Sunday, August 30, 2009

Bloomberg '09: Office Openings

With Mike, we can work together to help bring NYC through these tough times and into a better future.

"Do you remember the time when we had to breathe in cigarette smoke?"

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Thursday, August 27, 2009

Seen/Scene in NYC: Forget Cabbies, 34 St Bus Lane a Parking Lot

Btwn Lexington and 3rd Aves/34 St: On Tuesday, I witnessed a new Bus Arrival sign, not in operation yet, installed at a Northbound Madison Avenue/32 St bus shelter (probably M4, M16).

But forget that, the bigger news story was the extreme abuse of the 34th Street bus lane. The lane was installed earlier this year to help speed up buses running along that street which is notorious for having extremely slow bus speeds. I had previously heard of the NYPD and cabbies leaving their cars in the lanes, but I had to see it for myself to believe that it was worse than that.

You can see for yourself in the following 2 pictures that were taken here. Limos and cars just parked in a bus lane clearly demarcated by a red-colored asphalt topping, along with street signs proclaiming "No Standing, 7am to 7pm Mon to Fri". Both pictures were taken on a Tuesday at 1:09 PM. From what the New York State Dept. of Motor Vehicles' regulations say,
"A NO STANDING sign means you may stop only temporarily to load or unload passengers."
Some of those vehicles didn't even have a driver in the vehicle! Perhaps some transit-advocates (maybe if I had spare time) could document each offending vehicle's license plate as well as the surroundings, and post them somewhere! I was going to do the same thing Tuesday, but there were way too many valet parkers and only one of me...

Image 20090825_34St-3Av_BusLaneBlock, taken myself
Image 20090825_34St-3Av_BusLaneBlock-2, taken myself

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Seen/Scene in NYC: Plazas Charming Hollywood

Image-Before and After the Transformation, courtesy Streetsblog
Madison Square Park: The NYC Dept. of Transportation (DOT) has in the past several months been transforming areas of Manhattan into urban pedestrian plazas, most notably Times Square and Herald Square. Madison Square Park was actually the first to receive painted green asphalt, sand surfacing as well as the addition of chairs, tables, and greenery to make it a comforting oasis in the middle of traffic-hectic Manhattan. Known as traffic-calming measures, fewer road lanes and "neck downs" help slow down traffic, thus making it safer for pedestrians.
These urban oases have been a great hit with New Yorkers and tourists alike, with the ITDP (which awarded NYC the Sustainable Transport Award), and recently, even with Hollywood. On Tuesday, I walked by the park and noticed that there was a film crew on the plaza! A hot dog stand seemed to be the focus of a large boom camera and at least 2 dozen crew and extras on the site. My initial reaction was that it was a shoot for Law & Order, since I had previously seen them at Astor Place with a similar type of camera. Now why would I call the plazas a success? Without it, this location would not have had a great location to shoot the Flatiron Building directly behind it and house all of the equipment, attractiveness is key...Score 1 for the DOT! Picture below:
[EDITED 9/23/09] Hot dog stand was set for Ugly Betty shoot.
20090825_MadisonSqPark, shot myself

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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Don't Block Bus Lanes says Stringer, DOT-TLC

Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer is on a quest for the NYPD to ticket drivers parked illegally in bus lanes. Bus lanes are designated lanes for bus use only during a 12 hour period, 7am to 7pm, to allow for faster bus travel. However, private vehicles and delivery trucks still park in those lanes, and the police aren't doing enough to stop this illegal behavior. Unfortunately, a plan to fund cameras that would capture the licenses of illegal vehicles was defeated thanks to someone in the New York State Assembly named David Gantt.

However, there is hope. The Metro New York edition reported 2 weeks ago that the NYC Dept. of Transportation, which is also leading a renewed attempt at bus tracking technology, will also work with the Taxi and Limousine Commission "to use cameras to bust cabbies in bus lanes." They will first start with the bus lanes on 34th St as well as the Select Bus Service BRT route in the Bronx. With regards to Albany lawmakers such as David Gantt who have relented against using cameras to catch red light runners, Mayor Bloomberg said, "It defies common sense."

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Bloomberg '09: Rev. Bernard Endorses Mike

With Mike, we can work together to help bring NYC through these tough times and into a better future.

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Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Seen/Scene on the Subway #2

Seen/Scene on the Subway is a new line of posts that document interesting or unique events that I've experienced on the NYC Subway. For similar stories, click on the tag at the bottom of this post.

7 Train: AM Rush hour, at Main St station, as the train is pulling out of the station, the conductor says the following:
"Good Morning, 您好 (How are you), 지내세요 (How are you?), Buenos dias (Good Morning)." This was the first time that I had ever heard a conductor use more than one language on the speakers, and although he needed to brush up on the translations a little - there is a better phrase for good morning in Chinese and Korean - he should be congratulated and commended for taking the time to greet passengers and make their groggy ride a little more comfortable. And he picked the right variety of languages too-from a superficial view of the riders at Main St, his order of languages following English was properly represented. Kudos to the conductor!

42St/Grand Central: A trio of religious recruits were cruising the platform and handing out leaflets encased by a clear plastic sleeve. Thinking it might have been a coupon, I took one. After realizing what it was, I looked around for a garbage can. I saw one about a subway car's length away, and walked towards it. After I threw the package away, I noticed 2 other people had followed me and had done the same thing. I guess there actually are environmentally responsible transit riders who don't just throw trash onto the tracks or platform.

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Monday, August 24, 2009

DOT Leads 3rd Try at Bus Arrival Signs

Nearly 7 months ago, the MTA gave up on their second attempt at successfully installing and operating bus arrival signs. The interesting thing about my post was how I titled it "Maybe the Third Time's the Charm." It turns out I was right about that.

Two weeks ago, the NYC Department of Transportation (DOT) along with the MTA and Mayor Bloomberg unveiled a new pilot program on 34th St. The displays fit perfectly into the top rectangular box of the Cemusa-designed bus shelters, since they were designed with these signage in mind. It shows the current time and temperature, as well as the next 3 buses due to arrive with their route numbers, destinations, and Estimated Time of Arrival (ETA). It uses GPS-technology, which despite the MTA's claims that it was partially the reason for the failure of the last 2 trials, works to relay the bus' current location through an estimation that takes into account traffic patterns. The bottom of the sign also displays "Welcome to New York. It's a Metro Card City. Please visit for more information on the Metro Card". The signs are provided free by a company called Clever Devices, which has successfully worked with Chicago's buses to cover their bus network with similar technology. This is an important step at increasing the reliability of mass transit in NYC, as well as increase its appeal, and I look forward to seeing this technology rolled out to other bus shelters throughout the city.

20090825_34st-3Av_BusArrivalSign, shot myself 8/25

Of course, being NYC, there are its shares of miscreants who just ignore the law by parking or standing in bus lanes. What's worse is when the NYPD does it. This of course can really upset the ETAs of the signs not to mention impede traffic flow.

edited 8/27

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Friday, August 21, 2009

Bloomberg '09: Trabajos Para Todos

With Mike, we can work together to help bring NYC through these tough times and into a better future.

Means "Work for All"

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Thursday, August 20, 2009

Shame on TWU Local 100

The MTA just got screwed. Again. Last Monday, an arbitration panel declared that the Transport Workers' Union, the union that represents train drivers, conductors, and bus drivers, would be able to receive a 11.3% raise in the next 3 years, for a total of $350 million, something that the MTA just cannot afford in these times. Their deficit is projected to be $10 Billion in the next 5 years. The Union claims that these pay raises are on par with some city workers' unions that got 4% raises. Mayor Bloomberg's rebuttal: "The city's finances are different than the MTA's finances, the city's workforce is different. So there's no reason to think that if one does something, the others automatically have to get it." To make things worse, they also won the right to not have to increase healthcare contributions for the next 3 years-currently at 1.5%, as well as not having to pay that cost on overtime pay. This was something that was negotiated out from the 2005 illegal transit strike. In addition, the MTA now has to postpone the initiation of One Person Train Operation (OPTO) to the year 2012, something where a train does not have a conductor on board but only the driver, already present on numerous train systems throughout the world. This would have saved the MTA millions in operating costs, not to mention the investment in new technology to make OPTO happen over the past few years. Now the MTA's future, as well as the economy of the city, is at even greater stake. Unions.

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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Bloomberg '09: Fix It

Starting today, this blog will bring you Mike Bloomberg's TV Ads for his 2009 Mayoral Campaign. With Mike, we can work together to help bring NYC through these tough times and into a better future.

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Seen/Scene on the Subway

Seen/Scene on the Subway is a new line of posts that document interesting or unique events that happen on the NYC Subway. For something of a predecessor, see Car #1224

Uptown 6 train: African-American man selling metal whistles, varying colors. But it's his sales pitch that captures the whole car's attention. He has several versions of a rap-rhyme that just plain tells people what they can use the whistles for: from jogging to women who might need it for help to bikers or campers, that whistle could save your life...for only a $1. And someone actually did buy it! His poetry lit up the faces of people in that car, including myself, who found this salesman to be a cheerful, uplifting guy.

Flushing-bound 7 train:
A Caucasian girl, in her 20's, heading to CitiField. How did I know? She had an ID card hanging which had a "CitiField" printed on top, and at the bottom, "Corona-EMS." Before she got off, she had been taking stuff out of her bag: medical tape (Not sure what it's called...about 1/2 inch wide, white, latexy), pen, and other items she latched or stored into her pants. Right before the train stopped, she managed to pull over an extremely bright yellow jacket over her shirt which read "EMS" on the back. 80+ degrees Fahrenheit and humid and still a jacket over her shirt, in a stadium that would be filled with fans. I call that commitment to saving lives. And she was hot. :D

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Friday, August 14, 2009

MTA: 7 Line Getting CBTC and T Stands for Torture

Part 5 of Week-long Series on Mass Transit in NYC

After the relative success of computerizing train operations on the L line, the MTA is set to do the same with the IRT 7 line. Computer Based Train Control, or CBTC, allows new trains to sync with signals and a computer that better allows trains to run closer together while increasing safety and reliability. The technology also allows the feasibility of next train arrival information, currently in use on the L line. LED monitors display approximately when the next train will arrive, although my recent experiences with these monitors have shown that they are still a little off. CBTC also allows One Person Train Operation, OPTO, and worries about safety are offset by its common use throughout metro systems around the world. This helps save the cash-strapped MTA money without jeopardizing the safety of passengers, since the train driver/engineer can now take on the role of conductor without having to worry about driving the train as much. Of course, the Unions are always getting in the way of progress, and frankly they need to recognize that if they want to keep their jobs, then they should let the MTA save the money to do so.

And speaking of progress, the Second Avenue Subway is on its way!...after 70 years in the making. But will it be opened in my lifetime? I doubt it: Judge for yourself, with New York Magazine's timeline titled, "The Long, Tortured History of the Second Avenue Subway."

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Thursday, August 13, 2009

6 Train's Moving on Down (for Uptowners)

Part 4 of Week-long Series on Mass Transit in NYC

Let's take a train ride on the New York City Subway, shall we? Let's say that you're taking the F from Delancey St and want to go to 42St/Grand Central. So you take the Queens-bound F all the way to 42St/Bryant Park, or transfer for an express B or D train at Broadway/Lafayette St. Then, another transfer to the Flushing-bound 7 train one stop. According to the MTA's Trip Planner, that will most likely take you 30 mins to travel 2.4 miles during rush hour. In the future, a new interchange point between the B, D, F, and V lines and the uptown 6 train may help cut that time to 26 minutes (and a lot less walking at the long tunnel between the 7 and F at Bryant Park). Currently, riders can only transfer between these two systems to/from the downtown 6 platform at Bleecker St, since the uptown platform is staggered "above" the downtown one. (Note: many IRT platforms in downtown Manhattan, most notably on the 6 train, are not connected.)

Image of Map with Current Travel vs Future Travel Route

Currently under construction is a new transfer area, escalators, and elevators to connect the uptown 6 platform to the rest of the complex. This is done by extending the uptown platform South and by excavating and by building an entirely new concourse below it. Expected completion date: 2011. The design is by architecture firm Lee Harris Pomeroy Architects, and it looks marvelous. (Of course, any new station or major rehabilitation is great compared to the state of most stations now.) It also has a signature "hive-like" LED artwork that will make passersby look up from their Blackberrys and iPhones for a minute-just hope they won't trip. Take a look for yourself:
>>>Lee Harris Pomeroy: Bleecker Station Expansion and Restoration
>>>Curbed: Soho, Noho Join Forces for Subway Super Station!

(Taken using MTA's Interactive Trip Planner, with Delancey St as start point, specifying F, and Grand Central as End point for a weekday 8:25 am departure.)

Published Post Number:151/157
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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Liberty Card: Coming Soon?

Part 3 of Week-long Series on Mass Transit in NYC

The Liberty Card does not exist...yet. My long time imaginary name for the ideal smartcard that would be used in the tri-state region for mass transit fare collection. (For those of you who take PATH, you have a similar card called the SmartLink. A smartcard is great: it uses Radio Frequency IDentification technology to allow contactless payment, getting rid of all that frustrating magnetic strip swiping currently used in the Metrocard system. If even New Yorkers can't always swipe it correctly the first time, all hope for tourists are lost (I've seen and experienced it). Just tap and go, and you barely have to put any effort into it-keep it in your wallet or jacket pocket, and as long as nothing majorly metallic or thick gets in between your card and the reader, you're guaranteed a smooth entry.

But smartcards do not stop at the turnstiles. In Hong Kong, where the Octopus card was first introduced in 1997, the possibilities for its use truly lives up to the number of legs of the animal referred to in its name. Acting as a debit card, with "top-ups" with either cash or a link to your bank account, it is the island city's most popular form of payment (10 million daily transactions), next to cash. Places you can use the Octopus card (and some potentially in NYC as well) include:
  1. Subway
  2. Bus/Light Buses
  3. Tram
  4. Convenience Stores
  5. Supermarkets
  6. Bakeries
  7. Fast-food restaurants
  8. Vending machines
  9. Parking meters
  10. Newspaper stands
  11. Secure entry points
Now, the question is: who would pay for the implementation of a smartcard? Most likely, the MTA, since it has the highest ridership in the region. However, their most recent budget forecast for the next 5 years is $10 billion short, and money is always constantly being diverted to cover shortfalls. The point could be made that since credit card companies such as Mastercard and Visa already have their own RFID-enabled cards, that the MTA should just let the credit card companies develope it. In fact, select stations in the NYC subway system already allow pre-registered users to use their card.

But the MTA should partner with the Port Authority of NY and NJ (which has the SmartLink) to either keep the SmartLink or develop a new card: LibertyCard. The MTA could make the card pay for itself! By implementing a debit-card like system with online account access, the card could be used at retailers similar to those mentioned above, with the MTA charging a credit card company-like fee per transaction. This would not only allow the usage of the card to pay for all the research and implementation costs, but also would give higher security to its users: riders, especially little kids and the elderly would no longer have to carry as much cash with them when they go out. In addition, if the smartcard is lost, it can be easily canceled/replaced without having to worry about your checking being emptied or credit being hurt. The MTA should seriously consider transitioning to a smartcard, but only after planning out a long term financial sustainability plan for its use so that it recoups the cost of its development and roll out that will also benefit New Yorkers and visitors immensely.

Read More: I was planning on blogging about this topic before, but just never got around to it, until I was reminded by 2nd Ave Sagas: The Future of the Metrocard Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4

Published Post Number:150/156
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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Bloomberg Releases Mass Transit Plan

Part 2 of Week-long Series on Mass Transit in NYC

Bloomberg released his "wishlist" last week for New York City's mass transit improvements, giving another reason why New York City cannot afford to lose a mayor of his caliber in the upcoming mayoral election. Summary of his plans for improving mass transit:

1. Expand and Improve Service in Underserved Neighborhoods Via the Commuter Railroads
2. Fix Stations More Efficiently and Cost Effectively to Ensure Existing Stations Are in State of Good Repair
3. Reinstitute F Line Express Service (in Brooklyn)
4. Reopen the Staten Island North Shore Alignment
5. Pilot Light Rail or Street Car Service in Brooklyn and Western Queens Waterfront
6. Provide Subway Riders with Time Notifications
7. Expand Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) and Select Bus Service (SBS)
8. Provide Commuter Van Service to Neighborhoods Where Transit Service Fails to Meet the Community’s Needs (Comment: critical need in Northeastern Queens and Brooklyn)
9. Use Smaller Buses to Service Existing Routes During Less Crowded Periods
10. Provide Free Crosstown Buses on Select Routes (Comment: although the MTA will be spending less money running fewer buses because of reduced delays, they would end up losing money on these routes, despite the overwhelming convenience.)
11. Provide 50% of City Bus Routes with Tracking Technology by 2013 (Comment: MTA already gave
12. Provide Cheaper, Safer, Better Transportation for ParaTransit Riders

You can view his full report here:

Published Post Number:149/155
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Monday, August 10, 2009

Thoughts on MTA 2010-2014 Capital Program

Part 1 of Week-long Series on Mass Transit in NYC

This is an email sent to the New York City MTA in response to their draft of their 2010-2014 Capital Program, released today and found here:

Smartcard investments: although I have long pushed for the MTA to finally adopt this ubiquitous technology, unless the MTA finds ways to "profit" off smartcard usage, I think funding should instead be diverted to more pressing concerns. Profit=expanding usage to merchants such as supermarkets, convenience stores, news stands, etc., like a debit card. People that don't have credit cards (ex. youth) would be able to use it at other places without having to carry cash around. MTA could charge a fee to merchants, like the credit card companies do, at 3rd party places. Octopus Card is a good example. And if smartcard is ever put into place, please do not drag out process of allowing Metrocards to continue to be used like what happened with the token back in the '90s.

Page 8: Sustainable Investments-despite the economic downturn and credit "freeze", the MTA should also expand their property ownership around new and existing stations. A good example: Hong Kong MTR-through their MTR Properties, they have hugely successful commercial and residential developments on top of or going into stations, creating an easy and direct connection to the transit system as well as an interconnected area.

More ventilation at platform level-perhaps keeping the hot air from the trains from wafting into the platform? Or employ A/C units similar to
Grand Central's 4/5/6 platform.

New buses with push-bar rear exit opening tech is GREAT! But news of eliminating the push button on new Orions is not...

HEETs are not as efficient as traditional turnstiles and are in fact more dangerous and moves traffic slower-when a load of people are getting off a train, it's scary walking into swinging metal bars coming at you.

Using new tunnel lighting is great, especially with CFLs or (maybe with a very generous sponsor?) LEDs. But too much lighting is inefficient lighting-take the tunnel on E/V at 53St/Lex. There is way too much lighting there for illumination-similar to what an at grade tunnel would have.

Commendations on finally getting Herald Square escalators working after nearly a 6 month out of service period-image is everything to riders.

7 is getting R142's? I thought it was R179s? And if it is 179s, you should definitely consider having the R143's LED message boards along with 160 FIND maps...LEDMB=ad space.

What happened to your deal with CNN on televisions on platforms? I truly would love to see this deal go forward- AD REVENUE for MTA; TVs should face platform from tracks; MTA announcements as well; vandalproof.

And more PR - reaching out to public with Youtube? Twitter? Using Youtube, MTA could publish videos about construction progress, Did You Knows?, service interruptions, and other info that could better improve the public's view of the MTA AS WELL AS give you more support, away from those annoying politicians.

Get a way to release the Senate's clamp on MTA financing approvals-you should be able to get what you want without having to go through the Senate.

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Wednesday, August 5, 2009

DOT Hiding Cash for Clunkers Data, LaHood Oblivious

Another reason to say NO to the addition of $2 Billion to the Cash for Clunkers program. Honestly, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood was even quoted as saying he was looking to purchase a Ford Explorer...16 mpg...shows how much he knows.

>>>AP: Obama Administration Won’t Release Full Data on ‘Cash for Clunkers’

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