Archive for the ‘Subways and Buses’ Category

Smelly car on the F train, beware straphangers

It might seem odd that this is the 2nd time this week I’m talking about excrement, but such is the reality of living in NYC. I don’t sugarcoat anything, pure news is what you get here. OK, so check it: 2nd car from the front on an F train smells like 100 homeless people slept on it one night and they all (excuse the French) shat themselves silly.

My luck happens to be so that I hopped on the same train, going in 2 different directions. Now, this is an assumption that I rode the same train twice. Maybe there’s an unpleasant pattern in the works here, but I pray that coincidence was at play here.

Last night at around 7 pm, this particular train was Queens bound at around 7 pm. Tonight, I experienced the same smell on a Brooklyn bound F at 34th street Penn Station. The reason I knew it was the same was that the train car was now the 2nd from the back.

At least tonight I had enough sense to not wait 1 stop before switching cars. I probably would have hurled all over that sucker if I stayed on.

Broke Peter Robs Broke Paul

Well, well, it seems that the “how much do we owe?” question is getting harder and harder to hide as the people who specialize in robbing from the future to pay for the present are now running out of time. In this case, the Bush administration proposes to “borrow” from the mass transit trust fund to pay for the “highway trust fund” projected to be in the red in 2009. This is in keeping with the normal course of government which is to take funds from sustainable areas to fund those that are not sustainable.

“The Highway Account will fall into the red in 2009, with obligations expected to exceed gas tax receipts and other revenue. Policymakers have long-known about this impending crisis, and even established a commission to study federal transportation revenue with the passage of SAFETEA-LU in 2005 (see MTR’s summary of the commission’s findings). Besides calling for an increase in the national gas tax, the commission recommended several immediate tweaks (such as dedicating transportation taxes to the HTF rather than to the General Fund) that could bring the Highway Account back into solvency. None of its recommendations included a shift in funds from the Mass Transit Account to the Highway Account.”

Short the dollar.

Report On Rail, Edited By Bush Administration

The Bush crowd has now pissed off a major member of the “right wing” by editing out the sections of a congressionally commissioned report on surface transportation it didn’t like which strongly advocated light rail. Contempt of Congress??

The edited section seems to touch a lot nerves by linking the issue to national security.

“To these well-known factors pointing toward greater reliance on mass transit, a highly important new consideration must be added: national security. Americans’ dependence on automobiles fueled largely with imported oil is the Achilles’ heel of our current foreign and national security policy. Rising oil prices threaten the prosperity of our economy, with dependence on oil imported from unstable regions adding the risks of actual fuel cutoffs, limited foreign policy options, and wars over oil sources and supplies. The Energy Information Administration reported that 71 million barrels of petroleum were imported from the Persian Gulf region in June of 2007, 18 percent of all petroleum imports. According to the same source, spot oil prices were $81.51 per barrel on September 18, 2007, over $50 dollars more than the $27.26 per barrel spot oil price just four years earlier.

In the face of the Global War on Terrorism, providing Americans with mobility that is not dependent on foreign oil may be second in importance only to securing our homeland against direct terrorist attack. Just as the Cold War brought about the National Defense Interstate Highway Act, so we think it probable that the future will require a National Defense Public Transportation Act. Current and near-future national transportation policy should take this likelihood fully into account.”

It also brought up history that people like to bury

“Most of those cities once had electric railways. They lost them, not to the fair market, but to massive government intervention in favor of highways and cars. As early as 1921, government was pouring $1.4 billion into highways. In contrast, the vast majority of electric railways were privately owned, received no government assistance and had to pay taxes. Further, their fares were often controlled by local governments, which did not allow them to rise despite inflation. As a result, by 1919 one-third of the country’s streetcar companies were bankrupt. After World War II, many local governments completed the destruction of their community’s electric railways by pressuring transit companies to convert to buses. Bus conversion in turn led many former transit riders to drive instead.”

A Good Test Case

I did two blog posts recently which talked about Hong Kongs transit system which profitably links transportation and land development.

Recently, the New York Water Taxi has had to cut a large number of it’s routes for lack of money. Isn’t there some way to link land development in the areas served by the water taxi to help fund it since the taxi adds tremendous value to these developments? This could be done in a number of ways, from granting the company some development rights, a cut of other developers profits or some kind of dedicated tax on land owners close to the areas served by the service.

Extreme Congestion Pricing

Now there’s a guy out there with a congestion pricing proposal that takes the idea to its logical extreme with high 24 hour congestion charges and parking fees used to fund FREE mass transit. I don’t have time to comment on it but one should know that it’s out there.

“Just how steep? Komanoff suggests $16 for any car entering Manhattan below 60th Street, 24-hours a day. The fee would be double that for trucks. That’s just for starters. There also would be a 25 percent taxi surcharge, and higher fees for parking on the street.

It’s all the brainchild of Ted Kheel, 93, the renowned labor negotiator who commissioned the $100,000 study, which was formally presented at a breakfast Tuesday. It may sound extreme, but supporters say the plan takes congestion pricing to its logical conclusion.”

Personally, I don’t think either roads, parking or mass transit should be free–but if one had to pick which one comes closest to being in the “public interest” (whatever that means) in a city like NY, it would be mass transit.

More Thoughts On Non-Communist Transit

After my last post, I googled around looking for more info on the history of the Hong Kong system and I didn’t find that much because things that work smoothly rarely get press. I did come across a very interesting group of people looking to make money in Chinese mass transit by acting as property developers. It’s pretty self evident that mass transit enables more intensive and profitable land uses near the lines.

“Katz and Lane, however, propose to make their project financially viable by acquiring and developing the real estate along the proposed transit lines. “An investment in rail enhances the value of real estate,” says Katz. “And yet in the United States, rail development has failed for political, economic or policy reasons to capture the benefit in real estate that rail created. Most systems don’t recover 50% of operating expenses.”

The idea of capturing increased land value to fund mass transit is not new. In Hong Kong, the MTR Corporation operates the railway and was given the rights to develop residential and commercial properties above the stations. According to Lai, who is also president of the International Chinese Transportation Professionals Association, the Hong Kong subway system is the only one in the world today that is making money.”

How Non-Communists Fund Transit

One of the depressing, self fulfilling myths out there is that mass transit can never be a profitable enterprise and must always be massively subsidized. I did a post a while ago on transit in Hong Kong, a place where a private company runs one of the world’s most efficient and widely used systems while making a bundle of cash at the same time as a major property developer. In fact, the NY system began along the same lines and operated fairly well in it’s infancy until it came up against its communist competitor in the form of Robert Moses and the federal highway system. Before this time, rational links existed between transit modes and development since there was less “free” money out there for projects that could not fund themselves. People built lines where there would be high density development to support the lines–period. The government thought that this was somehow unfair and we are now living with the results.

Number 7 Flushing Line Nightmares

I empathize with anyone living along the Flushing Line, especially between 61st St-Woodside and Main Street-Flushing. There will be no service between those stations for approximately 5 weeks, due to the second phase of installation of a new signal system, according to the MTA website,

There will be free shuttle service between Main St. and 61st St. Also, riders can take the Long Island Railroad/LIRR from Main St. into Manhattan [pray we don’t have snow and ice, which cripple the LIRR].
Of course this new signal system will be an improvement, but for the people of Jackson Heights, Corona, and Flushing, this will be a major headache, during a period with the nastiest weather in NYC.
For more info, go to the MTA website.

Robert Moses Sucked

The mayor seems to have lost traction in his attempt to impose congestion pricing, so now East River tolls are on the table once again. The central problem underlying both the massive cost of living in Manhattan and all the traffic and congestion problems is the fact that only Manhattan has anything close to a decent mass transit infrastructure. Let’s imagine Manhattan as a part with a round hole–its current form is only compatible with transit oriented transportation. Unfortunately, the outer boroughs and New Jersey, never built out the transit infrastructure that would make them fully compatible with Manhattan. These areas were still being born when the age of the auto began. This leaves far too many people trying to ram their square car pegs into a place that wasn’t built for them.

Nothing bothers me more than the sick myth that Robert Moses was the father of New York. It’s far more accurate to describe him as the father of New Jersey and Long Island sprawl and the mortal enemy of the city. The defining parts in New York’s infrastructure that make it great are its subway and commuter rail systems. Without them we might be Detroit.

Another Strike Further Disables the Already-Disabled


Thousands of disabled and/or elderly New Yorkers rely on para-transit to get around, the strike by drivers of 4 companies providing vans for Access-a-Ride. The strike is especially critical for patients who use the service to and from dialysis centers, and chemotherapy treatments. And terribly inconvenienced are wheelchair users, who need a lift to get into a vehicle, and doubly for riders from the outer boroughs who must go into Manhattan. Most subway stations are not accessible. But, as I’ve learned, there are even Manhattanites who can’t use the lifts on the buses because their wheelchairs are oversized. There are also elderly or disabled citizens who have no other way to go to and from work every day.

Four of the eight companies that service NYC paratransit, are operating however. And a state mediator will be stepping in this week to speed up negotiations. Those clients of Access-a-Ride who can take buses, subways, and taxis, have been encouraged to do just that during this strike period. So, it has all been functioning on a contingency basis with less vans and drivers. But I hope the MTA and the Access-a-Ride drivers come to an agreement this week.

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