Archive for the 'Opinion' Category

Source: Dmitry Gudkov / Flickr

Source: Dmitry Gudkov / Flickr

THE COMMUTE: The second in a series of Vision Zero Town Hall meetings was held in the Brooklyn Borough Hall courtroom earlier this month. Several hundred attended the standing room only meeting. If you did not know any better, you would have gotten the impression that half the borough’s population was either struck by a hit and run driver or had a relative who was killed by one, according to testimony from the speakers.

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

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

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

State Budget Omits Request For Additional 160 Speed Cameras

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

New B44 SBS Schedule Goes Into Effect

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

MTA Gets Funding For Northeast Queens Bus Study

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

Transit Worker Gets In Trouble For Participating In No Pants Ride

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

Bike Share Program In Trouble

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

Vision Zero

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

The Commute is a weekly feature highlighting news and information about the city’s mass transit system and transportation infrastructure. It is written by Allan Rosen, a Manhattan Beach resident and former Director of MTA/NYC Transit Bus Planning (1981).

Disclaimer: The above is an opinion column and may not represent the thoughts or position of Sheepshead Bites. Based upon their expertise in their respective fields, our columnists are responsible for fact-checking their own work, and their submissions are edited only for length, grammar and clarity. If you would like to submit an opinion piece or become a regularly featured contributor, please e-mail nberke [at] sheepsheadbites [dot] com.

Source: bjoele / Flickr

Source: bjoele / Flickr

THE COMMUTE: The major news is the new state budget, which includes a $30 million raid on transit funds approved by Governor Andrew Cuomo. It could have been worse. The original proposed budget requested $40 million of transit funds to be used instead, to pay off the debt for MTA bonds, a responsibility of the state, not the MTA.

As reported in 2011, the governor is “No Friend of Transit.” Equally disturbing is MTA Chairman Tom Prendergast’s statement to the press that “Our needs are being met” in this Daily News article. Gene Russianoff of the Straphanger’s Campaign also criticized Prendergast for not taking a stronger position against the raid.

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A familiar sight: Next bus please! (Source: afagen/Flickr)

THE COMMUTE: By now you have heard that subway ridership in New York City has reached a 65-year high. Why has nothing has been said about local bus ridership? It is because as subway ridership keeps rising, local bus ridership is on the decline, only stabilizing in recent years.

It is too early to tell if the trend has reversed, or if increasing numbers of riders are choosing the subway but not the bus. Many are willing to walk extra and take indirect subway trips to Downtown Brooklyn to avoid a bus because the train is quicker and more reliable. You are also less likely to encounter a major subway delay than a major bus delay. I believe you have about a 10 percent chance of experiencing a major subway delay of, let’s say, 30 minutes or more. It is more like a 33 percent chance for a major bus delay. You can expect at least a 10-minute bus delay about half the time. Yes, those are my less-than-scientific estimates. Feel free to disagree.

The MTA will acknowledge that subways are quicker and more reliable. They attribute the slowness of buses entirely to traffic and the recent slight increases in bus ridership to Select Bus Service (SBS). They are now pushing SBS at full speed, aiming for seven new routes within the next five years although the jury is still out on the B44 SBS. This link has more of a description of how the new funding will be spent and a link to the source materials is provided at the bottom. The MTA would also have you believe that these SBS routes and a few new local bus routes operating at 30-minute intervals is all the MTA has to do to keep up with future needs.

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Fun times...not. Source: Wilderbee / Flickr

Fun times…not. Source: Wilderbee / Flickr

THE COMMUTE: Last week in Part 1, we discussed city hypocrisy regarding transportation issues. The MTA isn’t innocent in this regard either.

It was revealed last week that Metro-North gave a higher priority to on-time performance than to safety, possibly contributing to last December’s fatal accident in the Bronx. Like the Department of Transportation (DOT), the MTA has long insisted that safety always comes first.

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Source: _chrisUK/Flickr

BETWEEN THE LINES: Since the snow and ice evaporated, most drivers probably assumed maneuvering along city streets would be trouble-free. But now they have to deal with another aggravating upshot generated by this year’s severe weather — a plague of potholes. They’re not nearly as harsh as the 10 plagues God smite on the Egyptians in Exodus, but the proliferation of gaps and fissures in the pavement are, nonetheless, plentiful and problematical.

Under ordinary conditions the city’s roads are rough enough, but after two months of wicked weather and frigid temperatures, those thoroughfares have taken a licking and keep on cracking, creating one final winter souvenir — an obstacle course that scars our streets. Drivers who don’t avoid those fissures typically experience unnerving jolts or, worse, costly vehicle damage.

The only roads likely to be worse than our pothole-peppered streets may be those pitted with bomb craters in war-torn Afghanistan.

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Worn out street striping. Photo by Allan Rosen

Worn out street striping. Photo by Allan Rosen

THE COMMUTE: The NYC Department of Transportation (DOT) claims that safety is their first priority. Nonsense. Why are there always large sections of the Belt Parkway with malfunctioning street lights for three months or more? As soon as one section is repaired, another section is in the dark. This has been a problem long before Superstorm Sandy. Pitch blackness is especially hazardous at entrances and exits of highways if you are new to a particular highway. If it is coupled with poor signage, it is a recipe for disaster for unfamiliar drivers who can make a sudden or erratic decision leading to an accident.

After Sandy, the problem only worsened. City Councilman Alan Maisel recently wrote to the new DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg, complaining that lights on the Belt Parkway in Plumb Beach have been out for 15 months. He cited unfulfilled promises made to his predecessor, former City Councilman Lew Fidler, that the problem would be repaired by now. The lights were still out as of last week. If elected officials can’t get results, what chance does an ordinary citizen have? It is inexcusable for large sections of highway to be in the dark, especially during winter months, when there is less daylight, for so long a period of time.

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Source: Francisco Daum / Flickr

Source: Francisco Daum / Flickr

BETWEEN THE LINES: It’s time to change — the time.

Daylight Saving Time (DST), the seasonal hourly change, commenced at 2:00 a.m. this past Sunday. Clocks, watches and other timekeeping devices, including computers and home video units, had to be reset one hour ahead — essentially shifting an hour of daylight from the morning to the evening until the first Sunday in November.

For those of you directionally dazed when it comes to fiddling with your timepieces, just remember — you ‘spring’ forward and ‘fall’ back.

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Display using the BusTime app on an iPad. Click to enlarge

Display using the Bus Bus NYC, an app on an iPad that uses BusTime data. Click to enlarge

THE COMMUTE: BusTime, already available on all bus routes in Manhattan, the Bronx, and Staten Island, has been expanded to all bus routes in Brooklyn as of Saturday. Previously in Brooklyn, it had only been available for the B61 and B63 bus routes. The expansion throughout Brooklyn and Queens, originally scheduled for 2013, was revised to March 9, 2014 according to an MTA press release, but was actually available a day early.

Signs, however, announcing the expansion to every borough already began appearing in several subway stations as early as February 24th. Leave it to the MTA to cause unnecessary confusion, even if it was only for two weeks.

What Is BusTime?

We’ve discussed BusTime several times before. It is a bus tracking system advising passengers where the next bus is so they would no longer have to rely on schedules, which are mostly not adhered to. Originally intended to be digital displays, either stand alone or built into the bus shelter, showing the arrival of the next bus, the MTA opted for a different system. A system that is only available to computer and smartphone users and those who know how to send text messages on a cell phone. Yes, that is most of the population, but does not include many seniors who are not tech savvy.

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The F train rumbles into the Smith-9th Street station. Source: Emily Kay Bachman / Flickr

The F train rumbles into the Smith-9th Street station. Source: Emily Kay Bachman / Flickr

Allan Rosen is on vacation this week. Filling in for him is John Rozankowski, Ph.D., a long-time community activist with a keen interest in mass transit issues, who has contributed to Sheepshead Bites in the past.

THE COMMUTE: Once again I have the pleasure of filling-in for Allan Rosen, who is on vacation again. Isn’t he the lucky one? I’m John Rozankowski, author of “Bring On the Express – Nighttime.”

In his State of the MTA speech on March 3, 2008, MTA CEO Lee Sander said:

“The MTA network’s 55 miles of underused middle track on elevated subway lines also represent a tremendous opportunity that we must exploit. These lines, primarily in Brooklyn and the Bronx, might enable additional express services to be operated, shortening travel times between these boroughs and the Manhattan core.”

Ridership has been surging to heights unknown since the early 1950s and spreading throughout the daytime hours. On many lines, rush hour is really all-day and most of the evening. Most lines are running at capacity and trains are crushingly overcrowded.

More express service is the only feature that can make subway travel more bearable and more attractive. It’s more than saving time. It’s more than reducing the tedious boredom of too many stops as it is at night. Express service redistributes passenger loads more efficiently with benefits both to riders and the operators.

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