Today’s Headlines

More headlines at Streetsblog USA

  • Alexander Vucelic

    so much wrong in so few lines:

    “…A husband ran over and killed his wife in front of their East Flatbush home on Saturday morning — striking her as she tried to guide him down the driveway, police said.
    The 26-year-old woman had been checking for traffic as her 31 year-old husband backed away from their home on East 32nd Street near Avenue D at 9:30 a.m.
    The wife, identified as Napur Baten, wound up stuck under the wheels of her husband’s car, a Toyota Rav4.

    First responders freed the woman and rushed her to Kings County Hospital, but she could not be saved.

    The husband apparently lost control of the car — accidentally, authorities said.
    No charges have been filed, authorities said…”

    it doesn’t have to be this way.

  • Miles Bader

    It might be even more sinister … someone posted a user comment on the Gothamist story claiming to be a friend of the victim, and that there were reasons to believe it was intentional…. I do hope the police are actually investigating.

  • Matthias

    There are so many things wrong here. If the woman was guiding the driver, he was supposedly paying attention to her the entire time. How does someone “lose control accidentally” while backing up slowly? Why are people allowed to store vehicles up against the front of row homes (a fire hazard) when this requires driving over the sidewalk (and removing a public space from the street)?

  • Simon Phearson

    Same here. It’s a common line around these parts, in a kind of black humor fashion, to say that you can get away with murder in NYC as long as your weapon is a car. It would be a chilling development if people actually started taking that lesson to heart. And, of course, we’d have the NYPD’s consistently predictable non-enforcement of traffic laws to blame.

  • KeNYC2030

    Re: Gawker item: Time for some traffic problems in the Hudson tunnel!

  • Tyler

    Transit and street-use-prioritization issues aside… Why is ANYONE surprised that Uber is increasing and yellow cabs are “taking a hit”? The T&LC and the big medallion owners (i.e., corporate lobbyists) have done everything in their power to keep the industry in the stone age, while shielding the drivers from many reasonable requirements for quality.

    Why should I want to walk a block, then stand on the street corner *hoping* to hail a cab when I can be guaranteed a cab to show up where I am? (Oh, and not refuse to drive over the bridge to Brooklyn… or at least make a whiny fuss/tantrum about it… and magically have no knowledge of Brooklyn once there, even though he parks his cab in my neighborhood.)

    The same applies to the MTA — decades of corruption, waste and NYC “exceptionalism” has kept us in the stone age (well, maybe bronze age). WWII-era switching systems, and count-down clocks that are still basically in Beta test mode for very few subway lines. At least the bus system actually has GPS tracking…. though MTA “Bus Time” is still not available everywhere (Umm… WHY?!)

  • bolwerk

    Zero tolerance in Bogota? Brown people beware. On the bright side for NYC, maybe Penalosa can take Bratton off our hands.

  • Bus Time is available everywhere and has been for a few years. Your other points – especially with regards to the TLC – are right on the money. The yellow cab passenger experience is just awful (especially compared to the cab-hailing apps), and no one has tried to improve it.

  • qrt145
  • Nearly two years now. We’re quibbling over technicalities. Point is that it is currently available on all NYC Transit bus routes.

  • Tyler

    Well, that’s good to know… I thought I read recently that there was some inexplicable delay. But that might have been with something else.

  • JamesR

    The MTA bus-riding experience is no less awful, just in different ways. It’s all the downsides of the subway, minus any of the subway’s inherent ride comfort as a rail-based system. Every time I take the bus I swear I won’t do it again, and then there’s a rainy/snowy/no subway due to maintenance day and I find myself on one again.

    I’m ready for some Silicon Valley-style disruption to the bus riding experience. The subway system is untouchable because it’s a unique, priceless asset monopolized by a government agency, but what is to stop a company from buying buses and running them in a transit-style system, but better than the MTA?

  • JamesR

    BTW I don’t mean jitney vans. I mean actual buses. Yes, I get that the axle load on buses is high and they tear up the roads, but anything’s gotta be better than the bus system we have now, SBS notwithstanding.

  • Andrew

    The inexplicable delay was probably on the bus you’ve been tracking on BusTime.

  • Andrew

    what is to stop a company from buying buses and running them in a transit-style system, but better than the MTA?

    Primarily, that most of the bus system operates at a loss. If you want to lose money running buses, I doubt anybody’s going to stop you.

  • Larry Littlefield

    The problem with the bus is that it gets stuck in traffic, and is very, very slow.

    Other than that, the reality is the bus is much better than it once was. The diesel fumes are mostly gone. There is AC. Bus time lets you know when the bus is coming — one reason to consider starting to text or getting a smart phone, which I’ve been holding out on. And there is the free transfers for linked trips, so you can get off the subway a distance from your destination, do some shopping, and take the bus home.

    I find that I’m taking the bus now more than ever before.

  • Larry Littlefield

    Woman runs over 40-plus people in Oklahoma, is charged with murder.

    http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2015/10/26/suspect-deadly-oklahoma-crash-due-court/74613054/

  • bolwerk

    There are buses that work well, even in Manhattan. Where they don’t work well there are prescriptions for fixing the problem the world over, like dedicated lanes, lane enforcement (hello, M34!), and trams.

    The real way to bring costs down is to reduce or eliminate labor, which is probably decades away from being practical on surface transit. It doesn’t matter whether the MTA or a private company does this.

  • Joe R.

    The free transfers are the only reason I take the bus at all. Prior to their existence, I invariably walked the 2.5 miles each way from my place to the nearest subway station instead of taking the bus. My reasoning was paying an extra fare wasn’t worth it to save maybe 15 minutes time at best (bus takes 15 to 20 minutes plus waiting time, walking about 30 to 35 minutes). I really couldn’t afford it either on what I was making at the time.

    At the time, I seriously wished there was safe, free bike storage near the subway. That would have made not taking the bus faster, while still saving me an extra fare. The calculus has changed with a single fare, but bike share on feeder bus routes in Queens would be huge. With buses running slower than ever thanks to heavier traffic, that same bus now typically takes at least 20 minutes, often over 30. I could bike the distance in maybe 10 minutes without killing myself. Of course, I rarely need to take the subway now, so it really doesn’t matter for me personally. Lots of other people here would benefit from bike share along such bus routes.

  • AJ

    “what is to stop a company from buying buses and running them in a transit-style system, but better than the MTA?”
    The special interests (ahem, the Transit Worker’s Union) will lobby the city and state governments to kill anything like this. They already *hate* the speedy, efficient jitney systems that go from Port Authority to Paterson and Hudson County and from downtown Brooklyn to Flatbush and down Utica Ave.

    One of the ironies of NYC politics is that a union is one of the greatest drags on quality of life for the poorest New Yorkers (those that take mass transit, and especially those that live in the working-class neighborhoods beyond the reach of the subway)

  • AJ

    Even if the technology existed, the TWU lobbyists would never allow driverless buses. We have the technology for driverless subways, but 2 or 3-person crews are still the standard throughout the system.

  • AJ

    In my experience trying it several months apart along the B15 bus line, the texting option never works for BusTime, forcing me to turn on my data plan just to figure out when (if) the bus will come. When I text, I just get some bizzare “forbidden” or “denied” text message in return.

  • knisa

    It wouldn’t run at a loss if the work rules weren’t so antiquated.

  • Jonathan R

    At the corner of Gates and Marcus Garvey, right now, there is a B15 to JFK 3 min, 2 stops away, another one 0.9 miles (at terminal), and another one 1.1 miles away. Text ‘B15 307902’ to 511123.

  • Jonathan R

    I take the Q44 bus daily. The bus has several advantages over the subway.

    It goes along the street, so there is no taking time to descend to the subway platform (or climb to the elevated). This is a big benefit if you have a child in or out of a stroller.

    Bus stops are closer together than subway stops, so they are probably closer to your destination.

    BusTime tells you now when the bus is coming, in minutes and in miles/stops.

    If you don’t have the full fare on the MetroCard, the driver will often wave you onto the bus. Try that on the subway.

    The big disadvantage is the lack of speed, but that as Streetsblog readers are aware, is because of private-motor-vehicle-friendly policies in place on the streets.

  • bolwerk

    Well, that’s reasonable on buses for now. For the time being, I even see why OPTO trains are reasonable. (Are there really 3-person crews still?) The labor issues on buses tend to be refusal to accept some split shifts or part-timers, leading to drivers who spend a lot of their shifts not working because there is nothing for them to do.

    However, the usual elements who attack the MTA rarely take on labor excesses. Even the right-wingers. Instead they attack the capital program, trying to steal a system in a good state of repair from the future. You know, because you can’t say no to present employees. Even our own Larry Littlefield would rather keep unnecessary bodies employed than pay down debt.

  • Very Liberal NYCer

    Likewise, the teachers union is a huge drag on improving the quality of public education. How are these gigantic, lethargic, change-averse, protection rackets “progressive?” Almost makes me wish we had a functional Republican party in NYC.

  • Joe R.

    The unions for the custodians and other support staff are just as bad. I recall reading a number of years ago about needing to pay a custodian for a full day’s work just to open the school doors for a Saturday function. I remember thinking why can’t they just give the teacher the keys like they do probably just about anywhere else? Of course, it wasn’t in the teacher’s “job description” to open the doors. Neither were they allowed to do something like change light bulbs. An expose in the 1980s detailed how it took on average 4 months, plus a stack of paperwork over an inch thick, just to change a light bulb. The custodian couldn’t even do it without first sending the paperwork to Livingston Street where a bunch of people doing makework jobs all needed to approve it. It’s since been streamlined somewhat, but nonsense like this is exactly why unions lose support among the masses. Good pay for essential work is something few people have a problem with. It’s garbage like I described which gives a bad name to unions. You’re right, nothing progressive about any of this.

  • qrt145

    “This is a big benefit if you have a child in or out of a stroller.”

    In my experience, taking a stroller on the bus sucks even more than taking it on the subway. Strollers are not allowed on buses unless folded, so now you have to juggle a folded stroller plus a child plus a MetroCard. That’s one of the reasons why I almost never use strollers in NYC…

  • Jonathan R

    Rules like ‘no strollers on buses’ are made to be broken. I see it over and over again that drivers let kids on the bus in strollers, particularly if there are two small children.

  • This is offensive nonsense.

    First of all, unions are essential as a defence against arbitrary and selective imposition of disciplinary action. Only collective bargaining can produce a set of procedural guidelines that management will be forced to adhere to, which helps to ensure fairness.

    And, of course, unions most basically help promote a good standard of living for workers. Never forget that the entire purpose of an economy is to provide the people who make it go with a comfortable standard of living. Only by fighting collectively through unions can workers have any chance of returning the benefits of a functioning economy to ourselves. American workers on the whole are suffering on account of having lost sight of this; too many of us have bought into the insidious individualist “middle class” mythology, with the predictable result of historically unprecedented levels of inequality. Those segments of the working class which retain the awareness of the necessity of collective action deserve high praise; they are setting the example that all of us need to follow if we hope to have anything resembling a civilisation.

    Furthermore, those rules about job functons which most of the time seem to be so petty are actually based on protecting against the worst-case scenario. In the majority of instances, nothing will go wrong with, for example, the changing of a light bulb. But there will inevitably be some complication with even the simplest technical fix; and the union rules that require a custodian to do these things (and to document every step) are prudent precautions to deal with these eventualities. This is how a rational society works.

    Finally, union rules help defend standards. Without the rules and the organisation imposed by collective bargaining with unions, all transport would resemble those deathtrap dollar vans that currently plague southeast Queens: uninsured and uninspected vehicles piloted by unqualified and unlicenced drivers. Our streets would be a great deal worse than they currently are.

    Of course, no human endeavour is perfect; and there is no shortage of terrible people within the working class. All unions are not right all of the time. The majority of trade unions at one time excluded blacks. The TWU is shameful in its attempts to exempt its members from the right-of-way law. The PBA is nothing more than a violent gang of dangerous thugs. But in order to fight against errors and bad practices by any particular union, or even to fight against any one union’s thorough corruption, we need not — must not — abandon the notion of working-class self-rule that forms the moral basis for unionisation.

    On the whole, history has shown that the more say that workers have in the running of a society (i.e., the more power and influence that unions have), the more fair and just that society is. And, conversely, the more this influence is eroded, the worse the conditions for the working masses become.

  • Joe R.

    There’s a huge difference between defending job guidelines which make sense (i.e. a bus driver can’t drive a subway train), versus defending stuff like a custodian needed to open a door or change a light bulb. I might understand the latter if the light bulb was located in an inaccessible place which maybe required getting on a ladder to reach. It makes no sense if the light bulb can be changed without special equipment. And there’s no defense at all for the reams of paperwork. Seriously, it was a thick stack of paper which needed approvals from dozens of people just to change an f-ing light bulb. The procedure should have been very simple. If the light bulb is accessible from the ground, the teacher changes it. If not, the custodian does so, but without the need for reams of paperwork. Maybe the bulb needs to be deducted from the stockroom. That should be about it as far as paperwork goes.

    Unions lost popular support due to their excesses. It’s sad you can’t acknowledge this fact. A place I used to work for had a union. I hated it. I had heard we used to have a much bigger presence in NYC, up until the union negotiated terms which weren’t economically viable. At that point most of the company relocated to Virginia. They kept a small presence in NYC. This all happened in the 1970s, about 10 years before I came on. I found as an employee the union was worse than nothing. When I asked for a raise, I was told by the bosses and the union it was in the contract. Except what was in the contract wasn’t a raise, it was a crappy 16 cent an hour increase which didn’t even cover the cost of living. When I threatened to walk, they relented and gave me a $3.60 an hour increase. Unions don’t acknowledge that some workers merit pay large increases sooner while others may merit no pay increases. Instead, it all seems to go by seniority. In short, unions stifle the ambitious. That’s why I hate them.

    I’m making over $100 an hour on my latest consulting gig. I came this far negotiating things on my own, without a union. Unions to me mainly seem to benefit people without much to offer their employers. Those who are skilled and ambitious will do well without a union because they’ll be in demand. I’ve seen too many instances where union rules stifled innovation and worker initiative. They also create a confrontational atmosphere between management and labor. Management and labor should be partners. Yes, workers who make money for an enterprise deserve their fair share, and yes, sad to say nowadays they’re often not getting it. This doesn’t mean unions are the answer. The answer is for people to stop letting themselves be taken advantage of. If you aren’t treated fairly, approach management. If nothing changes, walk. Encourage your fellow employees to do likewise. This is worker solidarity without a union. It works, but also remember you need to be fair judging your own worth. Someone with few skills just doesn’t merit high pay. Any union who fights to overpay workers who don’t merit it is doing everyone a disservice.

  • I have been a union member for almost 30 years. Speaking as someone who proudly and openly professes a dissident ideology, I can say that the union protection is the only thing that has kept me from being persecuted for my ideology. Most of my bosses have been good; some have been lousy. But even the lousy ones were forced to adhere to baseline standards of fairness.

    Of course, I am also good at my job, as reflected in my evaluations. If I weren’t, I would have been fired. Every union contract allows for firing for cause (including poor performance); and this definitely happens at my organisation.

    And I am entirely in favour of raises determined by seniority. Indeed, that is the only fair basis for raises. The ugly truth is that the euphemism “merit-based raises” is just a polite way of saying “playing favourites”. In reality, there is typically little difference amongst employees performing the same function; so “merit-based” raises will only reflect the dominant groups at the expense of oppressed groups (women, black people, gays, etc.)

    Trying to apply an individualised approach to a structural phenomenon is a fundamental error, and is doomed to failure as a strategy. Management and labour have a naturally adversarial relationship; this is inherent in the nature of capitalism. Any worldview which fails to take account of this basic fact is deficient. And please note that “adversarial” is not the same as “confrontational”; it just means that management and labour have many opposing interests (in addition to some common interests).

    To say “if you don’t like it, walk” is a recipe for ever-diminishing standards of living for the working class, as, absent collectively-bargained salary levels, there will always be someone who will accept a job at lower and lower rates of compensation.

    Unfortunately, in this country we are indoctrinated from an early age to drop our natural sense of solidarity with our fellow workers and to adopt a destructive notion of competition with them. We are told to look out only for ourselves in the quest to attain the fictional status of “middle class”; we are brainwashed into believing that it is a virtue to be ambitious rather than class-conscious. If one person prospers while a thousand suffer, the prosperous one, having swallowed the toxic individualist indoctrination, just congratulates himself and sneers at his fellow workers.

    But the truth is that we as workers are all in this together; and the measure of a just society is whether prosperity is extended broadly to the masses, not to just a few individuals. We can achieve a just society only if we workers band together to defend our common interests.

    I am extremely thankful that I have enjoyed union protection for my working life. There are many people just as competent and just as intelligent as I am, who nevertheless have been crushed into poverty, despair, crime, and even homelessness by the arbitrary exercise of authority. It is to this union protection which I owe my peace of mind and my contentment. So I take deep offence when people attack this institution which has helped me have a good life, and which is a necesssary precondition of a decent society.

  • Joe R.

    You could have automatic raises for seniority, coupled with optional ones for merit. There are loads of objective ways to measure performance on many jobs without resorting to favoritism. Maybe even occasional standardized tests on job-related tasks might be used as a basis for awarding merit increases. The fact is some people are happy doing the same job with only small seniority-based increases their entire lives, while others can do a lot better. Unions may protect workers, but at the same time they provide a ready excuse for not giving raises to people who merit them, as I experienced. If you know all you’ll ever get are small increases in pay, often not even matching inflation, what incentive is there to do anything more than the bare minimum needed to keep your job? I recall intentionally stretching out work just so I could get overtime. It was the only way I was able to make any extra money. Even with the raise I still was making a lot less than I was worth, but it was all they could afford to pay. On top of that, I was forced to work 8AM to 4:30PM 5 days a week, even though there was no inherent need for that in my position. For a night person, those hours are akin to torture. Even the boss would have been happy to have me come in later, work 3 or 4 longer days instead of 5 shorter ones, but the union contract tied his hands. Had that job still existed now, I wouldn’t have been making a whole lot more than I was making in 1990. I would still be working a schedule I hated with a passion as well.

    Maybe for you being in a union worked out great. It doesn’t work that way for everyone. I know lots of people who were in unions and happy to leave them. The attitude was almost invariably one of finally being free to chart their own course, as opposed to being stifled by contracts or rules which killed individual initiative. Just about all of them ended up making more once they moved to nonunionized employment. Or at least they had a lot more flexibility regarding their hours and days.

    While on the subject, I should mention most of my disdain for the excesses of unions is directed at public employee unions. Unions in private industry just couldn’t get away asking for and receiving the kinds of kinds of obscenities public employee unions have, like retroactive pension increases, protection for obsolete jobs, job protection for grossly incompetent workers, massive disability fraud (i.e. the LIRR), etc. I’ll feel free to attack these things when I feel it’s merited. These aren’t reasonable benefits. Rather, this is the union acting just like what it was made to fight, namely the greedy bosses.

    I agree we have gross economic injustice, in that even workers who really merit decent pay aren’t getting it. I’m not sure what a good answer to that is beyond maybe levying a very high maximum income tax rate on the wealthy, and/or a wealth tax. If the tax structure were such that people could make or keep obscene amounts of wealth, there might be a heck of lot less incentive to pay those at the top hundreds of times what the lowest paid workers get. Also, the media is largely to blame for glamorizing the lifestyles of the wealthy. In truth, few very wealthy people are happy. In general, nobody needs more than enough wealth to provide economic independence, say a few million dollars. Most studies show happiness peaks at that level. If you have more or less, you’re less happy.

  • Andrew

    Believe what you wish to believe.

  • Andrew

    We have the technology for driverless subways,

    “We have” meaning it exists or it’s in place? Because it’s only in place on one line so far.

    but 2 or 3-person crews are still the standard throughout the system.

    3-person? Where are 3-person crews standard? I don’t think there have been any 3-person crews in decades.

  • Andrew

    The last time I saw that, the bus then had to leave people behind at several stops because they couldn’t fit onto the bus, even though there was plenty of room on the bus, because the stroller was in the way.

    Want to bring your stroller on the bus? Then fold it before you board. Your stroller doesn’t fold? Then don’t bring it on the bus.