MTA Budget, 7 Line And West Side Yards
The hot topics this week?
- The MTA $8 billion-plus budget and its four-year financial plan;
- The City's proposal to buy the MTA's rail yards in Manhattan; and
- The status of the planned extension of the 7 line to the Far West Side of mid-town Manhattan.
To its credit, the MTA's budget process is a great deal more open than it used to be. In the bad old days, the MTA would hold off releasing any proposed budget until late November or early December and then approve it unchanged a few days later. The calendar 2007 budget will be posted on the MTA's website - www.mta.info - and you will get a chance to take a look at it long before the Board approves a final budget.
Less to its credit, the sale of the yards is pretty opaque, certainly as far as the public goes. So is the fate of the 7 line extension, which appears tied to the sale.
As I write (the day before the MTA Board meeting), rumors swirl about whether they will vote on the 7 line project and complex yards sale, released just three weeks ago.
Here is a letter we sent with Transport Workers Union Local 100 President Roger Toussaint, urging that all the affected parties be given more time. (An earlier letter counseling delay was sent by several civic and transportation groups, including us and the Regional Plan Association; Transportation Alternatives, the Tri-State Transportation Campaign; and the Natural Resources Defense Council.)
Posted Jul 26 2006 by Gene Russianoff
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Keeping cool is the number one thing on riders' minds these days, as they wait in sweltering stations and try to avoid getting on non-airconditioned cars.
The later concern is thankfully unlikely. Some 20 years ago, surveys found an unacceptably high rise of cars without a/c. That was a function both of an aging fleet and senior maintainers going on summer vacations! To New York City Transit's credit, they have rehabilitated much of their fleet of 6,200 cars as well as bought new ones, and changed their vacation policies.
I wish I could say there was a lot that could be done about hot stations. Most stations were built 70 to 100 years ago and have poor ventilation.
New York City Transit has tried two experiments in recent years. One was a success (air cooling units overhead at the 42nd Street-Grand Central Terminal), one a loser (high speed fans at 14th Street-Union Square.) The former is unique, using water available at GCT. The later blew around hot air.
This reminds one of a mystery writer's description of the impact of California's hot, dry Santa Ana winds: "There was a desert wind blowing that night. It was one of those hot dry Santa Anas that come down through the mountain passes and curl your hair and make your nerves jump and your skin itch. On nights like that every booze party ends in a fight. Meek little wives feel the edge of the carving knife and study their husbands' necks. Anything can happen."
Posted Jul 19 2006 by Gene Russianoff
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MetroCard To SmartCard?
Riders want new and easy ways to pay their fare. The more convenient the payment options, the more people are likely to use transit. So we congratulate the MTA for its pilot fare payment project which aims to eventually convert MetroCard over to the use of "SmartCards" which act similar to E-ZPass and do not require a swipe to operate.
We do not believe that new fare payment options will mean a loss of jobs. A human presence will always be need in the subways. That's why we support New York City Transit's "station customer agent" initiative, in which clerks come out of the booths to assist riders in a variety of key ways, including giving directions, helping with MetroCard Vending Machines, aiding people with disabilities, and reporting emergencies.
Posted Jul 11 2006 by Gene Russianoff
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Revisting The West Side
Last week, we weighed in on a proposal from the Mayor and Council Speaker to buy the MTA's midtown rail yards, which the City unsuccessfully tried to use for a new New York Jets stadium last year. Our comments are below. What do you think?
STATEMENT ON CITY'S PROPOSED PURCHASE OF MTA RAIL YARDS
Friday, July 7, 2006
The NYPIRG Straphangers Campaign has questions about Mayor Bloomberg's proposal today to buy the MTA’s Western Yards for $300 million and the air rights to the Eastern Yards for $200 million.
We think the yards are worth far more money and we urge the MTA to be a hard bargainer. We would note that the MTA's own appraiser valued the Western Yards alone at $929 million.
The City acknowledges that the MTA needs to raise $1 billion in the sale of its assets to fully fund its critical five-year rebuilding program. Yet, if this deal goes through, the MTA could fall at least $400 million short of its goal. That could mean hundreds of millions less for new subway cars, buses, commuter rail trains, station rehabilitations, and infrastructure, such as track and signals.
This is a complex deal whose value is a challenge to determine, turning on such factors as the costs of constructing platforms, and the value of development and the impact of the yet-to-be decided zoning for the Western Yards.
For that very reason, we urge that the MTA not approve a sale on these terms at its late July meeting. It is critical that the appropriate governmental checks and balances have time to review the proposal and express their opinions when it counts. These include the State and City Comptrollers, the state legislature, and the New York City Independent Budget Office.
The City says it wants the MTA Board to act three weeks from now at its July meeting. It argues that it needs to complete the deal in order to move forward quickly on building on the site and an extension on the #7. This argument deserves the same skepticism that greeted the City's claim in 2005 that the now-defeated Jets West Side Stadium had to be approved immediately or New York City would imperil its 2012 Olympic bid.
Posted Jul 10 2006 by Gene Russianoff
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