Friday, February 19, 2016

Week in review: Cuomo takes credit for a 16 year old problem, the W makes a comeback, NYC Sanitation throws food away and Obama disses Scalia

A lot of news items happened this past week, let's get right into it.

1.  The new 2/5 strip maps: MTA New York City Transit finally solved a problem on the 2 and 5 lines which uses the same car model (R142),  those in-car strip maps.  Unlike the R160 car counterparts which run on the lettered lines (E/F/N/Q/J/M) that have the interchangeable display, the R142 cars built in 2000-01 have a fixed strip map which can work on only one of the two IRT lines.  A 10 car train can have all 2 line strip maps then suddenly that trainset is put into service (scheduled or not) on the 5 line instead, making the 2 strip map useless except a disclaimer on the lower left corner "Route Change, Map Not In Use".  However, a train with 2 line maps may run on the 2 line then be rerouted on the 5 line between Bronx and Brooklyn.  Well after 16 years, NYCT finally got it right with the new 2/5 strip maps which combine both lines together in a single  map.  The news release claims this is part of NY State Governor Cuomo's initiative in improving customer service and communication.  Nor bad for Cuomo to take credit for something that took 16 years to solve.  Additionally, the new strip maps won't solve the problem of wrong automated announcements, such as announcing "Transfer to the A/C" during a weekend closure at Fulton Street. or the Bx41SBS transfer when it's not running after 9 PM.  More smokescreens by the MTA NYCT.

2.  The W makes a comeback:  The W line ran weekdays only between Ditmars Blvd-Astoria and Whitehall Street in Lower Manhattan and like some bus routes, it's making a comeback along with the rest of the pre June 2010 service pattern on the N/Q/R lines thanks to the impending opening of Phase 1 of the Second Ave subway line.  The W line is the latest of subway and bus lines being undone from the infamous June, 2010 service cuts - - the B37 bus route in Brooklyn was restored while recently the M5 bus route is finally being shortened due to the length and poor on-time performance.  Just don't look for the V train to come back anytime soon, the V line was replaced by an extended M train and that was the MTA's best move in 2010.

3.  NYC Sanitation throws food away:  Yesterday, Gary Schlesinger posted a Facebook video taken on Feb. 3 in Chinatown that shows two NYC Sanitation workers throwing out fruits and veggies from a produce store - - the video went viral with plenty of outrage across New Yorkers about all that food wasted.  Mind you, the workers  were ordered by their enforcement officer or supervisor to throw it out when the store was cited for illegally obstructing sidewalk space.  However, it is disgusting when the food was thrown out instead of confiscating the produce then donating it to a church or a homeless shelter.  There are thousands of hungry New Yorkers who desperately need good food like fruits and vegetables.  Also if Sanitation has the gall to throw food out, why can't they throw away traffic cones and trash cans which residents use to illegally hold parking spaces?

4.  Obama disses Scalia:  Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia passed away last weekend and his funeral is set for tomorrow (2/20).  Justice Scalia is one of the more conservative justices and well respected among his colleagues who spent nearly 30 years on the bench.  President Obama chose not to attend Scalia's funeral tomorrow.  All I can is that's disgraceful for any President not to attend a funeral of a Supreme Court Justice, liberal or conservative.  It's only 11 months to go (as of tomorrow) until we get a new President in the White House.    

Enjoy your weekend all.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Saturday (2/6) observations in the subway and more NYCT website errors

Last weekend (2/6 through early morning of 2/8), two subway lines were not running in Manhattan due to trackwork, and another three were rerouted in both directions.  The J and Q lines were not running in Manhattan while the A/C/E lines were diverted in both directions - - the A/C was running on the F in between West 4th Street and Jay Street-Metrotech and the E was running also on the F line between Queens and West 4th Street.

Unless you know to check the MTA website, consider yourself lost because conductors working on adjacent lines were giving wrong directions - - as well station platforms on the J which should never have been open in the first place.  Here is a short timeline.

Prior to my Saturday outing, I took this picture at Fulton Street on the J - - with the wrong directions  - there is no A/C at Fulton St on that same Feb 5-8 weekend.  That was corrected with a new set of posters on my Saturday outing (see before and after photos, thanks to NYCT's Twitter account for getting this done)

Now for the timeline on Saturday 2/6

10:55 AM - - I arrived at Court Square and asked the conductor on the Manhattan-bound 7 train (Car #7848) if I could "transfer" to the E train here.  The conductor pointed to the exit and told me "Yes, straight ahead and downstairs".   These instructions are incorrect, Court Square on the E side is closed.

11:10 AM - - On a southbound 4 train (car #7704) as we arrived at 14th Street-Union Square "Transfer to the ....Q.... train" automated announcement was made - - there is no Q service in Manhattan

11:15 AM  - - southbound 6 train (car 2151) at Canal Street, conductor announced only the N and R transfers.  She is correct as there is no J and Q service at this complex.  I walked over to the J platform via the N/Q lower level and saw plenty of posters - - and to no surprise at all, nobody reads them.  Conductors on the N line were making clear announcements about no Q trains running so customers can hop on and change at Atlantic/Pacific for the Q shuttle bus or stay on to Coney Island for the Q shuttle train.  I continued to the J platform where I saw things that are wrong, both by customers and NYC Transit planners - - I fault customers for not reading the paper signs about no J service and also take blame for NYCT brass not reassigning personnel to the J platform area at Canal St and Chamber Street (there is one direct exit to street from the J platform at Canal which remains open.)

If you look down and can't tell what those two red lights on the tracks mean, something is wrong with you.  This is the customer' fault.

People waiting for the J - - good luck - - next J train will arrive within the next 36-40 hours.   Note the posters are literally right in front of their faces.

Here is one of many posters at the Canal St complex.

When the J is not running at Canal Street, NYCT should close the Centre Street street level entrance to the J platform -  it is a minor inconvenience as the entrances to the northbound 6 on Lafayette Street and the rest of the complex are just around the block, no more than 200 feet away.   I went back to the southbound 6 platform where I saw the PA/CIS was showing the next 6 train was 13 minutes away.  So I took a walk on Lafayette where I saw an old B51 bus Guide A the Lafayette and Walker Street bus stop.   The B51 bus route was discontinued in June, 2010

At Chambers Street on the J, there was no NYCT personnel telling customers about no J service -   only tape and signs were present.

11:41 AM - - took a southbound 4 train (car #1226) one stop to Fulton - this is the ugliest part of the trip.  Not only did the conductor allow the automated A/C/J transfer announcements at Fulton Street, a customer asked him how to get to Myrtle/Broadway on the J and M lines in Brooklyn.  The conductor advised the customer to take uptown trains to Canal Street and "transfer" to the J - - that is soooo wrong so I told the customer to stay on the 4/5 express to 14th Street then take the L to the M (via. transfer at Myrtle/Wyckoff) instead.  It feels good to come to the rescue of a lost customer when he was given bad directions by a NYCT employee - - many of these conductors should be cognizant in the major service disruptions happening on nights and weekends.

Oh and speaking about the Q not running in Manhattan and proofreading - - looks like NYCT needs to cross check better on their MTA website,  This is from last weekend with information on the E diverted along the F line

This coming President's Day weekend (2/12 through early AM on 2/16) southbound F trains are running on the E line between Queens and Manhattan - - look at the directions to reach Lexington Ave and 63rd Street station from Queens - - you cannot transfer from Lexington/53 Street on the E/M to an Uptown 6 train (at 51st Street, through the transfer passage) because Uptown 6 trains are running express that same weekend - bypassing 51st Street.  Proofread and cross-check, NYCT.

One big bright spot I must tell at Fulton, NYCT personnel at the 4/5 side of the A/C staircases were asking customers if they have Unlimited Metrocards and if they do, suggest going outside and walk one block over for the R to Jay Street for A/C.  It's too bad the majority of times I observe are either wrong information or wrong announcements.   As I made my way back to the 7 train, I got caught in the line suspension due to switch problems and there were announcements about no 7 trains between Manhattan and Queens.  But guess what I heard right after that 7 suspension announcement?  An automated announcement about the E line diversion which suggests to take the 7 between Queens and Manhattan.  How confusing is that to hear two contradictory announcements within a minute apart?.

This coming weekend, the same J and Q sections of their respective lines will not run - - that means it's 3 days worth of wrong announcements and wrong directions by  NYCT personnel.  It's too bad supervisors and managers act like they never ride the subway on weekends because if they really did then I would not be catching as many mistakes as I currently do.   Conductors will say or allow "transfer to the J ...Q lines" at Manhattan stations.   Or maybe I should ask myself this question - - do customers ever listen to these announcements then complain when the information they rely on from the announcement is wrong?

Monday, February 8, 2016

Super Bowl 50 and those commercials

How about Super Bowl 50 at San Francisco yesterday?  It's one for the books now with the AFC Champions Denver Broncos (led by Payton Manning in his 200th and final game of his Hall of Fame bound career) winning the game and the Vince Lombardi trophy over the NFC Champions, Carolina Panthers.  24-10 yesterday.  This was Manning's second Super Bowl championship ring. Super Bowl 50 was the most watched TV broadcast ever with an estimated 161 million TV viewers who saw part or all of the game (not including live streaming).

Of course the game sometimes takes a backseat to those commercials and there were plenty of them, some good, a lot of bad and some that really stand out from the crowd.  Here are my personal favorites of a select few which stand out, in no order of preference.

1. Kevin Hart Hyundai "First Date":  Mr. Hart is very funny and this commercial is a howl.  Hart plays an overprotective father who lends the family car for his daughter's first date then follows him all over the place.  Clearly the best commercial is a mostly so-so crop

2.   Doritos "Ultrasound Baby":  Expectant wife has ultrasound procedure while her husband looks on as he is eating a bag of Doritos,  He starts taunting the baby.  I won't give away the ending of this ad but I can say I was floored when I first saw this.    Doritos seems to produce the best SB commercials because they know two things that work all the time in the cuteness and laugh factors:  babies and animals .

3. Doritos "Supermarket Dogs".  Like the baby commercial, dogs bring the cuteness then the laughs.  Watch as these three dogs try to elude the supermarket manager (who keeps chasing them out) in buying a bag of Doritos.

4.  Toyota Prius "Longest Police chase":  It takes a lot of imagination to produce a commercial about a bunch of bank robbers who use their Toyota Prius as their "getaway" vehicle and go all out in eluding police on a long chase that captures the world.  And if you wondered who played the bad guys - - the corrupt Sobokta family from the critically acclaimed (and IMHO, the best police procedural show ever made in the history of television), The Wire.  Not only we have a well made commercial, but we also have a mini-reunion of a family from The Wire.  

5.  Steve Harvey's T-Mobile redux:  Gotta hand it to Steve Harvey - - he can make an embarassing mistake in announcing the wrong winner in the 2015 Miss Universe pageant into a funny  T-Mobile commercial tat takes aim at Verizon;s colored balls.

6. Baldwin, Marino and Missy's Amazon Echo:    The in-jokes and sarcasm go big time as NFL Hall of Fame player Dan Marino trades verbal shots with Alec Baldwin while Missy Elliot chimes in, Really cool stuff to watch.

7.  Bud Light Amy Schumer/Seth Rogen party:  I don't watch these two comedians but I was impressed at the way this commercial was handled -  with a direct reference to Bill Pullman's famous speech in the original blockbuster Independence Day,  

8.  Mountain Dew PuppyMonkeyBaby.:  Another howl - - just watch this and see the head of a puppy, the tail/midsection of a monkey and legs of a baby - - hence PuppyMonkeyBaby

There were others which were either good or bad.  You can watch all of them on You Tube - - but the highlights of yesterdays game was Lady singing the best National Anthem ever while Beyonce, Chris Martin and Bruno Mars put on an excellent halftime show with flashbacks from old shows of previous halftime Super Bowls, including Michael and Whitney - - two artists whose lives ended too short.  It was a good night for football and some entertainment.