Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Top 10 things to do until Scandal returns on Janurary 29, 2015

This blog is the lighter side of life - - for those Gladiators who watch Scandal  - - it's on winter break until January 29, 2015.  So, I have complied a top 10 things to do to keep you occupied while you go through "Liv-withdrawal". 

10.  Buy a Olivia Pope suit.

9.   Tell you family that you will "fix" the problem. 

8.   Decide on your next text message if you are willing to answer your significant other or not.

7.  Tell your spouse to buy a piano - - and use it for one thing. 

6.   Have dinner out with your father.

5.   Call your husband, Jake of Fitz

4.  Call your wife Liv

3.  Place mug shots on your wall and analyze them

2.  Look at yourself in the mirror and say "I'm a gladiator and I can fix anything".

1.  Call your computer whiz, Huck,. 

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and Happy Kwanzaa everyone. 

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

What to do (and NOT do) when you are stopped by police.

Nobody likes to be stopped by police but it will happen one way or another.  But if you are stopped by a police officer for any reason - - with or without known cause, you have rights under the laws and the police officer has rights.  Before I elaborate on what to do and not do during a police stop, let's look at Terry v. Ohio or what is known as the "Terry Stop"  which allows a police officer to stop an individual(s) and perform an outer clothing "pat down" if the officer reasonably believes that individual actually poses a threat to anyone - - whether the officer sees the signs of the threat (pacing back and forth in front of a bank, or wearing a winter coat on a hot July day).  A stop can also take place when citizens report the suspected individual to 911, even though their suspicions may turn out to be false.  The officer does NOT have the right to search inside an individual's clothing unless the pat down turns up contraband (drugs or a gun) or the individual is arrested for any crime or violation with a valid and verifiable charge. 

  • The police officer cannot compel an individual to empty his pockets, regardless if no pat down took place or nothing turns up after the pat down and the individual has not created an atmosphere where the officer's life is in danger or the individual attempts to flee.
  • The police officer cannot arrest an individual without a valid and verifiable charge.
  • The police officer cannot ask if the person committed an act which requires the officer's visual observation - and the officer didn't observe the act - - such as smoking in a prohibited area.   
  • The police officer must state the reason why the individual was stopped - - not because solely of race, gender, religion or any of the protected classes .
  • The police officer cannot suppress anyone videotaping the stop, not by the person who is briefly detained, not any witnesses to the stop - - as long as the witnesses do not interfere with the officer's legal duties in carrying out said stop. 
  • In a vehicle, the officer CAN search the car and the occupants - - without a warrant - -  if there is reasonable cause the occupants have committed a crime (other than traffic violation) or the officer observes contraband (gun or drugs) in plain view. 
  • The police officer(s) cannot enter your home unless they have a valid search warrant which matches the residence and purpose of the warrant - - or there is an emergency which requires the officers to enter the premises. 
When you are stopped - - and it's not good when it happens - - you can make the stop as easy for you and the officer(s).

  •  DON'T be belligerent or hostile to the officer - - your chances of getting arrested for anything (even for a nonsense charge) increase tenfold.
  • DON'T walk or run away - - that is automatic ground for the officer to detain you
  • DON"T comply with the officer's request to empty your pockets or open you bag (except where there is public notice that bags may be searched and the search is exclusively to detect explosives or weapons.
  • DON'T interfere with the officer's duties 
  • DON'T ever reach into your pockets when the officer didn't tell you 
  • DO refuse to show your ID unless it's a traffic stop
  • DO be polite to the officer and let him know your constitutional rights
  • DO ask for police ID if plainclothes officers verbally identify themselves without displaying their authorized shields
  • DO videotape the entire stop
  • DO cite the law which legally permits you to do something which the officer tells you that it's illegal.  In the New York City subway system, Section 1050.9(c) of the NYCRR Rules of Conduct shows it's legal for a person to perform non-commercial photography from public areas of the subway system (or from public streets) as long as tripods or other ancillary equipment is not used, nor the photography will interfere with the safe operations of any NYC Transit facility or conveyance (e.g. using flash to take a photo of an approaching train).  However, there have been many incidents where amateur photographers have been harassed by officers - - there is an excellent website Photography Is Not A Crime which posts news and podcasts on anything related to photography and law enforcement. 
  • DO ask to see any witness(es) who reported the individual's likeness (clothing, age, race, height, etc.) when a crime recently took place  
By being polite and cordial to the officer, even if you are in the right, you might be able to walk away happy in most cases.  If you did something illegal (such as smoking in a prohibited area) your politeness may just get you a free pass from the officer, especially if it's your first encounter.  Police officers have a stressful job with lots of uncertainty about whether they can go home each night - - you can make it easier for them.  At the same time, cops have a lawful duty to apply the laws and emergency protocols equally to everyone, and to provide the most professional attitude to the public.  By doing your part in being cordial and amicable to the officer, you can cover yourselves when a high profile incident occurs and you are less likely to be injured or killed by the officer too.   

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Eric Garner and the NYPD, what happened after the chokehold (Warning: Disturbing video content)

Wednesday's "no indictment"  returned by a Staten Island jury against Daniel Pantaleo, the officer who placed a chokehold on Eric Garner on Eric Garner - - who died shortly after the altercation, touched off a firestorm of anger and protests across racial and political lines in New York City and across the nation.  The jury decision comes on the heels of last week's no true bill decision by another grand jury in the Ferguson case - - and nearly 20 years since ex-NYPD officer Francis Livoti placed a deadly chokehold on Anthony Baez in the Bronx (Livoti was cleared on state Manslaughter charges but was later convicted on Federal civil rights violations and sentenced to 7.5 years in prison). 

Now you can take the comments like a grain of salt and say "The cops killed him" or a few like Rep. (R) Peter King saying that Garner was overweight and his obesity contributed to his death along with a crocodile tear jerker "we are sorry for Garner's family" quote.

But the question now lies in not about the chokehold on Garner but how the jury reviewed all of the particulars (evidence, testimony, statements, etc) and concluded that under application of NY State Penal Law, that they could not agree on a true bill against Daniel Pantaleo.  Did the reviewed the video of the chokehold?  Did they also review the video AFTER the chokehold (yes there is another video which shows officers standing around Garner's unconscious body for 5 of the 7 minutes until EMS arrives and they were asking questions to a lifeless Garner - - no CPR, no resuscitation)..

Here is the original video of the events leading up to the chokehold, courtesy of the NY Daily News. - - link in video

And here is the video taken after the chokehold - - you see Garner not responding while one officer holds his cuffed arm - - a pulse is taken and the officer confirms there is no pulse on Garner.  But guess what cops tell the female paramedic/EMT when she arrives, he has a pulse - - and all of the officers stand there doing nothing but control the crowd - - if it was one of their officers, they would put him in a patrol car or  keep calling for the "bus" then rush him to SI University Hospital.

So now, that did the NYPD officers really do?  They treated Garner like a low priority case like he suffered a cold or minor cough instead of treating him like a trauma patient.  This is cold-blooded ignorance at it's worst - if not murder.  The officers left Garner to die instead of trying CPR at least. It doesn't matter about Garner not cooperating during the arrest (he should have just let the cops cuff him - even if he was in the right), it's how cops treat a unconscious suspect in relation to one of their officers under similar circumstances.

Next blog post:  How to deal with law enforcement on a professional level and knowing your rights. 

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The aftermath of the grand jury decision in Ferguson

Last night, the grand jury declined to indict Officer Darren Wilson for the shooting death of Michael Brown on August 9, through an long-winded and dragged on announcement by the lead prosecutor handling the Wilson case.  Right after the announcement was made, some angry demonstrators looted stores and set other businesses or properties on fire.   Most other demonstrations across the nation were mostly peaceful.  I was at Brooklyn College where I saw a small group of about 20 demonstrators on Bedford Ave peacefully doing their thing.  But the thugs in Ferguson, MI who are burning the St. Louis suburb to the ground are clearly sending the wrong message by destroying property.  They are currently under the radar by the news media and the American public where most whites will less support for blacks and the racial divide between blacks and whites will grow bigger like a cancer growing.  Respectable black people will see the looting and destruction as unacceptable.  But as long as the few idiots make it look bad for race relations, there is a better way of handling this - - don't buy from white owned business.  If black people want to make a difference in stopping what they see as police brutality and killings against black people. they should have more of a concentrated effort in reducing the national homicide rates against black people.  Why isn't Al Sharpton speaking out the atrocity that 6.309 blacks were murdered in 2011 - - why are blacks silent about this.  Who in the black community is doing something to protest against gangs, many of them recruit black and Hispanic kids by bringing the issue of more affordable after-school programs and jobs for the work eligible teens?  When an innocent black kid's life is cut short by a stray bullet in the projects, do we read or hear about the massive protests against gun violence?  Are black people just talking about the problem or do they want to be a part of the solution?

   Here is one thing you can do if you have the time,  mentor a child on weekends.  If you are free in the afternoons, form a teen group where kids can shoot hoops in the courts instead of another type of "courts" they face when they join gangs.    Form a trip to a local library and open up a world of reading they haven't explored.  I know this may be difficult but if we can change one child a time then we may be able to stem the tide on black violence. 

Sunday, November 23, 2014

MTA's 2015 fare hike and public hearings

Last Monday, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) announced a bunch of public hearings on what they call "Limited Fare and Toll Proposals" or modestly raise the fare and tolls across all modes of transportation with the MTA regional network they operate.  The fare proposals affect NYC buses and subways, the Long Island Railroad and Metro-North commuter railroads as well as the tolls on MTA Bridges and Tunnels which operate wholly within the 5 boroughs of NYC.  The breakdown of proposals are as follows:

  • NYC Subways, local buses and Access-A-Ride:  Two base fare proposals are on tap - - one proposal is to keep the $2.50 base fare (for Pay-Per-Ride cards) unchanged but eliminate the 5 percent bonus on Pay Per Ride fill ups over a certain amount.  A second proposal is to raise the base fare to $2.75 but offer a greater discount of 11 percent if $5.50 or more is added to the card (that's 2 fares). 7 day and 30 day regular Unlimited Metrocards rise top $31 and $116.50 respectively.  Express bus fare rises to $6.00 while the 7 day Express Bus Plus Metrocard increases to an odd $57.25.
  • LIRR and Metro-North:  4 percent average fare increase.  Cityticket weekend travel between most NYC stations and the CBD zones will increase to $4.25.  The $1 off peak Family Fare for each child remains unchanged at $1.
  • MTA Bridges and Tunnels  Two proposals like the NYC Transit proposals - - one to remain the base toll flat or increase it.  Both proposals have a slight increase for E-Z Pass users with NY metro area tags.
By laws, a public hearing must be conducted in each county within NY State where the MTA operates in any capacity.  Rockland and Orange counties served by MTA West of Hudson rail service (Port Jervis and Pascack Valley lines) get their public hearing at West Nyack.  Long Islanders will have to travel to Melville for their public hearing.   The MTA will offer video testimony at Poughkeepsie station for Dutchess county and Ronkonkoma station for Suffolk county, where participants can submit a 3 minute video testimony for the MTA board to review.  There is no public hearing or video testimony offered anywhere in Putnam County  (that's between Westchester and Dutchess counties on Metro-North turf) or Nassau County

On some days, there are two public hearings on the same night.  This is wrong and must be fixed by the MTA as only half of the MTA board members can attend one hearing while the other half sleeps through the second hearing of the night.  The first day of the public hearings, December 1st, have venues in Manhattan and the Bronx.  The MTA Chairman, Thomas Prendergast, and NYCT President Carmen Bianco, cannot be at both hearings simultaneously, unless one takes the Lexington Ave IRT subway lines between both places.    The public deserves a full board in attendance at one venue for the night and they all must be attentive as each speaker comes to the podium.  Another issue is that some board members suddenly are tardy after the first or second recess.  From my past experiences, after the recess is over and the first speaker is called, only 4 or 5 of the 12 MTA Board members actually return to the hearing.   Perhaps recess should be 5 minutes longer.  Finally, one of the subway and bus proposals offers a strange 11 percent discount.  This is a cheap way out on offering the other proposal.

Whatever the MTA decides, and they will decide quickly, the public will have to pay more but at a modest rate.  If only the MTA was concerned about how accurate their signs and information on their website.  The MTA board will vote on these proposals at the January Board Meeting, and the fares/tolls will take effect in March, 2015.  On the New Haven branch of Metro-North, fares in Connecticut will increase in January, 2015 and will not be a part of the MTA public hearing process as a prior public hearing and vote was already taken by the State of CT with the MTA earlier this year.   

Monday, November 10, 2014

Riders get screwed from missing service notice while MTA brass dances around Fulton Center

On Sunday 11/9/14, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) invited the press to a closed door conference and tour of the new Fulton Center. Among the MTA  dignitaries were MTA Chairman and CEO Thomas F. Prendergast, NYC Transit President Carmen Bianco, MTA Captial Construction President Dr. Michael Horodniceanu, and  Paul Fleuranges, NYCT Senior Director of Corporate and Internal Communications.   MTA brass, along with elected officials including U.S. Representative Jerrold Nadler, NYS Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, and Manhattan Borough President Gail Brewer, gave speeches and demonstrations to the press. Also during the course of the day, pictures of Fulton Center were tweeted by the official NYC Transit account

But as the top MTA brass were dancing around inside a glass house to the oohs and ahhs of the press who were covering the event, sans stones to throw, the customers they are empowered to serve were getting screwed at this complex because the MTA failed to post an important service change which took place all weekend.  As the MTA brass took a walk along the newly reconfigured West passageway just above the A/C platform within the doors leading to the Uptown 4/5 platform, the area required to be closed to the public, customers from the A/C or 2/3 were advised in making a detour.  Because of the Fulton Transit Center work, there were no free transfers between 2/3/A/C lines with the Uptown 4 and 5 lines.  Riders from the A/C or 2/3 were directed by station personnel to use the Downtown 4/5 to Wall Street then transfer to an Uptown 4/5.  Riders coming off the Uptown 4 and 5 after 8 AM Sunday when this platform reopened, were directed to the John Street exit, cross Broadway then enter on the Downtown side where they would have to tell a police officer or station personnel about their need to transfer to the A/C or 2/3 and be let in.  However, a check on the MTA website showed nothing about this service change.

4/5/A/C service advisories using the Weekender:


2/3 advisory?  Nothing

So anyone looking at the Weekender - - the "best" placed to check for service status along a station or route, has nothing about the closure of the free transfer.  The TripPlanner+  didn't catch it either, it should have suggested to use Downtown 4/5 to Wall Street then Uptown 4/5 to Brooklyn Bridge.

But the MTA brass were aware about the Uptown 4/5 transfer restriction - - Uptown 4 and 5 trains were bypassing Fulton Street on Saturday but on Sunday after 8 AM, they did stop at Fulton Street. Management did see the frustrated customers were forced to use the Downtown 4/5 but nobody bothered to checked on their phones or laptops to verify the existence of this service change while they gave the tour to the press.  For all the hype about Fulton Center and the willful omission of a service change which should have been posted proves one thing - they don't care about disseminating the correct information to their customers.  Nobody did anything to correct this missing service notice yesterday.

And the MTA is proposing an across-the-board 4 to 6 percent increase in fares and tolls within the MTA region in 2015 and 2017?   Maybe we need new management who should have more of a concern about how they communicate to their customers before they showcase the next "grand destination and meeting place" than their paychecks.

Later this week I will visit the Fulton Center and give a review of this important complex.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

NYC 25 MPH speed limit and Vision Zero

NOTE:  The opinions expressed by the author of this blog are entirely my own and not the opinions expressed by my current or former employers. 

On Friday November, 7, the City of New York's 25 MPH speed limit law takes effect citywide.  It's a beautiful day as one Mayor Bill De Blasio's centerpieces of his Vision Zero traffic fatility elimination plan now bears fruition.    What does it mean?  It means that the speed limit on all NYC roads without a posted sign otherwise, now have the speed limit lowered from 30 MPH to 25 MPH.  Most highways will see their speed limits remain the same, as well as other roadways with a higher or lower speed limit of 25 MPH.  20 MPH safety zones will remain in place as well.  As of Saturday 11/8, there are 30 MPH signs still posted on certain Bronx streets such as portions of Bronxwood Ave and East 222nd Street.  So what effect will the 25 MPH do on drivers?  .  Nothing, they will still driver recklessly with a wanton disregard for traffic safety.  Drivers will still speed, change lanes without signaling, blow past STOP signs and do everything on their dumbphones with one hand on the phone, the other hand on the steering wheel while in motion.  I was driving early Friday morning on the connector road between Dr. Theodore Kazimiroff Blvd and Allerton Ave, near the Bronx River Parkway when a driver behind me honked because I was driving at or close to 25 MPH.  That's New York for you, always in a hurry to get into an accident. 

You can read the entire Vision Zero action plan (in .pdf) right here

But something else bothers me too, about De Blasio's message.  It's not the message that bothers me, its who will be carrying out the message.  The National Waste and Recycling Association (NW&RA) endorsed a plan to carry free advertising with "I DRIVE 25" bumper stickers on their 9,000 carting trucks.  Maybe these trucks should have stickers carrying "I RUN RED LIGHTS AND DRIVE AGAINST TRAFFIC FLOW" too - - many trucks I see work late at night when few cars and pedestrians are visible on city streets.  Some of these trucks I observed drive the wrong way on one-way streets, illegally back into the one way street, or drive across the dual yellow lines to the opposite direction so they can collect the waste or recyclables.  Blowing past STOP signs is common about these trucks (and many other drivers across most modes of vehicular, and bike, transport).

Here are two videos of two different carting trucks in the Bronx - - shot in daylight.  You figure out the hypocrisy. 



Mayor De Blasio should think about stepping up enforcement on drivers of carting vehicles (both NYC Sanitation and private companies) first before sending a message out that private carting drivers are complying with the 25 MPH law. 

To make Vision Zero work, the NYPD should step up it's enforcement zeal. This is not about raising revenue, it's about saving lives.  It's not just the 25 MPH speed limit, it's about obeying every law within the NYC Traffic Rules and NY State Vehicle & Traffic Law, including making a proper STOP (not blowing by like the STOP sign doesn't exist), failure in yielding to pedestrians and other vehicles, fail to use turn signal at least 100 feet prior in changing lanes or making a turn, making illegal u turns on a crosswalk, tailgating (does anyone read their insurance documents, particularly the part where certain accidents are not chargeable against the policyholder?), slowing down in construction zones 24/7 and using a cell phone while actively in motion.

Here are two videos of drivers ignoring STOP signs - - one on southbound White Plains Road at Gun Hill Road, the other on East 222nd Street and Givan Ave, both in the Bronx.  The first video also shows a  NYC Transit bus operator on the Bx41 Select Bus Service+ route failing to obey the STOP sign. 

I would endorse a plan for the NYPD what they would use unmarked vehicles in following the driver of a specific vehicle who is breaking multiple traffic laws.  When an officer (armed with his dashboard camera) observes the driver committing 4 or more traffic violations of any kind, the officers should arrest and charge the driver with Reckless Driving, a misdemeanor.  Put into place a new law of aggravated reckless driving and make it a felony if one of the 4 traffic violations involve a school bus STOP violation, use of the cell phone while driving, or speeding in excess of 25 MPH - - as well as impounding the vehicle at the scene and a minimum 1 year license revocation if convicted on the felony Reckless Endangerment charge.  It's time now to change the culture of driving in NYC as well as setting an example for other major cities to follow, such as San Francisco which is making a major push in implementing their Vision Zero plans. 

Next month:  A follow up blog to Vision Zero and the 25 MPH law, including a video I will ask one of my passengers in my vehicle to take around the Bronx as I am driving - - in the post 25 MPH speed limit era.

Monday, November 3, 2014

One World Trade Center finally opens

On a sunny Tuesday morning in New York City, the peace and calm of Lower Manhattan and the world was shattered when 19 of the 20 terrorists hijacked 4 passenger aircraft and carried out two attacks, one using 2 planes at the World Trade Center complex, one plane damaging the Pentagon in Washington, DC and a failed attempt in attacking the White House when passengers on board attempted to retake the plane back from terrorists - - all this happened on September 11th, 2001. The 9/11 terrorist attacks as Americans call it was the most horrific attack on United States soil in modern American history. Today, the new One World Trade Center finally opened it's doors to the first tenants inside North America's tallest building, 13 years, one month and 22 days after the 9/11 attacks. Condé Nast, the first WTC tenant to make this announcement, moved 170 of their 3.400 employees into the gleaming skyscraper, marking the first time that a company has physically moved into One WTC. The remaining employees at Condé Nast will move into One WTC early next year, around the same time the Observatory Deck near the top of the building, will open to the public. Although the building is only 60 percent leased by tenants, the opening of One WTC marks an important milestone in taking back Lower Manhattan and keeping America strong. I could go on and on about how long it took to start building, this complex like 5 years before the first beam was installed at the WTC site in 2006 but it's finally open. One WTC building rises 1,776 above ground level, the same year when the U.S. declared it's independence from British rule. Everyone who is an American should be proud of our country, and proud that we (eventually) can overcome from the darkest days in rebuilding Lower Manhattan. Today's opening of One WTC represents a symbol of the strength and resiliency of New York City and the United States.  

Sunday, November 2, 2014

What's wrong with MTA and NYC Transit (along with MTACC) - part 4 - - mega projects

In July, 2003 the Metropolitan Transportation Authority created the MTA Capital Construction Company (MTACC) to oversee all MTA expansion projects as well as the rebuilding of Lower Manhattan's transportation infrastructure, specifically the Fulton Transit Center and the new South Ferry Terminal.  MTACC currently manages on behalf of the MTA five projects including the following:

  • Phase 1 of the Second Ave subway line from East 63rd Street and Laxington Ave station to East 96th Street and 2nd Ave 
  • Fulton Street Transportation center
  • East Side Access (ESA) project, allowing Long Islanders to have a one seat ride on the Long Island Railroad to Grand Central Terminal
  • 7 line extension to the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center and the Hudson Yards area at 11th Ave and West 34th Street - - now scheduled to open on February 24, 2015
  • New South Ferry Terminal (SFT)
All projects, including the "completed" South Ferry Terminal are behind schedule and over budget.    Managing these projects is a complex task which requires coordination with multple entities - - such as Con Edison (utility work), NYC Department of Transportation (roadway closures).  Projects which requires miles of new tunnels and track require intricate planing and execution.  Sadly only one project since 2003 was completed, South Ferry Terminal and that station took a devastating hit from Hurrican Sandy.  Let's take a look at the original estimates (cost and timeable) then see about their current statuses.

Second Avenue Subway:    You cannot lay the entire blame on the MTA for this project - - it was envisoned by the City of New York as far back as 1929 with connections to the IRT White Plains Road (2/5) and Pelham 6 lines in the Bronx (and track modications to the wider guage on these lines - - subway cars on lettered lines cannot run on numbered lines). The MTA was not created by NY State until 1968.  Each time the 2nd Ave line would start construction, it would be halted before the first shovel was dug due to lack of funding by the city and state.  The first phase of the 2nd Ave line started in 1974 but a year later the city of New York experienced the worst fical crisis which put them on the brink of bankruptcy.  The city's 1975 fiscal crisis activated the emergency brakes on the 2nd Ave subway project and constructed was halted until 2003 when the MTA Capital Construction proceeded with Phase I from 63rd Street-Lexington Ave station on the F line, then up 2nd Ave to 96th Street station with two intermediate stations; 72nd Street and 86th Street.  Groundbreaking was made on April 12, 2007 which started Phase I - at an original cost of $3.8 billion and a expected 2013 completion date (that was last year,).  Currently Phase 1 of the SAS is 3 years late (expected "completion" date now December, 2016) at a running tally of $4.451 billion.  These numbers aren't too bad, given the MTA's notoriety in these megaprojects.

Fulton Street Transportation Center:  This Lower Manhattan project requires six different contracts totaling an initial budge of $1.4 billion, including the grand Fulton Street entrance with the infamous Oculus scheduled for 2011 completion.  The Fulton Street transit hub is intended to expand passenger capacity, improve transfer access between the 2/3/4/5/A/C/J/Z lines, make the entire complex ADA accessible (also making the first station in Manhattan on the J and Z lines to be ADA accessible) and create new retail space.  Currently the project is over 3 years late, however it still comes in at the same $1.4 budget originally planned in 2007.  The FTC building was to open this summer - - that season came and went.  Then the building was supposed to open in the Fall, that was delayed.  Maybe they will tell us that he building will open sometime in 2015.  At least that will give the MTA another year to complete FTC.

East Side Access Project:  This project should be called the "Big Dig" of New York State.  The term Big Dig was used for a mind boggling mega project in Boston, MA which was to reconfigure Interstate 93 through a maze of underground tunnels and a new bridge within Downtown Boston.  That project was 8 years late at a total cost of a staggering $22 billion.  The MTA's East Side access project was to bring Long Island Railroad (LIRR) service to Grand Central Terminal for the first time in the railroad's 180 year (as of 2014) history.  The original cost/target date was $4.3 billion with trains running to GCT by 2009  (five years ago).  Now because of "complexities and unforeseen issues" in this project, the target completion date is now 11 years later at anywhere between 2021 to 2023 at a cost now pegged to be nearly $11 billion.  $11 billion to save 30 minutes off a typical commute for 162,000 customers -  which means more trains must be added.  Meanwhile the LIRR's Ronkonkoma branch is going to have a full length second track, eventually, while further west the third track on the LIRR's main line from Hicksville to Floral Park stations won't happen.  And now recently on 10/30, a subcontractor made a nearly fatal mistake by drilling a hole inches away from an northbound F train filled with passengers near the 21st Street-Queensbridge station - - once again the ESA project was shut down while the MTA investigates this bizzare incident.  The drill came very close to shearing the train, averting a tragic incident. 

7 line extension:  This project represents the first major subway line extension since the 63rd Street line to 21st Street-Queensbridge opened in 1989.  The 7 line would be extended from the current terminus of Times Square to a new station at the intersection of 11th Ave and West 34th Street, called 34th Street-Hudson Yards.  There were plans to build an intermediate station at West 42nd Street and 10th Ave but the station plans were scrapped due to budget constraints.  However, the 7 line extension will help foster commercial and residential development near the 34th Street-Hudson Yards subway terminal as well as serving an expected 35,000 passengers who will use this station.  The 7 line project started in December, 2007 with an expected December, 2013 completion date.  The cost of this project was orginally $2.1 billion - - expected final price tag will hover under $2.4 billion.  Problems with escalators/elevators and the ventilation plant contributed to the construction delays of the project.  At least the cost of this project didn't spiral out of control unlike ESA. 

New South Ferry Terminal:  The new South Ferry terminal was designed to replace the 1905 era old South Ferry loop, a single curved platform under the Staten Island Ferry Terminal which could only accomodate 5 cars of a 10 car train.  The loop track was actually the outer portion of a two track, two platform loop station, while the inner loop platform is no longer in use.  The South Ferry loop station was a problem for tourists because they may not be familiar with the subway system and may not know in making sure they are at the first 5 cars of the subway train. Additionally the curved platform constricted train operations (even though it's been there since 1905) when entering and leaving the station, as well as prohibiting ADA aqccessibility.  The new South Ferry was supposed to address these concerns through a 2 track, 10 car straight platform with ADA accessibility and climate controls.   Total original cost was $400 Million.  Final cost was $527 million with minimual delays. 

But as soon as the South Ferry terminal opened and the old SF loop station was "closed and decommissioned", leaks being to appear on the station walls.  The MTA forced the contractor to remediate the problem but that would prove useless when Hurrican Sandy hit NYC and the station was completely submerged in water, destroying all station and electrical components needed to operate this terminal.   The 1905 South Ferry loop station suffered minimal damage from Sandy and reopened in April, 2013 so customers will have direct access to the Staten Island Ferry from the 1 line.  While Hurricane Sandy was a an unexpected storm of gigantic proportions which caused massive damage to the new South Ferry Terminal and other low lying areas in Lower Manhattan, the MTA and NYC Transit were still warned about the water leaks prior to Sandy and did nothing in protecting critical components from damage.  Granted, the process of planning and coordinating this work might have taken years beyond when Sandy happened so the damage was going to happen to South Ferry Terminal anyway.

MTA is planning a across-the-board fare hike in March, 2015 and will hold public hearings related to these fare hikes next month.  Perhaps the MTA should look at MTA Capital Construction and how their lack of oversight caused billions of dollars in waste on tardy mega projects.    Taxpayers deserve better than a mismanaged public authority such as the MTA. 

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Oatmeal and trans-fat - the Quaker Oats lie

Oatmeal is one of the best breakfast meals to have.  Oatmeal has abundant amounts of fiber, is low in fat while it fills your stomach.  I love oatmeal - - between that and cereal, it's a great way to go with egg whites and Orange Juice (yes I really LOVE OJ). 

Companies such as Quaker Oats put an emphasis that oatmeal is heart healthy and good for you - - they are correct.   Here is one package that shows it's good for you, it's on all of the Quaker oatmeal products. 

However on some of the packages, particularly oatmeal with "cream" added to a fruit flavoring, there is the silent killer ingredient - - Partially-Hydrogenated Vegetable/Soybean Oil. It's added to the cream (like the coffee creamer powdered products.) , baking products and is "naturally" present in red meat.

Partially or fully hydrogenated oils (PHO) contain trans-fat - - the most unhealthy fat in the world. This is because hydrogen is added to certain foods which creates an airy process and can turn solid at room temperature, thus food is preserved longer.  Now imagine the man-made oil process hardening in your arteries for life, increasing your chances of a heart attack.  And Quaker Oatmeal puts the false claim "heart healthy" in their cream based oatmeal as well as all of their oatmeal products.  No wonder Quaker was sued in federal court over the PHO use as well as their false claims - a Federal judge approved a settlement on this matter.  Other large chain stores who produce their own oatmeal, such as Wal-Mart's Great Value oatmeal products also use the "Heart Healthy" tagline in their oatmeal products, including cream based oatmeal which contains the PHO ingredient. 

Even though a federal judge approved the settlement which required Quaker to remove all PHOs from their oatmeal and related products by the end of 2015, they continue to use this false "heart healthy" advertising.  Quaker can remove this deadly claim from their packaging (cream based oatmeal and multi flavor packs which have cream as one of their 3 or 4 varieties in the same package) immediately as they have demonstrated that they have zero concern for their consumers who buy Quaker products.  The actual removal of the PHO ingredient can still tae place by end of 2015.  PHO is a deadly ingredient which has been linked to 20,000 heart attacks each year and really should be banned as an added ingredient, period.  Quaker and store chains should take action and remove the "heart healthy" claim on packaging with PHOs now. 

Saturday, October 4, 2014

MTA steals credit from Port Authority on CNN's top stations list

Hypothetically, if William Shakespeare posted on Facebook a "top ten" list of CNN's best books to read and the great writer noted that two of his literary works made  #4 and #5 on CNN's list, but one of them was Pride and Prejudice, then how would Jane Austen feel if Shakespeare stole credit for one of her books?  Ms.  Austen would probably be ticked off.  Of course this would be all imaginary but what the MTA did on Friday was real, stealing credit for something which is clearly not theirs.  CNN posted the 11 most amazing train stations in the world including Melbourne's Southern Cross Railway in Australia, Germany's Hundertwasser Bahnhof and others.  The MTA posted the CNN story on their Facebook page, saying "we made #4 and #5 on the list".  I would congratulate the MTA on making such a distinguished list - - twice (and the only agency to have two stations on that list)

But guess what was 4 and 5 on CNN's list?  The World Trade Center Transportation Hub and Grand Central Terminal respectively.  Wait!!!!  I said the WTC hub - - that's a Port Authority project, not the MTA.  How can the MTA claim it's theirs when they should know better not to steal credit from the Port Authority?  

 The MTA does own Grand Central and for 101 years, this terminal is a landmark of epic  proportions.  The WTC may not be a landmark and the price tag may be exorbitant but making CNN's top 11 station list is well deserved.  However the MTA has once again made a serious and embarrassing error in laying claim to a structure which is not theirs.  If the MTA doesn't even know their assets, how can they fail in their social media skills?  What makes this scary is that if the MTA makes a blatant error in this Facebook post, how many errors will they make in protecting our system from the next Hurricane Sandy?   How can they tells us to "see something?  Say something" when they don't know their own regional network? 

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

M service ended early but NYCT won't tell you that service change

I like lurking (and sometimes posting) on Subchat, a discussion board for everything transit related.  Today on my lunch hour at work, I came across this post by a person who goes by the "handle" of Transitbuff that M service in Manhattan and northern Queens was ending earlier than the usual 12 Midnight time.  So I did some digging and found out that it was related to a trackwork program (called General Order or G.O. in transit lingo) that affected local service on the Queens Blvd line.

Each weeknight this week, from 9:45 PM to 5 am the next morning, R service towards 71st Ave/Forest Hills would be running express from Queens Plaza to 71st Ave/Forest Hills, skipping local stations from 36th Street to 65th Street and again from Elmhurst Ave to 67th Ave.  Riders would have to use the next express station to double back.  This also affects E local service in the wee morning hours, it will continue to run express from Queens Plaza to Forest Hills even after midnight.  Additionally, to make travel easier, E and F trains toward Manhattan will run local from 71 Ave/Forest Hills to their respective Queens Plaza or 21st/Queensbridge stations.

But what about M serviced which was reported in Subchat?  Don't expect to find it on the MTA website because they refuse to post it anywhere.  You would have to go to a subway station to find this, I found this on the Uptown platform (that's not Metropolitan Ave-bound)   from 9 PM to 12 midnight, M service runs between Metropolitan Ave and Essex Street only - - much like they do on weekends:

I also found the M service change on the weekday station service change list, the ones where you find the service changes before you enter the turnstiles and on platforms.  But this is what I found on the MTA website, including TripPlanner+, the results are astounding, if not pathetic.

No M service change on the BDFM service status - - note the times I took the following screenshots - - well after 10 PM (time to get to bed and to charge my phone)

Here is the R service change from the NQR service status.

But what about TripPlanner, the so-called reliable page where you can plan your trip.  Start to laugh really hard because I entered two trip itineraries - - the first one from Steinway St to 67 Ave  - - two stations with no local service towards Forest Hills.  So if I started at Steinway St and wanted to travel to 67th Ave, then it should return a trip which requires me to take 3 trains - one Manhattan bound train to Queens Plaza, one outbound train to Forest Hills then double back to 67th Ave, my final destination on the third train.  Nope, this is what TripPlanner+ gave me tonight.

In the most obscure, if not stupid itinerary, this trip tells me to travel nearly one hour in the opposing direction through Manhattan, over the Williamsburg Bridge and into Brooklyn to Myrtle Ave.  Then I would cross under to the "Manhattan" bound platform for the last Forest Hills bound M train leaving Myrtle Ave for 67th Ave (and none of these M trains are running at that time, let alone no Forest Hills/Jamaica bound trains stopping at 67 Ave station).

Once again NYCT has proved how disorganized and incompetent they are.  NYCT President Carmen Bianco should scrutinize NYCT's operating procedures and quality controls by his management and supervisory teams  - - it clearly shows he really does not care about leading North America's largest and greatest urban heavy rail transit system. 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Montague Tunnel reopens

Late Sunday night, the Montague Street tunnel which carries R (and late night N) trains between Downtown Brooklyn and Lower Manhattan, reopened after a little over 13 months due to a massive undertaking of repairs as a result from the extraordinary damage caused by Hurricane Sandy in 2012.  The work was so extensive and unprecedented, it took coordination of 2 contracts and multiple units within Rapid Transit Operations (RTO) such as signals, track, pump rooms, etc.

I took a round trip through the Montague Street tube, the above ground street on the Brooklyn side of the East River where R trains run underneath.  The ride from Whitehall Street in Manhattan to Court Street in Brooklyn was nice with decent speed and brand new equipment in the tunnel.  I also noticed the tunnel patches (areas where it looks "bleachy") where the work was done to repair the severly damaged tunnel.  At the Court Street station, brand new lighting on the station platform was present along with a new platform floor and ADA tactile warning strips (the yellow "bumps" as the edge of the platform).

Hopefully the next train indicator will come down soon.  On the other hand, it might come useful again.

The wall on the Bay Ridge/Coney Island bound side shows salt water and dirt.
Train operators must "punch"
The ride from Court Street back to Whitehall was slow - - virtually all timers straight to a switch where a track branches off to Broad Street on the J and Z lines.  However the Montague tube was always been the slowest underwater tunnel in NYC in terms of train speeds, so it really makes no difference anyway.

The job done by NYC Transit was an outstanding effort - - I also didn't have time to take notice whether they addressed serious water corrosion at the Whitehall staircases at the south end - - they had really BAD leaks and dirt in the area where the artwork is displayed.  I will revisit this area soon.  The scope of the work done by NYC Transit in restoring the Montague tube to a nearly brand new state shows that they can perform great work - - if they can apply to same impeccability to the way they communicate to their customers as well as their website information - - then they would be truly a first class transportation network.

Monday, September 1, 2014

NYCT on Labor Day, you missed a lot.

Labor Day brings the unofficial end of summer, the West-Indian Day parade in Brooklyn,  a last hurrah at the beaches and pools, kids going back to school later this week and a sign that football is around the corner.  Labor Day is also no holiday at NYC Transit as they were stuck in holiday mode all day today - - virtually no service alerts.  Even NYCT reiterates that on Labor Day, all buses and subways operate on a Sunday schedule all day today.   All of my phone screenshots were taken today.

The BM1-5 express bus routes do not operate on Sundays.  NYCT has Good Service on them.

In past years, NYCT would post virtually every bus service alert related to the West Indian Day Parades.  Although I didn't get a chance to retrieve any alerts regarding to the parade until 7:30 PM tonight, I did manage to check NYCT Buses Twitter page for their history.  The only alert received was for the B12 bus rerouted to Lincoln Road due to NYPD activity.  Apparently, all day, there were no bus service alerts for the B14/17/41/43/44/44SBS+/45/46/49 bus routes - - all which pass through Eastern Parkway.  Also, note in the screenshot below that B67 buses are detoured around the Brooklyn Navy Yard - - there is no weekend service on the B67 north/east of Sands/Jay Streets. 

The B41 buses were "running - - not!!!  And scratch your heads at the next service alert below it - - it runs from 6 AM to 10 PM everyday. 


This is why NYCT cannot be trusted to provide timely, accurate and consistent planned and unplanned service alerts.  They clearly were taking a holiday today.  On that note, I hope your summer was blessed with happiness.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Al Sharpton, when are you going to Salt Lake City???

Al Sharpton, you are too busy with the Eric Garner chokehold death in Staten Island, as well as the Michael Brown killing in Ferguson, Missouri.    Heck, in response to the Ferguson matter, you even volunteered to fly over to the St. Louis suburb to meet with the Brown family.   I wholeheartedly agree that police brutality is a serious issue which must be addressed.  I also wholeheartedly agree that most blacks are victims of police brutality, especially the NYPD's treatment of minorities.  Rev. Al, I feel for you.

But did you know that 2 days after the Brown incident, there was a police involved shooting in Salt Lake City, UT where a parole violator was shot dead by one of the three SLC PD officers outside a 7-Eleven store- all caught on video by the officer wearing a bodycam - all because the recidivist was wearing headphones while the officers either ordered him to lie down or put his hands up.  Suddenly, two shots were fired by one of he three officers and minutes later, a man was laying dead in a pool of blood.  The man, Dillon Taylor was white.  The officer who shot him, was black - - just in case you wanted to know since the local news media ignored the race issue as well as a lack of national interest in the Taylor shooting. Men and women in Salt Lake City, the majority of them were overwhelmingly white, protested peacefully on the streets after the shooting.  Yes, this could be a case of police shooting another unarmed man, as is the case with most high profile incidents.  Yes, it's somehow "rare" that a black officer shoots and kills and unarmed white man in the rocky mountain region, 2,500 miles away from NYC.  But where is your big mouth, Al?  When are you speaking up for the family of Dillon Taylor?  Are you treating all police shootings as a police brutality issue or a race issue? Would you hop on the next flight and red eye it out to Salt Lake City to meet with the Dillon family?  You can travel 1,800 miles to Saint Louis, what's an extra 700 miles stopping you from rescheduling your week's itinerary and getting another flight from Saint Louis to SLC, meet with the Dillon family before coming back to NYC and continue on with your business with the Garner case?  Aw shucks Al, anyone of us (unarmed, of course), black, white, Hispanic, Indian, Muslim, etc,, could be shot by any officer for no apparent reason but being trigger happy or having a firm grip on someone's neck.

Like I said, an black officer shot and killed an unarmed white man while the news media flatlines on this controversial incident involving race.  When are you going to utter one sentence on this Dillon matter?   If the officer was white and the victim was black, I am sure you and the news media would be singing a different tune. 

Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Mall at Bay Plaza - - what a mall shouldn't be.

The Mall at Bay Plaza  opened with huge fanfare on Thursday, August 14th - which is actually an addition to the existing Bay Plaza Mall.  This mall's opening represents the first indoor mall building since 1972 when Kings Plaza in Brooklyn and the old Queens Center Mall opened.  Technically, it is not the first new indoor shopping mall because Bay Plaza is already an outdoor, open air mall similar to Cross County Shopping Center in Yonkers, NY.  The mall building sits on the south side of Bay Plaza, adjacent to the southbound side of the Hutchinson River Parkway and directly off Exit 11 of the New England Thruway, right in the heart of Co-Op City.  The mall is connected to the existing JC Penney building along with two new indoor parking garages.

My family and I went to opening day - - as much as going to a Yankees or Mets ballgame, there is a lot of anticipation and excitement.  Sadly, when we got inside the mall, we were disappointed - - and I don't expect a lot from NYC malls outside of Queens Center, my favorite mall in NYC.

The mall has 3 levels, the first two floors are the general mix of stores you would expect from a mall; Victoria's Secret (just had to put that at the top of my list), Bath and Bodyworks, Old Navy, Aeropostale, NY and Company, Zales, Forever 21, and the works.  Macys has a new store in the indoor mall, opposite JC Penney, This is Macys second store in the Bronx,.  The 2nd floor has some restaurants, such as Olive Garden and Joes Crab Shack, along with a large terrace over the "Mall Village" entrance to the east.

  The 3rd floor has the requisite food court.  The mall sits near two highways and three bus routes (Bx12/12SBS+, Bx29 and Bx38).  All other bus lines run along Bartow Ave are just outside the mall's outdoor parking entrances.

Now for what's bad about this mall - plenty.  The food court has only 3 open restaurants (only three), Subway, Sbarro (they are still in business) and a Chinese fast food place.  There is a sign that others will open but the mix is uninteresting, Dairy Queen among them.  The court's dining area is only a 1/3 filled with tables  - - it's mostly empty space. 

To get to the top 3rd floor from the stairs and escalators, you have to walk the long way around.  Restrooms?  Forget it - - maximum 3 stalls for each "bathroom" and some are not even open yet. 

The Mall at Bay Plaza lacks wayfinding signage - - finding a bathroom or other services will be difficult unless you come across one of these signs . . . . not on the center of the mall floors but off to one side of a wall - - pretty obscure location:

The mall has 2 garages - - are you would expect from typical malls in NYC, parking will be anything but free after Labor Day

You can still park for free at any of the outdoor lots, including the JC Penney/AMC Theaters and Pathmark/BBQ/Bob's furniture areas.  The Old Navy store was relocated from near Staples to inside the new Mall area.   Traffic is going to be the biggest problem, especially during season - - there is no entrance/exit ramp along the southbound Hutchinson River Parkway. Most traffic will have to converge on Bartow Ave to get on I95 north/south.  If you live in Co Op City then the Mall at Bay Plaza and the rest of BP would be great.  Plus it's now the closest mall from Westchester County where you can enjoy tax-free savings on clothing and footwear up to $110.  However, if you want less stress and better selection of stores, then go to Cross County Mall in Yonkers where parking is always free or take a nice ride up to the Palisades Mall in Rockland County where most everything sits in one monster of a building with free parking at the Mall's massive underground garage.  You can even take a spin on the Ferris Wheel in the food court - as well as rock climbing, play games at Dave and Busters and bowl.  Many stores in The Mall at Bay Plaza have yet to open so it clearly was a rushed job to open the mall - - and very poorly planned too.

Monday, August 18, 2014

What's wrong with MTA NYC Transit? Part 3, what NYCT refuses to tell you.

It's 8 PM on a Friday evening and your home is near the Kings Highway subway station on the Brighton B and Q lines in Brooklyn.  You need to run this quick errand or meet someone in the Upper West Side of Manhattan and come back home before the snowstorm blankets all of NYC during the entire weekend.  You follow the advice of MTA New York City Transit and check their webpage for the latest service changes related to the snowstorm and you find out that B and Q service are running normal.  You want to make sure they are running normal by calling the Travel Information Center and speak to a live agent about the status of B service, he tells you that B service is running normally and even tells you the next two northbound departures from Kings Highway.

So you get to Kings Highway and wait on the platform in 10 degree weather, you rub your hands while brushing you face against the cold wind as you see lights on the northbound express track, visible all the way down from the curve south of Neck Road, 2 local stops away.  The "B" train approaches Kings Highway station when suddenly the train operator sounds his horn and bypasses you, with no passengers aboard the 8 car train.  You mutter in disgust as you wait a few minutes for a Q local train to stop at Kings Highway.  All the while, there are no announcements on the platform as the Q train approaches; as you start to board the Q train, you take one last look down the track when you see another pair of lights on the northbound express track.  You and other people get off the Q train to wait for what is presumed to be another B train until it passes by Kings Highway again, without stopping and no passengers aboard the train. Now you are ticked off at what is believed to be an absence of B service and you take the next Q train into Manhattan - - after waiting nearly 20 minutes for a B train which never showed up. 

This is not a rarity that NYC Transit does not meet it's goal in informing customers - - this is reality and the type of information which NYC Transit deliberately withholds from their customers is common in their day-to-day operations.  The above story was an example related to NYC Transit's winter weather operations, called Cold Weather Plans.  In this MTA Cold Weather poster, service on certain subway lines made be reduced, suspended or running on local tracks on the eve of a major winter storm which is forecast to dump 6 or more inches of snow across the NYC region or bring temperatures down to the zero degree mark.   The Cold Weather Plans are required to protect subway cars from freezing temperatures and or snow accumulations by storing them in underground tracks, usually on express tracks while lines running on express tracks such as the 2/3/4/5 lines in Manhattan would be running on the local tracks instead.  The winter plan is activated no later than 11 AM the day before a snowstorm or icy conditions hit the NYC area.   These plans are identified as Plan 1 through 5 with 1 being the minimal action needed with subway cars "topping up" or leaving them in yards with motors running, while plan 4 requires all subway cars stored in underground tunnels for the evening or all weekend.  Service on the A/D/E/F/N/Q/2/3/4/5 and < 6 > lines would run on local tracks at various locations.  Additionally, B service is suspended after 8 PM weeknights while a little known suspension on AM rush 5 trains from Nereid Ave also takes place (more on that later).    Plan 5, the most severe plan initiated, involves the complete shutdown of all subway service.   During the brutal winter of 2013-14, Cold Weather Plan 4 was in effect on the following days: December 13-16 (weekend), Jan 2-5 (weekend) 7, 8, 21, 22, 23 February 3,4,5,6 ,13,14-17 (weekend) 28-March 3 (weekend)   Of these nights when B service was suspended only three nights they posted that B service was suspended, these dates were Feb 4, 13, and 14.   B service can be suspended because there is sufficient service on other lines (A/C/D/Q) for customers to use.  If you are lucky, you might see these posters in B line stations, note the wrong departure time at DeKalb Ave towards Brighton Beach.
On the night when B service is suspended (and I have verified this information), they would post somewhat bogus service changes like this.  Note that this alerts was retrieved at 8:59 PM, when the above poster shows the last northbound B train departed West 4th Street

Trip Planner will continue to list normal B  service departures at each station.  And a few calls to the Travel Information Center between 9 and 10 PM (well after B service ended) on the nights when Plan 4 went into effect, agents sometimes told me that B service is still running.  This creates a lack of communication to not only customers but the news media as well.  Media outlets, such as radio station 1010 WINS  and NY1/News 12 cable channels frequently provide traffic and transit updates every 10 minutes and they cannot be at fault when NYCT refuses to make these winter service changes public, then these news outlets won't be able to tell listeners/viewers about the B suspension.  It is also worthwhile to note that I haven't seen any service changes along the Queens Blvd E/F/M/R lines when E and F trains run local during cold weather plans - - I cannot say if it's a fact or not that all express service in Queens is suspended because I didn't go out there to make any observations.
FastTrack on the Queens Blvd E/F/M and R lines in Queens was scheduled for the week of Jan 21-24 - - the entire 4 nights were cancelled due to winter weather but nobody took down posters like these at Roosevelt Ave/Jackson Heights complex.
Another lesser known but equally important is the suspension of  < 5 > AM rush hour service from Nereid Ave.  All of these 5 trains come from the adjacent 239th Street yard just north of Nereid station.  Since all of the trains are stored in Manhattan underground tunnels, they will be coming up to the Bronx on the middle track and simply run to 241 Street before being placed into service e on the 2 line towards Manhattan.  Therefore it is not possible to run regularly scheduled 5 trains from Nereid Ave; NYCT never posted this service change due to the NYCT Cold Weather Plan.   Since customers at Nereid down to Bronx Park East normally wait for a Manhattan-bound 5 train, they wait in the freezing cold to find out there is no 5 service.  NYCT screws customer who go to work in the morning and use the 5 train into Manhattan.  No stations announcements about the 5 suspension were ever made either.  The screenshot below is a sample taken from MT's subway time application, which seems to be the ONLY reliable source of information.
In one more instance where NYCT refuses to tell customers, which happens all year, is the PM 5 rush hour services towards Nereid Ave.  Many weekdays, 2 and 5 trains become backed up on the upper White Plains Road line all the way down to Gun Hill Road.  To alleviate congestion on this line, NYCT will order some 5 train to Nereid on the express track north of East 180th Street, to Gun Hill Road/White Plains Road and terminate there.  This service plan I do like because it takes some 5 trains out of the northbound local track and reduces congestion, they can use the middle track to run from Gun Hill Road to 239th Street yard.  However, none of this service change is anywhere on the MTA website, not on the 5 line timetable, nor on the 5 service information.  Across the Bronx, the 4 line runs some northbound trains only to Burnside Ave (express 167 straight to Burnside) and, unlike the 5 PM runs to Nereid, the 4 Burnside runs are clearly shown on the 4 line timetable and are noted on destination signs in trains.  So what is the problem in NYCT refusing to acknowledge about a service change which makes 2 and 5 service more efficient?  Customers are so used to the musical chairs on the 5 trains to Nereid that they wait for 2 trains at East 180th Street anyway. 
NYCT has a duty to inform customers - - and they arbitrary disseminate certain pieces of information while withholding others.  This is unacceptable.  Customers need this information, not only for winter service changes or the 5 rush hour service, but all service changes in general.  Those NYCT employees who are responsible for distributing the information to other units - - and who intentionally withhold such information - - should look for work elsewhere.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

What's wrong with MTA NYC Transit? Part 2, the signs and posters

How bad and incompetent can NYCT make any type of blatant error in a website or map and leave it there for years?

So incompetent, the blatant error involved a hospital in the south Bronx which closed in 1966.

That's not a typo, I said 1966, at the height of the Batman TV craze and the television premieres of the original Star Trek and Mission:Impossible series, is when St. Francis Hospital in the Bronx closed it's doors.  There were pay phones instead of cell phones, Facebook and Instagram were never heard of.  But 48 years later, St. Francis Hospital is still on the neighborhood maps which were first designed in 1985 and "updated" in the early 2000s.  When the Weekender was introduced by the MTA in 2012, the same error appears in this webpage, see screenshots below - all taken directly from the MTA's Weekender application for Android phones.

It might be an abnormality if that was the only mistake in the neighborhood maps.  Sadly, there are over 100 mistakes, some of them really outrageous such as the NYPD 40th Precinct at the wrong location; NW corner of East 149th Street and Melrose Ave.  The 40th Precinct is unmistakably located on the NW corner of Alexander Ave and East 138th Street right by the full time entrances to the 3rd Ave/East 138th Street subway station on the 6 line.  Also note the wrong corner for Citibank

Looking for the Gateway Mall to do your shopping and the new Yankees/East 153rd Street rail station on Metro-North's Hudson Line?  Don't bother finding it in the MTA Weekender, the Bronx House of Detention (closed in 2000) is still standing there according to the  neighborhood maps.   


The MTA may have renamed the newest station complex name in to Court Square and added the Q/M lines in Long Island City but they haven't touched the Municipal Parking Garage at Queens Plaza, now an office building which houses the NYC Department of Health.  The garage was razed in 2010.

Coney Island has Luna Park. not Astroland Park.  The Brooklyn Cyclones play at MCU Park, not Keyspan (even though it's the same ballpark)

Where is the Barclays Center?  This arena is 2 years old and not on the "latest" neighborhood map.  Also note the old B63 bus routing before 5th Ave was permanently closed between Atlantic Ave and Flatbush Ave.

The 44th Precinct in the Bronx is at the wrong location,  Also (not shown) the 43rd Precinct on Ryer Ave, near East 183 Street is missing.

There are a lot of other errors to list such as old exits along certain stations on the B/D Concourse lines in the Bronx, Eastern Parkway on the J, movie theaters such as the Loews Elmwood and Trylon theaters in Queens as well as the Allerton theater in the Bronx, and Prospect Hospital, closed in the early 80's.   Recently, the MTA and NYCT collaborated with NYC Department of Transportation in producing the next generation Neighborhood maps  based on NYC DOT's successful WalkNYC wayfinding neighborhood maps with a maximum 12 block radius for each station.  Paul Fleuranges, Senior Director of Corporate and Internal Communications claimed in the linked MTA story that "Though we’ve kept the MTA’s neighborhood maps up-to-date,..." the pictures I posted show that Mr. Fleuranges statement is false as nobody corrected them for years.  The same neighborhood maps with the mistakes can been seen on the MTA Weekender's pages online.

Signs are wrong too, like the recent job fair held at the NY Transit Museum on May 19th, the E train hasn't run to Jay Street since the early 1970s.  Dozens of NYCT employees installed them and nobody caught this mistake.

 Here's a mind-boggling location to place a sign - - not just wrong station - - wrong line, borough
AND division.  This sign (installed around 1999) was to inform customers about signal system modernization on the West End Line in Brooklyn, part of the current D line, along with a proposed completion date of 2002. 

The sign was mistakenly placed at Central Park North-110th Street on the West Side 2 and 3 lines in Manhattan instead of  a station on the West End line (sounds alike) and sits unnoticed (or just ignored) by NYCT employees for over 15 years.  So we have wrong line (West Side instead of West End), wrong borough (Manhattan, instead of Brooklyn) and wrong division (IRT instead of BMT)
Sometimes reading signs can be confusing.  How about the set of posters at Gun Hill Road/White Plains Road station on the 2 line?  Which poster is correct? 
In January, 2013 when the highly successful FastTrack nightly work program made it's only appearance on the 2 line in Brooklyn, the information about 4 trains replacing 3 service in Brooklyn was really hilarious - - especially when 4 trains from Borough Hall and Bowling cannot stop at the Hoyt Street-Fulton Mall station due to the existing track layout.   If NYC Transit managers really know how their own subway system works, they would realize that they need to add two sets of switches north of Hoyt Street.    
Sometimes signs can have the right directions but in the most time consuming and circuitous manner.  This poster was taken at East Tremont/West Farms Square.  The robotic instructions on this poster tell you to take a downtown 2 train all the way down to 149th Street/Grand Concourse then double back up, when a 5 to 10 minute walk to East 180th Street will allow you to catch uptown 2 (and 5) trains there.   Sorry for the blurry picture
 The MTA website has improved in their accuracy but still suffers from years of neglect to correct their mistakes.  The current subway map  doesn't note that there is no elevator service at 63rd Street-Lexington Ave station through February,2015 due to all elevators being replaced at this station.  Other mistakes I found on some webpages are the Q18 and 64 bus route errors in the Flushing, Main Street LIRR page as well as missing the Q20A/B.  Funny part of this error is the QBx1, listed on the NYC Transit bus list, was replaced by the Q50 (and Bx23 in the Bronx) which is shown on the same page within the MTA Bus Company list.  The joint LIRR/Metro-North Cityticket map shows weekday services when the discounted program is not in effect, such as the Hudson River bus connections, the M train at Forest Hills, the 5 line at Atlantic Terminal and the M98, Q26 bus routes. 
The above examples show a complete ignorance of NYC Transit of correcting these errors.  NYC Transit should take a pro-active approach in fixing mistakes instead of ignoring them.  I will watch closely the new neighborhood maps and will post an upcoming blog about them when I see more of these maps at stations.  As for the other errors I posted, that is why customers get confused about the service changes.  On the other hand, very few customers actually read the service notices.