Archive for the tag 'cemusa'

A look back in transportation on the year that was. Photo by Brian Hoo

THE COMMUTE: It is difficult to believe that I have been writing “The Commute” for two years. In my reflections for 2011, which seem like yesterday, I explained what I hope to accomplish in this column. I stated that my primary goal is to make a positive difference by getting people more involved in transportation issues. I think we have partially succeeded in that goal. Many of you attended Sheepshead Bay’s transit town hall last summer, which resulted in the full restoration of the B4, effective January 6, 2013. Still, much work remains to be done before Sheepshead Bay residents and those in adjacent neighborhoods have the reliable and affordable service we deserve, which takes us as quickly as possible to our destinations.

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Chicago’s version of Bus Time on its bus shelters. Photo by Allan Rosen

THE COMMUTE: I previously wrote about the MTA’s bias against buses and their preference for the subways. Legible bus maps for all boroughs were not available until the early 1980s. Buses were harder hit than subways in the 2010 service cutbacks. However, perhaps the most obvious example is that, for 40 years, little has been done to solve the pervasive problem of bus bunching, the bus rider’s chief complaint.

Bus tracking systems have been promised since 1980 to remedy this problem. In fact, a trial system was installed around that time in the then-newly constructed Queens Village depot but was quickly dismantled due to union objections that “Big Brother” was watching. The Transport Workers Union (TWU) was more powerful back then and the MTA didn’t want to antagonize them, fearing a strike.

That system was not GPS-based and was referred to as a bus locator system — and it worked! It let managers know where buses were within a quarter-mile so they could be better regulated. Plans were underway to expand it system-wide to minimize bus bunching.

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Photo by Erica Sherman

THE COMMUTE: Several days ago, New York City Comptroller John Liu released an audit on the cleaning and maintenance of bus stop shelters by CEMUSA under its franchise agreement with the NYC Department of Transportation (DOT). Naturally, we were interested in the findings of this audit after heavily criticizing DOT and CEMUSA last May. However, many of our questions regarding CEMUSA’s responsibilities were not answered.

Liu basically looked at only three aspects of the contract:

  • Whether CEMUSA cleans the structures as per their contract;
  • Whether CEMUSA maintains these shelters in a state of good repair — replacing damaged parts as required within required time limits and
  • CEMUSA’ s response to snowstorms.

The comptroller made it publicly known that CEMUSA subcontracts all these functions with DOT’s permission. He concluded that, although the bus stop shelters were reasonably clean and well maintained, the exterior roof panels were not cleaned regularly and that, during the audit period, the subcontractor did not inspect and clean the shelters at the level required. He further concluded that insufficient resources are allocated to meet the contract requirements for cleaning the shelters, and that 93 percent of defects found are repaired within the required due dates while seven percent are repaired after the due dates.

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Huh? Right. Just another screwy DOT sign...

THE COMMUTE: I received an interesting e-mail the other day stating that my service request from 311 (C1-1-721913901 Street Sign – Damaged) has been closed. The automatic reply continued: “The Department of Transportation has completed the request or corrected the condition.”

However, I never reported a damaged street sign. In January 2012, when I reported on the new database unveiled by DOT where you can check parking regulations on any given street, I checked my own block and the database stated there were no parking restrictions. That was not true. When I reported the database error on the website, the complaint was forwarded to 311, and I received an auto-generated reply thanking me for reporting a damaged street sign and that it will be investigated.

At the time, I did not think it was a big deal because perhaps there was no code for reporting missing database information and the only way the request could be processed was to enter another code. I was willing to give DOT and 311 the benefit of the doubt. Now, five months after reporting the defect, I learn that the proper information still has not been entered into the database although the case is now closed out.

I decided to check a few more blocks and found that any street with a bend is non-searchable. Guess if I report that, I will get another confirmation for a damaged street sign. So why bother? Why are 311 reports taken erroneously and closed out although the reported problem is never addressed? Also, the closeout report allows no opportunity for a response. There have been numerous reports on the failings of 311 and the system has been criticized for statistics not being made public. Why are our elected officials doing nothing about this?

In that same January article, I also reported on the confusion DOT is causing by telling drivers on its website that it is legal to park and block curb cuts at “T” intersections without traffic signals, causing them to get summonses and preventing wheelchairs from accessing the streets? I discussed the absurdity of this, but no elected official has seen fit to either clarify the law or ask DOT to change the confusing information it provides.

Read about other agency issues in which our elected officials need to demand more accountability.

All photos by Allan Rosen

THE COMMUTE: Guess where this bus shelter is.

If you said the obvious, you guessed wrong. Flatbush Avenue and Avenue V is actually about a half mile north of where this picture was taken, right outside of Toys ‘R’ Us just north of the Belt Parkway. Just don’t call a car service to tell them you are waiting at Flatbush and Avenue V when the Q35 doesn’t show up.

The misplaced sign is not the only thing wrong with this shelter, one of the new ones that the city contracted out to CEMUSA to build, replacing the older shelters. There is no route information as required by the contract, only Travel Tips. The NYC Department of Transportation (DOT) bus stop sign shows the correct bus route and bus stop location but the wrong destination. The Guide-a-Ride — the square box around the bus stop pole — is also supposed to show a route map and schedule but is blank or thoroughly faded.

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