Who will foot the bill for the city’s transit plans?

When it comes to public transportation, (“The Transit Dance,” March 25 issue), New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s recent speech on his proposed $82.1 billion 2016-2017 fiscal year budget beginning on July 1, sounded great but provided little substance. He failed to give any specifics of how he will come up with $2.5 billion promised to meet the shortfall in the proposed $28 billion 2015-2019 MTA Five Year Capital Plan. The mayor is kicking the can down the road. He hasn’t given any specific information on how the MTA and New York City will come up with funding to implement any of the following transportation projects advocated by many other elected officials, constituents and transit advocates.

The list includes, but is not limited to, the following projects or proposals. Where does de Blasio stand on these ideas? Many City Council members are supporting the Commuter Rail Fare Equalization Proposal. This would allow NYC residents to pay the same $2.75 fare on the Long Island Rail Road or Metro North Rail Road as riding the subway and provide a free transfer to the subway. How will the city provide the MTA with $200 million to cover the cost?

$6 billion will be needed to construct Phase 2 of the Second Avenue Subway. What about finding $500 million to build the new No. 7 subway station at 10th Avenue and 41st Street? This was dropped from the original scope of work for the Hudson Yards extension as a means to keep the project within a baseline $2.1 billon budget. In the end, the cost was $2.4 billion without this station.

The LaGuardia Airport Train to the Plane baseline budget of $450 million will require up to an additional $550 million in the years to come, bringing the final cost close to $1 billion.

The $3 billion new Penn Station will end up needing far more than $300 million in combined assistance from the MTA, New Jersey Transit and Amtrak, along with Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. Does anyone really believe that potential developers will spend $2.7 billion of their own funding to pay for this?

Queens residents will be looking for $200 million toward the $400 million Woodhaven Boulevard Select Bus Service. These dollars may be necessary if NYCDOT is unable to secure $200 million in U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Transit Administration New Starts funding.

Others will continue to lobby for $100 million to construct light rail between Glendale and Long Island City on the old Montauk LIRR branch;

A full $1 billion for restoration of LIRR service on the old Rockaway LIRR branch; $2 billion for the Triboro X Subway Express (a new subway line connecting the Bronx, Queens and Brooklyn); $100 million for the Main Street Flushing Intermodal Bus Terminal; $40 million to reopen the Woodhaven Boulevard Atlantic Branch LIRR Station; and, most recently, $2.5 billion for the Brooklyn-Queens Waterfront Street Car Connector, which would connect various neighborhoods along the waterfront from Sunset Park, Brooklyn to Astoria.

Where does de Blasio think the MTA will find the cash for all these projects? The Federal Transit Administration and the State may be possible funding sources for some of these projects, but clearly the city will have to contribute some significant funding if many of these projects are to ever see the light of day.

By Larry Penner

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L.A. Metro tests security technologies to reduce fare evasion

No, they look more like the picture below

RailroadPolice2

The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) yesterday announced that testing is underway on two key security technologies aimed at reducing fare evasion.

Metro’s video analytics software is one of those technologies. It monitors activity through existing video surveillance cameras, highlights behavior that is out of the norm, and alerts security personnel, agency officials said in a press release.

“If the software detects something out of the ordinary, such as a person jumping over the turnstile or using the ADA access gate without tapping, the system highlights it with a red box and sends video alerts to security personnel at that station who can conduct fare checks,” said Metro Chief Executive Officer Phillip Washington.

Metro also is upgrading its handheld mobile phone validators (MPV) with law enforcement-specific, GPS-enabled software. An MPV is a Samsung smartphone with the ability to detect if a TAP card has been used to pay transit fare. The new upgrades show where the MPV is being used, Metro officials said.

“As wireless Internet is rolled out on the subway system, the MPV upgrades will help our deputies get to where they are needed as never before,” said Ronene Anda, chief of Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Transportation Policing Division

In September 2015, the agency announced plans to implement three additional security technologies: SkyWatch Tower, Security Kiosk and LexRay. Metro introduced these technologies in October last year.

“We are in a time when we must guarantee the safety of places where large groups of people congregate, and a transit station is one of those places,” said Metro Executive Officer of System Safety and Law Enforcement Alex Wiggins. “The system is inherently safer when we monitor access to our platforms, buses and trains.”

Earlier this month, Progressive Railroading held its second annual Secure Rail conference, which featured presentations from Wiggins, Anda and other security leaders.

A Bird, a Plane? No, It’s Superdelegates!

The Democratic Party’s special class of entitled and unelected VIP delegates helps explain what’s wrong with the way we choose our presidential candidates.

 

ast week, our suggestion that Hillary Clinton call for the resignations of her pals Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz got a big response. But a few people misunderstood what we were saying.

Some thought Bill Moyers and I were calling for Clinton herself to step aside (we weren’t). Others thought we somehow believed Clinton actually had the power to fire Emanuel (of course she doesn’t). Wasserman Schultz is a different story; the demand for her resignation as DNC chair grows by the day and Clinton doubtless will have a voice as to whether she stays or goes (on top of which, for the first time since she entered the House of Representatives, Wasserman Schultz’s Florida congressional seat is being challenged in a Democratic primary by attorney and former Bernie Sanders advisor Tim Canova).

Using the rhetorical suggestion that she and Rahm take a hike – each of them a symbol of the current tone-deaf and corporate-enslaved state of the Democratic Party — was a way of easing into the idea that the party’s elite is as clueless about the disillusionment of the party’s traditional base as the GOP establishment has been about Donald Trump’s ascent. At their peril, the muckety-mucks of both parties ignore the anger and resist the demand for change that have fueled not only Trump but the Bernie Sanders phenomenon as well, albeit the Sanders movement is as progressive as Trump’s is brutish.

One of the more troubling aspects of the Democrats and their nomination process is something we touched upon in last week’s piece: the 712 or so “superdelegates,” about 15 percent of the total (and 30 percent of the majority needed to win the nomination) who will cast ballots at the July convention in Philadelphia. They include President Obama and Vice President Biden, 239 Democratic members of the House and Senate, 21 sitting governors, 437 Democratic National Committeemen and women, and a category referred to as “distinguished party leaders” – former presidents and veeps, ex-congressional leaders and erstwhile presidential nominees.

These superdelegate VIPs are chosen not by the voters in this year’s primaries or caucuses but selected by the party solely for their status as members of the Democratic upper crust. As we wrote last week, Wasserman Schultz recently told CNN’s Jake Tapper that their appointment is necessary so entitled incumbents and party leaders don’t have to run for the position “against grassroots activists.”

(Just a few weeks later, though, in an interview with Maria Bartiromo on Fox Business News, Wasserman Schultz swung her logic ’round 180 degrees. The superdelegates exist, she now declared, “to make sure that party activists who want to be delegates to the convention don’t have to run against much better-known and well-established people at the district level.” So which is it? Neither really makes total sense.)

This whole superdelegate thing started back in 1984, when, after the devastating presidential defeat of George McGovern in 1972 and President Jimmy Carter’s landslide reelection loss to Ronald Reagan in 1980, it was determined that experienced party stalwarts should be made delegates to fend off fringe efforts to divert the mainstream. Of course, the introduction of the superdelegates that year didn’t keep Democratic presidential candidate Walter Mondale from being mauled by the congenial Reagan reelection juggernaut.

Nevertheless, the perceived wisdom has become that, “Lest those pesky Democratic grass-roots activists and loser-lover types be inclined to drive the party over a leftward-hanging cliff, the establishment is supposed to step in to ensure that we nominate the electable candidate.” Those are the words of Democratic establishment member Susan Estrich, who apparently coined the word “superdelegates” and opposed the idea back when she was supporting the presidential aspirations of Teddy Kennedy. Now that she’s part of the higher echelon, Estrich has reversed her position. “How time changes things,” she writes. You bet.

Technically, superdelegates are not officially bound to a candidate until that moment the first ballot roll call begins on the convention floor although the vast majority of them have announced their support for Hillary Clinton. (This is why up to now when tallies add up pledged delegates and superdelegates, Clinton seems to have such an unshakeable lead over Sanders.)

But as Susan Estrich would say, this can change. So it was in 2008 when superdelegates who had announced their support for Clinton changed their minds as Barack Obama notched up victory after victory. And theoretically, so it is this year as Bernie Sanders supporters, at the start virulently opposed to superdelegates as an obstacle to the will of the people, are now pursuing them as their candidate has achieved more success than anticipated.

(Sanders himself has described superdelegates as “problematic” and said they should vote for whichever candidate has carried their state’s primary or caucus, also noting, “I think I am a stronger candidate to defeat Trump than Secretary Clinton and I think many of the superdelegates understand that.”)

In truth, the existence of the superdelegates is rather like congressional filibuster rules or other arcane methods of manipulating the system – those they hurt are against, those they help are in favor – but when the roles are flipped, suddenly, those who were opposed find something to like in the rules as the shoe slips from one foot to the other.

But like so many of those rules, superdelegates symbolize something that has to go: the entrenched, inside-the-Beltway embrace of power and influence by the Democratic illuminati that does little for the poor and middle class and everything for the one percent that writes the big checks.

Just last week, Fredreka Schouten of USA Today wrote that through the end of February, “Fundraising in the presidential contest has zoomed past the $1 billion mark, fueled by the dozens of super-wealthy Americans bankrolling super PACs that have acted as shadow campaigns for White House contenders.”

And in late February, Jeff Naft at ABC News reported, “… When you remove elected officials from the superdelegate pool, at least one in seven of the rest are former or current lobbyists registered on the federal and state level, according to lobbying disclosure records. That’s at least 67 lobbyists who will attend the convention as superdelegates.” A majority of that 67 say they’re supporting Hillary Clinton.

Last summer, Wasserman Schultz’s Democratic National Committee lifted a ban on lobbyists making donations to cover the costs of convention-related events, a precursor to the DNC’s February rollback of Barack Obama’s ban on contributions to the party from political action committees and federal lobbyists.

Anyone who’s attended any of the recent Democratic Party national conventions can attest that amidst all the confetti, assorted hoopla and solemn testaments of democracy at work, there are outrageous displays of conspicuous consumption as law firms, lobbyists, consultants and their corporate clients manipulate the funding rules and compete to see who can create the swankiest, most excessive shindig. With the lifting of that lobbyist cash ban, Philadelphia could be bigger than ever.

It will be one giant blowout for sure, and a safe bet that the superdelegates will be whooping it up with many of their richest and most persuasive big wheel friends. No need to fight for your right to party, superdelegates. This is their gift to you. Just ignore the price tag attached.

Michael Winship, Moyers & Company

THE ESSENTIAL MINGUS BIG BAND: Goodbye Pork Pie Hat

Jazz You Too

Thisjazz standard was composed by Charles Mingus, written as an elegy for saxophonist Lester Young, who died two months before its first recording session on the album Mingus Ah Um. The name of the composition was inspired by Lester’s broad-rimmed pork pie hat. The song has been recorded by many jazz musicians throughout the years.

On this versionperformed by the Mingus Big Bandwe can listen to an outstanding Seamus Blake on tenor saxophone.

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Sanders says Clinton owes him apology over fossil fuel spat

Bernie Sanders on Friday called on Hillary Clinton to apologize to him for saying that his campaign is lying about her relationship with fossil fuel money.

“Secretary Clinton owes us an apology. We were not lying. We were telling the truth,” the Vermont senator said during a standard section of his stump speech here.
Sanders was referring to a video released Thursday that shows Clinton angrily responding to an activist affiliated with Greenpeace and 350 Action, two climate organizations, who asked Clinton if she will “reject fossil fuel money” from her campaign.
“I do not have, I have money from people who work for fossil fuel companies,” Clinton said. “I’m so sick. I’m so sick of the Sanders’ campaign lying about me. I’m sick of it.”

LIRR, Metro-North logged mechanical performance records in 2015

In 2015, MTA Long Island Rail Road‘s (LIRR) rail cars traveled an average of 208,383 miles before experiencing a break down that caused a delay, marking the railroad’s best record for mechanical reliability since 1981.

The number surpasses the previous year’s record by more than 2,000 miles and was 18 percent above the railroad’s goal of 176,000 miles, LIRR officials said in a press release.

LIRR’s M7 train travels along track in Sunnyside, Queens.
Photo: Metropolitan Transportation Authority / Patrick Cashin

The railroad’s current mean distance between failures has risen from 50,000 miles in 2005 and from 150,000 in 2010. LIRR credited its “reliability centered maintenance” strategy for the improvements. The strategy was put into place in 2009.

Under this approach, all rail cars are slated for specific types of inspections and maintenance based on the time since each car’s last maintenance procedures. The strategy uses manufacturer data and real-world observations to govern schedules for replacement of rail-car components. This ensures that components are replaced before they fail, LIRR officials said.

“We’re constantly monitoring failures and conducting trend analyses on components and subcomponents and adjusting replacement intervals,” said Craig Daly, LIRR’s acting chief mechanical officer. “Our replacement intervals are continuously evolving in a dynamic way in response to our updated observations.”

Meanwhile, MTA Metro-North Railroad‘s rail cars averaged a distance of 199,838 before breaking down. The figure represents the commuter railroad’s best mechanical performance in its history.

Improved car maintenance strategies and strong performance of a renewed rail-car fleet contributed to Metro-North’s improved reliability, agency officials said.

One of Metro-North’s new M8 rail cars.
Photo: State of Connecticut

The MTA and the Connecticut Department of Transportation (CDOT) have brought a new fleet of rail-cars known as M8s to the New Haven Line, which is Metro-North’s busiest line. They replaced nearly all of the older M2, M4, and M6 cars, which date back to the 1970s and 1980s.

A total of 405 new M8 units were put into service.

“The M8 cars have proved to be one of the best and most important investments we’ve made in recent years and I am not surprised at how well they’ve been performing,” said CTDOT Commissioner James Redeker.

Four Goal Third Period Catapults Comets to Win

The Utica Comets returned to the Utica Memorial Auditorium for their second home game of the week as they took on the Springfield Falcons in their continued push for a playoff spot.  A four goal third period lifted the Comets to a 5-2 victory over the Falcons for their second consecutive come from behind victory. Coupled with Syracuse Crunch’s regulation loss to the Toronto Marlies, the Comets magic number was reduced to nine points.

T.J. Hensick (1-0-1), Alexandre Grenier (1-2-3), Alex Friesen (1-0-1), David Shields (1-0-1), Brandon Marino (1-0-1) picked up goals for the Comets, while defenseman Jon Landry (0-2-2) recorded a multi-point night. Joe Cannata stopped 18 of the Falcons’ 20 shots on goal for the victory.

After dominating for the vast majority of the first period, the Comets were held scoreless in the first period for the second consecutive game. Despite outshooting the Falcons 10-5 after twenty minutes of fast-paced hockey, the Falcons maintained a 1-0 lead off of a goal from Dominic Mondardo, his sixth of the season.  Monardo found the back of the net at 10:31 of the first with a shot that came from the left of Comets goaltender Joe Cannata.  The puck trickled its way between the goaltender and the near post and, after withstanding review, the call on the ice stood.

The Comets finally got on the board as T.J. Hensick netted his ninth goal of the season off a feed from defenseman Jon Landry (0-1-1) to even the score.  Hensick (1-0-1) rifled a shot past the glove of Falcons goaltender Niklas Treutle at 12:48. Alexandre Grenier (1-2-3) also collected an assist on the play for his team-leading 37th point.

The Falcons responded within minutes to regain the lead as Springfield’s Ross Mauermann collected his sixth goal of the season, unassisted, at 2:03 of the second period.  Despite out-playing and out-shooting the Falcons 27-13, the Comets returned to the locker room trailing after two.

The Comets began both the second and the third periods on the penalty kill, however were able to rebound in the third.  Alex Friesen (1-0-1) redirected a shot from Taylor Fedun (0-1-1) for his eleventh goal of the season at 17:21 of the third, once again knotting the two teams.

Three minutes later Grenier put a shot on net from the perimeter that found its way past Treutle for the eventual game-winning goal.

The Comets offense did not take a break and propelled itself to score two more goals for a total of four goals in nine minutes. In a span of 20 seconds David Shields and Brandon Marino added insurance goals to push the final score to 5-2.

Overall, eight different Comets combine to tally a total of six points on the night. With the win, the Comets record improved to 34-23-7-4 on the season for a total of 79 points.

The Comets get no time off as they travel to Binghamton tomorrow to take on the Senators for the second time in a week, before returning home to play the Syracuse Crunch at The AUD on Sunday. Game time for Saturday is scheduled for 7:15pm.