Friday, May 16, 2014

Spending some time at a Vision Zero town hall meeting

EDITOR'S NOTE:  The comments and observations in this blog (or any other blog I write) are my own personal viewpoints and are not the viewpoints or comments of NYC Department of Transportation.  Also specifically for this blog post, I volunteered to visit this workshop on my own time and no one had asked or suggested to me in attending this or any NYC DOT workshop.

I attended a NYC DOT Vision Zero workshop inside Herbert H. Lehman College of CUNY last Tuesday, May 6th.  There were plenty of wayfinding signs from the Bedford Park IRT 4 station, along Bedford Park Blvd and through the campus to the music building where the town hall took place.   I checked in then was directed to a specific table, one of 30 inside this building.   At table #28 where I was assigned to, a DOT employee was seated along with 4 other people.  The employee provided a visual demonstration on what NYC DOT does to make NYC streets safer with a manual slide show along with explanations on the many traffic calming methods they use to reduce accidents and fatalities. Then he went on to explain how Vision Zero works.  There was ample time for a Q and A session of which I raised the issue about STOP signs and how STOP sign running is not among the 10 reportable safety conditions in the Vision Zero homepage.  (I should have also talked about cell phone use which is much more serious than disobeying STOP signs.) The DOT employee showed us some pictures which I could easily identify the locations, including Bruckner Plaza at White Plains Road and The Hub intersection.  We also had an opportunity to fill out a survey form and a Vision Zero worksheet where I could write down the intersection or street and identify the appropriate safety conditions.   Finally, we were directed to a workstation where different NYC maps were shown to pinpoint the offending locations along with a iPad station to record and share the issues on their webpage.

 I cannot stress enough that safety is to be shared among all stakeholders: pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists, truck and bus drivers as well as engineers who redesign NYC streets, community boards and elected officials who raise certain issues to NYC DOT as well as the consequences who fail to drive or walk safely.  Just see what happens when an impatient driver goes against traffic to cut in front of the left turn line on northbound Baychester Ave at Boston Road and end up kissing the KFC parking lot and store with 1 adult and 2 children injured in the chaos.  At least that's what my reliable source tells me about the cause of that accident.  Or last weekend when this drunk driver flips and slams his minivan into a flower shop, then runs away from the accident scene near the intersection of White Plains Road and the Cross Bronx Expressway.  The driver was caught by witnesses chasing him and turned the soused driver over to police who arrived at the scene moments later.  You can say anything negative about Vision Zero, including a new bill to the NY State Legislature authorizing NYC under NY State Vehicle and Traffic Law, Section 1642 as a city with more than 1 million residents (and the only city in NY State, so far) to lower the citywide speed limit from 30 to 25 MPH (unless otherwise posted, lower or higher than 25 MPH, of course), but we need safer roads for everyone.  That and stiffer penalties for the most serious offenses like cell phone use or speeding, take their cars and licenses away from these idiot drivers - - permanently.

And before I say good night - - look who I caught this morning, texting while driving, on State Street near Bowling Green in Lower Manhattan: 


Wednesday, May 7, 2014

NYCT's mess on May 2-5 - the F train derailment and Brooklyn 2/3/4 lines

MTA New York City Transit has a lot of questions to be answered for the incidents this past weekend of May 2-5, not only about the F train derailment in Queens but also for a General Order in Brooklyn (transit jargon for trackwork) which ended 90 minutes late.

On Friday May 2, at approximately 10:40 AM, six of the 8 cars of a Manhattan-bound F train derailed just west (railroad south) of the 65th Street/Broadway station in Queens, injuring 19 passengers.  The first and last cars of the derailed train did not jump the tracks.  The cause of the accident was a broken rail which was in one of the five most trouble-prone track hotspots in the NYC Subway system with 205 broken rail incidents between 50th Street/8th Ave in Manhattan and 71st Ave/Forest Hills in Queens, all along the busy 53rd Street and Queens Blvd corridors.  The cracked rail was installed only 3 months ago, in February which is puzzling since the Track Inspection Car detected the crack shortly before the derailment.

Due to the F train derailment, from Friday afternoon through 5 AM Monday morning, E and F trains were running local in Queens, with overnight shuttle bus service between Queens Plaza/21st Street Queensbridge and Roosevelt Ave.  R trains were not running north of 57th Street in Manhattan and 71st Ave/Forest Hills in Queens, while Friday afternoon/evening M service was running only between Essex Street and Metropolitan Ave.   Weekend work on the 7 and J/M lines were cancelled due to a massive mobilization by NYC transit crews in re railing the derailed F train and making track repairs along the E/F Manhattan-bound express where the derailment occurred.. 

To make matters worse, the information about these service changes is fair on the MTA website - - at one point, they posted that certain bus lines were being diverted due to work related to the F train derailment, see my screenshot below

As you can see, all but the Q53 bus route would be affected since it runs partially on Broadway where the derailment took place (and the Q53 runs a few blocks away).  The Q60 runs along the entire length of Queens Blvd while the Q1/2/36/43 and 77 bus routes run between Jamaica and points east - - about 6 miles away from the derailment site.  Absent from his service advisory is the Q70, the new limited bus route between Woodside and LaGuardia Airport, which runs on 39th Ave.  Therefore almost none of the bus routes listed above would be affected by any delays related to this derailment.

I was in the trenches Sunday evening on the weekend after the F train derailment and it was ugly - - no platform conductors or announcements at the Lexington Ave N/R platform  (there was no R service at this station) and 6 line conductors mentioned nothing about no R service at 59th Street. 

That's not the only thing which happened that weekend - on Monday morning, service on the well publicized Brooklyn 2/3/4 lines  south/east of Franklin Ave were supposed to be restored  by 5 AM Monday morning after a planned 55 hour weekend shutdown.  Instead, the shutdown continued until 6:30 AM, 90 minutes late while shuttle buses had to be kept on the road - - along with very few of these buses because they didn't anticipate the trackwork to run past 5:30 AM.  The overrun cause a ripple effect on the entire length of the 2/3/4/5 lines because the 3 line starts running from New Lots at 5:40 AM with a special 5 train from New Lots (the first 5 train originating in Brooklyn) shortly afterwards at 5:50 AM.  Regular 5 service from Flatbush Ave would start at 6:07 AM.  The problem with running this G.O. late is that many of the early AM trains which have to be placed in service from Flatbush or New Lots Ave are stored in Livonia yard which was cutoff due to the late trackwork as well as other trains from the Bronx and Manhattan are coming to Brooklyn with limited options to turn at Franklin or Atlantic Aves.  My 5 train from the Bronx had to the turned at Bowling Green (through a loop track from the southbound side to the northbound side) because of the mess and chaos on the IRT mainlines, all caused by this late clearance.

Obviously, NYC Transit had nothing to say about why thousands of customers along the 2/3/4/5 lines were inconvenienced - - they should explain why the construction project didn't end until 6:30 AM.

And there are 4 four more weekends of this 2/3/4 Brooklyn shutdown, good luck.