Queens Blogger Runs His Own Commuter Contest

By way of comment on Mayor Bloomberg’s congestion pricing proposal and, perhaps, in response to Transportation Alternatives’ recent bike vs. subway vs. taxi commuter contest, the author of Queens Crap, a blog focused on local development issues, conducted his own rush hour comparison test. Here are his results:

8:00: left house, walked to bus

8:03: arrived at bus stop

8:07: bus scheduled to arrive

8:23: bus arrived, packed*

8:55: bus deposited Crapper at subway

8:56: Crapper boarded Manhattan bound train

9:10: Crapper switched for uptown express

9:25: Train arrived, Crapper boarded**

9:40: Crapper emerged from subway and walked

9:45: Crapper arrived at work, 45 minutes late (and was out 3/4 hour pay)

Total commuting time: 1 hr, 45 minutes

Transit cost: $4 (including return home)

Wages lost: $32

Total cost: $36

Number of times Crapper was late this month because of the MTA: 6

Alternate route taken by Crapper’s neighbor:

8:00: Left house

8:10: Arrived at Queens Midtown Tunnel

8:25: Got to other side of tunnel

8:40: Arrived at parking garage

8:45: Had breakfast

9:00: Arrived at work

Total commuting time: 40 minutes

Transit & parking cost: $27

Wages lost: $0

Total cost: $27

Number of times neighbor was late this month because of traffic: 2

Yes, congestion pricing will improve the average New Yorker’s commute and quality of life.

The Crapper will now be carpooling with neighbor and splitting cost.



* Reason bus was late: driver called out sick and there was no replacement for him

** Reason train was late: it was announced, but God knows what was said on the PA system

Perhaps Mr. Crapper wants to consider skipping the bus altogether and riding a bicycle to the subway station?

  • mike

    Does Mr. Crapper understand that it is other private cars on the road that makes the bus slow?

  • Spud Spudly

    The bus is slow for a lot of reasons, chiefly that it stops every two blocks to let people on and off.

    If Mr. Crapper takes a bike to the subway station then what does he do with the bike once he gets there? Take it on the packed subway or leave it chained up and pray it’s still there when he gets back?

    The real answer for Mr. Crapper is to leave his house earlier.

  • pinto

    if you spend $27 driving to work 20 days per month, the total cost far exceeds that of the buses or train being late a few times per month.

    not to mention the environmental impact.

  • I know a guy who chains an old beat up bike near the Union Square subway station overnight and uses it five days a week to finish off his commute to work. I imagine that that’s feasible in Queens too, if this guy wanted to try to skip the horrible bus ride and just bike it between home and subway.

  • Coyote

    That was not fair, you left out Crapper’s conclusion: Mr. Crapper is going to carpool with his neighbor.

    Carpooling is still a sustainable solution. Especially where public transport is underdeveloped.

  • Crapper gets points for carpooling. That’s a perfectly fine sustainability solution.

    But crapper loses points for expecting the bus to be on time and for not realizing why the bus is late. It’s a good sign that the bus is packed. It’s bad that the MTA can’t get the buses to run on a more frequent and regular schedule.

  • Gizler

    Yes, carpooling is a good option, especially in NYC. But let’s not forget the congestion pricing money is going to improve transit, and you can’t put the cart before the horse.

  • You guys don’t understand. I can’t ride a bike to the train even if I wanted to because I have a knee injury and have been advised against it. But if I could, I would not ride a bike to the train anyway because I do not want to be a sweaty mess on my way to work and at work. Even if I left earlier, if my bus driver does not show up for work, I am screwed. Get it? The MTA didn’t have a replacement for him so there just was no 8:07 bus. When the next bus finally did show up, there were 2 busloads on board instead of the usual one. The bus was then therefore slow because it stopped and picked up all the other people who had piled up at the stops, not because of car traffic! Get it? You can tell who rides buses and who doesn’t by the nonsense they post. And FYI, there is a 3-person carpool, so I will be paying less per ride than I would on the LIRR or express bus (like an express bus route would be mapped through blue-collar Queens).

  • Jim

    I think congestion pricing will drive more people to cars. If some people give up their cars and take the train to avoid paying high fees, then that many more people will give up the train and carpool to work after they realize the crush of humanity that will descend upon them. They’ll share the cost of driving like the Crapper is with his neighbor. They can’t possibly increase train service on some lines. The 7 train runs every 2 minutes and by Woodside station it’s a crapshoot as to whether or not you’ll manage to get on. It’s going to be a nightmare.

  • Vivian Darkbloom

    I thought QC was a woman. Do you know that the blogger is a man, or are you just assuming?

  • QC reflects the frustration with “unreliable service” by a public monopoly that is relatively insulated from the day-to-day complaints of it’s customers. I hope the new MTA leadership will become much more responsive to legitimate customer complaints such as QC’s.

    I also agree with leaving earlier QC. When I lived in Queens, I found that leaving around 7:30am was dramatically better than 8am. It depends on the job you have and how flexible your hours are, but it could make your ride.

    And I’m all for carpooling but I like the freedom of leaving on my own schedule and using mass transit instead of constantly negotiating with other people’s schedules. But I wish you the best!

  • AD

    This is only a per-trip comparison! The crapper will be getting a subsidized deal on the carpool. The neighbor is being generous for allowing the crapper to use his or her car and only pay the per-trip costs (gas parking etc.), not the amount the neighbor must pay for insurance, depreciation and maintenance, which are much bigger annual costs than gas and parking. The MTA doesn’t have that luxury, so the $4 fare helps pay for insurance, maintenance and depreciation.

    Society as a whole would save a lot of money if everyone didn’t have to buy their own cars, but could share cars for use when they were actually needed.

  • some dude

    Regardless of Crapper’s commendable resolution to carpool, I don’t understand how he (she?) came to the conclusion that driving is somehow a better option financially compared to mass transit. If it costs $27 a day to drive in and park, and assuming the two $32 “lost wages” amount is constant, that’s $540 a month to drive in and park plus $64 for lost wages…at a monthly total of $604. The “lost wages” for mass transit in this example amounts to $216, plus the $80 monthly subway/bus fare, means the monthly total is $296. So it still costs less than HALF as much to take mass transit. Am I missing something? Of course, there are the intangibles like convenience and overall frustration…but these are somewhat offset by the environmental impact and the contribution to overall traffic.

  • AD

    Also look at some of the long-term ramifications of these two commutes.

    Health: The Crapper got eight minutes worth of moderate cardiovascular exercise by walking. The driving neighbor didn’t get that, but did have time to eat an unspecified breakfast. Was it Cheerios or bacon, egg and cheese on a roll? A walking lifestyle will help in the years down the road.

    Environment: The driver also got a subsidized ride for being able to pollute for free, unless he or she uses carbon offsets.

  • SPer

    QC makes a great argument for congestion pricing. The added cost will encourage more carpooling. The decrease in cars on the road will make all forms of surface transportation quicker. QC and his neighbor and whoever else carpools with them will enjoy a quicker ride to work, and so will those who cannot afford $27 per day in parking fees and so must take the bus. It’s a win all the way around.

    The fact is that relatively few working people can afford $150 bucks a week in parking fees. Let’s put to rest the lie that congestion pricing will be a “tax on working people.” Yes, it’s a tax all right, but a tax that will benefit the vast majority of working people.

    Of course, there are always some who lose in any new situation. City employees who have been enjoying free parking, other employees whose companies subsidize their parking. But when we are looking at transporation, we are, of necessity, talking about the common good. There is no doubt that the common good is served by congestion pricing on multiple levels — in terms of improved business conditions, improved health conditions, and improved quality of life for the vast majority of New Yorkers.

  • AD

    Why is the transit cost $4 for a round-trip? On a pay-per-ride basis, the bus is $2 (really $1.80 with the buy-10-rides-get-one-free deal), and the subway is another $2 ($1.80). On the way back, the subway is $2 ($1.80), and the bus is free with a transfer. So the total should be $6 ($5.40) for a round-trip or $4 ($3.60) for just the morning commute.

  • AD: Free transfer both ways, not just from subway to bus. The real cost is $1.67 each commute, or $3.33 both ways, after 6-for-5 discount.

  • Alex D.

    AD – the cost is $4 round trip because you get a free Metrocard transfer between the subway and bus (you don’t get a free transfer if you pay the bus with coins, but who does that any more?). Actually as you point out with the 11 for the price of 10, the cost is $3.60 round trip.

    @alex

  • AD

    Thanks guys. I thought the free transfer worked only in one direction. And thanks for the correction: It’s 6-for-5, not 11-for-10.

  • ruby

    Yup, and it doesn’t have to be two bucks a ride if they buy a monthly pass (which would, of course, also then work for non-work trips and weekends – yay!). Plus, on the bus/train you get to read and people watch and eavesdrop. You usually arrive at your destination with a story. I bike most everywhere now and while I love it, I miss those aspects of public transit. I never being stuck in a car.

    If the bus ride is only about 30 minutes on a day when it’s super slow I wonder how far away the train stop is from this person’s house. Have they tried walking to the train, it might take slightly longer but you get to start the day in a nice way and walking usually takes less time than folks expect it will.

  • TO build on Ruby’s point, I find walking and biking to be the absolute most reliable forms of transportation. It is pretty much the same 17-20 minutes to walk and 5 minutes to bike a given mile in NYC streets, less if there are fewer intersections or through a park. It’s the same weekday/weekend, night or day.

  • Spud Spudly

    Mr. Crapper has already stated he has a knee problem which precludes him from biking. I would assume this means he can’t walk very far either.

    Congestion pricing is likely to mean more congested buses and subways. It takes a long time to unload and load a crowded bus when it stops every two blocks. It’s doubtful that congestion pricing will speed his commute very much, especially since he only takes the bus to the subway and not all the way into the city.

    It will however speed the commute for people who have the money to pay $8/day. People who can’t afford to pay? Well…they can ride the even more crowded subways and buses. And people like me who live in Manhattan just a few blocks north of 86th street? I guess we’ll have to see whether traffic will get worse in my neighborhood or not.

    (Not that we’re ever going to find out since this issue is DOA in Albany)

  • da

    Doesn’t seem fair to compare an exceptional commute via mass transit (i.e. driver misses run) with a normal commute via carpool.

    If we factor in a “normal” commute via mass transit, then QC’s commute is 45 minutes less, he’s not late for work, he’s not out $32 in wages, and the total cost is only $4.

  • ruby

    I would not assume the knee problem that prevents him from biking would prevent him from walking – those are very different motions.

    I also agree that this was an exceptional day on mass transit, and those days certainly happen in cars too – a crash ahead, a road closed for construction…

  • I commute into Manhattan only 3 days a week, so the carpool cost is not as astronomical as you think, and I do not currently use an unlimited ride card because it won’t be used. I live more than a mile away from the closest subway station. I swim and lift weights every night at the gym, but thanks for your concern about my cardiovascular health. Mass transit is not a one size fits all solution, and you need to understand that it is a big burden to travel that way for many folks in the outer boroughs is all I’m saying.

  • ruby

    I know I’m such a polyanna about walking and biking, but I walk over a mile to my subway stop when I need to take it. I swear it won’t take as long as you think, and you’ll probably enjoy it – not for the exercise aspect, more for the chance to look around, see what your neighbors are up to in the morning, have some time outdoors among people but alone with your thoughts. Even most bikers I know don’t walk very much. I seriously think we could all use some more of it – and if you live less than two miles from the subway it’s the perfect chance!

  • d

    Why are people crapping on the Crapper?

    Everyone seems to be imposing their methods on him. “I like walking so you will, too!” “I walk a mile to my subway station, why can’t you give it a try?” “I’ve never met you, and I’m not a doctor, but I’ll diagnose your knee problem in a blog comment!”

    Give the guy a break. Solving our transit woes will take multiple solutions and QC found something that works for him. He’s carpooling with two other people. If every car that went in and out of Manhattan had at least three people in it, even for only three days a week, the city would be better off.

  • Steve

    QC can do as he likes. But I do offer this: especially as the weather gets warmer, bicyclists tend to arrive at work less sweaty and disheveled (and less stressed out) than most counterparts taking the train. There is nothing worse than a crowded, un-airconditioned subway platform. Plus if you bike regularly it takes more exercise more to make you break a sweat.

  • “I’ll diagnose your knee problem in a blog comment!”

    It’s what he opened himself up to by reporting his own experiences on his own weblog. But yeah these suggestions are getting a little weird. We should probably be glad that he supports congestion pricing and move on; Queens residents who understand that it takes money to fix congestion, and are willing to pay it, are very good news for getting it implemented. (Especially since so many ignorant transit users taking surveys released this morning don’t seem to get it.)

  • SPer

    QC write: “Mass transit is not a one size fits all solution, and you need to understand that it is a big burden to travel that way for many folks in the outer boroughs is all I’m saying.”

    Well, define “many”. The vast majority of outer borough residents take mass transit, so we are already talking about a minority of people.

    Research shows a number of things, including that MANY of the people who drive only do so because they have free or subsidized parking. It also shows that some people who drive do so not because it is a “big” burden to take mass transit, but simply because they prefer driving. For some of those who do drive by car to Manhattan, the trip on mass transit wouldn’t take any longer, but it wouldn’t afford them the privacy of an automobile.

    Nobody is arguing that cars should be banned from driving into Manhattan altogether. There will always be people for whom driving will make sense — like carpoolers. I also don’t think there is really any question that we have to reduce automobile congestion. And I don’t see that there is any other way to do so other than congestion pricing.

  • I think MTA data puts average fares today somewhere between $1.30 and $1.40 because of the proliferation of unlimited-ride monthly MetroCards.

  • momos

    The lesson from QC’s experience seems to have escaped many people: public transit outside Manhattan, while still better than in the rest of the nation (a laughable and basically meaningless comparison), is not what it should be.

    I’m an avid bicyclist and have made many phone calls to state pols to tell them to implement congestion pricing.

    However, QC reminds us once again that even in America’s most urban city, public transit is of third world quality. The MTA is no RAPT or Deutsche Bahn. Hong Kong, Tokyo, Paris, Berlin and even London have transit systems that are vastly superior to ours. Fast and gleaming trains, quiet buses with low floors and ergonomic seats, modern trams, integrated schedules, low fares and efficient service characterize those systems, but not the MTA.

    To correct this we need massive new investment in our system with changes driven by efficiency, good design and ease of use.

    These observations are not “pro-car” or “anti-congestion pricing.” They call for a major reinvigoration of the city’s transit infrastructure.

    Yet another reason to support congestion pricing and the hundreds of millions of new revenue it will generate for transit. QC’s on our side.

  • Spud Spudly

    Did I miss something? When did Senor Crapper say he supports congestion pricing? I’ve been reading his blog “Queens Crap” for many months now and it does not support congestion pricing.

    http://queenscrap.blogspot.com/2007/05/john-liu-wants-to-tax-you.html

  • Niccolo Machiavelli

    And, I think the “on time performance” of the LIE Midtown tunnel combination is vastly overstated. At least half the time there is an enormous back up on that roadway either going or coming at rush hour. There is very little scrutiny to highway “on time performance”. QC clearly lives in the Queens hinterland and could be a good candidate for LIRR East Side Access or increased commuter rail service.

  • epkwy

    “They can’t possibly increase train service on some lines. The 7 train runs every 2 minutes and by Woodside station it’s a crapshoot as to whether or not you’ll manage to get on.”

    True – any more than you can speed up cars on a congested road way.

    But what proved true in NYC in the Moses years – the “if you build it they will come” growth of both highway miles and cars using those highway miles – probably holds true for the subways, no?

    If you build more subway lines, especially in neighborhoods that are underserved, you will get more subway riders. Maybe not less crowded cars, maybe not increased commute times, but more people as an aggregate will use trains than other methods.

    Look at a map of Queens with the subway lines overlaid (not the MTA map – too distorted). The coverage is pathetic. If this city had the wherewithal and the desire (it lacks both) to push the E, F, G, V, R, 7 etc. deeper into Queens, instead of servicing 10021 with ANOTHER train line, or create new lines, branch lines, whatever, that would do wonders.

  • VDH

    spud, he did not say it. Ppl are arguing that QC’s very arguments prove that congestion pricing will work due to the revenue it will bring in for mass transport improvements.

  • much cheaper and quicker to implement would be a dramatic improvement of bus service in all boroughs. the problem of buses being slowed down as people pay to get on could be solved by BRT-style bus stations, where you pay when entering the station rather than on the bus.

    of course really improving bus service would require dedicated bus lanes which would take road space away from cars… but the spatial efficiency of a bus carrying 100 people versus a private car carrying even 4 people (but more likely to hold 1 or 2) is pretty compelling.

  • I took this as support of congestion pricing: “Yes, congestion pricing will improve the average New Yorker’s commute and quality of life.”

  • I took this as support of congestion pricing: “Yes, congestion pricing will improve the average New Yorker’s commute and quality of life.”

    Doc: that was me being facetious. I realize that doesn’t come across well in internet posts.

    I would not be opposed to congestion pricing if the subways and buses were currently running half empty. But they are crowded to point where you have to allow 2 or 3 to go by before you can squeeze onto one at certain points. If one is delayed, fuhgeddabout getting to work on time, even if you give yourself extra time to arrive at your destination. Maybe the city should offer incentives to some businesses to start their work days an hour or two later in order to more evenly spread out the number of commuters utilizing the system at any given time. Or maybe they should offer carpool staging areas as they do in many towns outside the city. Why should anyone who lives within city limits face a 2-hour commute to Manhattan? It’s simply ludicrous to suggest that people who live in areas underserved by public transit spend 4 hours or more per day to get to and from work. My aunt lives in Suffolk county and can get home faster on the LIRR than I can taking the train and bus at times. Sound insane? It is. And it’s reality for a lot of people in Queens.

  • Niccolo Machiavelli

    Clearly portions of Queens, large portions of Queens needs commuter rail service. But you should ask your family out in Suffolk what they are paying for their express LIRR ride into Midtown. Thats one thing about the end of the two fare zones, the areas that benefitted the most (and believe it or not QC your difficult MTA schlep from outer Queens is one of the most heavily subsidized rides in the MTA) would have benefitted more from increased service than from the one-fare zone. Most of outer Queens and Brooklyn have long forgotten about the two fare zones, like they were born with a free transfer. Much like Staten Island has forgotten ever paying for the ferry (that is the most heavily subsidized transportation but not part of the MTA).

  • JK

    Crapper

    I hear you. I lived in Astoria/LIC for seven years and worked in Midtown. It’s why I became a bike commuter. Door to door bike was 20 minutes, train an hour. Walking was an hour. That was 15+ years ago. A couple times I got stuck with jury duty in Kew Gardens in the middle of dark, wet winter. It was a total nightmare getting there — I had no car. All this said, because things stink in Queens now seems like a good reason to support pricing, not oppose it.

    Also, how about calling the Queens politicians on the bogus chicken/egg statement in which they call for implementing massive transit improvements before installing the pricing needed to generate funding for those same improvements.

  • I understand what you’re saying, JK, but how do you implement the pricing before the improvements are put in place? It will be chaos for God knows how many years while the MTA gets up to speed.

  • If a person has to use a car (and I’m not weighing in), then we should try to get that car as full as possible and for everyone to pay full costs and their fair share. GoLoco is a new company that provides for that — an easy online way to share all-in car costs, schedule the meetings, and travel within social networks of people you know. Facebook meets the ride board, or LinkIn meets…

  • JK

    Crapper re: transit improvement/pricing chicken egg.

    As soon as pricing is installed, traffic delays to buses crossing the East River and using Qns and Northern Blvd will improve. Yes, more buses should be added to those lines anyway,and subway station helpers should also be added. But the number of people who will shift from car to transit from pricing is very small compared to the exisiting number of transit riders. Another arguement for pricing is that lots of bus riders will benefit versus small number of solo commuters affected. Anyway, it won’t be a tidal wave of humanity switching to transit.

    Point is that pricing allows for more and better bus service in Qns. This is the lesson from London.

  • Angus Grieve-Smith

    Crapper echoes a common concern I read from many on QueensCrap and other Queens-oriented blogs. I think something that may help address that concern would be some number-crunching to address these questions. Of the people currently driving, say, from Queens to Manhattan right now:

    How many people would continue to drive and pay the fee?
    How many would take the 7 train instead? The E, F, R, J, N?
    How many would take the LIRR? How many people from Long Island would switch to the LIRR?
    How many would take express buses? Local buses? How many more people could we expect to see on the Q60, for example?

    Another thing I’ll add, Crapper, is that the Planyc transportation report details several improvements that can easily be put into place before congestion pricing, like bus lanes on Queens Boulevard and the Queensborough Bridge. It’s broken down by neighborhood, and I’d be interested to know if any of those improvements would help your commute.

  • From sarcasm comes inadvertent wisdom, then. The “average person” takes mass transit to work by a wide margin; the funding from congestion pricing will improve his commute and quality of life. (Note! This is not an ironic statement.) The only argument a Queens motorist can make against pricing is a selfish one.

    And a mistaken one, at that. Accounting for the carpooling effect that this will have on people who continue to take personal cars to work, congestion pricing is in their interests as well. QC’s neighbor pays $27 now to get work? With pricing and a two-person carpool, they each pay $17.50 and benefit from a less traffic. Get with the program, people.

  • Jason

    As the plan currently stans, aren’t all congestion pricing funds strictly reserved for the major capital projects? While I’d love to see the 2nd Avenue Subway built, shouldn’t most of these added revenues be targeted towards system and service improvements?(particularly in Eastern Queens, Southern Brooklyn and Staten Island) If the mayor came out in favor of robust funding for areas currently underserviced by transit, I think that would go a long way towards winning over commuters like Mr. Crapper.

  • Angus Grieve-Smith

    Jason (and Crapper and anyone else who’s interested), here is the 166 page, 25 megabyte PDF file showing what the money would be spent on. It’s worth reading.

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