November 10, 2008

NY Times City Room: MTA Fiscal Crisis

November 10, 2008
M.T.A. Faces $1.2 Billion Deficit
By Sewell Chan and William Neuman

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority faces a $1.2 billion budget deficit in 2009 — $300 million more than it had projected in July — that will very likely require new fare and toll increases or service reductions unless it gets new state and city aid or finds new sources of revenue, officials warned on Monday morning.

At a meeting of the finance committee of the authority’s board, the authority’s chief executive, Elliot G. Sander, said the authority faces a dire fiscal situation that could influence riders across the subway, bus and commuter-rail networks. The deficit was caused, he said, by the collapse of revenues from real estate and corporate taxes, which until just a few years ago had given the authority a string of healthy surpluses.

“The word draconian is not inappropriate,” Mr. Sander said at a news conference after the meeting. He was flanked by the authority’s chairman, H. Dale Hemmerdinger, and its chief financial officer, Gary J. Dellaverson, in describing the potential service reductions.

“They will be very, very significant,” Mr. Sander said. “Whatever that mix that we come up with, in terms of fare and toll increases and service reductions, there’s no question that they would have an impact, significantly, on our customer and on the functioning of that region.”

The magnitude of the fiscal challenges confronting the authority was evident in a PowerPoint presentation presented at the meeting and posted to the authority’s Web site.

Real estate transaction taxes, which represent an important share of M.T.A. revenue, provided the authority with more than $1.4 billion in 2006 and nearly $1.6 billion in 2007. This year, the authority is on track to collect only $995 million in such taxes — about $50 million less than had been projected in July.

And the situation is expected to get even worse. The authority now expects to collect $895 million in real estate taxes next year, and $877 million in 2010.

The authority is required to pass a balanced budget in December for the fiscal year that starts on Jan. 1. A final decision on the fare and toll increases, and service cuts, will most likely not be reached until after a state commission on M.T.A. finances, appointed by Gov. David A. Paterson and led by a former authority chairman, Richard Ravitch, delivers its report on Dec. 5 and after Mr. Paterson releases the state executive budget on Dec. 16.

The Ravitch commission is contemplating imposing tolls on the four East River bridges — the Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queensboro and Williamsburg Bridges — that are run by the city, unlike the authority’s bridges, like the Triborough, which already charge tolls.

Asked about the toll proposal, Mr. Sander, who was a city transportation commissioner in the Giuliani administration, replied: “I’m previously said that from a broader transportation-policy standpoint, I’m comfortable with that, but that should not be interpreted as my support for it in this context. We are looking at that suggestion, along with many, as we’ve said publicly.”

Mr. Sander attributed the authority’s financial condition to the heavy borrowing for capital projects that occurred in the early part of this decade, when the authority was under the control of Gov. George E. Pataki and the previous chairman, Peter S. Kalikow.

“The 2000-2004 capital program was essentially put on a credit card,” Mr. Sander said, and is “the largest contributor” to the current operating deficit. Already, the heavy borrowing now costs the hundreds of millions of dollars in interest payments each year — and the figure is projected to rise to $2 billion by 2012.

Mr. Paterson said in a statement on Monday:

The financial information provided this morning to the M.T.A. Finance Committee is another reminder of the dire fiscal situation facing all New Yorkers.

In April, I appointed Richard Ravitch to head a commission charged with recommending strategies to fund M.T.A. capital projects and operating needs over the next 10 years, a period when the Authority will be under unprecedented financial pressure as it expands and rebuilds its core infrastructure to provide the additional capacity needed to allow the region to grow. The Commission will report its recommendations in early December.

Addressing the fiscal challenges facing the M.T.A. and the state over the next several years will require shared sacrifice, difficult choices and cooperation from all funding partners. We should be open and transparent in facing these challenges and in discussing options. The M.T.A.’s subway system, buses and extensive regional commuter rail network are the lifelines of the greatest city in the world, and I will continue to work with Richard Ravitch, M.T.A. Chairman Dale Hemmerdinger, M.T.A. C.E.O. and Executive Director Lee Sander, Mayor Bloomberg and the legislative leaders to ensure our transit system continues to serve the 8.5 million people who depend on it each day.


October 24, 2008

Important G Train Station Rehab Postponed

Smith-Ninth rehab will cost more and take longer
By Mike McLaughlin
The Brooklyn Paper

It’s the same F-ing story at the crumbling Smith-Ninth Street station: repairs are going to cost more — much more — and take much longer.

As recently as June, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority said it would spend $187.8 million to rebuild the elevated F and G tracks from Carroll Street to Fourth Avenue, and renovate the aging Smith-Ninth street station.

But on Wednesday, MTA spokeswoman Deirdre Parker told The Brooklyn Paper that the work would cost “upwards of a quarter-billion dollars.”

The track work on the so-called Culver Viaduct is still scheduled to begin early next year and finish in 2012.

But the renovation of the decrepit Smith-Ninth street stop — which requires closing the station for ninth months — has been pushed back to 2011 from 2010.

That’s a mixed blessing for straphangers who abhor the conditions at the highest platform in the subway system, but don’t want to have to trek to the Fourth Avenue or Carroll Street portals to hop on a train. (The MTA says it will provide shuttle buses.)

“I think ‘dingy’ is the best way to describe the condition of everything in this station — everywhere you look is just one big, ‘Ew,’” said Jason Coyne, a Carroll Gardens resident. “And now they’re delaying the fix-up process? If it looks like this now, imagine how gross it’s going to be next year, and the year after that.”

That goes double for people who board at the Fourth Avenue station. Last November, the MTA announced it planned to revamp the span over Fourth Avenue by installing expansive windows for views up and down the boulevard. The MTA scrapped that proposal in June due to spiraling budgets throughout the transit agency.

©2008 The Brooklyn Paper


September 24, 2008

Brooklyn11211 Blog: G to Have its Own Line Manager?

Neighborhood Threat
All subway lines to get a General Manager
September 22, 2008 at 1:50 pm

Gothamist reports that all subway lines will get a General Manager soon. Currently, the only lines that do have a GM are the 7 and the L. I’m not a daily L rider, but after our experience with the General Manager on the 7 train, I am overjoyed to hear that the G train will soon have a repository for our complaints.

The experiment calls for a general manager to take charge of each subway line and make “quick” decisions over train schedules, maintenance of stations, and riders’ complaints.

We are avid Mets fans and spend 30+ games per year out at Shea. In 2007, the MTA instituted Express service after the games, which (aside from the B61, but we’ve covered that) eliminated any temptation to drive to the game, not when we could be home in half an hour. However, in 2008, they instituted a “Super-Express” which initially only stopped at Woodside, Queensboro Plaza and Grand Central. While we just got off at Queensboro to wait for the B61 (as creepy as it is to do that), the boyfriend wrote to the GM, pointing out that eliminating the Court Square stop deprived riders of the connection to the G.

Three weeks later they wrote back to tell him that three other people also complained of the same thing, and that they had reinstituted that stop. (No, seriously. They even made announcements at Shea about it.) You can read about our adventure

If four people could cause that to happen on the 7 train, imagine what a band of determined Greenpoint residents can do to transform G train service.

Coming up: a bus driver reveals the complaint number of the Grand Street depot (after 6 buses went by on Friday OUT OF SERVICE)


September 16, 2008

MTA Mess Leaves G Riders Feeling Jittery

Groups Warn of Fare Hikes, Service Cuts and Fewer Transit Repairs, At Hearing by Governor Paterson’s Commission on MTA Financing

New York’s Economy, Environment and Mobility at Risk, Say Groups

The following is a press release from the Empire State Transportation Alliance, a coalition of which Tri-State is a member. For more information, contact: Gene Russianoff (917) 575-9434 / Michael O’Loughlin (917) 957-9106

Leading transportation, environmental and labor groups warned today that New York faced major fare hikes, and cuts in transit service and vital repairs unless new City and State aid is raised to address the MTA’s “titanic” financial problems.

The warning came at the first public hearing of the State Commission on MTA Financing. The Commission - appointed by Governor David Paterson and headed by former MTA Chairman Richard Ravitch - is charged with recommending ways to meet the MTA’s financial needs over the next ten years. Its report is due out by December 5th.

In July, the MTA officially announced major operating deficits in its $6 billion operating budgets for 2009 and 2010. The deficits are caused in large part by declining tax revenues in a bad economy; rising fuel costs; and the impact of years of massive borrowing to finance badly needed repairs.

The agency’s enormous debt has made the MTA the fifth largest debtor in the U.S., behind only three other states and New York City.

The MTA has also proposed cutting $2.7 billion from its five- year, $14.7 billion core capital program - nearly a fifth of its current efforts to bring the subways, buses and commuter lines to a state of good repair. The cuts include rehabilitating 19 fewer subway stations and $336 million in fans to clear smoke in emergencies.

The agency faces a shortfall of more than $17 billion in its 2010-2014 capital program.

“Years of borrowing as a result of the City and State’s disinvestment in mass transit are coming to a head as the price of fuel has drawn many new people to transit, with total ridership up in the last year by more than 5% on the subways. What’s more, the proposed hikes would come at a time when working and middle class New Yorkers are already struggling with a rising cost of living, and real economic hardship,” said Roger Toussaint, president of the Transport Workers Union, Local 100.

“New York’s subway, bus, and commuter fares just went up in March. But now the MTA says it needs to raise the price of MetroCards and commutation tickets again in July 2009,” said Gene Russianoff, staff attorney for the Straphangers Campaign. “Back-to-back increases that have occurred only once before in the 104-year history of New York transit.”

“Failure to make the necessary investments in the critical transportation infrastructure would severely hamper New York’s economic viability. We simply can’t allow this to happen,” said Kevin Corbett, co-chair of the Empire State Transportation Alliance.

“As a result of population growth and high energy prices transit and bus ridership are at all-time highs, and the MTA system is maxed out. Unless the state invests now to expand the system we will condemn generations of New Yorkers to elbow-to-rib congestion and an underperforming economy,” Robert Yaro, president of the Regional Plan Association.

“The MTA’s problem is clear: The City and State have inadequately funded mass transit for years. The formula for funding mass transportation should be changed,” said Paul S. White, executive director of Transportation Alternatives.

“Thanks to years of delayed investments in our transit system by the City and the State, we have an aging infrastructure and a staggering fiscal crisis,” said Richard Kassel, senior attorney and transportation expert at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). “Quite simply, we won’t meet our future economic, environmental, or sustainability goals if the City and State don’t make transit investments a top, top priority.

“Every New Yorker has a stake in better transit — and more transit,” said Andy Darrell, Vice President at Environmental Defense Fund. “With gas prices high and our population growing, it’s time for innovations like bus-rapid-transit that can be built quickly. And it’s time for innovative, fair financing — including road pricing — to put our transit network on firm financial footing. The economy and the environment can’t wait.”

“Will already beleaguered riders be abandoned to cope with these difficulties without help, with higher fares and a big downturn in fixing our old system? Or will Governor Paterson, Mayor Bloomberg and our legislative leaders fight for transit? The next several months will tell,” said Kate Slevin, executive director of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign.


September 8, 2008

NY Times Editorial on MTA Budget

September 8, 2008
Editorial: The Riders Pay

New York City’s mass-transit system is deteriorating and desperately underfunded. The politicians know this, but they are still providing far too little in the way of financing. The result is that the system’s users, many of them already suffering from tough economic times, could be stuck with the bill.

Neither the city nor the state is paying its fair share, despite what they claim. With the Metropolitan Transportation Authority facing a budget gap of nearly $1 billion next year, direct subsidies from both governments last year totaled about $600 million, not much more than what they were a decade ago, according to the nonpartisan Independent Budget Office. Adjusted for inflation, subsidies have actually declined, saddling riders with an ever-increasing burden.

The main problem is that New York’s state legislators have failed to put a dependable source of financing — like congestion pricing — in place. Transit has been forced to rely on fluctuating taxes from real estate and other sources and, increasingly, rising fares.

A one-two punch of back-to-back fare hikes and reduced service seems likely if New York’s elected leaders don’t approve significant new subsidies or a solid revenue-generating plan.

The M.T.A. has said it needs the city and state together to contribute an additional $300 million next year. State lawmakers say they are awaiting the recommendations of a commission led by Richard Ravitch, expected after the November elections. Mayor Michael Bloomberg insists that the city has already done its part, contributing $1.2 billion last year.

But Mr. Bloomberg gets to his $1.2 billion figure by including not only the city’s direct subsidies, which are what really matters, but also an assortment of other kinds of payments that do not directly benefit the M.T.A. They include $344 million in interest payments on money the city borrowed for previous transit aid.

A safe, clean and reliable mass-transit system is not only environmentally sound; it is also essential to New York’s economy. We know the city and state have their own huge, looming budget gaps. But both need to dig deeper to keep mass transit moving.


September 7, 2008

MTA Funding Hearings Scheduled

From our friends at the Tri-State Transportation Campaign:

Ravitch Commission Hearings Scheduled
MTR has learned that the 13-member Ravitch Commission, established by Governor Paterson earlier this year and chaired by former MTA Chairman Richard Ravitch, has scheduled a round of public meetings for later this month. The Commission is charged with recommending “strategies to fund MTA capital projects and operating needs over the next ten years” and has a December 5, 2008 deadline.

The meeting dates are September 15th in Manhattan, September 22nd in Long Island, and September 24th in White Plains.

For New York:
Monday, September 15th
Eisner-Lubin Auditorium, NYU Kimmel Center
60 Washington Square South
Session 1: 10am-12:30pm
Session 2: 1:30pm - 5pm

Testimony is by invitation only. Public comment can be sent in writing to Ravitch Commission, 633 Third Ave, 38th floor, New York, NY 10017. So mail in your comments!


August 15, 2008

Report Shows Constant City, State Transit Cutbacks

August 15, 2008
Aid to Transit Remained Flat as Fares Rose, Report Finds

Direct city and state subsidies to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority have remained relatively flat in recent years, while income from fares and from taxes dedicated specifically to the authority has soared, according to a report released on Thursday.

The report, from the city’s Independent Budget Office, was issued as the transit agency grapples with a looming financial crisis and is seeking added revenues for next year through toll and fare increases and additional city and state subsidies.

Both Gov. David A. Paterson and Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg oppose the fare increases and say that their governments have their own budget problems and cannot provide additional financing.

The report said that last year, city and state subsidies to the authority totaled $603 million. In 1990, the report said, the governments contributed $526 million. When the 1990 numbers are adjusted for inflation, the subsidies were equivalent to $862 million in 2007 dollars. Over the last five years, the subsidies have remained virtually flat.

For the most part, that money is required by state law or through longstanding agreements between the city, the state and the authority. For example, the city and state each pay about $159 million a year for general subway and bus operations, an amount that has remained steady since the mid-1990s.

(In making the comparison, the report does not include the current city financing for recently acquired private bus lines, which the authority took over in 2006. That subsidy amounted to more than $260 million last year, according to the report.)

According to the report, the authority received $3.7 billion last year from taxes that directly finance the authority’s operations, including taxes on real estate transactions in the city and the surrounding counties served by the authority’s commuter rail lines. That income has grown substantially over several years, largely because of the boom in the real estate market. In 1990, such taxes brought just $1.3 billon in inflation-adjusted dollars to the authority.

The transit system also receives federal subsidies, but they go to long-term improvements, not operating expenses, as the city and state subsidies do. The authority’s current financial troubles are due in part to the faltering real estate market, which has led to lower tax revenues.

The report also said that last year, revenue from subway, bus and commuter rail fares — and other sources, like advertising — was close to $4.4 billion, and tolls at the authority’s bridges and tunnels provided $1.2 billion. Fare revenue was close to $3.7 billion in 1990, when adjusted for inflation, while tolls were $1 billion.

Next year, the authority has said, it is facing a shortfall of close to $1 billion. To help plug that gap, it wants to raise fares and tolls and to have the state and city together to contribute an additional $300 million. In response, Mr. Bloomberg and Mr. Paterson have called on the authority to cut costs.

On Thursday, Mr. Bloomberg said again that the city could not afford to increase its contribution. “We have no money to do that, and it’s up to the state to find the money,” he said at a meeting of the United States Conference of Mayors in Manhattan.

But others said the study showed that both the city and the state need to do more.

“The city and the state have given the short end of the stick to the M.T.A.,” said Gene Russianoff, the staff lawyer for the Straphangers Campaign, a transit rider advocacy group.

Like the dedicated taxes, the subsidies to the authority that come directly from the city and state are paid for by taxpayers.

But Mr. Russianoff said the city in particular still had an obligation to make a larger contribution. "We’re looking at the city’s probably most important capital asset and probably the single biggest factor in its economy in terms of getting workers and students and tourists around,” Mr. Russianoff said. Referring to the levels of subsidy, he said, “The city is operating like it’s 1995.”

The report also questioned a claim by City Hall that its subsidy to the authority exceeds $1.2 billion a year. The city’s figure includes some items that do not appear in the authority’s budget, like $360 million to police the subways, which are patrolled by the city’s Police Department, and $344 million in debt service that the city pays on money it has borrowed, in part to help finance the authority’s capital spending.

On Thursday, Stu Loeser, a City Hall spokesman, said that those were legitimate costs related to the authority’s operations.

“We have budgeted that amount for the cost of policing the subway,” Mr. Loeser said. “If New York City were not to do that, it would be a cost that would have to be borne by the M.T.A.”

Mr. Loeser said it was wrong to draw a sharp distinction between the two types of financing and suggested that dedicated taxes may be preferable.

“If anything, that’s better, because it creates a dedicated revenue stream and takes transit funding out of the annual budget process and takes it away from competing against public housing or parks or hospitals or other valuable government activities,” he said.

Ken Belson contributed reporting.


August 11, 2008

Assemblyman Joe Lentol's Letter to MTA CEO Lee Sander

Recently, Assemblyman Joe Lentol wrote to Eliot G. Sander, Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer at the MTA. Here is the letter, reprinted below with the Assemblyman's permission. We'll let you know if there's any response.

Mr. Sander should hear regularly from G train riders - consider writing your own letter...

July 31, 2008

Eliot G. Sander
Metropolitan Transportation Authority
347 Madison Avenue
New York, NY 10017

Dear Mr. Sander,

I want to bring to your attention the disparity between two of the subway lines in my Assembly District in North Brooklyn, the G line and the L line, as reported this week in the Straphangers Campaign’s annual subway report. While I am pleased to learn that the L train has become the most reliable line in the city, it saddens me to see that the G train is once again ranked amongst the worst lines in the city.

The G line was rated worst of all lines in terms of cleanliness and frequency of breakdowns, and near the bottom in frequency of trains and clarity of announcements. This report card failed to have a category for service disruptions, but if it did I’m sure the G line would have had a poor mark due to incessant disruptions. A good week for the G is one in which it runs from Smith-9th Streets to Court Square without the need for shuttle busses along the way. But seemingly every other weekend my constituents and thousands of others are forced to deal with service disruptions, a split G line in which people must transfer from one train to another, and shuttle busses. I can’t even remember the last time the G went past Court Square to Forest Hills. If the train ran its full route it would save many commuters time and aggravation, in addition to re-linking local neighborhoods with the many thriving and affordable shopping districts in Queens. Countless numbers of my constituents used to use the G line just to get to those stores and now they cannot.

I have said it before and I will say it again, I’m tired of the G line being treated as the lowly stepchild of the MTA. For years I have heard promises of service improvements but nothing ever materializes. Instead, the G is always the first line on the chopping block when it comes time to cut costs. The L line brings people to Manhattan’s Central Business District and intersects several transit hubs, and I am left to conclude that is the reason why it offers much better service. The G line, meanwhile, doesn’t connect to Manhattan, services people in Brooklyn and Queens, and offers about the worst service in the city. It is a sad state of affairs that this line continues to be neglected just because its riders are not going to Midtown or Wall Street.

The G line connects the people of North Brooklyn, from Greenpoint to Red Hook. If the service were better it could have a dramatic impact on the economic growth of this part of the city and is especially vital considering that nearly all of the affordable housing slated to be built in the city is along this line. All else aside, I would have thought these arguments alone would be enough to merit improvements.

For all of these reasons, I am asking you now to stand with me and my belief that improvements to G line service are a must, and that change needs to happen immediately.

I thank you for your time and attention in this matter. Please feel free to call me at 718-383-7474 if you have any questions or comments.


Joseph R. Lentol


August 5, 2008 Reactivated

New battle launched to freeze subway fare
by Pete Donohue
NY Daily News
Monday, August 4th 2008

Foes of the fare hikes that went into effect this year are reactivating their "Halt the Hike" battle cry.

The Working Families Party and Straphangers Campaign want to rally commuters against MTA plans to raise MetroCard and other fares next year.

The groups, which plan to go to stations citywide, have reopened the Web site and are urging the public to send e-mails to Gov. Paterson and Mayor Bloomberg.

"New York exists because of a good transit system and you can't just have the riders carrying the full freight because the whole society depends on it," said Dan Cantor, Working Families Party executive director.

The Daily News launched a "halt the hike" newspaper campaign in October, while advocates launched parallel efforts. In November, then-Gov. Eliot Spitzer directed the MTA to scale back the planned increases and keep the $2 base bus and subway fare stable - but MetroCard prices rose.


July 31, 2008

Brooklyn Paper: G is a broke down, dirty train

G is a broke down, dirty train
By Mike McLaughlin
July 31, 2008

The results are in and the G train is off the charts — in the wrong direction.

An annual report of subway service by the Straphangers Campaign ranked the perennial whipping boy of mass transit, the G line, dead last in two pivotal categories — cleanliness and breakdowns — preserving its horrific reputation for another year.

The Straphangers report judged the lines on scores ranging from zero to $2, the price of a single ride on city buses and trains.

The L was considered the best value, though only worth $1.40, and the W train was considered the worst, worth just $0.70.

The G train did not receive a cash evaluation because the Straphangers had incomplete rush-hour ridership statistics — but nonetheless, the Smith-Ninth Street to Queens line fulfilled its underperforming reputation by getting the lowest ranking in two categories — the frequency of breakdowns and dirty conditions of its cabins.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority was hard pressed to explain why cars on the G line are prone to breaking down more than other trains.

“We have no explanation because we run the same cars on many tracks,” said Charles Seaton, a spokesman for New York City Transit, the branch of the MTA overseeing city buses and subways.

The four-car-long G, the only train in the system that never enters Manhattan, was also with the dregs of the report for its PA system and the scheduled frequency of trains.

For G-train riders, the findings confirm their suspicions that their commute stinks.

“It’s definitely dirty … it’s totally one of the worst,” said Christy Harrison, in the Clinton-Washington station on Tuesday night.

On the bright side, the G was fourth in the regularity of service, meaning that its operators do a good job of sticking to its sporadic schedule.

But that was little comfort for people who don’t like the long waits.

“My biggest complaint is that comes too infrequently,” said Jessica Dwin on the Hoyt Schermerhorn platform.


July 29, 2008

Straphangers Survey Rates G Line as Among Worst

According to the recent NYPIRG Straphangers Campaign State of the Subway report, the G train is more likely than average to break down (not fun when trains are scheduled so far apart to begin with), and is the system's dirtiest line (even more disgusting when one considers that the MTA only needs to clean 4-car trains - and fewer trains at that) - tens times dirtier than other subway lines.

The Straphangers Campaign couldn't provide crowding data for the G, since the MTA does not take platform ridership crowding assessments as for other subway lines.

The G's report profile can be found here:

And here's the main link to review methodology as well as reports on other lines.

Question: Does the State of the Subways report profile for the G line match your own G line experiences?


Daily News: Commuters Rail for Spot on MTA Board

Commuters rail for spot on MTA board
By Pete Donohue Daily News Staff Writer
Sunday, July 27th 2008

An MTA advisory panel has floated a novel idea to Gov. Paterson: Appoint regular rail riders to the board.

"There are quite a few [current board members] who don't ride mass transit on a regular basis," said Gerard Bringmann, chairman of the Long Island Rail Road Commuter's Council.

Bringmann said the group wants Paterson to appoint "someone who feels our pain and is in the trenches with us; someone who knows what it's like to be on a train without air conditioning or on a platform where messages are garbled or nonexistent."

The council, part of the Permanent Citizens Advisory Committee to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, expressed its view in a letter to Paterson, who must fill a vacancy caused by the death of Frances Powers. The missive was prompted by recent comments by David Mack, chairman of the MTA's Long Island Rail Road committee, who said he rides the train a handful of times a year - and only because he doesn't have to pay.

MTA divisions are currently preparing their preliminary 2009 spending plans amid high fuel costs and declining tax revenues. The reports include how the various divisions will meet a prior directive to cut spending by 6% over four years, starting next year when savings must total about $80 million.


July 26, 2008

NY Observer: The G Train Crusader

The G Train Crusader

Sculptor Peter Eide wants a tunnel from Fulton to Atlantic;
M.T.A. says too few people would take it

by Leigh Kamping-Carder July 24, 2008
Photo by James Hamilton.

When Peter Eide moved to Clinton Hill, he had a "fantastical" idea.

The sculptor had spent 12 years moving around the borough after arriving from Philadelphia: Greenpoint, Williamsburg, back to Clinton Hill. But Mr. Eide, now 37, never strayed far from the G train, the only subway line in the city that doesn't travel through Manhattan. And he never stopped thinking of that idea he had: to connect his neighborhood G train stop, Fulton Street, to the Atlantic Avenue/Pacific Street transit hub, effectively linking the line to almost a dozen other routes.

The fantastical part? A 660-foot tunnel buried under Fort Greene.

"It just didn't make sense to me that it wasn't there," he said of the tunnel. "And this was a while ago. This was before these neighborhoods changed as drastically as they've changed."

The Atlantic Avenue station services the B, Q, 2, 3, 4, 5, D, M, N and R lines. On average, over 30,000 commuters cross through its turnstiles every weekday, making it the second most trafficked hub in Brooklyn and the 29th busiest station in all of the M.T.A. But the G? Transit advocates call it the system's "forgotten stepchild." Most recently, M.T.A. CEO Elliot Sander announced the line would not receive the service enhancements that the transit agency had promised riders last February, due to budget constraints.

But Mr. Eide is not sympathetic to the M.T.A.'s financial woes.

"I live here in the city, and if they're going to increase my fares, they need to do certain things," he said. "If they want to have a successful mass transit system, I think they need to have [a tunnel]. They do make improvements to their lines, and they can make one here."

When we met for coffee at a local cafe, Mr. Eide arrived in a rumpled button-down shirt, with a weekend's worth of stubble on his chin. But he's no slacker artist. Mr. Eide was involved in the campaign to halt the construction of a 15-story luxury condominium tower at 163 Washington Avenue. Community members formed a coalition, Building Too Tall, to fight the developer, the GLC Group, over the course of three hearings before the Board of Standards and Appeals. The BSA approved construction of the tower last March.

During the course of the hearings, Mr. Eide met City Councilwoman Letitia James of Fort Greene. In February, the M.T.A. had promised Ms. James that it would conduct a study to determine the costs associated with digging a passageway between Fulton and Atlantic. (Ms. James declined to be interviewed for this story.)

It was her efforts that convinced Mr. Eide that his long ago tunnel idea was more than a pipe dream. He created an online petition to the M.T.A., publicizing it through the Brooklyn blogs, such as Brownstoner and Save the G.

Since February, over 1,200 people have signed, including James Surowiecki, The New Yorker writer and author of The Wisdom of Crowds, and Eric Demby, the cofounder and curator of the Brooklyn Flea Market. Not that Mr. Eide could tell you that -- he hasn't combed the names for notables. He's just happy that the petition has a space where riders can comment, testifying to their experiences with the G.

"I can make anonymous comments on blogs about the M.T.A. as much as I want," he said, "but it's not going to affect anything. But maybe the petition will."

Riders from as far away as Canada and the U.K. have affixed their names and observations to the petition.

"My husband and I have long considered a move to Clinton Hill," wrote Pamela Remickof Brooklyn last April, "but always hesitate when we consider that the G train is the primary train service. If it were connected to Atlantic, our fears would be erased!" Another, Kristine Ganancial, wrote, "my entire NY life, I've based my living situation entirely on how far and how much I can avoid the G Train."

Others called the tunnel a "no-brainer," and a few even suggested that the developers behind the Atlantic Yards should pay for its construction.

Cate Contino, of the transit advocacy group the Straphangers Campaign, wrote, "This line serves one of the fastest growing populations in NYC. It's time transit reflected the vibrancy of G-dependent communities. Why not add a few more cars while we're at it? If you build it, the riders will come."

But New York City Transit is not convinced that they will. When NYCT looked into the viability of creating a free passageway between the stations, it found that only 1,000 to 5,000 commuters would use it daily.

"The prohibitive cost would not be justified," said Deirdre Parker, deputy director of NYCT's public affairs, in an e-mail. Ms. James, the councilwoman, told the Brooklyn Paper in February that it would most likely take 5 to 10 years to complete but would be "the biggest shaft in the subway system."

Of course, many G riders think they've already gotten the shaft. "The G train suffers from neglect," said Mr. Eide. "Part of that neglect is engineered." In other words, the M.T.A. has created a vicious cycle: low ridership numbers lead to service cuts, which lead to a decrease in ridership.

"If they did make some of these critical connections that they could make, then ridership would increase," Mr. Eide continued, "and they'd be forced to do something. I think regardless they're going to be forced to do something at some point soon."

However, the feasibility study that the M.T.A. promised Ms. James died along with congestion pricing. To go ahead, the study would have to be a part of the agency's capital budget, she said in an e-mail.

Many G train riders wonder why the M.T.A. couldn't at least allow for a street transfer between Fulton and Atlantic, allowing commuters to transfer aboveground for the cost of a single fare. (This is already in place between the G and the 7 lines at Court Square in Queens and between the F at 63rd Street; and the E, V and 6 lines at 53rd Street in Manhattan.)

If such a system were in place, Peter Eide, for one, would use it. He currently rides the bus to Atlantic, transferring to the Q train on his way to Rockefeller Center, where he works part-time in the graphics department of a financial advisory firm. Although the ultimate goal of his campaign is to build the tunnel, Mr. Eide believes that any kind of improvement to the G line -- increased frequency of service, street transfers, a longer train -- would benefit the community.
The petition will close in December, but until then, the signatures and the comments -- what Mr. Eide calls "the motor of the petition" -- will continue to accumulate.

"It's sort of like power to the people," he explains. "The great thing about it is that there's weight in numbers."


July 23, 2008

MTA Wants to Accelerate Fare Increases

July 23, 2008
M.T.A. Wants to Accelerate Fare Increases
By Ray Rivera

At a contentious meeting at its Midtown headquarters, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority board provided new details about its plan to plug a gaping hole in its finances. Not only is it seeking an 8 percent increase in revenue from fares and tolls, to take effect July 2009, but it also is requesting an additional 5 percent to take effect by January 2011 — for a cumulative increase of 13.4 percent over 18 months.

In presenting its preliminary budget for the 2009 fiscal year on Wednesday morning, the authority made no attempt to conceal what it considers to be its worst fiscal situation since the economic downturn that followed 9/11. When fares last went up, in March, the authority’s plan was not to have another fare increase until January 2010, with future increases every two years thereafter. Now that entire schedule has been moved forward — by six months for the initial increase and by a year for the projected future increases. (Jeremy Soffin, an authority spokesman, said after the meeting that the 2011 increase might be pushed ahead a few months to get as close as possible to the goal of two years between increases.)

The authority’s leaders said the fare and toll increases are necessary by the confluence of soaring energy prices and a plunge in revenue from real-estate transactions, which are a prime source of the authority’s revenue. The authority is struggling to pay the interest on billions of dollars in debts that have accumulated since the 1980s, but exploded since 2000, to pay for expensive equipment upgrades; debt service alone is expected to consume one-fifth of all authority spending by 2012.

Speaking before a packed hearing room at the authority’s headquarters on Madison Avenue, the authority’s leaders portrayed the plan as difficult and unpopular, but necessary. “Nobody wants to increase the fares,” said H. Dale Hemmerdinger, the authority’s chairman, adding, “We’re human beings, like the rest of you.”

Several board members, however, expressed dissent, saying that despite internal spending reductions already proposed by the authority’s leadership, more should be made before asking riders for more fares and tolls. Some argued that those reductions could be made without affecting service.

“When I look at this budget, I don’t think that we have nearly made the cuts that we need to make,” said Andrew M. Saul, a board member who represents Westchester County. He urged lawmakers to reexamine legislation that he said would restructure the authority and streamline its operations. “There needs to be fundamental change,” he said, adding, “and until that’s done, there’s going to be fare increase after fare increase.”

Several members of the public called for more city and state aid was needed — a position with which several board members are quietly sympathetic, though as political appointees, they have been reluctant to publicly call on the governor and mayor for new assistance.

At least a dozen witnesses brandished signs urging, “Mayor Bloomberg: Help the Riders” and “Governor Paterson: Help the Riders.”

While some board members, like Mr. Saul, called for long-term restructuring of the authority’s finances, others said the authority needed to make cuts urgently.

Jeffrey A. Kay, who oversees municipal operations at City Hall and is one of four representatives of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg on the board, said, “Before we go out and ask for higher fares, we need to find every dollar we can.”


June 22, 2008

G Train Still Affecting Property Values in Greenpoint

NY Post

June 19, 2008 --
OF all the places around the city that the young, the professional and the hip have found to nest, the neighborhood that has proven most resistant to change might be Brooklyn's Greenpoint.

Walking along Nassau Avenue you will see a restaurant called "Pyza" which does not serve pizza -- it serves Polish food (far and away the dominant cuisine of the neighborhood.) If you turn a corner, there's a flag-bedecked chapter of the American Legion. And the low-rise, vinyl-sided houses appear no different from how they looked 30 or 40 years ago.

"It's got a very village feeling," says Dewey Thompson, who has lived in Greenpoint for the past 12 years and is co-chair of the Greenpoint Waterfront Association for Parks and Planning. "I don't think anyone would have dreamed that people were going to sell luxury condos in [this] neighborhood."

Well, the unthinkable has happened.

New condominiums along the Greenpoint side of McCarren Park are fetching prices that were once unheard of in the neighborhood. Take the Robert Scarano-designed Loftology at the intersection of Driggs and Manhattan avenues.

"Everything is super modern," says David Maundrell, president of, of the condo.

And the prices are super modern, too. A 600-square-foot, one-bedroom is getting between $850 and $900 per square foot.

Or Manhattan Park, next door, where a few of the upper floors have seen units go for as much as $1,000 per square foot.

And this phenomenon is not limited to the area around McCarren Park. Last week, the Viridian, a 130-unit luxury building on Green Street near the waterfront, began sales. The six-story building (one of the developers is Magic Johnson) will feature all the luxury bells and whistles, including a pool, a gym, a courtyard with a skylight and even rooftop cabanas. Three-bedrooms at the Viridian are going for more than $800,000.

This is a huge jump for a neighborhood where you can still buy an entire house for less than $600,000, and where a one-bedroom can be rented for as little as $1,300.

Most of Greenpoint has remained largely unaffected by this new development. Rents have remained much lower than they have a few blocks south in Williamsburg. And the majority of condos that have popped up in the last few years have been six-to-eight-unit buildings with low price points.

"I actually think I like it better than Williamsburg," says Laura Gensinger, who began looking there for an apartment to buy but decided instead on an 850-square-foot, one-bedroom duplex in one of the Belvedere boutique buildings that have been cropping up all over Greenpoint. Her condo was big enough to share with a roommate, and she paid less than $650 per square foot.
"One of the things I like is that there's a better sense of family," Gensiger says.

Mom and pop grocery stores, flower shops, pharmacies, butchers and bakeries can be found all over Greenpoint in abundance.

"It's got the stuff Williamsburg doesn't have," says Bill Ross, director of development for Halstead Property. "Greenpoint always had infrastructure."

But one of the things that probably protected Greenpoint (at least until recently) from losing its village vibe was the fact that it was somewhat off the beaten track. The sole subway in the neighborhood is the G train - the only line that does not go through Manhattan. ("There's definitely room for improvement on the G train," says Gensinger. "But it's not that bad.") This lack of transportation kept much of the development more modest in terms of size and price.

For example, 185 India St., another Belvedere condo that will be finished this summer, has only eight units, with prices in the $700 to $800 per square foot range. Somewhat bigger boutique buildings like 149 Heron, a 30-unit condo, are selling for $500 to $675 per square foot. And there's 118 Greenpoint Ave., a converted factory with condo prices ranging from $500 to $750 per square foot.

For many residents, the big, lingering question about the future is what will happen with the waterfront since the zoning laws were changed in 2006 to allow for residential development in Williamsburg and Greenpoint.

"They had this really spectacular vision of a 28-acre park from North Seventh Street all the way around the Bushwick Inlet," says Thompson. Officials from the Department of City Planning met with local groups like Thompson's to sell them on the idea of a planted esplanade along the water that would be paid for by condo developers.

Williamsburg saw an almost immediate rush on waterfront property, with developments like the Edge and Northside Piers, which have brought many hundreds of units to the market.

Greenpoint, however, has been far slower to get any foundations in the ground. Developers are now picking up plots of land along the water, presumably to build apartments, but no buildings have been announced.

"One of the conditions is if the developer is willing to do 20 percent affordable housing, they're allowed more bulk and they can build higher," says Ross. This will mean towers that are conceivably 20 or, according to Ross, even 30 stories high.

Franklin Street, which is one block away from the water, "is where all the action will be," says David Kazemi of Bond New York, which is selling 185 India St. and other Belvedere buildings. "That's where all the bars and cafes are opening up."

Greenpointers are, as of now, on notice: This might not be a remote little village for much longer.

Ask any broker who works in Greenpoint (or Greenpoint resident, for that matter) where the future of the neighborhood lies, and you will likely hear one word: Waterfront.

In 2006 the city rezoned the Greenpoint and Williamsburg waterfront, making it open to high-rise residential and mixed-use development. A lot of the gears of this redevelopment are just starting to go into motion.

Should you want to find out more about what lies in Greenpoint's watery future, check out the AIA Planning and Urban Design Committee's panel discussion Friday morning from 8:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. on this topic. Speakers will include Ward Dennis of Community Board 1; Shirley Jaffe, the vice president of development for RD Management; and Arden Sokolo of NYC Housing, Preservation and Development.

The discussion takes place at the Center for Architecture, 536 LaGuardia Place,


June 2, 2008

"G" is for...

Appropriated from Miss Heather's blog:

The woman in the above photograph does not look too happy. In fact, a great number of people (save these ladies) I saw waiting for the G train this weekend looked less than satisfied by the service being provided. One even made his (or her) discontent known in writing.

Contrary to popular belief, the “G” in G train does not stand for “ghost“. It stands for “Go fuck yourself“. Whether or not this missive is directed to patrons or the MTA is simply a matter of perspective.

--Miss Heather

This entry was posted on Monday, June 2nd, 2008 at 12:42 am and is filed under Greenpoint Magic, Williamsburg. You can follow responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response or trackback from your site.


May 28, 2008

Brooklyn Courier Coverage of the G Train Rally

‘Rodney’ rider backlash on the G:
Advocates call for improved service on overlooked subway line

By Stephen Witt

A Downtown Brooklyn lawmaker last week charged that straphangers who ride the G train get no respect.

“Rodney Dangerfield was treated with more respect then the G train rider, but that needs to change because the communities of Fort Greene and Clinton Hill heavily rely on this subway line to get to work and to conduct their lives,” said Assemblymember Hakeem Jeffries.

The G train, which only runs with four cars, is the MTA’s only full-time non-shuttle service that does not enter Manhattan.

Currently the line runs from Smith and 9th Streets through Carroll Gardens/Cobble Hill on the F line and then across Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, Bedford Stuyvesant, Williamsburg and Greenpoint before terminating in Queens.

However, the MTA has announced a three-year rehabilitation of the Culver Viaduct line from 2009–2012.

As part of that project, the G train service, which currently terminates at Smith–Ninth Streets, will be permanently extended to Church Avenue on the Kensington/Windsor Terrace border.

On a recent MTA rider survey report card, 3,903 G train riders responded and gave the line a D-plus grade.

Respondents said their top priorities for improvements on the line included reasonable wait times for trains, minimal delays during trips and adequate room on board at rush hour.

Jeffries held a “Save the G Train” rally last week at the Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church, 85 South Oxford Street, in which he released a letter to MTA officials demanding changes to the line.

“For decades, the G train has been treated like the unwanted stepchild of the New York City subway system. Periodically, it has been threatened with outright elimination,” wrote Jeffries, adding neighborhoods served by the subway line have exploded with population growth and residential development.

Among the changes Jeffries recommended is expanding the number of subway cars from four to six, which will prevent passengers from dashing to the middle of the subway platform in order to catch the train.

Jeffries also recommended an increase in frequency both during rush hours and weekends, and that the MTA study the feasibility of connecting the G train at the Fulton Street station with the nearby Atlantic Ave. transportation hub.

“In the interim, the MTA should permit street transfers between the G train and the multiple subway lines at Atlantic Ave., which all travel into Manhattan,” Jeffries wrote.

May 23, 2008

NY Times article on Wednesday's G Rally

Not to be outdone by the New York Observer, today's New York Times offered this piece by Clyde Haberman:

Rallying Round a Train That Gets No Respect
By Clyde Haberman

If you will excuse a biblical flourish, the G train is the Moses of New York mass transit. Like Moses, it never made it to the Promised Land. That is, if Manhattan is your idea of divine promise. With its nosebleed-inducing apartment prices and rents, some think of it as flowing not so much with milk and honey as with bilk and money.

In any event, the G train has the distinction of being the city’s only subway line that makes no stops in Manhattan, the heart and wallet of New York. It is a lime green squiggle on the subway map, running from Brooklyn to Queens. Much of the day it barely gasps into Queens, making but two stops there. It meanders through Brooklyn neighborhoods like Carroll Gardens, Cobble Hill, Fort Greene and Greenpoint, places that are enjoying grand revivals and impressive measures of cachet among the young and mobile.

Would that the same might be said of the G line. That was the lament of about 100 people who gathered Wednesday evening at Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church in Fort Greene for a sort of pep rally.

Next month, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority will consider possible improvements in subway service. You might not want to hold your breath. But should there be glad tidings, those who ride the G train want to make sure they are not shut out. They attended Wednesday’s meeting much the same way college students ring bonfires before a big football game — to get the juices flowing.

Odds are strong that most of you have never ridden the G. Some of you may have never even heard of it. G train people understand. They’re used to being overlooked. “You can’t spell ‘neglected’ without G,” Councilman David Yassky of Brooklyn said. “You can’t spell ‘ignored’ without G.”

When G riders talk about their line, the phrase “unwanted stepchild” passes their lips a lot. Rodney Dangerfield, as in “I don’t get no respect,” gets his share of mentions, too. Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries of Brooklyn, who organized the church gathering, lost little time before making a Rodney-G connection.

By most measures, the G ranks near the bottom. Transit officials put weekday ridership at 100,000 a day. Only two regular lines, the W and the M, and the system’s three shuttle trains have lower numbers. By comparison, the ridership of the most heavily used line, the No. 6, is 700,000.

In a “report card” that the transportation authority solicited from riders last year, the G line got a dismal D-plus. Even a senior transit official, Peter G. Cafiero, acknowledged at a City Council hearing last month that G service, particularly on the Queens run, is “consistently inconsistent.”
DESPITE improvements in recent years, riders cite statistics showing that G trains still arrive less often than those on most other lines. “I stand at Hoyt-Schermerhorn and wonder when is the Toonerville Trolley going to make it,” said Thomas F. Schutte, the president of Pratt Institute.

That Toonerville Trolley line refers to another distinctive feature of the G train: It is only four cars long. That fact sticks in a lot of craws. With neighborhoods along the line growing, trains are often overcrowded. Then, too, with only four cars, trains do not extend the length of station platforms. “You often see a mad dash to that train,” Mr. Jeffries said. Twisted ankles are not unknown.

In truth, the G has always been short on glamour, even if Charles Mingus once wrote an instrumental number called “GG Train,” the line’s designation before a systemwide phaseout of double letters in the 1980s. A decade ago, Stan Fischler, who has written books on New York’s subways, gave the G his lowest ranking: one star out of five, meaning it was “hardly worth the token.” (Some day, young ’uns, we’ll explain what a token was.)

As much as anything, G riders share the long-simmering resentment of many New Yorkers who live outside Manhattan — namely that they don’t get their due because they are in “the outer boroughs.” Those feelings surfaced more than once on Wednesday, reflected in the applause for Jo Ann Simon, a Democratic district leader in Brooklyn, when she said, “We know that Manhattan is not the center of the universe.”

Clearly, transit officials are sensitive about the unwanted-stepchild charge. Mr. Cafiero went out of his way to reject it at the Council hearing. He also dismissed long-heard whispers that “we are secretly trying to get rid of” the G line entirely. Not so, he said.

Speaking of whispers, allow us to note that tradition holds that Moses stuttered. Kind of like the train service they get, G riders say.


May 22, 2008

NY Observer story on G Rally

The New York Observer published this article by Leigh Kamping-Carder, about Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries' G train rally last night:

G Train Rally Kicks Off Campaign to Improve M.T.A.'s 'Forgotten Stepchild'
by Leigh Kamping-Carder
May 22, 2008

"The four-car G train is just like one step above the horse and buggy days," State Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries of Brooklyn told the crowd at Wednesday night's Save the G rally at Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church in Fort Greene.

Almost 100 G riders kicked off a month-long campaign to increase service on the "forgotten stepchild" of the New York subway system, as Mr. Jeffries and others have called it.

"It's important to increase the intensity of the public campaign," Mr. Jeffries said, "to stress to the M.T.A. that G train service enhancements are absolutely necessary."

On June 25, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority board will meet to discuss system-wide service improvements. Mr. Jeffries, who organized the rally, intends to make sure the G is a top priority. In the coming weeks, G advocates will be writing letters, sending emails, and corralling the support of elected officials in an effort to "convince the M.T.A. to do the right thing," as Mr. Jeffries put it.

In February, the agency announced a plan to increase the frequency of G service during off-peak hours, but these additions have been put on hold indefinitely.

"The M.T.A. is aware of these problems [on the G] but sometimes they just need to be reminded," said Cate Contino, of the Straphangers Campaign.

Ms. Contino was one of a number of speakers who illuminated the unique woes of the G: truncated four-car trains, a lack of street transfers, long waits and a history of service reductions. Cuts to the G have occurred despite the route's expanding ridership, especially in the neighborhoods of Williamsburg, Greenpoint, Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, and Bedford-Stuyvesant. In a recent rider report card survey, the G received a D+.

Joe Chan, of the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, a non-profit local development corporation, spoke of the need to grow downtown Brooklyn as one of the city's financial hubs -- a project he says is hindered by the inadequacies of the G line.

The capacity crowd also included the president of the Pratt Institute, Thomas Schutte, as well as a representative from Brooklyn borough President Marty Markowitz's office, City Council members, community leaders, and residents of Brooklyn and Queens.

It was Mr. Jeffries' rousing call and answer that received the audience's loudest response:

"What do we want?" he chanted.

"More G service!"

"When do we want it?"



May 21, 2008

Looking for News

Since our primary blogger (T) couldn't attend Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries' rally, we're looking for comments/highlights from the evening. What was the turnout? What main concerns were expressed? Is any follow-up action planned?

Please comment! (Please, no &!%$ words; this is a family blog.)

May 19, 2008

G Train Rally in Brooklyn this Wednesday

Brooklyn Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries is organizing a G train advocacy rally:

Wednesday, May 21 at 6:30 p.m.

at Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church
85 S. Oxford Street
(between Fulton St. and Lafayette Ave.)

Please call the Assemblyman's district office at (718) 596-0100 for more information.

May 14, 2008

G Train Rally on May 21st

Brooklyn Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries is organizing a Save The G kick-off rally:

Wednesday, May 21 at 6:30 p.m.
at Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church
85 S. Oxford Street
(between Fulton St. and Lafayette Ave.)

Call (718) 596-0100 for more information.

April 14, 2008

Speak Out About G Train Service This Wednesday!

Couldn't attend the NYC Council's oversight hearing on G line service last week? No worries; this Wednesday, April 16, you can take your concerns straight to NYC Transit President Howard Roberts. And this event is in the evening, folks! Here's the information:

When: WEDNESDAY, APRIL 16, 2008
5:00 TO 7:00 p.m. (Registration from 4:45 to 6:00 p.m.)
Where: 2 BROADWAY(between Beaver and Stone Streets)

NOTE: you must have a photo ID to enter the building.

Attendees must register in person by name and topic in order to speak. Speakers will be called by topic. Once all speakers on a topic have been heard, no further comments on that topic will be accepted. There is no advance registration.

Location Details:
Transit Headquarters
2 Broadway
Manhattan, NYC NY

April 7, 2008

It's not too late to speak out about G train service!

The NYC Council's oversight hearing on G line service is tomorrow - Tuesday, April 8, at 1:00pm. A lot of advocates will testify about the need for improved G line service, and more will sign up today and tomorrow.

If you can't appear in person but want to submit written testimony for the official record, email it to savetheg[at]yahoo[dot]com and we'll print & submit it for you. Remember that for it to be considered official testimony, it must include your full name and mailing address. We've already received numerous statements from G line riders, all clearly demonstrating not just the need for consistent service, but the terrific potential the G has for expanding transit for Queens and Brooklyn.

Please email your testimony/statement no later than 7:30am on Tuesday, April 8th, to ensure it'll be printed and submitted in time for the hearing. Thanks!

April 3, 2008

G to Make Manhattan Stops?

G is for... Gotcha, happy belated April Fool's Day!

But seriously, folks:, a terrific Brooklyn resource, recently posted a piece about the upcoming NYC Council oversight hearing about the G train, with a little back history about G service and topped off with some fun info.

While the G train doesn't go into Manhattan, we're hoping you will - on Tuesday, April 8 at 1pm, to testify before the NYC Council Transportation Committee about G train service.

If you can't appear in person but want to submit written testimony for the official record, email it to savetheg[at]yahoo[dot]com and we'll print & submit it for you. Remember that for it to be considered official testimony, it must include your full name and mailing address. Please email it no later than 11:59pm on Monday, April 7th, to ensure it'll be printed and submitted on time.

March 28, 2008

NYC Council to hold hearing on G service

Today, NYC Council Transportation Committee Chair John Liu announced that he has organized an oversight hearing on G train service. Witnesses from the MTA will be asked to speak about ridership data, plans for the future, conditions, and other issues regarding G line service, and the public is also encouraged to testify about their own experiences.

Time/Date: Tuesday, April 8 at 1:00pm
Location: Council Chambers, City Hall

Oversight: What is the MTA doing to improve service on the G line?
Resolution #1262 Calling upon MTA to immediately improve service on the G line and to not implement any service cuts.

For all of you who've been endlessly frustrated by the roller coaster ride that is G line service levels, we're asking you to turn out in force on April 8th. Riders from Queens AND Brooklyn have been affected by the MTA's various management decisions and random service changes.

If you'd like to more directly help spread the word about the hearing, Save The G can certainly use your help. Please reach out to savetheg [at] yahoo [dot] com with your contact information, noting what sort of advocacy contributions you can make, and we'll be sure to thank you in person on April 8th.

This is a major opportunity for G riders to speak and be heard; let's make the most of it!

March 21, 2008

G train petition...

If you haven't signed yet, what are you waiting for?

NY Observer: G Train Riders to MTA: Give Us Some V Cars! MTA to G Train Riders: No

The current issue of the New York Observer has a well-researched, well-written article on the MTA's attitude towards the G train and its ridership.

G Train Riders to MTA: Give Us Some V Cars! MTA to G Train Riders: No
by Leigh Kamping-Carder March 21, 2008

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority will not add V train cars to the G train, according to transit activists involved in negotiations with the MTA over just such an addition. On March 4, Jim Trent, transportation chair of the Queens Civic Association, and John Leon of the advocacy group Save the G, met with MTA representatives to discuss moving cars from the V to the G.

The agency's response? Out of the question.

The agency has no plans to shorten the V, confirms MTA spokesman Charles Seaton, since it's an engineering impossibility to swap out pairs of cars. Moving them between matching lines is doable -- as long as it's letters with letters, numbers with numbers -- but for the last 15 years, the V and G cars have been locked in "married quads" of four trains.

Yet, members of Save the G insist that something must be done to alleviate rush hour crowding on the G. "When you look at the strain on the rest of the system, [the V is] inequitable," says the group's co-founder, Teresa Toro. "You're not kicking [V riders] off the train. You're just proposing that they have a slightly less luxurious ride."

The idea of switching cars goes back almost seven years, and originates with Mr. Trent. In 2001, the MTA cut trips to almost half the G's stations – from Forest Hills-71st Ave to Queens Plaza in Queens – and shortened its six-car trains to four. Soon after, it launched the eight-car V train. (The MTA denies the cars went to the V, although transit advocates disagree.)

Since 1998, turnstile counts at G-only stations have risen from 9.3 million to 12.6 million fares per year, even as the MTA has reduced service. During the morning rush in North Brooklyn, riders are often unable to board trains overflowing with northbound passengers. "I've been borderline assaulted trying to get on the G in the morning," says Alexis, an editorial coordinator and frequent G rider. After she transfers to the V at 23rd St-Ely Avenue? She almost always gets a seat.

However, the MTA's Mr. Seaton says that the V train controls ridership on the E, and "has been very successful at doing that." Currently, the MTA estimates 30 million annual G riders, compared to the V's 40 million. The G also came in first place for seat availability in a 2007 Straphangers Campaign transit survey.

But as Fredrik Anderson, transit chair of the Fort Greene Association, points out, the G is a "lifeline" train. Almost two thirds of the stops on its current route are G-only; the V has no dedicated stops. And travel between and within the city's outer boroughs is only going to grow as developers have their way with Queens and Brooklyn.

So Ms. Toro is looking to the future. "Ridership's going up -- don't let this be another L train situation," she said, referring to jam-packed cars and rider dissatisfaction on the L. The Straphangers survey ranks the L train 21 out of 22 lines in terms of "chance of getting a seat."
Meanwhile, in Greenpoint, city officials have rezoned industrial districts, making way for condominiums. Further south, neighborhoods are home to skyrocketing real estate values. And, across the borough, locals are likely to forgo Manhattan for Bedford Avenue or Smith Street at night, necessitating a trip aboard their very own Local. The G connects these neighborhoods, as well as cultural institutions such as the Brooklyn Academy of Music and MoMA's contemporary art museum, P.S. 1.

The struggles of the G train, however, have long mirrored those of the communities that rely on it. In Community Board 3 (Bedford-Stuyvesant, Stuyvesant Heights and Ocean Hill), roughly a third of residents lived below the poverty line in 2000. Yet the neighborhoods have been changing. Census statistics reveal an increasingly white population in Community Board 2, which includes Fort Greene and Clinton Hill. In Community Board 3, the median household income increased by 4.6 percent in the 1990's – and the median housing value by 17.3 percent. And in Community Board 1 (Williamsburg-Greenpoint) the population of college graduates doubled between 1990 and 2000.

These new residents are eager to speak up about transportation issues.

Save the G's Mr. Leon, a Greenpoint resident, believes the line's most pressing issue is eliminating the "G train sprint." Since the 300-foot trains are shorter than their platforms, G commuters are often caught running to jump aboard, a problem exacerbated by the infrequency of the trains. Mr. Leon sees this as an accident waiting to happen, and one that could be avoided by moving cars from the V.

Others believe the real problem with the G is its frequency, not its length. The Fort Greene Association's Mr. Anderson would rather see a fixed G schedule ("2:12, 2:22, 2:32...") than longer trains, although he too supports moving cars from the V. "I think it's really good for Brooklyn for the G to be longer and more reliable," he said.

In the evening rush, G trains are scheduled to arrive every eight minutes, compared to the system's average of five minutes and 46 seconds, according to the Straphangers Survey. The MTA has proposed service increases on the G, although only during off-peak hours and at the expense of weekend and weeknight service past Court Square in Queens.

"It really looks like a dead end, or an end of the line in terms of anything else," said Mr. Trent of moving V cars to the G. "I just didn't see that there was an opening for continued discussions and continued negotiations."

Ms. Toro, however, sees otherwise. "Shame on them for lying!" she fumes, explaining that the MTA's definition of "impossible" is different from hers. And now that she has gone through the proper channels -- the emails, the phone calls, the formal meetings -- she plans to try different methods. Ms. Toro declined to elaborate. She wants to protect the element of surprise.

February 29, 2008

Major G Service Disruption This Weekend

From the NY1 website:

Major Service Disruptions To Hit F, G Trains This Weekend
February 29, 2008

Riders of the F and G trains in Brooklyn are in for rough time this coming weekend. MTA has announced that there will be no F train service between the Jay Street and 4th Avenue/9th Street stops to allow for signal and track work. The MTA is advising that customers switch to the D train at 4th Avenue/9th Street for service to and from Manhattan.

As for G train riders, there'll be no service between the Hoyt-Schermerhorn and Smith-Ninth Street stops for service to and from Manhattan. As an alternative, there will be free shuttle buses operating between Hoyt-Schermerhorn and 7th Avenue in Brooklyn. The changes will be in effect from midnight Friday through 5 a.m. Monday.

More on weekend service changes from the MTA website:

February 28, 2008

Sign the Petition to Connect the G to Atlantic Terminal

Please sign this petition, calling for the G train to be connected via underground tunnel to the Atlantic Terminal.

Connecting the G to other subway lines at Atlantic Terminal would open up a host of new transfer and intraborough travel opportunities for Brooklyn!

February 26, 2008

Daily News: Summer Hike in Subway, Bus Services

The MTA is proposing to increase G line service in off-peak hours, starting this summer. The agency claims that to increase service, it's necessary to permanently terminate the G at Court Square. The MTA's been trying to achieve a permanent Court Square termination for years, so we're somewhat skeptical at this latest argument... but what's your opinion? Would this improve things for G riders enough to justify cutting the line in half? What would you say at the public hearing that the MTA would be required to have before making this extreme change?

Summer hike in subway, bus services
Tuesday, February 26th 2008

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority has a message for Queens subway and bus commuters: Ride on!

It looks like the dollars are coming in faster than expected to the MTA, thanks to increased ridership, particularly in Queens.

Under a new plan, NYC Transit would begin implementing increased service - valued at approximately $46 million annually - as early as June.

The proposals will not be implemented until after the financial results for the first quarter of 2008 have been received, Transit spokesman Charles Seaton said.

Starting in June, the 7 and W lines will see increases in service to accommodate boosts in ridership on those lines.

The 7 line would increase Saturday service frequency from six to 10 minutes to five to eight minutes, and Sunday service frequency from six to 10 minutes to six to eight minutes starting in June.

W service would be extended from 9:30 to 11 p.m., and there would be an increase in peak hour service frequency from four to five minutes to four minutes.

In December, the G and R lines will see increases in service frequency.

The G would increase service frequency by 50% weekday evenings (from 12-15 minutes to eight minutes); 20% weekday middays (from 10 minutes to eight minutes); and 33% on weekends (eight-10 minutes to six minutes).

This boost will require terminating the G at the Courthouse Square station in Long Island City, because the Queens Blvd. line does not have capacity for more G service.

Extended R service would operate to Forest Hills-71st Ave. at all times; replacing the G along Queens Blvd. and allowing the N to operate via Manhattan Bridge at all times.

Queens bus lines also will see service increases, and will include a new Bx50 limited-stop bus route between Fordham Plaza in the Bronx and LaGuardia Airport, and a new Q94 super-limited service between Flushing and Fordham Plaza to reduce travel time on the route by up to 20 minutes and meet growing demand for Queens-Bronx travel.

Public hearings must be held before the Bx50 and Q94 services can be implemented. Plans call for the Bx50 to begin service in December, while the Q94 would begin in September.

Transit officials said 10 other Queens bus lines will either see increases in hours or extensions to their routes.

They include the: Q12; Q27; Q31; Q42; Q59; Q75: Q76; Q77; Q79 and Q84.

© Copyright 2007 All rights reserved.

February 22, 2008

Brooklyn Paper article: A New G Spot?

February 23, 2008

By Mike McLaughlin
The Brooklyn Paper

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority has promised to study whether it is feasible to connect the G train with the maze of lines at the Atlantic Avenue–Pacific Street subway station at the crossroads of Park Slope, Fort Greene, Boerum Hill and Downtown Brooklyn.

The agency promised Councilmember Letitia James (D–Fort Greene) this week that it would study what it would take — and, more important, how much it would cost — to build a tunnel that would connect the G line’s Lafayette Avenue stop with the Atlantic-Pacific station, a move that would simplify commuting for tens of thousands of people.

“It would make life better for people in Fort Greene and Clinton Hill,” James said.

The so-called “Crosstown Local” passes tantalizingly close to Atlantic Avenue, a portal for many subways and the Long Island Railroad, but skirts the hub as it travels between the Lafayette Avenue and Hoyt–Schermerhorn stations, limiting the number of ways in which Manhattan-bound G riders can transfer and continue their commutes.

Clinton Hill residents salivated over the possibility of having a free transfer to the 4/5, B/Q, N/R, M at Atlantic–Pacific, rather than contenting themselves with a transfer to the A/C at Hoyt–Schermerhorn.

“That’s a great idea,” said Amy Sly. “The lines are so close to each other.”

But burrowing a tunnel between Fulton Street and Atlantic Avenue is no simple task.
Initial estimates from the MTA say it would take 5–10 years to complete and would be the biggest shaft in the subway system, according to James.

New York City Transit would not comment before it drafts a formal response to James.
But one thing is clear: the agency is trying to improve the much-maligned G line.

New York City Transit thrilled riders in December when it announced it would increase the number of trains per hour — if (and it’s a big if) finances look good in the spring, after the agency has had a chance to assess its revenues from the recent fare increase.

It also plans to permanently extend service to Church Avenue in Kensington, creating the first direct link between Park Slope and Williamsburg.

But as the MTA giveth, it also taketh away.

The expanded service in Brooklyn comes at the expense of Queens. Currently, travelers can reach Forest Hills on nights and weekends, but if the changes go through, the G would permanently terminate in Long Island City.

Straphangers criticized the MTA, saying that it’s ignoring the line’s ridership.

“There’s a very healthy commuting community between Brooklyn and Queens,” said Teresa Toro, the chair of Community Board One’s transportation committee, and member of the Save the G Coalition.

©2008 The Brooklyn Paper

February 20, 2008

State of the MTA Address

From our friends at the Straphangers Campaign:

Dear rider:

Want to hear how the MTA sees the future? Then come to a "State of the MTA" address by the agency's Chief Executive Officer Lee Sander.

He will "reflect on the MTA's progress, present his vision for its future, and describe the funding challenges ahead." The details are below.

- Gene Russianoff and Cate Contino

WHEN: Monday, March 3, 2008
Check-in: 10 a.m.
Program: 10:30 a.m.
WHERE: The Great Hall of The Cooper Union,
7 East 7th Street at Third Avenue
New York, N.Y. 10003

RSVP: or 212-878-0292
NYPIRG Straphangers Campaign
One Click to a Better Commute -

February 13, 2008

NYC Council Speaker Feels G Train's Pain...

In her State of the City address today, New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn called for the development of a comprehensive citywide ferry system. We love the proposal - after all, our G train advocacy stems from our belief that New York needs more transit options, not less - although her speech did touch on New Yorkers' frustrations with unreliable G train service:

"Imagine... traveling from Brooklyn to Queens... without waiting for the G train."

The Speaker's full speech can be found here, in PDF format:

It's interesting to note that the G train serves some busy Brooklyn and Queens riverfront communities, from Red Hook to Williamsburg to Long Island City. Instead of replacing the unreliable G train with ferry service, how about the MTA steps up and enhances G line service to complement ferry service, to give Brooklyn and Queens a slew of added transit options?


February 7, 2008

Councilwoman Tish James sees G as the train that could...

We love Councilwoman James' latest plan for the G train:

James Pushes To Connect G Train To Atlantic/Pacific Street Station: Underground Connection Would Give G Riders Access to 10 Lines
By Sarah Ryley

CLINTON HILL — Councilwoman Letitia James is asking the MTA to study whether the G Train at Fulton Street could be connected to the Atlantic Avenue transportation hub via an underground tunnel, she told the Eagle.

If the stations were linked, the G train, often criticized for having spotty service and few connections in Brooklyn, would directly transfer to 10 additional lines. Prospect Heights residents could ride to Williamsburg without entering Manhattan, and Clinton Hill residents, only served by the G train, would have easy access to all parts of Manhattan by direct transfer.

“I understand that the MTA is cutting back on all their capital projects, but I want them to at least look at it and get a feasibility study,” said James, who represents Fort Greene and Clinton Hill. She said she’s working with Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries on the matter and would suggest the project to help ease traffic as part of the mayor’s congestion pricing plan.

“It would definitely increase ridership,” she said.

MTA spokeswoman Deirdre Parker said the agency hasn’t studied an underground connection between the two stations. “Operations Planning is reviewing Ms. James’ suggestions and will respond within the next two weeks,” she said.

In the short term, G train riders would likely get a free transfer to the Atlantic Avenue transportation hub if congestion pricing were enacted, said Michael Burke, executive director of policy and planning for the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership.

The organization successfully lobbied to have the F and A/C trains at the Jay Street station connected to the M/R trains at the Lawrence Street station via an underground tunnel. Construction should be completed within the next few years, said Burke.

As a long-term solution, Burke said the partnership would support James’ effort. “In order to ease congestion, more transit connections make a lot of sense, but they’re long-term projects,” he said, adding that a 50-foot tunnel to connect the Jay and Lawrence Street stations cost $130 million. “So you’re not talking about a quick fix.”

At their closest point, the Fulton Street and Atlantic Avenue stations are roughly 660 feet apart. The MTA plans to extend G Train service to the Church Avenue station, at least temporarily, as it rehabilitates the Culver Viaduct. Parker said the agency also proposed to increase G service during evening, midday and weekend periods.

Anne Buckley, a sales estate agent for Fillmore Real Estate, said only that having access to the G train, while not the deciding factor, influences buyers’ decisions when looking for homes. “It would certainly help the community; it would make it easier to get from place to place.”

© Brooklyn Daily Eagle 2007

January 23, 2008

G Train Shuttle Hell

From Gowanus Lounge:

Monday, January 21, 2008

Another Fun G Train Weekend
The corner of Metropolitan and Union Avenues in Williamsburg may be the borough's ultimate Subway Not Working Shuttle Bus Hell. It's been the scene of many L Train offloading/shuttle bus marathons. For the past two weekends, the G Train hasn't been running on a significant part of its route.