Allan Rosen... fighting since 2011 for our buses to look like this! Source: Don Brown Bus Sales

Allan Rosen… fighting since 2011 for our buses to look like this! Source: Don Brown Bus Sales

THE COMMUTE: In Parts 1, and 2, we discussed how the MTA could make subway and bus service more attractive so that it is not the choice of last resort. There should not be standees on the trains near midnight, and local buses need to be more reliable, among other measures. Yet there are still other reasons why many refuse to use buses and subways. It has to do with little concern for customer service and a lack of honesty on the part of the MTA. This leads to general distrust of the agency, in spite of all the hard work they do to keep the system up and running.

I have been writing transit articles for Sheepshead Bites for nearly four years now. Usually, the most recent articles receive the most attention, comment-wise. However, nearly three years later, one article continues to accrue new comments. In “The MTA May Be Stealing Your Money,” I pointed out problems with the MTA’s MetroCard. Every few months, another reader cites an instance of how he undeservingly lost money on his or her MetroCard by not receiving a free transfer he was entitled to, or having hundreds of dollars suddenly disappear.

Such glitches are to be expected in a system as complex as MetroCard or a system that has millions of users. What should be expected is a quick investigation, a prompt response and a quick resolution. However, that is not the case. Riders have complained of having to wait months or years for a resolution, in addition to having to contact the MTA numerous times. That is unacceptable. A response that MetroCard is an old system and will be replaced in five years does nothing to appease today’s riders.

Yet, the MTA often uses the future as an excuse as to why the system cannot operate better today. Often improvements are made only after years and years of political pressure when the MTA acquiesces to customer concerns. Bus bunching, the most severe local bus problem has been ignored, with the MTA claiming it is all due to traffic beyond their control. Their solution was, when we get a bus tracking system up and running, promised since 1980 and finally achieved last year, bunching will be thing of the past. It seems now to be worse than ever.

They long insisted that air-conditioning the subway was an impossible task. Even after the BMT-IND was air-conditioned, the MTA insisted that the IRT cars were too small for air-conditioning to be effective on those cars, until someone pointed out that PATH had the same size cars and were air-conditioned. The MTA long insisted that extra-long buses and low-floor buses were not suitable for the streets of New York, until they were finally tried and not only were they proved wrong, passengers benefitted as well. The MTA refused to provide elevators in the subway or make buses wheelchair accessible until the Americans With Disabilities Act required them to do so. Why?

Customer Service Is A Low MTA Priority

That is the reason.

Some small problems are investigated and fixed, but system-wide problems just continue. The MTA more often looks for excuses as to why appropriate changes cannot be made instead of fairly investigating problems. If you make a pest of yourself like I have, by insisting they solve problems, they just ignore you. My latest complaint regarding the B1 received a response that it was being turned over to Operations for investigation, and I have not heard another word in more than three months.

The MTA is not trusted and for good reason. They keep lying and distorting. They have touted Select Bus Service (SBS) as the greatest thing since sliced bread and are looking to greatly expand it. They want you to think they are doing it to help the passenger, when the real reason is they are receiving federal money and buses complete their runs in less time saving them money. Is it better for the passenger? Yes, for some, but worse for others. My biggest problem with SBS is that the MTA does not do fair and unbiased analyses to ascertain how many are helped and how many are hurt. They want you to believe that everyone benefits, which definitely is not the case.

Here is an example: MTA Spokesman Kevin Ortiz recently stated that SBS reduces travel times by 20 percent and ridership increases by 10 percent. A rational person would extrapolate that the average passenger using SBS travels to his destination 20 percent quicker, which is totally untrue. The decrease of 20 percent in travel times is for someone who gets on at the first stop and off at the last stop, which is practically no one. The savings does not include the extra time to walk to a bus stop, which in some cases are one mile apart. The extra time walking to and from the SBS bus often eats up all your time travel savings.

Actually the average SBS or local trip is only 2.3 miles, saving the passenger a mere six minutes — not the great amount of savings the MTA implies. Just making a connection can often save you 10 minutes. No mention is made that the increase in service for SBS passengers often comes at the expense of local passengers who get reduced service on the complimentary local bus line. B44 bus service at non-SBS stops south of Avenue U has been cut by 75 percent since the implementation of SBS on that line.

The MTA admits that SBS is not perfect. However, it certainly is no substitute for rapid transit, which costs a great deal more money. However, if you listen to people such as Elena Conte of the Pratt Center, you will come away believing that it is an adequate substitute.

Yes, many improvements cost money, but some, such as providing accurate or better public information, only require the will of those in charge. Blogger David Gerber recently studied subway announcements and how so many are just wrong. You can read his thoughts here and here.

Conclusion

Former MTA Chairman Peter Stangl in the 1980s was the last chairman to emphasize customer service. No other chairperson before or since has made an effort to elevate customer service as an MTA priority. That filters downward throughout the agency, so bosses don’t value treating passengers well as being a priority. When I started at the MTA in 1981, I oversaw responses to all bus service complaints. I remember one letter in particular: A passenger complained signage was unclear at a Fifth Avenue Manhattan bus stop. Rather than have someone in field check it out, a dispatcher, who reported to me, made a special trip to investigate this single complaint. He drafted a letter for my signature, informing the bus rider that no problem existed at the location and that, if she does not know how to read English, she should not be riding our buses. I ripped up the letter and told him we should never address our passengers in such a rude manner, and that he should rewrite the letter from scratch. I was quite upset. My boss, however, couldn’t care less when I informed him of the incident. I doubt if the attitude of upper management is any different today.

The MTA needs to reinvent itself with regard to how it values customer service and how it treats its passengers. It must also be more efficient. Spending an entire day investigating a single passenger complaint as my employee did was just plain inefficient. How much more waste and inefficiency remains at the MTA?  During my nearly 25 years there, I saw so much, I can’t even describe it. Many employees just goofed off 50 percent of the time and many high level managers, I felt, did not earn their day’s pay. Some merely delegated all their work, passing the tasks of their underlings back up the chain, adding little or nothing to the process. They only badgered their employees, asking why the assignment had not yet been completed. Yet those were the employees the MTA typically rewarded with promotions and higher pay — the ones who didn’t rock the boat nor offered new ideas. Those who actually did the work were taken for granted while those offering new ideas were often considered trouble-makers.

Governor Cuomo agrees that the MTA must approach the future differently in terms of how it serves its passengers. That is evidenced by this letter to the MTA last May. It required the MTA to head a Transportation Reinvention Commission. You can submit your online comments here. I am just wondering, given all that needs to be changed with regard to how the MTA conducts itself, with all its internal politics and blame shifting between departments, if the commission shouldn’t have been an independent one. The MTA needs change from top to bottom if transit is not to be a last resort. Throwing more money at the MTA will not solve all its problems. Much of it will just be misdirected or wasted.

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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  • Allan Rosen

    Erica, you have quite a sense of humor with that picture. I hope no one takes you seriously.

    • http://www.sheepsheadbites.com/ Ned Berke

      Don’t worry. No one does.

      Nyuck nyuck nyuck. I keeeeed.

      • ES

        I am all alone.

  • Subway Stinker

    Aboard the B-36 during the AM rush hours. Low floor buses are fun to ride and well air-conditioned but they fill up way too soon, mainly because passengers refuse to move to the rear, taking up all the space in the front half of the cabin. The result is often “passenger stranding’ until an older, bigger bus lumbers along. This is one problem that could be remedied by passengers themselves, so I won’t assign 100% of the blame on the Transit Authority.

    • Allan Rosen

      What you are saying is true. The low floor have their advantages as well as disadvantages. But all things considered, they are better. Their primary advantage is the reduced time it takes to load wheel chairs which is a major effort for high floor buses and the cause of some of the delays attributable to bus bunching.

  • fdtutf

    “The extra time walking to and from the SBS bus often eats up all your time travel savings.”

    I didn’t realize the MTA had added time machines to its transportation mix.

    • Allan Rosen

      I don’t understand what you are trying to say.

      • fdtutf

        “Time travel” and “travel time” don’t mean the same thing.

        It’s a minor point, and intended to be humorous.

        • Allan Rosen

          I figured it was something like that, but I couldn’t find it even after I reread it several times. Thanks.

  • http://secondavenuesagas.com Benjamin Kabak

    Overall point aside, I think you’re too quick to dismiss time savings of even 6 minutes per ride. If someone uses SBS as a regular means of commuting, 6 minutes per ride is 12 minutes per day which is an hour per five-day work week which is over 2 days per year of time saved. I’d happily take an extra two days per year not spent commuting and so would every other New Yorker.

    • Allan Rosen

      What I am saying is that they are spending millions so some riders can save six minutes a trip without considering the numbers of riders who are losing time. The other point I am making is that even if six minutes a trip is significant, the MTA can assure greater time savings by taking measures to reduce connection times if they valued customer service more, like better bus connections, better subway connections, and better bus and subway connections.

      What is so difficult about installing a few lights at major transfer stations to reduce bus suway connection times during off peak hours at stations such as at Utica Avenue and Eastern Paekway. A bus running at 20, 30, or 60 minute headways can easily wait one or two minutes for an arriving train if a signal told the bus operator a train just arrived at the station and the bus and subway system weren’t operated as if they were two separate companies.

      Also, there is no reason why bus routes such as the B1 and B49 should be scheduled to leave Kingsborough College one minute apart instead of being

      • Allan Rosen

        more evenly spaced to reduce travel times for subway riders who don’t care which bus they are taking. There are so many other ways that six minutes coud be saved like by opening the southern entrance to the 7th Avenue subway station on the Brighton Line, but the Feds are not paying for those types of improvements. That’s why I think too much of a deal is being made about the benefits of SBS.

        • fdtutf

          I don’t know why you assume that the MTA has not assessed the overall travel time effects of the SBS lines it has implemented. You might want to entertain the possibility that it has, and that the negative effects you’re thinking about are not nearly as large in practice as you think they are.

          • Allan Rosen

            I still haven’t seen any reports showing all the effects of SBS for all routes and complimentary local routes. All they do is quote a three year-old microscopic one day phone survey of the M15 to apply to all SBS routes, and repeat that the misleading statement about a 20% travel time savings as to why we need SBS all over the city and how it will cure the bus problems.

            As I stated, even if passengers would have a 20% shorter trip time with SBS, which they don’t, it would still apply to only a very small percentage of bus routes and bus riders anyway, since most routes will never be made into SBS routes. The other problems are being ignored such as better routes nd reliability.

            When I see a proper SBS study, then I may change my tune depending on the results.

          • fdtutf

            The fact that you haven’t seen any reports doesn’t necessarily mean that the MTA hasn’t done the assessments you’re asking for. It might mean that it hasn’t done them, or that it has done them but hasn’t published them, or that it has done them and published them but you don’t know where to find them.

          • Allan Rosen

            Or it could mean that they have done them, and they didn’t like the results they got so they are doing the studies over again with slightly different questions to slant the data so the results seem more favorable.

          • fdtutf

            All of those are possibilities.

            My point is that you should not assume the truth or falsity of any of those possibilities without evidence.

          • Andrew

            Or that it has done them and you’ve found them but you’ve chosen to ignore them, or that it has done them and you’ve found them but you don’t understand them, or that it has done them and you’ve found them and you understand them but you choose to deliberately misinterpret them.

            Consider, for instance, the M15 SBS Progress Report, which (in its Project Results section) discusses ridership, bus travel times, fare collection, customer satisfaction, bus lanes, traffic impacts (speed and volume), road safety, and bicycle ridership. You (Allan) have often criticized the customer satisfaction section (yesterday you decided that it’s a “microscopic one day phone survey” and somehow concluded that it’s been applied to anything other than the M15), and you’ve insisted that the traffic impacts section (which explicitly states that traffic volumes have remained constant) doesn’t take into account traffic diverted elsewhere (which by definition doesn’t exist if traffic volumes have remained constant), and you go ahead and ignore everything else – in particular, ridership, which is the ultimate measure of customer satisfaction.

            And you appear to be unaware of, or you choose to ignore, the similar information posted on the NYC and MTA websites about the Bx12 and the M34 and the S79 and the Bx41.

          • Allan Rosen

            None of what you say is true. I have not chosen to ignore anything. 

            I am only familiar with the M15 data because that is what the MTA has chosen to publicize the most and quote from. So let’s look at the other data you linked. 

            But first, the M15 customer satisfaction survey was a one day microscopic sample of several hundred riders. Do you have information to the contrary? Where in the M15 progress report does the MTA ever give any raw numbers of passengers surveyed? All they show are percentages. There is zero information given regarding the survey methodology. Any responsible survey details the dates, and times of the survey, the number of respondents, etc. The MTA merely says just trust us. We know from past experience they can’t just be trusted. 

            Zero information is given regarding passenger travel time savings which is my major criticism. All they discuss is bus travel time savings from one end of the route to the other which is a distortion of what the real savings for the passenger is since no one rides from the first to the last stop.

            Further, bus travel time savings is all that is discussed in all the other studies you link except for the M34 where it is stated there is a 10% passenger travel time savings because of reduced dwelling time at bus stops, but even that is misleading because it doesn’t include those missing a bus because they have to pre-pay their fare.

            As for applying M15 data to other routes, that is exactly what DOT did to make a case for SBS on Woodhaven Blvd, implying the same savings would occur on Woodhaven as on the M15 when there is no evidence that our happen. And you continue to insist that traffic from First and Second Avenue was not diverted to Third or York Avenue, when before and after traffic counts were not made on those streets which should have been included in the traffic survey. So we don’t know how much traffic was diverted which could have been the case even if First and Second Avenue traffic did not increase.

            As far as Staten Island, drivers have complained en mass that removal of the curb lane for general traffic and conversion to a bus lane greatly slowed traffic. The DOT traffic studies not only showed that traffic is worse on Hylan but also on the alternative Father Capaddano Blvd, but somehow the MTA dismisses it way by saying that a slowing of traffic of at least 10% on both streets is insignificant attributing it to day to day variations. Since more data is not given telling us how many days were studied before and after the changes, we have no idea if it is due to day to day variations or something else. Another instance where disclosing methodology details would help us draw conclusions. Of course, the MTA and DOT are saying just trust us by disclosing only the information they want to disclose, not what is necessary. 

            The Bx 41 report, like all the others except the M34, only talks about bus travel times, again nothing about passenger travel time savings. So in conclusion, even by looking at all the other reports, insufficient information is given the properly assess the true effects of SBS. And that is my major problem. And as for ridership increasing after SBS is implemented, so far that hasn’t been the case with the B44, where 2013 ridership declined from 2012, although SBS was only in effect for the last six weeks of the year. How much do you want to bet that the MTA will ignore changes in B49 ridership when assessing B44 ridership changes, although some on Rogers shifted to the B44 simply because the service is there?

          • fdtutf

            “And you continue to insist that traffic from First and Second Avenue was not diverted to Third or York Avenue, when before and after traffic counts were not made on those streets which should have been included in the traffic survey. So we don’t know how much traffic was diverted which could have been the case even if First and Second Avenue traffic did not increase.”
            If traffic had been diverted from First and Second avenues, traffic on those streets would have *decreased* (because that’s what “diverted” means). The fact that traffic did not decrease means, by definition, that no traffic was diverted. That’s called “math.”

          • Allan Rosen

            What you say would apply only if the road capacity remained the same on First and Second Avenue, but capacity was reduced because one general traffic lane was converted to a bus lane and another to a bike lane so traffic had to have been diverted for traffic not to worsen as was the case. That is called “logic.”

          • fdtutf

            If before and after traffic counts on First and Second avenues showed essentially the same traffic volumes, your point is irrelevant — no traffic was diverted. Your reasoning assumes that traffic counts *must have* been reduced, and it also assumes that First and Second were at or above capacity before the bus lanes were put in (because otherwise there would have been spare capacity that could be filled without worsening congestion). Do you have evidence to support either of those assumptions?

          • Allan Rosen

            I didn’t say that First and Second Avenue carried the same traffic volumes. I said congestion didn’t worsen. That is not the same thing. There were five general lanes of traffic which were reduced to three. Because of double parking in some places, the five lanes were never used at full capacity, but capacity still was reduced somewhat. If congestion did not worsen, it stands to reason that there was a reduction in traffic volume and I highly doubt those drivers switched to buses which means woe of the cars had to go elsewhere and York and Third Avenue are the most likely suspects.

            As for there being spare capacity before, we know that wasn’t the case. Since the traffic signals are adjusted to change if you are going just at or below the speed limit. If there were excess capacity, traffic would have been free flowing with cars abeto travel between 125 Street and Houston Street on a single green signal. Since most of the time you can’t go more than five or ten blocks on one signal and sometimes only one or two blocks, traffic has to be above capacity.

          • Andrew

            I didn’t say that First and Second Avenue carried the same traffic volumes.

            You didn’t say it, but the report did:

            “ATR counts from June 2009 and April 2011 showed little significant change in traffic levels at most intersections. Traffic flow was maintained despite the reduction of moving lanes along many stretches due to better traffic organization, including reducing illegal parking, and providing turn lanes in the bus and bike lane designs.”

          • fdtutf

            ” If congestion did not worsen, it stands to reason that there was a reduction in traffic volume”

            Again, no, that doesn’t necessarily follow.

            “Since the traffic signals are adjusted to change if you are going just at or below the speed limit. If there were excess capacity, traffic would have been free flowing with cars abeto travel between 125 Street and Houston Street on a single green signal. Since most of the time you can’t go more than five or ten blocks on one signal and sometimes only one or two blocks, traffic has to be above capacity.”

            You’re assuming a level of driver competence (and a complete absence of mishaps of any kind) that never exists in the real world. Sometimes there is spare capacity because drivers are not using the road intelligently. Driving often expands to fill the space available, even when not all of that space is needed.

          • Allan Rosen

            Read my response to Andrew below and look at the M15 progress report which shows the average speed to be about 12 mph. That can only be explained by traffic congestion and has nothing to do with driver competence and spare capacity which doesn’t exist much of the time.

            Regarding your first point, if capacity is reduced, which it was, and if there is no increased congestion, then the traffic volume had to have been reduced. However, congestion did increase in places, so the traffic volume was not reduced all over.

          • fdtutf

            Actually, as Andrew has REPEATEDLY pointed out, traffic volumes were not reduced at all. The M15 report specifically says this, but you’re choosing to ignore it.

            I’m looking at this:

            http://web.mta.info/mta/planning/sbs/docs/M15ProgressReport.pdf

            …which specifically says this: ” ATR counts from June 2009 and April 2011 showed little significant change in traffic levels at most intersections. Traffic flow was maintained despite the reduction of moving lanes along many stretches due to better traffic organization, including reducing illegal parking, and providing turn lanes in the bus and bike lane designs.”

            In other words, other changes made to the streets along with the implementation of SBS meant that traffic volumes and flow were MAINTAINED even though the number of lanes was reduced.

            Things aren’t as simple as you want them to be.

          • Allan Rosen

            When did I ever say things are simple?

            Looking at the chart on Page 21, traffic volumes went up in different amounts at five intersections, went down at four, and stayed the same at one. Most of the changes were not significant but two were with volumes increasing about 18 and 25 percent. As I stated, since the term “significant” is not defined and is interpreted differently in different reports as DOT sees fit, it is difficult to draw any firm conclusions without adequate data.

            Just because the report concludes traffic volumes and flow were MAINTAINED, by choosing to ignore intersections with SIGNIFICANT volume increases of 18 and 25%, doesn’t make it so.

          • fdtutf

            Your reasoning is simplistic. That doesn’t necessarily mean you explicitly said it was. (Why would you say that?) So your question is meaningless.

            “Just because the report concludes traffic volumes and flow were MAINTAINED, by choosing to ignore intersections with SIGNIFICANT volume increases of 18 and 25%, doesn’t make it so.”

            Um, right…and those volume increases represent traffic DIVERTED OFF OF First and Second avenues, you’re saying? (Instead, I would guess that they represent additional traffic made possible by the other improvements to the streets that are mentioned in the report.)

          • Allan Rosen

            My reasoning is not simplistic. I am just stating facts. I never said that traffic volume increases at two locations represent traffic diverted off First and Second Avenue. Don’t put words in my mouth. I was merely refuting Andrew’s assertion that traffic volumes have not increased by quoting from the report.

            I stated that it is probably but not certain because of inadequate data collection that traffic could have been diverted from First and Second Avenue to parallel roads since traffic volumes did increase significantly at two measured intersections because the road is already operating over capacity with speeds of only about 12 mph.

            It stands to reason that when you are moving that slowly, you will seek another alternative even if the other road isn’t moving any faster. If someone switches roads at 34 Street because of the congestion on

          • Allan Rosen

            Second Avenue, chances are he won’t switch back even if the congestions lessens further south because of the time it takes to go back and forth. So even if traffic volumes significantly increased only at two intersections, the effects could be more widespread. There is nothing simplistic about that reasoning. In fact, the entire situation is very complex and everything is just conjecture because we don’t have sufficient data to properly analyze what is occurring.

            We also can’t assume that a one time survey taken three years ago bears any reality to conditions today. However, DOT and the MTA believe that a single snapshot in time is all that is necessary to assess an ongoing situation. They are the ones using simplistic reasoning not me.

          • fdtutf

            “My reasoning is not simplistic. I am just stating facts. I never said that traffic volume increases at two locations represent traffic diverted off First and Second Avenue. Don’t put words in my mouth. I was merely refuting Andrew’s assertion that traffic volumes have not increased by quoting from the report.”

            I’m not putting words in your mouth. That was my best guess as to what you meant. If you don’t want people guessing about what you mean, write more clearly.

            “I stated that it is probably but not certain because of inadequate data collection that traffic could have been diverted from First and Second Avenue to parallel roads since traffic volumes did increase significantly at two measured intersections because the road is already operating over capacity with speeds of only about 12 mph.”

            In other words, you’re guessing and you don’t have any evidence of any kind to show that traffic was diverted from First and Second avenues.

            Low speed does not necessarily mean a road is being used to capacity. As the report makes clear, a number of obstacles to free movement restricted automobile throughput before the two streets were improved in connection with the SBS project.

            “It stands to reason that when you are moving that slowly, you will seek another alternative even if the other road isn’t moving any faster. If someone switches roads at 34 Street because of the congestion on Second Avenue, chances are he won’t switch back even if the congestions lessens further south because of the time it takes to go back and forth. So even if traffic volumes significantly increased only at two intersections, the effects could be more widespread. There is nothing simplistic about that reasoning. In fact, the entire situation is very complex and everything is just conjecture because we don’t have sufficient data to properly analyze what is occurring.”

            Then why do you keep carping about traffic being diverted from First and Second avenues, when you don’t even know whether that happened or not? You’re guessing, and without much basis, IMO.

          • RIPTA42

            The average speed was calculated using taxi GPS data. 12 mph isn’t bad since it is averaging in vehicles stopped at red signals. I don’t know how it factors picking up and dropping off fares, either. If you’ll notice from the charts on pages 20-21, average speeds generally *increased* after the implementation of SBS, even as total traffic volume generally *increased*. I doubt people are jumping ship at 34th Street to use other Avenues, since the average speed on 34th Street is only 11 mph (http://www.utrc2.org/sites/default/files/pubs/Project-Presentation-Compressed-Final.pdf – Slide 20) and congestion in general increases as you get closer to the center of the island (Slide 23).

          • Andrew

            None of what you say is true. I have not chosen to ignore anything.

            I presented two options aside from your having chosen to ignore them, and fdtutf presented three.

            I am only familiar with the M15 data because that is what the MTA has chosen to publicize the most and quote from.

            Really? How often has the MTA publicized and quoted from it? (Perhaps you’re only familiar with the M15 data because you were simply unaware of the existence of anything else and you couldn’t be bothered to run a few quick Google searches.)

            But first, the M15 customer satisfaction survey was a one day microscopic sample of several hundred riders.

            Do you base that claim on any particular evidence, or are you just guessing?

            Do you have informat ion to the contrary?

            No, I never made a claim regarding the duration of the survey. Why do you expect me to have evidence to support a claim I never made?

            Where in the M15 progress report does the MTA ever give any raw numbers of passengers surveyed?

            Nowhere. It’s a summary of the findings. (It’s too bad you burned your bridges at NYCT among those who might have been able to give you those details without your having to jump through FOIL hoops.)

            All they show are percentages. There is zero information given regarding the survey methodology. Any responsible survey details the dates, and times of the survey, the number of respondents, etc. The MTA merely says just trust us.

            It’s a summary, not an encyclopedia.

            Zero information is given regarding passenger travel time savings which is my major criticism. All they discuss is bus travel time savings from one end of the route to the other which is a distortion of what the real savings for the passenger is since no one rides from the first to the last stop.

            I certainly wouldn’t say that a 15% savings, or an 18% savings during rush hours, only applies to someone who rides from the first to the last stop. (And this was prior to the implementation of transit signal priority in 2012 or of bus bulbs, currently under construction.)

            A significant majority of former M15 Limited riders both boarded and alighted at stops that would later become SBS stops (give or take a block, since some of the stops were shifted slightly). For everybody in that category, access time to and from the bus is essentially unchanged. Some former Limited riders do have a longer walk to and/or from the bus (or now have to ride the local if they are unable to or choose not to walk), but they are in the distinct minority.

            If riders in fact found the post-SBS M15 less convenient than the pre-SBS M15, there wouldn’t have been a 12% increase in M15 ridership from July 2010 to July 2011 (compared to a 5% drop in overall Manhattan bus ridership over the same period). As I said yesterday, ridership is the ultimate measure of customer satisfaction, and ridership gains on the SBS corridors have been huge.

            Further, bus travel time savings is all that is discussed in all the other studies you link except for the M34 where it is stated there is a 10% passenger travel time savings because of reduced dwelling time at bus stops, but even that is misleading because it doesn’t include those missing a bus because they have to pre-pay their fare.

            Pardon?

            The Bx12 report discusses revenue and ridership and customer satisfaction and fare inspection statistics and parking/moving violations and availability of fare payment machines and customer complaints and new SBS stops and sidewalks and instructional decals and fare machinery and electrical outages. Did you miss all of that?

            The S79 report discusses ridership and traffic impacts and travel times for motorists and customer satisfaction and safety. Did you miss all of that?

            The Bx41 report (which is much briefer) discusses ridership. Did you miss that?

            The M34 report discusses ridership and passenger satisfaction and a cost-neutral service increase. Did you miss all of that? Fare prepayment adds a negligible few seconds to the access time – anybody missing the bus due to the fare payment process would have caught it had they arrived at the stop a few seconds earlier. It’s essentially the same as missing a train because of having to swipe at the turnstile. (I missed a train today for that very reason, but I’m certainly not about to advocate for on-board subway fare collection!)

            As for applying M15 data to other routes, that is exactly what DOT did to make a case for SBS on Woodhaven Blvd, implying the same savings would occur on Woodhaven as on the M15 when there is no evidence that our happen.

            I’m sorry? Did you actually see that somewhere, or is it a figment of your imagination?

            And you continue to insist that traffic from First and Second Avenue was not diverted to Third or York Avenue, when before and after traffic counts were not made on those streets which should have been included in the traffic survey. So we don’t know how much traffic was diverted which could have been the case even if First and Second Avenue traffic did not increase.

            The M15 progress report measures traffic volumes on 1st and 2nd. They’re unchanged. That means there’s been no diversion away from 1st and 2nd.

            As far as Staten Island, drivers have complained en mass that removal of the curb lane for general traffic and conversion to a bus lane greatly slowed traffic. The DOT traffic studies not only showed that traffic is worse on Hylan but also on the alternative Father Capaddano Blvd, but somehow the MTA dismisses it way by saying that a slowing of traffic of at least 10% on both streets is insignificant attributing it to day to day variations. Since more data is not given telling us how many days we re studied before and after the changes, we have no idea if it is due to day to day variations or something else. Another instance where disclosing methodology details would help us draw conclusions. Of course, the MTA and DOT are saying just trust us by disclosing only the information they want to disclose, not what is necessary.

            I’m sorry? Where does the report claim that “a slowing of traffic of at least 10% on both streets is insignificant”? I don’t see that anywhere; if I’ve missed it, perhaps you can point me to it. Here’s the paragraph that concludes with day to day variations: “While travel times did increase on Hylan Boulevard when the bus lanes are in effect, they also increased in the off-peak direction where the bus lanes were not in effect, and on Father Capodanno Bouelvard, where no operational changes were made. This suggests that the changed travel times on both corridors is likely not related to the addition of bus lanes on Hylan Boulevard. Rather, it most likely reflects natural day to day variation in travel times captured during the before and after study periods.” I don’t see anything there about a 10% change being insignificant!

            Yes, drivers have complained. Drivers like to complain. Drivers right here on Sheepshead Bites (yourself included) regularly complain about not only enforcement of bus lanes but also enforcement of red lights and enforcement of speed limits and enforcement of yield-to-pedestrian laws. So I’m not particularly inclined to treat the existence of driver complaints with any particular significance.

            The Bx 41 report, like all the others except the M34, only talks about bus travel times, again nothing about passenger travel time savings.

            The Bx41 report discusses ridership, which has gone up. If passenger travel time hasn’t been reduced, then why on earth would ridership have gone up?

            And as for ridership increasing after SBS is implemented, so far that hasn’t been the case with the B44, where 2013 ridership declined from 2012, although SBS was only in effect for the last six weeks of the year.

            Why are you citing a statistic that you know quite well is irrelevant? For 88% of 2013 the B44 didn’t have SBS.

          • Allan Rosen

            For the nth time, how much is the MTA paying you to defend their bad statistics?

            First and Second Avenue traffic volumes:

            Water seeks its lowest level. The same applies to traffic. Drivers will seek the road with the least amount of traffic. The facts are that First and Second Avenue is overloaded with cars much of the time with an average speed of about 12 mph according to the progress report. If traffic volumes went up on portions of First and Second Avenue, drivers would seek alternatives such as York and Third Avenues which they probably did. 

            This is what you stated. “The M15 project report measures traffic volumes on First and Second. Their unchanged. That means there was no diversion away from 1st and 2nd.” 

            Did you even read the report? Because that’s not what it states at all. Look at the chart on Page 21 showing before and after traffic volumes at selected intersections. The changes at 60 St on 1st Avenue and 34 St on Second Avenue were very significant. Traffic volume increased by about 25% at the first location and about by about 18% at the second location. Also notice how they switched the order of the bars on the first chart to hide the 25% increase so it looks like a decrease unless you read the key. So at least at those two locations traffic was probably diverted, but without the data that was never collected, we cannot say that for certain.  

            The key word in discussing traffic volumes is “significant” which has not been defined. If traffic was slowed by 10% in Staten Island, why was that considered “no substantial impact”. That is the same as saying “not significant.” What about 15%? Would that be significant?  We do not know because the term is not defined. 

            However, bus travel time savings of 10% on 34 St (which has been exaggerated), is considered “significant.” It is irresponsible to give the same word different definitions depending on what you want to prove, but the MTA is always being inconsistent in its reasoning. That is nothing new. They may have not used the word ” insignificant”, but the fact that they try to explain it away and call it “not substantial” saying it was due to daily variations and not the bus lane with no proof whatsoever to support that theory, and proposing no remedies to increase non-bus trip times, says they don’t think it is important. Didn’t they average traffic on many days both before and after? If so, why would the slowing of travel time be as a result of daily variations? If they only used one or two days before and after, that would not be a responsible study. 

            You say that drivers always complain so you don’t take their complaints seriously. When B44 local bus riders complained of long waits after SBS was instituted, you didn’t take their complaints seriously either, blaming them for not reading the signage because you always stick up for the MTA, so I dismiss your comment that drivers’ complaints should not be taken seriously because they “like to complain”. 

            I responded to all the options you and fdtuft provided. I did not ignore anything in spite of what you say.

            M15 Customer Satisfaction Survey:

            The only information provided is that 99% of SBS passengers were satisfied and 90% of local passengers were satisfied. So we know at least 100 people responded to a survey. Why should we assume there were more? Only about 800 responded to the citywide customer satisfaction survey, averaging four people per route or a .14% of riders surveyed, so why should there have been more than 100 respondents for a route with an average weekday ridership of 54,000 which would be a .18% response rate?

            When I went to school we were taught that any survey results must include raw numbers as well as percentages and also reveal the survey sample, disclose the margin of error, etc for it to be accepted as statistically valid. Yet the MTA decides to ignore all this and just present percentages and nothing else. It has nothing to do with presenting an “encyclopedia.” Excuse me, I forgot. I went to school over 40 years ago and what was taught back then is not valid today. 

            You should not have to go to the Freedom of Information Act to get basic information that should have been provided in the report’s appendix which the MTA does not make public. What are they hiding? Plenty. Like all the numbers they don’t want you to see.

            In order for someone to benefit from the entire travel time savings, one must ride the entire route as I stated. You can try to twist that as much as you want. It doesn’t make what you say true.

            All the data you mention included in the Bx41, S79, and Bx12 does not change the fact that the most important statistic of all, the amount of time saved by the average passenger as a result of SBS, is ignored in all but one report. 

            Your point that if someone arrived a few minutes earlier, he would have not missed the M34 due to the prepayment requirement is irrelevant. The fact that you may have to wait another ten minutes more than wiping out your three minute time savings, is significant and just must be factored in. Ignoring that possibility skews the statistics. 

            In the DOT’s presentations of the proposed SBS service on Woodhaven, which I attended and you didn’t, they frequently referred to the “success” along First and Second Avenues and the 99% satisfaction rate both verbally and in printed information that was distributed, to imply there would be similar results along Woodhaven. It is not a factor of my imagination. 

            You try to make an erroneous inference that since Bx41 ridership went up, travel time had to have decreased. Bronx borough local bus ridership increased by 4.2% so am I to assume that travel times decreased systemwide? Nonsense. Yes Bx41 ridership saw a greater increase than the borough average, but four other non-SBS routes saw much greater increases than the Bx41 and the Bx12 which has SBS showed an increase of less than the borough average. Should I conclude travel times got worse on that route? It is so much easier to collect the proper data which the MTA doesn’t do, than try to guess what probably happened. 

            I don’t know what else I have to say to convince you all the data is slanted. In the S79 report, they pick out two specific points, probably where there is the greatest time savings for the passenger, and present that data when we need to know what the average passenger saves. Then they state the chief complaint among local riders is the need for an additional transfer, but they do not tell you how many local riders are affected or how much time that additional transfer costs. 

            In the Bx12 report, they state that 32% of local riders reported quicker trips. So what does that say about the remaining 68% of local riders. How many trips were made longer and how many riders were affected? Which is a more important number 32% or 68%. Breakdowns are only given when the numbers are to the benefit of SBS. Fair studies do not draw their conclusions beforehand and then structure the presentation of data in a skewed manner as the MTA does to not present the complete picture, but only what they want you to see. That is my problem in a nutshell with SBS.

            Finally, I see that SBS is the only thing you chose to comment on from the entire three-part series. Am I to conclude you agree with the other 95% of this series? If so, I would say, I did pretty well. 

          • Andrew

            For the nth time, how much is the MTA paying you to defend their bad statistics?

            I’m not defending anything, actually – I’m simply pointing out that there’s been a lot more information released than a “microscopic one day phone survey” on one line. And you make it easy enough to do that I don’t expect compensation from anybody.

            First and Second Avenue traffic volumes:
            Water seeks its lowest level. The same applies to traffic. Drivers will seek the road with the least amount of traffic. The facts are that First and Second Avenue is overloaded with cars much of the time with an average speed of about 12 mph according to the progress report. If traffic volumes went up on portions of First and Second Avenue, drivers would seek alternatives such as York and Third Avenues which they probably did.

            The facts are that First and Second carried about as much traffic after SBS as before, and therefore, by definition, there was no diversion.

            This is what you stated. “The M15 project report measures traffic volumes on First and Second. Their unchanged. That means there was no diversion away from 1st and 2nd.”
            Did you even read the report? Because that’s not what it states at all. Look at the chart on Page 21 showing before and after traffic volumes at selected intersections. The changes at 60 St on 1st Aven ue and 34 St on Second Avenue were very significant. Traffic volume increased by about 25% at the first location and about by about 18% at the second location. Also notice how they switched the order of the bars on the first chart to hide the 25% increase so it looks like a decrease unless you read the key. So at least at those two locations traffic was probably diverted, but without the data that was never collected, we cannot say that for certain.

            I’m sorry? Traffic volumes are up yet you still insist that traffic has been diverted? Do you not know what the words traffic volumes mean?

            (Incidentally, I said “They’re unchanged,” not “Their unchanged.” If you’re going to quote me, please do so without introducing misspellings.)

            The key word in discussing traffic volumes is “significant” which has not been defined. If traffic was slowed by 10% in Staten Island, why was that considered “no substantial impact”.

            It wasn’t. You made that up. Nowhere doors the S79 report claim that a 10% increase in travel time is insignificant. What it does state is that travel times were also up in the reverse-peak direction (with no active bus lane) and on a parallel street (with no bus lane), and it’s hard to blame a bus lane for a travel time increase in the direction where there’s no bus lane.

            That is the same as saying “not significant.” What about 15%? Would that be significant? We do not know because the term is not defined.

            The term isn’t defined because it isn’t used in this context!

            However, bus travel time savings of 10% on 34 St (which has been exaggerated), is considered “significant.” It is irresponsible to give the same word different definitions depending on what you want to prove, but the MTA is always being inconsistent in its reasoning. That is nothing new.

            A 10% travel time savings is most certainly significant, and I’ve seen no evidence that it’s been exaggerated.

            They may have not used the word ” insignificant”, but the fact that they try to explain it away and call it “not substantial” saying it was due to daily variations and not the bus lane with no proof whatsoever to support that theory, and proposing no remedies to increase non-bus trip times, says they don’t think it is important.

            Where do they call it “not substantial”? What explanation do you have for increased travel times in the direction opposite that of the bus lane?

            Didn’t they average traffic on many days both before and after? If so, why would the slowing of travel time be as a result of daily variations? If they only used on e or two days before and after, that would not be a responsible study.

            They certainly didn’t use hundreds or thousands of days. There will be some degree of natural variation. Again, you are welcome to propose an alternative hypothesis that accounts for the increased delays in both directions on a street whose bus lane is in effect only only direction at a time.

            You say that drivers always complain so you don’t take their complaints seriously.

            I have no objection to serious complaints. But when motorists whine (as many motorists are wont to do) that they can no longer drive however they want wherever they want whenever they want, I tend not to take them very seriously.

            You’ve provided an excellent example of typical motorist whining, by the way. Thanks! How dare anybody try to blame the effects of trying to cram too many cars into a limited space on the individuals who opt to cram too many cars into a limited space. It’s obviously everybody else’s fault! (Hint: Read some Donald Shoup.

            When B44 local bus riders complained of long waits after SBS was instituted, you didn’t take their complaints seriously either, blaming them for not reading the signage because you always stick up for the MTA, so I dismiss your comment that drivers’ complaints should not be taken seriously because they “like to complain”.

            I didn’t take their complaints seriously? Really? That’s news to me.

            I didn’t blame anyone for not reading signage. I stated the obvious fact (maybe you were absent that day of grad school) that it takes riders some time to internalize the intricacies of a service change, and that initially many of them will take suboptimal routings, until they’ve had a chance to try out other options and discover something better. Many of the people who used to transfer from east-west bus routes to the northbound B44 Limited at New York Avenue didn’t realize right away that the better transfer point with SBS had shifted to Rogers. Similarly, many who originated from Nostrand itself continued to walk east rather than west to catch the northbound bus. I’ll be the first to say that the initial round of customer information could have been better in this regard – for instance, drivers on intersecting routes should have been instructed to make explicit announcements about the change in transfer point – but it was a short-term problem that’s largely solved itself as riders have become accustomed to the new routing.

            Are some B44 riders seeing worse service than in the past? Of course, and I’ve never denied it – almost any service change will have winners and losers. The question is whether B44 riders overall are better or worse off than before. It’s too soon to answer that question for the B44, but riders on the first five SBS corridors are, in general, better off with and than they were without. Again, that doesn’t mean that every single rider is better off, because every transit system has to balance the diverse needs of its many riders when weighing a service change.

            I responded to all the options you and fdtuft provided. I did not ignore anything in sp ite of what you say.

            This is what I said a few days ago: “Or that it has done them and you’ve found them but you’ve chosen to ignore them, or that it has done them and you’ve found them but you don’t understand them, or that it has done them and you’ve found them and you understand them but you choose to deliberately misinterpret them.”

            Fine, I accept that you haven’t chosen to ignore them. The other two possibilities are still open. (In the case of traffic volumes, you clearly don’t understand what the words mean.)

            M15 Customer Satisfaction Survey:
            The only information provided is that 99% of SBS passengers were satisfied and 90% of local passengers were satisfied. So we know at least 100 people responded to a survey. Why should we assume there were more?

            I have no idea how many people responded, and I’ve made no assumption. You’re the one who made the claim of a “microscopic one day phone survey” – apparently without any evidence whatsoever.

            Kindly provide evidence or retract the claim.

            When I went to school we were taught that any survey results must include raw numbers as well as percentages and also reveal the survey sample, disclose the margin of error, etc for it to be accepted as statistically valid. Yet the MTA decides to ignore all this and just present percentages and nothing else. It has nothing to do with presenting an “encyclopedia.” Excuse me, I forgot. I went to school over 40 years ago and what was taught back then is not valid today.

            When I went to school we were taught to tailor our output to the relevant audience, and that the audience for a summary of results is different from the audience for a detailed technical report.

            This was taught in 1974 much as it is in 2014.

            You should not have to go to the Freedom of Information Act to get basic information that should have been provided in the report’s appendix which the MTA does not make public.

            Actually, this is exactly why FOIL exists. Take advantage of it, or if you’re not willing to take advantage of it, then please stop passing off your speculation as confirmed fact.

            What are they hiding? Plenty. Like all the numbers they don’t want you to see.

            What was I just saying about speculation?

            In order for someone to benefit from the entire travel time savings, one must ride the entire route as I stated. You can try to twist that as much as you want. It doesn’t make what you say true.

            That’s why I cite percentages rather than absolute times.

            All the data you mention included in the Bx41, S79, and Bx12 does not change the fact that the most important statistic of all, the amount of time saved by the average passenger as a result of SBS, is ignored in all but one report.

            That statistic is not measurable. The best you can get, if you’re unwilling to rely on modeling, is a small sample of the gut feelings of riders who happen to have used the service regularly both before and after SBS. Gut feelings are notoriously unreliable, and you’d miss out on anybody who either was attracted to the line or chased away from it after SBS stated.
            Bus travel times, on the other hand, are easily and reliably measurable.
            The single most illustrative statistic is corridor ridership change as compared to citywide or boroughwide ridership change, because it correlates directly to how useful people find the service as opposed to its alternatives.

            Your point that if someone arrived a few minutes earlier, he would have not missed the M34 due to the prepayment requirement is irrelevant. The fact that you may have to wait another ten minutes more than wiping out your three minute time savings, is significant and just must be factored in. Ignoring that possibility skews the statistics.

            (A few minutes earlier? Did I really say minutes? Because it only takes a few seconds to get an SBS receipt.)

            Anybody can miss a bus, SBS or conventional. (It happened to me yesterday.) Yes, if you miss a bus, then you’re unfortunately stuck waiting for the next one.

            The only change with SBS is that it takes a few seconds to get a receipt before boarding. If it takes me 4 minutes to walk to my bus stop, I now need to give myself 4 minutes and (say) 15 seconds, to walk and to get a receipt. If my travel time on board the bus has dropped by more than 15 seconds (as it has four nearly every SBS trip), I’ve come out ahead.

            In the DOT’s presentations of the proposed SBS service on Woodhaven, which I attended and you didn’t, they frequently referred to the “success” along First and Second Avenues and the 99% satisfaction rate both verbally and in printed information that was distributed, to imply there would be similar results along Woodhaven. It is not a factor of my imagination.

            Really? They referred to the success of the second SBS corridor in particular, rather than to the program as a whole? I wonder why they would have done that. Could it be that you assumed that they were referring to the M15 because you didn’t realize that four other corridors had also been evaluated? Just a guess on my part.

            You try to make an erroneous inference that since Bx41 ridership went up, travel time had to have decreased. Bronx borough local bus ridership increased by 4.2% so am I to assume that travel times decreased systemwide? Nonsense.

            Ridership swings across an entire borough are often dominated by overriding factors, such as general increases in employment. What’s interesting to look at is the change on one particular corridor compared to the borough as a whole.

            Yes Bx41 ridership saw a greater increase than the borough average, but four other non-SBS routes saw much greater increases than the Bx41 and the Bx12 which has SBS showed an increase of less than the borough average. Should I conclude travel times got worse on that route?

            Ridership surged on the Bx34 because of the restoration of weekend service. The Bx24 continued to grow following its initial 2011 startup. The Bx15 Limited replaced the Bx55 mid-2013, so most former Bx55 riders became Bx15 riders. That explains three of the high-ridership-growth Bronx routes, leaving only the Bx13 ahead of the Bx41 – and that’s for an SBS startup that began mid-year.

            SBS on the Bx12 started in 2008. A change in ridership (up or down) from 2012 to 2013 is unlikely to have had anything to do with the introduction of SBS 4-5 years prior, so I’m not entirely sure why you bring it up. In fact, with two SBS routes intersecting at Fordham Plaza, the availability of faster Bx41 service might have diverted a bit of ridership away from what had previously been the only SBS line available.

            It is so much easier to collect the proper data which the MTA doesn’t do, than try to guess what probably happened.

            Ridership isn’t the proper data? News to me.

            I don’t know what else I have to say to convince you all the data is slanted. In the S79 report, they pick out two specific points, probably where there is the greatest time savings for the passenger, and present that data when we need to know what the average passenger saves.

            I’m sorry? Two specific points? Those two points are the terminals, and the total running time prior to SBS is compared to the total running time with SBS in order to arrive at an overall percentage savings. Or are you referring to the discussion of running times specifically along the two mile segment of Hylan Boulevard where bus lanes were installed? I think it’s pretty important to determine to what extent the bus lanes are helping – don’t you?

            Then they state the chief complaint among local riders is the need for an additional transfer, but they do not tell you how many local riders are affected or how much time that additional transfer costs.

            No, they don’t, but with 96% of S78 (local) riders “satisfied” or “very satisfied,” it’s apparently not a big deal for most.

            In the Bx12 report, they state that 32% of local riders reported quicker trips. So what does that say about the remaining 68% of local riders. How many trips were made longer and how many riders were affected? Which is a more important number 32% or 68%. Breakdowns are only given when the numbers are to the benefit of SBS. Fair studies do not draw their conclusions beforehand and then structure the presentation of data in a skewed manner as the MTA does to not present the complete picture, but only what they want you to see. That is my problem in a nutshell with SBS.

            Seeing as the SBS had twice as many riders as the local (and I believe the split has grown since 2009), and the primary point of SBS is to improve travel time and reliability for longer trips, I don’t think it’s necessary to dwell on this issue.

            Finally, I see that SBS is the only thing you chose to comment on from the entire three-part series. Am I to conclude you agree with the other 95% of this series? If so, I would say, I did pretty well.

            Pardon me for being busy with two trips out of town in the past three weeks. Please don’t take my silence to mean agreement. It could simply mean that I was busy or that I didn’t feel like responding.

            You want a general response? Transit will always be a last resort as long as we go out of our way to prioritize driving. Any time we force developers or taxpayers to provide parking, we make it easier to drive places and we make it harder to walk or to effectively serve an area with transit. High density development with no parking, on the other hand, makes it harder to drive and easier to walk and use transit. Personally, I think society is best off with the middle ground approach of permitting but not requiring parking and density and allowing the market to respond to the needs and tastes of the public.

          • Allan Rosen

            You certainly are and have been defending the MTA about 99% of the time, usually blaming the politicians for every MTA wrongdoing ever since you have been responding on the Internet. I am not saying they don’t share any blame, but the amount of blame you attribute to the MTA has been minuscule, when they are the ones deserving most of the blame. 

            Our readers are tired of me having to constantly defend my articles responding to your comments that end up just going around in circles, and me continually having to repeat myself while you constantly change positions and redirect the conversation to other matters. So I will not be getting into another First /Second Avenue traffic conversation with you. 

            All I will say is to repeat, that traffic was significantly increased at two intersections by as much as 25%, which the report doesn’t highlight, but can be seen from the chart on Page 21. That means there were significant traffic impacts at two locations which caused traffic ramifications, although the report tried to hide the increase by switching the order of the bars. So your statement that “by definition” there were no traffic impacts is wrong.

            Regarding the S79, I am not making anything up. Page 1 – Executive Summary. Finding 3. “No Substantial Impact on Traffic Flow.” In spite of reporting elsewhere a 10% increase in travel time for cars. So my point still stands. A 10% change is not considered significant in one study, but a 10% reduction in travel time is considered significant in another study. You can’t change the definition of a word as you see fit based on what you want to prove as the MTA does. Studies must be fair and objective which they are not. 

            You didn’t blame anyone for not reading signage? You have repeatedly stated that passengers don’t read the signage anyway. You have also dismissed doing any passenger surveys to ask passengers how long a trip took because you have repeatedly stated that passengers aren’t able to give any reliable estimates of how long their trip takes. You have also implied that passengers are too dumb to understand what a sample size is, thereby excusing the MTA from giving any details about their surveys because as you stated they have to tailor their report to the audience it was meant for. 

            Funny how the New York Riders Council can give detailed information about their studies even including the survey questions, which is meant for the same audience. 
            The MTA didn’t post information regarding the use of Rogers Avenue until months after implementation, yet you fault the passenger, not the MTA for resulting confusion. And you still insist that you are not defending the MTA every step of the way.

            I gave you a specific rationale and evidence to support that no more than about 100 people responded to the M15 microscopic customer survey taken at one point in time over three years ago. Yet you choose to ignore that and insist without any proof that the survey was larger, and  you insist that there is other data without any shred of proof. You ask me to “prove”  the survey was microscopic and ask me to retract my statement, while you can make any allegations you want to without a shred of proof. Let’s at least have a level playing field.

            I am not going to waste any more of my time responding to the dissection of every word I wrote. But I must answer your ridiculous statement that it takes “only a few seconds” to purchase a ticket and people should leave their homes 15 seconds earlier so as or to miss the bus. That assumes everyone knows precisely to the second when the bus will arrive. What a ridiculous response to someone having to wait 10 more minutes for a bus that may save him only three minutes. Yet you see no reason why those riders need to be included in the statistics. 

            I will only make one final point. You take away all MTA responsibility for transit being a last resort, the theme of this series, instead attributing it to prioritizing driving when the city in recent years has been doing everything possible to discourage driving while the MTA has not made customer service a high priority. But you don’t attribute any blame to the MTA whatsoever in spite of the numerous examples I gave in this series. And you have the nerve to lie and say you aren’t defending anything. That’s chutzpah. 

          • Allan Rosen

            Correction. Should say “15 seconds earlier so as not to miss the bus.”

          • Andrew

            You certainly are and have been defending the MTA about 99% of the time, usually blaming the politicians for every MTA wrongdoing ever since you have been responding on the Internet. I am not saying they don’t share any blame, but the amount of blame you attribute to the MTA has been minuscule, when they are the ones deserving most of the blame.

            Allan, given the quality of your arguments, I could use them to defend my worst enemy. It’s really not difficult to defend whoever you are trying to vilify.

            Our readers are tired of me having to constantly defend my articles responding to your comments that end up just going around in circles, and me continually having to repeat myself while you constantly change positions and redirect the conversation to other matters.

            Pardon me? Which positions have I constantly changed? Where I have I redirected the conversation to other matters?

            So I will not be getting into another First /Second Avenue traffic conversation with you.

            Of course you won’t. Because you still apparently haven’t figured out what those pesky words traffic volume mean.

            All I will say is to repeat, that traffic was significantly increased at two intersections by as much as 25%, which the report doesn’t highlight, but can be seen from the chart on Page 21.

            Exactly. Traffic volumes went up at several intersections, despite the reduction in lane count available to general traffic. Why are you painting this as a bad thing?

            That means there were significant traffic impacts at two locations which caused traffic ramifications, although the report tried to hide the increase by switching the order of the bars.

            Yes, there were positive traffic ramifications. More traffic, not less, is flowing past those points.

            So your statement that “by definition” there were no traffic impacts is wrong.

            I repeat: More traffic, not less, is flowing past those points. If First and Second are carrying more traffic than before, what traffic do you claim is being diverted elsewhere?

            If you’re having trouble with these concepts, how about asking our resident traffic engineer for some tips?

            Regarding the S79, I am not making anything up. Page 1 – Executive Summary. Finding 3. “No Substantial Impact on Traffic Flow.” In spite of reporting elsewhere a 10% increase in travel time for cars. So my point still stands. A 10% change is not considered significant in one study, but a 10% reduction in travel time is considered significant in another study. You can’t change the definition of a word as you see fit based on what you want to prove as the MTA does. Studies must be fair and objective which they are not.

            No substantial impact on traffic flow due to the bus lanes – because the changes on Hylan in the direction of the bus lane were similar to the changes in traffic flow on the Father Capodanno corridor and on Hylan in the direction opposite the bus lane!

            The graphs on page 16 show the change in traffic volumes: northbound in the AM, a 22% drop on Hylan, a 10% drop on FCB, and a 1% drop on Richmond Road; southbound in the PM, a 7% drop on Hylan, a 13% drop on FCB, and a 1% increase on Richmond Road. Overall traffic volumes dropped considerably, but there clearly hasn’t been a major diversion from Hylan to other roads.

            As for travel time comparison, based on the table on page 17, in the AM, the Hylan corridor and the Father Capodanno corridor both saw 18% increases in the peak direction, while the Father Capodanno corridor saw a 17% increase in the reverse-peak direction. In the PM, the greatest increase was on Father Capodanno in the reverse-peak direction, where travel times increased by 14%, as opposed to the 7% increase on Hylan in the peak direction.

            Nowhere do I see any claim that 10% is considered insignificant. Sorry. It’s not there.

            You didn’t blame anyone for not reading signage? You have repeatedly stated that passengers don’t read the signage anyway.

            Oh? When was that?

            You have also dismissed doing any passenger surveys to ask passengers how long a trip took because you have repeat edly stated that passengers aren’t able to give any reliable estimates of how long their trip takes.

            Correct. As I said: “Gut feelings are notoriously unreliable, and you’d miss out on anybody who either was attracted to the line or chased away from it after SBS sta[r]ted.” I trust the misspelled word didn’t prove too confusing.

            You have also implied that passengers are too dumb to understand what a sample size is, thereby excusing the MTA from giving any details about their surveys because as you stated they have to tailor their report to the audience it was meant for.

            No, Allan, I didn’t imply that anyone was dumb. In order to fit a broad discussion of results into eight pages, the details of the methodology won’t all fit.

            If you’re on speaking terms with anyone in NYCT Market Research, give them a call and ask for the details. If not, then I guess that FOIL is the best you’re going to get. Why you’re so averse to taking advantage of FOIL is beyond me.

            Funny how the New York Riders Council can give detailed information about their studies even including the survey questions, which is meant for the same audience.

            Congratulations to them!

            The MTA didn’t post information regarding the use of Rogers Avenue until months after implementation, yet you fault the passenger, not the MTA for resulting confusion. And you still insist that you are not defending the MTA every step of the way.

            Pardon? Where did I fault the passenger?

            I’ll repeat what I said: “I didn’t blame anyone for not reading signage. I stated the obvious fact (maybe you were absent that day of grad school) that it takes riders some time to internalize the intricacies of a service change, and that initially many of them will take suboptimal routings, until they’ve had a chance to try out other options and discover something better. Many of the people who used to transfer from east-west bus routes to the northbound B44 Limited at New York Avenue didn’t realize right away that the better transfer point with SBS had shifted to Rogers. Similarly, many who originated from Nostrand itself continued to walk east rather than west to catch the northbound bus. I’ll be the first to say that the initial round of customer information could have been better in this regard – for instance, drivers on intersecting routes should have been instructed to make explicit announcements about the change in transfer point – but it was a short-term problem that’s largely solved itself as riders have become accustomed to the new routing.”

            I think that’s pretty clear. If not, please ask for clarification – but please do not put words in my mouth. Thanks.

            I gave you a specific rationale and evidence to support that no more than about 100 people responded to the M15 microscopic customer survey taken at one point in time over three years ago.

            No you didn’t. You gave evidence to support that at least 100 people responded.

            Yet you choose to ignore that and insist without any proof that the survey was larger, and you insist that there is other data without any shred of proof.

            Actually, I never made any claim one way or the other regarding the size of the survey. It could have been large, it could have been small. You claimed it was “microscopic” – without the slightest bit of evidence.

            You ask me to “prove” the survey was microscopic and ask me to retract my statement, while you can make any allegations you want to without a shred of proof. Let’s at least have a level playing field.

            What claim did I make about the survey size that I haven’t proven?

            I am not going to waste any more of m y time responding to the dissection of every word I wrote. But I must answer your ridiculous statement that it takes “only a few seconds” to purchase a ticket and people should leave their homes 15 seconds earlier so as or to miss the bus. That assumes everyone knows precisely to the second when the bus will arrive. What a ridiculous response to someone having to wait 10 more minutes for a bus that may save him only three minutes. Yet you see no reason why those riders need to be included in the statistics.

            No, it most certainly does not! Anybody can miss a bus, whether SBS or not. If I show up to my local bus stop at an arbitrary time, I may catch the bus just as it’s pulled up (lucky me!), or I may show up just as the bus is pulling out and have to wait a full headway, or I may show up somewhere in between. The average wait time is half the headway. If I’m going to be riding SBS and I’ve found that it takes 15 seconds to get a receipt, and I am to arrive at the bus stop 15 seconds earlier than otherwise, then by the time I’ve gotten my receipt I’m at exactly the same point in the waiting cycle as in my initial example of a local bus – perhaps the bus is now at the stop waiting for me to board (yay!), or perhaps the bus has just pulled out (boo!), or perhaps I’m somewhere in between. As before, the average wait time is half the headway. The only change is that I had to give myself an extra 15 seconds to get the receipt.

            If it takes 15 seconds to get a receipt, and the bus runs, say, every 10 minutes, then there is a a chance that my need to get a receipt will cause me to miss the bus, but it’s a very small chance – a mere 2.5% (10 minutes divided into 15 seconds). In that unlucky event, I’ve lost a full 10 minutes. The vast majority of the time – 97.5%, to be precise – I lose no time at all, because I will be waiting for the bus anyway during the 15 seconds I need to get my receipt. What’s the average time loss? (.025 x 600 sec) + (.975 x 0 sec) = 15 seconds.

            If you insist on focusing only on the 2.5% chance (using the example numbers above) of missing a bus due to the ticket procedure and ignore the 97.5% chance of not missing a bus, either you’re being deliberately dishonest or you’re still rusty on the basic principles of probability.

            I will only make one final point. You take away all MTA responsibility for transit being a last resort, the theme of this series, instead attributing it to prioritizing driving when the city in recent years has been doing everything possible to discourage driving whil e the MTA has not made customer service a high priority. But you don’t attribute any blame to the MTA whatsoever in spite of the numerous examples I gave in this series. And you have the nerve to lie and say you aren’t defending anything. That’s chutzpah.

            New York City has the highest transit mode share (by far) in North America. If you think transit is a last resort here in New York, I suggest you look anywhere else first.

            The city continues to set aside massive amounts of space for the driving and storage of private motor vehicles (mostly cars). The city furthermore continues to require developers in most parts of the city to set aside space of their own for additional storage of private motor vehicles. Not only is the city not actively discouraging driving, these policies actively encourage driving, and the reallocation in recent years of a fraction of 1% of the city’s street space to buses and bicycles and pedestrians doesn’t change that.

          • Allan Rosen

            I am not going to waste my time with someone who insists that traffic volume and flow worsening significantly on Hylan Blvd and all parallel streets does not mean that reduced capacity for general traffic on Hylan Blvd was diverted to those parallel streets. And somehow because traffic also worsened in the non-peak direction due to whatever reasons, that somehow means that the bus lanes did not contribute at all to the worsening traffic.

            As for your allegation that the average 15 second time loss, if true, due to prepayment of fare is insignificant and should be ignored, you fail to mention that the 10% time savings due to reduced dwell times only amounts to about 2 minutes in the first place, but real numbers don’t matter to the MTA, only percentages to make the savings appear more dramatic. So 15 seconds is 12 1/2% of 2 minutes, so if 10% is significant, so is 12 1/2%. It must be factored in the equation or else the savings percentage is wrong.

            As for your other comments, you ask me to restate things I have already proven. I will not continue to have endless discussions with

          • Allan Rosen

            you that are also pointless.

          • Andrew

            I am not going to waste my time with someone who insists that traffic volume and flow worsening significantly on Hylan Blvd and all parallel streets does not mean that reduced capacity for general traffic on Hylan Blvd was diverted to those parallel streets.

            Traffic volumes dropped on both Hylan and Father Capodanno, and were essentially unchanged on Richmond Road (down by 1% in the AM, up by 1% in the PM). If traffic had been diverted, then volumes would have gone up somewhere. They didn’t.

            And somehow because traffic also worsened in the non-peak direction due to whatever reasons, that somehow means that the bus lanes did not contribute at all to the worsening traffic.

            The greatest increase in travel times in the PM was northbound on Father Capodanno. Do you think the bus lane on Hylan, which is in effect southbound only at that time of day, caused the increased congestion on Father Capodanno northbound?

            As for your allegation that the average 15 second time loss, if true, due to prepayment of fare is insignificant and shoul d be ign ored,

            Don’t put words in my mouth. It’s not insignificant, and it shouldn’t be ignored. It should be recognized for what it is: 15 seconds, no more and no less.

            you fail to mention that the 10% time savings due to reduced dwell times only amounts to about 2 minutes in the first place,

            The 10% time savings due to reduced dwell times varies by length of trip. For virtually all trips, though, it exceeds 15 seconds.

            but real numbers don’t matter to the MTA, only percentages to make the savings appear more dramatic.

            Actually, percentages are a quite standard measure of change, especially in a case like this, where the absolute improvement is smaller for short trips and larger for long trips.

            So 15 seconds is 12 1/2% of 2 minutes, so if 10% is significant, so is 12 1/2%. It must be factored in the equation or else the savings percentage is wrong.

            Huh? Congratulations, you know how to divide, but what does this have to do with anything?

            The time to obtain a receipt cuts into the overall travel time savings. The relevant arithmetic operation is subtraction, not division. If my ride is 2 minutes shorter, but I need to spend 15 seconds getting a receipt, then my total time savings is 1:45, all else being equal.

            As for your other comments, you ask me to restate things I have already proven.

            The only thing you’ve proven – beyond a shadow of a doubt – is that the MTA was absolutely correct in removing you from your planning position in short order. Planning relies on quantitative reasoning, which you are clearly incapable of.

  • sonicboy678

    Last Monday, I took a bus from Flatbush Avenue down to Knapp Street. This was a local bus that just had SBS to Avenue U pass by it, only to end up passing it and stay ahead of SBS until either Avenue S or T. No, traffic wasn’t an issue (though the suspicious lack of bus lanes in both directions might be). Oh, and the local stopped at just about every stop between Flatbush Avenue and Avenue U. Granted, I think a handicapped person may have been boarding SBS at Flatbush Avenue (and may have transferred at either Avenue L or Kings Highway), but that’s not enough of an excuse as to why that one bus took so long to even catch up to the local.

  • Subway Stinker

    I truly enjoy Allan Rosen’s well thought out columns about our sorry bus system, but when he, Andrew and FdTuLf get into petty bickering, I think those endless and pointless back and forths should be moved over to their own page. Preferably on another blog site.

    • Allan Rosen

      Believe me I don’t like arguing with those guys either. But what am I supposed to do when they distort what I say and put words into my mouth? Should I just let it go? Will anyone believe Andrew’s distortions if I say nothing? What do you think? Maybe I should just not respond. Occasionally he contributes something positive, but most of the time he just tries to create doubt so readers should question the truth of what I am saying and to generally discredit me. Notice how they never disagree with each other and always stick up for each other so as to provide a united front as if I am the enemy.

      • RIPTA42

        People who argue with facts and published data tend to be in agreement with one another.

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