Source: MTA

THE COMMUTE: As the second anniversary of the largest service cutbacks in New York City History quietly passed on June 27th, the MTA hinted at its monthly board meeting for the first time that they were considering the restoration of some cuts. The New York Times has the story. No specific mention was made as to which cutbacks were considered for restoration, but it does not hurt to be optimistic that restoration of the B4 and B64 are being considered.

Fare-Beating

Let me bring you up to date on some other stories I have neglected due to my first hand reporting of the B1, B49 and B64 over the past two weeks. The MTA finally decided to take action regarding fare evasion with a fare increase looming overhead in 2013. After long insisting that fare evasion was at acceptable levels, 1.1 percent, just .1 percent above the industry standard, and insisting additional enforcement is not necessary, they finally admitted that their previous estimate of $14 million lost annually to bus fare evasion is inaccurate. The new estimate is a staggering $50 million, almost enough to restore all the bus service cuts, if fare evasion could be cut to nearly zero.

The Wall Street Journal reported: “The issue of fare-beating made headlines this week, when the MTA estimated it could lose roughly $100 million this year due to fare-beaters on buses and subway lines.” They also discussed how a large portion of the fare-beating problem results from adults who do not pay for all of their children. Just the other day I witnessed this at the Voorhies Avenue end of the Sheepshead Bay Road train station, where you have a choice of using the turnstiles or the high wheels to enter. There was no agent on duty and a woman and her daughter chose the high wheels, and I wondered why since the turnstiles are so much easier. They both went through for one fare and I had my answer.

The Staten Island Advance estimates that the MTA could lose as much as $328 million annually if you base losses on an average fare of $2.25. That estimate may be too high since the average fare with discounts and transfers is in the vicinity of $1.80. Also, not all fare evaders would ride if they knew they had to pay. Nevertheless, taking those factors into account, even an estimate of $200 million would be twice the MTA’s revised estimate and more than three percent, three times the acceptable industry standard. Therefore, since mid-May, undercover police officers have began cracking down on fare evasion by first targeting fare-beaters on Staten Island buses after years of lax enforcement.

One concern I have is that innocent riders are not fined. In southern Brooklyn, for example, where there is a heavily elderly population, I often notice riders, especially ones who are not steady on their feet, first sit down near the driver, then stumble into their wallets for their MetroCards before getting up to pay. Some even give their card to the person next to them to pay for them. It may take several bus stops for this to be accomplished. They always pay and should not be treated as having intent to evade the fare. They certainly cannot afford a $100 fine and are in no physical condition to fight a summons. I hope the MTA and police officers use some discretion in this regard. However, I am not optimistic after reading stories about fare enforcement on Select Bus Service routes.

That is not to say that seniors always pay their fare. A typical fare-beater may not be a student entering through the bus’ rear door. Several months ago, I witnessed one elderly man duck under the turnstiles at Borough Hall station where there was no station agent on duty. It took him about 30 seconds just to get himself upright after entering the paid area. One wonders how much the reduction in station agents affected fare-beating. Did the MTA take that into account when making its decision to close fare booths?

Other News

  • MTA Chairman Joe Lhota went public in a New York Post op-ed piece asking union members to forego raises for the next three years. He claims the MTA is doing all it can to be efficient. Can we take that statement seriously when we read about irregularities at Metro-North in the state comptroller’s latest audit [PDF].
  • The MTA refused to sign off on the purchase of cameras for Select Bus Service enforcement until the city agrees to share the revenue with the MTA. They are correct in taking that position.
  • By now you have all probably seen the video of the MTA’s stairway to heaven, where you might end up if you are not careful. If not, you can find it and the story how the MTA plans to do address the problem on this stairway in Sunset Park here. My questions are:
    1. How long has this been going on?
    2. Why was this problem not discovered when the stairway was built or repaired last?
    3. How many other stairways are affected?
    4. How much has the MTA paid out in lawsuits from injuries from people claiming to be injured on defective stairways?
  • Another topic we discussed before — transit in the outer boroughs — made the news again two weeks ago when the City Council held a public hearing on the need for a greater focus on improvement outside Manhattan, where all the MTA’s major capital projects are currently focused.
  • Finally, there was a story that the MTA would be starting a program in which managers ride MTA buses and speak to the drivers and passengers in order to ascertain problems (Unfortunately, I am unable to find the link.) This is a step in the right direction. Hopefully, the MTA will use the information they learn in a positive manner to improve service. As I indicated last week, they cannot address problems if they are unaware that they exist. Only a very small portion of transit riders will bother to file a formal complaint when there is a problem, while the MTA assumes that if no one is complaining, no problems exist. If your problem is not addressed satisfactorily after you notify the MTA, you should keep good records and complain to all your local elected officials.

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).

Disclaimer: The above is an opinion column and may not represent the thoughts or position of Sheepshead Bites. Based upon their expertise in their respective fields, our columnists are responsible for fact-checking their own work, and their submissions are edited only for length, grammar and clarity. If you would like to submit an opinion piece or become a regularly featured contributor, please e-mail nberke [at] sheepsheadbites [dot] com.

Related posts

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/lisanne001 Lisanne!

    Is there any way of getting documents about previous work done on that staircase on 36th Street? I would find it hard to believe that it has been going on for years, but if there hasn’t been any serious accident as a result perhaps we could attribute that to general apathy about “minor” inconveniences.

    • Allan Rosen

      I guess you could get information through Freedom of Information. Stairways periodically either have thir metal plates replaced or are resurfaced from time to time. Don’t know how that would effect the height of one particular stair. If a resurfacing job was improperly done, that doesn’t sound that difficult to repair. But the MTA stated it woud be necessary to replace the entire stairway making it appear this may have been a problem with how it was first built almost 100 years ago.

      • http://www.flickr.com/photos/lisanne001 Lisanne!

         If it had been uneven for such a long time it would have been known in the neighborhood. A half inch difference is significant, we subconsciously adjust to what we perceive as the persistent height of steps.

        Certainly if it had been built with that degree of error on one step it is very possible that there are other examples. Neck Road station did have one on the north bound north facing staircase, it was repaired in the 1970s.

        • Allan Rosen

          Actually, one half inch is not that bad. The MTA stated that its guidelines state that the variance not exceed 3/8 inch. This was only 1/8th above that.

          A friend of mine had his outdoor stairway rebuilt and the top stair was noticeably shorter. We’re talking greater than one inch. He immediately called another contractor to redo the entire stairway which got me curious so I also checked his neighbors stairs and the top one appeared an inch or two steeper than the rest and it has been that way for years. I beginning to think this happens all over. But these ate not public stairways where people are constantly using them.

          • http://www.flickr.com/photos/lisanne001 Lisanne!

            As a margin though it’s 33% more thjan the allowable error. Even wear which is much less significant can cause people to fall out of stride, though doing so won’t have any appreciable effect on balance.

            We used to have a slab in front of the steps to our patio. The height was significantly different and people would trip on it constantly even though it was made apparent to avoid that sort of thing. We eventually gave up and removed it.

  • AIG_Quant

    I always see packs of blacks getting on the bus through the back door. They obviously have no intention of paying.

  • winson

    The subway system should be 100% HEET turnstiles so that no one can attempt to beat the fare except people who look like twigs. Anyone caught evading the fare should be fined equally, regardless of who they are. Buses should have turnstiles by the doors so that people must exit through the back door (getting off at the front really delays service) and enter through the front. Get rid of student MetroCards. They are heavily abused and transit workers hate it when large groups of students ride trains or buses together.

    • Allan Rosen

      It is not always necessary to use the rear doors to exit and people shouldn’t be inconvenienced to always exit through the back. Also when the bus is extremely crowded, it is not always possible to exit through the back. There shoud be prerecorded announcements that should be made on driver discretion telling people to use the rear doors to exit if possible.

      As far as HEETs everywhere, that would create a hazard if there is some sort of emergency such as a fire and everyone needs to get out quick. That’s why we don’t have them.

      • http://www.brucebrodinsky.com Bruce B

        I think there should be more emphasis on exiting thru  the back door. A lot more, because:

        1. The buses will move faster if people can get on faster.
        2.  Maybe people will not crowd the front, leaving the whole back of the bus empty, sometimes causing buses to skip stops when they’re not really crowded (I’ve mentioned  this in other posts).

            How about this one. Seniors can exit in the front, others in the back.

        • Allan Rosen

          I agree that more people need to exit from the rear for all the reasons you state. I would rather seniors do also because it actually takes them the longest time to get to the front. But many times it is difficult for them since they are sitting near the driver. I think the automated recording every stop is ridiculous and annoying since people just tune it out. The driver needs to control when it plays so you hear it only when necessary and you listen. I ride mainly at the beginning or end of the routes where it is unnecessary so I am particularly annoyed by it. However, especially when there is a heavy lad boarding, people should make every effort to use te rear doors and the driver should tell

          • Andrew

            Everybody should be encouraged to get into the habit of exiting through the rear door always.

            Obviously, some people find it difficult or impossible to use the rear door, and at the end of the line it doesn’t hurt to exit through the front door. But those are the exceptions. The basic message should be that exiting should be done through the rear door.

            I agree that the automated message plays too frequently. It should be equipped with a timer to ensure that it doesn’t play more often than every 10 minutes or so. It shouldn’t be left up to the driver, though – most drivers will just ignore it and never play it, while others will play it over and over and over again.

          • Allan Rosen

            You really have little faith in MTA bus drivers.

          • Andrew

            I have plenty of faith. But I also ride the subway, which has conductor-triggered prerecorded announcements. Most conductors never play them at all; others play three or four between one stop and the next.

            As I said, the basic message needs to be simple. The riding public should get into the habit of exiting through the rear door as often as possible.

  • Andrew

    After long insisting that fare evasion was at acceptable levels, 1.1 percent, just .1 percent above the industry standard

    Where did you come up with 1% as the industry standard for fare evasion? You didn’t answer that question a month ago, and the two linked articles cite industry standards of 3% and of 8-9%.

    They also discussed how a large portion of the fare-beating problem results from adults who do not pay for all of their children. Just the other day I witnessed this at the Voorhies Avenue end of the Sheepshead Bay Road train station, where you have a choice of using the turnstiles or the high wheels to enter. There was no agent on duty and a woman and her daughter chose the high wheels, and I wondered why since the turnstiles are so much easier. They both went through for one fare and I had my answer.

    This is news? This happens every day, at every station, at every entrance, with and without agents. Personally I wish the 44-inch rule were enforced, but there would surely be a loud outcry from parents if it were.

    One wonders how much the reduction in station agents affected fare-beating. Did the MTA take that into account when making its decision to close fare booths?

    I’m quite certain they did. I’ve seen enough fare evasion in front of station agents to realize that they have little if any impact on the evasion rate.

    Already in February 2010, “Paul Fleuranges said there has been no increase in fare evasion since the station agents were reduced.”

    And even if there has been an increase in fare evasion due to the reduction in station agents, I highly doubt the evasion costs the agency more than the agents themselves used to.  (Paying $100 to prevent the loss of $50 is wasteful.)

    1. How long has this been going on?

    Probably since the staircase was last rebuilt.

    2. Why was this problem not discovered when the stairway was built or repaired last?

    Because that’s probably when the problem was first created.

    3. How many other stairways are affected?

    I have no idea. Why don’t you take a survey?

    4. How much has the MTA paid out in lawsuits from injuries from people claiming to be injured on defective stairways?

    Again, I have no idea. If you’re curious, perhaps you should file a FOIL request.

    Another topic we discussed before — transit in the outer boroughs — made the news again two weeks ago when the City Council held a public hearing on the need for a greater focus on improvement outside Manhattan, where all the MTA’s major capital projects are currently focused.

    Thank goodness! After all, such recent projects as the Brighton and West End stations rehab, Culver viaduct, Canarsie CBTC, Jay-MetroTech, Atlantic Terminal, and Stillwell Terminal don’t count as major capital projects in Brooklyn. Nor do projects physically located in Manhattan that largely benefit residents of other boroughs, such as the Bleecker transfer, Fulton Street Transit Center, or South Ferry. Good thing the City Council’s on it!

    • Allan Rosen

      I may be mistaken about the 1%.  I believe I got it from a statement by an MTA spokesman when questioned about fare evasion.  He may have said that fare evasion is only 1% and that is within acceptable industry standards.  Now if 3% or 8% is within the standard, why is the MTA taking action now?  Because they feel its a problem, that’s why.

      If you don’t think it’s news that parents with children are avoiding the fare, take it up with the Wall Street Journal, not me?

      So if Paul Fleuranges says there has not been an increase in fare evasion since removal of the agents. I guess that makes it true. Just like when the MTA said the bus fare evasion cost only $14 million.  Guess that was true also, until they raised their estimate to $50 million.  I asked Ben why he had so much faith in the MTA’s estimates.  I didn’t and said so.  Now it looks like I was right.  

      I asked why the problem with the staircase problem wasn’t caught the last time the stairway was repaired.  You answered that it’s because that was when the problem was probably created.  You’re probably right.  Guess you never heard of quality control.  The contractor or whoever repaired the stairway was supposed to inspect it when it was completed.  Has that been done, the problem would have been corrected immediately before it became a hazard.

      And thanks for changing what I said, a usual practice of yours. I stated that current capital projects are all in Manhattan. I wasn’t talking about past projects.  Okay Culver is now in progress and it is a rehab like all the other outer borough projects you mention, except for Jay/Lawrence whereby the Manhattan projects are expansion projects.  Culver would fall apart if not rehabbed.  The MTA had no choice but to rehab. 

      As far as past projects.  Jay/Lawrence was talked about for at least two decades. It should have been completed 20 years earlier but was constantly pushed back so Manhattan projects could be given priority.  Everybody was astonished to after completion to learn that the tunnel was so short like 100 feet.  Everyone thought that the project was much more complex so there wasn’t any outcry for it to be completed sooner.

      Same thing with Atlantic Avenue.  Was supposed to be completed in 1985 but had to wait 20 years so that Manhattan projects could be completed first.  Meanwhile busy stations like 149th Street are in deplorable shape and are still waiting for work as are stations along the Grand Concourse. Pretend all you want that Manhattan is not the favored borough.

      You have your mind made up and nothing will change it.  As I stated last time, all you want to do is criticize and argue. Why do you even bother reading what I write  since you know that everything I say is wrong and you are always right?

      • Andrew

        I may be mistaken about the 1%.  

        It looks like you are mistaken. With that now clarified, perhaps it would be worth updating your article before somebody takes your erroneous statement seriously.

        I believe I got it from a statement by an MTA spokesman when questioned about fare evasion.  He may have said that fare evasion is only 1% and that is within acceptable industry standards.  Now if 3% or 8% is within the standard, why is the MTA taking action now?  Because they feel its a problem, that’s why.

        It appears to be one board member, Allen Cappelli, who has been making a fuss over fare evasion – perhaps you should ask him. I don’t know how MTA staff feel about it. Personally, I glad to see the police stepping up enforcement.

        If you don’t think it’s news that parents with children are avoiding the fare, take it up with the Wall Street Journal, not me?

        I don’t have a problem with the report. I’m just saying that it isn’t something new. What you saw at Sheepshead Bay, I see almost every day.

        So if Paul Fleuranges says there has not been an increase in fare evasion since removal of the agents. I guess that makes it true. Just like when the MTA said the bus fare evasion cost only $14 million.  Guess that was true also, until they raised their estimate to $50 million.  I asked Ben why he had so much faith in the MTA’s estimates.  I didn’t and said so.  Now it looks like I was right.  

        Allan, I’m responding here to this question of yours: “One wonders how much the reduction in station agents affected fare-beating. Did the MTA take that into account when making its decision to close fare booths?” If Fleuranges could say in 2010 that the reduction in station agents did not increase the fare evasion rate, that implies that the issue was considered. Even if you think he was lying or misinformed, the answer to your question is obviously “Yes, they did.”

        I asked why the problem with the staircase problem wasn’t caught the last time the stairway was repaired.  You answered that it’s because that was when the problem was probably created.  You’re probably right.  Guess you never heard of quality control.  The contractor or whoever repaired the stairway was supposed to inspect it when it was completed.  Has that been done, the problem would have been corrected immediately before it became a hazard.

        Yes, somebody messed up. That’s pretty obvious. Fortunately, it was fixed over the weekend.

        And thanks for changing what I said, a usual practice of yours. I stated that current capital projects are all in Manhattan. I wasn’t talking about past projects.  

        Pardon me for bringing up recent history! I thought you considered this an ongoing issue, not one that just popped up yesterday.

        If you want to focus on the present, Culver viaduct and West End stations are in construction as we speak, as are the Bleecker transfer and Fulton Street Transit Center, which primarily benefit Brooklyn residents. New subway cars are on order for the C and J/Z, and I’m not going to hazard a guess as to how many behind-the-scenes capital projects are going on in Brooklyn.

        Okay Culver is now in progress and it is a rehab like all the other outer borough projects you mention, except for Jay/Lawrence whereby the Manhattan projects are expansion projects.  Culver would fall apart if not rehabbed.  The MTA had no choice but to rehab.

        The overwhelming majority of projects, in all boroughs, are what you call “rehabs” – i.e., rebuilding projects to bring the system into a state of good repair. They are also by far the most important projects, because they keep the system from falling apart – in all boroughs, including Manhattan, and certainly not just on the Culver line.

        (By the way, one station did suffer a ceiling collapse a few years ago due to underinvestment. Guess which borough it was in!)

        If you were only interested in expansion projects, why didn’t you say so? By “capital projects” I naively assumed you meant “capital projects” – pardon my misunderstanding! There are only two MTA-funded expansion projects in progress, and one serves virtually no Manhattan residents.

        As far as past projects.  Jay/Lawrence was talked about for at least two decades. It should have been completed 20 years earlier but was constantly pushed back so Manhattan projects could be given priority.

        Really? Only Manhattan projects were given priority? Nothing in Manhattan was pushed back? No capital work was done in Brooklyn?

        I’m sorry, that’s simply not the case. Guess what: virtually every capital project should have been completed decades ago, but deferred maintenance and a lack of willingness to fund the system has pushed everything off. It’s not just Brooklyn.

        The one Manhattan-centric expansion project you like to complain about? That was planned in 1929.

        Everybody was astonished to after completion to learn that the tunnel was so short like 100 feet.  

        “Everybody”? Speak for yourself. Anybody who ever walked between the two stations – as I did every day for almost a year – knew they were a block apart.

        Everyone thought that the project was much more complex so there wasn’t any outcry for it to be completed sooner.

        I guess you don’t know much about underground construction. Digging a block-long tunnel above an active subway line and connecting to two subway stations, and then installing vertical circulation elements, is complex, even if it looks easy to you.

        Same thing with Atlantic Avenue.  Was supposed to be completed in 1985 but had to wait 20 years so that Manhattan projects could be completed first.  Meanwhile busy stations like 149th Street are in deplorable shape and are still waiting for work as are stations along the Grand Concourse. Pretend all you want that Manhattan is not the favored borough.

        So you’re saying that all of the Manhattan stations were rehabbed before any stations in the other boroughs were touched?

        Funny, that’s not how I recall it. What I recall is that each capital program has included station rehabs in multiple boroughs, including Brooklyn. Many stations in Brooklyn have already been rehabbed, and many stations in Manhattan have not.

        You have your mind made up and nothing will change it.  As I stated last time, all you want to do is criticize and argue. Why do you even bother reading what I write  since you know that everything I say is wrong and you are always right?

        Why do you write on a blog that accepts comments if you don’t want to receive comments? Not everybody agrees with you, you know.

        • Allan Rosen

          So fare evasion is within acceptable limits but you are glad steps are being taken to reduce it.

          A block apart? 100 feet is not a block apart. Everyone thought it was about 300 feet. That’s a big difference when you are tunneling.

          When I say Manhattan, I’m referring to the CBD, not Washington Heights. Also in 1985, work on the mezzanine for Grand Central was postponed because the bids came in too high to do both the subway level and the mezzanine so only half the work was completed and the rest had to wait. (I was project manager for the solicitation of bids.). If it was Brooklyn, the entire project woud have been cancelled. Also, if Manhattan CBD is not given a priority why was the 5th Avenue Station the only one to be given two rehabs? One in the 70s and another around 2000 when others have not received their first?

          • Andrew

            So fare evasion is within acceptable limits but you are glad steps are being taken to reduce it.

            Fare evasion has become a serious problem on some bus routes in some parts of the city. Cutting down on that fare evasion is important to keep it from growing further. I’m glad that the NYPD has finally decided to take it seriously.

            At a systemwide level, on average, I don’t think it’s a big problem.

            And you’re the one who raised the question of industry standards, not me.

            A block apart? 100 feet is not a block apart. Everyone thought it was about 300 feet. That’s a big difference when you are tunneling.

            Again, speak for yourself. Who have you polled to reach a conclusion about what “everyone” thought?

            Including the stairs and escalators – which are not side-by-side, as the platform is too narrow for side-by-side escalators – it’s well over 100 feet. Jay and Lawrence are 285 feet apart, according to Google, and it’s pretty clear from below that the BMT platform continues a bit past Lawrence itself.

            If you haven’t seen this video yet, it gives a sense of the complexity of the work: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0vkIXepKVd8

            When I say Manhattan, I’m referring to the CBD, not Washington Heights.

            And you accuse me of changing what you said? Pardon me for assuming that by “Manhattan” you meant “Manhattan”!

            Busy stations should have priority, since more people benefit from a rehab of a busy station and rehabs often address capacity shortcomings that simply don’t exist at smaller stations in residential areas. And since most CBD stations are used primarily by non-Manhattan residents, I don’t understand the objection at all. If I commute by subway from Queens to the Manhattan CBD, I want both of my stations (and any transfer point I may use along the way) to be in a state of good repair.

            That said, about a quarter of the stations in the Manhattan CBD still haven’t been rehabbed since the station rehab program started in the 80′s.

            And only one MTA-funded expansion project has any portion in the Manhattan CBD. (The entirety of SAS Phase 1 is outside the CBD.)

            Also in 1985, work on the mezzanine for Grand Central was postponed because the bids came in too high to do both the subway level and the mezzanine so only half the work was completed and the rest had to wait. (I was project manager for the solicitation of bids.). If it was Brooklyn, the entire project woud have been cancelled.

            Begging the question.

            (Not that 1985 is particularly instructive in any case, since NYCT didn’t adopt systematic criteria for selecting stations to be rehabbed until 1992.)

            Also, if Manhattan CBD is not given a priority why was the 5th Avenue Station the only one to be given two rehabs? One in the 70s and another around 2000 when others have not received their first?

            Which 5th Avenue station are you referring to? There are three of them, and as far as I know, none has been rehabbed more than once. (There wasn’t even a station rehab program in the 70′s!)

            Did’t Kings Highway get a rehab in the 80′s and another one the past few years?

          • Allan Rosen

            If you mean Kings Highway on the Brighton line, I remember only one rehab. I was referring to Fifth and 59th. In the 70′s, it got the blue and white horizontal tile cover up treatment that the rest of the R line got. Around 2000, it was removed and they went back to the historical original tile.

            The same thing was done at Canal Street on the Broadway Express station.

            Also Wall Street was first rehabbed with the blue bricks and it was all ripped out several years ago. I think there was a water problem behind those bricks

          • Andrew

            If you mean Kings Highway on the Brighton line, I remember only one rehab.

            My memory’s a bit hazy on this, but I remember significant modifications made at the station in the 80′s, perhaps the 70′s. It might not have been a full rehab.

            I was referring to Fifth and 59th. In the 70′s, it got the blue and white horizontal tile cover up treatment that the rest of the R line got. Around 2000, it was removed and they went back to the historical original tile.

            The same thing was done at Canal Street on the Broadway Express station.

            The same thing was done at 28th, 23rd, 8th, and Prince. (And, in Brooklyn, Union was rehabbed in the 90′s, although the 70′s tiling wasn’t removed.)

            But what was done in the 70′s wasn’t a station rehab. It was a cosmetic improvement (by the standards of the 70′s) that I believe took place in conjunction with the station lengthenings to accommodate 600-foot trains.

            Also Wall Street was first rehabbed with the blue bricks and it was all ripped out several years ago. I think there was a water problem behind those bricks

            Yes, Wall Street was rehabbed twice. The first rehab was in the 80′s, though, when rehabs were more focused on aesthetics than on structural integrity. There might have been a water problem, but this is the first I’ve heard of it and I don’t think I ever saw evidence of a water problem.

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