Saturday, January 31, 2015

How much should NY State and the MTA "prepare" for a winter storm

The January 26 snowstorm (or semi-lack of) where NYC got only 6-10 inches of an expected forecast of 20-30 inches, had enough finger pointing and name calling to fill a stadium with losers.   The lessons learned from the 2010 blizzard which stranded buses and subways (including that infamous A train incident) showed that the NYC Metropolitan Area was way more prepared for anything.  And let me first point out that despite a few hiccups in the winter advisories, NYC Transit and the rest of the MTA did an excellent job in shutting down the entire area then slowly restored service.  NJ Transit was stellar also, restoring rail service on Tuesday instead of the planned Thursday restoration. 
But we cannot please anyone these days.  If we prepare for the storm by shutting public transportation down and imposing travel bans, then the storm turns out to be a whimper, we point fingers at the meteorologists  and the National Weather Service,  If we do nothing (like in 2010) and continue to run subways and buses until outdoor subway, rail and bus lines start to drop like flies, then we blame the MTA for not planning an orderly shutdown.    Now, the MTA is looking at at keeping underground portions of the NYC subway system open, even during Plan V (a preparation to shut down the subway system, in whole or part).  Virtually all of Manhattan, with the exception of two sections of the 1 line and a station on the 3 line, is fully underground.  The Bronx has one fully underground line (the D) which can provide service to the western section of the Bronx while the 6 line serving the SE section of the Bronx is partially underground and can turn trains at Hunts Point Ave, the last underground stop. Queens riders can use the E/F/R lines along Broadway and Queens Blvd to Jamaica, the G can run to Brooklyn and the 7 train can run as a shuttle back and forth between Manhattan and Vernon Blvd-Jackson Ave (on a single track between Manhattan and Queens).  In Brooklyn, the R can run to 95th Street, the 2 to Flatbush, the 4 to Utica, the D to 36th Street, the A to Euclid, F to Jay Street, or possibly Church Ave (along with the G), depending on the snow along the Culver Viaduct and the L to Myrtle-Wyckoff.  The key part is giving some amount of service, even though it would be a inconvenience to others living in outdoor lines.
I do have a major issue with Gov. Andrew Cuomo's decision to shut everything down at 11 PM, while instituting a travel ban in several NY counties at the same time - - how can the MTA employees get home?  By imposing a travel ban on all non-emergency vehicles along NY State roads, it made things difficult for NYCT employees who were finishing their shifts, to get home.  I know a bus operator who finished his shift at around 11 PM then literally slept at the bus depot because he could not get home by car due to Cuomo's travel ban.  The ban should at least have exemptions for employees of public transit agencies in allowing them limited travel so they can get home.   The same should apply for essential employees at NY area hospitals, such as doctors and nurses.  Or apply the travel ban 2-3 hours after the MTA system wide shutdown.  Do note that even after the MTA shutdown, train operators continued to operate trains through most lines (none of them in passenger service, of course) to keep snow from building up on outdoor lines.
There is another storm coming to the NYC area on The Big Game night (Lord help me if the NFL tries to sue me if I dared to type those two copyrighted words, LOL), bringing a possible 6-12 inches of snow, according to that the National Weather Service in Upton, NY tells us.  Let's see how Monday plays out - this winter is more like a chess game - - one wrong move and it could be checkmate on the Weather guys, Gov. Cuomo, or the MTA and NJ Transit.   

Monday, January 12, 2015

Free parking in Lower Manhattan, and how a few drivers get away with it

Parking in Manhattan, especially Lower Manhattan during regular weekdays,is impossible unless you find a garage to pay $25-35 per day or in excess of $500 a month.  Sometimes there is a need to park on street, such as a food truck or a commercial vehicle making a delivery.  However, at least three people have managed to park their personal vehicles in a specific 3 hour commercial metered parking zone across from Battery Park, and get away with it by simply displaying a hand made sign, saving them the cost of a parking garage or a traffic ticket, unless someone like me calls 311 on the latter to report an illegally parked vehicle.

The vehicles with NY passenger plates, are parked on the south side of Bridge Street, between State and Whitehall Streets, along an area where there is 3 hour metered parking along most of the south side of Bridge.  The passenger vehicles are usually parked during weekdays when  the street is reserved for commercial vehicle parking, a passenger vehicle with a NYC disability permit or certain other permits issued by the city, such as a film permit.  These vehicles do not have any permits, only a handmade sign on the vehicle's dashboard showing SEE AGENT AT THE BOOTH, THANK YOU - - indicating that the vehicle belongs to someone who works at the "booth" across Bridge Street (the rear of the National Museum of the American Indian, a Federal building).  Today's vehicle, a white Honda Odyssey, was first observed today (1/12) on Bridge Street, midblock, at 7:25 AM, then moved closer to State Street at 12:30 PM that afternoon (when I went outside during my lunch hour to see the vehicle).  The SEE AGENT AT THE BOOTH placard is visible on the windshield, next to the vehicle stickers. 


So I reported this illegally parked vehicle at 7:35 AM, 10 minutes after my first observation.  NYPD receives my complaint hours later then lets me know at 2 PM that no evidence of a violation occurred. 

But at 4:10 PM today, I saw not only that Honda still illegally parking in the same commercial vehicle parking zone but ANOTHER vehicle with passenger plats (using DAV or Disabled American Veteran - a vanity plate) as well.   Both passenger vehicles had the invalid SEE AGENT AT THE BOOTH, THAN YOU. sign.  This video, also taken today, shows the sign where there is 3 hour commercial metered parking, Monday through Friday from 7 AM to 7 PM.

The NYPD has totally ignored this problem for months.  I first reported illegal parking on Bridge Street (using the SEE AGENT placards on passenger vehicles) since May, 2014.  The placards are used to alert the NYPD Traffic Enforcement Agent (TEA) that the person who owns/leases the vehicle works at the booth across Bridge Street, thus giving him free parking in Lower Manhattan on weekdays and immunity from any tickets.  Responses from the NYPD, such as this picture below, are typical of them ignoring this problem which deprives commercial drivers of a legitimate parking space as well as the city of revenue when these commercial drivers use the meters to pay for the time while parked. 

It took some time until the NYPD finally took action and issued a parking summons for the Toyota Sienna pictures above.   That is until today, I saw the other two vehicles illegally parked and once again the NYPD is ignoring the problem while these drivers get away with free parking in Lower Manhattan for life. 

I will provide any blog updates if the NYPD finally took their heads out of ground and started issuing tickets.  (wish me luck on this, given the NYPD slowdown in enforcement).

Friday, January 9, 2015

NYCT Cold Weather Plan 1/7/15 - - Grade D

On Wednesday, January 7 NYCT implemented Cold Weather Plan 2 for the night, due to below zero degree wind chills and possible icing conditions in outdoor subway yards (yes they do have a few indoor subway yards but only enough storage for about 3 percent of their fleet). This is NYCT's first Cold Weather Plan for 2015.  That said NYCT tells us in their most recent press release that The most up-to-date information on MTA service status is always available at For immediate notice of service changes, sign up for email or text alerts at   NYCT's Facebook page have a link to their email notification system. 

As I monitored the service updates posted on the MTA webste and in their social media websites such as MTA New York City Transit's Facebook page or @NYCTSubway twitter accounts, I will grade them a D - - one step above a total failure - - no different then 2014 when I posted about NYCT withholding winter service changes.  Only when I tweeted and posted pictures during the course of the evening did NYC Transit start to post the correct (somewhat) service change information. 

The winter plan is not a thing which service changes happen on a whim - - they are planned since NYCT makes the determination of the winter plan at 11 AM.  Posters like these on the B and 6 lines are installed in the appropriate stations.  Modified (or what they call "supplemental") schedules take effect at a certain time in the afternoon or early evening so as to ensure crews are properly placed in their runs and where their trains will be laid up in underground tunnels.  Early AM crews who normally report at 5 or 6 AM to pull trains out of yards will report to different locations as early as 3 AM to pull their train out of a subway tunnel instead.  So there is more then enough time to inform customers, through text, email, web or Twitter about these service changes as they start to take place.  The news media is also involved because many outlets such as 511, 1010WINS or NY1/News12 report traffic and transit delays/changes (though not necessarily all of them, but at least they try to get the message across.)    NYCT stressed to monitor the MTA website, or sign up for text and/or email alerts but at the end of the day, they have withheld a lot of information or posted it 2-3 hours later than they should have. 
I already was armed with the email alerts from NYCT so I get every email on every service change  from every single subway line - - straight to a dedicated folder for my easy retrieval.  I focused on my way home to see about the posters (the B and 6). 

 At home, I used the MTA Subway time application/webpage for the numbered lines 1 throughh 6 which happens to be more useful than what NYCT posts (or refuses to post) because you can click on any local station in Manhattan and Bronx and you will when the next 2 or 3 express train stopping at a local station.  For example, I can select 18th Street on the 1 line and it will tell me right away if a 2 or 3 train would arrive a few minutes away.  The same test was applied to the Bronx portion of the 6 line where trains to Pelham Bay Park normally run express in the PM rush from 3rd Ave/138th Street to Parkchester until 9 PM while trains to Parkchester run local.  A check on the same MTA Subway Time application at any of the ten local stops on the 6 line would reveal that a Pelham Bay Park train arriving in a few minutes would clearly indicate that 6 express service is suspended for the rest of the evening.  (The same test was applied in the early AM on 6 trains from Pelham Bay Park to Manhattan - - a train every 3-5 minutes would indicate that all 6 trains run local as every other 6 train (usually from Pelham Bay Park) runs express towards Manhattan.   I also constantly monitored the MTA website service status on their homepage, used Trip Planner+ for a test on the B train and also made a telephone call to the Travel Information Center.
Here is the timelime - - all times are approximate.
11 AM - - NYC Transit activates Cold Weather Plan #2 - - emergency center is activated  - - all construction projects for the night of January 7 through 8 (except for the long term 6 and A line station closures in Queens and Bronx), are cancelled.
Afternoon of 1/7:  MTA website updated, Presss release issued, Facebook post made
6:15 PM  last Pelham Bay Park 6 train leaves middle express track at 3rd Ave/138th Street.  Express service suspended, all 6 trains run local.   However the 6 running local in the Bronx is not posted until 9:34 PM - - over 30 minutes since the last < 6 > express train was scheduled to arrive in Parkchester, a 3.5 hour delay in reporting
6:45 PM - - no planned service alerts posted
7:10  Final northbound B train departs Brighton Beach in Brooklyn.  20 minutes later, final southbound B train leaves 145th Street.  However, the service alert for the suspension of B service does not take place until 9:18 PM, more than 2 hours later.  Looking at TripPlanner+ it's not updated either.
At approximately 9:10 PM, I asked Mr. Bethel of the Travel Information Center about the status of the B train towards Manhattan.  He told me it was running and even gave me the next departure times of 9:19 PM and 9:30 PM from Newkirk Ave.  hen I told him that the B was not running, he wasn't told about the Cold Weather Plan. 
8:30 PM - - at this time, the 2/3/4/5/A/D/E/F/N and Q lines are running local in certain portions - - out of a possible 10 service changes, including the B suspension and < 6 > local, only one service change was posted - - A local in Brooklyn. 

9:30 PM, the "planned" service changes are finally being posted - - but not 100 percent correct - - as the 2/3/4/5 trains are running local south of 42nd Street, if you know where to look in MTA Subway Time and not on the MTA website which has incorrect information.


In the end, NYCT gets a grade of D from me because of the intentional lies, failure to post these service changes within 15 minutes and refusal to inform staff such as agents at the Travel Information Center, as well as refusal to let news media outlets know.  Now only that, it's dangerous what they do, by making customers wait in the freezing cold on the Brighton Line for a B train.  or not telling them about delays due to all trains running on the local tracks.  NYCT Carmen Bianco simply does not care about informing customers.   

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Racism, hypocrisy and ignorance in the black community

What do Apollo Brown Jr., Christian Glover, and Apollo Brown Jr. all have in common? 

They were black children who were struck and killed in separate hit and run accidents in 2014, in inner cities like Miami and New Orleans.

But where are the protests about dangerous drivers on the roads?

That's what I should direct that question to that ostrich, Rev. Al Sharpton, who has made famous to himself and the nation for his rant about cops killing black men, armed or unarmed.  Yes, no doubt, Sharpton may have a point - - the Ferguson and Staten Island incidents show why it is unacceptable for cops to kill an unarmed man.  But Sharpton and the protesters ignore the real problems which affect black people, black on black crimes. First, before I address the automobile deaths, I should point out some violent crime statistics.  In New York City, there were 333 killings in 2013, of which 62.9 percent of the identifiable victims were black.  The percent of blacks who were arrested in connection with any of the 333 homicides was 54 percent.  That means even if 46 percent of all suspects and 36 percent of all victims were non-black, you will have a statistical 17 percent of black on black killings or approx. 50 such murders.  But that is only statistics, the reality over 90 percent of all shooting victims and suspects in NYC are black.   The reality is the perception of living in East New York, South Jamaica or Mott Haven is not safe for the majority of working class black families when shootings occur. 

Let's go back to the original question about the 3 children killed in hit and run accidents and bring this issue closer to home - - in the 5 boroughs of NYC there were 173 traffic fatalities in 2013 of which 9 of them were classified as homicides and 19 other deaths were hit and run related.   To wit, there were 505 people killed in NYC, either by homicide or from a vehicular accident.   Where's the outrage over these deaths? When was the last time Sharpton and his cronies visited Queens Blvd, aka the Boulevard of Death?  Why is nobody addressing the issues of black on black crime and dangerous driving. You can call me a racist and/or pro-police if you want to (I have friends coming from different racial and ethnic backgrounds) but I would be more afraid of the majority of drivers on the roads than a police officer.  And most drivers disobey STOP signs, fail to yield, don't bother using turn signals and worst of all, text while driving.   We can empower ourselves to peacefully assemble and protest against cops killing black men but we do nothing when it comes to black citizens committing violent crimes against other blacks.  On top of this, most of the same protesters (and non-protesters alike) break traffic laws - - the very same laws to prevent deaths.   Why do people attend church services to pray for they lives then turn around and blow past a STOP sign at the next intersection? Then there are the pedestrians who act like their lives are not important when they cross streets while look at their cell phones with their headphones.  No wonder that the top 5 counties with the highest insurance premiums in NY State are all 5 counties that comprise NYC. 

It's not "Black Lives Matter", it's "All Lives Matter" which should have been the motto.  What if a white cop shot and killed an unarmed white?  Would Sharpton and the protesters come out in full force or would they remain silent?    Would Sharpton mention anything about the execution of two officers, Jian Liu and Rafael Ramos, in Brooklyn if the events at Ferguson and Staten Island never took place?  Why nobody is protesting against the proliferation of aggressive unlicensed "gypsy" cabs who hound customers as specific outlying subway stations in the Bronx?  Many of these so-called cab drivers are not licensed the NYC Taxi and Limousine Commission, a good number don't posses valid driver's licenses and their vehicles may be unregistered and uninsured so if the passenger is involved in a vehicle accident he/she may not be able to recover any damages from the unlicensed individual. 

Not only that, you might be taking your chances with your life if you ride one of these unlicensed cabs as this unidentified woman found out when she was raped by Jonathan Wallace who posed as a "cab" driver.   Again, no protests and outrage against these hustlers.  I do know people need to get home late at night when bus service may not be available,, however people should exercise their best judgment in calling for a licensed car service so they can make arrangements in having a cab ride home from a licensed driver.   Make sure the license plate on the front and back of the vehicle has T (for NYC) or W (for Westchester County) followed by 5 to 7 digits in NY State plates.  This will tell you that it's a licensed cab driver. 

When black people protest about cops killing innocent people but ignore aboud more exponential problems with black on black violence and unsafe driving, then the racism , hypocrisy and ignorance will continue.  If you want to end racism, then take some advice from Morgan Freeman, a brilliant actor who I remember from the Electric Company days in the 1970s.  Mr. Freeman was asked by the late 60 Minutes correspondent Mike Wallace (another brilliant person) in a 2005 interview about how to end racism.  Freeman's response was simple and direct - - "stop talking about it...".