Friday, December 07, 2007

Mass Transit Maneuverings

New York City Transit is hoping that a change in how subways are administered will bring about improvements in service. They're going to start with two lines that riders have deemed to have poor service - the 7 and L lines, and each will have a manager responsible for the entirety of service on those lines.

I'm not sure how successful that will be. After all, is this not simply yet another layer of bureaucracy? The last thing the agency needs is another layer of bureaucracy. Money that goes to feeding the bureaucracy means money is not going to actually improve service.

This, too, comes at a time when fare hikes are going to be implemented. While Gov. Whiplash Spitzer said that the base fare would not be increased, the fact is that few people actually pay the base fare because of the various multiple ride and unlimited ride Metrocards. It is those people who will be hit hardest. Metrocards have made it easier for people to get around the City and it encourages people to use mass transit over driving and increasing congestion. Yet, that's going to be the target of the fare hikes.

Commuters have their own ideas of how to improve service.
Jay Diaz, a piano technician who works in Long Island City, echoed Ms. Muccio: He wants a more dependable schedule on the No. 7. But he is going in the opposite direction — toward Queens in the morning, when Ms. Muccio is heading to Manhattan. Mr. Diaz lives in Washington Heights, so he takes the A train to Times Square and changes to one to Queens.

“I don’t trust the 7 to get me to work the way I trust the E,” he said. “So the first thing I would do is make the 7 more consistent as far as departure times and arrival times.”

On the L, Jeffrey Griffith said he would redesign the cars. “In Japan,” he said, “all the seats on trains flip up. The conductor latches the seats up so at rush hour there is standing room only.”

He also said he would move the poles away from the doors because “people get packed in around the poles—it causes congestion.”

Other passengers on the L said they would put a priority on bringing reality to signs that are supposed to tell riders how long before a train is due. Passengers complained that the signs sometimes say a train will arrive in one minute. They said 15 minutes can tick by before the white eyes of a train appear in the darkness beyond the platform.
Adjusting the location of the poles would make sense, as would the Paris subway train tri-pole that enables more people to hang on than a single pole as currently found on the NYC subways. The Paris subways also have the flip seats right near the doors, which enable more people to fit on the trains during rush hour.

Better instructions and information at subway stops would also make sense - including better signage for exiting stations would also relieve congestion within some stations.

Meanwhile, across the Hudson, the Port Authority is busy considering whether to raise tolls and fares for PATH. The way the fare and toll hikes are being reported, it would still make more sense to drive into Manhattan than take mass transit because the price would still favor driving over mass transit.

At a time when the region needs to reduce congestion, raising the fares on PATH doesn't make much sense, even as the increases would help defray the costs for new capital spending that includes new railcars and signalling systems that would enable trains to run faster and closer together. Eliminating the EZPass discounts also makes little sense as those discounts encourage people to use the system, which also reduces congestion at toll plazas around the region.

All one has to do is look at the long lines of traffic that wait for cash lanes at any of the area bridges and tunnels and realize how much time you're saving by zipping through the EZPass lanes. Not only are you saving time, but you're saving gas and lowering emissions all at once by not idling in traffic.

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