Category Archives: New York City

Ahead of 2018 Session, Cuomo Mum on Pursuing MTA Board Overhaul

GothamGazette

In June, as New Yorkers became increasingly frustrated with subway performance and braced themselves for the expected “summer of hell,” Governor Andrew Cuomo was the focus of intense criticism, responding with a series of measures he said were needed in order to fix the ailing Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA).

Among them, Cuomo introduced last-minute legislation that would allow the governor to appoint a majority of MTA board members, a gesture some saw as an attempt to bolster his sometimes claim that he does not actually control the MTA and its beleaguered subway system. Currently the governor appoints a plurality of board members as well as the chair and CEO of the MTA, giving the state’s chief executive de facto control of the board.

Cuomo’s bill, announced June 20, the final day of the session — giving it minimal chance to be passed through the Legislature this year — adds two state seats to the MTA board appointed by the governor and an additional vote for the chair. The proposal drew swift criticism from board members not appointed by the governor, who believe the body’s independence is hampered enough, and transit experts, who see it as a cynical ploy.

The measure was not included in the final legislative deal of the session and the governor has been silent on the subject since, though his nomination of Joe Lhota to once again lead the MTA was accepted and the governor appeared to retake responsibility for the future of the subway system.

Cuomo’s board reform proposal came amid a debate between the governor and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, both Democrats, over control of the state authority. The governor, while appointing the leadership and six members, has argued that the board’s organizational structure — which allows city and downstate suburban appointees to total a slight majority of votes over budgetary and contracting decisions — is flawed and has historically led to finger-pointing and dysfunction.

“Who’s in charge? Who knows! Maybe the county executive, maybe the president, maybe the governor, maybe the mayor,” the governor said, during a press appearance where he defended the bill.

“If you believe I have control with six [voting members], then you shouldn’t have a problem giving me actual control. And if you have a problem giving me actual control, you know what that means? You were disingenuous when you said I had control,” he added.

Along with the governor’s six board appointees and the mayor’s four, Westchester, Suffolk, and Nassau Counties each get a board member, and Rockland, Orange, Putnam, and Dutchess Counties appointees share a collective vote. There are six non-voting members of the board. If Cuomo had his way, there would be 16 total voting members and the new structure would give the state eight board appointees and nine votes.

When asked whether the governor still stood by the proposal and whether he would promote it as part of his 2018 agenda — his State of the State speech and policy platform release will occur January 3 — a spokesperson for Cuomo’s office said that the governor’s view on the issue had not changed but that the governor’s agenda was not yet finalized.

“The MTA’s board structure was purposefully created to avoid accountability, which is why in June Governor Cuomo advanced legislation to update it. Unfortunately, the Legislature failed to adopt the bill,” said spokesman Peter Ajemian.“That design flaw still exists today with the city’s refusal to pay for the system without recourse, and the MTA’s inability to implement its full Subway Action Plan.”

Ajemian emphasized that Cuomo’s administration has appointed a new leadership team is still making significant gains with the half of the plan that is funded by the state.

While the MTA board approves the budget and the chair and CEO run the authority, there is no credible argument that the governor does not effectively control the subway. Critics, including de Blasio, quickly pointed to the governor’s attention to and oversight of the completion of phase one of the Second Avenue subway extension as evidence of Cuomo’s control of the MTA.

“The governor controls the MTA. That’s a hard, accepted fact in the eyes of New Yorkers, said mayoral spokesperson Austin Finan, in a statement to Gotham Gazette. “What’s needed now is a new, dedicated revenue stream to modernize the subways and buses that city riders depend on.”

The current board structure dates back to 1965, though in 1983 Cuomo’s father, former Governor Mario Cuomo, similarly attempted to add members to the board to gain a majority, The New York Times has pointed out. The elder Cuomo gave up due to opposition from then-New York City Mayor Ed Koch and suburban officials.

After the board convened and objected to the legislation, Cuomo appointed Joe Lhota, who briefly ran the authority before leaving for a 2013 mayoral run, as its chair — a move that was hailed by transit experts as a step in the right direction in terms of taking responsibility for the transportation system and its ongoing woes.

hRegardless of whether the governor decides to move forward with controversial MTA board restructuring, he and his chair seized a collective unilateral control over much of the authority’s actions.

Days after appointing Lhota, Cuomo declared a state of emergency at the MTA, ordering Lhota to assess the transit authority’s needs within 60 days. The administration has extended the order every 30 days, granting Lhota the authority to execute many contracts without a board vote.

“State of Emergency declarations must be renewed every 30 days, and as such, the Governor has renewed MTA’s order every 30 days so the MTA can continue to work swiftly and without constraint,” said Ajemian in statement, when asked when the order would be allowed to expire.

While MTA board members interviewed by Gotham Gazette declined to comment on the record about Cuomo’s restructuring bill, those from New York City have made clear that the governor already calls the shots at the agency. At least one gubernatorial appointee, Scott Rechler, sided with Cuomo on the legislation, when speaking to the New York Times in June.

“Let him put 100 percent of his political capital, his expertise, his energy, his relationships into fixing something that is immensely broken,” he told the outlet.

The general consensus is that the governor already has more than enough power over the MTA.

To restructure the MTA board, Cuomo would need the support of Legislature, which is led by an Assembly member from New York City and a Senator from Long Island.

A spokesperson for Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said no legislation had been proposed in the Assembly, so the speaker could not comment. A bill was hastily introduced and sent to the Senate’s rules committee on the last day of this year’s legislative session, and a spokesperson for Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan did not return a request for comment.

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NYC should get eight new subway lines and extensions, report says

timeout.com

Lots of great ideas last few days…but nobody puts a dime on the plate!

Last week, the Regional Plan Association (RPA) published its Fourth Regional Plan, a sweeping report that recommends 61 actionable steps aimed at improving the New York metropolitan area’s infrastructure, housing and environment in order to allow it to thrive in the coming century.

Upon its release, the plan caught a good deal of flack for a proposal to slash 24-hour subway service in order to extend windows for track updates and maintenance. But that audacious idea is just the tip of the iceberg—the RPA has put out a whole slew of interesting recommendations that, if put into action, could radically change the way millions of people navigate and live in New York City.

One of those recommendations comes in the form of eight new subway lines and extensions, which would provide train access to entire stretches of the city that are currently without it. In its report, the RPA points out that more than one-third of New York City’s residents do not live within walking distance of a subway station. The organization’s proposed changes to the subway system are coupled with its idea of a new, unified regional rail system called the Trans-Regional Express (or T-REX). Together, they’d expand train access to cover millions of additional people in New York City and the surrounding area.

Perhaps the most notable of the RPA’s proposed subway additions surrounds the Second Avenue subway project (which the RPA strongly advocated for in its Third Regional Plan in 1996). The plan advocates for the line to extend from its current terminus at 96th Street to the Grand Concourse rail line, connecting it to a new terminal at 149th Street and Third Avenue in the Bronx. It also proposes that the line (or the T) should veer westward at 125th Street, providing much-needed subway access access to East Harlem and Harlem and connecting to seven other subway lines in the process.

On top of the long-awaited Second Avenue expansion, the RPA has plenty of other consequential (albeit slightly less buzzworthy) suggestions. Those include extending the 7 train south from Hudson Yards and adding two stops at 23rd and 14th Streets in Chelsea; extending the Astoria Line to 21st Street and 20th Avenue; building a new Northern Line in Queens to serve Flushing and College Point; adding a new 5.7-mile Jewel Avenue line to serve “the transit deserts of Pomonok and Fresh Meadows in Central Queens” and extend the subway to the city’s eastern edge; extending 4 train service in Brooklyn down to Flatbush Avenue; and extending 2 and 5 service in the same borough down to Avenue Y. You can see a full map of the proposal below.

It’s worth pointing out that the recommendations put out by the RPA do not carry any legal weight or a mandate. That said, the organization is incredibly influential. Over the past 95 years, it has had a major hand in shaping the layout of New York City. From proposing the current location of the George Washington Bridge to pushing for the formation of the MTA, the RPA’s fingerprints are present in virtually ever corner of the region.

There’s a lot to take in from the plan (we’ll continue to write about takeaways in the coming weeks), and finding ways to implement many of its proposals will be a lengthy process. But while the powers that be work on bringing New York’s infrastructure into the 21st century, it’s certainly fun to imagine a version of the city where the subway system is reliable, accessible and all-inclusive.

The trouble with creating a ‘new MTA’

NY Post

It’s tempting, if you’re sitting on a stalled subway train, to wonder: Why don’t we chuck the state-run Metropolitan Transportation Authority and start over?

Last week, the nonprofit Regional Plan Association proposed a mild version of just that, a spinoff for the subways. But it’s hard to make a fresh start with politicians as cynical as ours.

The RPA says what is self-evident: The MTA “is not capable of rebuilding the subway system.” For one, the MTA has too much to do: managing commuter rail, buses, bridges and tunnels in addition to the subway. And it’s never clear who’s in charge: the governor appoints more people than anyone else to the MTA’s board, but many New Yorkers think the mayor runs the subway.

Plus, the MTA builds stuff too slowly, and for too much money.

“Contracting, procurement and labor practices required by the MTA are inefficient and out-of-date,” the RPA says. “Work rules . . . lead to excessive staffing and unproductive work time,” and “requirements to use the operations workforce” — that is, day-to-day subway workers — “on construction projects . . . increase project costs and delivery times.”

Finally, “the MTA is $40 billion in debt . . . with expenses growing 30 percent faster than operating revenues due to rapidly escalating employee-benefit costs and debt.”

It’s broke.

But we can’t just give up, either. “Let’s just not accept that it will take us 50 years to improve the subways,” says Tom Wright, RPA president. “The idea is you create a corporation that is not encumbered by these rules before you commit billions of extra dollars.”

The RPA wants to save the subways by taking them away from the MTA. It proposes a new “subway reconstruction public benefit corporation,” which would have just one job: to “completely rebuild the subway system.”

To do that, it would have more freedom than the MTA to set work and contracting rules. And the public would know who’s accountable: the governor. Although it would have a board, the governor would appoint most members.

There’s merit to starting over. New York does lots of new transportation projects — Citibike and the ferries — well outside of the MTA, to avoid the mess and keep costs down.

But there are also big questions.

First, this new corporation would need lots of new money. “Rebuilding the subway” even while cutting costs “would still significantly increase capital construction budgets,” the RPA notes.

The catch is that the politicos would expect New York City taxpayers to pay this tab . . . while also funding the “legacy” MTA. The “old” MTA’s debt is not going away.

The MTA already gets 76 percent of its fares from New York City riders, plus 61 percent of its tax funding from the city, and much of that money goes to projects that don’t benefit city commuters. From 2003 to 2019, the MTA will have spent more than half of its expansion investments on commuter rails, not on subway riders — even though commuter-rail customers are only 7 percent of total ridership.

The risk is obvious: The governor would expect the city to keep paying for all of this “old” stuff, and pay directly for “new” subways. You will pay, effectively, twice.

Speaking of the governor, it’s not clear why the state should be in charge. The money is coming from the city. And Gov. Cuomo has shown no interest in cutting costs when doing so annoys labor unions.

The new subway corporation, remember, is supposed to eliminate the problem of having the MTA’s workers do construction work at a high cost. But the MTA recently OK’d an agreement by which those workers will do lots of Con Ed electrical work underground.

“When the union that represents subway workers discovered that outside contractors would be conducting maintenance work,” it was “incensed,” reported Politico New York. The union struck a deal to be “partners,” watching Con Ed do only “small stuff.”

Finally, though the new entity would rebuild subways, the MTA would still run them. But without discipline over pension and health costs, that means even more money would go to higher benefits and not better service.

A new subway authority won’t be immune to the union pressures that keep these costs high. Smart politicians like Cuomo would create it — and shape it to suit them.

Expanding Second Avenue subway beyond planned terminus key to system’s future

AM New York

If New York City and the surrounding areas want to continue growing, government must determine how to build a new subway extension in less than 100 years, according to the Regional Plan Association’s Fourth Regional Plan.

About a year after the opening of the Second Avenue subway’s first phase, the nonprofit association is publishing its plan Thursday, which includes proposals for eight new or extended subway lines to be built in the coming decades, as well as a unification of the region’s commuter rails — New Jersey Transit, Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North — under one system, called the Trans-Regional Express, or T-REX for short

The 95-year-old association publishes such a plan every several decades to set the tone for planning discussions over the future of the tristate area. Its new report, a massive 351-page document, spans all sorts of issues pressing the region.
The MTA runs one of the largest subway systems in the world, yet more than a third of all New Yorkers don’t live within walking distance of a subway or train station.

The plan association’s subway expansions — some new ideas, others old — focus on connecting several key transit deserts, specifically neighborhoods considered low-income but with high enough housing density to support the trains, including southeastern sections of the Bronx and Brooklyn as well as areas of central and northeast Queens.

These new subways would intend to cut down some of the longest commutes in the city and reach what are now more car-dependent areas of the outer boroughs.

“The thinking that if you stop the development from occurring you will stop the rents from increasing is a false argument,” said Tom Wright, association president, during a briefing with reporters earlier this week. “The point is you have to put protections in place for those people. On a regional basis, you have to increase supply.
“This is going to be one of the political challenges over the next five, ten years I think,” he continued. “It’s figuring out how to put protections in place so those communities feel like they can accept growth without being pushed out, and figure out how to make that growth happen in a balanced way.”

While the Second Avenue extension cost $4.5 billion, the plan association also recommends overhauling the construction process at nearly every level — from environmental review, to procurements to labor regulations — to save costs and make these projects more realistic.

The MTA declined to comment on the subject of subway extensions or new lines before the publication of the plan Thursday morning.
Here’s a breakdown of new service proposals by borough:

Manhattan

Second Avenue subway: Extend the Second Avenue line from 96th Street past its next planned terminus of 125th Street and Second Avenue, to Park Avenue and then westward along 125th Street to Broadway. The idea is that in the three miles of expansion, the subway would hit underserved sections of Harlem while connecting to seven subway lines at four stations.

7 Line extension: Extend the 7 train from its current terminus at 34th Street down to 14th Street and Eighth Avenue, where it would connect to the L, A, C and E lines.

Brooklyn

Utica Avenue extension: Build a new subway under Utica Avenue, from Eastern Parkway to Flatbush Avenue, extending 4 train service by four miles.

Nostrand Avenue line extension: Build out the Nostrand Avenue line 2.7 miles south to Avenue Z, connecting 2 and 5 trains farther into Flatlands, Midwood, Marine Park and Sheepshead Bay.

Queens

Northern Boulevard line: Create a new 3.7-mile subway line running from 36th Street and Northern Boulevard to Willets Point, where it could either continue east to serve north Flushing and Mitchell-Linden or turn north to pass under Flushing Bay to College Point.
Jewel Avenue line: Build a 5.7-mile Jewel Avenue line that would branch off the Queens Boulevard line to the transit deserts of Pomonok and Fresh Meadows in central Queens.

Astoria line extension: Add a 0.8-mile extension to hook service closer to the East River at 21st Street and 20th Avenue. A new yard would be constructed on the northern side of Ditmars Boulevard along 20th Street.

The Bronx

Second Avenue extension: In addition to an expansion out west, the plan association calls for a northern expansion to the Grand Concourse at 149th Street to connect to the 2, 4 and 5 trains.

Katie Couric in 2012: Lauer ‘pinches me on the ass a lot’

PageSix.com

OMG! Do lots of publicity. Have a big feature article few years ago on Grand Central. What do I do! Put a “balloon head” animation in place of Matt Lauer???

Five years before NBC axed Matt Lauer amid allegations of sexual misconduct, former “Today” show anchor Katie Couric addressed her longtime co-host’s most “annoying” habit.

During a June 2012 appearance on Bravo’s “Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen,” Couric, 60, revealed Lauer, 59, got touchy with her behind during the show’s “Plead the Fifth” segment.

“He pinches me on the ass a lot,” Couric said.

NBC announced Wednesday morning Lauer had been fired over sexual harassment allegations by an employee.

Matt Lauer allegedly sexually assaulted staffer during Olympics
“On Monday night, we received a detailed complaint from a colleague about inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace by Matt Lauer. It represented, after serious review, a clear violation of our company’s standards. As a result, we’ve decided to terminate his employment,” NBC Chairman Andy Lack said in a memo to staffers.

“While it is the first complaint about his behavior in the over twenty years he’s been at NBC News, we were also presented with reason to believe this may not have been an isolated incident,” he continued.

“Our highest priority is to create a workplace environment where everyone feels safe and protected, and to ensure that any actions that run counter to our core values are met with consequences, no matter who the offender.”

“This happened so quickly. She didn’t go to the media, she made a complaint to NBC’s human resources, and her evidence was so compelling that Matt was fired on Tuesday night.”

Couric anchored the “Today” show from April 1991 to May 2006. Lauer joined in January 1997.

Three more NYC ferries taken out of service for leaking

NY Post Com

We have gone after the NYC subway, Metro North and LIRR for a long time. The day we went after busses.

Three more of Mayor de Blasio’s ferries were taken out of service in the past 24 hours when alarms sounded because water was leaking into their bilges, the US Coast Guard said Monday.

The latest blow to the NYC Ferry service came just hours after The Post revealed on Sunday that three other boats in its fleet were already in dry dock for springing leaks and at least two others were repaired for the same problem.

Alarms went off on the Waves of Wonder and Sunset Crossing ferries late Sunday night and early Monday morning, according to USCG Chief Warrant Officer Allyson Conroy.

It was unclear if any passengers were on board at the time, Conroy said.

Ferry operator Hornblower told the Coast Guard it immediately took both boats out of service, along with a third vessel identified only by hull number H106, which Conroy said was sidelined “as a precaution.”

The three catamaran-style ferries were expected to arrive at the North River Shipyard in Nyack by Tuesday morning for inspection and/or repairs, Conroy added.

How Lower Manhattan ‘reinvented’ itself after 9/11

NYPost.com

No part of town has more to give thanks for this holiday weekend than Lower Manhattan — a once-fading district that’s now home to more than 60,000 residents, new stores and restaurants, cutting-edge media and tech companies, and a family-friendly, 24/7 vibe for the first time since the New York Stock Exchange opened on Wall Street in 1792.

But a “part of town” is not the same as a human being, and those who lost loved ones on 9/11 surely have less to celebrate. The discomfiting realization rattled me at a new exhibition at the Skyscraper Museum in Battery Park City, “Millennium: Lower Manhattan in the 1990s.” (39 Battery Place, noon-6 p.m. Wednesday-Sunday, through April.)

The show’s program calls today’s Downtown “a model of a 21st Century environment of living, work, and play.” Yet, just 20 years ago, the neighborhood seemed to be on its last legs. Photos, models, architectural drawings and news accounts recall how the district was reeling from after-shocks of the 1987 Black Monday stock market crash. Banks fled to Midtown, leaving older skyscrapers dark. A handful of residents lived amidst long shadows of office towers empty after 5 p.m. and on weekends. “Once-grand banking halls and storefronts” stood “hauntingly silent,” the show reminds us.

The Wall Street area of the 1990s was “ripe for reinvention,” the “Millennium” exhibition tells us. But nobody in government or business knew how to do that. Not until Sept. 11, 2001 was “Downtown’s identity . . . cataclysmically recast as Ground Zero, and a new era truly begun.”

Translation: it took the slaughter of 2,606 innocent people and the destruction of 14 million square feet of offices to bring forth, not patchwork change, but a sweeping reconception. Downtown today otherwise would resemble the same struggling place it was before the attack.

To accept that heart-wrenching truth brings up morally charged questions that “Millennium” delicately avoids tackling head-on.

The exhibition gloomily evokes Downtown’s moribund state in the ’90s. The rise of the Twin Towers in the early 1970s was supposed to arrest the district’s decline. But it was a false prophecy — they were filled mainly with state offices for a time, and when commercial tenants finally came from obsolete nearby buildings, they sucked even more life out of the neighborhood around them.

We’re reminded of misguided efforts to bring back lost glory. There were proposals for a towering, new NYSE building even when digital advances were reducing the need for trading floors, and for a gargantuan, 400-foot-tall Guggenheim Museum in the East River. A 1995 New York Times article, “Bringing Downtown Back Up,” chronicled fitful efforts to convert useless office buildings to apartments.

Some incremental improvement was noticeable by 2000. An influx of dot-com tenants helped to cut office vacancies from 28 percent to 15 percent. There were glimmers of hope, too, in proposals for what the exhibition calls “intriguing, often provocative projects.” Fanciful notions including a redesigned South Street Seaport “planted the seeds” for future resurgence.

Yet the message didn’t reach the street. When I reviewed defunct restaurant Bayard’s at Hanover Square in early 2000, I wrote of the “weirdly deserted” after-dark Financial District: “Make sure you know how to get there, or face roaming the … loneliest streetscape this side of film noir.”

These nights, you might have more company than you want — folks eating at nearby Stone Street’s dozen-odd cafes, stroller moms and tourists searching for Broadway’s “Charging Bull” statue.

For all the good will of the ’90s, today’s Downtown — as the show calls it — couldn’t and wouldn’t exist had 9/11 not catalyzed a floodtide of $24 billion in direct federal aid plus state tax benefits — and an emotional commitment by people willing to move there.

Companies like Conde Nast, GroupM and Spotify, anchors of the new Downtown office economy, would not have moved there without new skyscrapers that replaced the prematurely obsolescent Twin Towers.

It was easy in the years following 9/11 to lament what seemed snail’s-pace progress in rebuilding “Ground Zero” and nearby projects. But 16 years are not so much time in New York City, where it took nearly 100 years to open a short spur of the Second Avenue Subway.

We can take heart in our contentious, ultimately heroic response to 9/11 — and to the major damage caused later by the 2008 Wall Street crash and 2012’s Superstorm Sandy.

But — although we may recoil from the notion — little or none of it could have happened without a satanic stroke of destruction to re-set the stage. Let’s give thanks for what we built in evil’s aftermath, but never lose sight of the evil itself. Remember it next time you’re sipping wine at Downtown’s gleaming new restaurants while the Memorial waters outside pour into the abyss.

Brooklyn Startup Creates Personal Countdown Clocks For MTA Riders

NewYork CBSLOCAL

A Brooklyn startup is selling what it thinks is the perfect Christmas gift for Metropolitan Transportation Authority riders: personal countdown clocks.

You’ve been there – you race to the train and if you’re lucky, a digital display tells you how long you’ll have to wait.

The NYC Train Sign is like a home edition that you can fit on your bookshelf, WCBS 880’s Ethan Harp reported.

“This is a slimmed down, commercial version for bars, restaurants and homes,” said founder Timothy Woo, who built one for his Bushwick apartment.

Models start at $300 and come wrapped in wood, metal or plastic.

“Some people want them for home décor, as art or novelty items. Some people buy it for sheer practical reasons,” Woo said. “They live very close to the subway and actually want to look up at the clock and know when to run out the door.”

With internet, you can track most New York City subway, Metro-North, LIRR and PATH trains in real time, along with buses.

“It’s posted in my window as a public service. So it’s pretty cool. In the morning, you’ll see a small group of people as the train’s coming out in front of my house,” said Woo.

What does the MTA think of this?

“They haven’t responded to us directly, but I’m sure they have a lot of other things to worry about,” he said.

clocks

This is the MTA verson of countdown clock

Everything you need to know about getting around NYC over Thanksgiving

NY.Curbed.com

The holiday will bring myriad changes to New York’s streets, subways, buses, and more

Brace yourselves, New Yorkers: whether you’re sticking around town for the Thanksgiving holiday, or planning to get out of town for the weekend, your commute is going to be affected.

The myriad transit methods available in the city—subway, bus, commuter rail, you name it—will have schedule changes in effect beginning as early as this Wednesday, which is one of the busiest travel days of the year. (It’s also one of the city’s gridlock alert days, when traffic is expected to be at its worst.)

And it’s not just people leaving town for the holiday that you have to worry about: The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade will also affect transit service, as will the consumerist nightmare known as Black Friday.

But if you don’t have the option of staying in your apartment all weekend, we’ve got you covered: Here’s everything you need to know about service changes this week on subways, buses, airports, streets, and more.

NYC subway
On Thursday, expect the subway to operate on a Sunday schedule, meaning there will be less frequent service, and there will be changes to various lines (including the 2/3, which won’t run in Brooklyn).

The annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade will cause major drama on some subway stations on Thursday; according to the MTA, the 57th St station on the F line will be closed from 7 to 11 a.m., and some stations along the route—including heavily trafficked ones like 34th St-Herald Sq and 59th St-Columbus Circle will also have entrances and exits blocked off.

After the holiday, the subway reverts back to normal service—though “normal” is relative when it comes to the MTA, and there will be plenty of service changes taking you through the rest of the weekend.

And on a fun note: The New York Transit Museum’s special vintage holiday trains begin running again this weekend; they’ll travel between Second Ave and Lexington Ave-63rd St on the F line, and then along the Q—aka the Second Avenue subway—from 63rd St to 96th St. Trains begin running at 10 a.m. and the last one leaves the Upper East Side at 5 p.m

Both the Metro-North and Long Island Rail Road will be running extra trains on Wednesday to accommodate folks getting out of town for the holiday, and service changes will be in effect throughout the week. Here’s how that’ll look for each one:

Metro-North: There will be extra trains running on Wednesday beginning at 1 p.m., and additional trains into Manhattan on Thursday for parade-goers. On Thursday, trains will run on a “modified weekend” schedule, and on Friday, they’ll be operating on a Saturday schedule. Trains will run as they normally do on Saturday and Sunday.

On Wednesday evening, there will be 12 additional trains to Long Island from Penn Station, and six extra trains heading into Manhattan from various points. Ditto that on Thursday—to accommodate parade-goers, there will be extra trains running to and from Penn Station. More trains will be running on Saturday and Sunday as well, and that uptick in service will continue through the rest of the holiday season. Off-peak fares are in effect through the weekend.

New Jersey Transit
There are plenty of changes to NJT service over the weekend, chief among them the addition of early “getaway” service, similar to what the Metro-North is offering, on Wednesday; trains will begin running to and from Penn Station at 1 p.m. to accommodate holiday travelers. There will also be additional buses running on some lines from Port Authority beginning at 12:30 p.m.; best to check the NJT website for full details.

On Thursday, trains will operate on a weekend schedule, while bus service will vary by route. Friday will be modified regular service, with additional trains into NYC for Black Friday. Should you want to spend Black Friday at a mall in New Jersey (and if you do, why), there will be extra buses running to and from seven different shopping centers.

The MTA’s next Billion Dollar Boondoggle!

The INDYPENDANT

A $574 million contract was awarded to the company that botched Chicago’s digital fare rollout.

There is one thing that New York City’s crumbling, hazardous, $43-billion indebted transit system needs to do to fix itself: replace the MetroCard with an app. That’s according to Joseph Lhota, chair of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) and his allies on the agency’s governing board.

This $574 million plan, announced by the MTA board on Oct. 25, will implement a fare system that utilizes contactless bank cards and mobile payments to replace the MetroCard. Transactions will be conducted through apps like Apple Pay, as well as “contactless cards,” credit or debit cards embedded with chips that rely on wireless near field communication technology.

YES. But must include “contactless cards”. With them I can check my bank account! IMMEDIATELY I do not yet trust my telephone. Living/working in two countries, things get “mixed up” and costly. Penney

“The move to a truly 21st-century method of payment represents a critical step in our overall efforts at modernizing the subway system and improving service for all our customers,” Lhota, appointed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in June, said.

Tapping a credit card or smartphone at a turnstile instead of a MetroCard could amount to a significant timesaver for New York commuters. In addition, the new technology will allow all-door boarding on buses, reducing travel time. These undeniable improvements, however, come at a time of unprecedented emergency at the agency.

Just as the MTA board began extolling the introduction of the costly fare system, New York City Councilmember Helen Rosenthal released a call for an independent commission to study the MTA’s runaway costs.

“By every available metric, the MTA has the highest capital costs in the world, spending several times more than other global cities for similar projects,” the chair of the City Council’s Contracts Committee wrote on Oct. 24 in a public letter to Lhota signed by 27 of her colleagues. In a related press release, Rosenthal noted that while Paris was “able to build a new line for $370 million per mile, Phase I of the Second Avenue subway cost $2.7 billion per mile.”

The contactless fare scheme might seem less absurd if it increased the transit system’s efficiency. This may not be the case.

The MTA has commissioned Cubic Transportation Inc., which designed the MetroCard, to install the new fare system.

The company has a singular record of failures in the United States.

Chicagoan blogger Olivia Cole described Cubic’s Ventra payment system as “proof that CTA hates us” after the Chicago Transit Authority introduced it to the Windy City in 2013.

“From bank cards being charged in addition to the Ventra card, to inexplicably nonfunctional cards, to a completely and utterly mystifying account interface online, to fundamentally clueless customer care employees, to hour-long hotline waits and, oh, let’s not forget the fact that you are instructed to pay cash when your already-paid-for Ventra card doesn’t work on their worthless scanner… Ventra has been (and continues to be) a nightmare,” Cole wrote.

When, last November, Cubic’s contactless system in San Francisco fell under attack from a virus, hackers threatened to leak passengers’ personal data while demanding a ransom of $73,000 in bitcoin. The incident exemplified how a fully digitalized fare system that tracks rider locations and requires intimate financial information provides room for Orwellian scenarios.

MTA spokesman Joe Weinstein told the New York Times in October that the agency would implement “the most stringent security standards and protocols” to safeguard riders’ data. Nonetheless, the prospect of more than 8 million daily commuters being hacked looms over the Cubic deal.

If Lhota caves to political pressure and establishes an independent commission, it could prevent future money squandering projects like the contactless fare system, not to mention the 7 line extension and Second Avenue subway. Maybe then MTA would start providing an efficient service to the people of New York.

I will be willing to help test! Penney