Today’s Headlines

  • A Train Derails, Injuring Dozens (NYT, Gothamist, AMNY, DNANews, Post)
  • Cuomo Goes Into Hiding as Straphangers Rage (VoiceAMNYDNA, NY1)
  • Lhota: Improperly Stored Rail Piece Caused Crash (AMNY, DNANews)
  • Why Did It Take the MTA So Long to Tell the Public What Was Happening? (Slate)
  • Gianaris: Lawmakers Shouldn’t Leave Albany Without MTA Plan (DNAGothamist)
  • E.J. McMahon: Cuomo Could Direct Billions to the MTA Today, If He Chose To (Post)
  • Dwyer: Cuomo and de Blasio Need to Stop the Gamesmanship and Fix the Damn Subway (NYT)
  • Ken Lovett: Cuomo’s MTA Neglect Might Come Back on Him in 2018 (News)
  • NYT Examines Causes of Subway Delays
  • Don’t Miss This Politico Piece on New York’s Secretive, Corrupt Placard Fiefdoms
  • Surprise! Cab Driver Injures Cyclist on Canal Street and NYPD Blames the Victim (DNA)
  • Researchers Measure Pollution Inhaled by NYC Cyclists (WNYC)

More headlines at Streetsblog USA

  • Larry Littlefield

    If it’s a one time error it’s one thing.

    But back in the mid-1980s, when I worked for NYCT, there were spare parts hidden away all over the right of way, because workers didn’t trust management to make them available. We haven’t gone back to that, have we?

  • 1ifbyrain2ifbytrain

    loved this from the Village Voice (who’ve stepped up their game a little bit lately):

    “De Blasio’s only public appearance thus far today was when he ducked the press outside of his YMCA in Park Slope. It would be a dumb controversy save for the fact that de Blasio appears to have placed attendance at his far-flung workouts at a higher priority than attending to New Yorkers at the site of a transit disaster. Why worry about derailment when your primary mode of transportation is an SUV?”

  • Joe R.

    Honestly, it looks like the subways aren’t far from what we in engineering call a cascade failure, which is what happens when failure of some parts triggers failure of others, to the point the system just stops dead.

  • Joe R.

    Well, from a worker’s standpoint that might not be an unreasonable thing to do. Or perhaps we could shame management when they fail to order spare parts. That actually happened in a place I worked in one summer. The workers only got paid if there was work to do. The person responsible for the supply line failed to order parts. A few times people were sent home early for lack of work. The fourth time this happened the boss paraded the responsible person all around the factory, repeating over and over this man is the reason why you have no work today. The guy quit a week later even though he was covered by the union which probably would have been able to keep him in his position. The workers made life a living hell for him. Maybe we need to do this with some in MTA management when they fail at their jobs.

  • Vooch

    agreed – cascade of failure is soon upon us.

    I will argue for a crash program of PBL’s. The City could triple the PBL network in 20 months at a cost of $100mm. 200 miles of new PBLs would reach everywhere.

    This would allow millions of NYs a alternative to subways UNTIL the subways were returned to proper service.

  • Joe R.

    As much as I know you like PBLs, when the streets are clogged with motor traffic they’re not going to help much. It’ll be slow going on a bike. Perhaps not as slow as driving, but far from the potential of cycling. This might be a good time to start building those bike highways I’ve been talking about forever. When traffic on the streets is at a standstill, you’ll be able to move along above the fray. And in terms of cost, citiwide it probably wouldn’t cost more than one more mile of the SAS.

  • Vooch

    agreed – let’s reallocate some roadway on BQE, FDR, Henry Hudsobn etc to the most efficient mode !

  • JudenChino

    How the fuck could this just happen over 6 years. Does anyone know if they’ve even restored frequency levels to 2008 pre-financial crash?

  • Maggie

    The Daily News cover, with a baby being carried out of twisted subway wreckage, is brutal.

    Whether Cuomo and de Blasio wanted to convey the message that a brown baby in Harlem doesn’t matter to them in times of infrastructure failure and a wealthy suburbanite does, that was exactly how they acted yesterday.

    I hope this shames them into doing significantly better. If Cuomo chooses to preen for the cameras by shoveling motorists out of snowstorms, where on earth was he yesterday? Where is his immediate safe funding package for the subway today?

  • Joe R.

    It happened this fast because a lot of the infrastructure and equipment is well past the point where it can remain reliable, even with regular attention. The signal system especially comes to mind. A good analogy is trying to keep a really old car on the road. Today you might fix brake problems and all seems well. However, every other part on that car is past its useful life and ready to fail at any time. That pretty much describes the subway system. I’m not even blaming the workers. In fact, I think they’ve done a wonderful job patching the signal system well enough to keep it going this long. Unfortunately, we’re reaching the point where patching things just isn’t going to give us the level of reliability we need. The entire signal system needs to be replaced. And some of the older equipment is getting near this point as well. Anything older than the R62s at this point is past its design life. Some equipment is holding up better than others but its only a matter of time before it experiences issues similar to the signal system. Also, the power distribution system might be nearing end of life on some lines. It’s basically a clusterf*ck of failures occurring simultaneously which are making subway breakdowns a near daily occurrence. It may even be worse than the 1970s. Back them it was equipment and track which were the main problems. Now add in the signal and power distribution systems as well.

  • reasonableexplanation

    The first line of the AMNY article:

    Human error, not faulty equipment, led to the derailment of an A train in Harlem that injured 39 people Tuesday morning, according to the MTA

    So it looks like this derailment had nothing to do with the age and state of repair of the subway.

  • Joe R.

    This time. But most of the ongoing issues are in fact caused by the poor state of the physical plant.

  • JudenChino

    Haha, Joe, aren’t you still pushing for elevated recumbent bike highways?

  • The ongoing dispute between Bill de Blasio and Andrew Cuomo is not even remotely a relevant cause of the current state of affairs with the MTA. It’s Cuomo’s issue alone.

    If you want to tell people that anyway, fine. I will complain about it and I will correct you every time. Block me if you have to.

  • Joe R.

    Of course I am. I think the combination of elevated bike highways and velomobiles could give us average travel speeds rivaling express subway or even commuter rail. Even regular bikes can beat subway average speeds if they never need to stop. As a bonus, my idea adds a layer of redundancy to the transportation network. That’s never a bad thing.

  • It happened because there were addressable issues that weren’t addressed with capital or operational programs.

    All this talk about 1930’s signals, but there isn’t a signal down there that was installed & hasn’t been touched since 1930. Everything has in-line replacement or refurbishment potential. It’s more expensive in the long run than a full signal overhaul, but it’s not impossible to keep up with.

    This is entirely a human decision. And there’s an interesting simile to be made to show how the priorities are warped.

    Cuomo saw the “functionally obsolete” TZB, decided to smear it in the press as a disaster waiting to happen, built new spans (with zero transit) minus any financing plan, and is now gonna name it after his dad.

    Guess Cuomo doesn’t want to replace “functionally obsolete” signaling systems because nobody can really pick out the Mario Cuomo MTA Subway Signal System out on the skyline or drive an old-timey car on it. (And then he also cut MTA funding so that NYCT had to let equipment go longer between replacements/repair, which is how we got to today)

  • Joe R.

    No arguing with any of that but in the long run even if we can keep a 1930s era signal system in good repair, past a point it makes little sense to do so. The signal system is in fact functionally obsolete in that it’s crippling the system even if it’s in good repair. CBTC will enable us to run trains faster and more often. Both things are needed at this point. We need to squeeze every ounce of performance out of the existing infrastructure given that funding for system expansion seems to be mostly a pipe dream.

  • I agree it doesn’t make much sense to keep dragging along the old signal system. Upgraded facilities would result in lower expenses and improved performance.

    Yet we have a governor who, by his actions consistently, doesn’t even agree in-principle that the system should be reliable at all, never mind at a state of better performance.

  • Flakker

    Thank you. This is ridiculous and to continue equating them in terms of power is a bizarre affliction of the New York City media. The mayor not only does not run the MTA, he can be overruled by the governor and state legislature on almost any issue, which is a major problem for city governance because of the distraction of lobbying and making deals to get basic government functions performed every year. Cuomo has 100% of the power in this dynamic. It’s no apology for de Blasio’s performance as mayor to say that he is not stupid and realizes by now that any kind of actual move he would make to improve the situation will be spitefully undermined by Cuomo. That is Cuomo’s M.O. Cuomo, in short, is the problem.

  • Ken Dodd

    Hey at least the motormen are tested for crack these days

  • de Blasio has plenty of weak spots to hit, some of which you mentioned in your reply. The MTA’s performance isn’t one of them.

    The fact that concerned parties know that Cuomo is extraordinarily petty and hostile with the mayor, but that they insist the mayor “advocate” aggressively to address shortcomings in an agency that Cuomo runs (and he denies it!)… that just doesn’t speak to reality. They know the mayor antagonizes the governor! Why demand that the mayor draw attention away from the trains + Cuomo and onto himself? Cuomo’s just going to escalate hostilities! Nothing else will come of it! It’s a suicide mission! And this is true in part because when the mayor spoke stridently for the city’s legislative priorities, nobody had his back! They let Cuomo frame the whole situation as de Blasio being a brat. Now here we are again, Cuomo is at fault but people are being lured into talking about any other distraction at all. The mayor went to the gym!!!! OPTICS!!!!