of southern Queens to Manhattan and other. queens destinations.

            And East Side Access improves travel for residents of the Queens neighborhoods served by the LIRR, but you don’t seem to be in favor of ESA.

            I did say that the existing buses could fit additional passengers but that is not the point. You stated that the MTA is diligent in adhering to their guidelines. I was merely making the point that how could this be so when buses are so overcrowded during the off-peak when the guideline is 100% seated capacity.

            No I didn’t.  You claimed that the MTA is eager to cut service when ridership drops but isn’t as eager to add service when ridership rises.  I responded that the two happen as part of the same process.  

            As I said yesterday, that process doesn’t happen every day and doesn’t guarantee below-guideline loads on each and every bus.  If the average load over an hour is above the guideline when the traffic checkers are out, which happens on each line (I presume) every few years, service is increased.  And if the average load over that same hour is substantially below the guideline, service is reduced.

            And they have been adding buses as enrollment increases, but the number of buses is always insufficient although the College provides its own buses carrying about 25% of the stiudents.

            Any substantial change in ridership, up or down, since the last traffic check will yield overcrowded or undercrowded buses.  That’s the nature of periodic checks.

            Only 2 out of the 25 buses you saw on your October 5 check were school buses.  I’d be very surprised 8% of the buses were carrying close to 25% of the students.

  • Allan Rosen

    To Andrew:

    Yes they didn’t think that proposal was worthwhile. Neither did they think any of the other 3O proposals I submitted under the Employee Suggestion Program were worthwhile either and dismissed all of them with conflicting logic. Also, at the Employee Suggestion awards in 2004, while other departments approved dozens of suggestions each, Operations Planning only approved one and it was not related to changing any routes. The fact is if they didn’t think of it, tey will reject it. They rejected my proposal to extend the B83, but made the exact change five years later. It shouldn’t take 5 years to study a one mile extension.

    practically no Queens residents use LIRR because it costs too much.

    The 2 school buses I referred to are private buses paid for by the college. About 80 to 90% of the passengers on all the other buses were Kingsborough students where I did the counts. You haven’t explained why every bus was overcrowded during a non rush hour. The buses are all jammed from about 2:30 to 4:30. The average passenger load is over 60 per bus during that time period. Sounds like its over the guidelines to me especially when so many can’t board the first bus.

    • Andrew

      Yes they didn’t think that proposal was worthwhile. Neither did they think any of the other 3O proposals I submitted under the Employee Suggestion Program were worthwhile either and dismissed all of them with conflicting logic. Also, at the Employee Suggestion awards in 2004, while other departments approved dozens of suggestions each, Operations Planning only approved one and it was not related to changing any routes. The fact is if they didn’t think of it, tey will reject it. They rejected my proposal to extend the B83, but made the exact change five years later. It shouldn’t take 5 years to study a one mile extension.

      I haven’t seen any of the 30 proposals, so I can’t comment on them specifically.

      But keep in mimd that some employee suggestion programs are geared specifically or primarily toward cost reduction. I have no idea if that applies to NYCT’s, but if it does, then even the best suggestion in the world isn’t going to get very far if it increases costs.

      And based on some of the posts I’ve seen on blogs and message boards, there’s no shortage of fantasy planning that is of no practical value. If Operations Planning gets flooded with blatantly unrealistic or impractical proposals, the ones worthy of serious consideration can easily fall by the wayside. You might have been guilty of that yourself (again, I can’t comment on the actual proposals) – if you submitted 30 proposals in one year and OP judged the first few to be unrealistic, they probably took the others less seriously. (I doubt they have someone whose sole job it is to review formal suggestions, so each suggestion requires someone to interrupt his or her core job to carry out the review.) Your chances probably would have been better if you had submitted your strongest proposal or two and left it at that.

      practically no Queens residents use LIRR because it costs too much.

      I’m confused. Didn’t you say that Queens residents would use the Rockaway branch? If they’re not going to use it, how would it improve travel for them?

      The 2 school buses I referred to are private buses paid for by the college.

      I know.  They were 8% of the buses you saw, so how do you think they carried 25% of the passengers?

      You haven’t explained why every bus was overcrowded during a non rush hour.

      Because students aren’t normally in class from 9 to 5. Your check implies that a lot of students finish for the day around 2:45 or 3.

      The buses are all jammed from about 2:30 to 4:30. The average passenger load is over 60 per bus during that time period.

      Frankly, I find it hard to believe that the buses are “all jammed” for a full two hours. When class ends, there’s a surge, but at other times the traffic off of any college campus is light.  Remember, ten buses carrying 10% over guideline (v/c ratio of 1.1) followed by two buses carrying 40% of a guideline load (v/c ratio of .4) are, on average, within guidelines (v/c ratio of .98).

      Sounds like its over the guidelines to me especially when so many can’t board the first bus.

      As I’ve already said (multiple times), service is not increased or reduced based on crowding on a single bus. Service is increased or reduced based on average crowding over a time period, probably an hour.

      Another (mathematically equivalent) way of thinking of it: take the total number of riders at the peak load point for an entire hour, divide by the number of riders allowed per bus according to the guideline, and round up.  That gives the minimum number of buses that need to run during that hour in order to stay within guidelines. For instance, if 937 people ride through the peak load point over the entire hour, and the loading guideline allows for 48 riders per bus, then at least 20 buses need to run during the hour. But running 20 buses (or even running 30 buses) still doesn’t guarantee that no individual buses are overcrowded.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/T2ZRWPMSW4TEQZ2JHUYARBWMRU Pat Bateman

    It’s not “Big Real Estate” who would get a sweetheart deal, it’s NYU – they’re trying to rip off the MTA and the City and have tax payer dollars go towards their real estate portfolio.

  • Pingback: The Will Of The People – Part 1 | Sheepshead Bay News Blog

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