Archive for the tag 'thomas prendergast'

Photo by Allan Rosen

Photo by Allan Rosen

THE COMMUTE: Last week, in Part 1, we started to discuss the Brooklyn Army Terminal as a major transportation hub and I got sidetracked into a discussion about involving the private sector, through the use of vans, to providing legal transit services between major transportation hubs.

I asked why we can’t have legal van operations here, where riders with similar origins and destinations can share rides, since there is not enough demand for regular bus service. Years ago, I was amazed to see all sorts of shared van services at LaGuardia Airport to cities across Connecticut at very reasonable fares. None, however, were available to destinations within the city limit. I attributed this to the influence of the city’s tax industry, which does not want competition.

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So many apps! (Source: Seth Meranda via Flickr

So many apps! (Source: Seth Meranda via Flickr

The MTA and AT&T are holding a contest to see who can create the best app using real-time MTA data. According to a press release, the apps were developed as part of 2013 App Quest Personal Challenge and there is big money on the line for the app developer who receives the most votes.

The joint MTA and AT&T press release described how the contest works:

Voting on the submitted apps is open now through September 10 and winners will be announced at the end of the month. In addition to the MTA and AT&T, App Quest is also sponsored by Polytechnic Institute of New York University (NYU-Poly) and powered by ChallengePost.

“New Yorkers are always on the go and these apps will help connect riders to the information they need to improve their commutes,” said Marissa Shorenstein, New York State President, AT&T. “Innovation and accessibility to mobile technology is at the core of our partnership with the MTA – first through the addition of underground cellular service on 36 subway platforms and now, through our work to encourage new mobile tools to improve riders’ commutes. We are truly excited by the enthusiastic response to this challenge and look forward to hearing from New Yorkers as they vote for their favorite app.”

“We are very pleased that so many app developers have dedicated their time and energy toward creating apps that aim to help our customers,” said MTA Chairman and CEO Thomas F. Prendergast. “Now the public gets to decide which ones they think are the best. We encourage all MTA customers to take a look at the apps, and vote.”

“It’s inspiring to see the variety of apps created for this year’s App Quest,” said Brandon Kessler, CEO of ChallengePost. “Our world is being transformed by software before our eyes, and this competition proves the transit experience is no exception.”

Participants in the App Quest virtual challenge are competing for $40,000 in prize money to support the development of the apps that best help riders access the MTA’s subway, railroads, buses, bridges and tunnels. The app to receive the most votes will receive the Popular Choice award. Winners of the App Quest hackathon held in May were awarded a total of $10,000. All of the prize money is provided by AT&T.

One app that looks particularly interesting to me is TRANSient, which automatically adjusts for service changes along the subway. The app features easy to read color coded subway lines that race along a slate black background. Here is a preview of how it works below.

To preview and vote for your favorite apps, which track trains and buses, all with interesting graphics and unique presentations, click here.

Source: Patrick Cashin / Metropolitan Transportation Authority

THE COMMUTE: Just when you thought all the subway lines had finally reopened in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, several weeks ago the MTA announced that the Montague Street Tunnel, where the R train operates, will be closed for 14 months.

In the aftermath of the storm, the MTA realized that more damage had occurred than was initially suspected. Additional components in the tunnel began to fail shortly after service was resumed following the storm. The salt is causing rust to corrode anything made of metal, including cables, wires, and signals. Three submersible pumps and two substations also will be replaced, according to the MTA.

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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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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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Thomas F. Prendergast, new MTA chairman and former president of MTA New York City Transit (center) speaks to the press. Source: Patrick Cashin for the MTA / Flickr

THE COMMUTE: It was announced on Friday that, after 100 days without a permanent chairman, the former head of New York City Transit, Thomas Prendergast, who had been sharing the responsibilities with Fernando Ferrer, has been named the sole MTA Chairman and CEO. That is good news. We finally have someone who knows the system. We don’t have to give on-the-job training to a real estate mogul, someone whose primary credentials are finances (i.e. the past two chairmen), or a former transit head from another city. We all know that New York is not like any other major city and its transportation system and needs are unique. Continue Reading »

Damage wrought to Manhattan’s South Ferry train station, which was completely submerged from the storm surge. Source: Metropolitan Transportation Authority / Patrick Cashin

THE COMMUTE: It is not too often that I compliment the MTA for a job well done. Regular readers of this column know most of my commentary toward the MTA usually is negative, but not this time. First, they did a tremendous job protecting the equipment from flooding by moving subways and buses to higher ground before the storm, as well as other protective measures to prevent damage to rolling stock and equipment. Then they worked ‘round the clock to remove standing water, clear debris, and check every foot of the system to ensure it was safe for service to return. That certainly was a monumental task. I just hope everyone doesn’t forget the storm in six months when elected officials start crying about MTA overtime. Overtime is not a bad thing in times such as these.

I spent nearly 25 years working for the MTA and saw firsthand what many of the problems were. However, this is not the time to discuss them. Suffice it to say that my co-workers would often compare the MTA, specifically New York City Transit, to a dysfunctional family. Squabbling between departments hinder many tasks from being completed efficiently. Those are during normal times, but not when there is a crisis. During those times, the MTA usually excels.

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THE COMMUTE: Ned heard my name for the first time when I emailed him in March 2010 with my testimony opposing the Brooklyn bus service cuts at the public hearing held in the Brooklyn Museum of Art. That was shortly after I discovered Sheepshead Bites. He quoted a significant portion of my testimony for a story and ultimately asked me to become a regular contributor. At that hearing, I was the only person who spoke out against the B4’s proposed elimination, at all times, east of Coney Island Hospital.

Find out what we can learn from our fight for the B4.

It's (going to be) back! Victory! (Photo by Allan Rosen)

YOU READ IT HERE FIRST: After petitions, public workshops and letters from local officials, the MTA will announce today that the B4 bus line will be fully restored by January 2013.

The fate of the line, which had weekend and off-peak service axed in 2010 east of Ocean Parkway, was unclear earlier this week, when Sheepshead Bites reported that the agency was considering major improvements across the borough. But local leaders told Sheepshead Bites that MTA officials informed them this morning that the agencies plan to announce that the B4, as well as other diminished lines across Southern Brooklyn, will see full or partial restorations.

The B4′s restoration already has locals elated, including members of the Sheepshead Bay – Plumb Beach Civic Association, which collected more than 2,000 signatures to a petition demanding the agency bring back the line to Emmons Avenue, Shore Parkway and Knapp Street.

“I am just so glad. Everybody is going to be so thrilled,” said Kathy Flynn, president of the SBPB Civic, upon hearing the news. “This is going to help everyone who has to go to the hospital, the clinic, the businesses, anyone who has to visit, as well as the disabled in the area. People who commute to Manhattan every day, they only have to take one bus to the station. It’s going to save a lot of people a lot of time and a lot of stress.”

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