Today’s Headlines

  • It’s Not Just Capital Costs — MTA Operating Costs Much Higher Than Peer Agencies (Curbed)
  • CBC: Tappan Zee Tolls Will Have to Double to Cover Costs of Cuomo’s Mega-Bridge (News)
  • Trust Chris Christie and Donald Trump — Federal Funding for Gateway Is Definitely Coming (Politico)
  • Report: NYPD’s Brooklyn Fare Evasion Arrests Target Black Neighborhoods (AMNY)
  • Teamster Sets the Record Straight on Why NYC Needs Commercial Waste Carting Reform (C&S)
  • DOT Starts Up Public Process for Next Phase of Queens Blvd Bike Lanes; Koslowitz Wavering (QChron)
  • As DOT Plans Faster Bus Rides on Cross Bay Boulevard, Queens CB 10 Groans (QChron)
  • Staten Island Express Bus Riders Now Have a Speedier Trip Across the Verrazano (DNA)
  • MTA Opens the Revamped Bay Ridge Ave R Train Station, But It’s Still Not ADA-Accessible (News)
  • Man Steals Mercedes, Injures 8 in Crash on Belt Parkway, Flees on Foot (Post)
  • How Not to Recover a Stolen Bike (Gothamist)

More headlines at Streetsblog USA

  • Fool

    Really should start bustituting the trains over night. It is not as if the transit time for customers would be any slower.

    (But no one wants the reduced staffing)…

  • Larry Littlefield

    An substituting vans for buses.

    There was a long discussion of something like this a couple of decades ago. A more limited subway network, say just the IRT, would operate in Manhattan and across the rivers, where there would be transfers to buses. With signal priority, in the middle of the night the buses could be as fast as the trains, and they could come far more often.

    The objection was the cost of shutting down and securing the system, and then re-opening it, would more than wipe out the savings.

  • Larry Littlefield

    “The Citizens Budget Commission projected tolls reaching $10 on the state’s latest construction marvel, which replaced the Tappan Zee Bridge between Westchester and Rockland counties.”

    You mean they would have to pay what is paid in New York City? That can’t be.

    Where did all the Tappan Zee tolls go for the decades after the original bridge’s bonds were paid off?

  • Fool

    Well could’t the token clerks just…

    Oh wait, not their job.

  • kevd

    or just make the toll two way

  • MFS

    The curbed article shows that NYC Transit isn’t that much higher than some (though not all) other urban systems, especially after considering that we have much higher overall wages and cost of living than most other US peer cities. What it does indicate is that since the NYC transit construction costs are WAY out of line, the cost issue is more acute in NYC with the construction delivery system.

  • bolwerk

    Labor utilization is a much bigger problem than wages. Especially with trains, NYC’s high ridership conceals a lot of needless inefficiency – in direct labor terms, perhaps triple the number of laborers needed to operate the system. The same inefficiencies are found on buses, but they are not concealed as well because the ratio of direct laborers to riders is many times larger.

  • Larry Littlefield

    The cost per revenue vehicle hour isn’t affected by the number of riders, or by how fast the trains are, which is why it’s my preferred measure. And it shows the NYCT subway costs aren’t bad.
    But they look a lot worse than the did before an extra $1 billion or so showed up in the FTA data one year. Something that I suspect is the operating costs that were suddenly classified as “reimbursable” by the capital program in the early 1990s, so they could be borrowed for.
    The FTA data has changed, but not the MTA budgeting. Just look at the budget documents yourself and see how big “reimbursable” operating costs are.

  • bolwerk

    It can’t “just” be capital costs. The capital budget is inextricably linked to the operations budget. This year’s capital budget contains slices of next year’s operation budget, and that of the one after, etc..

  • bolwerk

    That metric’s cost number should be negatively affected by the number of riders, assuming more riders means more vehicles. More riders should therefore lower average costs of vehicle revenue-hours as overhead costs of operating the vehicle are averaged over more vehicles. (I’d venture to guess that scale is very important to an economical rail service, maybe not so buses.)

    But that’s also what I meant by concealment.* NYCTA has an absurd number riders requiring a profusion of vehicles to be maintained by a small army of people. Setting aside whether they do or don’t have high productivity, none of the FTA operating metrics we like to look at capture their productivity particularly well.

    * probably a poor word choice that implies intent to mislead the public. I wanted to say “obfuscation,” but that might be worse. Either way, did not mean to comment on intent.

  • bolwerk

    Oh yes it can, and is. They have always bustituted 2-track lines during off-hours maintenance, and it’s usually a nightmare for riders. Try the L Train during a shutdown weekend. A direct train route is replaced by an SRO-only bus crawling over windy streets, making frequent turns. It may be necessary, but it should not be made normal.

    And it would only increase the staffing costs. NYCTA trains carry somewhere between 15x and 20x more people.

    It’d also be a logsitical nightmare. How many hours of bus service would you even get between shutdown and the start of the rush hour? The subway system is heavily patronized well into the late evening, I’d say well past midnight.

  • bolwerk

    The efficient way to do that would be OPTO with half or even quarter-length trains.

    And I’d be overly-generous to say overnight token booth agents could be dumped pretty much anywhere that isn’t Time Square, Grand Central, Penn Station, and maybe Jamaica.

  • Fool

    New York is not unique, the experience of every other metro in the world seems to imply that maintenance at night is a net benefit to service and financials.

  • bolwerk

    I’m about the last person to buy into the exceptionalism of New York transportation practices, but there are a few things about New York that are at least unusual: large 3rd shift workforce even outside the entertainment sector, probably a large dependence on transit to support the night life/entertainment sector, and well over a century of normalizing travel during those times. Perhaps also usually long off-peak travel distances?

    I’m all for doing what must be done for maintenance, but I don’t think you’re escaping the above easily. I’m not sure nightly shutdowns are necessary, and they’re certainly not cost-effective.

  • Larry Littlefield

    You’d need crews to separate and remerge the trainsets.

  • bolwerk

    I’m not clear what is needed. Seems to me separation is relatively easy right now, but re-training might be a yard operation?

    But even a worst-case scenario seems less bad than replacing one train crew ten bus drivers.

    And Fool may be right that at least 2-track lines should see more maintenance time.

  • Vooch

    My back of the envelope says the toll needs to be $10 each way to cover capital costs, interest, operating costs, and maintenance .

    Of course at $20 round trip cost, demand might plummet.

  • Vooch

    when are trains to be also able to run on all tracks.

    It’s only been 90 years since the system was nationalized. Remarkable that after 90 years, all trains can’t run all all lines; simply unbelievable.

  • Jason

    Agreed. Bustitution makes sense for something like driving in a straight line down Lexington Ave. But not so much for the entire length of the 6.

    I will say that when I’ve had to deal with MTA bustitution it seemed like they were staggeringly incompetent at executing it (overcrowded, it wasn’t really clear where to get on or where the stops were going to be), but that doesn’t mean it’s an inherently bad idea.

  • Jason

    All of the trains run on the same gauge. You can’t run B Division trains on the A Division because they’re too wide. A Division trains could run on the B Division but they won’t do it because you’d have a noticeable gap between the platform and the door.

    IIRC they do build non-revenue-service cars (the garbage train, the track geometry car) to A Division standards and then run them on both Divisions.

  • reasonableexplanation

    Actually, if you read the linked report, they looked into how much higher tolls would affect demand on the TZB: a 300% increase in tolls would decrease volume by only 9%. Not as much as you’d think.

  • bolwerk

    Concur generally, but it’s probably longer 2-track services that most need bustitution.

  • Vooch

    Yeah those same traffic engineers that do not understand induced demand


  • Vooch

    90 years to correct this

  • AMH

    What system was nationalized?

  • Vooch

    when the international socialist LaGuardia deliberately drove the once profitable & supremely efficient IRT, BMT, etc into receivership in a evil scheme

  • reasonableexplanation

    Must be nice to literally ignore actual numbers because they don’t fit what you feel. Good way to live life.

    Did you follow through with the citation in the report or did you just dismiss it out of hand? Be honest now.

  • Vooch


    you know me by now :).

    There is no way in heck that the analysis of any traffic engineer is worth the paper it’s printed on. Their methodologies are so flawed, so biased, and ignore 50 years of data; that they should be excommunicated . LOL

    We already know that drivers are sensitive to price of fuel. The demand elasticity curve for VMT/fuel price is nearly 1:1 with a lag of approx. 24 months.

    If the demand for VMT is nearly a 1:1 with fuel price, wh wouldn’t bridge tolls have a similar elasticity curve ?

    It’s laughable that the report says there is effectively zero price elasticity.

    we already know that at least 30% of all VMTis induced.

  • bolwerk

    What’s the point of even correcting it? Considering the bulk of equipment the MTA orders for either system, I doubt keeping the division A/B dichotomy in place is hurting anything.

  • bolwerk

    You just hate freedumb.

  • fdtutf

    What do you think happened 90 years ago? The city (not federal, so not “nationalization”) takeover happened in 1940.

  • Andrew

    Other systems have, in fact, begun to respond for the demand in their cities for overnight service by trying (and in some cases succeeding) to find ways to operate overnight service, at least on some lines and on some days of the week. For instance:

    Other systems have primarily or exclusively two-track lines, making maintenance while trains are running more difficult than in New York, where many lines have three or four tracks.

    On many subway lines in New York, loads don’t drop to the point that buses can be implemented efficiently until close to 2 AM, and then by 5 AM service has to start running again as the morning rush approaches. The work that could be done in that narrow a time frame would be negligible.

  • Andrew

    To correct what?

    The original Contract 1 IRT tunnels are sized for A Division trains. Accommodating B Division trains would require widening those tunnels, which pass through some of the densest neighborhoods anywhere, and moving the support columns which lie between the tracks.

    Of course, running A Division cars on the entirety of the B Division would be trivial in comparison – just widen all of the platforms to close the gap – but why would you go out of your way to reduce capacity on every single B Division train?

    What problem are you trying to solve here?

  • Andrew

    You haven’t heard about the Great Subway Nationalization of 1927?

  • Andrew

    LaGuardia was mayor of which nation, exactly?