Today’s Headlines

  • When the Going Gets Tough for Congestion Pricing, Cuomo Slinks Away (Gotham Gazette)
  • Speed Cameras Reportedly in the Mix in Chaotic Albany Budget Talks (Politico)
  • Cynthia Nixon Calls Out MTA Featherbedding, and Cuomo’s Labor Allies Leap Into Attack Mode (Politico)
  • Must-Read Story on the MTA’s Reluctance to Correctly Diagnose Causes of Subway Delays (News)
  • Andy Byford: MTA Can Resignal Entire System in 10-15 Years (WSJ)
  • Byford Pleasantly Fielded Questions on Twitter Yesterday (AMNY, News)
  • While Other Cities Embrace E-Bikes, NYC Has de Blasio’s Punitive Crackdown (News)
  • Yellow Cab Apps May Shift to Uber-Style Dynamic Pricing (News)
  • Here’s How the Sunnsyside Bike Lane Town Hall Played in the Queens Press (QChron, TL)
  • Brooklyn Spoke: You’d Never Know It From the Papers, But People Who Bike Are Part of the Community

More headlines at Streetsblog USA

  • Larry Littlefield

    RE MTA featherbedding:

    Again, the situation with the schools is worse, inside and outside NYC. Note where she really wants more money to go.

    And my response in the comments with data on how much school funding has soared. From my Disqus account in case they delete it. Fifth comment down, with charts.

    And in NYC the police are worse than that.

    But here is what Nixon doesn’t get. The issue isn’t so much recently hired workers, who are getting less and pay and benefits than those hired earlier and now retired. It is all the retroactive pension increases for those cashing in and moving out.

    They don’t want to take about this, because the “union concession” is always to make younger and newer workers less well off, especially in cash, preferably to the point where only grifters and incompetents will take the job.

    At the MTA, cash pay for managers is down, but ALL political factions were in favor of, and Cuomo signed, this pension payout to those long retired. Who had been promised a retirement at 62, then were given a retirement at 55 in exchange for a small contribution so they could say “we paid for it” (not so), and then got that contribution paid back to them.

    The robbery has already taken place, the money is gone, and the debts are on the books. In the schools, at the MTA, in Washington, on Wall Street, across the board.

  • Larry Littlefield

    “Andy Byford: MTA Can Resignal Entire System in 10-15 Years.”

    Anywhere else but here.

    I believe if federal capital money is involved, you aren’t allowed to replace anything for at least 30 years without paying the money back.

    And it’s more like the MTA can start trying to rebuild the system in 10-15 years if inflation suddenly surges and reduces the real value of the MTA debt and pension underfunding, as in the 1970s. If there is any system left.

  • sbauman

    The MTA’s line regarding fixing the subway is that they know what has to be done. They need the money to carry it out. They have been relying on their internal late reports to determine what causes delays. Their repair plan priorities are based on what causes the delays.

    Now it appears that these internal reports are not reliable because MTA personnel felt compelled to make up a cause, when they did not know why a train was delayed. What basis does the public have for believing the MTA’s “Subway Action Plan” will succeed. The Subway Action Plan delcared: “Our strategy: Target additional personnel and equipment focused on the critical components of the system that we have determined have the highest incidence of failure.”

    How did the MTA determine which components have the highest failure incidence and these failures are the causes of delays? The basis appears to be train dispatchers assigning delay causes at random. That’s the basis by which NYS committed $400M. As Casey Stengel remarked about the 1962 Mets: “does anybody here know how to play this game?”

  • sbauman

    I’ve been archiving the subway’s real time data feed, since the beginning of the year. I’ve been publishing two reports on a daily basis: an AWOL report and a Late Start report, on

    The AWOL report shows what percentage of trains actually left the terminal during the rush hour period. On a good day it’s 95%. I briefly published this report last year, using a different archive. The good day percentage and the percentage of good days hasn’t changed much.

    The Late Start report reports on how well departure times from the terminal match the scheduled departure. Yesterday morning, departures averaged 40 seconds late with a standard deviation of 74 seconds for the system as a whole. Leaving a terminal 2 minutes late is not an unusual event.

    On March 13th, #2 am rush hour trains leaving 241st St were on average 26 seconds late with a standard deviation of 42 seconds.

  • Larry Littlefield

    There was once a whole lot of AWOL. Then it went away. Now it’s back? If so, the TWU should be blasted for this.

    I always objected to financial snots on sites like Curbed who would make the claim that operating a train or bus was an unskilled job that should be paid minimum wage or something.

    I would point out that unlike my own work situation, where I could come and go within a range as long as the work gets done, the operators absolutely have to be there on time, which means they have to leave more time. And they have to schedule their vacation far in advance and co-ordinate it. That’s what we are paying for.

    Back in the mid-1980s, when I worked for NYCT the first time, there was one excuse that was always accepted for lateness. Transit delays, which would be checked against NYCT’s own records. Thus if a train was late, then the next train could be late or cancelled. I guess we are back to that now?

  • Anonymous

    The News article on delays makes it sound much worse than it is. The real problem (the root cause, as it were) is the freewheeling culture of New York subway riding that infects both passengers and crew, and indeed results from their symbiotic (parasitic?) relationship. It’s about quid pro quo; about prioritizing the needs of the few over the needs of the many.

    Passengers hold doors for each other because they know there is no consequence for doing so – neither shame nor physical injury. They also know that many conductors hold open, or reopen, subway doors out of courtesy. Needless to say, systems without conductors (e.g. virtually all subway systems around the world outside of New York) don’t do that. In the best subway systems, it is (a) obvious when the doors are about to close; (b) obvious when it’s time for the train to leave; (c) obvious that with no conductor looking out for you, doors closing on you will not reopen, causing injury and/or embarrassment; (d) trains run at regular intervals and frequently enough so that if you don’t catch one, you are OK just waiting for the next.

    Yes passengers are to blame for holding the doors, but who is to blame for insufficient messaging and inconsistent crew training that prevents creating a culture of “in New York, we do not hold subway doors, because we respect the time of passengers who already boarded, and we respect the MTA because it genuinely wants to run the trains on time”?

  • sbauman

    I don’t know why trains are AWOL.

    It might be there are no crews. It might be there is an insufficient number of operating trainsets. It might be that supervision has not assigned the crew to the train. I’m sure those who have worked for NYCT can add many more possibilities.

  • Larry Littlefield

    There was an attempt to change that culture, and some success, when the subway kept getting better.

    But “there is another train directly behind this one” has to be believed. Back in the day, and now, BS is suspected, and rightly so.

  • Joe R.

    I have no argument with good compensation for T/Os and bus drivers. It’s a stressful job, and despite the naysayers, it requires a lot of skill to either pilot a bus in NYC traffic or drive a 500-ton vehicle with 2000 passengers on routes with many stops. One skill often overlooked is hitting the platform markers when you come into a station. Yes, you can do that if you slow to a crawl 5 or 10 yards before the marker and creep up to it. However, that wastes precious time which isn’t in the schedule. So a T/O has to barrel into a station, and get the braking just right so they stop on the marker without needing to ease up on the brakes much. Anyone who says this is easy, I welcome them to try it in a train simulator like BVE. I took me a few weeks of regular practice to reliably hit my mark and still keep to the schedule.

    And then of course you have the issue of work hours and time off. As you said, anyone operating transit vehicles absolutely must be there on time, and they can’t take time off unless they get their shift covered. That takes its toll. That said, other than family or health emergencies there is no reason to go AWOL at the start of a shift, especially if you’re being well-compensated. The TWU should indeed be blasted for this.

  • Larry Littlefield

    As noted perhaps the TOs are late for the same reason everybody else is.

  • vnm

    Once you had to take the conductor’s word for it. Now there’s a countdown clock on the platform that says how many minutes until the next train arrives.

    Conductors should throw away the phrase “directly behind this one” and replace it with “one minute behind this one.” (Or whatever the number of minutes is.) Directly behind? It’s meaningless. OF COURSE the train is “directly” behind this one. It’s on a track, so there’s no other place it could be. The question isn’t where it is, but when it’s coming.

  • Urbanely

    Agreed. My train line is the J/Z, and I have heard this line used often, even though typical J service is only scheduled for 8-10 minute increments. Most of the line is elevated and doesn’t have elevators, so when you see people hustling up those stairs, someone is always going to hold the door. The only way to change that is to run trains more frequently so people won’t be so worried about missing the train.

  • Larry Littlefield

    AWOL usually refers to personnel away without leave, not equipment.

  • kevd

    In the Moscow Metro people don’t run for the train.
    Because there is always another within 2 minutes.

  • sbauman

    I first applied the term ‘AWOL’ to NYCT trips. I feel entitled to use my own definition. :=)

  • Joe R.

    24/7? Or do the headways increase off-peak or late nights?

  • kevd

    no. closes at… 1am? I think?.
    And they are less frequent at 10 at night. but still about 5 min headways

  • kevd

    Some lines are a bit less but it carries 500 million more people / year* with fewer than 1/2 the number of stations of the NYC Subway. Stations are generally much further apart.

    *it is actually 600 million more rides.

  • kevd

    *some info some guy put online about the moscow metro.
    The TPH checks out with my personal experience (I didn’t have a stop watch though)

    Posted by stephenk on Sat Feb 12 05:40:17 2005, in response to Moscow metro trains per hour, posted by Kotiara on Fri Feb 11 15:28:19 2005.

    As well as the quite advanced automatic block signalling that the Moscow Metro uses, the other most important factor in running 40tph is the huge reversing capacity of the termini. At the termini the trains are double ended (i.e a driver at both ends), allowing a train to travel from the arrival platform to the departure platform via the turnback track in just over 60secs. Only one turnback track is usually needed, but two are usually provided for times of service problems. There are also tracks flanking the turnback tracks, allowing for future line extensions, but also as an overrun track, allowing trains to run in close behind the train entering the turnback tracks.

    There are similar arrangements at all ex-termini on the line, and a few other sites. This allows a high reversing capacity even at the rare times of service disruption. The simple end to end running of the Moscow metro also helps in keeping up the high tph, as there are no junction conflicts to worry about. Moscovites also tend not to obstruct closing doors (they are happy to wait 90secs for the next train), and they also don’t tend to try and board trains heading into the turnback. (These unfortunately both tend to occur quite often on many Western metro systems!) Thus the station dwell times are often little more than 20secs, helping to allow for 40tph running.

  • Vooch

    ditto in Munich

  • Vooch

    my bike generally leaves and arrives on time

  • Joe R.

    Interesting info. Thanks! The junctions and termini are often the controlling factors on how many TPH the NYC subway system can handle. And 24/7 operation means it’s much harder to do maintenance work.

    5 minute headways at 10 PM isn’t bad. A lot of the lines in NYC are far less frequent than that even during midday off-peak.

    On the station spacing, I sometimes wonder if our stations are too closely spaced, particularly on the IRT where 3 per mile is common. On a lot of newer systems you have stations spaced a mile apart or more. One mile spacing probably reflects a good balance between speed and coverage.

  • sbauman

    The 2 minuted door closing delay reported in the Daily News did not cause a ripple that resulted in 90 trains being delayed. The following examination of the real time feed reveals following trains were on time on the 2,3 and 4,5 trunk lines.

    The real time feed reveals that train “02 0531 241/FLA” left E 241st St at 05:34:07, which was 3 minutes late. Its follower left on time.

    There’s a merge at E 180th St between the #2 trains from E 241st St and #5 trains from Dyre Ave. Any #2 train that’s late in arriving at E 180th St can make a following #5 train late and vice-versa. Train “02 0531 241/FLA” was late in leaving E 180th St. It delayed its immediate follower but not the 2 trains that followed after them. Here are the scheduled and (actual) E 180th St departure times for these 4 trains.

    “02 0531 241/FLA” – 05:48:00 (05:52:22)
    “05 0541+ DYR/FLA” – 05:53:30 (05:54:17)
    “02 0541 241/FLA” – 05:58:00 (05:58:22)
    “05 0549+ DYR/FLA” – 06:01:30 (06:01:47)

    This demonstrates that any delays after 5:58 and south of E 180th St should not be attributed to the E 241st St door closing delay at 5:31. Trains leaving E 180th St were back on schedule.

    The 2 and 5 trains travel together until 149th St-Grand Concourse where they diverge. Here are the scheduled and (actual) 149th St-GrandConcourse departure times for these 4 trains.

    “02 0531 241/FLA” – 06:04:00 (06:09:07)
    “05 0541+ DYR/FLA” – 06:09:30 (06:12:07)
    “02 0541 241/FLA” – 06:14:00 (06:15:25)
    “05 0549+ DYR/FLA” – 06:17:30 (06:18:11)

    It should be noted that train “02 0541 241/FLA” was more than 1 minute late. This delay must be attributed to something that happened between E 180th St and 149th-Grand Concourse.

    The trains diverge after 149th-Grand Concourse and immediately merge with other trains. #2 trains merge with #3 trains at 135th St; #5 trains merge with #4 trains at 138th St. Let’s look how these merges were affected.

    Here are the scheduled and (actual) departure times for the #2 and #3 trains from 135th St.

    “02 0531 241/FLA” – 06:07:00 (06:13:22)
    “03 0609 148/NLT” – 06:13:00 (06:15:22)
    “02 0541 241/FLA” – 06:17:00 (06:19:22)
    “03 0619 148/NLT” – 06:23:00 (06:23:39)

    The 2/3 expresses were back on schedule at 135th St about 10 minutes after the arrival of the late departing train from E 241st St.

    Here are the schedule and (actual) departure times for the #4 and #5 trains from 138th St.

    “05 0541+ DYR/FLA” – 06:12:30 (06:16:37)
    “05 0549+ DYR/FLA” – 06:20:30 (06:21:25)
    “04 0600 WDL/UTI” – 06:24:30 (06:26:22)
    “05 0600+ DYR/FLA” – 06:30:30 (06:28:18)

    The 4/5 expresses were back on schedule about 12 minutes after the arrival of #5 train from Dyre Ave that the late departing train from E 241st St had delayed at E 180th St.

  • kevd

    the 5 min number is one I made up based on poorly recalled personal experience nearly 20 years ago.
    But I’d bet money it isn’t much more than that.

    interestingly, Moscow has 2 train operators – but no conductor.
    There are also people in stations who do something.
    it was literally the best thing the soviet union ever did…
    Oh, except for save the world from Nazis. So, second best thing the soviet union ever did.

  • kevd

    So you and generation greed are now stealing acronyms and retiring with them to Florida.

  • Joe R.

    From what I’ve seen in pictures and videos, the Moscow subway is nothing short of exquisite. The stations are beautiful, the service is great, there’s no litter or graffiti. Yes, it was the second best thing to come out of the USSR. And it was often used by the USSR as a shining example of the superiority of communism over capitalism.