The Commute: Reflecting On 2011

Source: Subway Nut

THE COMMUTE: Happy New Year to everyone!

As we enter 2012, it is time to pause and reflect on the year that just passed. Hard to believe “The Commute” is now entering its second year. When Ned asked me to start this weekly feature after writing several articles for “Sheepshead Bites,” I hesitated because I wasn’t sure I could think of something new and different to write about each week, which would interest me as well as Sheepshead Bay and its residents.

I try to write simply rather than bore you with technical discussions and keep the subjects varied, but some topics appear more frequently than others. Some spur little discussion while others, such as the one last week about speeding on Oriental Boulevard may have broken Sheepshead Bites’ record with 123 comments thus far. It is difficult to predict which topics will be popular for discussion and which ones will either be a big yawn or will have few comments, because I made such a good case that most everyone feels there is nothing further to add.

I try to concentrate on topics specifically relevant to Sheepshead Bay and citywide topical issues that I believe will interest you that you may have missed in the newspapers or on television. I only discuss other neighborhoods like Park Slope if there is some relevance to Sheepshead Bay. Most of the topics are about mass transit because that is the way most of you commute, and that means discussing the MTA. I have tried to not be too negative toward them, but sometimes that has not been possible. However, I have always tried to be fair, unlike some blogs that only advocate one point of view, ignoring any story or facts that do not support the viewpoint they are advocating. I’ve concentrated on bus service more than subways because buses is the area of most of my expertise and where I believe the most potential exists for improvement, with better routes and scheduling without major capital expense. I have also made predictions for the future.

And here is another prediction: The MTA will hold hearings for a fare increase in 2012 or 2013, but this time the hearings will include provisions for small increases to fares and tolls, like a nickel or dime for subways and buses, and a quarter or 50 cents for bridges and tunnels, in 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016. New Jersey is already combining several increases into a single set of hearings. Toll increases [PDF] went into effect yesterday on the New Jersey Turnpike and Garden State Parkway based on hearings held four years ago.

New York will soon follow unless there is a law that all hearings for fare and toll increases and service changes must be held within the previous 90 days of the change taking effect. If a law similar to that does not already exist, it needs to be proposed, and if it already exists, we must make sure it is not altered. Although fewer hearings would save the MTA money, how do we know what the economy will be like four years from now and if fare and toll increases will be necessary then? We also have no assurances that future surpluses, if any, would be invested in service restorations or service increases to fill service gaps, before they are spent on salary increases so we need to be very conservative before raising user rates.

There are many websites advocating more bicycle lanes and pedestrian spaces at the expense of motorists portraying automobiles as the villain. Although additional bike lanes and pedestrian spaces are not necessarily bad ideas, I have tried to present the other side discussing the needs of motorists here and here, covering topics like potholes, alternate side of the street parking, and how DOT can improve. I have also touched on the needs of cyclists and pedestrians as well by discussing the controversy over a wood or concrete boardwalk. If there is a transportation topic you would like covered that I have neglected, please share it in the comments.

Here are some of the other topics I covered in 2011:

Locally, many articles related to the B1 and B4 bus lines, and Select Bus Service. I have tried to stay away from political and funding issues but have covered those issues as well. If you have missed any of those discussions, now would be a great time to catch up by clicking on any of the links in orange or on the tags at the end.

Most articles have included my opinions on the subjects discussed. I have tried to encourage discussion by sharing my opinion and to inform with such subjects as “The MTA May Be Stealing Your Money.” As a follow-up to that article, I have recently been made aware of several instances where the MTA has been charging extra fares instead of granting a free transfer when one was entitled, probably due to some glitch in the system, so always check the farebox readout when dipping your MetroCard when entitled to a free transfer to make sure it says “Transfer OK” and not the amount remaining. Most important, if you are unfairly charged an extra fare, do not remain silent. Write down the bus number or turnstile number and let the MTA know by calling or writing! Don’t just say to yourself, it was only $2.25 or $1.10, so I’ll just forget it. If you are cheated, others are being cheated as well and it will continue unless the MTA knows about it. Since it is easy to criticize the MTA, I have tried to compliment them as well.

My ultimate goal is to make a positive difference by getting people involved in transportation issues. I hope I am succeeding. After all, I am not paid for this series, so it really is just a labor of love. I have no idea as to the extent of the readership and I often spend more time than I intend to writing and proofreading but I feel it is worth it. Many of you agree with me most of the time and a few disagree with most every article. I guess that is how you know you are doing a good job when you create some controversy. If everyone always agrees with you, you couldn’t be writing about anything very important.

I am most proud of both three-part series that I wrote, the first one concluding with 10 needed changes at the MTA and the other concluding with how the MTA should be doing their planning. Hopefully, MTA planners read them and they will have some affect. I was also especially satisfied with “Some Thoughts On Planning And Life,” sparked by the recent passing of my sister resulting from a bicycle accident she had in 2004.

Today would have been her 64th birthday.

The Commute is a weekly feature highlighting news and information about the city’s mass transit system and transportation infrastructure. It is written by Allan Rosen, a Manhattan Beach resident and former Director of MTA/NYC Transit Bus Planning (1981).