Friday’s Headlines: Byford’s on the Bucket Brigade Edition

NYCT President Andy Byford may have more time for sweeping water out of stations, if a proposed MTA reorganization plan is accepted.
NYCT President Andy Byford may have more time for sweeping water out of stations, if a proposed MTA reorganization plan is accepted.

We don’t know what’s worse: The fact that the subway in Grand Central flooded during yesterday’s rains or that NYC Transit President Andy Byford was spotted grabbing a mop and fixing the problem himself — or that the subway systems tweeter in chief Sarah Meyer put it out there on social.

In any event, there’ll be more rain today, so if you have a leaky basement, you know who to call.

For now, here’s the news:

  • No one is more obsessed with trash on the sidewalk than our cranky editor (well, or Christine Berthet), but now Council Member Antonio Reynoso says he’s going to do something about it — and he means he’s coming for all that unused public space where drivers store their cars. (Nicole Gelinas via Twitter)
  • On the plus side of Byford’s effort to fix the subways, he wants train drivers to go faster (NYDN). And his work on the 7 train is paying off (WSJ).
  • The Times beat us to the one angle on New York’s historic climate change bill that we were pursuing: how to clean up the main transportation villain: cars.
  • The Times also did an “explainer”-style story about e-bikes and e-scooters that didn’t fully explain the situation.
  • The Daily News editorial board supports e-bikes and e-scooters … with some caveats (cough: helmets!).
  • The PATH train may soon be better. (NY1)
  • Riders beware: A Queensboro Bridge bottleneck is coming next week. (DOT)
  • The e-bike/e-scooter bill passed the Assembly — unanimously! — last night (wait, that was this morning!). Onto the governor for an expected signature. (Do Lee via Twitter)
  • Larry Littlefield

    The problem with Democrats/”progressive” politicians on climate change is that they talk the talk, but don’t walk the walk, even to the extent of the average person who reads Streetsblog. “We demand that ‘they’ do something about this.” Without thinking very carefully about what that would entail.

    The big nut for a place like NYC, and possibly Upstate, isn’t electricity for what we currently use electricity for, or even transportation. It is heat in winter, when the solar power is only one-third as strong.

    For electricity, at the very least they ought to be talking about putting a solar roof on the Sunnyside Yard, not development. The amount of land required to just provide the electricity needed with renewable sources is enough to make you shudder.

    I recommend the Yale and Bloomberg News articles cited in this post, along with the Bloomberg cartogram maps.

  • nyc-cynic

    “train drivers”. “DRIVERS”? Please, please, get the terminology right. Would you call the folk in the cockpit airplane drivers?
    The correct term is… “train OPERATOR”.
    (ditto wrongly wrong for ambulance drivers, firetruck drivers, horse drivers, etc.)

  • AMH

    The mayor thinks people “drive” their bicycles.

  • AMH

    What the hell does this mean? (From NY1) “PATH will run two train trips in the rush hours on its two busiest lines starting this September.”

  • Larry Littlefield

    Interesting perspective.

    The only thing better financially than a crappy car is no car at all. Even a crappy car is easier to deal with if you don’t have to drive it to work or anyplace else essential.

    The average person in later-born generations is paid significantly less than the boomers. They can’t afford that lifestyle. Unfortunately, they can’t afford NYC real estate/government either.

  • Joe R.

    You need to update that post to account for present and future improvements in solar technology. Right now the best commercial solar panels are slightly over 22% efficient:

    However, in the lab we’ve exceeded 40%, and over 90% is theoretically possible. Not sure of the timeline for either of these, but it’s probably less than a decade, perhaps even just a few years. Also, most of what is already installed is at best 15% efficient. That number is what is typically used to calculate the land area needed for solar. The coming efficiency gains alone can reduce the land needed for solar by a factor anywhere from nearly 3 to 6. There are further gains having the panel track the sun, something which thus far is only done is some commercial solar installations.

    Now lets look at the demand side. I’ve been saying for a long time why do we still need to waste energy heating our homes when with enough insulation any building in theory can remain warm enough in winter with just the body heat of its occupants and any electrical appliances in use. Certainly any new construction can meet this criteria. Retrofitting old construction can be done, only for now it makes no economic sense. It might in some future world where either energy was much more expensive, or perhaps just rationed. Our house isn’t even that well insulated, but I find I don’t need artificial heating at least until it’s under 50°F outside. The new windows we installed in 1994 made a huge difference. I would imagine anything now would make an even bigger difference.

    If we electrify motor vehicles, which probably seems inevitable at this point, yes, we’re going to increase our demand for electricity by a factor of 2 or more. However, once again why can’t we make the vehicles more efficient? There’s no reason to have electric SUVs, for example. They’re an efficiency abomination even with gas engines. In cases where you have limited battery capacity having a boxy, heavy body is stupid beyond reason, especially when it’s solely for styling purposes. Why not smaller, highly streamlined vehicles like these:

    The basic teardrop shape can be scaled up or down for the space needed inside the vehicle. Couple this with low rolling resistance tires and your energy use per mile could drop by 80% or more. Or put another way, with the same battery the vehicle goes 5 times as far. A battery which would have given an SUV a barely adequate range of 120 miles can now take you 600 miles, which is far longer than most people care to drive in a day.

    If we make vehicles much more efficient, then electrifying cars won’t double or triple our demand for electricity, but perhaps only increase it by a manageable 25%, perhaps less. We might even be able to make up for this by being more efficient in other areas like lighting. A fair number of home owners still stubbornly cling to using incandescent bulbs, for example, or having much larger refrigerators than they really need.

    I think the biggest elephants in the room are air travel and the actual infrastructure which motor vehicles drive on. We really can’t electrify airplanes, and yet they represent a significant source of greenhouse gases. Even among Streetsbloggers, if you mention we should fly a lot less, you’ll get at best a tepid reception. However, flying a lot less (really not at all for most people) is something which needs to be on the table. Same thing for building/maintaining roads. Far too many people act like it’s problem solved if we move to electric cars. It really isn’t. Even if we go with sensible, highly aerodynamic electric cars so we don’t increase demand for electricity by much, the roads they drive on still generate huge amounts of greenhouse gases to build or maintain. That’s why it’s imperative to substitute other modes. Long distance trips not covering oceans should by done by high-speed rail. Medium distance trips should be done by regional or commuter rail. Short local trips should be done by subway, bike, or walking. The only real niche for cars is rural areas where none of these things are viable. That’s fine. Rural driving is has a small footprint compared to urban and suburban driving.

  • Joe R.

    The average person spends something like $400K on cars over their working life. Now think about what happens if they have no car, but invest that money instead. Even if you just keep pace with inflation, that means you’ll have $400K by your 60s. That translates in perhaps $20K annually more income in retirement. If you do better than inflation, you can retire at least 5 or 10 years earlier. Or you can just work less and have more time throughout your adult life.

    Not having a car gives you more options than you gain by having one. I’ve known cars were a big waste of money from my college days. Amazing how many otherwise intelligent people couldn’t figure this out.

  • Larry Littlefield

    Higher efficiency solar panels have a higher price, however, don’t they? I guess 90 percent efficient solar panels could supply all my residential power needs, if I’m at 15 percent now. Winter, however, will remain a problem at our latitude.

  • ohnonononono

    2 extra trips per rush hour per line.

  • Joe R.

    It’s like anything else. They will probably be more expensive when they first come out, but the price will drop once we learn how make them for less. Look how expensive SSDs were when they first came out. Now they’re around $100 per TB. Still 2 to 5 times as much per TB as spinning disks, but for most people who only need 1TB or less of storage, the price premium comes to less than $50. For really small drive sizes, like 250GB or less, there is no price premium for SSDs at all.

    The key metric here is will the more efficient panels cost the same or less per watt. If a given panel size costs twice as much but gives three times the power it’s cheaper for any given installed output. Fewer panels also means you save a lot on installation costs, which are easily half the cost of most solar systems.

    The real problem with solar, and to a lesser extent wind, is the fact it doesn’t generate power all the time. For now with net metering the grid can act as your storage battery. Once solar is widely adopted we’ll probably need real storage.

    Winter will be more of a problem as we go from fossil fuel heating to electric heating. Right now most people’s demand peaks in the summer, which also happens to be the time solar panels generate the most power. This might not be the case in the future.

  • kevd

    off-shore wind is still pretty strong in the winter

  • Larry Littlefield

    Of course by the we’ll have cold fusion…

  • Joe R.

    LOL. Just like “hot” fusion. It’s the power source of the future, and always will be. If it ever works though, sign me up for a Mr. Fusion.

  • AMH

    So “run” should be “add”. I couldn’t figure out how to submit a question/comment to NY1 from their site.

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