Today’s Headlines

  • Andrew Cuomo Is Living His Dream of Building a Useless AirTrain Link to LGA (AMNY)
  • Instead of Airport Transit, How About Investing Port Authority Funds in Freight Rail (MTR)
  • City Hall Makes Its Case for Mega-Development Over Sunnyside Yard (Crain’s, TL, Politico, NewsDNA)
  • State Senate Passes Statewide Uber Bill (WSJ)
  • Brooklyn CB 6: Cut Truck Traffic By Bringing Back Two-Way Tolling on the Verrazano (Bklyn Paper)
  • TA Calls Out Richard Brown for Letting Driver Who Killed Navraj Raju Off the Hook (TL)
  • Not Even a Ticket for Turning Driver Who Critically Injured Woman Crossing Street in Rossville (Advance)
  • How Unreliable Is Bus Service in the Bronx? (CityLimits)
  • If You Believe the Post, Taxis on NYC Streets Are in Worse Shape Than They Used to Be
  • 350 Apartments Will Replace NYPD Parking Lot in Jamaica (TL)
  • Uber’s Next Big Plan to Set Money on Fire (Post)

More headlines at Streetsblog USA

  • Joe R.

    I’d like to know why Cuomo has such a hard-on for airports? Instead of prioritizing projects which make it easier to get to airports how about doing things to make it easier for the millions who use the subway each day? If you did a survey the average NYer probably uses the airports a few times in their life. Even frequent fliers probably don’t fly more than once a month.

    Another thing which annoys me is we’re making the same mistake with the LaGuardia air train as we did with the Kennedy airtrain. It’s not a one-seat ride to Manhattan. It makes far more sense to just extend the Astoria line. That extension will also be useful to non-airport users (and useful if enough common sense ever prevails to just shut down LaGuardia like it should be).

  • bolwerk

    Re freight rail: remember when Andy capitulated to his BFF (he’s in the back here) and agreed to pay $5 billion toward Gateway? At the time, he should have stipulated that part of the scope of the project meant we finally get the cross-bay freight tunnel, or no deal.

    Too bad Andy is a really shitty negotiator.

  • bolwerk

    Andy is a fossil fuel fetishist who is in love with making people into suburbanites. He also seems to be kind of dumb, and dumb people often get fixated on loud, shiny, and flashy stuff. Why do you think gun nuts don’t give a fuck about other constitutional rights? A big reason is other constitutional rights don’t involve loud noises* followed by target being pulverized.

    * well, maybe the free exercise clause includes this 🙁

    The Astoria line seems like the best way to me. I think AirTrain between LGA and JFK could at least make sense, if they really plan for that. Streetsblog is being a bit hyperbolic to say the extension is useless, but it is horrifically flawed.

    I’d like to see LGA shut down too, of course.

  • reasonableexplanation

    LGA shut down eh? Would you prefer JFK and Newark be expanded to accommodate the lost capacity, or is the goal less air travel overall?

  • bolwerk

    I didn’t say LGA could be shut down, but if it can be it would be nice.

    Newark makes sense to expand, maybe. JFK doesn’t. By and large, busy metropolitan airports belong in the suburbs, and should be accessed by fast commuter rail. With that, even Stewart could be a suitable airport. Unfortunately Cuomo is anti-conventional rail.

  • reasonableexplanation

    Stewart is about 70 miles away from Manhattan, it’s a bit far. Even if we ran a high speed rail line there, it would presumably leave from midtown, which you still need to get to first. Realistically speaking I can’t imagine a door to door time of less than 100 mins for most, which is a lot vs LGA,

    Another airport in the region is ISP, which already has a conventional rail link, but the same issue exists there, plus, it doesn’t have any room to expand really.

    I guess I don’t see why you would want to get rid of LGA, given that we can’t really replace it, and that it’s a vital regional transit link considering that most LGA flights are domestic.

  • Greg

    Fun fact:

    The Port Authority was originally *created* to solve NYC’s freight rail transportation problem by developing a more efficient network for trains to get in and out of the city.

    That was the organization’s sole purpose for existence.

    They were required upon creation to produce a design outlining the rail improvements that would do this. They dutifully came up with a “Comprehensive Plan” that included things like a new freight rail tunnel between Staten Island and Brooklyn.

    Their eventual gravitation toward trucks was initially a practical temporary measure: they argued that congestion relief was needed *immediately* but it would take years and major money to build out the rail crossings that would ultimately do this. So they initially designed a simpler system with upgrade slots the rail connections would eventually come.

    One of their earlier versions of the plan actually traced out a comprehensive series of driver-free “rail loops” that would cross from New Jersey under tunnels into Manhattan, where they’d run through the business districts and stop under strategically placed terminals where elevators could pull the trains up for loading / unloading. I have a few neat diagrams of this if anyone wants to see.

    It was only in the 40s that the Port Authority as we know it today – a much bigger org with a much broader mandate (most notably about cars) – came into being. That came out through a combination of the Depression, collapse of the railroad industry, and belief in the time that cars were the future of the world.

  • Greg
  • Joe R.

    You can replace many of the domestic flights coming out of LGA, Newark, and Kennedy with high-speed rail. Basically, anything 500 miles or less can be done just as quickly door-to-door with HSR. Kennedy and Newark would easily be able to handle whatever air traffic remains once domestic flights of 500 miles or less were replaced with HSR. Longer term, if we want a carbon-neutral future, we need to get serious about reducing air travel. Either find a viable replacement for longer distance air travel, like maglev in vacuum tubes, or do less long distance travel. A lot of air travel is business travel. Much of that could be eliminated today if we really wanted to via teleconferencing and VR. Hopefully, we’ll make a concerted effort to encourage this in the future, perhaps by eliminating business deductions for travel.

    Stewart could be a viable airport for NYC. With a true HSR link, it’s 30 minutes from Manhattan, not 100 minutes.

  • bolwerk

    Put baggage check-in at GCT and an hour probably isn’t so unreasonable, but it requires average speeds of over 70 mph, doable in a developed country. We can’t do it, of course, because we’re a de-developing country.

    I don’t want to inflict airports on any sizable population, but LGA is the only sort of realistic candidate for removal. Many of its short haul flights are more suitable to HSR anyway. Millions of people who need access to short haul flights live as conveniently far from Stewart as they do from LGA, so it might be a matter of balancing traffic.

    All academic anyway. Cuomo is making LGA less easy to be rid of.

  • AMH

    He’s still saying it will be great for Long Islanders when it won’t even connect to the mainline, which would make it necessary to back-ride or transfer to the subway at Woodside. People will still just drive. This is such a boondoggle. How can we keep our tax dollars from being wasted on this?

  • HamTech87

    Cuomo’s LGA Airtrain just doesn’t make sense.
    Does he want to serve LIRR residents? Then why have it terminate at a Port Washington LIRR branch station, which only serves a small percentage of LIRR riders? Why not run it to Jamaica station, which serves all the other LIRR lines and could even link to the JFK Airtrain providing a continuous Airtrain between the two airports?
    Does he want to create new parking lots far from the airport? Then why is he building so many new parking spaces at the airport?
    I recall that hotel developers in Willets Point were clamoring for this; perhaps this is the main motivation?

  • AMH

    Exactly, it’s as bad for Long Islanders as it is for New Yorkers. I am so furious that we’re potentially blowing a billion dollars on such a boondoggle.

  • HamTech87

    If you are in airports all the time like our national political leaders, it is important. If Governor Cuomo, and even “regular guy” Joe Biden, took local transit all the time, they would focus on that.

  • ohnonononono

    I just want to chime in here to remind everyone as I did when this was suggested before: please don’t imply that LGA mostly handles flights under 500 miles. This seems to be an inaccurate perception that shapes LGA discussions among the “just close it down” crowd. The vast majority of LGA traffic is to destinations that are not competitive with rail, and investing billions in high speed rail would not change that in our lifetime. Top city pairs with LGA are ORD, ATL, MIA, DFW, and FLL. Those are not close enough for rail substitution. LGA has shuttles to DC and Boston, but they’re a small percentage of total traffic. Investing in HSR cuts into that market, but you really can’t argue that most of LGA traffic could be shifted to rail any time soon.

    I think the idea of shifting all the business travel between Manhattan and Chicago or Miami from LGA to Stewart is particularly absurd.

  • ahwr

    Millions of people who need access to short haul flights live as conveniently far from Stewart as they do from LGA, so it might be a matter of balancing traffic.

    FAA passenger survey said 4% of passengers departing from LGA indicated they were closer to SWF than they were to LGA.

  • bolwerk

    Isn’t that the population you’d expect to use LGA? :-p

    My wording deliberately avoided the word “closer.” There is a pretty high-population band of potential users from northern New Jersey to Connecticut with better geographic access to Stewart, all things being equal. But of course, Long Island and much of New Jersey is at least geographically closer to LGA.

  • AnoNYC

    I’m sure it’s all about the Willets Point redevelopment.

  • Joe R.

    You could do it with some combination of investing heavily in HSR and just plain reducing the use of air travel via disincentives like carbon taxes, eliminating business travel deductions, etc. Perhaps 95% of business travel is unnecessary anyway if you look at it logically. Business travel accounts for something like half of all air travel, so eliminating that unnecessary 95% cuts the amount of air traffic practically in half. Heck, if HSR is built out so it’s viable out to ~1000 miles the NY Metro region might be able to get by with one airport. It’s just a question of whether it would be more logical for that airport to be Newark or Kennedy.

    Obviously we don’t currently have plans to build HSR but no reason we couldn’t start on a wholesale program to cut out unnecessary business travel yesterday. In fact, despite this being a transportation blog, I’m puzzled by how little anyone actually proposes helping to solve transportation issues by simply reducing the need for certain types of trips. That even includes stuff like taking some of the load off local mass transit by shifting as many jobs as possible to telecommuting.

  • FactCheck

    Myth.
    Just checked the compact:
    https://ballotpedia.org/New_York-New_Jersey_Port_Authority_Compact_of_1921

    It repeatedly refers to “transportation and terminal facilities.”
    It then defines it:
    “Transportation facility” shall include railroads, steam or electric, motor truck or other street or highway vehicles, tunnels, bridges, boats, ferries, carfloats, lighters, tugs, floating elevators, barges, scows or harbor craft of any kind, aircraft suitable for harbor service, and every kind of transportation facility now in use or hereafter designed for use for the transportation or carriage of persons or property.

  • Joe R.

    I think the question is whether they’re closer in terms of travel time, not distance. It easily takes many NYC residents an hour plus to go to either of the two local airports. Someone in LI or NJ or CT going to Stewart mostly on freeflowing highways could take the same amount of time to cover 30, 40, even 50 miles.

  • Joe R.

    I honestly don’t think Cuomo even thinks through any of these megaprojects. It’s just another photo-op for him to say he had something big built, even if that something turns out to be a white elephant.

  • AnoNYC

    Buses in the Bronx would benefit tremendously from:

    -Off board payment through all doors. This alone would speed up the buses pretty significantly.

    -Bus entrances that are flush with elevated station platforms. The Bronx has a high concentration of people with more limited mobility, and seniors especially depend on the buses. That quicker flip down ramp and lean is still a delay.

    -Bus lanes and queue jumps wherever traffic is a problem (which is common in the Bronx).

    -Fixed camera enforcement, painful fines for violations, and physical separation on certain routes (e.g. make Fordham Road bus only already like Fulton Mall).

    -Traffic signal prioritization.

    -The next bus order should have more doors and a subway like seat configuration. The side by side seating makes moving through the bus a headache and leads to conflicts among riders.

    The vast majority of people in this borough do not even drive on a regular basis. We need to orient these streets towards mass transit, walking and biking. Crosstown trips are currently a nightmare.

  • redbike

    | I’d like to see LGA shut down too, of course.

    Marine Air Terminal has “Marine” in the name; amazing foresight.

  • Greg

    Absolutely not a myth. I can prove this to you if you’d like to get involved in a deeper discussion.

    You’re looking at one specific snippet of legalese but skipping the political, economic, and cultural context that created it. Without that context this wording says very little. This clause needed to be clear that the PA had mandate over a wide range of transit facilities, including road facilities. But that doesn’t mean that’s where the focus was, nor that a viable trucking industry even existed then (which it didn’t).

    The Port Authority was created as a permanent body intended to implement the comprehensive plan reported by the NY, NY Port and Harbor Commission in 1920. This was a direct reaction to the area’s rail transportation network bursting at the seams due to a complete lack of coherent organization, since it was owned in different parcels by private railroad companies that competed against each other and had no interest in sharing infrastructure or providing equal rail access for everyone. See article X (and elsewhere) for a very significant commitment to produce said plan within about 18 months. This commitment was built into very existence of the Port Authority. And it was their unequivocal primary focus at the beginning.

    You can see the original report here: https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=umn.31951001547797e;view=1up;seq=12

    You’ll find a lot of it interesting, but see in particular the introduction to the “Comprehensive Plan” at the bottom of page 2:

    “Our port problem is primarily a railroad problem…Therefore the comprehensive plan … is essentially a railroad plan”.

    Also see the Port Authority’s very first annual report (from 1921, accessible from their web site), which lays out the exact details of the plan. You’ll see it’s all about connecting railroad spurs together, building terminals to support them, and building a new rail tunnel across the Hudson Bay.

    Trucks did play a role as the plan evolved. But this was only a very small-scale supporting role. At the time this plan was envisioned there simply was no viable trucking industry – trains were how goods moved over land, period. And the challenge was to optimize the train network.

    Only when this entire paradigm fell apart in the 1930s did the Port Authority pivot and dive deep into car-based ideologies. They did, of course, build the George Washington Bridge and Lincoln Tunnel and a few Staten Island crossings, as well as take over control of the Holland Tunnel. But these were not deep parts of its original mandate. And they very clearly tried to stay on focus on that mandate as much as possible until the 30s.

    I can go into a lot more detail if you like. Also check out James Doig’s (superb) “Empire on the Hudson” for a great and much deeper overview of these themes.

  • reasonableexplanation

    It takes over 2 hrs to get to stewart airport from Hempstead, LI, vs 31mins to LGA, and yes, that’s including current traffic.

  • reasonableexplanation

    Leisure travel accounts for 70% of all travel. Business travel is a much smaller portion than you think.

  • FactCheck

    Just saying, the statement that rail: “was the organization’s sole purpose for existence” simply is not true.

    There is a difference between purpose and focus that seems to be getting seriously confused here. As you almost acknowledged, the PA had a mandate over a wide range of transportation facilities.

    Yeah, rail was definitely the predominant mode of freight transport when the organization was created. Sure, it constituted much of its early efforts, before mismanagement and government subsidies to trucking drove the railroads out of business.

    But the organization was created with a broader purpose than just trains.

  • HamTech87

    That back-ride transfer is a total pain. I remember kids on LI would take LIRR to Forest Hills to watch the US Open (Tennis). When it moved to Flushing, nobody took the train anymore.

  • Cheap Joke

    Sometimes I focus on eating chocolate chips cookies.
    That’s not my purpose?

  • ahwr

    There aren’t freeflowing highways.

  • ahwr

    In fact, despite this being a transportation blog, I’m puzzled by how little anyone actually proposes helping to solve transportation issues by simply reducing the need for certain types of trips. That even includes stuff like taking some of the load off local mass transit by shifting as many jobs as possible to telecommuting.

    Does that include intensive redeveloping of your neighborhood (in addition to elsewhere in the city of course) to allow more people to live closer in and cut down on travel?

  • Joe R.

    That might not help much. A trip is still a trip. Ultimately the capacity constraints are getting into Manhattan. It doesn’t matter if the people getting in are just across the river or 8 miles away.

    I certainly favor any rezoning or redevelopment which lets more people run businesses out of their homes. Besides potentially creating jobs, you’re also creating jobs with no commute whatsoever.

  • Joe R.

    I’ve heard it was closer to half but even allowing your 70% consider that leisure travel is a bit less time sensitive than business travel. You might have a good number of travelers who would take HSR to, say, Miami even though the trip might take a few hours longer than flying each way. With good HSR the train trip itself could be about 8 hours, with maybe an hour tops on each end for connections. Flying might be 3 hours flight time, but 1.5 or 2 hours on each end for connections. Those 3 or 4 hours probably won’t matter much to leisure travelers even if they might to some business travelers. Anyway, hypothetically if you get rid of the unnecessary business travel, that’s ~95% of 30% gone, or 28.5%. If 1/3rd of leisure travelers can be induced to take HSR, that’s another 23% of air travelers gone. You’ve more or less cut demand for air travel in half with mode switching and just getting rid of trips not really needed from a business standpoint. I won’t even speculate on something like the Hyperloop replacing most of the remaining air travel but it’s of course a possibility. In the end you might end up with air travel just being overseas leisure travelers, combined with a tiny number of remaining overseas business travelers. The pressure to go to a carbon neutral future could be what turns this scenario into reality.

    Also note that if air travel can be switched to a more desirable mode like HSR or Hyperloop there’s somewhat less reason to try to discourage travel. I personally don’t care if people want to travel constantly, so long as it’s not in planes which pollute and make tons of noise.

  • Joe R.

    On the seating, I find sitting sideways on a bus to be nausea-inducing. I’m probably not the only one, which is why the buses mostly have seats facing the direction of travel. I’m not too fond of the sideways seating on trains, either, as it leaves you staring at your fellow passengers the entire ride. I’ll miss the seating on the R46 and R68 once they’re gone. From a comfort standpoint, it’s much nicer. In an ideal world, we would have enough service so you wouldn’t need sideways seats to eek the maximum amount of standee capacity out of buses or trains.

  • Greg

    Yes, it is true. Unless you want to split hairs and argue at a pedantic level that’s missing the forest for the trees.

    The Port Authority was envisioned, structured, and built as a very clear reaction to a very specific crisis that hit NYC particularly during WWI that stemmed from problems of the railroad-owned transportation network and the challenge of fixing said problems.

    There is very clear documentation showing the political figures who promoted this whole process and ultimately phrased the compact you quoted with the wording it used. It was all about the railroads. The railroads even had a non-trivial influence in that wording, as they were political powerhouses that could and did lean heavily on the lawmakers of the time.

    The original idea of a persistent entity to implement this came out of the conclusion of the Port and Harbor Commission report I linked above. That commission was created to look at the imminent crisis and figure out how to fix it. They recommended creation of an ongoing authority tasked with producing and executing a plan that would solve the crisis. This directly led to the creation of the PA. This is not a subtle connection.

    There is brilliance in the generality of the language. That’s why the PA exists today vs. fading out into nothing as almost actually happened in the 1930s, when its mandate fell apart and its purpose for existence came into question (and the railroads just wanted them to go away).

    It took a change in leadership – most particularly the ascendence of Austin Tobin – to figure out how to weasel out of those words a reinvention of their purpose that wasn’t based on trains. And that was a very controversial move that received no shortage of pushback from basically the entire political and social culture of New York over decades.

    There was some vague awareness that there might be use of the organization beyond just the railroad system. But that was absolutely not why the org was created, or how the political will was built to create it in the first place. It was very clearly first and foremost about the railroads. The PA wouldn’t exist otherwise.

    I really recommend you check out Empire on the Hudson for more context. It’s a really well-written book and its research is solid.

  • ahwr

    There are many capacity constraints other than getting into Manhattan. Most travel is not to Manhattan.

  • ahwr
  • ahwr

    It was only in the 40s that the Port Authority as we know it today – a much bigger org with a much broader mandate (most notably about cars) – came into being.

    Goethals and Outerbridge opened in 1928. GWB started construction in 1927. The two states told the PA to start working on the Staten Island bridges in 1924.

  • FactCheck

    This whole notion is totally ridiculous.

    I’ve read Empire on the Hudson. I’ve read the Power Broker. I’ve even gotten my fingers dirty with a few primary source documents over the years. There is no historic documentation of any type you can find that will support your claim the Port Authority was created solely to deal with trains, because it just ain’t true. You’ve quoted nothing.

    When the City of New York was created, there were no subways or motor vehicles. Guess it too has strayed from its “purpose” by building the subway system instead of focusing on elevated trains and horse carriage congestion on the waterfront?

    Yeah, the Port Authority was created because bi-state politics had resulted in NYC residents almost starving during a winter when food couldn’t get across the river. Seems that problem has been solved with better transportation. To argue that an agency is supposed to focus perpetually on one specific solution for broad and evolving problems, whether that solution is producing results or not, while the region quickly changed, is simply bizarre. And, again, the compact was very deliberately and clearly written in a way to avoid the very sort of narrow fixation you seem to be promoting.

    Looking at the clear intent and the legal structure that was created isn’t “pedantic,” it’s a true fact check on whatever weird revisionism you seem to be promoting.

  • FactCheck

    In fact, ALL of the vehicular crossings opened before 1940 (yes, the George Washington Bridge and Lincoln Tunnel were subsequently enlarged).

    No factual way to say the focus on cars was something newly added in the 1940s. The new areas for the Port Authority in the 1940s, were the airports and the bus terminal.

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