THE COMMUTE: English is a funny language. If we don’t like someone we might say we don’t like them because they are “stubborn” and that’s bad. If we like them, we say that same person is “persistent” and that’s a good quality, when it’s really the same thing. Similarly, the MTA may want to get rid of a bus route because it’s “duplicative,” meaning a nearby route serves the same function and it is not necessary. If they want to retain two duplicative routes, then the routes are no longer considered “duplicative.” Then they are called “parallel.” In essence we still are talking about the same thing.
So, should we have bus and subway routes that are duplicative or parallel? The answer is yes. The demand may be too great for just one route and both routes may be necessary to meet the demand such as having a Lexington Avenue subway and also a Lexington Avenue bus.
Another reason is that if something happens to one route, such as service being temporarily disrupted because of a serious delay or blockage, you still have an alternative way of completing your trip. That is known as system redundancy. If there is no redundancy, then you can’t complete your trip by mass transit. Fastrack, the MTA’s program of closing entire subway lines to make repairs, works best when alternative subway routes are available and one does not have to resort to using the bus to complete the trip.
System redundancy is one reason — among others — that I proposed to reroute the B49 bus route to operate the entire length of Ocean Avenue, so it could provide an alternative to the Brighton Line between Sheepshead Bay and Prospect Park in case of a serious subway service disruption. Presently, when service is stopped, it could take hours to get replacement bus shuttles in place. It is better when a regularly scheduled route is already operating, although it still will be difficult to handle the additional crowds.
Remember when two of the four tracks on the Manhattan Bridge were taken out of service in the 1980s? Remember how much longer your trip to Manhattan took and how the trains were more crowded and slower? Did you ever ask yourself what would happen if, God forbid, all four tracks on the Manhattan Bridge were suddenly unavailable?
Remember after 9/11 when then-Governor George Pataki proposed a new subway from Lower Manhattan to JFK, which would utilize a new subway tunnel that would be constructed to also connect to the proposed Second Avenue Subway? That plan was quickly forgotten about as soon as Pataki left office and 9/11 became just a memory.
You say we have no money for new tunnels? Perhaps not, but there is talk of further extending the #7 line to Secaucus by constructing a new tunnel to New Jersey once the extension to the far West Side is completed next year. It is highly unlikely that it will ever be built, nor a new tunnel to Staten Island proposed by other politicians.
However, if a new tunnel were to be built, which should receive the highest priority? Wouldn’t it be the one that could provide a contingency to the Manhattan Bridge or one of our other East River crossings?
Losing the Manhattan Bridge would be far worse than was losing the Montague Street Tunnel after Hurricane Sandy. The events of the past week made me think of this. We cannot afford to wait until it is too late. Tunnels take a long time to construct. [Ed. – The Montague Street Tunnel took nearly six years to construct.] We need to start planning now.
Transit Committee Meeting
The MTA Board’s Transit Committee is meeting today, as it does once a month, to present items to the Board needing its approval. One proposal being presented is the proposed B84 route in East New York. A public hearing was held last month but comments were also permitted via mail or email. Generally, the proposal was well received. However, there were some suggestions for improvements or changes. All suggestions were dismissed and the MTA is proceeding with its original plan, as it usually does.
Furthermore, only those comments submitted by the people who were personally in attendance at the hearing were summarized in the Staff Summary (pages 7.1 to 7.4 or pages 201 to 204 [PDF]) presented to the MTA Board. Suggestions submitted by mail or email were ignored. You do not ask people to mail in their comments, and then pretend that none were received, just like they omitted 90 minutes of testimony from the video recording of the Brooklyn service cut hearings in 2010.
Later this month there will be another public hearing for the new routes proposed in Williamsburg. What is the use of mailing or emailing comments — or, for that matter, attending the hearing — if the MTA has already made up its mind what it will do? The MTA’s image problem continues.
You Will Never Believe This But It’s The Truth
After working only six months for the MTA and getting into serious problems with my boss, resulting in my transfer and loss of power, I had an epiphany at about 3:00 a.m. I realized how the MTA worked and what it took to get ahead in the organization. I quickly grabbed a pen and paper and jotted down every thought that came into my head. They appeared to me in the form of approximately 100 rules to follow in order to make it to the top of the organization. The next day, I typed them up. However, in good conscience, I could never follow them, and therefore never rose to anywhere near the top of the organization. In fact, over the years, as additional layers of bureaucracy were added, I actually sank from the fourth highest level of bureaucracy at New York City Transit to around eighth before retiring at about fourth again with the lowest grade managerial title.
One rule was to never hire anyone smarter than yourself because within two years he will have your job. Some rules involved how to shift the blame if you are caught screwing up a project. They were organized by subject such as “How to treat your subordinates,” and “how to treat your superiors,” etc. You get the idea. I thought I was writing tongue in cheek and writing and sharing it mainly served as a stress reliever.
When I showed these “rules,” which I entitled “How to Succeed in the Transit Authority Without Really Trying,” to my co-workers, they were amused. When I showed it outside the agency, I was told they were so universal, they applied to all bureaucracies, not only the TA, and there actually was a spark of truth in them. Everyone asked me for a copy. I refused all requests thinking that, someday, I might get it published. That was until one day I showed it to a fairly high level executive at the New York City Transit Authority in 1993, with whom I was friendly.
I guess a felt honored that he requested a copy so I made an exception and made one for him. Immediately, I knew it was a mistake because from something he said I got the impression that he didn’t realize it was meant as a joke. I have since showed it to many others, and still refused all future requests for copies. I even refused to give a copy to my best friend. I do not know what became of that single copy I made, if it was retained, discarded, or perhaps memorized. Fast-forward 20 years: On Friday, that person was named Acting President, MTA New York City Transit. Draw your own conclusions.
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.