Maloney Hails Restoration of $1 Billion for Second Avenue Subway

Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney (NY-12) celebrated the news that the state budget will include an additional $1 billion for the Second Avenue Subway:

“When I first ran for Congress, one of my top priorities was building the Second Avenue Subway.  As phase 1 of the project nears completion, it is critical to have sufficient funding in place to ensure that the MTA can move forward seamlessly with phase 2.  Adding $1 billion back into the budget, bringing the total state commitment to $1.5 billion, is a clear sign of Governor Cuomo’s dedication to completing this project, which is very welcome news indeed.

“I want to thank my colleagues in government, particularly Speaker Carl Heastie, Assemblyman Keith Wright, Assemblyman Robert Rodriguez and Congressman Charlie Rangel, for their support and continuing advocacy for a restoration of the funds for the Second Avenue Subway.  As anyone who rides the Lexington Avenue line knows, there is a limit to how many people you can cram into the subway.  We need a fully built Second Avenue Subway to provide real relief.

“I fought to get $1.3 billion in federal funds for phase 1 and I will work with the MTA and my colleagues in government to obtain federal funds for phase 2.  The Second Avenue Subway is crucial for New York and we need to do everything we can to make sure it is completed.”

 

Background

Phase 1 of the Second Avenue Subway is scheduled for completion in December 2016.  With new stations at 96th, 86th and 72nd Streets and Second Avenue and a new platform and entrances at 63rd Street and Third Avenue, it will connect onto existing Q train tracks and provide a one seat ride to lower Manhattan and Brooklyn.  Phase 2 would add stations at 106th and 116th, and terminate at the existing station at 125th and Lexington Avenue.  Phase 1 is expected to have 202,000 riders on day one and decrease crowding on the Lexington Avenue line by as much as 13%, or 23,500 fewer riders on an average weekday.  Preliminary estimates say Phases 1 and 2 together would carry 303,000 passengers a day.

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CREATE Program awarded $1.25 million for Chicago grade separation project

Illinois federal, state and Chicago officials late last week announced a $1.25 million grant from the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) that will be used for a grade separation project in Chicago that is part of the Chicago Region Environmental and Transportation Efficiency (CREATE) Program.

The grant will fund design and engineering services to construct a grade separation for Union Pacific Railroad‘s double track main line that crosses 95th Street at Eggleston Avenue in Chicago. On a typical day, the crossing handles 24 UP and CSX trains and two Amtrak trains, as well as 24,000 motor vehicles and 700 buses, according to a press release issued by CREATE.

The Chicago Department of Transportation and Illinois Department of Transportation received the funding, which was issued as part of the FRA’s Safe Transportation of Energy Products (STEP) by Rail Program. CREATE competed against applicants for a share of $10 million in funding to improve grade crossings and track along routes that transport energy products including crude oil and ethanol.

CREATE’s grant award was announced by U.S. Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.), IDOT and Chicago city officials.

“Separating train traffic from vehicle traffic is first and foremost a safety issue — not just for those crossing the tracks, but for those who are counting on first-responders to make it through traffic during an emergency,” said Durbin. “Chicago is the center of rail transportation in the Midwest and while that boosts economic activity, it can slow down surrounding communities that have to deal with increases in traffic and noise, and pose safety issues from trains carrying hazardous material such as crude oil.

CREATE is a partnership that includes the city of Chicago, the state of Illinois, the U.S. Department of Transportation, Metra, Amtrak and the nation’s freight railroads. The program is designed to eliminate freight-rail and motor vehicle bottlenecks, boost northeastern Illinois’ economy and improve the region’s overall safety and environment.

5 Fantasy Subway Lines That Would Revolutionize NYC Transit

What if you could take one train all the way from Fulton Street to LaGuardia Airport? Or if the Second Avenue Subway didn’t just cover the east side of Manhattan (already a far-off promise) but also branched into Queens and south Brooklyn? The MTA may be in no position to contemplate such radical projects, as it’s preoccupied with repairing debilitated tunnels and making good on some of its less outlandish promises, but that hasn’t stopped cartographer Andrew Lynch from envisioning a wildly fantastic future for the city’s subway system. This isn’t Lynch’s first foray into subway futurism: in previous projects, he’s cooked up the notion of a Manhattan-bound G train and made several suggestions for improved subway service in Queens.

From extending the Second Avenue Subway across 125th street to connect with the 1, to lengthening the F, M, and 7 lines to serve the current subway desert that is northeastern Queens, there’s a lot to look at here. Below, the five most intriguing suggestions Lynch has offered to help the New York City subway system better serve its passengers. Feast your eyes, and then cry them out because it’s unlikely even one of these ideas will be realized in your lifetime.


1. Meet The K Train

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(Andrew Lynch)

Lynch’s plan would not only restore G service to Forest Hills, but also add another train to the line: the K train. The K would effectively replace the Franklin Avenue Shuttle and extend it up to Bedford-Nostrand Avenues. Though G train service would still terminate at Church Avenue in Brooklyn, the K would run with the Q all the way down to Brighton Beach. In Queens, it would be the express counterpart to the G and extend beyond Forest Hills, running all the way out to Jamaica.

2. The Utica Avenue Subway

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(Andrew Lynch)

This is perhaps one of the more realistic proposals in Lynch’s map, though that’s not saying all that much. Mayor de Blasio has asked the city to study the feasibility of a Utica Avenue subway line, which has been proposed many times in the past. Indeed, in the early 1900s, planning for such a line got so far that the Crown Heights-Utica Avenue station was built with space for a north-south platform. The B46, which covers the same ground as this proposed extension of the 3 train, is the second-busiest bus route in the city, carrying 50,000 passengers per day. Unfortunately, the Utica Avenue line appears to have fallen to the bottom of de Blasio’s transit to-do list, which is currently dominated by talking up his $2.5 billion streetcar.

3. The Bushwick-Queens Line

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(Andrew Lynch)

With the T and mythical K trains serving southern Brooklyn along with the Q, the B train would be free to take over the M’s current path through Brooklyn, which would also be conveniently replaced by extensions of the Second Avenue Subway. Lynch envisions the B peeling off from M just past Myrtle Avenue to follow the path that the M currently takes up to Middle Village-Metropolitan Avenue—but in this transit utopia, it’d go even farther, running all the way to Woodhaven Boulevard, which would be transformed into quite the hub, connecting the E, F, G, K, N, and V trains.

4. The 10th Avenue Subway

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(Andrew Lynch)

The L train would be business as usual if Lynch has his way—that is, until it hits Eighth Avenue, at which point it wouldn’t terminate but continue to 10th Avenue, turning right and heading uptown until meeting up with the 1, 2, and 3 trains at 72nd and Broadway. Stops at 23rd, 34th, 42nd (joined by the 7, at the initially planned extension of that line), 50th, and 57th streets would serve portions of the far-West Side that are currently a bit of a hike from the nearest station.

5. The Second Avenue Subway On Steroids

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(Andrew Lynch)

Forget just completing the second phase of the Second Avenue Subway and bringing the T and Q trains up to East Harlem: Lynch would like to see the T joined by the currently-defunct V and W trains, recoded in the new line’s teal blue. At its northern tip, the T would cut west, hitting stops along 125th Street before joining up with the 1 on Broadway. The V, which would join the T in midtown and lower Manhattan, would then head into southern Brooklyn, covering much of the same ground that the R and D trains do today.

The W, for its part, would peel north in Queens, following the same path as the Q and N trains do now but continuing past Ditmars Boulevard, along with the R, to take passengers all the way to LaGuardia airport. Oh, and a magical AirTrain even more far-fetched than the one Governor Guomo is proposing would connect LaGuardia and JFK, with a quick pitstop at Citi Field for all those mid-transfer Mets games you’ve been dying to catch.

Arizona’s Shameful Voting Delays Highlight a Wider Problem With American Elections

SOME ARIZONA residents waited in line for as long as five hours before they were able to cast ballots in Tuesday’s primaries. Others were so discouraged by the long lines and parking lot gridlock that they gave up without voting. Grilled about the debacle, one election official suggested that voters might have brought it on themselves by not opting to vote early. Such nonchalance, combined with the fact that the areas most affected were predominantly Latino, is an embarrassment and should prompt Arizona officials — as well as those in other states — to assess how prepared their localities are for this year’s critical presidential election.

The problems that saw some Arizona voters still standing in line at midnight have been traced to decisions to cut back on the number of polling places as a way to save money. In Maricopa County, the largest in the state with about 4.2 million people and home to Phoenix, officials reduced the number of places to vote from 200 in 2012 to 60 on Tuesday. That’s one polling place for every 21,000 voters.

Critics were quick to fault the Republican-led state government for intentionally aiming to suppress minority votes. “It is no coincidence many poor and predominantly Latino areas didn’t get a polling place,” wrote Arizona Republic columnist Elvia Díaz, reporting that Democrats for weeks had sounded the alarm about insufficient resources. Also lamented was the loss of federal protections for minority voters as a result of the Supreme Court decision in 2013 that gutted the Voting Rights Act by allowing Arizona and other states with discriminatory histories to change election procedures without federal oversight.

The five-hour waits experienced this week by Arizona voters are extreme, but long lines have become a sad feature of U.S. elections. In the District this month, voters in the Republican primary had to stand in a three-block-long line before casting their ballots in an election the party was forced to pay for. After the 2012 election, President Obama convened a commission that found that 10 million people waited longer than half an hour to vote. The Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law did a 2014 study that found a lack of poll workers, poor planning and low numbers of voting machines as key contributors to long lines. The study, which examined three states that had some of the longest waits in 2012, showed that precincts with more minorities experienced longer delays.

Representative democracy is the heartbeat of this country, so it makes no sense that with so much at stake, elections are conducted on the cheap with too few workers, with little training and using outmoded equipment. It’s time — before polls open in November — to make sure that the resources are in place so that every voter is able to cast a ballot in a timely manner.

By The Washington Post | Editorial Board

Collaboration held key to successful handling of mega-ships

When the CMA CGM Benjamin Franklin pulled out of Los Angeles in late December after an unprecedented effort by the port community to work the largest container ship ever to call at a North American port, no one was prouder than the International Longshore and Warehouse Union.

“It was gratifying to see how well we did, to be part of it,” Paul Trani, president of ILWU Local 63, told a town hall meeting Wednesday sponsored by the Center for International Trade and Transportation at California State University Long Beach.

The Benjamin Franklin, with a capacity of 18,000 20-foot container units, made a second Southern California visit in February, calling at Long Beach, and CMA CGM announced that beginning in May, it would operate a weekly service with six 18,000-TEU ships, presenting the largest U.S. port complex with a challenge to repeat the success of its first two efforts on a weekly basis.

After experiencing one of their worst years in more than a decade during the 2014-15 ILWU-Pacific Maritime Association contract negotiations, Los Angeles and Long Beach may have needed the successful handling of the Benjamin Franklin to bring labor, management, trucking companies and beneficial cargo owners together for the good of the port community.

Michael Christensen, senior executive lead, supply chain optimization at the Port of Long Beach, compared the Southern California port and transportation community to a typical family where everyone enjoys poking each other in the eye, “but when threats come to the family, we band together.”

The ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach actually began the healing process in April 2015, after the tentative contract agreement between the ILWU and PMA was reached, by launching a supply chain optimization effort, with approval from the Federal Maritime Commission that allows all of the port stakeholders to meet regularly and agree to implement measures that will improve cargo velocity.

Christensen said the first meeting included more than 100 representatives from throughout the port community. Subgroups have since been formed to uncover the bottlenecks in the local supply chain, including marine terminal productivity issues, long truck queues at the terminal gates and sporadic chassis shortages, and to explore possible solutions such as mandatory trucker appointment systems, free-flowing cargo rapidly from the vessel to off-dock storage yards and possibly an evolution toward 24/7 gates.

Trani compared marine terminals in Los Angeles-Long Beach in this era of mega-ships to his garage, where he said it is impossible to fit another piece of furniture inside. “The key is that there is only so much land here. We have to push the cargo out without letting it sit on the terminals,” he said.

The problem with marine terminals at many ports is that neither the terminal operator nor the BCOs plan ahead for the delivery of containers to the truckers. A process of random access is triggered when the container is discharged from the vessel and clears Customs. The BCO is notified, and the trucker is dispatched to the terminal, along with hundreds of other truckers on a similar mission. Trucks back up waiting to enter, while terminal operators send longshoremen to hunt and peck for each specific container destined to be picked up by a particular trucker.

This random access operation can be replaced through a sharing of real-time information on the status of shipments so the BCO, trucker and terminal operator can plan ahead for the eventual release of the containers, said Steven Miller, chief procurement office at P.F. Chang’s restaurants. The data is out there, and the information technology tools are available. The only impediment to advanced planning is the failure of all of the parties involved in a shipment to share the information with each other, he said.

BCOs pay a price for the failure of the random access model in the form of late shipments, demurrage charges because their trucks are unable to access the containers due to terminal congestion, and, ultimately, unhappy customers. Miller said a restaurant cannot tell a customer who orders a shrimp dinner in December to come back on Jan. 15 after the shrimp arrive from the port.

The Harbor Trucking Association of Southern California is engaged in a turn-time 2.0 project that will analyze real-time information on truck movements throughout the harbor, said Fred Johring, president of Golden State Express/Logistics and chairman of the HTA. Truckers and the terminals will be able to track truck movements at each step of the visit, so that if delays consistently occur at the entrance gate, in the yard, at the out gate, at certain times of the day or in processing shipment documentation, the terminal and truckers can drill down to the exact time and location of the delays and address those problems, Johring said.

Terminal operators are banding together to add predictability to truck traffic by implementing mandatory appointment systems. Five of the 13 container terminals in the port complex already have appointment systems, and five more are expected to have them up and running this year. Tracy Burdine, director of client services at Yusen Terminals, said YTI is developing its appointment system around the needs of the truckers, who are concerned that because of cargo surges from big ships that congest the terminals, as well as traffic congestion on local roads, drivers will have trouble keeping to the appointment times if windows are too narrow.

Johring said truckers also want a single portwide portal that will allow them to access information from all of the vendors with which they interact. In order to complete a day’s book of business, a trucking company today must scan the websites of 40-plus terminal operators, chassis providers and other entities involved in a shipment, he said.

Although the speakers agreed that ultimately at a large port complex such as Los Angeles-Long Beach, which last year handled 15.4 million TEUs, a complex process will eventually have to developed in order to operate 24/7. Terminals must be assured of steady business 24 hours a day, and the ILWU contract may have to be reworked. Truck drivers, for example, must comply with federally mandated hours-of-service regulations, which means that additional drivers will be needed to work 24/7. Also, the ILWU contract specifies that the third shift, the so-called hoot-owl shift, lasts only five hours, which for many terminals is simply not cost-effective.

Extended hours also raise the question of who will pay the terminal operators for maintaining round-the-clock gates that cost a good deal to run but generate no revenue for the terminals. For the past 10 years, Los Angeles-Long Beach has been the only U.S. port with a formal program of night and weekend gates under PierPass Inc. John Cushing, PierPass president, noted that BCOs who send their trucks to the terminals during the peak-traffic day shift help to fund the night shifts through a traffic mitigation fee. That fee, which is already criticized by BCOs and truckers who charge that it is not transparent, covers only a second shift each day, so who will pay for a third shift if it is implemented? Cushing asked.

After a Million Miles, BART Cars Are Hella Old

Think back to September 1972.

“The Godfather” was the top movie in theaters. Gilbert O’Sullivan’s “Alone Again (Naturally)” topped the charts. M*A*S*H kicked off its 11-year run on TV. And President Richard Nixon, just months after five people were arrested for breaking into Democratic campaign offices in Washington, D.C.’s Watergate office complex, sought re-election against Sen. George McGovern.

And on Sept. 11, the Bay Area Rapid Transit system opened for business.

Now fast-forward more than 43 years, and many of those original BART cars are still in use. Many of them have logged over 1 million miles.

To put it simply, BART’s rolling stock is old. Hella old.

According to the American Public Transportation Association, BART is home to the oldest big-city commuter rail fleet in the nation. The typical useful life span of these cars is about 25 years. The average age of BART’s fleet (as of 2010, when the study was done) is 30 years.

A comparison of different fleet ages. (Courtesy bart.gov)

The system introduced some new cars in 1988 and 1994, but the majority of BART cars still in use today have been in operation since service opened in 1972. According to BART’s website, 439 of its 669 train cars have been in use since service began. A large rehabilitation project in the late ’90s extended the life of these cars, but ongoing repairs and maintenance are required to keep BART running.

These repairs and regular servicing are done at four train yards around the Bay Area. The busiest is the Richmond maintenance yard, just north of Richmond station. Trains from the Richmond fleet arrive in the yard, where they are cleaned and prepared for service — which often includes refurbishing old parts and repairing antiquated systems.

Eric Reinig is a transportation foreworker at the Richmond yard, where he is responsible for assembling BART trains for service every morning. He is often forced to send out shorter trains than scheduled because he doesn’t have enough working cars available.

Eric Reinig works in the traffic control tower at BART's Richmond Maintenance Yard. (Alan Toth/KQED)
Eric Reinig works in the traffic control tower at BART’s Richmond Maintenance Yard. (Alan Toth/KQED)

“Right now I have 20 cars that are sidetracked that are waiting to be repaired,” Reinig said. “Sometimes a patron will be standing on a platform and instead of a six-car train coming in that they normally board, it’s only five cars. It’s downsized due to the fact that we don’t have a train to put in that spot.”

As cars get older they break down more frequently, and must spend more time out of service undergoing repairs. This, in turn, decreases the number of cars available, which increases the congestion on in-service cars.

The shop, or the maintenance facility, is the part of the yard where BART cars are serviced. A corps of BART technicians perform regular preventive maintenance and repairs. If a BART car is scheduled for maintenance, technicians will inspect it for wear or damage. Any component that seems likely to cause a problem will be fixed before it fails. If a car has been sent to the shop for a specific repair, a technician will be assigned to diagnose the problem.

On one October night, Charles Chew was working in the Richmond maintenance Facility as a transit vehicle electronics technician. He was assigned to work on the malfunctioning HVAC (heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system) on car 1728. Even on hot summer days, the HVAC was blowing heat into the car.

BART mechanic, Charles Chew, inspects a malfunctioning HVAC system on a BART car. (Alan Toth/KQED)
BART mechanic Charles Chew inspects a malfunctioning HVAC system on a BART car. (Alan Toth/KQED)

Chew found that a component in the HVAC logic, the computer running the heating and air conditioning, was behaving erratically. To fix the problem, an electrical switch needed to be replaced. Though the part was small, replacing it was a complex job requiring four to six hours to complete.

“These cars are so old, it’s based on technology that was cutting-edge 20 years ago, but has kind of been phased out everywhere else,” Chew said.

“Imagine a computer produced in 1972,” said David Hardt, the assistant chief mechanical officer at BART. “No one is supporting that old equipment any longer, but those same microprocessors are what we have controlling our logic systems.”

For reference, Atari released its seminal arcade game Pong just two months after BART service opened — that’s the kind of technological antique Hardt and Chew are dealing with.

Hardt oversees the maintenance of the BART fleet, and he says that one of the most challenging aspects of his job is finding the antiquated parts for the fleet — many of which are no longer manufactured. When these old parts are no longer available from suppliers, Hardt often looks to eBay. But most of the time BART technicians are forced to buy newer parts and adapt them to be compatible with the old systems.

Change is on the way. BART and Montreal-based manufacturer Bombardier are producing a new generation of cars, with the first “pilot” models expected later this year. After an initial testing phase, full-scale production is expected in 2017, with more than 1,000 new cars being phased into the existing BART fleet over a 10-year period. (775 of those new cars have been confirmed, while funding for an additional 200 has not yet been secured.)

But the old BART cars cannot simply be retired. Once the line extensions to Warm Springs and Livermore are completed, the system will require a bigger fleet, so the old cars will continue to be used for the foreseeable future, creating a new challenge for BART technicians. Once the new cars enter service, technicians will need to know how to work with both the old and the new systems. Train yards, like the one in Richmond, will have to work with parts and tools for both old and new cars.

Over the next decade, the BART fleet will certainly be larger and more modern. But much of the system’s infrastructure, like the rails and traffic control systems, remains outdated.

According to Hardt, these outdated systems impose serious limits on efficiency. BART is currently researching how to resolve these issues.