Today’s Headlines

  • MTA Board Sees Steep Fare Hikes If Albany Doesn’t Act on Funding for Capital Plan (NYT, WCBS, PIX)
  • Daily News Coverage Blames MTA for Fare Hikes; Russianoff Sets Paper Straight (1, 2)
  • Melinda Katz, Legislators Come Out Against Move NY But Don’t Offer Their Own Solution (Observer)
  • DOT Caves to Mark Treyger, Shifts Location of Shore Parkway Speed Cam (Bklyn Daily)
  • Truck Driver Seriously Injured After Smashing Parked Cars, Building in Hell’s Kitchen (Post, DNA)
  • Transit Beat Reporter Pete Donohue Is Leaving the Daily News (Capital)
  • State’s Chief Judge Backs Summons Reform; Says Bicycling on Sidewalk Shouldn’t Be Criminal (Capital)
  • Two Die in High-Speed Fresh Meadows Car Crash (News); Driver Critically Injured on LIE (Post)
  • The Transport Politic Questions Whether de Blasio’s Utica Ave Subway Extension Is a Wise Investment
  • Malcolm Gladwell Focuses on How to Build a Safer Car, Rather Than Safer Streets (New Yorker)
  • Reckless Driving is Just a Bunch of LOLs to the Staten Island Advance

More headlines at Streetsblog USA

  • Larry Littlefield

    “Unfortunately, the MTA has had to borrow a lot.”

    Gee, that wasn’t thought of as unfortunate at the time. Has Mr. Russianoff changed sides, because there seems to be a universal desire among everyone else to have it borrow $20 billion more.

    “Daily News Coverage Blames MTA for Fare Hikes.”

    Funny how no one bought any of this up before Pendergast was re-appointed. Here is the imaginary conversation.

    “OK Pendergast, you’re the fall guy. If you play along you get to keep your job. Imagine what that pay level will do for your pension. Besides, won’t you be a able to use your expertise to slow the collapse of the system? Isn’t that better than having it collapse sooner, before you and I and our crowd can get the hell out of here?”

    “Deal.”

    The public:

    “Service is worse than it’s ever been. My salary isn’t increasing. How am I going to pay for my daily card? What are we getting for another fare increase?”

    How could that be, with soaring ridership bringing in more fare revenue and an economy as good as it will ever be in the new normal bringing in more tax revenue? Of course I know the reason, but why isn’t anyone demanding explanations from those who put us in this situation?

    Truth is, every plan has the MTA borrowing another $20 billion and being right back in the same situation in five years, but with even more revenues going to past debts and retroactive pension increases. Any plan that avoids that would have 15 percent fare increases, the Move NY plan, a lot more money from the city, and a lot less in LIRR/NYCT contractor ripoffs too.

  • BubbaJoe123

    “Says Bicycling on Sidewalk Shouldn’t Be Criminal

  • Voter

    Mark Treyger’s contributions to Vision Zero: getting one speed camera moving and combating the non-existent scourge of texting bicyclists. What a hero!

  • Adrian

    Below is a great article on transportation options and the future of urban mobility. As a Brit who is soon to return there it gave me great cause for optimism.

    http://www.theguardian.com/cities/2015/apr/28/end-of-the-car-age-how-cities-outgrew-the-automobile

  • Bolwerk

    Why do you only care about the fraction of MTA overspending that involves borrowing? The rest is okay with you?

  • Larry Littlefield

    No, the rest is not OK with me.

    The reality is, however, that operational efficiency has improved over the decades at NYCT. And yet we are $32 billion in debt and rising.

    Will you be pleased if that goes to $50 billion? Or would more be preferable?

  • Larry Littlefield

    On Gothamist:

    “Board member Allen Cappelli added, ‘We knew this day would come, and it’s here.'”

    Expletive deleted.

  • Bolwerk

    Not that I approve of more debt, but blowing some factor of whatever debt service is in waste every year seems worse to me.

    (Besides, that’s the money that could stop the debt problem and expand service.)

  • ddartley

    How about instead of allowing Staten Island to secede like some of its residents occasionally wish for, how about the rest of the city lop them off?

  • Larry Littlefield

    Think of what has already happened. Imagine that ongoing revenues had been used to pay for all ongoing expenditures, instead of being diverted to the Generation Greed party.

    How much rail system expansion would the existing MTA debt bought at fair prices?

    And it isn’t Phase II of the SAS they are threatening to cancel, it is (by any fair accounting) the rest of Phase I.

    Meanwhile, suddenly everyone wants more stuff studied so they can show they are pro-transit. And get campaign contributions from consultants.

  • Bolwerk

    But only a fraction of that problem is *debt*. The rest is “onogoing revenue” spent frivolously.

    Seems way worse to me.

  • Clarke

    Update from DOT on the removal of the South St bike path, for anyone interested: “The scheduled completion date is Dec 2015. The goal of this project is to install a new protected bike lane from Old Slip to Fulton St.”

  • Joe R.

    If NYC built more safe bicycle infrastructure there would be a lot less sidewalk riding.

  • AnoNYC

    Bicycling on the sidewalk is not only uncommon but you cannot reach adequate speeds with pedestrians and street furniture to make it worth wild. When it does happen it is annoying but there is no need to backlog the courts over it. A simple fine would suffice (comparatively less than automobiles of course).
    People that ride on the sidewalk are either about to mount/dismount or are afraid of the traffic. The practice is also authorized in certain areas. So in a perfect world a cop would only ticket in certain circumstances. Judging the rate of sidewalk summonses issued in Bed-study to Park Slope, seems like an easy ticket in areas saturated with police officers.

  • BubbaJoe123

    True, but not relevant. If NYC built elevated highways throughout Manhattan, it would be a lot faster to go across town in a car, but that doesn’t justify driving 60mph on 34th street.
    If you’re on a sidewalk, walk the bike. It’s really not hard.

  • BubbaJoe123

    “People that ride on the sidewalk are either about to mount/dismount or are afraid of the traffic.”
    Or don’t want to be bothered to go around the block, and use the sidewalk rather than going the wrong way in the street.

  • AnoNYC

    The opposition against the Move NY plan is so silly. I guess Queens residents do not take mass transportation, enjoy the ills of congestion (especially areas like LIC) and like paying more for bridge crossings in areas with comparatively poorer transportation options.

    Boggles my mind how people can be so stupid.

  • Joe R.

    What’s the point of going by bike if you’re going to walk it? Unless a sidewalk is very crowded, in which case I agree that the bike should be walked, there’s no reason bikes and pedestrians can’t coexist. They do it all the time in other places. Many outer borough sidewalks along arterials are virtually empty. A blanket prohibition on sidewalk cycling is silly. It should be on a case by case basis, depending upon how crowded the sidewalk is. And on streets with very crowded sidewalks the city should provide a separate safe space for cycling.

    You do know children under 14 are allowed to ride on the sidewalk? What if these children want to ride with their parents?

  • AnoNYC

    Great article and the same is happening in NYC, albeit slowly.

  • ahwr

    Judging the rate of sidewalk summonses issued in Bed-study to Park Slope

    2050 vs 8 per year, 2008-2011

    http://marijuana-arrests.com/docs/Criminal-Court-Summonses-in-NYC–CUNY-Law-School-April-24-2014.pdf

  • Larry Littlefield

    What fraction do you think Is interest on debts, pension debt (the portion of pension contributions not going to what current workers are earning right now), and retiree health insurance?

    1/2 is a fraction too.

    Per Russianoff:

    “As a result of their massive borrowing over the years, the agency owes $2.2 billion a year in interest payments! That’s 17% of its budget before a single train.”

    That’s one of those three types of costs from the past.

    Moreover, the only reason interest alone isn’t double that level is the zero interest rate policy of the Federal Reserve. When normal interest rates return, the cost of the debt the MTA already has will soar every time it has to re-borrow its existing debt — and immediately for floating rate debt.

  • Kevin Love

    “It is fundamentally unfair to charge residents a fee to travel within one city…” the Queens Democrats said in a statement.

    So now they favor a no-fare MTA?

    Or is it that car drivers get to be freeloading parasites who get away with paying a tiny fraction of the harm they do.

  • BubbaJoe123

    “You do know children under 14 are allowed to ride on the sidewalk?”
    Yes
    “What if these children want to ride with their parents?”
    Same as if they want their parents to ride on an amusement park ride with a maximum height: they don’t.
    I agree that there may be some locations where sidewalk biking isn’t unsafe for pedestrians, but the places I’m most familiar with (Manhattan), it really is.
    The speed difference between a pedestrian and a cyclist is almost as great as between a car (on city streets) and a cyclist, and while cars certainly present a greater risk to cyclists than cyclists due to pedestrians, they’re really not particularly compatible for at least large areas of the city.

  • BubbaJoe123

    “What’s the point of going by bike if you’re going to walk it?”
    Because you can ride legally, and not have to walk it.

  • Joe R.

    You don’t look at just speed difference. You need to look at kinetic energy. A cyclist going 10 or 12 mph on a sidewalk has only about 1/500th of the kinetic energy of a 2-ton car going 55 mph on city streets. And yes, 55 mph is typical free flowing car speed on many NYC arterials, including the Manhattan Avenues.

    As I said, ban sidewalk cycling in places where sidewalks are just too crowded to bike safely but at the same time require installation of parallel bike infrastructure wherever sidewalk cycling is banned.

    I agree that there may be some locations where sidewalk biking isn’t unsafe for pedestrians, but the places I’m most familiar with (Manhattan), it really is.

    Actually sidewalk cycling would be safe on about 95% of the sidewalks in NYC, if not more. I know it doesn’t seem that way from a Manhattan perspective, but where I live the sidewalks are practically empty all the time. Usually even at peak times we’re talking about only a few people per block.

  • Joe R.

    Since a lot of these pension increases were retroactive how about we retroactively decrease them? It’s one thing to pay workers who are actually doing work now but defined pension plans should go the way of the dodo. The biggest problem with them is we never adjusted the age to account for longer lifespans. Back when 65 was often used as the age to start collecting pensions, the average person only collected for a few years. Many didn’t live long enough to collect. The age for getting pensions needs to be raised to 80 or 85. Pensions and retirement are for one purpose only—to ensure income for people who are no longer physically able to work. Somewhere along the line somebody got the idea that retirement should be a 25 or 30 year party. It shouldn’t be unless you finance it with your own personal assets. Pensions should only go to people who have reached an age where they’re in such poor physical shape they can’t do any type of productive work. Generally when people are in that kind of shape, they’ll only live a few more years anyway.

  • ohhleary

    Let’s see… one is assault; one is a traffic offense that for whatever reason has been elevated to a criminal offense that one must spend a day in court simply to face punishment before a judge.

    I don’t think you understand the point of decriminalization. Sidewalk riding will still be illegal, as it should be, but offenders will receive a ticket and pay a fine, like drivers who speed or run a red light.

  • Bolwerk

    Sounds like a good argument for acting on my point instead of the laser focus on debt! :-p

    Though I don’t think interest rates are climbing soon. Which may not be a good thing per se because it encourages risky investment.

  • Bolwerk

    AIUI, they’re contractual obligations. You pretty much can’t reverse them. Even legislation can’t reverse them.

    A well-run defined benefit plan isn’t a bad thing per se, but it needs to be managed sort of like insurance with a lot of of actuarial input.

  • Joe R.

    The problem here is the MTA didn’t finance the pension obligations by investing money now for future obligations. It borrowed instead.

    I know it’s a contract but my thinking is basically something along the lines of the MTA declaring bankruptcy. That’ll happen sooner or later at the rate things are going. Once you declare bankruptcy you can often renegotiate contracts. The bottom line is you can’t squeeze blood out of stone. These obligations exceed the money the MTA will have in the long term. Expecting straphangers to pay 50% or 100% fare increases to finance pensions is both unrealistic and unfair. Sometimes people don’t mind paying a little more if they get more in return, perhaps in this case more frequent trains or subway expansion. However, they would be getting nothing here for their money, perhaps even face service cuts. As such, many people would stop using the system, putting it into a death spiral.

  • Larry Littlefield

    Debt is more responsible for the MTA death spiral. Pensions are more responsible for the big drain of the NYC public schools, cops, fire.
    Getting back to it, interest payments are 17 percent of the total budget. The claim is that this is a “fraction” of operating costs spent frivolously. So what share of the budget is “frivolous” ongoing spending?
    If you say one-third, then perhaps you could say interest is expenses are a mere half the level of MTA waste.
    If you want to say half all ongoing MTA spending is frivolous, then you could claim that interest costs are a mere 1/3 of MTA waste.
    Just cut waste fraud and abuse and audit the two sets of books and the MTA will have $billions, you seem to want to tell Cuomo and DeBlasio.

  • Bolwerk

    Every train has an extra employee and most stations don’t need attendance beyond the occasional cleaner. That’s hundreds of millions, maybe billions, right there. I lost track of overtime, but a few years ago it was half a billion alone, which is about a quarter of 17% of the MTA budget (which, IIRC, is presently ~$15B?).

    There is stuff that’s up for debate, like the minutia of various work rules. There is other stuff the MTA is just forced to cope with, like traffic (increases bus operating costs by some uncertain factor) and FRA regs. I have trouble buying things like split shifts can’t be accommodated to cut peak operating costs, but that position seems to be anathema to “liberals” (=true conservatives).

    But internationally most agencies manage a much lower payroll than the MTA to operate the same proportion of track and surface transit. Somehow their systems aren’t burning murder-rape magnets asphyxiating on a deluge of refuse and detritus. (Oh, wait, *we* have the refuse and detritus!)

  • BubbaJoe123

    Don’t disagree that it should be decriminalized. Definitely disagree with others (not you) who believe that it should be allowed. I cycle regularly in the city, and have never felt a need or desire to ride on a sidewalk.

  • AnoNYC

    Almost unbelievable huh.

    Sickening.

  • Joe R.

    I don’t all that much, either but there are times it comes in handy, like when I had to do a short stretch on Cross Bay Boulevard which was practically like a highway. Riding on the road was totally unsafe, and the parallel sidewalk was empty. I should also mention when I first started riding I pretty much stuck exclusively to sidewalks along major arterials, and gradually acquired the confidence and ability to ride in the street. Sidewalks are a great incubator for new riders. They tend to go much slower than seasoned riders, and hence pose little danger to pedestrians unless the sidewalk is very crowded (in which case I agree banning sidewalk cycling makes sense).

    The bottom line is I feel sidewalk cycling in general should be allowed unless circumstances dictate otherwise. In the outer boroughs especially sidewalks can function as defacto protected bike lanes. Remember there are already other laws under which cyclists who hit pedestrians while on the sidewalk can be prosecuted for. That should be the main goal here—penalize those who actually cause harm, not those who engage in an action which statistically has an extremely low probability of causing harm.

  • Larry Littlefield

    So if the state Reaganed the unions, we could borrow another $20 billion, and get debt service up to 50 percent of total revenues and be better off?

    I’ve got my issues with them, mostly with the LIRR, but let’s just say that’s wishful thinking. Which is bad, because with folks like you going around, they’ll likely get their wish. Lots of borrowing, unions in on the deal, and head for Florida.

  • Bolwerk

    Hold on here. People like me? Who are people like me? Where did I say a word about borrowing more? Or “Reaganing” people?

    All I did was state the problem. The very problem that leads to all the debt in the first place. If you can’t acknowledge it, you can’t address it.

  • Bolwerk

    Those who don’t drive aren’t people.