subway

Picture of the Day:  Grand Central Subway Station

  

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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.  

The beauty of the ramp

Fulton Center via MTA Flickr

Fulton Center via MTA Flckr

The new Fulton Center subway station is having some people moving problems that have nothing to do with trains.  The lead from a story in the NY Daily News from last Friday,

Apparently $1.4 billion doesn’t buy working elevators and escalators.

Oh, a few outages in a brand new station is to be expected, even if it did cost them a billion and a half dollars.  This is New York.  We pay $10 to ride in a yellow car for 15 minutes.  It could be worse. WMATA, (which looks fun to say if emphasize the Wh- sound) is the agency that operates the DC Metro.  It has spent decades breaking in its elevators and escalators that are now mostly just plain broken. Last year, Metro bosses said the organization would fix 79 escalators and elevators by the end of its fiscal year and were excited  when it got 3/4 of them done.  Jesus.

Which is why it always struck me as a bit of a gamble that the MTA’s East Side Access project – that will connect the Long Island Rail Road to Grand Central – includes an extensive escalator network.  47 in all will bring people up and down from the LIRR tracks 15 stories below the street.  That’s waaaaayyyyy below the current lower level, where you find all the restaurants and homeless people.  But, escalators moving people from train platforms is in sharp contrast to the rest of Grand Central.  The terminal is mostly free of elevators and stairs (escalators were not prevalent in the early 1900’s). Instead, ramps are the main way people get around in GCT and that is by design.  From an NPR interview with Sam Roberts, the author of “Grand Central:  How a Train Station Transformed America,”

Another Grand Central innovation was the ramp. “The place has virtually no staircases… long-distance travelers were coming in with suitcases, lots of luggage, and the ramps were built to accommodate them.

The shear number of escalators will hopefully give commuters enough working options to get to the surface when break downs or maintenance occurs.  But, why not ramps, or at least a mix of ramps? Stadiums use extensive ramp systems that seem to get people at least down.  And, of course,ramps do not require much of a breaking-in period, because, well, they are ramps.

Outsmarting the MTA

New_York_MTA_Metro_Card_pass_2368_01

My cousin Adam shared this with me, “How Memorizing “$19.05” Can Help You Outsmart the MTA ”  It is some handy advice, but it is a sad that I need to use some sort of work around to “outsmart the MTA” so I can access my money.  Still, it could be worse.  Below is the farecard for the DC Metro that they used since the 1970’s but are soon phasing out.  I’ve got a bunch of these with 40 cents on them.   I should really look into seeing if I can get my money back but then I would have to get rid of my Panda friends.

Farecardfront

SchuminWeb via wikicommons