MTA

The rescue train is on its way…again.

A P32AC-DM locomotive heading south to Cold Spring station on the Hudson Line/Tim1337 via Wikipedia

“Train is dead folks. We apologize for the inconvenience.”

Those are words I never heard a conductor say before.

“We are getting pushed back to the platform.”

The locomotive leading a 7:21 pm Hudson Line express north to Poughkeepsie broke down moments after it left Grand Central Terminal.  The engine is one of Metro-North’s GE P32AC-DM locomotives; the regular power for Hudson Line trains heading north of the end of the electrification at Croton-Harmon Station.  It is something that happens more than Metro-North would like.

The railroad’s latest operations report shows the P32’s 2015 goal for something called Mean Distance Between Failures (MDBF) is 35,000 miles.  The engine averaged 16,250 MDBF in July; a number that accounted for 12 engines breaking down while hauling passengers.  In June, it averaged 21,124 with 9 breakdowns.  Since the start of 2015, its average was 22,186 MDBF, with its 12 month rolling average 22,316 MDBF.

This compares to June 2014 when its MDBF was 26,516 with 7 breakdowns.  In July 2014, the P32 averaged 19,361 MDBF and had 10 breakdowns.

Given their recent performance, Metro-North’s MDBF goals seem a bit ambitious for the P32.  One could hope it is just overconfidence by the goal setters or an anomaly in the average (one locomotive breaking down repeatedly).

If they are failing because of age that is  more troubling seeing the oldest of bunch ordered by both Metro-North are just turning 20 and no new ones are on the way.  There is no mention of P32 replacements in the MTA’s capital budget for 2015-2019.  Amtrak also owns P32s and it is not planning on buying any new diesel locomotives until 2024.  That is not surprising, though, as these engines should have a lot of life left in them.

Ultimately, we did not get moved back to the platform.  Problems with the rescue train prevented it from taking us back to Grand Central.  Instead, we were drug north to 125th Street by a different train an hour and half after we first broke down.

“Train will be across the platform. We apologize for the inconvenience. We are doing the best we can.”

As I was writing this, my wife’s train broke down in the tunnel.  It was also being hauled by a P32.

 

Apparently, I’m awesome

It was jammed packed on my rush hour train so I stood. Next to me was a drunk guy chatting up some poor riders.  I thought, what a jerk to get on a rush hour train drunk. He started talking to them about Ferguson.  Asked them if they were on facebook. He told one of them, “she was f’ing awesome.”

And, then I leaned down to move my bag. And, I dumped my beer on the floor.  Perfect.
And, as I wiped up my beer with some papers, I thought to myself, I guess I’m the one that’s f’ing awesome.

But, not to be out done, the drunk stumbled off the train in Croton.  He was headed to Poughkeepsie.  I guess he’s the awesome one.

New Jersey Transit has its Howard Beale moment

The big wigs over at NJ Transit apparently were watching Network yesterday as their morning rush melted down because of Amtrak’s wire problems inside the Hudson River tunnels.  For all of you who are not familar with Peter Finch’s Academy Award winning performance as the news anchor who “ran out of bullshit,” here’s a refresher.

Now, a recap of what happened yesterday:

Yikes!  And then it got a little better, sort of.

Single tracking means at most six trains can come in and out of Penn Station per hour.  You know what would help, how about new tunnels between NY and NJ?  Man, I wonder when someone will pitch that?  I mean, when will anyone come up with the idea to build new tunnels?

And then nearly 3 hours later at least they weren’t single tracking.

Anyway, as you can imagine, NJT riders were mad as hell.

And, some pointed the finger at squarely at Governor Christie and other elected officials.

While a couple of tunnels might have come in handy, it is scarier that Amtrak’s infrastructure is so fragile that it cannot keep the wires up that provide power to the trains.  This even though NJT slides Amtrak $100 million a year because NJT uses the tunnels a lot more than Amtrak.

The situation is a mess.  Amtrak is broke and its budgets are at the whims of Congress.  The Christie administration isn’t exactly transit’s friend.  The Cuomo administration does not have to care much seeing people that use the tunnels mostly vote in New Jersey

Sadly, I do not think anything will change until something really bad happens.   When that day comes, it should make you mad as hell.

Sorry about the delay. Everything is wrong.

Below is what I remember from the message the Metro-North conductor gave us last Wednesday.   We were stopped south of Croton-Harmon.  It seems like a good time to reminisce as the Hudson Line trains are running late again tonight.

“Sorry about the delay everyone.  We’ve got a delayed train in front of us, signal problems, and speed restrictions.  Again, sorry about the delay.”

It summed it up; single tracking, track work, delayed trains ahead, and speed restrictions.  Here are some of my personal observations:

Monday:  The 5:32p arrived in Cold Spring after 7p.  Schedule arrival 6:46p.

Wednesday:  The 5:53p arrived in Cold Spring 12 minutes late.

Thursday:  645p train arrived late in Cold Spring.  I can’t remember but it was late.

Friday:  The 10:16a from Cold Spring arrived at Grand Central 10 minutes late.

According to June’s numbers, Metro-North had more than 1100 trains late or cancelled across the system.  In May, it was worse, with more than 1400 trains delayed or cancelled.  For late trains, Metro-North only counts trains that are more than 5:59 late, as umm, late.

And you can add the 6:15p Hudson Line train to Poughkeepsie to the late list.  We are now 20 minutes late.

Groundhog Day is her favorite holiday

Ground Hog copy

Groundhog Day is in February.  On Groundhog Day, February monthly passes are accepted.  In July, February monthly passes are not accepted. But, don’t tell that to one woman I recently heard about trying to ride Metro-North.  The woman, who claimed she spoke very little English, presented the February monthly to the conductor.  The conductor wasn’t going for it.

The conductor asked for a different ticket.  She said this is what had come out of the machine.

15 minutes into the trip he returned to the lady and told her she would either need to buy a ticket or face the consequences.

The woman – now grasping the English language – paid for a ticket.  The conductor said this isn’t the first time this woman has tried to pull this scam.

 

Lawmakers could boil the frog

By James Lee FormerIP at en.wikipedia [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia CommonsYou have heard the metaphor about a frog placed in a pot of cold water that is gradually heated, never realizes the trouble it is in and is boiled alive.

That metaphor can be used about Albany’s dealing with the MTA Capital Budget.  Newly reappointed MTA boss Tom Prendergast has been sounding the alarm about the $14 billion budget hole.  But, of course, the New York State legislature just hasn’t gotten around to it; seeing how busy they’ve been with the important stuff that just needed to get done before session ended.

The reality is Albany rarely boils the frog.   It is only $14 billion over five years.  The New York State budget is $142 billion this year alone.  Plus, the MTA still has money left over from its last capital budget.  State lawmakers historically tackle big problems just as the water in the pot begins to bubble and our scaly friends realize it is time to take action.  Of course, I am talking about the frogs, not the lawmakers.

Pataki’s PATH to President 

At first glance, you may not think former New York Governor George  Pataki has any chance at winning the GOP nomination for Vice President/Bigger Speaking Fees President.  The former three-term leader of New York, and moderate Republican, will have to find his conservative side to attract primary voters.  But, do not count him out because this is a man skilled at the art of politics. I mean, this is the little-known State Senator from the Hudson Valley that took down Mario Cuomo.

His political acumen can be seen below in relation to the building of the World Trade Center PATH station.

From the Times:  

George E. Pataki, a Republican who was then the governor of New York, was considering a run for president and knew his reputation would be burnished by a train terminal he said would claim a “rightful place among New York City’s most inspiring architectural icons.” He likened the transportation hub to Grand Central and promised — unrealistically — that it would be operating in 2009.

But the governor fully supported the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s desire to keep the newly rebuilt No. 1 subway line running through the trade center site, instead of allowing the Port Authority to temporarily close part of the line and shave months and hundreds of millions of dollars off the hub’s construction. That, however, would have cut an important transit link and angered commuters from Staten Island, a Republican stronghold, who use the No. 1 line after getting off the ferry.

The authority was forced to build under, around and over the subway line, at a cost of at least $355 million.

Yes, the price tag for the World Trade Center PATH station has ballooned to $4 billion, and blowing off the chance to save nearly $400 million might seem damning.  But, that’s the art.  It is a drop in the bucket if you are looking for votes over multiple election cycles because New York politicians care about New York voters.  Pataki’s constituency was never New Jersey, where all of the PATH train riders come from.  It was the Staten Island residents that ride the #1 subway line after getting off of the Staten Island ferry.  Sure, any elected would say and want to play a pivotal role in the building of a beautiful public works project.  It is a monument to their time in office.

But, monuments don’t vote.