Today’s Headlines

  • RPA Proposes Shake-Up of Metro Commuter Rail (AMNY)
  • MTA and NJ Transit Lag on Positive Train Control Upgrades (Politico)
  • Students Tell Vice How Their Lives Will Be Upended by the L Shutdown
  • Accessibility Advocate Jessica Murray Has the Skinny on Recent Ride With Andy Byford
  • Byford to Meet With Upper West Siders Tomorrow (Rag)
  • Voice Has an Explainer on the MTA’s Faulty New Signals at Bergen Street
  • DOT Got Around to Striping Crosswalks on 96th Street (Rag)
  • Family Members Mourn Brooklyn Hit-and-Run Victim Dorothy Parker (News)
  • Don’t Count on NYPD to Stop the Next Dorothy Bruns (Bx Times)
  • Is the Empire State Development Corporation Prepping for Yankee Stadium Part 2? (Voice)

More headlines at Streetsblog USA

  • Larry Littlefield

    “The report from the influential nonprofit Regional Plan Association details an ambitious, 30-year proposal to join the LIRR with Metro-North and New Jersey Transit.”

    And have the whole thing funded by the City of New York, with money diverted from the subway? Have the most abusive labor practices of each organization applied to the whole to get union approval for the deal?

    What they are calling for is what metro Washington has with Metro. All jurisdictions try to short their contributions, then blame the agency for its failures.

    What I want to see is an entirely new entity — the “non-ripoff railroad” that serves through running routes. After all, not everything will be through running. Paid by the other entitles to provide better service for less, as they gradually shrink. The other railroads would serve as the ripoff benchmark to be easily beaten, and as the indication for subsidy provided.

    Heck, perhaps NJ and CT could do a deal to take service via Penn away from Metro North. Ditch the legacy costs. Connecticut doesn’t control its most important mass transit system.

  • Fool

    Auction the right-of-way off the some private entity?

    Could you imagine the amount of housing that would be built in the region on a bright-line rail model?

  • kevd

    Is the RPA actually influential?
    They seem to make lots of proposals that don’t lead to much of anything.

  • Jesse

    Anyone see this restored video of NYC from 1911: https://kottke.org/18/04/pristine-restoration-of-a-9-minute-silent-film-of-nyc-street-life-from-1911 ?

    There’s so much to look at but of course I couldn’t ignore the glaring absence of cars (I mean you will see one or two but it’s not curb-to-curb). Look how wide the streets are! New York was bustling but not overcrowded. And there were almost a million more people living in Manhattan in 1910 vs 2010 according to wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demographic_history_of_New_York_City)

    I think what strikes me the most is how dignified and civilized it all seems. Some of this surely has to do with the very formal dress. But I think it also has to do with the extra space. There’s rush to get out of a hostile public domain; no edging through congested sidewalks getting impatient because someone is walking too slowly; no squeezing between bumpers in a crosswalk — no crosswalks at all!. It’s like in 100 years, we traded dignity for cars. Progress…

  • sbauman

    There are several problems with the Village Voice explanation of the Bergen Street’s signal system woes.

    They showed picture of the IRT (2,3) Bergen Street station masquerading as the IND (F,G) station where the signals are located. This is one measure of the article’s accuracy.

    The interlocking signal system that was implemented by hard wired relays was replaced by a solid state interlocking (SSI). Hard wired relay logic was replaced by programmable logic controllers (PLC) starting in the 1980’s. The impetus was an edict from General Motors in the mid 1970’s. GM stipulated that any company wishing to sell them manufacturing equipment had to use PLC’s rather than hard wired logic (relay or solid state). At that time GM was a sufficiently large market that manufacturing equipment suppliers complied.

    The major difference wasn’t the use of solid state but of something that was programmable rather than hard wired. There’s a program associated with PLC’s. That program does not directly implement the desired logic function. That program reads data that describes the desired logic function. That logic description is usually a form of a logic schematic for relays to perform the desired function.

    The change from hard wired relay logic to PLC’s was a minor one for equipment manufacturers. They could take existing designs and draw a box around the relays with just inputs and outputs crossing that box. They could then substitute an off the shelf PLC for that box and load the box’ logic description into the PLC. The system would perform exactly as before, with a bare minimum engineering changes and risk.

    The change made sense from GM’s perspective. No trouble shooting was required, should the equipment’s control function fail. First reboot the system. If that failed: 1. replace the PLC with a brand new one; 2. connect the input and output wires into the new PLC; 3. load the desired logic function into the PLC; 4. the system is back up and running. No need to interrupt production while troubleshooting the problem.

    PLC’s became commodities as more and more manufacturing companies saw the wisdom of using PLC’s.

    The SSI is supposed to be the railroad industry’s version of a PLC. There’s no reason to re-engineer a working interlocking. The key-by feature is implemented by the hard wired relay logic. If that relay logic was accurately described, the key-by feature would also work with an SSI.

    The repair philosophy should be exactly as described for PLC’s. If the problem still persists after replacement, then the problem’s source is with the input and output signals – not the SSI. Like the PLC, production downtime is minimized.

  • Vooch

    sell the land blighted by the BQE and restore the ore-existing street grid

    1,500 acres

  • HamTech87

    I still don’t understand not doing the thru-running through GCT, instead of creating a new east side station at 32nd street.

  • Larry Littlefield

    I recall being told, and remember I was working there at the time, that as a pilot project the solid state interlocking, which is how the project was described, also had a back-up relay-based system as a security system. If what I was told is true, the problem may be the interaction between the two.

  • Fool

    This would require someone call out how the state wasted $2 Billion on a useless terminal for LIRR.

  • Joe R.

    The relative lack of cars is certainly nice but I wouldn’t get too nostalgic. Taking it from my maternal grandfather, who would have been 10 when that video was made, “the good old days weren’t”. Fortunately, the video doesn’t capture smell. The streets back then reeked of horse shit, especially in the summers. And with many flats having only one shared bathroom per floor, I’m sure most of the people didn’t smell that great, either. The people walking slowly is in large part due to the restrictive garb of the period, especially the clothes women were expected to wear.

    There’s one constant though. The subway trains move no faster now than they did back then. 🙁

  • bolwerk

    If I recall, they’ve been doing it since the Moses era too. As I remember Caro, they pointed out that it would be great if Moses would put a railroad on the Whitestone Bridge.

    Spoiler alert: Moses let them pound sand.

  • bolwerk

    It certainly has its points about good urban planning before the advent of the rubber tire terrorists, but consider what you don’t see. A mile away were squalorly tenement slums with people living 10 to a room. Good stuff was happening on the metropolitan level, with transit still being built to make it possible for people to move out of those conditions into what were then rapid transit and streetcar suburbs, and that’s why Manhattan’s population peaked around then.

  • Jeff

    To me the fact that there are _some_ cars versus _zero_ cars is that much more illuminating. I don’t think anyone has any trouble envisioning a city with no cars. I do, however, think people have trouble imagining a world in which cars exist, but they don’t own our cities. And I think this is the world most livable streets type would prefer. People still feel free to cross the street where and when it makes sense to them, and the few who drive cars just have to deal with it.

  • sbauman

    A lot is in the details and the comprehension of those who are describing them.

  • bolwerk

    Any solution that ignores structural problems with labor and financing is…not a solution. Amalgamation doesn’t fix any more than atomization, and the same people pushing for one often push for the other based on the delusion that anything is better than what we have now.

  • bolwerk

    You could do the same thing with the center of Queens Boulevard.

  • AstoriaBlowin

    Grand Concourse, Sheridan Expressway, Mosholu Parkway, many streets where that would be a massive improvement over the status quo

  • bolwerk

    That’s not a constant. At least if you believe BRT/BMT and IRT propaganda, the subway moved a lot faster back then. 😉

  • kevd

    I generally agree with them.
    I’m just not sure their proposals are any more influential than the collected comments on this board.

  • bolwerk

    Agreed, though I’m not sure all of them are so wide you can literally put a small urban block on them and have space left over.

  • AstoriaBlowin

    The grand concourse from Mosholu to the courthouse would definitely fit a proper block of buildings, it’s so stupidly, wastefully wide. If NY ever gets to the point where something like that is realistic, then I will say we’ve overcome the car.

  • bolwerk

    Yeah, same. Well, on balance, I’d say they have some influence with urban planners, if not always directly on planning policy. They were ahead of the curve on bike lanes, TOD, and ped plazas – not that these things have always gone as well as they should have, but RPA at least pushed for them and maybe was even kind of instrumental in making them look feasible.

    On transportation specifically, they’re probably just not as influential, but some of that is about the sheer cost of transportation projects.

    I’m not sure their closeness with establishment Dems helps things. This may not be RPA’s intent, but once things are in officials’ lap priority goes to helping Dan Doctoroff’s business associates, rather than to helping the general public. But if they were more critical, maybe they’d be less effective?

  • Greg

    Also, as I recall, the street-level trains were extremely dangerous. The trolleys as you see in the video, but especially the locomotives that ran down the west side before the High Line was built.

  • bolwerk

    Why would trolleys be dangerous? Conduits? They hardly seemed to move much faster than today’s buses do in good conditions.

  • AnoNYC

    I’d rather see a grand linear park/plaza along the Grand Concourse personally.

  • Joe R.

    They take a heck of lot longer to stop, particularly if the rails are wet, greasy, or covered with leaves.

    Street level trains pulled by locomotives took even longer to stop than trolleys. Braking systems were rudimentary compared to today. Often, only the engine had brakes.

  • bolwerk

    That seems like a pretty park-rich area to be adding more parks.

  • bolwerk

    I can buy they had some added dangers then vs. today (note that they barely did stop back then), but that doesn’t seem to rise to the level of his description “extremely dangerous.”

    It’s sort of hard to make comparisons, but today’s trams seem if anything safer than buses, which are much more likely to side-swipe a vehicle or pedestrian when making a turn or lane change.

  • Vooch

    Bolwerk,

    let’s first remove the blight of the BQE, FDR, Henry Hudson, Deegan, Cross Bronx, etc etc and then get to the arterials 🙂

  • Greg

    Apparently the Brooklyn Dodgers got their name precisely because of this:

    https://gizmodo.com/the-la-dodgers-got-their-name-from-brooklyns-deadly-str-1687077696

    This article has some stats describing 51 deaths in Brooklyn in 1893. I don’t know what city-wide stats would have been year to year but my understanding is more road chaos plus less mature technology and social norms contributed to added risks we don’t have today.

    I think a lot of the problems we have with autos were more common with rail vehicles then because they were also big heavy vehicles chaotically overwhelming the streets of the time. Even more pronounced was the locomotives down the west side, which eventually had escorts with flags on horseback to keep accidents down before figuring out how to get trains off the roads completely.

  • bolwerk

    Well, I could buy the confusion/norms angle, but it appears there are several times more traffic-related fatalities these days than there were in that era, so I might question the “extremely dangerous” characterization. Probably ultimately there was much higher transit ridership per route-km too.

    In some ways, it’s kind of interesting to see how far we haven’t come. There were 50 subway fatalities in 2015, and the subway is entirely grade-separated from pedestrian traffic.

  • AnoNYC

    I was thinking more a plaza. Pedestrianized public space with greenery.

    I can’t see many Bronxites supporting infill on the Grand Concourse. It has cultural significance as a grand boulevard.

  • bolwerk

    Yeah, pedestrianizing makes more sense to me. It seems pretty obviously suitable for transit too.

  • AMH

    The IRT/IND confusion extends all the way to the Comstock site, which has a photo of the 2/3 station entrance.

    http://lkcomstock.com/project/bergen-street-signal-modernization

  • AMH

    Try 11 billion!

  • AMH

    They’re recommending 5-tracking the 2-track LIRR mainline? The one that’s just now getting 3-tracked? Do the eastern suburbs even need that much service?

  • AnoNYC

    Agreed.