Category Archives: transit and transport

NYC Bike Share Delayed. Again.

CitiBikes aren’t coming to a corner near you. Yet. Try again next summer.

The Good – I like the name Citibike. Yes, I know some people loathe the idea of a bank sponsoring anything these days but at least it’s sort of a catchy name. Not clunky like the Barclay’s sponsored bikes in London – Barclays Cycle Hire Bikes. Which no one calls them anyway. They are known by the far better and far more entertaining name of Boris Bikes, for the cycle mad mayor who has overseen their launch. Nor do I have a problem with public transport of this kind being sponsored. If the choice is a) sponsored, b) paid for by more taxes or c) go without – I pick (a). And shallow though it may be – I like the color.

The Bad – But once again, the NYC bike share system is delayed and you know, they can trot out whatever excuse they want but the truth is – if they WANTED to get this things straightened out and running, they would. This isn’t rocket science, there is no need to reinvent the wheel. These systems (and their underlying software) work all over the world and NYC isn’t so complicated or difficult that it can’t work here.

Of Fare Hikes and Bruised Jaws

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

Last summer there was much hemming and hawing and gnashing of teeth here in the UK when a rise in rail fares was announced for the upcoming year. I didn’t do much hemming, hawing or gnashing of teeth at the time. I couldn’t -a) my jaw was already on the floor at the cost of the fares as they stood at the time as I couldn’t help but compare them to similar fares (for same approx time and distance) I would have been paying to the New York MTA and b) I was still living in NYC most of the time where I wasn’t having to pawn jewelry to take the train to Wassaic. I did finally pick my jaw up and gnash along side everyone else eventually – when I journeyed into London and came face to face with the off-peak and peak fares for a mid-week train.

Well guess what? It’s THAT time of year again and a rail fare hike has been announced for next year. There is – as there was before – hemming and hawing and gnashing of teeth. There is wailing this time too. And still, my jaw is on the floor – a) because the MTA fares are still notably lower and service more reliable (from all reports) but b) I’m now living in the UK – though not needing the train much. Yet. I have to sop being so surprised. My jaw is starting to hurt. Even stranger – I am starting to miss the Harlem Line train to Wassaic even if it is summer and it’s probably a mad house every Friday afternoon.

The New New York City Taxi

OK, it doesn’t look as bad as I thought it would. In fact, it’s a kinda cute in a “so ugly it’s cute” sort of way. I love the fact that there is no center hump in the floor. Not sure the “more legroom” feature will be relevant if the drivers continue to push the seats ALL THE WAY BACK. But hey, if it works – yay! But some of these things they are trumpeting as features give me pause (or even outright concern) about my future taxi rides.

overhead windows: which means you get great views of city above you but also means you may well roast in summer. Seriously, I’d be all for this is traffic wasn’t getting exponentially worse with every passing week and I didn’t fear slow braising on my way to my destination.
charging stations for cell phones: well, thanks but um – why? Unless I am taking the taxi to the airport, I (and most people) are taking it from one Manhattan location to another. Dear God above – how long do they expect me to BE in this cab. Well, if the previously mentioned traffic gets any worse, possibly this isn’t a bad idea but in that case, vending machines might be good too.

floor lighting: now THIS I heartily approve of. Sure, I risk getting too close a look at that weird blob in the corner but if I drop my phone (wrestling it from the charging station), I can find it without accidentally TOUCHING the weird blob in the corner.

anti-microbial seat covers: these, we are told, going to take care of “those unpleasant new york city odors that have come with taxis in the past.”  Um… guys, it wasn’t just the seats. It’s summer in New York. Seat covers – even anti-microbial ones are like trying to mop up the Atlantic with a paper towel.

But despite these small misgivings, I look forward to trying one out – in 2013. *eye roll*

Express Train to – WTF?

I was making plans for a day in London the other day – and as part of the planning, checked out the train schedule and fares to get me from Didcot to The Big Smoke. Once again, I was FLOORED by train prices. FLOORED. I simply do not understand why the people have not risen up and – I don’t know – DONE something. I’m all for keeping a stiff upper lip etc… but this is highway – no, railroad robbery.

A round trip into London (approximately a 45 minute ride) will cost me about $80.00! More than twice what a comparable trip on the MTA would be and with less reliable service. And while I am not the BIGGEST fan of the MTA (it has its flaws as does any system) they’ve done a ton of working improving service since I started riding them 25 years ago (and that work was recently recognized when they won the Brunel Jury Prize for overall design excellence), I think I’m gonna miss it.

So I ask you, National Rail, private rail companies, or whatever you call the head of transport in the UK: Is this crap supposed to encourage people away from cars?

I mean, I know petrol is expensive over here (stop whining, my fellow Americans – it IS more expensive over here which is why the cars have to get such good gas mileage) but damn, the train isn’t much better. I could fill up the old Ford Explorer back home for less.

And what do you get for this princely sum? Comfortable, clean rides with on-time arrivals? Hardly. You’ll get on the train but wear comfy shoes ’cause you may well be standing the whole time (running trains short is the norm since you pay the same whether you get a seat or not so what do they care). Clean? Compared to what? A boy’s high school locker room, maybe. On-time arrivals… if you define on-time as the airlines do, sure.

And this is the improved service they were aiming for when they privatized? Maybe I’m just missing the point – being the American in the Room – but I thought the point of privatizing was to take the tax payer out of the equation. However, I am told that the privatized rail companies still get a combined annual subsidy of £6.2bn/year! I’m not saying to claw the whole thing back to a nationalized service but for crying out loud, if the point was to improve things, they’ve missed the boat (probably because it left on time). Surely, someone – most likely many someones – should be called upon to own up to this mess. Next time someone calls the US out for being privatization crazy, I shall point out that the MTA is a state agency and seems to do a far better job for less. Sheesh!

(Can’t) Drive-by Complaint

Is there a more badly designed and hideously timed intersection in Manhattan than York & 72nd? I don’t think so. Damned! The traffic snarl!

Snowy Musings

So, here I sit – waiting for more snow. I gather from the weather reports that I won’t have to wait long. Of course, we already had significant snow last month – the storm the media and others have dubbed the Boxing Day Blizzard of 2010. I rather enjoyed that but then I:

  • live on an arterial street, which are at the top of the City’s plowing priority list
  • live in Manhattan, again, high on the plowing priority list though this is due to Manhattan being made up largely of arterial streets and not due to Manhattan being “Daddy’s Favorite” as so many seemed to think. Seriously, I can’t decide which borough is the middle child in this family – Brooklyn or Queens. I lean towards Queens only because Brooklyn occasionally exhibits “Baby of the Family” entitlement issues and the City occasionally gives in.
  • don’t own a car, so had nothing to dig out after the plowing occurred)
  • don’t commute to work, so I was not hampered by transportation system failures

I’m not sure there’s SO much to worry about this time around. I mean, what are the chances the weather people would be right twice? And on the outside chance that they ARE right a second time and we do get the accumulation they seem to be wailing and keening about, they BETTER not be right a third time. The 10 day forecast indicated snow on Weds the 19th. I have a flight to the UK on Weds the 19th and let me put both weather people and Mother Nature on notice – delays and or cancellation WILL NOT BE OK!

Cycle Hire Envy

I have been in London recently my friends – last week in fact – and I have seen the Barclay’s cycle hire in action. I saw it during the rush hour commute, late at night as people hurried to catch the last train, on a glorious Saturday in Kensington Gardens.

I saw people of all ages and from all walks of life making use of it and spoke to many of them about their experiences with it. Thumbs up all around – an occasional comment about software glitches or stations with no room (a minor issue with stations so thick on the ground that getting to the next one is a matter of moments) but always followed by an assurance that the fact that the system is available and in place far outweighs momentary issues.

Behold the cycle hire.

May we be so lucky one day.

Two-Wheelin’ In NYC

Two items of interest this morning (well, of interest to me and anyone else searching for a sign of sanity and intelligence amidst NYC traffic and transportation news).

  • I was reading The Villager (which you’ve likely never heard of unless you live in the East Side and honestly, even then . . . ). But never mind that now. I was reading it when I came across the greatest truth ever told: “Transportation on Manhattan’s East Side has become unsustainable.” And then the article went on. “This fall . . . 200 blocks of First & Second Avenues are slated for protected bicycle lanes, pedestrian refuges and dedicated bus lanes.”  Please let this be even truer. Please don’t let them mess this up.
  • When I hear that “Protected Bike Lanes Are Coming to Upper West Side“, it is indeed pleasing to mine ears. But I must say I agree with the comment that states, “isn’t it a little silly to do this piecemeal? I think most cyclists besides idiot delivery guys tend to bike more than 20 blocks”

Is that a glimmer of hope, a gleam of light at the end of the tunnel? Well,  not the second avenue subway tunnel of course since, at this rate, that won’t be ready until long after we’re all gone.

But maybe?

Good Luck Getting Around Gotham

David Yassky, the new chairman of the Taxi and Limousine Commission, has made a SHOCKING (not) discovery: Manhattan has more yellow cabs than Brooklyn.

To be fair, it’s not something he just recently discovered. He discovered it some time ago (I imagine the same way most people do – by using their eyes) but now that he’s Mr. Taxi, this revelation becomes a newsworthy lead in to his declaration that chairmen, he intended to “ensure the industry serves all parts of the city effectively.

I wish him luck but sheesh – why not just scale Everest? It would be easier.

Speaking of transportation, there was a piece in the Gothamist about bad subway announcements — bad being defined as inaccurate, too garbled to understand, or just not made at all. I know, I know – you’re thinking, “Duh” but since the Straphangers Campaign went through all the trouble to come out with a new report on the subject, it wouldn’t hurt to mention it again. In a way that everyone could understand. Maybe the MTA would learn by example.  Or not.

So what did the report find? Well, it found that 55% of the announcements were bad. 55%? Only 55% And apparently this is an improvement. I must be riding a vastly different system than they looked at. Or I’m just unlucky.

They also point out that “Poor announcements can mean missed stops, longer trips and a lot more stress.”  Amen. I had an unnecessarily long trip, missed two stops and had tons of stress just this weekend trying to get from point A to point B on the 1 train this weekend.

You know what would have made the whole thing a lot less of a hassle? If the sign telling everyone that the 1 train wasn’t running had been VISIBLE to anyone other than the person standing right in front of the ticketing window. There was a massive white board on the back wall of the booth that – had anything been written on it – would have been easily seen by people coming down the stairs (assuming they could push safely past those stomping agrily back UP the stairs. But was the news of the non-running 1 posted ON that white board? It was not. It was written – in ball point pen on a half sheet of 8×11 paper in front of the ticket book attendant. Who was blocked by annoyed people trying to get answers about alternatives and updates.

New Face at the MTA

Jay Walder, the new MTA chief has said that “New Yorkers should be able to expect the same type of customer experience riders enjoy in London“—whose transportation system he worked for between 2001-2006—”with accurate arrival information and modern fare technology.”

Yes, Mr. Walder and I have been expecting it for some time. My expectations are in place and ready to go. Are you the man to meet them? I hope so.

soho1.jpgIn that same article, The Gothamist declares, “Hear that, New Yorkers—no more Underground envy!” Well, I reserve the right to retain my Underground envy until I see this “action plan” he speaks of. Until then, I shall continue to view the Tube through rose colored glasses and wish myself at Covent Garden (provided the lifts are working). In fact, I’ve gone on at some length about it over on Boris’ blog. Check it out.