All posts by penneyvanderbilt

Journalist who writes about Supply Chain Management, travel, railroad history and ice hockey

Andrew Cuomo Is Hiding from NYC’s Subway Nightmare

From Vice.com

The real reason the country’s largest subway became such a total disaster.

What do you do when your political brand is based on old-school competence, but you literally can’t keep the trains running on time? For New York governor Andrew Cuomo, presiding over a subway system that’s become a total nightmare, the answer seems to be: Hope your constituents think it’s someone else’s fault.

Cuomo’s public image has never been about an inspiring message or firing up a passionate base. He lost more than a third of the vote as an incumbent in a Democratic primary in 2014 after pushing deep cuts to school aid, declaring war on unions, and tacitly supporting a Republican takeover of his state senate. Nor is he one of those happy retail politicians who derives popularity from attending local events, shaking hands, and flashing a friendly smile.

Instead, a key selling point for Cuomo has been a promise of barebones effectiveness. Or, as the man himself explained in a 2015 New Yorker profile: “Show me, it’s show-me time. Show me results. Build a bridge, build a train to LaGuardia, clear the snow, save lives. Huh? A little competence.”

It’s precisely this “a little competence, huh?” shtick that makes the disastrous state of New York City’s subways so dangerous to Cuomo—and why it’s vital for him that city residents continue to not realize that it is he, Cuomo (and not his nemesis, Mayor Bill de Blasio), who controls this mess.

How bad is the subway situation, exactly? A woman recently got her head stuck in a train, and people just kept walking past her. These people resorted to taking their shirts and pants off after being stuck in an underground tunnel for 45 minutes. This guy missed his graduation and had to settle for some passengers giving him a makeshift subterranean ceremony because his train was delayed for almost three hours. Signal malfunctions, crowding, and track repair delays have become commonplace, and there are now 70,000 delays a month—nearly triple the number five years ago. The results, beyond people losing their minds, include lost wages from tardiness and missed medical appointments.

And all of that’s before the pending shutdown of the L train upends thousands of people’s lives.

Seizing on those who understandably assume this stuff is the province of the local mayor, Cuomo recently proposed an adorable bill giving himself control of the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) that he already oversees. “Who’s in charge [of the trains]?” he asked last week. “Who knows! Maybe the county executive, maybe the president, maybe the governor, maybe the mayor.”

It’s super weird that Cuomo isn’t sure who controls the transit system, since this winter he orchestrated a multimedia self-promotional tour to take credit for opening the “Second Avenue subway.” This included a fawning profile in the Times in which he invoked Robert Moses, and a celebration in which the MTA’s Tom Prendergast gushed about how proud he was to serve the governor. Never mind that the project was over budget, overdue, and basically amounted to the addition of three subway stops. For this particular development, Cuomo was not confused as to who controlled the subways. (He was right then: The governor not only appoints the head of the MTA, but also a plurality of its board. The MTA is chartered by the state, and even the agency’s own website says the governor appoints the members.)

Cuomo’s real coup has been dodging a full-fledged media scandal over this stuff, due partially to a quirk of geography.

Some excellent journalists are out there covering Cuomo’s administration, holding his feet to the fire on everything from his double talk on political corruption to a water poisoning crisis in upstate Hoosick Falls. The vast majority reside and work in Albany—which is great when a major event or story occurs in the State Capitol or nearby. In those cases, reporters are able to experience it directly and viscerally (and then go a short distance and report on it). Many times, the big stories requiring context and reporting involve the legislative process, and the Albany press corps are experts at condensing this super boring but important minutia.

The problem is when a Cuomo story happens hours away from the people keeping tabs on him. In the case of the ongoing subway nightmare, the reporters experiencing (and covering) these hellish commutes, the ones who know precisely how the MTA works on a day-to-day basis, are not necessarily in position to put pressure on Cuomo in Albany.

While the governor has received his share of unpleasant criticism over this fiasco, he still seems to be evading a total bulldozing in the press. Which means many people still don’t know where to point their fingers.

Speaking of Albany reporters covering the legislative process, some dogged ones noticed earlier this month that Cuomo tried to slip in a provision in the dark of night that would replace the honorary name of the Tappan Zee bridge from that of one former governor, Malcolm Wilson, to that of another: Cuomo’s father, Mario.

Ultimately the provision was stalled (though perhaps just temporarily), when members of the state assembly declined to vote on it.

While the effort by Cuomo was roundly criticized, with one sharp observer calling it an “incredibly classic Cuomo/Albany story” and a “ridiculous farce,” perhaps it could still spawn an idea that actually serves the public. If the governor is so keen on blessing major infrastructure with his family name, Albany leaders might just oblige—by naming the current transportation mess after its rightful owner.

The Andrew Cuomo Subway System has a nice ring to it.

Amtrak Says It Won’t Pay For LIRR’s Emergency Penn Station Plan. It’s Unclear Who Will.

GOTHAMIST from California Rail News

Amtrak does not want to front the bill for at least eight weeks of Long Island Railroad schedule changes, fare reductions and ferry and bus alternatives during this summer’s emergency Penn Station repairs, president C.W. Moorman confirmed in a letter to the MTA on Wednesday. The news comes a week after the MTA outlined a contingency plan of unknown cost, insisting the burden will not fall on commuters.

“The LIRR has no basis to seek compensation for such costs from Amtrak,” Moorman wrote. He added that Amtrak estimates its contribution this summer to be between $30 and $40 million, and that the MTA’s call for reimbursement would violate the authority’s contract with Amtrak (the MTA rents terminal space from Amtrak at Penn Station).

Acting MTA Director Ronnie Hakim hinted at Wednesday’s MTA Board meeting at a price tag in the millions for planned LIRR contingencies. Hakim also vowed to consult MTA lawyers about “our rights” to force Amtrak’s hand. But some Board Members were skeptical, accusing Hakim and the MTA of poor planning in assuming Amtrak would pay. Some also demanded clarification on the cost of the plan, and argued that putting time and energy into avoiding the expense would be a waste.

“We should be doubling down on seeking federal funding, and focus our legal team on addressing funding [issues] in D.C.,” she added.
Other members of the board said that they doubted the federal government would come through. Amtrak’s federal funding was cut in 2015, and Trump’s vague infrastructure plan could also spell cuts. “We would always like to talk about the receipt of federal funds,” said acting board chairman Fernando Ferrer. “I don’t engage in fantasy, so let’s be realistic about this.”
Polly Trottenberg, a mayoral appointee to the board and commissioner of the NYC Department of Transportation, was more blunt.
“I will boldly say, I don’t think we’re getting the money from Amtrak and sadly I don’t think Uncle Sam is riding to the rescue either,” she said. “I think we’re going to have to accept that we’re going to be paying for this. So I have a basic question: what’s the price tag?”

All aboard for the new Rochester train station

Democrat & Chronical via California Rail News

It was only supposed to be a temporary solution. Thirty-seven years after the Rochester train station was built, construction is now near completion for a new hub for Amtrak and CSX and an enhanced traveling experience for passengers.

Together with area business owners, Congresswoman Louise Slaughter, D-Fairport, led a tour of the new train station that’s slated to be completed in a few weeks. She helped secure a $15 million grant from the Federal Railroad Administration to help fund the expansion.

The remodel was much needed to help grow businesses and to serve the entire community, Slaughter said.

“Our community is blessed to be close to so many major cities and this new state-of-the-art, ADA-compliant station will help move goods and people where they need to go and encourage new companies to open their doors right here in Monroe County,” Slaughter said.

The project will be fully compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Once completed, it will feature 12,000 square feet of space, including a passenger concourse, platform and passenger display systems. The station will offer full access to the platform by elevators, escalators, stairs and ramps. Currently, passengers must climb up steps to board the train and passengers with disabilities need to use a lift.

Infrastructure is critical to the success of area businesses and trains are as important as other modes of transportation, Slaughter said. Many passengers prefer to take the train versus flying so they can relax and stretch out on the ride, she said.

Irondequoit resident Marlene Canavan agrees. She was waiting for her daughter, Darla, to arrive from New York City at the train station. Her daughter switches between flying and taking the train and sometimes prefers the train because it is time consuming to go through airport security. Canavan is eager to see the upgrades to the Rochester train station.

Accessibility to Rochester is important for visitors coming to the area, said Naomi Silver, president and CEO of Rochester Red Wings minor league baseball team.

Having a good infrastructure for different transportation is important for businesses in the area, said John Hart, CEO of Lumetrics in Henrietta. The infrastructure helps bring customers in, he said.

Work at Penn Station N.Y. to impact Amtrak’s Keystone service

PennLive via California Rail News

Frequent rail travelers to New York take note: Amtrak service from Philadelphia to New York is about to change slightly this summer.
As part of infrastructure upgrades to New York’s Penn Station, Amtrak has announced a short list of service changes that may impact travel from Harrisburg to Philadelphia to New York.

Acela Express service will run as scheduled.

Trips that do not make as much money like some Harrisburg trains are killed.

Going South, there are no alternatives to switch too like Grand Central.

Anderson New Amtrak CEO

Breaking news from Politco.com

Amtrak CEO Wick Moorman is stepping down at the end of the year, and will be replaced by former Delta CEO Richard Anderson, according to knowledgeable sources and confirmed Monday by Amtrak.

The two men will serve as co-CEOs until the end of December.

Anderson, a 62-year-old former prosecutor from Texas, rose through the ranks of the airline industry to become CEO of Delta in 2007, just as it was leaving bankruptcy.

By the time Moorman steps down, he will have served roughly a year and a half as Amtrak’s CEO.

Moorman is himself a private sector transportation “icon,” said Amtrak chairman Tony Coscia. Both he and Moorman said it was always their plan for Moorman to be a temporary CEO.

“When I came to Amtrak, I had a clear understanding with my wife about how long I could do it,” Moorman said. “And in fact, I have exceeded that, as she points out to me.”

One of Moorman’s tasks, said Coscia, was “to help us recruit a CEO of the company who will serve as a long-term CEO.”

Moorman called Anderson a “superlative” leader and said they’ll be serving as co-CEOs for a half year because, “The one thing he doesn’t know is the railroad business, which obviously is my background.”

“And then I’ll have some ongoing role after that to assist him,” Moorman said.

The news comes during a tumultuous time for Amtrak. It’s just starting emergency repairs to the tracks beneath Penn Station, in the aftermath of two recent derailments there.

Comments On Mark Tomlinson’s NY Central Dates

June 23, 1831 The Boston & Worcester Railroad Corporation incorporates in Massachusetts. It is the oldest element of the New York Central system in New England. See more on the formation of the Boston & Albany Railroad.
https://penneyandkc.wordpress.com/boston-albany-railroad/

June 23, 1954 Robert Heller & Associates present the result of their passenger train study to representatives of the Pennsylvania, New York Central and Baltimore & Ohio railroads. The study finds that passengers are leaving trains for automobiles and airplanes and the railroads are unable to price their services by cost because so many of the rates are frozen by regulations. The railroads decline to follow any of the study’s recommendations to consolidate long-distance trains. Most of the study’s recommendations will be made under Amtrak.
Interesting since June 1954 is when Robert Young became new CEO of the NY Central.

June 22, 1918 In Hammond IN, a Michigan Central engineer taking an empty troop train from Kalamazoo to Chicago falls asleep at the throttle. A Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus train in front of him was not yet clear of the main. He plows into it at 60 mph. Eighty-six people are killed and 127 injured.
Worst circus train wreck in United States history. In a quiet cemetery outside Chicago lies a mass grave of clowns, strongmen, and acrobats who died in one of the worst circus tragedies in history. Surrounded by five distinctive elephant statues, their trunks lowered to symbolize mourning—known as Showmen’s Rest. The burial plot was purchased by the Showmen’s League of America, an international association of carnival performers founded in 1913 with Buffalo Bill Cody as its first president. When they purchased the section of plots as a resting place for their fallen members, no one expected how soon they’d need it.

June 22, 1929 The New York Central holds dedication ceremonies for its new “Central Terminal” at Buffalo. The modified Art Deco style terminal includes seven platforms serving fourteen station tracks. Revenue operation will begin tomorrow.
After 1929 Buffalo changed, railroads changed and the World changed.

June 21, 1948 Alco delivers its last steam locomotive: Pittsburgh & Lake Erie 2-8-4 #9406.
Yes, NY Central System was large scale ALCO buyer

June 20, 1875 The New York Central & Hudson River Railroad opens the entire Fourth Avenue Improvement in New York City with two of the eventual four tracks in service. The project eliminates grade crossings between Grand Central Station and Harlem River.
Yes, BIG INVESTMENT

June 20, 1913 The New York Central & Hudson River Railroad begins using Harmon as its steam-to-electric transfer point.
Wise move. Harmon still important to Metro North who now runs old NY Central servicen Hudson Line

The state of the New York subway: transit experts weigh in

From CURBED NY

Every day, it seems as though there’s another instance in which the New York City subway fails massively—and, impossibly, the aftermath of those problems also seems to be getting worse. Perhaps you heard about the ride in which a train was stalled for so long that a guy hopped out of the train and walked the tracks to the next station? (Don’t do that, by the way.) Or the one in which commuters were stuck on a train, sans electricity or air conditioning, for over an hour?

Granted, subway breakdowns also seem to be getting more attention thanks to the rise of social media. There are more ways than ever to document when problems happen, and more voices that are ready and willing to broadcast them, which leads to the question: Is subway service actually getting worse, or are more people paying attention now?

Bad news: It’s the former. “I do think [the subway is] measurably worse than [it was] a couple of years ago,” says Ben Kabak, the blogger behind Second Ave. Sagas, though he acknowledges the role that social media is playing in hyping the problems.

“[Social media] is helping make our elected officials pay attention,” says John Raskin, the head of transit advocacy group the Riders Alliance. “[But] it’s not just people’s day-to-day commutes. Subway service has deteriorated noticeably over the last five years.”

The numbers back that up: the MTA periodically releases data tracking its performance, and the numbers are not good. In February, it was revealed that monthly delays had increased to about 70,000—a figure that’s increased dramatically since 2012, when the agency reported about 28,000 delays per month. The Straphangers Campaign, which releases an annual report card for the subway system, has also tracked worsening service vis-à-vis previous years; according to its latest report, car breakdowns have increased, while subway regularity has decreased overall.

According to Raskin, there are three factors that have contributed to the decline in subway service: equipment failures, like recent power outages and signal problems; overcrowding; and a one-two punch of massive delays and unreliable service, which can largely be attributed to the first two issues.

The MTA has, at least, acknowledged the severity of these problems: the agency recently ordered a review of the increase in subway delays, in addition to its six-point plan to tackle that issue. But one of the biggest issues—the MTA’s aging signals, some of which date back to when the transit system was created more than a century ago—is also proving to be one of the hardest to fix.

The MTA has committed $2.1 billion from its current capital plan to repair its signals, but as a recent report from the city’s Independent Budget Office notes, many of the scheduled fixes are happening behind schedule, if they’ve been started at all. Per the report, the current capital plan has 14 signal-related projects scheduled to begin by the end of 2017—more than half of which are now delayed. “They don’t have a plan yet to speed up the replacement of signals sooner than the next few decades,” notes Kabak, “and there’s a groundswell of voices calling on them to improve service sooner than they can.”

And according to Raskin, “the problem is not that the MTA doesn’t know how to run trains. The problem is that every governor in a generation has underinvested in public transit.” That includes Governor Andrew Cuomo, who Raskin says has “ignored deteriorating transit service” in favor of funding big-ticket projects like the first segment of the Second Avenue Subway.

Raskin and the Riders Alliance—along with a growing chorus of voices, both on and off Twitter—have been particularly pointed in their criticism of Cuomo, who was initially less than vocal about this year’s uptick in service disruptions, and has occasionally claimed that he’s not in charge of the subway. (He is, for the record.) In recent weeks, Cuomo has put forth more of an effort into addressing the subway’s meltdown, and recently asked former MTA chairman Joe Lhota to step back into that role, noting his “proven track record needed to address the enormous challenges facing the nation’s largest mass transportation system.”

Kabak is optimistic about the choice. “The MTA needs a crisis manager,” he explains. “Lhota knows what the agency is capable of. He knows the challenges it’s facing.” And as Kabak notes with a laugh, “he actually rides the subway”—something both Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio have been criticized for not doing regularly.

Raskin is also cautiously optimistic, but notes that “no chairman or CEO can substitute for leadership from the governor.” He continues, “the change we need is not going to come unless riders demand it until we get what we need from the governor and state lawmakers.”

He proposes that riders keep doing what they’re doing: make their voices heard when issues arise. “Take advantage of newfound Wi-Fi service,” Raskin says. “Tweet and email Governor Cuomo to make sure he understands that riders won’t go away.” That shouldn’t be too much of a problem.

Governor Cuomo Bringing In HIS Team To Run MTA

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and Metropolitan Transportation Authority Interim Executive Director Ronnie Hakim today announced that Janno Lieber, a senior private sector real estate development and construction executive who is the current President of World Trade Center Properties, will join the senior executive ranks of the MTA as Chief Development Officer. In this newly created position, Lieber will take over leadership and oversight of key strategic capital initiatives focused on increasing the capacity of the system.

“The key to transforming the MTA is delivering on bold and ambitious projects that will give New Yorkers the enhanced, modern transportation system they deserve,” Governor Cuomo said. “Janno Lieber has a proven track record of innovative success managing multi-billion dollar projects in the private sector and deep experience in transportation. His unique skillset is a significant asset and will help us continue to deliver on the promise of a world-class transit system for New Yorkers.”

As part of his new responsibilities, Lieber will head up the MTA Capital Construction Company and will manage the MTA’s major capital projects that expand capacity:

Second Avenue Subway Phase II – extending the line to 125th Street;
East Side Access – connecting Long Island Railroad to Grand Central Terminal;
Penn Station Access – bringing Metro-North Railroad into Penn Station;
Enhanced Stations;
Improved Rail Mass Transit Access to JFK Airport with a focus on developing a one-seat ride;
LIRR Third Track – expanding capacity on the Railroad’s main line; and
LIRR Double Track – improving service and reliability on the LIRR’s Ronkonkoma Branch.

His new broad strategic portfolio will also include oversight of the following key initiatives:
Signalization priorities – Communication Based Train Control and Positive Train Control;
MTA Real Estate – Real Estate Development; and
Alternate Project Delivery – including in particular expanded use of Public Private Partnerships.

Lieber brings extraordinary private sector experience to his new role as Chief Development Officer. Most recently, he served as President of World Trade Center Properties for 14 years where he managed the multi-billion dollar development of Silverstein Properties’ projects at the World Trade Center. Lieber’s responsibilities included managing design and building, business, finance, public affairs, legal, government and community relations. His appointment is a part of Governor Cuomo’s commitment to bringing private sector talent into public service to produce results for New Yorkers.
MTA Interim Executive Director Ronnie Hakim said, “These projects are the foundation upon which the future of our agency is being built. We look forward to Janno bringing to the MTA his lifetime of experience in getting big things accomplished – and we know that will pay lasting dividends for our riders and customers.”
Acting Chairman MTA Board Fernando Ferrer said, “The MTA is the economic engine of New York and we are moving our region forward with an unprecedented investment in our infrastructure. Janno Lieber’s has proven that he has the ability to get results and we are proud to have him on our team at the MTA.”
Janno Lieber said, “New York has always led the way in public transportation. Now, under Gov. Cuomo’s leadership we are again taking on the big projects that will make a real difference to New Yorkers’ lives and to our economic future. I’m thrilled to join him and the entire MTA team on that mission.”
Prior to World Trade Center Properties, Lieber served as Senior Vice President of Lawrence Ruben Company, and worked with clients such as Chicago Transit Authority, New Jersey Transit, and Penn Station Redevelopment Corp. – the agency responsible for planning the transformation of the James A. Farley Post Office Building into Moynihan Station.
Before that, Lieber served in the federal government, having been appointed in 1994 by President Bill Clinton to serve as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy for the U.S. Department of Transportation. In this role, Lieber spearheaded the development and roll-out of the Clinton Administration’s ISTEA authorization proposal, a highway and mass transit funding bill that included federal spending to improve, widen and extend the nation’s highway system.

Earlier in his career, Lieber practiced law at the New York firm of Patterson, Belknap Webb & Tyler and served as a transportation policy advisor in the office of New York City Mayor Ed Koch.

Lieber is a graduate of Harvard University and New York University Law Schoo

San Clemente approves plan to turn historic Miramar movie theater and bowling alley into events center

Orange County Register via California Rail News

A plan to renovate San Clemente’s historic Miramar Theater property – shuttered since 1992 – has won the approval of the city’s planning commission.

Commissioners voted 6-0 Wednesday, June 7 to approve permits so the owners can incorporate the former movie theater, built in 1938, with an adjacent former bowling alley built in 1946 as a single project – an events center with restaurants.

Both buildings occupy the 1700 block of North El Camino Real. The city designates them as historic landmarks in the city’s North Beach area.

The plan is to turn the former 7,836-square-foot cinema into a 435-seat performance and events center and convert the former 5,200-square-foot bowling alley into five specialty-cuisine restaurants with shared seating.

There would be 50 restaurant seats indoors and up to 150 seats in a landscaped outdoor dining area facing El Camino Real. The restaurants could cater for the events center.