Today’s Headlines

  • Select Bus Service Only Gets NYC Part of the Way to a Real BRT Network (CapNY)
  • Kimmelman: Don’t Rebuild the City the Same as It Was Before the Storm (NYT)
  • Delivery Trucker Kills Skateboarder Near Union Square North (Gothamist)
  • Goodbye, Punching Bag — NYers Rate MTA’s Sandy Response Higher Than Red Cross’s (TransNat)
  • Can Inflatable Subway Tube Plugs Withstand the Next Flood and the Rats? (NYT)
  • Giuliani Camp Feeds the Lhota-for-Mayor Buzz (WSJ)
  • With Roads and Rails Devastated By Sandy, NJ Needs to Rethink Its Transpo Priorities (MTR)
  • Idling, Illegally Parked Livery Cars Swamp Neighborhood Streets Near Barclays Center (Bklyn Paper)
  • Times Transpo Beat: The Rental Car Situation Right Now Is So Seinfeldian
  • Daniel Craig’s Staten Island Road Test Got Him a Lifetime License to Drive Anywhere in NYC (Post)
  • “Asphalt Nation” Author Jane Holtz-Kay Is Dead at 74 (NYT)

More headlines at Streetsblog Capitol Hill

  • Bolwerk

    Bus ideologues are having a histrionic field day with the Sandy aftermath. As if a bus tunnel couldn’t have flooded, or surface rail over the bridges wouldn’t/couldn’t have worked more reliably over the bridges had it been available. We need to stop flooding, not downgrade to a lower-quality transit mode for crises.

    Can’t really argue with Kimmelmann, but I’d love to see how “you shouldn’t build there” will go down with the NIMBY crowds that often live where we should never have built. Is it possible, though, that land reclamation combined with carefully designed mounds and dykes could work too? I mean, it does help another problem: the housing shortage. Though if done wrong, it turns us even more into New Orleans.

  • jrab

    Bolwerk is right as usual. Redundancy should be the goal for disaster planning, not flexibility. As we have seen, New Yorkers continued to commute to Manhattan after Sandy, so why not come up with some kind of redundant RAIL system that can use the bridges and tunnels that we already have?

    I was on the Bx12 SBS the other evening at rush hour. I’m glad SBS has so many supporters on blogs and in the media, but I challenge them to spend 45 minutes on a packed bus that is stopping, starting, swerving, and lurching for the entire time and maintain that level of unquestioning advocacy. Sorry, but the ride quality is below standard.

    Kimmelman has apparently forgotten that New Yorkers have been retiring to Florida and other Sun Belt areas for decades. New Yorkers entitling themselves to Americans’ cherished ability to just get up and leave plays havoc with the sententious “cost-benefit analyses” that Kimmelman would like us to engage in. Folks who bought the lots and built the houses in Midland Beach and the Rockaways are long gone, enjoying their profits, while the people who bought those houses are stuck with the losses.

    The most important thing to New York politicians is that the cycle continues unbroken, and that the householders are able to sell off at inflated prices to the next generation and take their windfall profits out of the state.

  • Kurbic

    Did governor say anything about MTA hikes?  “Cuomo calls Thruway toll increase ‘detrimental.’” In shift, Cuomo says agency should strive to avoid any increase.

  • Guest

    Greater redundancy is absolutely necessary.  But infinite redundancy is not possible, and would be so inefficient it wouldn’t be desirable.There is a real need for a good margin of operational flexibility to respond to emergency conditions as well, and that simply is not possible with fixed rails.  In an emergency, your transit vehicles can only go where you already have rails, and there is no possibility for cheap, quick solutions to restrict autos and create priority space for new transit alignments as needed.  A balanced network really is necessary, and that includes many robust BRT and local bus routes.  
    Confusing SBS with BRT does not help matters.  It simply is not a coherent argument that we shouldn’t pursue an upgrade from SBS to BRT because SBS doesn’t work very well because it lacks the full BRT features that would make it better.  SBS is a good, politicallly progressive expediency to improve conditions immediately, and it can help pave the way to BRT.  But when transit advocates use its lack of full features as some kind of argument against BRT, they are doing a disservice to public discourse and undermining the real efforts gradually working to improve our transit system.

  • Anonymous

    Asphalt Nation was a seminal book for me. I highly recommend it.

  • jrab

    Great points, Guest. We have seen in the emergency situation following Sandy that New Yorkers continued to commute to Manhattan. Therefore, building a redundant network of light rail that could if necessary transport thousands of passengers in place of the subway over the bridges that already exist to the destinations that they are already going seems like a pretty good idea. New transit alignments are unnecessary.

    Confusing SBS with BRT is something that seems to happen a lot, both among city officials and the transportation press. When transit advocates use SBS’s lack of full features as an argument against BRT, we are pointing out this fact: SBS is a miserable experience for the rider but the blinking blue lights on its rolling stock look good in DOT brochures and insulate NYCDOT and the MTA from having to actually improve transit in a way that would disadvantage private motorists using the same roads.

    We need a full system that provides redundancy to the East River subway tubes, and it seems to me that investing more in the current bus system will provide diminishing returns, in speed, capacity, and rider comfort.

  • Bolwerk

    BRT purists’ notion of BRT is complete separation of buses from other traffic in a dedicated ROW (with grade separation?). I don’t see why SBS doesn’t offer virtually all BRT benefits.

    SBS works quite well – about as well as transit buses could and should work. Except for dedicated lanes, which could be overkill on parts of most routes, its operating practices should more or less be the floor for surface transit in NYC. Every bus should work like SBS with POP fare collection and, where possible, level boarding.

    Still, a notion of a “balanced” surface transit network that leaves out the fastest, most reliable, and cheapest-to-operate mode – surface rail – is plain bizarro. The BRT purist demand for rail infrastructure/capital costs married to bus
    operating costs doesn’t add much incremental benefit over buses in regular service, and introduces its own kind of inflexibility (e.g., longer boarding times, lower-capacity vehicles, labor intensity, etc.).

    @31b33124e98a4fb27cb436c377a017b8:disqus: I hate to say it, but, speaking as a realist, I don’t think the financials for no increase are going to add up unless the state legislature can be persuaded to appropriate something. The Thruway itself is at least somewhat self-supporting financially.  (Don’t take this the wrong way. Automobile acolytes take this to mean all roads are financially self-supporting, when they’re not.)

  • Joe R.

    In a place like NYC with the requisite population density for subways buses should mainly serve as feeder lines where subway stations are too far to walk to. It seems to save a buck we’re trying to use SBS even in places where a new subway line should really be built. Granted, new subways are expensive, but in the long haul they save more money than they cost in terms of saved time. It’s good the 2nd Avenue subway is being built now, but frankly many parts of the outer boroughs have been shafted when to comes to subway service. Ideally, we should aim for the original goal of the proposed expansion plans from the 1940s-to have no point in the city more than one mile from a subway station.

    As for BRT, if you’re going to go through the bother of building a grade-separated route, you might as well just lay tracks and enjoy the efficiency of operating vehicles where one driver can move 2000 passengers instead of perhaps 100. Not to mention you also incur significant energy savings operating rail vehicles as opposed to road vehicles. SBS is probably “good enough” as is for the limited role buses should play in NYC. The only thing I might like to see is traffic light preemption. Some buses spend fully half the time just sitting at red lights.

  • fj


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