The glorious, old Penn Station, before it was demolished to make room for the hideous monstrosity we know today. Source: Wikipedia

The glorious, old Penn Station, before it was demolished to make room for the hideous monstrosity we know today. Source: Wikipedia

THE COMMUTE: Much of what I was taught in school was either useless or not true. I spent several years studying algebra, which I actually liked, but only had occasion to use it about six times in the 46 years since I graduated high school. Meanwhile, no one ever taught me stuff I need to know in life, such as how to pick a fresh mango. The fruit lady near where I used to work would reject a half a dozen mangoes before choosing the perfect one for me. I should have asked her for her secret.

They also taught me in school that when there is a problem, first you define it, and next you do research, which may involve collecting new objective data. Using that data, you draw your conclusions… then you derive recommendations. The final step is to devise a strategy to get those recommendations implemented by gathering public support. If you can get enough support, those recommendations become reality and life is improved for everyone. I have since learned that it doesn’t quite work that way.

What really happens is that there is some group or government agency that wields too much power. They usually have an agenda, which is to help their friends who can benefit monetarily from a certain change. The recommendation is then decided. Data is gathered, or a biased study conducted, to support those recommendations. Data that does not fit in with the recommendations are ignored while other data are distorted using questionable statistics so that the numbers fit. It is amazing what you can do with data. For example, if you want to conclude that identity theft is not a widespread problem you just state that it affects only three percent of the population. If you want to conclude it is a big problem, you just use another statistic, such as that there are 25,000 new identity thefts occurring every day.

Check out Alon Levy’s discussion of how statistics were manipulated to conclude that there is more of a need to rebuild a major rail station than a major subway station in his blog Pedestrian Observations. Levy shows how those in power found the numbers to make the case they wanted to make. They distorted statistics to justify the need for a rail improvement by double counting. In this case, the example is showing the need for a new Penn Station with a price tag of $9.3 billion, which will not even make track level improvements to increase train capacity. At the same time the need for overhauling the Times Square subway station, which suffers from some of the same problems, like low ceilings, is minimized by passenger under-counting, for example by omitting transferring subway passengers when counting users of the station.

Then look at the many billions we are spending on East Side Access, which admittedly does improve train capacity, and the $3.7 billion for a new PATH Terminal, which does not. There is always money for mega-projects. That way, politicians can pay back their political favors to architectural and engineering firms who benefit most from these grandiose schemes, which minimally improve transportation and can be renamed after one of them when they die. However, when money is requested for a Staten Island Light Rail where the North Shore Line used to run, the MTA performs a study and concludes it is too expensive and we can only afford the less expensive Select Bus Service (SBS).

There is also no money to reactivate the abandoned Rockaway line, which would cut commute times to midtown from two hours to something like nearly 30 minutes for Rockaway residents, but there is money for Select Bus Service, which will save perhaps only 10 or 15 minutes.

Or what about the Tri-Boro RX Plan, which would benefit countless city residents and also boost the economy by greatly increasing the number of places to where people would be willing to travel to seek employment by utilizing unused or underused freight lines? This, too, has found little support in more than 30 years. Couldn’t we find a few billion for that, or a few million for some new bus lines from Southern Brooklyn to JFK, which has miserable transit access to the airport?

Just think of all the subway extensions that could have been built in the outer boroughs with the money that is allocated or would be allocated for Penn Station, the PATH Station, and East Side Access, which will benefit very few city residents.

The name of the game is not to help riders solve their transportation problems but to put money in the pockets of the big guys. Improving transportation for the middle class is merely a byproduct of helping the rich get richer. And squandering scarce transit funds this way jeopardizes transportation plans that may be beneficial, such as Sam Schwartz’s Fair Toll Plan, because it makes people more unwilling to fight for increased mass transit funding since they will have no say in how the money actually will be spent.

New Bus Routes

Regarding providing new bus routes to underserved areas, the MTA claims it has only enough funding to provide service every 30 minutes despite there being $20 or $40 million more in next year’s budget than they anticipated when these services were first proposed.

The MTA announced they will proceed with their proposed extension of the B67 from Downtown Brooklyn to Williamsburg and the new B32 from Williamsburg to Long Island City exactly as planned, ignoring all comments made at the April 29 public hearing. In their justification to the MTA Board as to why none of the public comments had any merit, the staff prepared what they call a Staff Summary Sheet in which they discuss the main points made at the hearing as well as alternate proposals and then refute them. The discussion runs from pages 174 to 187 (PDF) of the “Report to the Transit Committee.”

At the hearing, I testified that it made no sense to provide a bus route from Park Slope to Williamsburg via a lengthy time-consuming route through Downtown Brooklyn, as the proposed B67 would do. Rerouting the B69 to Williamsburg could provide a direct connection, because few use the route to access Downtown Brooklyn anyway. I also stated that DUMBO and Vinegar Hill could be served by a slight rerouting of the B57 instead of the B67. DUMBO residents also stated they preferred not to have the proposed B67 travel through their streets, because of traffic congestion, but along its perimeter instead.

Do you see any mention of my alternative to extend the B69 to Williamsburg (instead of the B67) to provide a more direct routing? Of course not. My companion proposal, however, to reroute the B57 through the Navy Yard was dismissed because riders going between Maspeth and Downtown Brooklyn would be inconvenienced, which would be minimal. Yet, the MTA was not concerned with inconveniencing riders when they rerouted the Q37 to the Aqueduct Racino last year. Also, they did not consider the number of potential riders who would benefit, saving 20 minutes or more, perhaps, by being able to directly travel between Park Slope and Williamsburg under my plan. A thorough analysis considers both — potential benefits as well as disadvantages — when weighing a plan; not only one factor, as the MTA has done in dismissing mine. Their poorly thought out proposal falls short. The two proposed routes even miss connecting with each other in Williamsburg by one quarter of a mile.

Conclusion

The case for a new Penn Station is the perfect example of why you should never believe a politician or a government entity that says “there is no money for it” or “the numbers don’t justify the expense.” They will always find the money and the numbers for what they want to fund. And when the MTA states they are providing you with other alternatives, don’t believe for a minute that they are telling you everything you need to know. You are only hearing the statistics and facts that support their pre-determined conclusions. They have done this in the past with Select Bus Service, they are doing it now with their new bus route proposals, and they will continue to do it in the future.

You don’t gather your data and then draw your conclusions like you were taught in school. You draw your conclusions first, and then find facts to support them, ignoring any that hurt your case. The facts don’t matter.

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.

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  • Guest

    You make many good points even outside the realm of your expertise in mass transit in this article. One of the best I’ve seen on this site in quite awhile.

    • Allan Rosen

      Thanks. That’s quite some compliment.

  • Joe Wong

    From the town of Paulsboro, NJ 08066

    What do you think the MTA really stands for? Pick your choice,

    a) Money Thrown Away
    b) More Trouble Ahead
    c) Money Taking Assholes or
    d) Metropolitan Transportation Authority

    • Allan Rosen

      This problem is bigger than the MTA.

  • William H. Depperman

    Long Beach Boardwalk—2.2
    Miles Long—is Being Completely Replaced with Tropical Hardwood

    For $44 Million—CHUMP
    CHANGE for NYC! Gangsters “Big Mikey” Bloomberg and Veronica

    White Pay $6 Million for
    100% Impractical Bathrooms Three Stories Above the Beach but Won’t

    Pay to Replace the
    Boardwalk with Already Cut and Readily Available Tropical Hardwood!

    Hurricane Sandy completely demolished and
    washed away the boardwalk in Long Beach according to experts primarily because
    it was not built of the much stronger Tropical Hardwood which will be used to
    replace it! The cost is a measly $44 million, which for New York City is
    mere CHUMP CHANGE! The Tropical Hardwood must all be treated with
    Thompson’s Water Seal or the equivalent to make it waterproof and increase
    durability even more! Instead, the capitalist dictatorship of millionaires and
    billionaires, led in New York City by Bloomberg, now worth $27 billion (Forbes,
    March 2013), and his stooges, Adrian Benepe, Veronica White & Co. intend to
    try to commercialize the entire Coney Island-Brighton Beach Boardwalk by
    converting it stepwise for private industry use. It is done stepwise to
    keep people confused and because the capitalists cannot reveal their actual
    plans because they would be so unpopular! Bloomberg and the capitalist media
    propaganda arm, composed of legions of professional liars are using all sorts
    of absurd lies, manipulation and false pretexts to hide their actual plans,
    while the 100% crooked court system rubber stamps their crimes, and fake
    “opposition” groups such as the so-called “Friends of the Boardwalk” and
    “Coney-Brighton Boardwalk Alliance” deliberately mislead legitimately motivated
    opposition! (See first Boardwalk flyer!) Hurricane Sandy destroyed the
    Comfort Stations at Bay 2 and Ocean Parkway. Instead of replacing them with
    genuinely sturdy virtually waterproof buildings similar to the Lifeguard
    Station at Bay 2, which could easily have been done, the despised parasite
    Veronica White, who replaced the arch-criminal Adrian Benepe as Commissioner of
    Parks, chose to build “Toilets in the Sky!” These unbelievably hideous
    prefabricated, 3-stories high (!) ILLEGAL
    monstrosities were supplied by general contractor TRITON and undoubtedly
    involved HUGE UNDER THE TABLE KICK-BACKS, while permanently disfiguring
    the boardwalk with eyesores, which are also impractical for those with
    disabilities and even without disabilities! Ramps or stairs must be used to
    reach these bathrooms! They are also dangerous as potential torpedoes in
    another Sandy-level Hurricane! White and kickback contractor TRITON
    should try to sell their garbage to St. Barts or Long Beach! The millionaires
    and billionaires want to put 7-Elevens, MacDonald’s and other chains up and
    down the cement/plastic road they want to replace the Riegelmann Boardwalk.

    Adrian Benepe retired from
    his position as Parks Commissioner to organize a new so-called “think tank”
    deceptively and absurdly labeled “Trust for the Public Land,” to “lead a
    new initiative to replicate our work in cities across the country,” meaning
    converting as much possible city, state and national park land nationwide for
    private industry use! This is an expression of End-Stage Capitalism! The
    south and north ends of Union Square Park are routinely turned over to
    commercial businesses multiple times each week and often do not even permit
    access by park regulars. Veronica White used to head the so-called “NYC
    Center for Economic Opportunity,” set up as a bureaucracy to pretend
    to “fight poverty (!),” in order to keep the targets of the escalating and
    systematically waged Economic War of Extermination, meaning primarily the
    Working Class, Blacks, Latinos and the Poor, within the framework of capitalism
    begging the mass murderers: “Pretty please with sugar on top be nice throw us
    some crumbs!” She had no illusions about her role as false
    propagandist/manipulator implementing “Enforced Social Darwinism,” to
    bring as many poor people as possible to earlier deaths by holding out false
    hopes in capitalist reform!

    Hurricane
    Sandy was an expression of the Fossil Fuels Global Warming Runaway
    Greenhouse Effect! The Runaway Greenhouse Effect has a logarithmic
    (exponential) curve, which means that the atmospheric CO2 is increasing much faster than by
    simple addition due to several positive feedback cycles aka vicious
    circles. The most important feedback in the polar region is the ice-reflectivity
    feedback. Open ocean water which is rapidly taking the place of sea ice in
    the polar regions, absorbs about 80% more solar radiation than sea ice,
    which reflects the sun’s rays back into space. The Polar Ice Cap has already
    been enormously reduced. In addition, warmer water absorbs less than half the
    amount of CO2 than does cold water. The oceans are one of the most important
    carbon sinks containing about 50 times more CO2 than the atmosphere
    and 19 times more than the land biosphere (rainforests, etc.). Droughts due to
    weather extremes reduce vegetation which absorbs CO2. The most important
    potential alternative power is tidal power from the oceans and hydroelectric
    power from huge waterfalls such as the Kaieture Falls in Guyana with a
    total drop of 822 feet (5 times the drop of Niagara Falls) and Victoria Falls
    in Africa the largest waterfalls in the world. Tidal Lagoon Technology Power
    Plants can replace and largely supplant fossil fuels and have already been
    built. They are 3 to 4 times as efficient as nuclear power plants and do not
    produce permanently non-disposable nuclear waste! The Oil Industry covers this
    up and falsely offers “wind power and solar power” as false alternative energy
    sources because they know they cannot supplant fossil fuels. There is One
    Solution:

    Let’s Get Rid of Capitalism!
    An Idea Whose Time Has Come! We Almost Did in the 1930s!

    Peoples’ Committee for Wood
    Restoration of Riegelmann Boardwalk 10 East 16th St., New York, N.Y.
    10003

    whd2a@yahoo.com UNION LABOR DONATED PLEASE REPRINT AND DISTRIBUTE!

    • guest

      Most of the people in the 1930′s who wanted to “get rid of capitalism” wanted to replace it with Stalin’s communism. I’d like to see a show of hands of how many people are in favor of that now. Better raise your hand fast before they never see you again.

      • levp

        Never mind Soviets. I’d settle for Denmark – we just need to teach them English and Russian (well, at least Russian).

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

    Fact are stubborn things. But bureaucrats are more stubborn than facts,

  • William H. Depperman

    WOOD OUTLASTS A PLASTIC

    AND CEMENT SURFACE!

    1.) The Department of Parks, Billionaire “Big
    Mikey” Bloomberg and Adrian Benepe are Big Liars and are Tools of the
    Developers and Big Real Estate! THEY HAVE TOTAL CONTEMPT FOR OUR
    INTELLIGENCE and the present anti-Communist (reformist) “OPPOSITION,” which is
    run by them!

    2.)
    There is enough South American already-cut Hard Wood READILY AVAILABLE to cover
    the ENTIRE BOARDWALK! The Bloomberg Pretext that he does not want to use scarce
    endangered Tropical Rainforest Hardwoods is a False Pretext from ANY angle!
    There is enough Tropical Rainforest Hardwood already cut to completely Replace
    All Boardwalk Wood with WOOD! Bloomberg wants that already-cut hardwood to go
    to his rich real estate friends for housing interiors in apartment buildings
    and restaurants. The Coney Island-Brighton Beach Riegelmann Boardwalk TAKES
    FIRST PRECEDENCE because it is a NEW YORK CITY and UNITED STATES HISTORICAL
    LANDMARK! The capitalist dictatorship is using provocations to try to manipulate
    people:

    3.) The Cement
    and Plastic Proffered by Bloomberg, Parks Department and the DEVELOPERS is
    UGLY, ALREADY cracking, disintegrating, dangerous and lacks drainage as
    direct observation and photographs demonstrate at Ocean Parkway! Their Criminal
    plan is to gradually COMMERCIALIZE the entire Boardwalk area, first by
    refusing to repair it as a provocation so that naïve suckers will say
    “anything is better than this,” then get rid of, it step wise, first
    gradually and then ENTIRELY, and for PROFITS ONLY! In May the Rockaway Boardwalk was
    repaired with WOOD! (Courier Life, May 23, 2012) Bloomberg/Benepe have
    also deliberately increased the amount of totally unnecessary motor vehicle
    traffic on the boardwalk to make it falsely appear that “cement/plastic is the
    only option” while the traffic is designed to pound and damage the wood! Most
    of those in vehicles could WALK!

    4.) There is
    easily enough money to completely replace the boardwalk with wood! There is
    More Money Today in the United States and New York City than ever before in
    history! There is enough money for each and every person to live like a
    millionaire NOW with no exaggeration! There is also the greatest income
    difference in all U.S. History! That is the REAL “economic reality” of
    End-Stage Capitalism! We have to begin to organize to end it NOW!

    WHILE IN OFFICE
    BLOOMBERG HAS INCREASED HIS WEALTH

    FROM $6 BILLION TO
    $27 BILLION!!! THAT IS ALL OUR MONEY

    WHICH WE WANT
    USED TO RESTORE OUR BOARDWALK WITH WOOD!

    If a Person robs
    a bank of $5,000, escapes and invests that money and makes $1 Million but then
    is apprehended, ALL the money is confiscated as STOLEN MONEY! Surplus
    Value is analogous to that $5000 bank robbery, and is defined as the
    new value which is created by workers by what they produce in goods and
    services in excess of their own labor-cost (e.g. wages, benefits, pensions), a
    value which is “freely appropriated,” MEANING STOLEN (!), by the
    capitalists as gross PROFIT, and which is the basis of capital
    accumulation, meaning accumulation of their WEALTH! The
    capitalists have simply STOLEN all the profits of our labor! Surplus
    value is the basis of ALL the money the capitalists have ever
    acquired and use for the formation of companies and corporations;
    banks; bank loans; the issuance of stock; derivatives, such as credit default
    swaps, subprime mortgage-backed securities, securitized life settlements (!),
    etc.; operating their brainwash media and educational system; purchase of
    private property; running countries; waging wars; getting “elected” in their
    staged sham “elections;” etc. All the $ millions and $
    billions possessed by Bloomberg, Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, Larry Elison and
    Donald Trump is STOLEN MONEY! The capitalists and even many backward,
    demoralized and intimidated Workers under capitalism presently believe that the
    capitalists’ theft of Workers’ Surplus Value as Profits is the natural ”ENTITLEMENT”
    (!) of the capitalist millionaires and billionaires and that it will be
    “capitalism forever!” It is NOT their ENTITLEMENT and we
    simply cannot afford “capitalism forever!” Capitalism is destroying our
    living space, the boardwalk and the Earth! Most people also do not understand
    that the millionaires and billionaires pay only 15% (the capital gains rate!)
    on the first $110,000.00 of income, the so-called “taxable wage base.” No
    income above that is taxed and 66% of U.S. corporations pay no tax at all
    (1.2 million companies)! The slogans should NOT be “tax the rich,”
    which is a trap meaning tax more of the first $110,000, or “close the
    loopholes.” The slogan should be: “TAX ALL INCOME,” but under capitalism it
    never will be! Supply-Side/Tax-cut Economics was designed to divert tax money
    from social spending not to improve the economy, but to gradually reduce the population.
    It is time to begin to take back what is rightfully ours—ALL the
    wealth which WE, the Working Class, NOT the capitalist class,
    have produced!

    WHAT IS TO BE DONE?

    1.) The
    necessary tropical rainforest hardwood which is required to replace the ENTIRE
    CONEY ISLAND-BRIGHTON BEACH Boardwalk must be obtained and all of it
    treated with Thompson’s Water Seal or the equivalent! Nothing less! The
    Coney Island-Brighton Beach Riegelmann Boardwalk TAKES FIRST PRECEDENCE because
    it is a HISTORICAL LANDMARK!

    2.) New Yorkers
    must DEMAND that Billionaire Bloomberg contribute THE
    ENTIRETY of whatever monies are required to complete all of the work!
    Whether it is several $BILLION or not that is TOTALLY IRRELEVANT! For Bloomberg
    a couple of $ billion is chicken crap! All of Bloomberg’s money was originally STOLEN
    from the Working Class in the first place, as explained on page 1.

    3.) All
    cement and plastic which has already been put down by the
    so-called “NYC Department of Parks and Recreation,” which should be understood
    presently as the “NYC Department FOR Developers and Big Real Estate,” must
    be removed forthwith—IMMEDIATELY!

    4.) New
    Yorkers should know that much of the wood that was laid down for the Riegelmann
    Boardwalk in 1923 when it first opened is STILL IN PLACE although
    much is worn and some has been replaced. The original wood was obviously NOT
    waterproofed! This time it will be! Hardwood does not last “Only 8
    years,” which is just one more Big Lie of the Parks
    Department and Real Estate Developer stooges, Bloomberg and Adrian
    Benepe, who continued with yet another BIG LIE: “The plastic
    composite…can last 75 years (!).” Photographs of the Department of Parks
    handiwork already show the disgusting cement and plastic composite is cracking
    and crumbling and it has just been put down! They think we are their suckers!
    Ninety-five percent of New Yorkers and the majority of Americans agree that we
    need a new system based on human need NOT private profit! That is
    actually a Communist response! But people have been brainwashed by the U.S.
    government media and “educational system” to believe the Communists are “bad,”
    but we know from our own experience that capitalism is bad and is
    destroying the entire planet so we have to begin to deprogram ourselves from
    the capitalist brainwash! In the 1930s there was a million-strong Communist
    Movement in the U.S., which put pressure on Roosevelt to write the New
    Deal. Roosevelt was given credit then and now on Channel 13 for “Saving
    Capitalism!” From what pray tell? From a Socialist Revolution in the United
    States—It was that close! Read the 1930s newspapers! If they had gone all the
    way then instead of taking the New Deal, which was just a BRIBE,
    there would have been NO Adolf Hitler and NO WWII
    and NONE of today’s present problems! Until we organize ourselves
    back on a Communist basis as in the 1930s we can just forget it!
    We have to begin to deprogram ourselves just as if we had been kidnapped by a
    cult!

    It is a rule of capitalist
    statecraft that a government must control and operate its own opposition on
    each and every issue and here in the center of U.S.-led world
    capitalism-imperialism that is the unfortunate reality. Who’s who in that case?
    An individual or political group is defined by what they say and what
    they do not say and by what they do and by what they do not do. For
    example, Todd Dobrin’s so-called “Friends of the Boardwalk” is a
    self-described “adjunct of the Parks Department (!) organized for
    charitable, scientific and educational purposes…to revitalize and improve…the
    boardwalk…” Their “lawsuit,” limited to “inadequate environmental review”
    (!) to be decided by crooked judges who are paid-off by the
    billionaires in a bench trial arbitrary ruling with no jury is a
    complete fraud! It is also not a question of merely “Boardwalk not Sidewalk.” A
    HIGHWAY IS BEING CONSTRUCTED FOR DEVELOPERS—not “Emergency Service
    Vehicles,” which that group hides! Encouraging the false belief that capitalism
    can be reformed is designed to lead to total failure. The same goes for the
    sell-out so-called “Coney-Brighton Boardwalk Alliance” of
    fraudulent “oppositionist,” Rob Burstein, who divisively manipulates people
    into supporting use of concrete and a “variety of composite materials” for
    everywhere on the boardwalk EXCEPT from Coney Island Avenue to
    Bay 1, while opposing use of already-cut rainforest hard wood, much of which
    has lasted since 1923, by trying to get them to sign a petition basically
    supporting the destruction that has already been done to the boardwalk! Don’t
    sign it! The purpose of such brazen fake groups is to demoralize
    genuine opposition to the policies of the capitalist dictatorship by gradually
    getting those opposed to the disaster policies of End-Stage Capitalism: to
    cynically resign themselves, to acquiesce, to
    finally submit, to despair and finally to ACCEPT
    DEFEAT! Let’s begin to organize properly now!

    Peoples’ Committee for Wood
    Restoration of Riegelmann Boardwalk 10 East 16th St., New York, N.Y.
    10003

    whd2a@yahoo.com UNION LABOR DONATED PLEASE REPRINT AND DISTRIBUTE!

    • MrCapitalistPig

      Hey, Mr. Obama, no need to go under a false name to post here :)

    • Allan Rosen

      I don’t believe what you say about “Friends of the Boardwalk” is true. I believe they are sincere.

  • sonicboy678

    I wonder if there’s a way to improve train efficiency at Rogers Avenue Junction. Finding places like that and figuring out how to improve them can work wonders for subway riders. Buses need to have proper connections and well-planned routes. Last I checked, one of the major reasons for the B61/62 split was because of congestion. If the B67 is already having difficulties with traffic, what makes it a good idea to have THAT bus extended (at the very least, without a supplementary route, such as the B69)?

    • Allan Rosen

      Exactly. When the MTA wants to lengthen a route, traffic congestion is not a factor. But if you or I propose that, it is ruled out because of traffic congestion delaying the buses. Their inconsistency of logic is unbelievable.

      In the 1970′s there was a proposal to create a grade separation at Rogers Junction that would greatly improve efficiency there. It was in the budget for about 20 years, every time getting postponed. Eventually, it was quietly removed because they claimed there was no money for it. Guess no politician was willing to lend his name to it in exchange for supporting it. They wanted something more glorious to be remembered for.

      • sonicboy678

        Well, that doesn’t sound familiar at all. *cough* *cough* Nostrand Avenue Line Extension *cough* *cough*

      • Andrew

        It’s called tradeoffs. Extending a bus route can have a negative side effect. Sometimes that negative side effect is outweighed by other benefits. Sometimes not.

        Far more line items get dropped from each capital program than make it in. You’ve named one of the unfortunate casualties. By the way, improving Rogers Junction would be primarily of benefit to Bronx, Central Harlem, and Upper West Side subway riders, who would see more frequent 2/3 service into Midtown and Lower Manhattan. Although the physical construction would be in Brooklyn, the benefit would largely fall on residents of Manhattan and the Bronx (much as the Broadway-Lafayette connection, although physically in Manhattan, has been of primary benefit to Brooklyn residents).

        • sonicboy678

          You forget that this can also help people along the East Side, as the 5 also serves the Nostrand Avenue Line. Reconfiguration for a more efficient subway system can certainly help, though.

          As for the extension of the B67, I don’t really see the practicality in extending it if it will probably be delayed earlier on in the route. It’s unlikely that the route structure will be all that great, anyway, considering how far off the mark the route will be in the Williamsburg area.

          • Andrew

            Rogers Junction constrains throughput on the 2/3/5 combined. But the 4/5 is already maxxed out in Manhattan. Only the 2/3 has service constrained by Rogers Junction. Grade-separating the junction would permit an increase in 2/3 service from Manhattan.

          • sonicboy678

            It may not do much for Manhattan, but it actually does serve as a benefit to the 5. Reconfiguration would mean fewer delays for the 2 and 5 in Brooklyn.

          • Andrew

            Marginally. There will still be delays, because the 2 and 5 will still have to merge.

            The primary benefit would be increased capacity for southbound 2/3 trains in the morning and northbound 2/3 trains in the afternoon.

          • sonicboy678

            That also depends. Although it would be costly, I would propose a second trackway for 5 trains on a lower level for the Nostrand Avenue Line and merge directly into/from the Eastern Parkway express tracks. Now before you say anything, I am aware that funding and community reception are issues here.

          • Andrew

            That doesn’t eliminate the necessary merge with the 2 on the Nostrand branch itself. It only eliminates the merge with the 3.

          • sonicboy678

            What do you mean? The reconfiguration would provide separate trackways for the 2 and 5.

          • Andrew

            You’re suggesting four-tracking the entire Nostrand Avenue line?! That would be quite pricey, and I would suggest that there are far better ways for the MTA to spend its scarce capital dollars. It would also probably require an extended 24/7 shutdown of both the existing Nostrand Avenue line (with collateral impacts on the rest of the IRT) and of the street above.

          • sonicboy678

            Hence my reluctance to actually go through with it. It makes little sense on its own. This would have to be a part of a list of Brooklyn IRT expansions, including an extension of the Nostrand Avenue Line, the creation of either a Utica Avenue or Ralph Avenue Line, and a possible extension of the Livonia Avenue Line. Again, no need to berate me on funding, I’m well aware that it’s a crippling issue for current infrastructure alone. No need to discuss any community opposition, as I’m fully aware that these projects create muck, noise, worse traffic, and destroy businesses and property values (at least, during the actual construction).

          • Andrew

            Not berating you in the slightest – we’re all entitled to fantasize from time to time.

    • Andrew

      All else being equal, long routes are more prone to delays and irregularities than short routes.

      That doesn’t mean that it never makes sense to lengthen a route. Sometimes the benefits are great enough that it’s worth incurring the increased chance of delays. Sometimes not.

      If this extension proves popular, but regularity suffers, the B67 can be split into two pieces in the future.

      • sonicboy678

        From where I stand, if the MTA is this adamant about the B67 receiving this extension, then the extension should be equally split between the B67 and B69. This provides two options for bus service and can cut down on delays due to traffic.

        • Andrew

          The stated objective of the B67 is to connect Downtown Brooklyn, DUMBO, and the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Extending the B69 wouldn’t accomplish that, at all.

          If reliability problems on the B67 develop, it can be split in the future. Remember that BusTime comes to Brooklyn next year; perhaps the MTA is hoping that improved dispatching can offset any reduction in reliability.

          • Allan Rosen

            If the B67 is split in the future, then there is no direct service from Park Slope to Williamsburg. The B69 provides quicker direct service. Using the G train for most first requires travel in the opposite direction via bus, and a second bus in Williamsburg at a second fare, a far inferior option to a single bus.

          • Andrew

            The objective of the B67 extension was never to connect Park Slope to Williamsburg, and I’m not sure why you keep bringing it up. The objective of the B67 extension was to connect Downtown Brooklyn, DUMBO, and the Brooklyn Navy Yard. This was clearly stated in all of the materials put out by the MTA – as far back as the initial announcement in July 2012, the route (not yet numbered, not envisioned as an extension of an existing route) was listed as “New service connecting Downtown Brooklyn, DUMBO, Vinegar Hill and the Brooklyn Navy Yard; route to be determined.”

            The G train runs through the heart of Park Slope. It doesn’t run through the heart of Williamsburg, but it’s a reasonably short walk, bus ride, or train ride away from most of the neighborhood.

          • sonicboy678

            That near-inevitable split is the very reason why extending the B67 is questioned in the first place.

            How about this: the B69 that would probably satisfy this desire to connect these three areas splits off at Park Avenue, heads west to Gold Street, then travels north until the two routes rejoin? Of course, this would require a third designation. How about B79?

            Of course, this is a purely hypothetical proposal that is unable to account for traffic properly.

          • Andrew

            I’m sorry, I’m not sure what you’re proposing or what you’re trying to accomplish.

            I’m also not sure why you’re so certain that the B67 will be split. Even with the two-mile extension, the new B67 won’t be unusually long. Note that the extension all the way to Division and Wythe was made in response to community requests.

          • sonicboy678

            With that extension, the B67 would be pretty close to as long as the B61 prior to the split.

            The hypothetical proposal was to add an alternate route for the B69 to accomplish what you said it lacked, though it probably wouldn’t be called such in actual service.

          • Andrew

            The old B61 was significantly longer than the planned B67, running from Red Hook all the way to Long Island City. I haven’t mapped it out turn-by-turn, so I may be wrong, but I don’t think the extended B67 will be much longer than the current B62.

            I don’t see a need for an “alternate route for the B69.” Sorry. The B67 plan makes sense to me.

  • Andrew

    I agree completely with your thesis. Some comments:

    Check out Alon Levy’s discussion of how statistics were manipulated to conclude that there is more of a need to rebuild a major rail station than a major subway station in his blog Pedestrian Observations. Levy shows how those in power found the numbers to make the case they wanted to make. They distorted statistics to justify the need for a rail improvement by double counting. In this case, the example is showing the need for a new Penn Station with a price tag of $9.3 billion, which will not even make track level improvements to increase train capacity. At the same time the need for overhauling the Times Square subway station, which suffers from some of the same problems, like low ceilings, is minimized by passenger under-counting, for example by omitting transferring subway passengers when counting users of the station.

    Much of the desire to “do something” about Penn Station is rooted in remorse over the loss of the old Penn Station in the 1960′s. From a strictly utilitarian perspective, it makes no sense – what’s gone is gone.

    That said, it’s hard to argue that Penn Station works well. I don’t often ride trains out of Penn, but I do pass through on occasion, and the experience is far less pleasant than walking through any subway station, due to the sheer crowds in the station corridors, waiting for their tracks to be posted and then running downstairs as fast as they can to avoid the dreaded middle seat. At Times Square, all of the waiting is done on the platforms, and, during the busiest times of day, the waiting is brief, since service is a lot more frequent than on any commuter rail line.

    I’m also not sure what exactly Mr. Levy would recommend at Times Square. The station is entirely underground, mostly underneath active streets. The station rehab about 10 years ago widened passageways, improved sightlines, and rearranged staircases, and the station functions much better than before, although of course it’s still not perfect.

    Finally, given the heavily peaked nature of a commuter rail station, it’s not entirely fair to compare ridership numbers to a subway station on a daily basis. How do the numbers compare during rush hours, when Penn becomes truly horrific?

    Then look at the many billions we are spending on East Side Access, which admittedly does improve train capacity, and the $3.7 billion for a new PATH Terminal, which does not.

    East Side Access both increases capacity and provides direct access to the East Side for LIRR commuters, saving significant travel time. I don’t think it was worth the price tag, but it’s hard to argue that it’s a worthless project.

    The PATH station is undoubtedly way overblown, but some sort of permanent station had to be built.

    There is always money for mega-projects. That way, politicians can pay back their political favors to architectural and engineering firms who benefit most from these grandiose schemes, which minimally improve transportation and can be renamed after one of them when they die.

    I share your skepticism of mega-projects. On the MTA front, I largely blame Peter Kalikow’s formation of the MTA Capital Construction Company ten years ago. Some of MTACC’s projects – East Side Access, Second Avenue Subway, and the 7 Line Extension – truly improve transportation, but the same agency gave us the South Ferry Terminal, which provided little benefit even before it was destroyed by Sandy, and Fulton Center, which, like the PATH station to its west, is seriously overblown for the benefit it will provide to subway riders.

    Fortunately, the appetite for grandiose mega-projects that accomplish little seems to have waned slightly.

    However, when money is requested for a Staten Island Light Rail where the North Shore Line used to run, the MTA performs a study and concludes it is too expensive and we can only afford the less expensive Select Bus Service (SBS).

    I’m sorry, there are so many errors buried in this one sentence that I’m not sure where to start.

    The North Shore Alternatives Analysis, conducted by SYSTRA Engineering, Inc., looked at eight options to improve transit on the North Shore of Staten Island. Those eight options were later whittled down to a short list of three, largely because the others did not address one of the stated objectives: “Provide improved transit access to the Teleport.” Those three options are a Transportation Systems Management (TSM) alternative required by the FTA, a light rail alternative with trains running between West Shore Plaza and St. George, and a busway alternative with buses running between West Shore Plaza and St. George along with a number of through-routed buses from elsewhere operating along segments of the busway.

    Of these options, the busway option was projected to carry 14% more riders than the light rail option (due to the through-routing), with capital costs 42% lower and operating/maintenance costs 7% lower. Travel time savings are similar (for the full length of the line, current bus travel time is 56 minutes, TSM travel time is 55 minutes, light rail travel time is 21 minutes, and busway travel time is 23 minutes).

    The study was performed by SYSTRA, not by the MTA. There’s no mention anywhere of SBS – on the contrary, the big advantage of the busway option is that the existing S53, S54, S57, and S59 can use it, in addition to the new bus routes (named S1 and S2 in the study) to West Short Plaza and Arlington. Even if the S1 and S2 were to receive SBS branding, the S53, S54, S57, and S59 certainly would not. Finally, there is no funding currently allocated to actually implement anything here.

    But most importantly, you seem to be suffering from the very same malady here that you pin on others. The data clearly show that the busway option is superior to the light rail option – it carries more people at lower cost – so what exactly is your objection? You’d prefer more money to be expended to provide a less useful product?

    Read the Alternatives Analysis Report yourself, if you haven’t yet.

    There is also no money to reactivate the abandoned Rockaway line, which would cut commute times to midtown from two hours to something like nearly 30 minutes for Rockaway residents, but there is money for Select Bus Service, which will save perhaps only 10 or 15 minutes.

    WHAT? I assume you have some sort of backup for those numbers? Either you’re being deliberately dishonest or you’re pulling numbers out of a hat, and you’re not doing a very good job of it. The current scheduled running time on the A train from Far Rockaway to 42nd Street is about 70-75 minutes, and Far Rockaway residents have the option of cutting that to about 53-57 minutes by using the existing LIRR Far Rockaway branch.

    Furthermore, the Rockaways have very low ridership. By far the busiest station in the Rockaways is Far Rockaway itself – the 324th busiest out of 418. Given the low ridership in the Rockaways, how many riders would your proposed super-duper-high-speed line serve, and how would that translate to a per-rider cost?

    The primary function of any form of SBS on the Woodhaven corridor would be to improve accessibility along the Woodhaven corridor itself – an entirely different objective. The Rockaway Branch ROW is several blocks away from the important Woodhaven commercial strip. Woodhaven Blvd. itself is better situated.

    And where do you expect the money to come from? Basic capital projects intended to bring the existing system to a state of good repair keep getting pushed out of capital programs due to inadequate funding.

    Or what about the Tri-Boro RX Plan, which would benefit countless city residents and also boost the economy by greatly increasing the number of places to where people would be willing to travel to seek employment by utilizing unused or underused freight lines? This, too, has found little support in more than 30 years.

    It’s actually found a good deal of support, but, again, where do you find the funding? While cheaper than a new subway line, it wouldn’t be cheap – not by a long shot.

    Couldn’t we find a few billion for that, or a few million for some new bus lines from Southern Brooklyn to JFK, which has miserable transit access to the airport?

    How many people would ride your proposed bus service to JFK, and how much would it cost to operate? Without those numbers, you have nothing. Note that the MTA doesn’t operate express buses to either airport – the express airport buses are all privately operated. Have you tried contacting New York Airport Service?

    Just think of all the subway extensions that could have been built in the outer boroughs with the money that is allocated or would be allocated for Penn Station, the PATH Station, and East Side Access, which will benefit very few city residents.

    I frankly can’t think of any, given that (a) much of the funding is restricted to fairly narrow uses, such as Lower Manhattan, and (b) extending subway lines in the outer boroughs without also providing capacity for more trains in Manhattan is a recipe for severe overcrowding.

    Bear in mind that the MTA is not a city agency, and it can’t ignore the needs of suburban residents. The Port Authority, likewise, is not a city agency.

    Regarding providing new bus routes to underserved areas, the MTA claims it has only enough funding to provide service every 30 minutes despite there being $20 or $40 million more in next year’s budget than they anticipated when these services were first proposed.

    That’s for one year. Operating costs for buses don’t end after the first year.

    Once the new services have started up and potential riders have had a chance to use the buses, ridership can be evaluated. If there are more than 72 riders per hour, the guidelines call for service to be increased. And if these services are at all successful, they will attract more than 72 riders per hour, even if those riders have to check the schedule and leave at specific times.

    The MTA announced they will proceed with their proposed extension of the B67 from Downtown Brooklyn to Williamsburg and the new B32 from Williamsburg to Long Island City exactly as planned, ignoring all comments made at the April 29 public hearing.

    They didn’t ignore the comments. In particular: “Based on comments received at this meeting and after a series of smaller meetings with affected stakeholders, the route path was changed from terminating within the Brooklyn Navy Yard to terminating on Division Avenue and Wythe Avenue in South Williamsburg. At the community’s request, the service plan was also revised to provide no service on the weekends as a compromise to provide a longer route within the original allotted budget.”

    At the hearing, I testified that it made no sense to provide a bus route from Park Slope to Williamsburg via a lengthy time-consuming route through Downtown Brooklyn, as the proposed B67 would do. Rerouting the B69 to Williamsburg could provide a direct connection, because few use the route to access Downtown Brooklyn anyway. I also stated that DUMBO and Vinegar Hill could be served by a slight rerouting of the B57 instead of the B67.

    You’ve completely missed the basic objective of the route extension! The objective is not to link Park Slope and Williamsburg – the G train already does that, in far less time than your proposed B69. The objective, as stated on page 175 of the PDF, is to serve the Brooklyn Tech Triangle, linking Downtown Brooklyn, DUMBO, and the Brooklyn Navy Yard. (The Williamsburg linkage came later, by community request.) Extending the B69 doesn’t accomplish that goal in the slightest, and rerouting the B57 would increase travel times for current B57 riders, while extending the B67 would not increase travel times for anybody.

    By the way: the B67 runs 15 minutes in the morning and every 18 minutes in the afternoon.

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