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Thread: New York Subway and Bus System

  1. #11
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    http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/18/ny...l?ref=nyregion
    19 Stories Below Manhattan, a 640-Ton Machine Drills a New Train Tunnel

    By WILLIAM NEUMAN
    Published: July 18, 2008


    Ozier Muhammad/The New York Times

    A section of a recently completed 7,700-foot tunnel under Manhattan, which will someday provide an East Side stop for Long Island Rail Road trains.





    Ozier Muhammad/The New York Times

    Jimmy Diamond, a sandhog, or tunnel worker, helped the conductor of the Mantrip, a train that carries workers through the tunnel, navigate safely toward Grand Central Terminal.


    Apparently, you don’t need a windshield to drive through a rock wall.

    Some 19 stories under the streets of Manhattan on Thursday, the driver of a 640-ton telescopic tunnel-boring machine stood in a tiny windowless metal cubicle before a pair of small computer screens and an array of buttons and gauges.

    “No windshield? Don’t need one,” said the driver (or operator, as he prefers), Anthony Spinoso.

    Over several months he has driven the machine 7,700 feet, from a spot deep under Second Avenue and 63rd Street, through the bedrock, to the depths beneath Grand Central Terminal, where the tunnel he has helped dig will someday bring Long Island Rail Road trains to the East Side of Manhattan.

    Now he is backing the machine up several hundred feet to a point where it will begin boring a parallel tunnel. Another thing that Mr. Spinoso does not have is a steering wheel. Instead, he guides the movement of the machine with buttons in front of him, striving to hold a green dot (his machine) on the computer screen at the center of a narrow yellow line that represents his programmed course. He must keep the 22-foot-tall, 360-foot-long behemoth on track without varying more than 2 inches in any direction.

    “You just push the buttons, it’s like a video game,” said Edward Kennedy, an engineer helping to supervise the work. “The guy has a screen with a yellow line on it, the yellow brick road. All he has to do is keep on the yellow brick road.”

    The digging began last fall for the new Long Island Rail Road tunnels — there will ultimately be eight tunnel sections feeding into an immense new station below Grand Central. There are two machines working simultaneously on separate tunnel sections (the second one, which started later, has reached 48th Street). They can cut through 100 feet of rock a day but often move much slower. The tunneling and the excavation of a huge cavern under Grand Central to house the new station are expected to be completed in 2012, but the entire project will not be finished until at least 2015.

    The boring is being done for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority by Dragados Judlau, a joint venture of large construction firms. The cost of the tunneling is $428 million, but the entire project, which includes building out the station and laying the tracks, is expected to cost $7.2 billion. The new tunnels will connect to an existing tunnel under the East River and from there (via more tunneling) to Long Island Rail Road tracks in Queens.

    A group of reporters and photographers was invited to tour the most advanced of the tunnel sections on Thursday because it had reached a milestone by arriving at the area below Grand Central.

    Still, much work remains to be done and that includes securing more financing for the project. The federal government has agreed to provide $2.7 billion, and an additional $1.7 billion has been earmarked so far through the transportation authority’s capital spending programs. But the transportation authority, which is facing grievous budgetary challenges, must seek an additional $2.8 billion in a new capital program it will submit to the state next year.

    The scene near the end of the tunnel on Thursday was a post-industrial tableau of rusted metal, snaking ducts and conduit and cable.

    The sides of the tunnel were streaked with groundwater in places, dry in others. The perfectly curved face of the carved rock, a type known as Manhattan schist, showed the striations left by the machine’s passage. The rock was a mottled, marbled canvas of greys, blacks and whites, and it was possible to see the swirls and layers where the once-molten stone had been squeezed and cooled.

    The tunnel was lit by electric lights. The air smelled of diesel fuel and rock dust. As a group of reporters and photographers slipped and dodged through the mud, one of the handful of workers mucking about asked, “Did you bring your sunscreen?”

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    Feds to MTA on more hub cash: No way
    Feds to MTA on more hub cash: No way

    By Pete Donohue
    DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER

    Wednesday, July 16th 2008, 11:30 PM

    The Federal Transit Administration won't bail out the MTA's troubled Fulton St. subway hub with an infusion of more money, a top Bush administration official said.

    "Absolutely not. That's capped out," federal transit Administrator James Simpson said Tuesday when asked if the FTA would increase its commitment for the Fulton Transit Center.

    An MTA-FTA funding agreement commits the feds to $819 million. Another $40 million is set aside in reserve funds. Plans call for overhauling the existing Fulton/Broadway/Nassau St. subway complex and creating a grand, domed entrance building with retail space.

    In January, MTA officials said they were short $1 billion for expansion projects because of rising costs.

    The MTA said work on the underground parts of the project - including a new walkway connecting 11 subway lines downtown - would continue, but it couldn't afford the above-ground components.

    "We are continuing make great progress on underground work ...," MTA spokesman Jeremy Soffin said.

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    http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/23/ny...l?ref=nyregion
    M.T.A. Plan to Raise Fares Angers Officials and Riders

    By RAY RIVERA
    Published: July 23, 2008


    Nicole Bengiveno/The New York Times

    The Myrtle Avenue station in Brooklyn, served by the J, M and Z lines. The transportation authority’s board is to consider the proposal for fare increases.


    A proposal by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to increase transit fares and tolls in 2009 drew sharp criticism from an array of powerful officials on Tuesday, as the mayor, City Council speaker and Assembly speaker said they would oppose it, and the governor pledged “to do everything I can to prevent it.”

    The authority is also preparing to ask the city and state to contribute $300 million in additional aid to help close a projected budget shortfall of nearly $900 million. The authority says it would need to raise fares and tolls even with that additional aid; without it, the increase could be higher.

    The increases, which will be part of a budget proposal presented to the authority’s board on Wednesday, seeks to increase revenue from fares and tolls by 8 percent. If approved, the higher fares and tolls would take effect next July; the authority last raised tolls and fares in March. This would be only the second time in the history of the subway that fares were raised in consecutive years; the last time was in 1980 and 1981. The proposal angered riders already frustrated by more frequent subway delays and breakdowns, interviews on Tuesday indicated, and riders’ sour mood seemed to be keenly felt by officials in City Hall and Albany.

    “I don’t think it’s wise to impose a fare hike this soon on commuters right after we did the last hike,” Gov. David A. Paterson said during a news conference in Hudson, N.Y. “This just cannot become the new way that the M.T.A. solves problems: Every time there is an issue, pass along the increase. Let’s explore other options.”

    The authority is governed by a 17-member board appointed by the governor, with recommendations from the mayor and county executives from the metropolitan region. Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn separately said they would not support a fare increase unless the authority demonstrated that it could shave its own budget and find alternative sources of funds.

    “Anybody that tells me they’ve got a $10 billion budget and can’t find ways to cut 5 percent, that’s just poor management,” Mr. Bloomberg said at a City Hall news conference.

    Ms. Quinn said, “Before the M.T.A. comes asking for more from the city, the state or the public, they need to do a little more housekeeping, which means cutting their overhead, cutting their management budget and cutting their administrative budget.”

    Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said in a statement that he was “strongly opposed” to the proposal and would ask the state comptroller’s office to audit the authority’s books to see if it is necessary.

    “New Yorkers are facing higher prices for food, electricity and many other necessities, and transit fares just went up a few months ago,” Mr. Silver said. “We simply cannot afford another increase.”

    A spokesman for the authority, Jeremy Soffin, declined to comment, saying authority officials wanted to reserve comment until they presented their proposal on Wednesday.

    The authority faces fiscal problems brought on by sharply higher fuel costs, declining real estate tax revenues and rising debt costs. In the last half year, its projected budget shortfall has increased fourfold.

    Despite elected officials’ pledges to oppose the increases, it is far from clear how the authority can balance its budget. Governor Paterson has appointed a commission, led by Richard Ravitch, a former chairman of the authority’s board, to study the agency’s finances, but the commission’s report is not expected until November.

    Mr. Ravitch said on Tuesday that he was not surprised by the authority’s proposal, but that it was too soon to evaluate it. Mr. Ravitch was chairman the last time the agency imposed back-to-back subway increases — to 60 cents from 50 in 1980 and to 75 cents in 1981.

    He said the authority’s current difficulties were far from unique. “Ever since the subway system and every other public transportation system has existed, there is always the question, almost on an annual basis, how do you deal with the increasing costs,” he said.

    Riders, meanwhile, who just saw their monthly passes go up to $81 from $76 in March, were not sympathetic to the agency’s financial straits.

    “It’s frustrating, because the service isn’t very good,” Jennifer Rizzo, 29, as she settled into a crowded morning rush train at Grand Central Station on Tuesday. “I wouldn’t have a problem paying more if the trains were actually reliable and moved.”

    She was riding the No. 4 line: the Lexington Avenue express, which has the worst on-time performance in the system, according to a report released this week. Even some commuters on the city’s more on-time lines said they wanted to see more for their dollar.

    “It seems like they’re hiking it every year and nothing is changing,” said Ramona Williams, 24, as she waited for the J train at the Marcy Avenue station in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. “I think we deserve better service at this point.”

    The latest figures released by New York City Transit, which operates the subways, show that delays were up 24 percent as of May over the previous year. On-time performance was down 1.64 percent over all, and as much as 5.5 percent on some lines. The number of breakdowns are increasing, even as older cars are being replaced by newer models.

    Authority officials say they are trying to improve service. They are experimenting with computer-controlled trains that would allow them to schedule trains closer together. They are conducting detailed studies on the 7, 4, 2 and L lines to determine the causes of delays. They are even exploring skip-stop service as a way to get trains moving closer to schedule.

    The authority faces strong resistance from city officials to increase financing, as the city has its own difficult budget times.

    Mayor Bloomberg was emphatic in saying Tuesday that the city would not give more. “We don’t have it,” he said.

    Reporting was contributed by Jason Grant, Daryl Khan, Jeremy W. Peters and Fernanda Santos.

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    http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/22/ny...20train&st=cse
    Subway Delays Rise, and the No. 4 Line Is Slowest

    By RAY RIVERA
    Published: July 22, 2008


    David Goldman for The New York Times

    A crowded No. 4 train sits at a Grand Central Terminal subway platform on Monday. Riders holding doors open is cited as the second biggest reason for subway delays, behind track work.




    People who hazard the No. 4 subway line each day don’t need the numbers to tell them: It’s slow. Not just slow, it turns out, but of the city’s two dozen or so subway lines, its on-time performance is the poorest and getting worse, according to new statistics released on Monday by New York City Transit.

    The figures were among a raft of dismal performance numbers included in a report to the board of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which oversees the transit agency. They included a 24 percent spike in the number of delays systemwide, measured over the year ending in May, the latest records available.

    The indicators come as the authority is considering a second consecutive year of fare increases to help close a budget gap of nearly $900 million. Transit officials said at least some of the performance problems are tied to past budget cuts in subway car maintenance.

    But officials were at a loss to fully explain the increase in delays. Information about those delays comes mainly from reports by train crews, a method that authority officials acknowledged may not be adequate.

    “Train crews have a menu of different reasons to choose from when they are delayed,” Howard H. Roberts Jr., the president of New York City Transit, told the authority’s board on Monday. “It’s not clear whether what’s being chosen on the menu is in fact the actual cause.”

    The agency has started collecting detailed data on the No. 4 line — the Lexington Avenue express — and another poor performing line, the No. 2, to get at the root of the delays.

    The No. 4, which runs from Woodlawn in the Bronx to Crown Heights and Utica Avenue in Brooklyn, reached its destination on time in only 70.1 percent of its runs in May, the new figures show. That was nearly a 12 percent decline from the same month the previous year.

    The average on-time performance for the rest of the system was 91.5 percent that same month, a 1.62 percent decline from the previous May, according to the agency.

    The No. 4’s average on-time performance for the year was slightly better, at 79.7 percent, a 4.8 percent decrease from the previous 12 months. Over all, the system had a 12-month on-time average of 92 percent, a 1.64 percent decrease from the previous cycle.

    Gene Russianoff, staff lawyer for the Straphangers Campaign, a rider advocacy group, said the agency’s on-time numbers probably don’t reflect how late trains are at busier stations. That’s because trains often make up time in less-crowded stretches before reaching the end of the line, where the number is measured, he said.

    No. 4 riders say delays are worst between Bowling Green in Lower Manhattan and Union Square.

    “It’s getting slower and slower,” said Brian O’Connell, an undergraduate student at New York University who takes the No. 4 to his job as an intern with the Brooklyn district attorney’s office. “One day we stopped at Bowling Green, they told us there was a power outage, we waited 30 minutes and then they said we’re not going anywhere.

    “I had to walk to the A-C at Fulton,” he said, referring to the Eighth Avenue line. “That’s an extreme example, but there are delays all the time.”

    At the Bowling Green station on Monday, riders let out gasps of frustration and amusement when a station agent’s voice came over the intercom. Because of a stalled train at 59th Street, the agent said, their train would be delayed “16 to 30 hours.” Riders were relieved when the train started moving about six minutes later.

    But passengers said those kinds of delays and ambiguous messages were common.

    “They tell us to be patient, I have no choice but to be patient,” said Glenva Brown, 46, who takes the train from the Bronx to Bowling Green on weekdays.

    Harvey Johnson, 43, an actor, takes the train to a temporary job in the financial district. “There are delays and then there are times when it slows or stops on the tracks and they tell you there’s congestion or track work,” he said. “But you’ve been standing on the platform and you know there hasn’t been a train for 15 minutes, so where’s the congestion?”

    Transit officials cite track work, customers holding doors, sick and unruly riders and signal trouble as the leading causes for the delays, based on reports from train crews.

    One mystery: Why have delays on the numbered trains, remnants of the city’s former IRT system, increased at nearly double the rate of lettered trains, 30.3 percent versus 15.5 percent?

    “It’s almost as if we’re operating two systems,” Mr. Roberts told the board.

    A board member, Mark Lebow, called the increases “astonishing,” and asked for quick action.

    “I don’t think you can blame increased ridership, because the commuter railroads have the same increased ridership percentages as the subways do, and they seem to be dealing with it,” Mr. Lebow said. “Their on-time performance is at least as good as it was before and sometimes better.”

    Mr. Lebow said the problems pointed to a “management issue.”

    The distance subway cars travel between mechanical problems was also down a total of 24.75 percent in May, and 5.19 percent over the last 12 months, a downward trend that has continued since 2005 despite older cars being steadily replaced by newer models.

    Mr. Roberts attributed part of the problem to cuts to the agency’s maintenance program. Officials did not have specifics Monday on those cutbacks. But Mr. Roberts said the agency was determined to protect maintenance programs.

    Annie Correal contributed reporting.

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    MTA chief Hemmerdinger gets stop & shop in bus rerouting
    MTA chief Hemmerdinger gets stop & shop in bus rerouting

    BY NICHOLAS HIRSHON
    DAILY NEWS WRITER

    Tuesday, July 22nd 2008, 9:30 PM

    The MTA will reroute another bus past its chairman's family-run shopping mall in Queens, defying a community board's 39-to-1 vote against the switch and marking the second such reroute in just over a year, officials said.

    Starting Sept. 1, the Q45 bus - which runs from Jackson Heights to Middle Village - will extend its route about 1.4 miles south to stop at the Shops at Atlas Park in Glendale, co-owned by MTA Chairman Dale Hemmerdinger.

    In July 2007, the MTA diverted the Q54 a few blocks off its old path so it, too, could stop at Atlas Park.

    Critics charge Hemmerdinger orchestrated both reroutes to benefit the mall - run by his son, Damon - despite nearby residents' concerns about noise, traffic and pollution.

    "This is like sticking it to the people of Glendale," said Gary Giordano, district manager of Community Board 5. "This is a crazy move that is going to hurt [Atlas Park's] goodwill with the community even further."

    The board, which plays an advisory role in city government, voted overwhelmingly against the Q45 reroute on June 11.

    A month later, on July 11, MTA Bus President Joseph Smith sent a letter to Giordano thanking the board for its input - but announcing the reroute would still go forward.

    Dorie Figliola, one of 39 board members who voted against the Q45 switch, figured Dale Hemmerdinger guided it through to boost business at Atlas Park.

    "If the shoe fits, I guess you could wear it," she said. "There's people in other areas that have been asking for buses ... and they can't get them."

    But MTA Bus spokesman Salvatore Arena denied that Dale Hemmerdinger - confirmed as MTA chief on Oct. 22 - pushed for the bus reroutes.

    "The chairman played no role whatsoever in this decision, which we began exploring long before his appointment," Arena said in an e-mail. "We went ahead with it because it makes good sense as transit policy."

    In Smith's letter, he defended reroutes past malls as a way to let customers "access these malls and patronize their shops."

    Smith also wrote that MTA Bus "would not make this revision if we thought that it did not provide benefits to the public or results in an inconvenience to our customers."

    Damon Hemmerdinger, the mall's development director, noted that the MTA dropped its original plan to send the bus to Myrtle Ave. in Ridgewood - six blocks further than Atlas Park.

    He said locals preferred the MTA's eventual choice: a shorter route and the Q45 turning around in Atlas Park. "The final route is the route that the community leadership asked for," Hemmerdinger said.

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