THE COMMUTE: The big news headlines this week were that subway ridership reached a new record level on September 23rd, with more than 6.1 million paying swipes, and the budget shortfall in the MTA’s new capital plan. (Notice I did not say paying customers as the MTA did, because I consider a customer as someone making a round trip. The correct term for someone making a one way trip is “passenger.” However, the MTA refuses to use that term as if it were a dirty word and now considers everyone a “customer.”) The headline only refers to subway riders; bus ridership reached its peak ten years ago.
Archive for the 'Opinion' Category
THE COMMUTE: New Yorkers must wait until 2023 for the completion of East Side Access, a project that will improve LIRR access to Manhattan, free up trackage at Penn Station to improve rail service to the Northeast Bronx, but degrade LIRR service for Brooklynites. It is a project first conceived in the 1950s and will have taken 70 years to complete by the time it opens. Its budget, originally $4.3 billion, now exceeds $10.8 billion. The scaled back Fulton Transit Center, a project costing
$4.2 billion $1.4 billion is also way behind schedule and should finally be fully completed in December of this year.
THE COMMUTE: In parts 1 and 2, we specifically discussed routing deficiencies in Brooklyn and hinted at similar deficiencies in Staten Island and Queens that are even more severe. This week, we will discuss…
Routing Problems In Borough Park And Bensonhurst Go Back To The 1940s!
There has been a need for through Fort Hamilton Parkway and 13th Avenue routes since the 1940s. Instead, one route fulfills the need for two. However, there was an obstacle that prevented a through 13th Avenue route. There was no bridge over the Sea Beach cut at 62nd Street until 1937, which separated the two portions of 13th Avenue. A trolley line operated over the former B1 route along 86th Street, 13th Avenue and Bay Ridge Avenue to access the ferry to Manhattan since the 1890s. The B16 bus route was added in the early 1930s along Fort Parkway and 13th Avenue to Ocean Avenue, a logical route back then. Israel Zion Hospital, a small institution located at 49th Street and 10th Avenue, did not require a north-south bus route. However, during the last 70 years it has greatly expanded, serving all of southern Brooklyn and changed its name to Maimonides Medical Center. Still, it has no north-south bus service.
THE COMMUTE: Last week, we discussed bus routing inefficiencies in Sheepshead Bay. I am going to venture a guess that Sheepshead Bay residents have a need to leave the area on occasion (although Ned may disagree) and are interested in routing deficiencies in our adjacent neighborhoods.
The Bus Routing System Was Never Planned
Many of the routing problems exist today because the bus system just incrementally developed over time by route combinations and extensions and absorption of former trolley lines. This is what caused today’s inefficient and indirect bus routing. In fact, while doing research for my Master’s thesis, I learned that when the B21 was created in 1946, bus riders protested in front of Coney Island Hospital on the first day, that the new route did not meet their needs.
Yet it remained in place for 32 more years, and if not for me it may have still been in existence today, 68 years later not serving our needs. More likely, had it not been incorporated into the present B1 and B4, it would have either been discontinued without a replacement or else become a shuttle route between Ocean Parkway and Kingsborough Community College, thus reducing mobility even further.
Other areas still have non-functioning routes, such as the B21. That is because the MTA does not do comprehensive bus studies, because the ones they have done in the past failed due to their unwillingness to compromise with communities. It was always the MTA’s way or the highway. Only recently have they restarted that effort with studies in Co-Op City and Northeast Queens at the behest of local elected officials.
THE COMMUTE: Regular readers of The Commute know that my favorite topic is the need for better bus routes. I have written about this on numerous occasions. We also often hear about reliability issues, a subject we have also addressed.
The big push now by the MTA, the mayor, and New York City administrators is to greatly expand Select Bus Service (SBS), conceived more than 10 years ago, and first arriving in Brooklyn last year on the B44. The MTA recently sponsored a discussion at the Transit Museum about their plans to greatly expand SBS. I did not attend because I heard their spiel many times before. That SBS makes service better for everyone. Buses travel faster and everyone benefits. Ninety-nine percent of the SBS riders love it. We can’t afford to build any more subway lines (except in Manhattan, of course), so this is the answer for the next generation. I knew there would be no opportunity to challenge these claims.
THE COMMUTE: Last week, we discussed the switch to condensed and light (or thin) font along with the switch from uppercase to uppercase and lowercase lettering. While uppercase and lowercase lettering may increase sign legibility of the street name, legibility of the street suffix often suffers if a two-line format is used. The switch to uppercase and lowercase was well publicized, but the switch to narrow and / or thin font was not.
THE COMMUTE: Last week, we took a brief look at the history of New York City’s street signage, which, traditionally, has been all uppercase. Several years ago, studies were conducted that showed, supposedly, that the use of upper and lowercase lettering is more visible than uppercase. Perhaps since we now live in an internet society, in which the use of uppercase letters is considered tantamount to shouting, we made the switch to lowercase.
I do not believe that upper and lowercase letters are easier to read. There are several disadvantages to using upper and lowercase letters as opposed to all uppercase. This is especially true when using sans serif fonts. Sometimes lowercase i’s can appear to look like lowercase l’s if there is too small a space between the dot and the base of the letter. There is also no distinction between a capital I and a lowercase l. For example, in the name “Illinois,” you have what appears to be three of the same letter adjacent to one another.
These are minor problems. The biggest problem with using upper and lowercase letters within a constricted space, such as on a small sign, is that some of the letters go above and beneath the guidelines, meaning that a smaller-sized font must be used, and smaller fonts reduce visibility. The most important factor in determining visibility of a sign is not that the letters are uppercase, or uppercase and lowercase, but the size and width of the fonts.
Given the same size fonts and font widths, I don’t doubt that uppercase and lowercase fonts are more visible. However, a straight change from uppercase to uppercase and lowercase is not what the DOT has done. They also have switched from a regular font to a condensed or narrow font, making the newer signs less visible than the older signs — not more visible as originally promised.
Reader Mike N. wrote to point out what he believes is a waste of NYPD resources: catching fare-beaters on the Voorhies Avenue side of the Sheepshead Bay subway station.
Do you know that since the token booth, which became a non-selling booth, was removed from the Shore Parkway entrance, police stand at the other entrance watching the TV monitors, and when someone jumps a turnstile (no high gates here) they then walk up to the platform and surprise them with a ticket.
Often there are two to three officers watching at one time. Yes, it’s a violation to avoid a fare, but wouldn’t it be more prudent to put gate-style turnstiles that can’t be jumped at all unattended stations?
This would 100% solve the fare avoidance problem…however, it would stop the sweet flow of $105 tickets into the MTA coffers. And why are there no policemen ever stationed at the unattended turnstiles? Wouldn’t it make more sense for public safety to have officers where the ‘eyes and ears’ of the booth clerks are absent? (I know…the booth clerks aren’t much help).
Briefly, rather than the practical use of officers to guard an unwatched, potentially dangerous entry (I do understand that they technically are watching, but nobody sees them, so they do not deter crime), the officers are used to generate revenue.
It doesn’t sound like Mike believes the problem is going after fare beaters – who should be caught for stealing from all taxpayers. But he thinks the problem can be solved more easily and those NYPD resources redeployed for something more useful. What do you think?
Is there an issue you’d like to sound off about, or a problem you want to shed light on? E-mail editor [at] sheepsheadbites [dot] com and we’ll consider publishing it!
THE COMMUTE: However, it is all the same to the MTA.
In using the transit system in New York, there are rules one must follow. When they are not followed, there are and should be ramifications. The rules, however, need to make sense; the process for fighting summonses needs to be a fair one, and the punishment should fit the crime. However, not all the rules make sense, the process is not fair, and the punishment is not always just. Worse yet, you can be fined or even arrested for doing nothing wrong and not breaking any rule or law, yet you can also be found guilty! That is just wrong.
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.