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Posted July 21, 2008 in News • Tags: ,

New York’s MTA is spending a mind-boggling 7.2 billion dollars to make the commute a smidge easier for some Long Islanders. The idea is to bring some LIRR commuters to Grand Central Terminal instead of Penn Station. Take a look at the map and judge for yourself if it’s money well-spent. Note especially the distance between the two stations, and consider that there is already a myriad of options to get from one to the other: existing subways, busses, taxis, and, oh, walking (it’s less than a mile). Consider also the fact that this project entails tunneling under already existing Metro North (another commuter line) tracks that run along Park Avenue and building another level underneath the existing Grand Central. A glance at the map begs the obvious question: why not just link to the existing Metro North tracks and use the existing levels of Grand Central? Especially since Grand Central ain’t so grand any more: its only remaining service is the Metro North commuter lines! Surely there’s room among the dozens of tracks there for a few trains from Long Island.

In the meantime, another project–one which would serve a vastly greater number of (ostensibly less well-connected) city commuters seems to be languishing: the Second Avenue subway. It too costs many billions of dollars, but at least it serves a real purpose–to relieve the severely overcrowded Lexington Avenue line–and extends from 125th Street all the way down to the Wall Street area. Oh, and it’s been on the drawing board for eighty years. Which means that the next time you’re packed like a sardine on the 4/5 and it’s bumper-to-bumper traffic, you can console yourself with the fact that it was never meant to be this way.

Well, the good news is that this stupid line is about to run out of money due to the MTA’s perennial money shortage. At seven billion dollars to tunnel one mile, it’s easy to see why there’s no money. One can hope that in the meantime somebody else will come into power–someone not beholden to suburban commuter demands–and put a stop to this nonsense before it sucks in any more of our tax dollars.

Posted January 25, 2008 in News • Tags: ,

Finally, some radical thinking on bus and subway fares:

It might sound like pie in the sky– but a new plan unveiled today would not only keep bus and subway fares down, it would eliminate them altogether. It’s an extreme congestion pricing plan that makes Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s look tame.

Not mentioned in the article–or anywhere that I’ve seen–is the cost savings that could be realized by eliminating the massive fare-collection apparatus required by the current system: token booth clerks, the computerized metro card system, card readers. One wonders whether the idea of eliminating fares might actually pay for itself, without the need for the draconian congestion pricing mentioned in the article (which doesn’t have a hope in hell of passing). Which leads to:

However worthy an idea, it seems unlikely New Yorkers will see free subways and buses anytime soon. It’s not even being considered by the Congestion Pricing Commission, which votes next week on a proposal to forward to lawmakers.

Of course no one will take the idea seriously. The Transit Workers Union would become apoplectic. They know that their salaries–like in almost any business–are the largest cost of running the system. And since the city sings to its tune, there’s no eliminating those jobs, let alone getting even modest cuts on the table.

Posted December 8, 2007 in News • Tags:

Listen to this praise for New York’s Governor Eliot Spitzer:

Spitzer called on the MTA [Metropolitan Transportation Authority] to throw away a proposal that would have raised the price of those individual rides [from $2] to $2.25, and the MTA went along with him. It sounds like a small thing and is the opposite of that. It is a big thing Spitzer did, a big story of the city. This was the governor of the state acting like a true advocate for the city that grew him and grew his ambitions.

This flapdoodle goes on for about a dozen more paragraphs in the same vein. The problem? Almost nobody pays $2 to ride the subway or bus in New York City.


Posted October 23, 2007 in News • Tags:

What a waste.