Today’s Headlines

  • The Times Looks at Cuomo’s Legacy and Finds Big Infrastructure Projects, But Not Subways
  • MTA Train Operator Arrested for Hit-and-Run Death of Aron Aranbayev, 40 (DNA, News)
  • Wrong-Way Speeding Crown Hts Driver Charged With Manslaugher for Killing Passenger (Post, News)
  • Dreams for Brooklyn Waterfront Streetcar Live On, Now With High-Powered Consultant (Capital)
  • Intersection Where Allison Liao Was Killed Gets Honorary Renaming (TL)
  • State Sen. James Sanders and TWU’s John Samuelsen Back Woodhaven SBS (Q Chron)
  • Pols and Riders on the 7 Train Worry About Adding a Willets Point AirTrain (News)
  • Council Bill Would Toughen Fines for Unlicensed Dollar Vans (DNA)
  • Stringer: Potholes Cost City $138 Million in Claims Over Past Six Years (NYT)
  • Six-Hour Training for City Employees Includes “Drive Like Your Family Lives Here” Film (Post)

More headlines at Streetsblog USA

  • Jonathan R

    After reading the Times article about the pothole claims, I wonder how much in claims the city could save by lowering the speed limit on the highways. Stands to reason that hitting a deep pothole at 60 mph is much different than hitting the same pothole at 30 mph.

  • stairbob

    Speed humps are essentially a billboard that says “we acknowledge that we have failed in designing this street properly.”

  • com63

    The Willets point airtrain is such a bad idea. They are also proposing a ferry that would stop at the marine air terminal where you presumably would need to take a bus to get to the actual terminals after getting off the ferry. Here is a much better idea:
    Extend the N train to Laguardia, but this time add stops in the Northern part of Astoria (one along along 19th ave?) and at the Rikers entrance. Stop at the marine air terminal (to pick up ferry passengers) and then go to the new terminals. This gives a one seat ride to much of Manhattan and allows for better transit access in a large part of queens. Even if this costs way more than the Airtain, it is so much of a better system. It would just take some political spine to accomplish.

    The current airtrain proposal is just a jobs program that few people will actually use when current bus options are much faster.

  • Joe R.

    Highways are kind of pointless with a 30 mph speed limit (which incidentally wouldn’t be obeyed any more than the present 50 mph is obeyed). If anything, to attract traffic from surface streets NYC should increase highway speed limits. Besides that, the bulk of the payout here was personal injury claims, which I’ll take a good guess are mostly cyclists and pedestrians. A pothole may damage a motor vehicle, but it’s highly unlikely to cause injury.

    The real solution here is to just keep streets in good repair. Start by having a long term program to rebuild all major streets with concrete instead of asphalt. It’s really amazing to me how much better this material is. Sections of streets which are concrete, like some overpasses, literally haven’t been touched since I’ve moved to this area 37 years ago, and yet they’re still in decent shape. The adjoining asphalt streets are often terrible, despite having been resurfaced 5 to 10 times during the same period.

    One of the most basic functions of local government is to keep streets in good repair. NYC has been failing miserably at this for decades.

  • Joe R.

    I totally don’t understand how some of these proposals even pass the initial vetting process. Nearly everywhere else when you build a rail link from an airport it goes all the way to the city center. Granted, it may not always be a one seat ride but at least you’re not required to switch to slower local transit midway between the airport and the CBD. They made the same mistake with the JFK AirTrain by not having it go all the way to Manhattan. You would think they would have learned from that but apparently not.

    I tend to think you’re right. In NYC we use these projects mainly as jobs programs, not to solve actual transportation problems.

  • com63

    And to continue my thought, this could be a great area for transit accessible affordable/mixed income housing. All of the industrial area north of 20th ave could be rezoned and upzoned and you could have a transit accessible neighborhood of new dense affordable/mixed income housing. the city wouldn’t even have to build the housing. They could just build the subway and change the zoning and developers would take care of the rest.

  • Riverduckexpress

    From the Queens Chronicle article about Woodhaven SBS:

    “Building new subway lines is impractical, extraordinarily expensive, and for all intents and purposes not feasible. Bus Rapid Transit, however, is a solution that can ensure that more New Yorkers have world-class transportation and the opportunity for a better quality of life.”

    They’re doing that thing again where subway lines are bad! and SBS is the one and only solution to our problems. The Rockaway Beach Line isn’t so impractical when it becomes the cheapest way to establish Second Avenue Subway service to Queens, once Phase 3 is complete. It’s far from infeasible. It’s all about who has the political willpower to stand up to NIMBYs and those who think a greenway would somehow become a 2nd High Line.

  • Bolwerk

    Actually, the Faithful think: BRT is the solution to everything, and SBS isn’t Real BRT™. And they always bitch about legions of foaming railfans. OTOH, in this case, many (not all) RBB reactivation advocates are engaging in some dickery of their own. They are often just car advocates cloaking themselves as transit advocates because they want to keep as many lanes open to private cars as possible.

    The sad thing is both Woodhaven SBS and RBB reactivation are both great projects that fill different and in some ways complementary needs. I guess an intellectually honest person could be against one or another, but not on the grounds of preferring one to the other.

    TFB, QChron probably just doesn’t think this stuff through though.

  • djx

    I’d be curious to know about these payouts and rates of injuries in comparative perspective with other places.

    For sure, we don’t want holes that cause people to fall or trip or cyclists to crash. But how bad is NYC? I’m not sure.

  • Riverduckexpress

    Something funny: Yesterday the Queens Chronicle ALSO posted an article about Assembly Phil Goldfeder (who represents the communities from Ozone Park down to the Rockaways) asking the MTA to look into the feasibility of reactivating the Rockaway Beach Branch. But for one reason or another, that article didn’t make it into today’s headlines. Guess the RBB isn’t that important after all!

  • Riverduckexpress

    Yesterday the Queens Chronicle ALSO posted an article about Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder (who represents the communities from Ozone Park down to the Rockaways) asking the MTA to look into the feasibility of reactivating the Rockaway Beach Branch. Would have been nice to see it included in the headlines to balance out the pro-SBS, subway-bashing article…!

  • Bolwerk

    Don’t get me here wrong: the Willets Point route sucks.

    But the reason is it does fill a need, and better alternatives don’t always rule out the worse ones. Even accounting for Yonah Freemark’s points, the AirTrain route is still faster for a lot of trips, however flawed the route is.

    Maybe more importantly, the audience here is airport users who might very well have luggage that could take up a lot of space on a bus but would fit comfortably on any train except maybe at peak hours. The really time-sensitive airport users probably aren’t using transit anyway, so taking a bit more time isn’t a huge deal for them.

    The bottom line is just that the need would be better filled by com63’s suggestion, even a watered down version of it.

  • Joe R.

    I would love to see some sort of objective comparison between NYC and other places. Anecdotally though, it seems NYC is pretty bad. Other cyclists I’ve conversed with online talk of replacing their wheel bearings. Now it typically takes at least 5K to 10K miles before a bike wheel needs to have its bearing replaced. I just about never even get to that point. Typically for me, rear wheels get trashed in 2K to 5K miles. Fronts last longer, but I’ve yet to wear out the bearings on one before it needed to be replaced for some other reason. It’s always the same type of issues. Dents, dings, broken spokes, sometimes broken hubs. Eventually the wheel gets to the point where you can’t really get it true by playing with spoke tension. At that point its time for a new wheel. Alloy wheels seem to hold up better than the steel wheels I used to use, but it seems NYC streets are hard on bikes. I’ve also cracked 4 frames and busted a front fork.

    It’s not just the sheer quantity of street defects but also their nature. It almost seems to be universal thing for example that you’ll have chunks of asphalt missing right where concrete bus stops meet the asphalt. When these missing chunks are a few inches or more, they give you a nice jolt. Many of the types of pvement defects common in NYC are exactly the kind where a bike wheel falls in, then strikes the opposing edge really hard. If you don’t fall, you often end up with wheel damage.

    As I said, I would love to see objective studies, but by my nearly 72K miles of subjective experience riding here the streets have always been terrible for the most part.

  • Bolwerk

    I’m not sure I would characterize it as subway-bashing. It was probably the usual fallacy where comparing upfront capital costs between two projects is treated as indicating the total cost of implementing a decades-long project.

    Lazy journalism? Sure. Wrong? Definitely. Malicious? Probably not.

    Want BRT boosterism that actually crosses the line into, ahem, foaming? Check out this nugget from Enrique Penalosa, someone who is supposed to be a respectable voice for good transportation planning.

    Or, in a similar vein, take take the NYT’s pro-future-wrecking park advocacy.

  • JamesR

    I don’t think any kind of rebranding of bus travel as in any way equivalent to heavy rail can pass muster. Even SBS can’t get past the fact that riding the bus is just a low quality experience overall.

    Maybe they could suck less if we had a better repaving schedule at DOT, or if the NYPD would do their jobs and enforce bus lane restrictions. But they don’t and likely won’t, and so buses of any stripe are doomed to be second rate. Most of the time I would rather walk than ride the bus.

    Don’t you wish we had a political economy that was less sclerotic and actually able to build the heavy rail infrastructure we desperately need? I say heavy rail rather than subway because it does not necessarily need to run underground. Take Tribobo Rx, for example.

  • Mark Walker

    Thanks for mentioning luggage because it’s the one thing that keeps me using taxis to airports. The ideal airport rail link to Manhattan would not only involve a single train but escalators or elevators to prevent less than perfectly robust people like me from having to carry luggage up and down stairs. If anything, the escalators and elevators are even more important to me than the one-train ride. There’s already a new elevator at my home IRT station at Bway/96. Give me a stair-free ride to the airport and I’ll gladly use it regardless of train changes, cost, or travel time.

  • ahwr

    Not sure about payouts or rates of injuries, but this has road quality and estimated additional maintenance costs (for drivers) from driving on roads in a state of disrepair by metro –

    Tripnet report was linked to by Stringer. The appendix gives pavement conditions for metros with more than 500k people. Stringer says NYC metro has seventh worst roads (among metros with 500k+), but that’s only going by % poor. Might not be the best methodology, see Jacksonville, with 6% poor, 80% mediocre.

  • Joe R.

    At least this gives some objective data. The NYC metro area data of course would be skewed, at least in regards to NYC, by the fact roads are generally better in NJ and LI. Even so, the data only shows 18% of the roads being either fair or good. That’s pretty depressing, actually.

    The numbers aren’t all that great for most other places, either. I guess since keeping roads in good repair isn’t as “sexy” as new infrastructure projects, there’s little political support for it. 🙁

  • ahwr

    The tripnet numbers are just for highways and other major roads. Stringer used them because his report was mostly about payouts to drivers. High traffic high speed roads will have larger payouts from potholes than minor roads.

    NYC roads had a lower average rating (higher is better) than Nassau, Suffolk, Westchester, Putnam, or Rockland. But NYC had fewer roads in poor condition than the other counties (Bronx was a bit higher than Nassau and Suffolk though) I don’t see a newer report though. I don’t know how broad the categories are, or if ‘poor’ in tripnet means the same as in the dot report.

    On page 29 categories by a different pavement metric for NYSDOT and FHWA.

  • Kevin Love

    “BRT, which includes hard-barrier dedicated bus lanes, platform-level boarding and traffic signal priority, can dramatically improve transit options for thousands of New Yorkers in this outer borough neighborhood.”

    Sounds like “real” BRT to me. While I am certainly not anti-subway, BRT can be implemented quickly and comparatively cheaply.

    The disadvantage of BRT is that it has a lot less capacity than a subway. Depending upon stop spacing and the effectiveness of signal priority, BRT will have at most a tiny fraction of the capacity of a subway.

    A key limitation is the signal priority. Bus headways of five minutes are OK, but significantly less than that (eg two minutes) mean that the signal will be predominately green for the bus and red for cross traffic.

    Many cities (eg Tokyo, Toronto) run subway trains at 2-3 minute headways. And each train can take well over 10 times as many people as a bus. So much greater capacity.

    This does not have to be an “either/or forever” situation. It makes sense to implement BRT immediately. Then if the demand is there, upgrade to LRT or subway.

  • Bolwerk

    Talk now is to implement BRT at nearly light rail prices. :-

    But I think the point a lot of people (QChron?) are missing is subways and buses do different things. Maybe you can upgrade a bus to LRT, but a subway is more a complement than a substitute.

    At ¼ of a mile from Woodhaven, RBB isn’t ever going to be the local trip option. That’s half a mile of total walking to transit between two Woodhaven destinations. Doesn’t make sense.

  • Kevin Love

    Very true. The usual form of upgrade from BRT to subway should go like this: When forecast demand exceeds BRT capacity, a subway line is built. The BRT line is often tweaked by adding extra stations, so that BRT then takes more local trips and the subway takes longer distance trips with its much wider station spacing.

    In reality, all too often it goes like this: When actual demand overwhelms BRT capacity, a 10-15 year subway project is initiated. In the meantime, people are crammed like sardines into the buses, further blackening the reputation of a bus ride experience.

  • BBnet3000

    Actually, the Faithful think: […] SBS isn’t Real BRT™.

    Even the best SBS lines still run in side lanes with lots of parking and turning conflicts, and it seems like the trend is toward newer lines except for Woodhaven being just regular bus lines with offboard fare collection.

  • BBnet3000

    Talk now is to implement BRT at nearly light rail prices.

    Well, that’s New York for you. If they wanted light rail it would be at elevated train prices and if they wanted an elevated it would be at subway prices. For a subway line, expect space exploration prices.

    If the Rockaway Line can’t serve Woodhaven destinations what exactly would it serve? There is a reason they shut it down in the first place.

    If you wanted to go to Southern Queens from anywhere except Northern Queens why wouldn’t you just take the A train to begin with? Indeed, why wouldn’t you take the bus on Woodhaven, which is very well ridden today despite being a normal bus line with slow fare collection.

  • Bolwerk

    I generally prefer the side lanes (I can see arguments for exceptions, maybe Woodhaven is a good one). Side running is generally better for accessibility and I think most of the problems can be mitigated by limiting right turns or pretty basic enforcement.

  • Bolwerk

    It can serve Woodhaven origins and destinations quite well. The walking distance to Woodhaven is about 1.3 Manhattan long blocks. That doesn’t make a lot of sense when the origin and destination are both on Woodhaven, but it does make sense when one is on Woodhaven and another is, say, in Midtown East. Analogously, the Lex probably doesn’t make a lot of sense when the origin and destination are both on First Avenue.

    I’d say a one-seat subway ride to Manhattan trumps a bus ride to a subway for a longer-distance trip, especially if you’re going to need to transfer again in Manhattan, and vice-versa for a bus. Why not have both?

  • Joe R.

    Same here. A big argument against center running is what happens if the bus is coming and you can’t physically get to the bus stop because of car traffic? You end up missing your bus. Granted, that’s also the case if the bus stop happens to be across the street. However, in the case of center running you face this situation regardless of which direction you’re taking the bus. At least with side running you have 50% odds of not missing a bus due to heavy car traffic.

  • Bolwerk

    You probably have nearly 100% odds of not missing the bus if you arrive even 2 minutes before its scheduled arrival. :-p

  • Joe R.

    Except for the fact that other than the first stop the schedules are generally unreliable. Most people who take the bus don’t even know or look at schedules. The just get to the bus stop when they get there. That’s even more the case if they’re transferring from another bus or the subway.

    Ideally there would never be so much car traffic that you couldn’t cross the street whenever you want. That would even make buses suck less. But this is NYC. We refuse to do anything at all to discourage driving. Perhaps a good idea would be to put in pedestrian tunnels just so people can get across in time if their bus is arriving.

  • Bolwerk

    With a dedicated lane, most unreliability should disappear. Evenso, unreliability is almost never in favor of a faster trip. 5 minutes late might be normal variance, but anymore than 2 minutes early is probably very unusual.

    My anecdotal experience is that more than a minute or so early is almost unheard of. That goes for M15 SBS or slow backwards lines like the Q39.

  • Andrew

    To JFK: 1 to 59th, then A to Howard Beach, then AirTrain. Or 2/3 to Fulton, then A to Howard Beach, then AirTrain. Or 1/2/3 to 42nd, then E to Sutphin, then AirTrain. Or 1/2/3 to 34th, then LIRR to Jamaica, then AirTrain.

    To EWR: 1/2/3 to 34th, then NJT and AirTrain.

    To LGA: 1/2/3 to 42nd, then 7 to 74th (or Woodside if you’re on an express), then Q70. Or M104 to 116th, then M60.

  • stairbob


    If you arrive 5 minutes early, the bus will be 10 minutes late.

    But if you arrive 2 minutes early, the bus will be 3 minutes early.

  • qrt145

    That’s magical thinking based on selective memory. But regardless of where the bus stop is, there will always be some unlucky days where you miss it by seconds.

    The only way to prevent it is to actually keep a schedule so you can plan to be there at the right time. I’m not holding my breath; the subway isn’t keeping its schedule and it already has it’s own “lanes” (aka tracks), signals, platforms…

  • Kevin Love

    I don’t think stairbob was serious. But rather than “keep a schedule” it is better to have headway control. If the bus really is every five minutes, then there is not long to wait.

    And in a city like New York, even the most irrational bus routing (examples available upon request) should have enough demand to justify five minute headways. Any lack of demand is usually due to the bus being crappy and slow because it is being obstructed by private motor vehicles. Which is the reason to have BRT in the first place.