Why don’t conductors realize subway announcements are impossible to hear?

Dear John: On Oct. 17, I was taking the F train from Brooklyn to Manhattan. Because of work on the tracks that day, the F became the D train, making the same stops.

The problem was with the voice on the platform giving people information about the changes.

Riders could not make out the information because it was not clear. Why don’t the people who work on the train go sit out on the platform to hear that the information is not clear? B.S.

Dear B.S.: For the train conductor (garble) to hear the announcements (garble), they’d actually have to get (garble) out of the train and walk a couple of (garble) steps. That would require more effort (garble) than a city employee (garble) is used to.

You should (garble) sign up for notifications at mymtaalerts.com, and you’ll know about changes (garble) that will affect your commute.

You (garble) will also find out (garble) about a lot of other (garble) problems you don’t care about, but (garble) that’s the price you pay. Oh, and it’s (garble) free.

Didn’t I just make you feel like you are in the subway? Now if I could just reproduce the smell, this would be (garble) perfect.

I asked the MTA what it was doing about the lousy sound system on most trains and in most stations.

I was told: “We’re not aware of anything the agency is doing” with regard to the quality of the announcements.

“There was a fair amount of material on customer experience and agency communications in [MTA Chairman Joe] Lhota’s action plan released earlier this year, but it did not address the quality of announcements on the trains.”

Well, (garble) that.

Dear John: Every day brings a new news story into focus — Harvey Weinstein, hurricanes, wildfires, North Korea, hacking, etc. — and it seems that Equifax is fading from coverage.

I am sure that company is pleased about that. Can you keep the spotlight on what it is doing to address the massive security breach? When will letters be sent to those whose personal information was hacked? Don’t let Equifax fade from scrutiny. T.A.

Dear T.A.: Everyone wants you to pay less attention to the possibility of nuclear war and concentrate on the possible destruction of your credit score.

Is that good enough?

I think this country is on information overload. When you worry about too many things at one time, you worry about nothing.

Dear John: Thanks for your recent article on problems with the Census Bureau data.

What is so wildly frustrating on employment data is that the Labor Department or the Federal Reserve could go to this little outfit down the street called the IRS and get the exact correct data in near real time.

Sadly, that would put a lot of seasonal adjusting economists out of work. R.L.M.

Dear R.L.M.: What about me?! Not only would those economists be put out of business, but I’d have a hard time filling my column if the government did the sensible thing and went to the IRS for raw data.

So let’s not go too crazy on simplifying the system.

redacted from NY POST

MO proposes to win Amazon headquarters with ‘Hyperloop One’

kfvs channel 12

Missouri has a plan to win over Amazon for its newest headquarters.

The State of Missouri announced recently a plan supporting St. Louis or Kansas City to win the competition.

“Amazon is a company full of people who turn big ideas into reality,” Missouri Governor Eric Greitens said. “My team fully and equally supported the proposals submitted by our major metropolitan areas, Kansas City and St. Louis. We challenge Amazon to envision what it could achieve by partnering with us to unleash the combined strength of the entire state. We’d love to work with Amazon to build their new home here in Missouri.”

The state’s proposal is asking the company to consider the headquarters in either city and expand to the second city via the “International Hyperloop One.”

The Hyperloop is a high-speed transportation system.

Missouri was selected as a finalist for a route that includes Kansas City, St. Louis and Columbia.

Missouri’s proposal, along with videos of Governor Eric Greitens and the Hyperloop One CEO Rob Lloyd are available on the initiative’s website at http://www.makeMOHQ2home.com.

You Can Get Here From There

Commercial Observer

Transportation is the ball to keep our eye on in Downtown Manhattan

With its 13 subway and two PATH lines, 15 ferry routes, 28 Citi Bike stations and dozens of local and regional bus routes, Lower Manhattan has few peers when it comes to ease of access. Despite that, there remains, at the margins, a stubborn perception that Lower Manhattan is somehow “hard to get to.” A new study by the Alliance for Downtown New York, “Lower Manhattan: New York City’s Premier Transit Hub,” puts what remains of that misperception to bed by clearly outlining the unique combination of transit choices, advantageous connection to talent centers and superior commute times in Lower Manhattan. The report goes on to offer a set of policy recommendations aimed at adding robustness to the entire region’s transportation network.

The enduring importance and success of Lower Manhattan as a center of employment and commerce is underlined by our report:
Ninty percent of jobs in Lower Manhattan are only a five-minute walk from at least seven subway and PATH lines. With the launch of NYC Ferry, Select Bus Service and the 2.3 miles of bike lanes, commutes to Lower Manhattan from key neighborhoods across the region by public transit are shorter or equal to the metro average.

Redundancy is key. From Penn Station’s “Summer of Hell” to the impending L Train-pocalypse, when it comes to public transit, redundancy is a straphanger’s best friend. Few areas boast the same kind of rail, subway, ferry and bike access.
Access to talent. Lower Manhattan is connected to the area’s most potent concentrations of highly sought-after creative, educated workers. There’s a reason Condé Nast, Spotify, Group M and most recently ESPN have joined an ever growing list of firms who call Downtown home. The one-square-mile neighborhood is now home to more than 277,000 private and public sector workers. The area is also home to more than 61,000 making it a hugely popular live-work neighborhood.
The area provides the shortest rides from Jersey City, N.J., and Fort Greene to a major business district and is equal to Midtown East for commute times from Williamsburg.
Thanks to these connections, both near and far, more than 750,00 college-educated young professionals live within a 30-minute commute of Lower Manhattan.
The opening of the first phase of the Second Avenue subway this year served as a reminder that our transit infrastructure, from the Brooklyn Bridge to the subway system, is what drives this city’s growth. It was also a call to action in that more can and needs to be done to build out our infrastructure to ensure that Lower Manhattan remains competitive. Our report has nine big takeaways for what we should focus on:
First, fully funding the Second Avenue subway to ensure the line runs from East 125th Street to Hanover Square.
Second, increasing the current rolling stock to allow for more trains on lines where extra capacity is possible and add more cars to lines that run less than full-length trains.
Third, installing state-of-the-art signalling and train control equipment.
Fourth, integrating the NYC and Hudson River ferry systems to build on the success of NYC Ferry.
Fifth, reducing vehicle congestion by identifying new ways to handle freight delivery in the neighborhood.
Sixth, installing an east-west bike lane.
Seventh, improving wayfinding and pedestrian connections to Brooklyn Bridge and Chinatown.
Eighth, better organizing tour buses including the limiting of licenses and regulation of stops.
And, finally, reconnecting Greenwich Street to neighborhood street grid.
These projects would further enhance our entire transportation network’s quality, access and efficiency. While the report makes clear what makes Lower Manhattan uniquely connected now, keeping that advantage for the benefit of both the neighborhood and for all of New York, will require commitment, coordination and vision.

Jessica Lappin is the president of the Alliance for Downtown New York.

A Whole Lhota Excuses About High MTA Construction Costs


New York City’s sky-high subway construction costs are finally getting some much-needed attention from elected officials. But with pressure mounting to reform MTA capital construction practices and bring costs down, the agency is falling back on familiar excuses.

Leading the call for reform are City Council members Ydanis Rodriguez and Helen Rosenthal, who have pressed for a commission to investigate the causes of MTA construction costs that routinely outstrip comparable costs in peer cities by multiples. In response, MTA Chair Joe Lhota sent a letter earlier this month to Rodriguez and Rosenthal detailing some explanations and reassuring them that the agency is already working on reducing costs.

Is Lhota’s response adequate? In short, no — his explanations and proposed solutions both fall flat.

The fundamental issue at stake is that building subways in New York is several times costlier than in the rest of the world. The Second Avenue Subway and the 7 line extension to Hudson Yards cost around $1.5 billion per kilometer, and the LIRR’s East Side Access project (still in progress) is even costlier, about $4-5 billion. Meanwhile, the most expensive subway tunnel outside New York, London’s Crossrail, costs about $1 billion per kilometer, and the normal European range is $100-300 million. New York has a lot of explaining to do, and Lhota’s analysis doesn’t pass the smell test.

The biggest pushback I receive whenever I talk about New York’s high construction costs is always, “New York is special.” Much of Lhota’s response falls into that trap as well.

He talks about “fragile older buildings,” “aging and historic buildings,” and “the relative age of New York City’s utilities.” This does not explain why it costs more to dig in New York, on the Upper East Side, which was developed in the late 19th century, than in central London and Paris, in areas that urbanized in the late Middle Ages. It does not explain why the Second Avenue Subway costs 10 times as much as an under-construction line in Athens that brushes up against city walls built in antiquity.

Some of Lhota’s other explanations fall into the same “New York is special” category, on different dimensions: size and density. Lhota says that “high ridership imposes additional expense” because “our new stations need to be bigger.” But recently-built stations in Tokyo and London are bigger, and ones in Paris are almost as big. He says that New York has a high cost of land acquisition because its density is so high, but central London is more expensive than the Upper East Side could ever be.

Lhota does touch upon real issues confronting the MTA, but these are only partial explanations. He mentions, for instance, that 24/7 subway operations complicate track maintenance. This is indeed a cost driver that the city needs to find ways around. But it doesn’t explain the high cost of new subway lines, which are not built on active track.

For new tunnels, Lhota does offer one plausible factor: that the MTA needed to take particular care to avoid construction impact on Second Avenue by excavating the stations out of narrow holes. This is different than most subway construction today, which involves boring tunnels for the tracks while digging the stations out in the open (“cut-and-cover”).

To avoid street disruption, the Second Avenue Subway’s stations took much longer to build than if the MTA had used cut-and-cover. It’s a dubious tradeoff: while only about half the width of Second Avenue was taken at station sites, the disruptions lasted a lot longer than they would have otherwise. In the future, to reduce costs the MTA should use cut-and-cover to build stations.

But Lhota is not proposing cut-and-cover or other specific ways to save money. Instead, he is proposing more nebulous solutions. Some look like they could be useful, such as better investigation of underground utilities to reduce geotechnical surprises and curb cost overruns. But they don’t add up to making New York subway construction costs on par with Paris or any other European or Japanese city.

One of Lhota’s ideas might actually be counterproductive: “maximum use of ‘design-build’” procurement. While design-build has been credited with preventing overruns on projects like the Tappan Zee replacement bridge, the jury is still out.

The lowest tunneling costs in the world are in Spain. Madrid built subways around the turn of the millennium for $60 million per kilometer, and Madrid Metro’s then-CEO, Manuel Melis Maynar, wrote about how cities can maximize efficiency. He warned against design-build, arguing that contractors who were not involved in design would be more flexible and more willing to make small changes, which are inevitably necessary.

Unfortunately, the takeaway from Lhota’s letter is that MTA still seems indifferent to solving its capital cost problem. It is not plausible that the MTA is already doing everything it can to build efficiently — if that were the case, we would be seeing evidence of progress in the form of lower costs. While Lhota makes a handful of good points, they are buried beneath chaff that suggests the MTA’s leadership isn’t really interested in learning from the world’s best practices.