HELP! “Virgin Hyperloop One”, NY City Needs A HYPERLOOP

Special Guest Editorial by KEN KINLOCK

Yes, NY CITY needs a HYPERLOOP to reach Stewart International Airport. Not a long Hyperloop: only 6O+ miles.

Stewart International Airport is outside the City on the West bank of the Hudson River. It is the “4th New York City Airport”. In the Winter it is less likely to shut for snow or ice.

It has absolutely the longest runways in town…as seen by an A380 landing in a snow storm recently.

But once a plane lands, what do you do with the passengers? Send them to downtown New York on a Short Line bus? Get them across the river and load them on a Metro-North train in Beacon? Send them through New Jersey Transit rail? The “correct” answer is build a HYPERLOOP right to the Port Authority Bus Terminal. They can go anywhere in the City from there.

So what do I know about Hyperloop? I helped design one in 2016 for Hyperloop One between Louisville, Kentucky and Gary, Indiana (then to Chicago on the South Shore Railroad).

What do I know about building airports? Nothing! So I turned to industry experts and read what they wrote.

Max Hirsh (PhD, Harvard) is a professor at the University of Hong Kong and a leading expert on airports, migration, and transport infrastructure. He is the author of Airport Urbanism: an unprecedented study of air travel and global migration patterns that incorporates the perspective of passengers, airport designers, and aviation executives.

Steve Carden
Technology & Innovation Leader, PA Consulting Group. Author of “Hyperloop’s Role In Greening The Transportation Grid”.

The bottom line is you need more than a Diet Coke machine and a little shop that sells tchotchkes.

Cuomo Pushes for NYC Funding for Subway Repairs, Congestion Pricing

The Observer

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is renewing pressure on New York City to fund its half of the short-term plan to fix the city’s subway system and has included his long-anticipated congestion pricing proposal in the latest state budget.

At his fiscal year 2019 executive budget address on Tuesday afternoon, Cuomo discussed the subway action plan unveiled by MTA Chairman Joe Lhota in July. Lhota has proposed that the state and the city split the cost of the $836 million short-term plan to fund subway repairs.

The governor said the state will provide $254 million in operating aid to fully fund its half of the cost using $194 million in previously unallocated monetary settlements and the accelerated transfer of Payroll Mobility Tax revenue to the MTA by eliminating the need for the $60 million annual appropriation. The financial plan also includes $175 million in new capital funding for the MTA.

“We’ve said it should be split 50/50 New York State/New York City,” he said. “We have funded it 50 percent. New York City needs to fund it 50 percent. That’s the short-term.”

This week, he plans to present his congestion pricing proposal: the long-awaited report by the “Fix NYC” panel Cuomo convened to advise the state on proposals to create a dedicated funding stream to mass transit and reduce traffic on city streets.

The report will address defining a geographic “pricing zone,” installing technology around the zone and coming up with fees and hours. The report, Cuomo said, suggests flexible and variable options and prices for different hours and for yellow cars, black cars, green cars, Uber, Lyft, trucks and passenger cars.

“My point is it has to be fair to all people in all industries,” Cuomo continued. “You have yellow cars, now black cars, green cars, blue cars, purple cars—they all have to be treated the same. I don’t want anyone saying they had a competitive advantage or this advantage because we put a surcharge on one versus the other.”

He noted the state currently collects and doles out the Payroll Mobility Tax to the MTA. The executive budget proposes changing the state law so the revenue is directly appropriated to the agency.

“For the MTA, currently the state collects what’s called a Payroll Mobility Tax, which is $1.6 billion,” the governor added. “We would change the law so the MTA collects that tax itself, it now has a dedicated funding stream, it can securitize it, it can get a better credit rating from it, it can finance the installation of the Fix New York City Technology, the Penn renovation, etc.”

De Blasio, for his part, told NY1’s Errol Louis he agreed with Cuomo’s approach to handling President Donald Trump’s tax reform plan signed into law before Christmas—an approach that includes suing the Trump administration. But he expressed disagreement with Cuomo’s approach to dealing with the MTA.

“I disagree on its face with some of the assumptions in his budget address when it comes to the MTA,” he said. “The state of New York took $456 million of the MTA’s budget. They need to put that money back.”

And he maintained his proposed millionaires tax on wealthy New Yorkers to fund subway repairs and reduced subway fares for low-income New Yorkers is the best way to solve the long-term issues afflicting the city’s subway system.

He maintained that well-off people, including in states like New York, will do better because of Trump’s tax plan and that others may “do less well.” But he argued that even if millionaires and billionaires do “about the same or a little worse,” they still pay “so much less than they should” in terms of their share of taxes.

“Remember when [there] was the high water mark of taxing millionaires and billionaires in this country?” de Blasio continued. “During the Dwight Eisenhower administration. And by the way, that was one of the times when the economy was inclusive and functional. So any way you slice it, the millionaires and billionaires of this state can afford to pay more. It’s the best and most reliable way to fund the MTA going forward.”

As to the news of Cuomo inching closer to unveiling his congestion pricing proposal and what impact it has on his own plan to tackle congestion in the city, de Blasio said he is “beginning to see something” and wants to analyze the plan once it is fully presented.

“What I’ve said is look, ‘I’ll look at any plan and certainly one to reduce congestion in the city, but I wanna make sure it’s fair,’” he added. “Some of the proposals we’ve seen in the past, I think, were not fair, were not balanced in terms of the economic impact they’d have on different people, and particularly on people from Brooklyn and Queens. I’ll look at anything.”

He insisted it does not threaten the validity of his millionaires tax proposal because the city will need a “substantial amount of reliable resources to fix the MTA.”

“I think the ways we address congestion take many forms, including some of the things that we’re talking about,” the mayor said. “For example, banning truck deliveries in certain routes during rush hour so you don’t have a ton of doubled parked trucks right where people are trying to go at the most sensitive time of the day. So we’re going to look at different pieces of what the governor’s put forward, but we’re going to keep working to reduce congestion with our own tools as well.”

Report Says New York City Buses Are the Slowest in the Nation

The Observer

New York City has the slowest buses of any big city in the United States, according to an analysis unveiled by Comptroller Scott Stringer on Monday morning.

The average New York City Transit bus travels 7.4 miles per hour along its local, Select Bus Service and express routes—the slowest of the 17 largest bus companies in the country, the report found. The typical city bus spends only half of its time in motion or in traffic, with another 21 percent spent at red lights and 22 percent at bus stops.

Average bus speeds differ significantly among the five boroughs, with the slowest average speeds in Manhattan, at 5.5 miles per hour; Brooklyn, at 6.3 miles per hour; and the Bronx, at 6.5 miles per hour, Stringer said. This is substantially lower than local routes in Queens, at 8.1 miles per hour, and Staten Island, at 11.4 miles per hour.

“New York City now has the slowest buses of any big city in America,” Stringer said at a press conference in Midtown Manhattan. “Routes are unreliable, congested… Many of them were designed more than a half-century ago, and over the past 20 years our economy has evolved, but our bus system has not.”

The comptroller noted that the MTA has lost 100 million passenger trips in the last eight years. The decrease in ridership has mainly been concentrated in Manhattan, down 16 percent since 2011, and Brooklyn, where ridership dropped by 4 percent.

Lower-income and immigrant New Yorkers are particularly hurt by the lack of service, he said.

The average personal income of bus commuters is $28,455—much lower than that of subway commuters, at $40,000, and employed New Yorkers overall, at $38,840, according to the report. And 55 percent of bus commuters are foreign-born and 75 percent are people of color, which is substantially higher than subway commuters and New Yorkers in general.

Stringer also said that a fractured management structure has adversely affected the bus system, which is managed by two agencies: the NYC Transit Bus and the MTA Bus Company. He argued that both the MTA and the city Department of Transportation have struggled to implement new technologies and core amenities.

There are only 104 miles of dedicated bus lanes along the city’s 6,000 miles of roadway, a ratio much lower than the share of bus lanes in other cities like Brussels, Barcelona, Dublin, Seattle, Lisbon and the country of Singapore.

The Transit Signal Priority, a technology that enables MTA buses to communicate with DOT traffic lights to extend a green light or shorten a red light at an approaching intersection, is active at 260 intersections along five of the city’s 326 bus routes, the report found. In London and Los Angeles, it has been installed at 3,200 and 654 intersections, respectively. Brussels, Dublin, Barcelona, Seattle, Montreal, Sydney and Zurich have a much higher percentage of traffic signals as well.

Stringer noted that the DOT will finish the year with only 15 of the 20 SBS routes it planned to carry out by the end of 2017 and that the routes have experienced a ridership decline and slow speeds. And of the more than 15,000 bus stops across the five boroughs, only 3,364 have shelters.

The comptroller offers 19 recommendations for the MTA, including adopting “a more rapid, direct and grid-like bus network,” upgrading to battery-electric buses, and building more bus terminals with help from the city. He also urged the DOT to take a more proactive role in redesigning the MTA bus network and recommended that the MTA introduce all-door boarding to reduce time spent at bus stops.

The MTA said much outer borough bus ridership has transferred to subways due to new populations that are increasingly traveling to Manhattan for work and leisure and that NYC Transit and MTA Bus operations, planning, and customer service are unified at the management level.

The agency pointed out that the current fleet of buses are the most reliable and advanced in recent history and that it received 277 new buses in 2017 as part of its 2015-2019 capital program. It is slated to receive another 1,700 as part of the program.

The MTA said MTA Chairman Joe Lhota supports congestion pricing and that city government is responsible for most factors that impact bus performance.

“The proper and progressive way to deal with the scourge of traffic is for everyone to support a responsible congestion pricing plan,” Lhota said in a statement. “Traffic congestion is keeping the most reliable and advanced bus fleet in recent history from moving as efficiently as it can and should.”

The DOT said it was surprised that a few recent and major developments were not mentioned in the report, including a plan Mayor Bill de Blasio launched last month to expand SBS to 500,000 more bus riders.

The de Blasio administration, the agency said, doubled the previous rate of SBS implementation, announced an expansion of the Transit Signal Priority in July, and has worked to create new dedicated bus lanes on critical corridors.

Gloria Chin, a DOT spokeswoman, said that the DOT looks forward to working with Stringer to advance state legislation for additional bus lane cameras. She also stated that adding new bus shelters requires modifying existing contracts and making new city expenditures.

“While we are grateful to get the comptroller’s support for all of these efforts, several of the report’s recommendations will require his office’s assistance,” Chin said in a statement.

Lhota proposed that Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the mayor split the cost of the $836 million required for the first phase of his plan. Cuomo has committed to funding half of the first phase but the mayor says that there is funding available in the state budget. The MTA is a state-run agency.

De Blasio has proposed a millionaires tax to fund subway repairs while Cuomo is drafting a congestion pricing proposal. The mayor, who launched a five-point plan to fight congestion in the city at the end of October, said Albany has not put forward a plan.

Last week, the MTA announced that Andy Byford, the current CEO of the Toronto Transit Commission, will lead NYC Transit and carry out Lhota’s subway plan.

Stringer supports congestion pricing, the millionaires tax, and a $3.5 billion transportation bond act to finance state transportation projects that would set aside 60 percent of the funds.

He has not yet spoken with Byford but spoke with Lhota on Sunday night. He supports Lhota’s plan and believes the city should contribute to it.

“I now want to extend his strategy to our buses,” Stringer said.