Transportation-Related Updates and More

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MTA rider Aaron Goldberg, unfairly summonsed? Source: NY1

THE COMMUTE: There have been new developments this week in previous transportation stories covered by Sheepshead Bites. Here they are:

Unfair Summonses

Last week we reported on the plight of Aaron Goldberg, who received a summons for riding the M15 Select Bus Service without a receipt because both machines that would have dispensed one when he inserted his unlimited MetroCard were out of order. Goldberg appeared this week at the Transit Adjudication Bureau and was found “Not Guilty,” which he accredits to having a TV News station behind him. Others who appeared were not as lucky. New York 1 describes a process that is both time consuming and cumbersome, involving waits of four hours for a five-minute hearing or having to appear multiple times. The relationship between the legal implications and the administrative code in making a ruling can be quite complex as BusMgr shows in this BusChat post.

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Clearly, changes are in order.

Port Authority Toll and Path Hikes

As you’ve probably heard by now, the Port Authority decided to spread out its steep proposed increases over four years. That sets a dangerous precedent for the MTA to do the same, i.e. have one set of hearings for fare and toll increases to be implemented over several years. No one can predict what the economy will do four years into the future. If there is an upturn in the economy and the MTA has pre-approval to raise the fare, would the MTA spend the money on restoring service cuts and making further improvements or use the funds to give its managers higher raises? Public hearings should be required for every fare increase; the MTA should not be allowed to lump them together as the Port Authority has done. Perhaps there needs to be some legislative changes made.

Transit Lockbox Act

Governor Cuomo signed a smoking ban on railroad stations but has left the Transit Lockbox Act unsigned. This is the governor’s first real test on how much he values good mass transit.

Restoring Service Cutbacks

While some communities in Bay Ridge, Manhattan, the Bronx, and Staten Island have already been successful in getting some of last year’s service cuts restored, others have organized and are continuing to press the MTA for service restorations. Residents in Eastern Queens have charged this week that the MTA has not done their homework when rejecting their proposals for restoring service by only considering operating costs and not revenue generated.

The MTA tries to think of itself as a business, but what business expects to break even on Day One? A clientele has to be built and nurtured. Most businesses expect losses in the first three years. The MTA always expects losses so it is not willing to make any investments in service. They rejected the Eastern Queens proposals because of an increased annual operating cost of $400,000. That assumes all the buses would always be running empty, which would not be the case under any circumstances. Yet they are able to get away with such distortions.

The MTA is constantly playing with numbers. Instead of comparing daily passengers to daily costs, they always make the comparison to annual costs. However, when eliminating a route, they will never tell you how many annual passengers would be inconvenienced. Instead, they divide the numbers of daily passengers in half and call them customers to make the numbers sound even less. When they themselves make a proposal, they do predict additional ridership, but do so without providing backup.

To do a fair comparison, the MTA should show how many passengers per bus trip it would take to generate the $400,000 needed to offset the additional operating costs. Assume four buses an hour in each direction for 16 hours a day and an average of five passengers per bus trip paying an average fare of $1.50 for 365 days a year and you generate $350,400. Doesn’t sound like much when you look at it that way, and remember that those five passengers do not even have to be on the bus at the same time. None of that really matters though, because the MTA would have rejected the proposal if the annual operating cost were only $100,000.

They rejected one of my proposals for the sole reason of an increased annual operating cost of between $50,000 to $75,000, which they overestimated by inaccurately measuring distances. The true cost assuming no new passengers would be generated was closer to $25,000. The MTA’s instance on cost neutrality assures that no improvements to the bus routing structure will ever be made no matter how small without needlessly cutting service and hurting passengers.

Why is no one asking for restoration or at least partial restoration of the B4, which now lays over at Coney Island Hospital for 20 minutes during the day and on weekends? That is enough time for it to operate to Sheepshead Bay Station, restoring transfers to the B68 and B49 routes. The MTA should be made to prove how such an extension would cost them extra, not merely assert such. Why is Sheepshead Bay so apathetic? They will not listen to me alone.

Bike Lane

A judge this week dismissed a lawsuit to remove the controversial bike lane along Prospect Park West in Park Slope under the grounds that it wasn’t filed within the statute of limitations.

The lawsuit claimed that DOT “cherry picked” the data to distort accident data and traffic speeds, which the judge did not address. This is not the end of the controversy as the proponents against the bike lane have vowed to continue to fight. If the courts ever address the issue of data manipulation, and it is determined that these allegations have merit, future planned bicycle lanes could be in jeopardy. Southern Brooklyn as well as Borough President Marty Markowitz and Councilman Lew Fidler have been no fans of the bike lanes.

And a New Story

When we talk about commuting, we don’t often mention walking as a means of commuting, but many do walk to work. One real estate executive, who walks to work in Midtown, Robert Selsam, is fed up with slow walkers and people blocking sidewalks by walking four abreast, for example. To highlight this problem and make people more aware, he jokingly proposed a set of fines for various offenses. Judging from the comments this piece received, many agree that people who “stop to smell the roses” along the sidewalks pose a nuisance to those who are in a hurry. Just hope Mayor Bloomberg does not read it, because he may take the idea of more fines seriously. As a footnote, Selsam was my boss 35 years ago at the Department of City Planning while I was planning the southern Brooklyn bus route modifications that resulted in the B1 and B4, which were modified again last year.

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).

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29 COMMENTS

  1. The M15 bus service machines don’t work and you can’t use a card on the bus to pay your fare. Went to a doctor about my quickly expanding back pain/problems and had to take the M15 down town. My EasyPay “granny card” did not work on the machine, nor did the cards of other potential riders. The driver could not help. We had to have tickets from the machines, which did not work. So, we all decided to walk.

    My back pain was incredible, and NYC does not have sidewalk benches where I could sit for a while to rest and start to feel better. But I finally made it, with no help from the MTA.

    There must be a better way.

  2. Bike Lanes

    Bike Lanes are good and good for everybody.  What happens if the bike lane on Ocean Pkwy is removed in favor of a new lane for traffic?

    MTA as a business

    They are truly fooling themselves.  There ‘business model’, as a true for-profit enterprises, closes them in a year.  They cannot exist as a business, and therefore cannot operate as 1.  (Unless of course, you adopt the stand that our banks have been ‘federalized’ via the bailouts!)

    SBS summonses (see MTA as a business, above)

    Gov. Cuomo and the lockbox

    This is ridiculous.  He just needs to sign it.  He is using his enormous popularity to run for cover and not do the right thing. (Funny, whenever I write or see “Gov. Cuomo”, I first think of Mario!)

    PANYNJ

    This a Christie tax hike, make no mistake.  First, he cancels ARC (Access to the Regions Core tunnel project). Then, he takes $1.8bn PANYNJ $ for ARC and instead fixes all his little bridges and roads ’round the Garden State.  Now, PANYNJ is $18bn poorer, so what else can they do but to raise fares and tolls?  You see Christie’s agenda? Keep NJians trapped in their state.  First, cancel the tunnel so it remains a headache to use NJT and then raise tolls, double-frustrating would be commuters!  Now, imagine President Christie!

  3. I truly feel sorry for you. I know about back pain. That’s one thing the MTA never figures on, that broken machines or buses that bunch causing long waits actually costs them money by people choosing to walk instead.

  4. And what about seniors who have to stand around in extreme heat or cold waiting for their bunched buses.  That can’t be good. I’m surprised that there isn’t more organized advocacy in this regard.

  5. While i agree with you about Gov. Christie, I submit that keeping NJians trapped in their state is a good thing for us!

  6. Bike lanes are not good for everybody. They are good as long as a lane isn’t being removed for traffic and people aren’t ticketed for using them to go around a car waiting to make a left turn. They should only remove a traffic lane for a bike lane if the street is truly dead with little or no traffic.

    Your Ocean Parkway example is ridiculous because no one would ever propose converting the bike lanes into traffic lanes. They were originally built as a bridle path for horses which was no longer necessary. Converting it to a bike path just made sense. We could use more off-street bike lanes. DOT could have proposed one for Shore Blvd but instead decided to take a lane from Oriental Blvd.

    The PPW lane is not needed since there already is a bike lane just inside the park and can be converted to two way if need be. The cited statistics are also misleading. They say Park Slope is evenly divided or just slightly for that bike lane. They also cite that most New Yorkers favor bike lanes in general, but the question asked is misleading. Sure most New Yorkers would say yes if asked that question. But how about asking one if people support the way DOTis going about it? You would get different results. Also no one is counting the opinion of drivers who use or used PPW to travel on without an origin or destination in Park Slope? Doesn’t their opinion matter also? Why do they only ask the residents. If they asked everyone who was affected by it, you wouldn’t get such positive results.

  7. People have been complaint about that for the past 50 years and the MTA and NYCTA have either always blamed it on traffic or made promises that they haven’t kept. People are willing to accept a lot or they just vote with their feet and buy a car.

  8. People have been complaint about that for the past 50 years and the MTA and NYCTA have either always blamed it on traffic or made promises that they haven’t kept. People are willing to accept a lot or they just vote with their feet and buy a car.

  9. Bike lanes are very bad and cause accidents to pedestrians and motorists since many of the clowns that use them could care less about safety. Fine all the cyclist $10,000 for every red light ran, every stop sign ignored and every accident caused. Award the few good cyclist with no fines. When the Bostonian leaves office and takes that nutty commissioner with him, I truly await the day the new mayor takes office and rips all those bike lanes and islands out. Making this New York again and not hipsterville. Anthony Weiner, I hope you are reading this! Save us.

  10. I wonder what the consensus would be for proper bike lane going eastbound from SHB road on Emmons ave towards the Belt pkwy.

    That area is supposed to be a single lane but because of the greater width to allow people to back into the parking spots, asshole drivers often speed in the “second lane” on the right hand side along the curb. It’s already a designated bike route and it’s the only place for bikes to access the bike path along plum beach. In addition, bikers can’t ride on the sidewalk because of pedestrian congestion and it being illegal for anyone over the age of 12.

  11. PPW had excess vehicle capacity and it was a speedway too.  As a result, pedestrians, even with the light, had a tough time crossing because cars sped up to the light anyway.  In this case, I just don’t see what the harm in taking a lane of traffic out of service.  Additionally, there are so many streets and avenues and lanes and highways already dedicated to cars only, it just seems to me that this is more of a philosophical resistance.  Lastly, they took the B69 off PPW as well to further mitigate the loss of a traffic lane.

    I don’t believe that my Ocean Pkwy example is ridiculous because the basic premise of the resistance to bike lanes is that we need capacity for vehicles.  Ocean Pkwy, especially at its northern end is over capacity a good part of the day.  Adding a lane of traffic would help to mitigate this (at least in the view of people who do not want bike lanes).

    Look at Gov Christopher Christie Christofferson for example.  He is making the NJ Tpke a glorious 12 lanes wide whilst killing ARC and providing no opportunity to encourage a multi-modal thorough fare.  But, it’s a waste because as soon as the Great Recession ends, gas prices will go through the roof and the demand for driving will lessen.

    So I really believe that a complete streets program is necessary.  This includes sidewalks, bike lanes, BRT lanes and lanes for traffic as well.  Imagine if the B49 had a dedicated lane of travel.  It would become quite efficient.

  12. PPW had excess vehicle capacity and it was a speedway too.  As a result, pedestrians, even with the light, had a tough time crossing because cars sped up to the light anyway.  In this case, I just don’t see what the harm in taking a lane of traffic out of service.  Additionally, there are so many streets and avenues and lanes and highways already dedicated to cars only, it just seems to me that this is more of a philosophical resistance.  Lastly, they took the B69 off PPW as well to further mitigate the loss of a traffic lane.

    I don’t believe that my Ocean Pkwy example is ridiculous because the basic premise of the resistance to bike lanes is that we need capacity for vehicles.  Ocean Pkwy, especially at its northern end is over capacity a good part of the day.  Adding a lane of traffic would help to mitigate this (at least in the view of people who do not want bike lanes).

    Look at Gov Christopher Christie Christofferson for example.  He is making the NJ Tpke a glorious 12 lanes wide whilst killing ARC and providing no opportunity to encourage a multi-modal thorough fare.  But, it’s a waste because as soon as the Great Recession ends, gas prices will go through the roof and the demand for driving will lessen.

    So I really believe that a complete streets program is necessary.  This includes sidewalks, bike lanes, BRT lanes and lanes for traffic as well.  Imagine if the B49 had a dedicated lane of travel.  It would become quite efficient.

  13. Good point, and the reality is that the ‘safest’ way to access the Belt Pkwy bike path is to either ride on the sidewalk along Emmons or avoid it all together, and that is a shame because part of the biking experience is to enjoy what’s right before you.  Seeing piers and fishin’ boats and water is much more preferable than seeing a highway embankment and detritis along it’s side (Shore Pkwy) 

  14. Good point, and the reality is that the ‘safest’ way to access the Belt Pkwy bike path is to either ride on the sidewalk along Emmons or avoid it all together, and that is a shame because part of the biking experience is to enjoy what’s right before you.  Seeing piers and fishin’ boats and water is much more preferable than seeing a highway embankment and detritis along it’s side (Shore Pkwy) 

  15. As long as you apply the same to cars because car lanes are bad and cause accidents to pedestrians and cyclists and many drivers could care less about safety. Fine all the motorists $10,000 for every red light ran, every stop sign ignored and accident caused.  Award good drivers with no fines (some award!!)

  16. First of all they don’t do one way bike lanes. Also on weekends in the summer, that road is usually congested. Wonder how many extra parking spaces they create with that angle parking anyway. One day i shoukd count them and find out. It always seemed dangerous to me. It would be nice however, if they could designate part of the pier sidewalk for bikes.

  17. First of all they don’t do one way bike lanes. Also on weekends in the summer, that road is usually congested. Wonder how many extra parking spaces they create with that angle parking anyway. One day i shoukd count them and find out. It always seemed dangerous to me. It would be nice however, if they could designate part of the pier sidewalk for bikes.

  18. I am not going to argue with you about PPW. I’ll only say that as far as traffic, the B69 didn’t make much of a difference running every 20 or 30 minutes. It should have been rerouted to Williamsburg on the north and along 16th Avenue on the south. Then there would have been a reason for keeping it on PPW.

    I see your point about Ocean Parkway, but it still would never happen. Besides, the days of adding any road capacity are over at least in this administration. Now the focus is to make driving as slow and expensive as possible while we also cut transit and build bike lanes. Now Bloomberg wants speeding cameras at every intersection to fine everyone going 31 mph. Then he will be able to get his congestion pricing when traffic slows to a crawl because everyone will be so afraid of getting a $50 fine. I’m sick of public safety being an excuse to raise revenue.

  19. When you’re counting, make sure you take away the number of spots with the “no standing anytime” signs that the city surprised us with. 

  20. Fine every pedestrian $10,000 for jaywalking causing cars to make short stops. Award pedestrians who cross at the green with no fines.

  21. The PANYNJ tollhikes/farehikes hurt residents of both NJ and NJ. It also hurts the competitiveness of the entire NYC metro area. The PA needs to be tamed. We can’t be an endless supply of money for them. Christie and Cuomo both need to get the PA under control.

  22. The only Bloomberg Bike Lane entirely removed was the useless one on Fr. Capodanno Blvd on Staten Island. That lane was turned over to express and local buses where it does more good for commuters by speeding up their daily morning trip. The previous bike lane was only used by a handful of bicyclists, if even that many.

    You have to get after all your elected officials if you a bike lane eliminated. Bloomberg and his bicycle-obsessed DOT Commissioner do respond to political pressure.

  23. Not always the case. The CB, neighborhood groups and elected officials have opposed the useless Oriental Blvd bike lane that connects to nowhere for about six years now and nothing is being done. It was even proposed to move it one block away off the street where a dual sidwalk was built especially for a bike lane and DOT won’t listen.

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