Today’s Headlines

  • Turning Motorist Kills 83-Year-Old in Woodside; NYPD and Richard Brown Shrug (Q Gazette)
  • Five-Hour Meltdown Strands Queens Subway and Bus Riders (AMNY)
  • Byford Promises Meaningful Subway Metrics (NYT) and Bus Improvements (AMNY)
  • Cuomo Prioritizes ADA-Noncompliant Station Remodels (AMNY, WNYCRag) and Cadillacs (Post)
  • Ravitch Talks With Bond Buyer About the Terrible State of the Subway
  • Nowakowski Announces Plan for LIRR Tech and Service Upgrades (Newsday)
  • Cuomo’s Cashless Toll System Is Broken (WNYC)
  • Police Think a LaGuardia Shuttle Bus Driver Killed Steven Morales (News)
  • DOT Lets CB 1 and Parking-Obsessed Cranks Spike Seating Outside Tribeca Coffee House (Trib)
  • Brooklyn CB 2 Ponders the Age-Old Motor Vehicle Storage vs. Human Life Dilemma (BK Paper)

More headlines at Streetsblog USA

  • Larry Littlefield

    I wasn’t able to listen to the Ravich podcast yet — perhaps tonite at home. But funny that it’s in “Bond Buyer.” Because if the MTA were to default on its bonds, and the unfunded portion of past public employee pensions, and not pay the unfunded portion of private sector construction pensions, it wouldn’t be in trouble anymore.

    Morally, yhose under age 60 owe very little of this. Not responsible for what Generation Greed promised itself but refused to pay for in taxes (yet again at federal level!). Those under 40 owe absolutely nothing. It’s “odious debt.”

    And not just at the MTA.

  • Larry Littlefield

    “Photos on social media showed commuters packed onto every inch of subway platforms in Astoria.”

    This is the mass casualty event I anticipate. More and more people piling in. A couple of bumps or some pushing, and many people falling to the tracks just as a train pulls it.

    I hope, but do not expect, that our past and present elected officials will have the decency to celebrate when it happens, rather than hypocritically pretending to be upset about it.

    If this level of crowding is happening, before it gets to crowded for you to make your way to an exit, get out.

  • reasonableexplanation

    Re the cashless toll issues. This would likely be the same system used for congestion pricing.

  • Larry Littlefield

    I’ll bet THIS gets fixed.

    Down in Florida they don’t have the EZ Pass system. But if you have a smart phone but no Sunshine pass, you are able to pay with a cellphone.

    https://www.bizjournals.com/orlando/news/2017/02/22/why-orlando-is-ripe-for-transportation-mobile-apps.html

    Found this out when were down there visiting relatives a couple of years ago. I guess it was new then.

  • reasonableexplanation

    It’s ridiculous that ezpass transponders don’t work with the Florida system. There’s no reason toll transponders shouldn’t play well with each other.

    Florida does have photo tolling, which is great if you’re driving your own car, but sucks if you’re renting a car; car rental companies charge the toll cost + $15 for every toll, or they let you ‘pre-pay’ a flat $8.50 for each day of your rental. Even this mobile app you linked charges a nominal ‘convenience fee.’

    The fact that as a visitor you need to pay a fee to pay a toll is very silly.

  • Cuomo’s Cashless Toll System Is Broken (WNYC)

    But is it? One person who did eventually pay $800 into the amnesty program ran into a bureaucratic nightmare getting her car back. It shouldn’t be that hard to get her back, but if she paid that much in amnesty, something doesn’t add up and certainly not to a conclusion that the entire system is broken.

  • Larry Littlefield

    Lowest tstate and local tax burden as a percent of its residents’ incomes in the country, even though most of it is paid by tourists and second homeowners. They don’t want to pay, so they are always desperate for someone to fleece to fund the government.

    (As is New York despite the highest state and local tax burden as a percent of its residents’ income).

    They don’t have many services for the mentally ill down there, I’d bet, but they do allow them to buy semi-automatic weapons.

  • Guest

    The signals that failed Monday on the N/R were on a stretch of the line that was shut down for work all weekend. I doubt this is a coincidence.

  • Guest

    Edit: Tuesday

  • Larry Littlefield

    Fed up with bad transit service? The MTA ad selling department has a suggestion.

    https://larrylittlefield.files.wordpress.com/2018/02/mta2.jpg

  • Ken Dodd

    *furiously scans screenshot for evidence of anything embarrassing on desktop*

  • bolwerk

    Does using Windows 7 without an adblocker count?

  • sbauman

    If my experience is any indication – it is very broken indeed.

    I don’t have EZ Pass. Each crossing is assigned a number. I cannot pay the toll without this number. This means I must wait until EZ Pass mails me a bill that contains the crossing number.

    I use the Tappan Zee Bridge twice a year, coming back from bike events where I work as a mechanic. In 2016, I used it once each in early July and August. The first mailing I received from EZ Pass was in late November. It was a violation notice for the August crossing with the crossing number.

    I telephoned them and explained that I had never received any previous notice. They told me pay the toll with an explanation. I then inquired about the July crossing. A supervisor was able to look that one up and gave me the crossing number.

    I wrote the explanation and enclosed a check for $10 to cover both crossings. As instructed, I wrote the crossing numbers on the front of the check. I mailed the check to an Albany post office box. The check was cashed and I thought that was the end of the matter.

    I received a notice from a collection agency on December 1st for the July crossing. I sent them the a written explanation with copies of what I sent EZ Pass. I noted that the check had been cashed the day before the collection agency dated its notice. I concluded my letter to the collection agency with “I trust this closes the matter.”

    I never received any acknowledgement for my written correspondence from either EZ Pass or the collection agency. I thought the matter was closed by my letter to the collection agency in early December 2016.

    This month, I was surprised to receive a letter informing me that I was eligible to participate in the amnesty program for Tappan Zee Bridge crossing in early July 2016. The amnesty notice does not contain any mention of how to contest this.

    I called EZ Pass. I told the clerk that I had already paid this bill and had the cancelled check to prove it. The clerk did not understand that a “cancelled check” is proof of payment. I live about 4 miles from an EZ Pass customer service center. I went there yesterday afternoon.

    It took 110 minutes of standing in line before I reached a clerk. I showed him copies of the amnesty notice, the letter I wrote back in November 2016 to Albany and my cancelled check. He took it to his supervisor, returned and said I owed $5 for the July 2016 crossing number. I showed him that the July 2016 crossing number was on the front of the cancelled check. He then sent me to his supervisor at another window.

    It took another few minutes to convince the supervisor that the cancelled check was for payment of the July and August 2016 crossings. Once the supervisor grasped that concept, she asked me how many other times I used the Tappan Zee Bridge. I told her none. She had no way of verifying that from her terminal.

    The supervisor made copies of my documentation and said it would be forwarded to Albany. She could not resolve the problem. I asked her for a receipt that I had seen her. I wanted a reference number for my case, as proof that I had answered the amnesty notice before it had expired. The supervisor replied that the only receipts they issue are for money received. I have no proof that this actually occurred, should the supervisor decide to route the paper work to Albany via a circular file. This is in contrast to the collection agency, which assigned a reference number to this case.

    Let me explain the crux of the problem and why the system is broken. I have database experience and the system’s shortcomings are pretty obvious.

    This system was designed around an RFID device. Each EZ Pass purchaser gets an account number. The database is designed to key on the account number or the EZ Pass number. The entire history can be retrieved from either the account number or EZ Pass number. How does one obtain an account number? Buy an EZ Pass. What happens, if an EZ Pass has not been purchased? Duh!

    EZ Pass could add a secondary index on plate number and state. This takes up additional storage space which translates into money. Should somebody remember he had not received his toll bill in the mail, he could try to access the bill online using his plate number. Only the previous 20 days are accessible and one must enter credit card info before such a probe can be made. This indicates that probe is a sequential search. The date limits reduce the amount of data to be sequentially searched and entering credit card information is designed to discourage such probes.

    Is the 20 day window sufficient? In 2017 I received an EZ Pass invoice in mid August. It contained an item for crossing the Triboro Bridge in late June and late July, as well as crossing the Tappan Zee in late July. No violations were included. All crossings were more than 20 days before the bill date. This was the first mail notification that was sent out. Mailing out EZ Pass bills is haphazard at best. This lulls the person expecting a bill to suspect nothing is unusual.

    It would appear my problem stems from how my $10 check was entered into the system. Most database systems have an audit trail that records each transaction, in addition to the database tables. It’s easy to implement such an audit trail using the database trigger feature. It’s handled in the back end and is invisible to the front end application. The supervisor did not have access to the audit trail, if one exists. That would have resolved my problem on the spot.

    It would appear that my $10 check was entirely credited to the August 2016 crossing. The toll was $5. Most databases use another back end feature called a constraint. The constraint would not permit any amount greater than the invoice line item to be credited to that item. If the database table definition had such a constraint, it did not work.

    What’s your definition of a broken system? I think I’ve described one that’s fairly dysfunctional.

  • sbauman

    I’ll bet THIS gets fixed.

    I’ll take that bet.

    I described above, why I think the EZ Pass system in inappropriate for a cashless system. It will take a nearly complete rewrite to bring it up to speed.

    Here’s a link to why I think they will go with EZ Pass for congestion pricing.

    https://www.e-zpassworkersunited.org/e-z-pass-workers-united/news/cuomo-s-toll-plan-give-away-billionaire-investors

    Icahn is a neighbor.

  • Larry Littlefield

    Just work is all one would find.

    Barely made appointment. Left an extra 15 minutes.

  • Larry Littlefield

    Here’s the interesting in the Podcast. Ravitch doesn’t blame the politicians because, well, we know what they are. He blames the MTA Board for not meeting its fiduciary responsibility.

  • Larry Littlefield

    Can’t block pop-ups. The data and reports I download are pop-ups. The company blocks the ads for me.

  • JarekFA

    This was rather convincing. This reminds me of the time that I amended by tax return to file jointly, such that, I had to submit an additional like $1,000 with my amended return (which have to be filed manually and not electronically). Since the IRS doesn’t process the amended returns immediately, they sent me a check in the amount of that excess (which I never cashed) and then a couple months later sent me a deficiency notice. Then sent me a collections notice . . . .

  • Brian Howald

    I can’t comment on EZ-Pass’s database design, but it’s worth noting that privacy concerns may possibly be a reason for the limited search capabilities by license plate. An EZ-Pass account number is private and hard to guess for any person, but plate numbers are public and easily identified with a person.

  • sbauman

    it’s worth noting that privacy concerns may possibly be a reason for the limited search capabilities by license plate.

    There are other unique items on a registration certificate besides the plate number. This would indicate that the person at the computer was holding the certificate as well as knowing the plate number.

    Privacy should be a bigger concern regarding plate number photo recognition. It’s handled by a third party. ICE is making arrangements with this third party to reveal tracking information by plate number.

    https://www.theverge.com/2018/1/26/16932350/ice-immigration-customs-license-plate-recognition-contract-vigilant-solutions