A portion of the ceiling crumbled onto the 18th Avenue N train platform this morning. Repairs for the station are not scheduled until October 2014. (Photo by Brian Hedden)
THE COMMUTE: I’m not talking about crime, but rather the other type of safety. Will the subway derail? Will a chunk of the ceiling fall on your head? Will the train fall off of an elevated bridge? Will the platform crumble because of inadequate supports? That type of safety.
If your first reaction is that the chance of something like that happening is slim to none, think again. After all, we rely on government to make sure the food and water we drink is safe and that the subways are safe, too. We do that through periodic inspections of infrastructure and equipment. But are these performed in an adequate and timely manner to ensure we are protected and problems fixed before they become life threatening?
We would like to think so.
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Allan Rosen, author of our The Commute column, submitted this week’s open thread.
I thought there was a city law that all establishments must display pricing information.
Either there is no such law or no one is enforcing it. On a visit to Times Square last week, I noticed around 20 different food carts, none of which displayed any pricing information. Even the pretzel man didn’t say what his pretzels cost. The only exception was the nut guy who had a large sign indicating the prices for each type of nut he was selling. What is preventing these vendors from overcharging tourists or someone from an ethnicity or color they do not like as long as prices are not posted?
The problem does not end there. A few blocks away, the TKTS Booth the digital sign only stated 40 percent, 50 percent or 60 percent off depending on which play was being offered. Again, tourists are the most likely victims; some not being aware of the high price of Broadway show tickets. After standing several hours on line on certain days, I am sure many are surprised that even with the steep discounts a single ticket can still cost $50 or more, but buy them anyway just because they already invested all that time waiting.
But wait there’s more. I ate at a restaurant and the menu only disclosed calorie counts for beverages, no prices, except for wines. Then there are the parking garages, which used to display prices at the entrance that you could read before you entered. Now you can only see the prices after you are half way down the ramp and can’t back up because there are already cars lined up behind you.
Ads for cable and Verizon Fios also bother me because they never disclose what the applicable taxes and other fees are when stating their base price, fees that can add $15 or more to the monthly price or the ads that just say “shipping and handling extra.” But let’s not go there.
Displaying large easy to read prices at the gas pumps seems to be the only thing that anyone cares about, but what about the other violators? Or are these laws requiring the disclosure of pricing information no longer on the books?
I asked Councilman Nelson’s office to investigate exactly what the city laws require regarding the posting of prices and am awaiting a response. What also bothers me is that this trend of not disclosing pricing information seems to be increasing. I remember when the Department of Consumer Affairs made a big deal when stores did not post prices in their windows. When was the last time you heard anything from that department? Does the lack of clear pricing information bother you, too?
A vintage Brooklyn bus map. Source: Enframe Photography
THE COMMUTE: There are two schools of thought on this. One is that changes should be made incrementally as the need arises. That is known as ad-hoc planning. The other is that changes should be made using a comprehensive approach by periodically studying all the routes for deficiencies, for example, once every 10 years, by performing origin-destination surveys and using other data.
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“This MTA budget not only lacks accountability, but is also most certainly not elementary, my dear Dr. Watson!” Source: The Gentleman Blog
THE COMMUTE: This can only happen in government. Governor Andrew Cuomo announces that he is making $358 million more available for the MTA in next year’s operating budget. The following week, the MTA announces it is deciding how to spend the new $40 million it will be receiving, while other analysts are claiming the amount is closer to $20 million. Just as the governor’s “new” money can disappear in only one week, so can the additional monies raised by a fare increase. Is it any wonder why transit riders and taxpayers are so frustrated?
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Source: Silvercore Training / Flickr
BETWEEN THE LINES: What we have in Congress — to paraphrase the iconic line from “Cool Hand Luke” — is a failure to legislate. That was quite evident last week after the Senate failed to expand existing gun laws without infringing on the Second Amendment. On top of everything else, because of undue filibustering rules, a 45 percent minority — too afraid to challenge the all-too potent National Rifle Association — defeated the will of the majority.
The American people — pardon the phrase — should be up in arms over legislation that would have strengthened and expanded background checks for gun sales.
With the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre still fresh in our minds, it was disgraceful, albeit not shocking, that nearly four dozen senators did nothing to assuage the painful memories of victims’ families or the overwhelming support of the American public in a clear cut triumph for the National Rifle Association.
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The D train rumbles over the Manhattan Bridge. Source: Wikipedia
THE COMMUTE: English is a funny language. If we don’t like someone we might say we don’t like them because they are “stubborn” and that’s bad. If we like them, we say that same person is “persistent” and that’s a good quality, when it’s really the same thing. Similarly, the MTA may want to get rid of a bus route because it’s “duplicative,” meaning a nearby route serves the same function and it is not necessary. If they want to retain two duplicative routes, then the routes are no longer considered “duplicative.” Then they are called “parallel.” In essence we still are talking about the same thing.
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The Jackie Gleason Bus Depot. Photo by Erica Sherman
THE COMMUTE: Governor Andrew Cuomo, who I once said was “not a friend of public transit“ after he cut MTA funding, now has increased MTA funding by $358 million in the 2013/14 fiscal year budget. The question is what will the MTA do with this money? There are several alternatives. The MTA could:
- Return subway service crowding guidelines to what they were prior to the 2010 service cuts, thereby increasing subway service and reducing overcrowding.
- Restore all the 2010 bus service cuts. Some cuts may have been justified, but the MTA data presented at the time never conclusively proved that was the case. Routes with low ridership were eliminated, such as the B71 in Park Slope, when there were no suitable alternatives.
- Finally restructure the bus system to reflect land use changes made during the past 70 years. In many areas, needed bus route changes were never made because the MTA claimed they could not afford the added operational costs. Changes — such as the ones I mentioned here. I say “claimed,” because the MTA never considered increased revenue that would result from improved services, always assuming that additional service would not result in additional ridership or revenue.
- Provide new bus routes or extensions at minimal 30-minute service levels, attracting very new few riders.
- Provide managerial increases to managers who have not received a raise in five years and also not insist on a zero wage increase contract for the TWU.
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Source: nesnad via wikimedia commons
The fight over speed enforcement cameras is getting nastier. Last week, Mayor Michael Bloomberg personally called out State Senators Marty Golden, Simcha Felder and Dean Skelos for having blood on their hands in refusing to include funding for speed enforcement cameras in the state budget. In response, Senate Democrats are trying to reinvigorate the effort to get the cameras approved. However, in their recap of the week’s events, the New York Times included this interesting tidbit of closed door negotiations between Governor Andrew Cuomo, Bloomberg, Felder and Golden.
Senator Felder, too, has no use for cameras. He represents a district dominated by Orthodox Jewish voters, and his priority this session was to persuade the city and state to foot the bill to bus any child past 4 p.m., which in effect means mostly children who attend yeshivas. Mr. Felder and Mr. Golden succeeded in pushing through this legislation, which will cost the city $5.6 million this year.
As the state senators are not unreasonable men, they even offered to bargain: they might allow speed cameras if Mr. Bloomberg agreed to foot the bill for this busing program.
The mayor said no. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said no. But when his state budget emerged from behind closed doors in Albany it included this new and costly busing program.
The Orthodox, who are adroit at pulling the levers of power, and their political allies claim all children could benefit. But that argument is evidence-starved. The state paid for a pilot program this year, and city school buses have picked up 1,000 children — from 29 yeshivas and one charter school.
Senator Golden, who has charted the growth of the Orthodox population in his district, shrugs off criticism. It is, he said, “the new normal.”
So Golden and Felder would have been happy to approve the funding for speed enforcement cameras as long as yeshiva students who attend private Orthodox schools got free busing? Huh…so, using Golden and Felder’s logic, I guess this means that the safety of responsible motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians is less important than free transportation for private schools provided on the taxpayers’ dime.
It’s the “new normal” after all.
THE COMMUTE: In Part 1, we discussed why it is too late to change the proposed B44 Select Bus Service (SBS). In Part 2, we discussed why the B44 SBS is different from the other SBS routes. In this final part we will answer the question posed above. It is not such a simple question to find an answer for.
If you go to the MTA home page on the weekend, you first have to find and click on the “MTA Home” tab. It is in small print in the upper right hand corner in dark grey on a black background and not very obvious. During the rest of the week this step is not necessary. Next, you must click on the tab “MTA Info” in the top center. Then you click on “Planning Studies” on the left side of the page. Following that, you click on “Select Bus Service.” Then, on “Current and Planned SBS Routes.” And finally, on “Nostrand Ave SBS.” That’s six transfers. Couldn’t the MTA have made finding information about SBS on the web a bit easier instead of it being so cryptic?
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As Memorial Day nears, the Parks Department is working to get Manhattan Beach Park back in shape for the summertime. Replacement picnic benches and tables for the ones destroyed by Superstorm Sandy were delivered months ago and are now in storage.
However, one of the partially destroyed fences, which separates the beach and picnic area, has also been removed. My question is why do need it and should it be replaced?
Its purpose was to keep visitors from entering the grassy area. Some people do not like the sand and would prefer to sprawl out on the grass, but this is not allowed. Many other city parks allow visitors onto the grass. You are even allowed to walk on the grass in the Brooklyn Botanic Garden and lay down a blanket.
I would like to know what makes Manhattan Beach Park so different that the grass is so holy that it cannot be stepped upon? Why should you only be able to view the grassy areas and not be able to use them?
It seems to me that the money to replace the fences that have already been removed could be put to better use. We already have a large grassy area right in front of the park on Oriental Boulevard that is fenced off. Why should the smaller area near the sand also be fenced off? How much more maintenance would be required to keep it open? Wouldn’t the enjoyment that opening this area would bring far outweigh the additional maintenance, which would just involve some occasional cleanup?
Should we not be able to enjoy our parks? Do you think the small, previously fenced off grassy area near the sand by Ocean Avenue should remain closed?