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Wednesday’s Headlines: Gotta Hand it to Janno Edition

MTA Chairman Janno Lieber gesturing with his thumb to indicate which direction he wants state funding to transit to go. Photo: Dave Colon

It's our December donation drive. Your gift helps us do important stories. So please click this link or the icon above.
It's our December donation drive. Your gift helps us do important stories. So please click this link or the icon above.

It's not often that the head of the MTA attends a rally with people blaming him for terrible service ... on the MTA.

But MTA Chairman and CEO Janno Lieber did just that yesterday, making an unexpected appearance at a rally organized by Riders Alliance to allow bus riders to vent their frustrations at the fact that bus speeds have been flat or gone down since Mayor de Blasio took over in 2014 (amNY).

Lieber admitted that it was unusual for the head of the MTA to appear at such a demonstration, but as our own Dave Colon (and amNY) later reported back to us, he was there in part because he knows how bad his own bus service is.

"I ride the B35 on Church Avenue, and you know it's gonna take a little while to get where you're going," Lieber told the advocacy community, which he praised as "a powerhouse."

Credit: Riders Alliance
Credit: Riders Alliance
Credit: Riders Alliance

Lieber's surprise appearance was a highlight of the larger event that featured bus riders sharing their horrendous experiences on surface transportation in a car-choked city with a mayor who has not accomplished enough.

These "Bus Rider Blues" were accompanied by, naturally, a blues band. The stories have also been compiled into a book (right) that really must be in every traveler's stocking this Christmas (stories of horrendous commutes are the Streetsblog equivalent of a lump of coal).

The book's intro is familiar and depressing: "The overwhelming majority of city bus riders are low-income New Yorkers of color. More than half are immigrants to the United States. More than one-third of bus riders are essential workers in sectors like healthcare, childcare, pharmacies and supermarkets. New York has the most riders and the slowest buses of any city in the country. ... Our leaders must do more to put riders first on busy streets. Only much better buses can remedy such long standing and severe inequity in transportation policy."

So hat tip to Lieber for showing support. Where was the mayor? The only thing on his morning schedule yesterday was two TV interviews. He'll face the press today at 9 a.m.

In other news:

    • First, we would be remiss if we didn't remind you of our ongoing December Donation Drive (click on the icon above to donate!). Yesterday, we received some nice donations, so here's today's honor roll: Thanks, Linda! Thanks, Randy! Thanks, David! Thanks, Peter! Thanks, Nathan! Thanks, Martin! (Yes, that Martin.)
    • The DOT is being watched closely for how it plans to rollout the permanent open restaurants program, with Gothamist the latest outlet to look into it. The proposal that restaurants be required to completely disassemble their outdoor dining areas at a moment's notice drew the ire of a former de Blasio administration apologist official Wiley Norvell. (For the record: Streetsblog has long maintained that public space should not be given away for free to any special interest, whether it is restaurants or private car owners. That said, restaurant dining areas bring in far more tax dollars, and create far more goodwill and jobs, than storing people's cars, so Norvell's got a point.)
    • Speaking of the DOT, the agency is hoping you'll take five minutes to fill out the e-scooter pilot survey — even if you haven't used the service in the Bronx. Click here.
    • The Times did a big takeout on Tesla's unsafe Autopilot system. The main story looked at Elon Musk's obsession with autonomous driving. And the sidebar showed how some Tesla drivers are playing video games instead of paying attention to the road.
    • Our friend Aaron Naparstek tweeted at us to get off our barstools and do some work for a change, wondering if the DOT's painting season was over with the return of cold weather. The immediate concern? Whole stretches of Fourth Avenue's protected bike lane remain unfinished. The DOT got back to us with this pray-for-hot-weather answer: "Most road marking for the year is complete, but we are doing more as warm days allow.” Now, where did we put that egg nog?
    • Ready or not, it's time for SantaCon this weekend. (amNY)
    • You may have read about the dining shed at The Odeon ending up being blown over by wind on Monday night (NY Post), but our old man editor has been complaining about the formerly chic hangout for months:
    • Our friends at Open Plans have made it to the Finals of their March Madness-style Car Harms tournament. The last matchup pits "Sprawl" vs. "Death Machines" (we know, it's so hard to choose!). Vote here (polls close on Friday!):

If you need a refresher of how the finalists got to the finish, check out the full bracket here:

CAR HARMS TOURNAMENT finals
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