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Here’s MTA’s Fix for Overcrowded Subways

(AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

MTA Chairman Joe Lhota announced Tuesday an $836 million action plan to improve the agency’s infamously distressed system. The 30 bullet points he outlined include subway repairs, longer trains and more workers.

“The subway system is no doubt in distress and we’re here for solutions,” Lhota said Tuesday, according to NBC New York.

In the last five years, the number of subway delays has nearly tripled to 70,000 per month, NBC reports. In the last month alone, the agency has been involved in what the station describes as “near-daily debacles,” including derailments, track fires and switch and signal problems. Lhota’s plan includes:

  • Creating new teams to fix 1,300 of the most problematic signals by the close of 2018
  • Tripling the installation rate of continuous welded rail and adding 50,000 friction pads to reduce incidents impacting service
  • Adding cars on the C line, where platforms can accommodate longer trains
  • Launching a pilot program on the S and L lines to remove seats from certain cars, thus increasing passenger capacity by about 25 riders per car
  • Expanding the overhaul capacity of cars, and prioritizing the inspection and repair of doors, which cause about 40 percent of breakdowns

Lhota’s announcement comes during the so-called Summer of Hell, with the tracks at Penn Station undergoing emergency repairs for over a month (So far, the delays haven’t been quite as hellish as many riders expected). And it’s reignited a debate between New York City and New York State officials over who, exactly, is responsible for the beleaguered subway.

“I emphasize always: The state of New York controls the MTA and the state of New York needs to own up to its responsibilities because it controls the MTA,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said in his own press conference yesterday.

The mayor called Lhota’s plan “a positive step,” and emphasized that the city would work with the state and the MTA through its police, medical and homeless services, to help with law enforcement on the system and dispatch EMTs in medical emergencies.

But Lhota and Governor Andrew Cuomo have pressured de Blasio to contribute more than EMTs, according to AM New York. They want him to split the $836 million price tag, but de Blasio says he won’t give the MTA more city dollars until the agency spends its money more wisely. The city has already offered $2.5 billion towards the MTA’s five-year, $32 billion capital plan.

Some transit advocates, however, believe the mayor should step up in the face of extraordinary circumstances. Gene Russianoff, spokesman for the Straphangers Campaign, told AM New York that while governors are usually responsible for the MTA, the subway’s current operating record complicates things.

“It’s an inconvenient truth for Governor Cuomo,” He said. “But it’s not unreasonable for a governor to say, ‘Look, in this crisis, let’s do this … let’s get these programs out and then we’ll work things out long-term through the whole system.’”

Transport Your Garden to the Tropics (11 photos)

Picture your dream tropical destination. Perhaps you hear palm fronds rustling overhead and smell the sweet fragrance of jasmine drifting through the garden. For those of us who don’t live in tropical climates (we’re jealous of you who do), it’s still possible to evoke the beauty of an island-style garden…

Accent Tables With Free Shipping (160 photos)

Swap your worn-out coffee and side tables for fresh designs that speak to your style. These picks are perfect standing alone or partnered up, and are easily enhanced with a medley of your favorite decorative pieces. Shop the stylish collection below and save — shipping’s on us.

D.C. Metro Is Done With Problem-Plagued Circulator Bus System

(Credit: Leslie E. Kossoff/AP)

Washington, D.C.’s Metro is washing its hands of the region’s troubled D.C. Circulator bus system.

“Metro intends to be out of the picture as of next July, giving the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) time to prepare to oversee and manage the Circulator’s day-to-day operations across six routes plying 13 Washington neighborhoods and the National Mall,” WAMU reports, adding that “DDOT simultaneously is seeking a new company to run and repair the buses because Cincinnati-based First Transit, hired by WMATA in 2005 because it was the only bidder with any, albeit inadequate, maintenance and storage facilities, has not properly maintained the 67-bus fleet.”

Metro’s move will help simplify the Circulator’s management structure. Since the red buses first hit D.C. streets, DDOT has set routes, schedules and fares (and technically owned the fleet) but Metro has been in charge of on-the-ground oversight of a contract with First Transit — which operates the system.

And Metro hasn’t exactly been happy with the Circulator’s performance. According to the Washington Post, as many as one-third of the Circulator’s 67 buses are taken out of service due to mechanical problems on any given day. Buses are sometimes taken off-line following morning safety checkups, while “others have broken down in the middle of their routes, leaving passengers stranded and others waiting at the bus stop.” WAMU reports that Metro perennially docks company payments to First Transit for “failing to meet the daily quota of operational buses.”

Wear-and-tear, combined with a lack of maintenance, are partially to blame.

Of course, Metro’s track record in the area of timeliness, at least, also leaves much to be desired. And then there are the fires. As Josh Cohen wrote for Next City earlier this month: “In the first three months of 2017, Washington, D.C.’s Metro logged 20 ‘significant’ fire incidents. That’s considered good news for the beleaguered transit system, which had 27 significant fire incidents in the same period the previous year.”

New Commuter Link Coming to Northeast Next Year

An Amtrak train at the Springfield, Massachusetts, station (Photo by Adam Moss)

Our weekly “New Starts” roundup of new and newsworthy transportation projects worldwide.

Commuter Trains to Roll Into Hartford and Springfield Starting Next May
The cities of Hartford, Connecticut, and Springfield, Massachusetts, form the core of the second-largest metropolitan area in the United States. Two years ago, Hartford got bus rapid transit when the CTfastrak service launched between downtown and New Britain. Now, both cities will have commuter trains linking them to each other as well as to New Haven and New York.

The Hartford Courant reports that commuter rail service on the 62-mile Hartford Line running north from New Haven to Springfield will begin next May. Connecticut transportation officials envision the line as a stimulus for development as well as a way to connect the cities and suburbs of the Connecticut River Valley and south-central Connecticut.

The service will be funded primarily by the Connecticut Department of Transportation and operated by a partnership involving TransitAmerica and Alternate Concepts in conjunction with Amtrak, which already runs trains along the line. Officials had hoped to launch service in January but pushed back the start date when money became available to double-track 4 additional miles of the route between Hartford and Windsor.

Seventeen trains will run each day between New Haven and Hartford, with 12 of those continuing on to Springfield. When the service starts, trains will stop at intermediate stations in New Haven (State Street), Wallingford, Meriden, Berlin, Windsor and Windsor Locks; future stations are also planned at North Haven, Newington, West Hartford and Enfield.

Connecticut Transportation Commissioner James P. Redeker called the service “an amazing economic boom for this corridor.” Connecticut is picking up $432.2 million of the project’s projected $623.1 million cost, and the federal government has pledged to fund the remaining $190.9 million.

Streetcars to Roll in Beijing Suburb Starting in 2019
The Beijinger reports that the first public-private partnership for China’s capital will build a light-rail line through the expat enclave of Shunyi, an eastern suburb. The new line, set to enter service in 2019, will also connect Line 15 of the Beijing Subway to Beijing Capital International Airport.

The line will run 19 km (12.3 miles) from Friendship Hospital in the north to Terminal 3 of the Beijing airport. Interchange with Line 15 will take place at two stations near the midpoint of the 22-station line, Hualikan and China International Exhibition. A 10-hectare (24.7-acre) car park will also offer park-and-ride service for motorists.

Line T2 is one of three streetcar lines planned for Shunyi and the east end of Beijing.

Baltimoreans Continue Venting Over Baltimore Link
The Maryland Transit Administration (MTA) has had a month to “get the nooks and crannies out” of Baltimore’s totally revamped bus service, dubbed Baltimore Link. Judging from the feedback riders gave at a July 24 town hall meeting sponsored by the union representing MTA operators, there’s still smoothing to do.

(Credit: Maryland Transit Administration)

Riders who spoke at the forum voiced complaints about having to take two to three buses to reach their destinations or spend two hours or more getting home from work. According to a Fox 45 report on the forum, longtime MTA patron Beverly Reid said that people still don’t understand how the new system works: “Nobody knows anything. This is sad, absolutely, this is a sad state for MTA.”

Acting MTA Administrator Kevin Quinn continued to defend the performance of the new system, especially for riders headed to and from downtown Baltimore. Quinn said that the number of routes operating at 15-minute-or-better headways has risen by 32 percent, “so what that means is that 132,000 more people have access to a line that has 15-minute-or-better frequency than did under the previous system.”

Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1300, however, is recommending that the MTA return to the old system of numbered bus routes while improving service on them.

Quinn was invited to attend the meeting and did not show, but said that MTA representatives would be there taking notes.

Know of a project that should be included in this column? Send a Tweet with links to @MarketStEl using the hashtag #newstarts.