System Redundancy Is A Good Thing, And More


The D train rumbles over the Manhattan Bridge. Source: Wikipedia

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.

  • Sammy Finkelman

    AR> 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?

    The tracks were finally restored after many years. The lower section of the canal Street station had actually been allowed to look abandoned and worse. And a few months later came September 11, 2001, and subway service on the 1 and the Broadway BMT (N, R) was knocked out for months, although not the montague street tunnel because there was another exit in Manhattan, and if the connection to Canal Street from Dekalb Avenue hadn’t been restored there would have been no way to get to the Broadway line from Brooklyn. The outlet toward Broad Street used by the M and the J was used for Brooklyn BMT service and all sorts of trains were rerouted.

    That connection is currently not in service, but I assume there are no problems.

    We also lost the connection to Whitehall Street after Hurricane Sandy and this time it was the tunnel that lost so it couldn’t go to Broad Street. By this time an inside-the-subway transfer between the R and the F A had been built at Jay Street (as of dec 2010) and service continued to that point. I am not sure why not Court Street, because there are also transfers therem, albeit redundant because they are also at Atlantic Avenue.

    Once there was a fire at Bergen Street on the F line and the MTA didn’t want to fix the connection to the G train route at Hoyt-Schemerhorn Street .

  • Subway Stinker

    As an alternative to building new subway lines, can we consider reopening some of the abandoned lines and stations, now that NYC population is growing and surpassing 1950-era size? The T.A. is littered with abandoned subway stations and track in place. Let us use them.
    As an alternative to building an expensive tunnel under NY bay linking the R train to Staten Island, can we add a light rail trolley line to the Bayonne Bridge to Staten Island, giving those poor Islanders a rail link to the mainland and ultimately to the City?
    As an alternative to more pleasant yet ultimately useless parkland in Queens, can anyone join Mister Goldfeder and promote the restoratation of LIRR service to the Rockaways, instead of another version of the High Line, this time in Queens?

    • Allan Rosen

      I agree with both of those alternatives as well as the Triboro Rx Plan but I don’t know what abandoned lines and stations you are referring to that could be reopened. There are many closed entrances, however, that I would be in favor of reopening.

    • Sammy Finkelman

      back I was just thinking yesterday when I saw a message in the subway that the Franklin Avenue shuttle was not operating that day, that there was a subway station – Dean Street – that had burned down and was just never re-opened. Maybe that could be useful to some people. Are people moving in there now?

      One thing I think: New subway stations are being built too far apart. There’s a tremendous distance between 121 St – the last stop left on J elevated – and the next stop Jamaica – there should be maybe two others. It used to go to 168 St with multiple stops. We’ve lost more stops than weve gained. I think the best way to improve service is to add stops – one stop extensions.

      They should of course build a stop at 41 St and 10th Avenue for the #7 train The distance is too great on the new second avenue subway from 72 St to 86 St. It’s just too expensive to build actual stations but it shouldn’t be.

      Today there was an article about how much extra money and time they are spending in the Smith 9th St rehabilitation. Stores have gone out of business. In another case a landlord (for once) agreed to take only one third of the regular rent.

      • Allan Rosen

        Dean Street didnt burn down. It was closed because it needed massive rehabilitation and had low ridership. You are confusing it with the lower level of Bergen St on the F. It is debatable if a replacement for Dean St is worth it given other more pressing needs.

        You can’t put back stops on an el after you’ve torn down te el. Archer Ave was a supposed replacement.

        • sonicboy678

          That lower level is a key component of any future F express service in Brooklyn.

          • wallyhorse

            Concerning the Culver Express, I would seriously instead be looking at making other changes to make that happen once there are enough subway cars available to do so:

            1. The (C) would be diverted from the 8th Avenue line southbound after West 4th and run with the (F) via Rutgers. The (F) would be shortened and terminate at Church Avenue with the (G) while the (C) would continue to Coney Island (possibly with the (C) becoming a 24/7 line in the process). The (F) would remain as it is now otherwise (including still going to Coney Island in the overnights if the (C) does not become a 24/7 line) while the (C) would become the Culver Express.

            2. The (E) would be extended to Euclid Avenue in Brooklyn and replace the (C) along Fulton Street (with the (E) extended further in the overnights to Lefferts Boulevard to replace the current overnight shuttle between Lefferts and Euclid). Rush hours, select (E) trains would short-turn at Chambers (running as they do now) to avoid capacity issues in the Cranberry Street tunnel.

            3. A supplemental (K) train that would run 2-5 TPH at all times would operate essentially its old route (and that of the old (AA) train) between 168th Street and Chambers.

            The one potential hiccup is the fact the (C), (F) and (M) would ALL stop on the “local” track at Broadway-Lafayette. Even there, at peak this would be 31-32 TPH I believe, and that if properly managed would work.

            The benefits of these changes:

            Patrons at Coney Island would have a new one-seat ride via 8th Avenue they currently don’t have as well as those at Express stations on the Culver line north of Church Street. Culver riders (at express stations) would also have a new one-seat ride to the upper west side they don’t currently have.

            The (A) would no longer be a local during the overnights since the (K) would be a 24/7 train and the (E) would be operating at all times in Brooklyn.

            Those looking for midtown and the upper west side on the Fulton line would have the option to switching to the (C) at Jay Street-Metrotech and be able to skip lower Manhattan altogether.

            Those on the (6) at Canal and Spring Streets would no longer need to back-track to the (4) at Brooklyn Bridge (or (J) at Chambers) to get to Fulton Street and switch there to the (A) or (C) as they would now be able to get the (C) at Broadway-Lafayette.

            The biggest benefit of all probably would not be now, but a few years down the road when the Hudson Yards project comes on-line. As those buildings are completed, the demand for 8th Avenue line service is likely to increase, and for people who live in Brooklyn who may very well be working in the new buildings when they open, it will be a major benefit for them.

            This is all about thinking of now and the future.

          • sonicboy678

            Concerning your proposal, I would consider adding one thing. If the Culver Line down to Neptune Avenue can be reconfigured to a 4-track layout, C, F, and G trains can all run down to Neptune Avenue with C (nights F) service continuing on to Coney Island-Stillwell Avenue.

  • sonicboy678

    Looking through the proposals, I’m not sure if I like where the MTA is headed with Bx41 SBS. If anything, I would just have the current Bx55 completely absorbed into the Bx15 and try to set things up so the buses won’t try piling on top of one another.

    By the way, did you suggest the Q7, Q8, B7, B15, and B20 rerouting method?

  • Allan Rosen

    Does anyone have any opinions on the “Feldman Tunnel” originally pushed by former Assemblyman Dan Feldman in the 1990s I believe, as an alternate to the Manhattan Bridge. It would have connected the Brighton line with the F Line with a new tunnel under Prospect Park from just south of Parkside Avenue under the Park to the F train on the other side of the park. The Rutgers Street Tunnel (F line) is only used at half its capacity.

    • sonicboy678

      I think that may be a little too far north. If anything, I would prefer a different approach (though, at this point, it’s feasibility is highly questionable): from Newkirk Plaza, it would have stops at Cortelyou Road and Church Avenue and connect to the Culver Line at Fort Hamilton Parkway with additional provisions for express service, if necessary. I am also aware that the Culver Express and Culver Local tracks are distanced between Church Avenue and 7th Avenue.

      • Allan Rosen

        I think the idea was to minimize disruption and cost by having it go through the park like they did with the 63rd Street tunnel from Sixth and Seventh Avenues in Manhattan although hooking up at Church Avenue and McDonald may actually make more sense.