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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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.
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.
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.
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.
BETWEEN THE LINES: New Yorkers warmly embraced a balmy weekend that likely thawed their chilled bodies and spirits. However, the forecast isn’t pleasant and looks like we’re in for Frigid Winter, Part Two. [Ed. – It was snowing all morning. We need this like we need holes in our heads.]
No sooner did Mother Nature tease us with a brief respite, with temperatures topping 50 degrees for three consecutive days, than we were alerted to a cold air mass heading south that will return temperatures below-freezing by mid-week.
Temperatures reached a high over the weekend not seen since it was a 55 on January 5, 2014 the day before the mercury nose-dived to a record low five degrees and frequently remained below freezing for the next six weeks.
THE COMMUTE: If you’ve ever ventured out of Sheepshead Bay to go shopping — and why would you want to? — and visited Fairway in Red Hook, you have most likely seen three rusted Presidents’ Conference Committee (PCC) street cars behind the store on trolley tracks. They are there no more. After being on property owned by the O’Connell Organization for many years, a few weeks ago, company head Greg O’Connell decided to have them removed because of the serious deterioration they have undergone since Hurricane Sandy. He decided that it would be better to donate them to the Branford Electric Railway Association (BERA), which would house them at an undisclosed location and aid in the search for a permanent home. If none can be found, the cars will be scrapped for parts. The O’Connell Organization paid for the cars’ transport.
BETWEEN THE LINES: With possibly the worst storm of the season, packed with heavy snow, sleet and rain racing up the East Coast, flights were grounded and government offices to the south of the city closed, but late last Wednesday Mayor Bill de Blasio and the Department of Education (DOE) decided that public schools would open the following day. Hours earlier, severe winter storm warnings and advisories had been issued from Georgia to Maine, with thousands of school districts closed ahead of the storm’s leading edge. But New York City parents went to bed dazed and confused, because public school students were expected to be in school Thursday morning.
THE COMMUTE: It started with continual promises to construct a Second Avenue subway and the failure to complete the IND Second System. We are currently in the sixth reincarnation of the promised Second Avenue subway with voters twice approving bond issues specifically for that purpose in 1951 and in 1967. Now it is doubtful if the opening of the first three stations will even occur by the latest rescheduling to 2016.
A staffer in one of our elected officials’ offices pitched me an idea earlier today: start a registry on our website of volunteers willing to help elderly and disabled residents dig out from the snow storm.
The staffer told me that they’ve been receiving calls all morning, but that their office couldn’t do anything – including recommend a pay service, since such a recommendation from a public office would be inappropriate.
But why should I create a registry? The City of New York already has one.
It’s right here on the New York City Service website. I knew that but the staffer didn’t. Because the city has done a shoddy job publicizing it.
And, as a result, it’s totally useless at the moment. I called the most local partner listed on the website, the Brighton Neighborhood Association, and the one person in the office – who was closing up shop – said they never once had a volunteer come through it. And so I called the number at City Hall to register as a volunteer just to see how the process went – and they, too were closed.
With the number of snow storms we’ve already had in 2014, it might be time for the city to reactivate that program and make a big push. The point is to help elderly and disabled residents – both by ensuring they have a clean path to walk on, and also to prevent them from receiving fines from the city. That’s a great goal, and with virtually no cost to taxpayers.
My hope is that this post spurs a few kind, generous individuals to register for service in future snow storms, and also to get local elected officials’ offices to sign up as partners to help direct and mobilize the volunteers. It’s not unheard of – Bronx Councilman James Vacca and Staten Island Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis both use their offices in this way.
I look forward to seeing our local elected officials join that list very soon, and also help in the recruitment of local volunteers. If they do, this site commits to publicizing the registry in future storms. How’s that for a deal?