Today’s Headlines

Lots more headlines at Streetsblog Capitol Hill

  • Glenn

    Re: Day of Outrage, my M15 and M96 bus rides were great.

    Re: Mayoral Debate, Bloomberg’s Congestion Pricing comeback on Asthma rates in East Harlem was great to hear. Glad to see he has passion about the issue enough to talk about it in the context of public health. I bet Thompson thinks CP is just about raising money for the MTA…

  • vnm

    The print edition of the Daily News had a segment with man/woman-on-the-street interviews of peoplea asking them who they thought won the debate. Bloomberg got two votes. Thompson got one, and neither got one. The Thompson vote came from a subway conductor from Queens who said that Bloomberg had imposed too many fees and charges, and therefore Thompson was “for the middle class.” Not sure how that logic works, but Bloomberg’s most famous fee or charge would have funded subway conductors salaries.

  • Hybrid fake noise: It would be too much to ask for hybrid drivers simply to drive carefully, wouldn’t it?

  • Ian Turner

    It seems that the unnamed “safety experts” in the Times article have failed to take into account the extremely real health effects of a noisy environment.

  • David_K

    Ian Turner is right.

    Readers of this blog will recall the heated discussion that broke out last week in the comments section over the taxi/pedi cab drivers’ street brawl. Some commenters wanted to focus on the taxi cab driver’s “violent” provocation of honking his horn; while others said, nonsense, horn honking is not violent (and even so, did not justify the pedicab driver’s response of tossing coffee at the cab driver).

    Noise is a serious public health problem, recognized by the World Health Organization. Check out this summary of a 2007 WHO report (“new data indicate that noise pollution is causing more deaths from heart disease than was previously thought”) on the NIH’s PubMed site –

    And noise is recognized as a health threat by the NYC’s department of health:

  • Glenn

    vnm – the subway conductor just assumes he’ll get his 3% raise and his defined benefit pension regardless of the MTA’s financial underpinnings. The TWU is doing its members a major disservice by not trying to increase public support for funding their employer.

  • re: Now That Car-Free Broadway Is Real, Whither Vision42? (NYT)

    With 42nd Street closed to automobiles a self-contained local public bicycle system to potentially include vehicles with auxiliary electric power, standard trikes and advanced recumbent tricycles, multi-person vehicles, enclosure capabilities for vehicles, canopied routes and routes with guideways, etc. would be a small fraction of the one-half billion dollar cost and a tourist attraction essentially, a daily Summer Streets event on view to the world.

  • Vision42 is not only an attractive idea, it’s one whose time has come. It would be a great complement to the car-free stretches of Broadway. And it’s the ideal place to build the city’s first above-ground light rail line. I hope I live to see it. But hey, I never thought I’d live to see what’s already happened on Broadway.

  • re: U.S. Can’t Afford to Keep Lagging on HSR (Citiwire)

    Some really good facts and figures from Citiwire’s Thomas Downs on the “$750 billion cost of our highway fixation”.

    Just don’t understand the locked-up business-as-usual massive vehicle mindset kind of like everyone should be using mainframe computers instead of iPhones.

  • Gleason

    The TWU is hurting itself. It is living in a fantasy world. Their answer to everything is going on strike or flipping off management. They do close to nothing to help grow transit funding. They oppose just about every innovation the MTA comes up. They antagonize riders with stupid job actions and strike threats. They stoke public mistrust of the MTA that undermines efforts to grow MTA funding.

  • #10 Gleason, “The TWU is hurting itself. It is living in a fantasy world.”

    How true!

    Just like the United Autoworkers’ leadership has not served its members by ignoring preparation for the best possible transport technologies, the same goes for the Transit Workers Union by ignoring things like the huge Parisian Velib success and the New York City Department of City Planning “Bike-Share Opportunities in New York City, 2009” ( which they should be embracing for not only the beneficial potential of the technology and lots of public goodwill but ultimately, that it will provide a lot more work, job security, and a high quality-of-life city where they spend most if not all of their time.

  • Marty Barfowitz

    I am increasingly coming to despise the TWU.

    They were basically silent during the congestion pricing debate. Ridiculous since they had more to gain than just about anyone.

    These days, every time I walk in to a disgustingly dirty and poorly maintained subway station (in other words — every time I use the subway) and see a TWU employee sitting in his bullet-proof box doing absolutely nothing, it makes me dislike the TWU just a little bit more.

  • #12 Marty Barfowitz, “I am increasingly coming to despise the TWU.”

    Has to be an awful work environment kind of like being the Morlocks in HG Wells’ “Time Machine” who lived and worked underground.

    The wikipedia description of the Molocks would be absolutely hilarious if in part it does not seem somewhat tragically true:

    “They dwell underground in the English countryside of A.D. 802,701 in a troglodyte civilization, maintaining ancient machines that they may or may not remember how to build.”

    And, perhaps members of the TWU should compassionately be encouraged, convinced to dream of the wonderful possibilities of working above ground, in the sun, under the stars in a beautiful city.

  • Marty Barfowitz

    True. My gripe is probably more with the TWU’s leadership than the workers. Seems like Roger Touissant is more intent on fighting MTA management and Bloombergian colonialist imperalism than actually making the transit system work for everyone.

    As I understand it, Touissant’s personality and ideology were formed in the cauldron of the Trinidad/Tobago independence movement of the 1960s. Perhaps this is why Toussaint strikes me as a kind of Yasir Arafat figure — a revolutionary who can’t really make the switch to being a responsible leader. He’s way more interested in the struggle than making the trains run on time. He knows that for every five New Yorkers who blame the crappiness of the transit system on the TWU workers, there are 95 others who blame the MTA. So, what’s Roger got to lose if the subway stations are disgusting and the trains run poorly?

  • Streetsman

    I remember learning that part of the reason there are so few Ticket Vending Machines at Metro North stations is that the ticket masters’ union negotiated a cap on them, i think such that there can only be one vending machine per ticket master. This way they don’t lose their entirely outdated jobs. They couldn’t even negotiate some kind of re-training program or reassignment, they just compromised the availability of the public amenity. That seems to be how these labor unions negotiate – they hold hostage the public service in exchange for inflated compensation that makes providing better service unaffordable. What they don’t get is that better service would draw more users and thus require more service and more jobs. But they’re not interested in more jobs, just higher pay for the existing jobs and a status quo transit system.

  • Some sound must be added to hybrids for the blind. They are trained to decide when it is safe to cross based on sound, and sometimes they walk out right in front of a hybrid car.

    But it could be a sound that is like the idling of a quiet car engine. Then hybrids would make our cities quieter overall.

    The worst possibility in the article is letting drivers choose their own soundtrack, as people choose the ring tones for their cell phones. You wouldn’t be able to walk on a busy street without listening to a dozen competing rap and rock songs.

  • henry

    finally, some honest (and true) words re: the TWU on this blog

    and marty, i don’t think the split is 5/95 in terms of public perception..More like 50/50…or more like the public doesn;t really differentiate between Mgmt and TWU like transit geeks do…they lump it all together as “MTA” and feel that the entity as a whole pretty much sucks. and i would agree

  • Ian Turner


    I assume you’re imagining a circumstance where there is an unsignalized intersection, in which case it is drivers’ responsibility to stop. Adding sound effects to cars just reinforces the structural idea that it is pedestrians’ responsibility to avoid cars, and not the other way around.

    Signalized intersections should be made accessible through sound effects, preferably by playing pleasant and distinct music in each crossing direction, as is done in Japan.

  • Niccolo Machiavelli

    I was going to address the many important issues raised by Mr. Barfowitz regarding leadership and how that affects the important job of formation and maintenance of generalized reciprocity among mass transit stake holders all at the risk of feeding more of the growing anti-labor Jihad on these pages, the NYT and the Daily News.

    But rather than do that I will instead have to try to address one more incorrect posting on labor issues. (I can’t type fast enough to keep up, must be the disability acting up) At least this time it is Mr. Streetsman (poster) and not the editor of these valuable pages.

    The TCU indeed HAD a rule limiting the number of ticket vending machines on Metro North. They negotiated that away. Negotiations works like that, you have a rule (either favoring management or labor) until you negotiate it away. Both sides still have many rules to be negotiated. The TVMs are interesting in regards to the booth closings however. Sometimes at Grand Central the lines remain a half-hour long full of people who wait to buy from and speak to a human being and there is no one at the TVM (I think its mostly tourists). This will change over time but I for one value a human presence. Either way, don’t blame them for a rule they already gave up. My only real problem with Mr. Streetsman is that he said he “learned” when what he probably meant was he “heard”. Then, of course, he goes on to extend the argument further to the point of conflating the entire issue thus, “That seems to be how these labor unions negotiate – they hold hostage the public service in exchange for inflated compensation that makes providing better service unaffordable.” Thus the blogosphere takes an incorrect fact to draw a broad conclusion. The internet, the fastest way to get the wrong idea.

    Funny you should bring up the topic of rules though. Many people think that the MTA and TWU had actually agreed in principle on OPTO One Person Train Operation before the negotiation was scuttled by Mr. Bloomberg, forcing the arbitration that is now at issue. Unintended consequences, or vengeful little rich guy who doesn’t know how to negotiate? You decide. To his credit, Mr. Bloomberg has nonetheless remained fairly thoughtful and calm regarding the MTA’s decision to appeal the arbitration making him look bigger to me at least. Anyway, the happy ending is the arbitration ruling cut out the OPTO deal and gave the TWU the rest of the numbers anyway. Too bad but,,,there is no traitor like an arbitrator. That, among other reasons, is why I prefer to negotiate than to arbitrate.

    What is going on now is the logical result of the arbitration appeal and the TWU is spending their political capital on protecting that decision, motivating their membership and reminding them that their union is the only institution in America on their side. In short, both sides are institutionally reinforced by the misguided decision to appeal this decision and Mr. Toussaint is more popular than ever with the membership. Thanks to the dumb appeal by the vengeful permanent government at the MTA his members think that he not only pulled off a professional argument at the arbitration but that all the pain of the strike was justified by the clear bad faith permaculture in managment. It could be a lesson in how to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory but the readers can’t learn it through the PR fog.

    In tough economic times I feel there is generally a strong right-ward plunge of the political culture as each group draws closer together in fear to protect whatever they have. FDR is the exception that proves the rule, Mussolini is the rule. Coalition building is always difficult work, I’ve wasted maybe 25 years trying, it is not for the meek.

    Like Mr. Barfowitz I wanted more out of the TWU and Mr. Toussaint during the congestion pricing battle. I would have liked to see days of outrage and street demonstrations, however, I was glad with their participation in seminars and press conferences in support of the principle of congestion pricing. There was a particularly good one at Hunter with the Building Trades, Straphangers and several advocacy groups. In their defense, and I know that won’t make me popular here, the original permutation of Congestion Pricing included several poison pills for their membership that they had to beat down before advancing the positive issues. So, TWU was forced by the MTA’s strategy of crisis engineering (trying to win through legislation what they wouldn’t negotiate) to spend their political capital protecting their contracts instead of working closer with ESTA and Straphangers in a manner sufficiently enthusiastic for Streetsblog’s always high standards with regard to labor behavior. Small wonder TWU ends up supporting the politicians who protect their member’s pensions and health care, certified troglodytes though they may be.

    There are times different groups can work together and there are times when they can’t. Its a full time job just keeping the level of rhetoric down to a point where potential allies don’t become deafened to each groups needs. This time, I expect TWU to mobilize their membership to the limits of the law to protect the arbitration decision and put a spotlight on what their members already believe to be bad faith by the MTA. On this, the members are in the “drivers seat” anyway.

    This is the easy lift for the TWU leadership; rallies, leaflets, press releases and big inflated rats. The heavy lift for the union, and the other stakeholders, is finding common issues to work together on, sufficient trust in each others motivations and understanding of each others needs to get beyond a poisonous quid pro quo and onto establishing a foundation for a politics of generalized reciprocity.

  • Anybody who thinks that electric cars should NOT make noise should try walking 10 feet forward with their eyes closed, never mind crossing a city street.

    The blind need the noise. Not “do better with” but NEED the noise. Not every intersection in the country can or should have a noise emitting crossing signal.

    What the article failed to mention is that the cars would emit noise ONLY when moving at under 12mph – anything above that and the tires make enough noise that it’s not necessary.

  • Ian Turner


    If you’re going to argue for added noise from a public health perspective, it is essential to consider the negative health effects of the extra noise. Skipping that step is just lazy thinking, and saying that the noise is “essential” to some doesn’t mean it’s not “deadly” to others.

    The other essential fact that should be noted here is that hybrid cars can be heard quite well when moving at under 12 MPH, unless there is so much other noise around that they can’t be distinguished. Noise to counter noise just makes everyone deaf.

  • James

    Re: noise making machines for hybrids: Good lord, can you imagine what would happen 15 years later, when these cars fall into the hands of the 19 year old ghetto-blaster crowd? Mark my words, if the car companies implement this, the auto customization aftermarket will respond with kits to customize the cars’ sound. If you think noise pollution is bad now, just you wait.