A scene from Improv Everywhere's No Pants Subway Ride 2014. Source: FreeVerse Photography / Flickr

A scene from Improv Everywhere’s No Pants Subway Ride 2014. Source: FreeVerse Photography / Flickr

THE COMMUTE: Yesterday, we discussed, among other things, how Albany continues to raid scarce transit funds, and a possible change to alternate side of the street parking regulations. Here are a few more stories that made news last week.

State Budget Omits Request For Additional 160 Speed Cameras

The state budget bills that were printed omitted the city’s request for additional speed cameras as part of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Vision Zero Plan. However, the city still may get the cameras before the end of April, according to the Daily News.

New B44 SBS Schedule Goes Into Effect

The MTA made public on its website a new B44 SBS schedule, which includes SBS service along the entire route. When the new local schedule is released, we will discuss what these new schedules mean.

MTA Gets Funding For Northeast Queens Bus Study

I frequently write about the need to do comprehensive bus studies rather than making ad-hoc changes involving one or two routes at a time. Since the early 1990s, the MTA has performed only one comprehensive bus study of the Co-op City area, released in January 2014. Last week, the MTA announced a similar study for Northeast Queens. Both studies resulted from local political pressure. Parts of Brooklyn, such as Borough Park, as well as Kings Highway and Sheepshead Bay, could also benefit from similar comprehensive studies, as well as new services to JFK, but our elected officials have to ask for them.

Transit Worker Gets In Trouble For Participating In No Pants Ride

A transit motorman who participated in the annual No Pants Subway ride was disciplined although he was on vacation and was not in any type of uniform that would identify him as a transit worker to anyone other than his “friends.” One of these so-called friends saw the picture of himself that he posted on Facebook and reported him to the MTA. Using an obscure transit rule that all employees must present the authority in a favorable light so as not to disfigure the MTA’s image, the MTA took action, although the complaint was anonymous. One comment to the Daily News, which reported on the incident, was that if the MTA is so concerned with its image, perhaps they should do a better job of running the trains and buses on time. Since the MTA sanctions this annual event, punishing an employee for it is a little hypocritical, but that should come as no surprise.

Bike Share Program In Trouble

A Daily News editorial describes the problems plaguing the bike share program sponsored by Citibike and operated by Alta Bike Share. It reprimands the former DOT administration for falling down on the job by failing to adequately monitor the contractor’s performance, similar to criticisms I have made in the past regarding DOT’s monitoring of the CEMUSA bus shelter contract.

Vision Zero

A Vision Zero town hall meeting was held last Monday in Borough Hall. More on that next week.

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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  • Alex

    Nice as*es though

  • Donna S

    FYI the SBS stop that they added on Avenue L is not up and running yet. The SBS bus is not stopping there yet … BUT they have begun digging the cement to put the machines there for you to pay. I know they said April 1 but not yet …

    • Allan Rosen

      I don’t ever remember hearing April 1st. Just some time in April.

      • Wi Cho

        More like May, they need to steal some SBS ticket machines at other SBS lines.

  • Darrell

    Shame on you for putting that picture up there it is a disgrace, as some kids might view this. Please take that photo off!

    • sonicboy678

      Sure, because the vast majority of the people using this part of the website are 10 years or younger.

      Let’s be serious here. If it had no relation to his statements, Allan would never have put it up.

      • ES

        Actually, I was the one who selected the photo. It’s really no worse than anything kids would see at Brighton Beach. In fact, it’s probably much better.

        • BrooklynBus

          I’ve seen plenty of thongs at Brighton Beach and on people you would not want to see in thongs.

    • Alex

      Yes Darrell.
      Save our “innocent” kids from nudity.
      Have you been outside lately or watched TV like MTV channel?
      You probably live in some wonderland.

  • Andrew

    What do you mean by “the MTA sanctions this annual event”? NYCT has Rules of Conduct, and whatever they permit they permit. The MTA doesn’t have the authority to ban something that’s permitted.

    In 2006, the police did in fact take it upon themselves to enforce a nonexistent law, but apparently they know better by now.

    • fdtutf

      “Sanction” has two essentially opposite meanings. From the Daily News article:

      “The MTA assigns extra staff and works closely with the NYPD to ensure the event goes smoothly, union officials said. This year, the MTA even allowed a disc jockey on at least one mezzanine for the festivities, union officials said.

      Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/mta-worker-spanked-joining-pants-subway-ride-article-1.1743702#ixzz2yPGIQSMe
      (I left their silly link code in.)
      It sounds as if the MTA approves of the event.

      • Andrew

        If the event is going to happen, it’s in the MTA’s interest to make sure it runs as smoothly as possible. (Although I can’t explain the DJ.)

        • fdtutf

          Agreed. I’m just pointing out that that was what was meant by “the MTA sanctions this annual event,” which you seemed to have misunderstood (understandably).

          • fdtutf

            And per your post below, I misunderstood your misunderstanding (understandably).

          • Andrew

            I understand.

    • Allan Rosen

      We are talking about rules of conduct for employees, not passengers, so your link does not apply. The MTA as no business having a rule as to what an employee can or cannot do while on vacation as long as it does not affect his ability to perform his job. If you want to take a strict view of the rule this employee was cited with, no employee would be allowed to publicly disagree with anything the MTA is promoting because it coud be interpreted as casting the MTA in a bad light. That means no criticizing of service cutbacks, no criticizing of any MTA project like SAS or East Side Access like making a statement on the Internet that these projects are taking too long or stating they are over budget. That is a violation of your freedom of speech and has nothing to do with performing your job which is the only thing the MTA should be concerned with in respect to operating employees.

      The MTA decided to selectively enforce this rule when it is not known how many other MTA employees may have participated. I used to testify at MTA hearings and never had a problem, but if they wanted to, they coud have enforced this rule also. What they did was not right. How much does the MTA pay you to always come to their defense?

      • Andrew

        I was commenting specifically on your remark that “the MTA sanctions this annual event.” The MTA cannot legally ban an event that the rules of conduct (for the public) permit. The MTA has no choice but to “sanction” any activity that the rules permit.

        I can’t speak to the details of the rules for employees, but I don’t think it’s uncommon or inappropriate to have rules that apply on the employer’s property, even while off the clock. Without knowing the details, I can’t comment on whether this was an appropriate application.

        • Allan Rosen

          Yes, they certainly can have rules that apply on their property and they do, but those are rules for everyone, not just for employees. As I stated the rules for employees regarding any time off duty or what happens on their property are only appropriate as to how it affects the employee’s performance while on duty. In this case what the employee was doing off-duty was irrelevant to his performance while on duty. So it is at least clear to me that the MTA overstepped their bounds here.

          • fdtutf

            Regardless of the legal/contractual situation, I think the MTA(‘s manager who made this decision) exercised remarkably poor judgment in this case. This was not an act requiring any form of reinstruction or counseling.

          • Allan Rosen

            I agree with you. In this case the person who made the decision and may not even have been a manager (he could have been a supervisor) was taking a very strict view of MTA rules and not exercising any common sense.

            He also could be a religious person believing this entire event is indecent, maybe like the person who asked that the picture of the event be removed from this post, and was just exercising his own personal opinion. If that was the case, he would have been wrong to let his personal beliefs influence his decision.

            Many organizations would not even act on an anonymous complaint, since it could be someone the individual does not get along with who might just be looking for some type of revenge.

          • Andrew

            Any employer is entitled to institute rules that apply to all employees on the property, whether on or off duty. They are not necessarily the same as the rules that apply to the general public.

            Now, I am inclined to agree that there was probably no need for disciplinary action in this case, but that has nothing to do with whether the MTA “sanctions” an event that it doesn’t have the authority to forbid.

          • Allan Rosen

            Well then the fair thing to have done would have been to issue a memorandum to employees before the event instructing them that they are not permitted to participate so no one would have to be reprimanded.

            But that would have brought legal action saying that MTA employees are no different than the general public and their freedom of speech was prevented. And the MTA does not need that headache. Anyway as I said this wasn’t even an MTA decision but probably a decision by a lone individual who didn’t even consult anyone for advice.

            But if the MTA stands by this decision without reversing it, then they do become the guilty party and it would now be incumbent on them to make a statement next year if this activity on the part of its employees is or is not permitted.

          • Andrew

            If there is a general rule that holds at all times, why does there also need to be a memorandum for each and every possible instantiation of that rule?

            It took me about ten seconds on Google to find the Rules & Regulations Governing Employees of MTA New York City Transit, Manhattan and Bronx Surface Transit Operating Authority and South Brooklyn Railway. Contrary to your claim that “MTA employees are no different than the general public,” the book has plenty of rules that apply to NYCT and MaBSTOA and SBR employees even while off-duty.

            Jump down to page 20. Here’s the first rule on the page: “Employees are required to avoid behavior which would tend to create adverse criticism of the Authority or of the System. Their conduct, whether on or off duty on System property, is required to be such as to merit the confidence and respect of the public and their superiors.” One can argue whether or not participation in the No Pants event creates “adverse criticism of the Authority or of the System” and, even if it does, whether it’s worth making a fuss for a first-time offender (I would argue that it probably isn’t). But the rule exists, and it applies “whether on or off duty.”

          • Allan Rosen

            In other words (tend to create adverse criticism of the Authority) an employee is not allowed to publicly disagree with any MTA position. That is a direct violation of freedom of speech and if taken to court, the employee would win, but no one would want to incur the legal fees.

          • Andrew

            Nobody is attempting to restrict speech! The rule in question (which was presumably vetted by the TWU before the book was published in 2003) refers to “behavior which would tend to create adverse criticism of the Authority or of the System” while “on System property.” In particular, the rule doesn’t restrict behavior in any way while off the property.

            I suspect that most employers have implicit or explicit rules governing behavior while on the employer’s property, even while off-the-clock. There’s nothing unconstitutional about it.

  • winson

    MTA is stupid with that No Pants Day worker. Are bosses trying to control our lives outside of work?

    • Allan Rosen

      They certainly are and it extends far beyond the MTA. Anything you post on Facebook can hurt you in getting a job. Maybe I could see their point if he was wearing a motorman’s cap, but even then I think their case would be weak. But someone on Subchat beleves he should have been terminated. Go figure.