Today’s Headlines

  • Goldsmith Loves Congestion Pricing, BRT, But Did He Roll Back E. Side Bike Lanes? (Transpo Nation)
  • Term Limits Only Big Ticket Charter Revision on Ballot (NYTWSJ)
  • As Family Mourns Bus Stop Crash Victim, Summons Given for Illegal U-Turn (NewsPost)
  • Fashionistas Bring Double-Parking, Engine-Idling Glamour to City Hall (Daily Politics)
  • Daily News Editorials: Let the TWU Operate One Van Line
  • …And Bring on (High-Tech, Private-Sector) Bike-Sharing
  • DOT to Unveil New "Pop Up Cafes" for Ped Plazas (Transpo Nation)
  • Major Rush Hour Delays Plague NJ Transit Once a Week in July (WSJ
  • SF Bridge Pricing Cuts Rush Hour Delays by Half (Transpo Nation)
  • The Onion: "Millions of Barrels of Oil Safely Reach Port in Major Environmental Catastrophe" 

More headlines at Streetsblog Capitol Hill

  • I love the idea of a bike share program, and while it would be nice to be able to use your phone to process payments, bike share certainly should not be limited to people that have smart phones. The whole point is to make this accessible to the masses, not make an expensive phone a prerequisite.

    Gotta love the Onion. Totally nailed the disconnect in the public’s ming over the environmental impact of oil…

  • Mike Epstein

    The full Goldsmith interview is an absolute must-read.

    It’s worrisome that one of the few questions he simply refuses to answer is about how we can reduce traffic fatalities. If the man who oversees both the NYPD and the DOT hasn’t thought about the issue, who in city government has?

  • JK

    Can someone explain how it is so much cheaper to provide a TWU run van service than TWU/MTA run bus service? Aren’t labor costs the largest component of bus service expenses? Don’t you have higher labor costs/passenger with a smaller vehicle? If driver compensation is the same, providing more service with smaller vehicles, means more drivers and higher labor costs. Therefore, TWU operated van service could only offer comparable costs if there huge savings on vehicle operation (fuel and maintenance) and mgmt overhead.

  • Larry Littlefield

    “Can someone explain how it is so much cheaper to provide a TWU run van service than TWU/MTA run bus service?”

    They should be forced to explain it, but I believe two factors contribute:

    The bad news: the van service will not be paying for debts and the retired and near retired, which is where most transportation (and other public services) funding will be going for the next two decades. And the health insurance of the young, laid off drivers will presumably be much cheaper than for older workers, let alone the retired.

    The good news:

    “Aren’t labor costs the largest component of bus service expenses? Don’t you have higher labor costs/passenger with a smaller vehicle? If driver compensation is the same, providing more service with smaller vehicles, means more drivers and higher labor costs.”

    Only if you assume it takes the same cost labor to drive a van as a bus. The smaller, easier to drive vans will be driven by rookies and near rookies paid less, which makes sense.

    And as for the labor/cost per passenger, you are talking about routes with very few passengers. If you are only going to carrying a handful of people in either case, a van getting 15 mpg with a rookie driver costs less than a 40 foot long, 60 passenger bus getting 5 mpg driven by a bus rodeo winner.

    You had a similar issue on the Staten Island Ferry. The city wanted to hire NYC Water Taxi with its smaller boats to run the overnight service, since running those massive ferries empty made little economic/environmental sense. The union refused, and demanded that the city purchase its own small boats.

    One way or another, all the overnight service should be on vans.

  • ddartley

    Goldsmith was on Morning Edition today. When asked if there was any truth to the speculation that he had something to do with nixing certain sections of the 1st and 2nd Aves bike lanes, he said, “Er… nooooooooooooo, not exaaaactly….” Asked, “can you elaborate?” He said “No.”

    I only relay this cause it’s interesting; I’m not up in arms looking for someone to blame about gaps in the bike lane. I’m actually disappointed by the bike lanes, now that the stretch I ride appears to be finished. I commute about 40 blocks of 1st Ave every day and am very disappointed in the bike lane’s lack of safety from left-turning vehicles and surprisingly high susceptibility to car parking in the lane.

    The Onion nails it–I actually heard a guy on either NPR or PBS a couple weeks ago say, “the oil spilling into the gulf is an environmental disaster. But if it hadn’t spilled, then it gets refined and pumped into vehicles that burn it, which is also an environmental disaster.”

    Hey, at least it wasn’t foreign oil, right? Cause that stuff is way worse!

  • ddartley

    Perhaps these popup cafes will be better than the “programming” the city has provided (and, annoyingly, corporations have sponsored) in the pedestrian plazas.

    When that happens, it’s totally a case of “Hey! Here’s some pedestrian space for you, to relieve the crowding” and then “Whoops! No, we’ll have that space back, thank you. Gotta put up a salsa class, or some Sovereign Bank promotion!”

  • Ian Turner

    Perhaps the TWU will not enforce asinine work rules on itself?

  • I like that there is discussion for bike share. Any hope, folks, that the Bloomberg/JSK team unveils a real pilot bike share program before Bloomy’s third term is up?
    I hope so.

  • Larry Littlefield

    Bike share would be great if it weren’t for the thieves, vandals and lawyers who would sue the city on behalf of anyone injured while not wearing a helmet (because the city didn’t provide one with the bike).

    I’m not sure how to get around the three plagues, other than to suggest initial targeting at commuters at transportation hubs, to centralize at least one end of the trip, and try to get office buildings and stores to take the bikes at the other end.

  • Larry,

    There have been problems with thieves and vandals in Paris. And there are lawyers in Paris, too, though French speaking.

    Despite the ongoing issues with vandalism and theft the program remains wildly popular and successful.

    We gotta try it before we decide it won’t work.

    BK

  • MRN

    Re: Pop-up cafes

    I walk by the demo pop-up every day. I don’t like them. While they’re attractive, and I’m sure given better weather I’d love to sit outside and drink my coffee there, I don’t understand why DOT is involved – there is nothing transportation related about this project. The Broadway street closure is one thing – managing intersection traffic, creating new avenues and space for pedestrian traffic are legitimate DOT goals – but I don’t see the connection with the pop-up cafe’s. Additionally, why does Fika, a fancy cafe for Wall Street-types, get publicly provided outdoor seating – within the right of way(!) – while, for example, Cobble Hill Coffeeshop does not? If it turns out that Fika has a lease agreement with the city for the space, I’ll drop the issue, but the lack of any clear transportation nexus coupled with the giveaway of public space to a private entity (yes, I know, “anyone” can sit there) smells fishy to me.

  • Larry Littlefield:

    When JK asked, “Can someone explain how it is so much cheaper to provide a TWU run van service than TWU/MTA run bus service?,” you replied, “paying for debts and the retired and near retired … is where most transportation (and other public services) funding will be going for the next two decades.”

    Glossing over the fact that JK was asking about the present and you were writing about the (near) future, can you document your assertion (as I understand it) that debt service and pensions now (or soon will) account for a majority of MTA costs?

  • Answer MRN

    To answer MRN: It involves parking spaces. It is a street issue. Thus DOT. Simple. It’s not a parks issue, which might be the next closest agency to get involved. What agency would you have run these?

    There was a good Streetfilm on these a few months ago in San Francisco. They looked like they worked well there.

  • J:Lai

    “Bike share would be great if it weren’t for the thieves, vandals and lawyers who would sue the city on behalf of anyone injured while not wearing a helmet (because the city didn’t provide one with the bike).”

    I don’t see any reason why helmets couldn’t be provided.

    Regarding thieves and vandals, this isn’t 1980. With proper locking mechanisms, and regular inspections and maintenance of the bike fleet, I would expect theft and vandalism to be pretty minimal.

  • Larry Littlefield

    Perhaps half is an exaggeration, but perhaps not much. Consider page 16 of this document:

    http://www.mta.info/mta/budget/july2010/july2010_vol1.pdf

    In 2014, MTA-wide operating revenue is forecast to be $7 billion, with pension contributions at $1.3 billion, debt service at at $2.6 billion, and other money that should be set aside for the retired (Other Post Employment Benefits or OPEB) at $1.7 billion. That adds to $5.5 billion of $7 billion.

    Now they won’t set aside money for the OPEB, but that will have to be paid eventually (or does it?). On a cash basis, my guess is at least have of the health and welfare spending is for the retirees, which brings to total for debt service and the retired to $4.3 billion compared with $7 billion in operating revenues.

    Yes the MTA has tax-based revenues as well. But it also has to run the system and reinvest in the infrastructure (or does it?). And that kind of support hasn’t been going up, and the next decade looks bleak.

    Moreover, the MTA pension assumptions and debt service assumptions are optimistic. They put the MTA in variable rate debt, which could explode if there is high inflation to get out of all our debts. And if there is deflation, or even zero inflation, because we can’t get out of all our debts, pension costs are going to explode. Without 6 percent inflation, you aren’t getting an 8 percent nominal return on assets.

  • Larry Littlefield

    Following up, let’s say the MTA has to cut services. Well, absent something like bankruptcy it can’t cut debt service, pensions, and OPEB. So the more it cuts, the higher the share of those categories at the expense of the total.

    And if that cuts revenue by driving people to transit alternatives, or (because the region cannot function without transit) jobs out of the region, well, just flush your toilet for a forecast.

  • Total MTA operating costs are about $12 billion, but there’s also depreciation on capital assets.

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