Today’s Headlines

  • Is the 2015 Fare Hike Already a Done Deal? (World)
  • Sam Schwartz Estimates Toll Hike Will Push 10,000 More Drivers to Toll Shop (Crain’s)
  • Pedestrian John Eberling, 76, Killed by Drunk Driver in Queens (Post)
  • Gelinas: Mayoral Candidates Take Easy Shots at Fare Hike Without Addressing Spiraling Costs (Post)
  • Bratton Says He’s Met With Thompson, De Blasio, Allon in Bid to Regain NYPD Top Job (Post)
  • SPURA Is Set for Redevelopment on LES; No Transit Upgrades, But There Will Be Parking (NYT)
  • Tri-State’s Pedestrian Fatality Report Gets Coverage on Staten Island (Advance)
  • At Moynihan Station, Passengers Might Have to Go Up, Down, and Backtrack (Observer)
  • With One Gate Closed and One Gate Open, Passengers Stuck in Midtown Subway Station (NYT)
  • NJ Transit Builds $100,000 Fence for “Safety,” Forcing Peds Onto Dangerous Highway (2nd Ave Sagas)
  • Will Putnam Trail Become a Useful Bike Link Between the Bronx and Westchester? (NYT)

More headlines at Streetsblog Capitol Hill

  • Larry Littlefield

    “A myriad of forces drive the MTA’s persistent financial woes. According to transit advocate Gene Russianoff of the Straphangers’ Campaign, pinpointing exactly one cause is bit like solving a murder mystery. “It’s like inviting ten strangers to your mansion and figuring out who did it,” he said.”

    They aren’t strangers, and they all did it. They are past taxpayers, past tollpayers, retired and soon to retire workers, and past contractors.  And past fare payers, who got a huge cut in inflation-adjusted fares.  And then gleefully agreed that the MTA had two sets of books and hidden $billions when the fares started to rise again.

    Some of these people are still around, and still looking to grab more.  Notably the members of the NY State Legislature.

    The “no one is to blame” narrative fits the interests of those who benefitted.  It is a lie for younger generations.

  • Anonymous

    RE: Putnam Trail.  It would be great to see it paved, and it sounds like the latest compromise is good for both sides.  That said, it is important to not ignore the routes to reach the Putnam Trail (aka South County Trailway).  Othewise, the only way to reach the Trail is to drive to ever larger parking lots.

    In Riverdale, Broadway is quite dangerous and despite new traffic calming measures, should really have protected bike paths.  
    In Ardsley in Westchester, the entrance from Route 9A is a pedestrian and cyclist deathtrap with no sidewalks and no room for bicycles in the roadway.  To get to the Trail, people DRIVE.
    In Dobbs Ferry, an enormous new shopping mall will flood the roads adjacent to the Trail with cars.  Efforts to create an off-street bike path to reach the Trail are being stymied by the developers.
    In Elmsford, the roads leading to the Trail, 9A and 119, have seen cyclist fatalities in recent years.

  • Joe R.

    Regarding the MTA, Access-A-Ride is a white elephant which should be mothballed. Most of the buses are handicapped accessible. Access-A-Ride costs so much to run it would be less expensive for the MTA to just pay for car service for the few who can’t just use regular buses. And there should be some oversight of the types of trips. I resent my tax dollars being used to pay for someone to go to Aqueduct, or some other totally unnecessary trip. Paratransit should be limited to those who really need it (with appropriate medical verification), and only for trips deemed necessary, like doctor’s visits.

  • Morris Zapp

    … And Nicole Gelinas writes another column excoriating labor while ignoring Albany’s role (through neglect and outright theft) in the MTA funding crisis.

  • Joe R.

    There was actually a good line in the Gelinas article, even if she framed it as a negative:

    “Higher tolls are already discouraging drivers. At some point, toll hikes will raise less money, as people just won’t go.”

    Um, that’s actually a benefit of much high tolls-fewer people choose to drive. And that in turn means more paying passengers on mass transit.

  • Bolwerk

    Higher average tolls are indeed good, but Schwartz is right that what we need is consistent tolling. Toll shopping is an especially bad thing; in theory it could mean fewer cars, less revenue, and more congestion.

  • Anonymous

    Actually, toll shopping is not all bad.  If I’m driving, I would like to have the option of a quick ride with a premium price vs. a slow ride on a free bridge.  It allows me to decide whether time or money is more valuable to me.
    Of course, the usual case is that all of the crossings are crowded at the same time, but that may indicate that the price differential is not high enough.
    In terms of impact on the surrounding surface streets, it would make more sense to reverse the current toll pattern.  Triborough, Midtown Tunnel, and Bk Battery Tunnel should be free, while Brooklyn, Manhattan, Williamsburg, and Queensboro bridges should have tolls.

  • Ian Turner

    @J_12:disqus: Toll shopping is generally bad. The situation you are describing, where one route is expensive and open and the other is congested and free, creates an incentive for people to drive further, creating more pollution and also creating additional congestion costs for everyone else on that route.

    The one case I’m aware of where it might be good to encourage toll shopping is where the Nash equilibrium of equal tolls is unoptimal, such as in this example:

  • Andrew

    @2555783a6f62598b6aadd2d882a4830f:disqus Restricting Access-A-Ride to trips that you deem necessary would be a blatant violation of federal law, which requires paratransit service to be made available to those unable to ride fixed-route transit for any trip reachable by fixed-route transit. If NYCT can get you or me to Aqueduct by bus or subway, then NYCT is obligated by federal law to also carry those unable to ride the bus or subway.

    The problem with paratransit is that it is funded by transit systems. There is no reason why an able-bodied subway rider is expected to subsidize paratransit while an able-bodied driver or cyclist or pedestrian is not. Paratransit should be funded out of general tax revenues (local or state or federal, I don’t care).

    I feel the same way about other ADA accommodations on transit, by the way.

  • Joe R.

    @Andrew_J_C:disqus First of all, the federal law needs to be changed. I’m all for helping people who otherwise can’t get around to do their necessary business but frankly subsidizing recreational trips is a frill we as a society just can’t afford. In a perfect society with unlimited resources maybe, but as it is taxes can’t even fund what is necessary. Second, yes, regardless of which trips are allowed, paratransit funding should come out of general tax revenues, the same as welfare, Medicaid, and any other programs to help the disadvantaged. With paratransit eating up an ever increasing share of revenues, and no end in sight, all riders can look forwards to is an endless series of fare increases plus gradually declining levels of service. Third, can’t the MTA at least use electric vehicles for paratransit? Those buses they use have some of the worst smelling exhaust ever. Finally, since the federal government requires it, the federal government should pay for it 100%. Unfunded mandates like this are bankrupting local governments while the federal government continues to run deficits because it doesn’t want to tax at levels to support the spending it does.

    As an aside, it’s abysmal how all levels of government continue to reduce transit funding while subsidizing roads, even in places like NYC. My prediction-the subway system will deteriorate to the point of being nonfunctional within two decades. At that stage, the only thing the city will be able to afford to do is pour a level concrete surface between the rails and convert the entire system to underground/elevated bike paths. Anyone in decent physical shape will still have a quick way to get around. Everyone else will be screwed. We’ll probably end up doing the same with the commuter railroads.

  • Joe R.

    And by the way, although I might personally love the entire subway system converted to bike paths, I couldn’t think of a bigger waste of a very valuable resource. I hope it never comes to that.

  • Andrew

    Recreational trips by subway or bus or car or bicycle or foot are subsidized. I think it would be tough to argue that recreational trips by paratransit shouldn’t also be subsidized.

    Perhaps if the expense of paratransit were shared by all, the calls to reduce the absurd costs would be more effective. And even if not, the burden on each individual taxpayer would be far lower than it is now on each individual transit rider.

    Federal law, by the way, also requires that transit agencies offer reduced off-peak fares for the elderly. Again, there’s no reason that only transit riders should shoulder that burden.

  • Joe R.

    @Andrew_J_C:disqus All transport is subsidized to some extent. As you mentioned, it’s the ludicrous cost per trip here which is the issue more than the fact that recreational trips are subsidized. I’m not seeing why it should cost upwards of $50 per trip. To add insult to injury, for all that money the service largely stinks. I hear horror stories of people waiting hours to be picked up. Other countries have paratransit without these kind of costs. As with the school buses, we need serious accountability here. The city is paying through the nose here, and someone is laughing all the way to the bank.

  • Larry Littlefield


    Somehow it is the job of transit agencies to provide door to door service for people who cannot drive and cannot use regular mass transit, (although I’d bet most handicapped people were content to ride buses until paratransit was made available).

    But what is the obligation of the automobile industry to those who cannot drive?  Shouldn’t their mobility needs be funded by the auto industry which stranded them?

    This is not an idle question, as more and more seniors end up stranded in suburbs where there is no transit and no ability to walk to anything.

  • Bolwerk

    Paratransit could quite frankly be replaced with more punctual taxi vouchers. I can’t for the life of me see anything wrong with subsidizing recreational trips for the disabled. Recreation is part of a healthy life, afterall.

    And, yeah, the ADA is stupid. The requirement should be taxi vouchers or something. Even with wheelchair accommodations, most transit is impractical for people who can’t move up and down stairs. Buses, already impractical as heavily used surface transit, require long waits to load wheelchair passengers, while getting to train platforms is a long trip through serpentine tunnels. We just have our priorities backward: transit for the disabled, and automobiles for the able-bodied. It should be the other way around.

  • Anonymous

    If you take the ADA as a given, then the only real questions about paratransit are whether it can be provided more efficiently, and who should pay for it.  Unfortunately, taxi vouchers would probably not be compliant because the vehicles need to be specially modified to accomodate wheelchairs and other mobility aids.

    If you are talking about whether providing transportation for the disabled should be a priority for us as a society, that is a different and larger issue.  I tend to agree that, while it is a nice idea, it is a luxury we can’t afford.  But I can appreciate the counter arguments.

    By the way, the ADA does not just affect transit.  It also has huge implications for buildings and construction.  Compliance with ADA regulations can add a significant amount to commercial projects, much of it for very questionable value in terms of increased access.

  • Anonymous

    Ian Tuner,
    I’m not so sure that toll shopping is a priori a bad thing.  Given the same average toll to cross a given river (so that the choices are high tolls on some bridges and free on others, vs. medium tolls all around), there are benefits to a toll differential.  For individual driver, it is better to have the option to pay more for a shorter trip, and vice versa, because different users have very different marginal values for their time.

    To be sure, toll differentials will encourage some extra driving, as some people will end up not driving the most direct route.  And the total amount of congestion-hours may be higher, as a larger number of drivers can be expected to use the free bridges.

    But you are talking about some higher order effects here, and I don’t think it is a given that the negative externalities outweigh the benefits of greater freedom in price determination.

  • Joe R.

    @J_12:disqus That’s really the point I’m making about paratransit and ADA in general. In theory it’s a noble idea to provide access to everyone. In practice it’s a luxury we just can’t afford. Given the very small numbers who actually require things like elevators to subway stations or even wheelchair ramps, I question the cost/benefit ratio. It might be cheaper to just provide the severely disabled with able-bodied attendants whenever they venture out. And access for the disabled can have negative unintended consequences when public facilities require quick evacuation. The small minority of disabled trying to leave could impede egress for everyone else. Or the disabled might be stuck, as happened on 9/11 when people in wheelchairs couldn’t evacuate the buildings via the stairwells. It’s nice on the one hand to help the disabled live productive lives, but sometimes I wonder if the costs of putting in facilities so the disabled can work far exceed any income taxes they might pay. It’s probably more cost effective to just pay for their living expenses and provide them with attendants when they need to leave their homes for necessary or even recreational reasons.