Amsterdam taking steps to move train station

Daily Gazette

In a city where the phrase “urban renewal” is still used as a dirty word, a proposed $34 million downtown multimodal station is stirring both memories of the past and hopes for the future.

The Amsterdam Common Council has supported a series of steps toward the revitalization project that began under former Mayor Ann Thane and continues under Mayor Michael Villa.

The city hired international engineering firm Mott Macdonald in 2017 for $207,790 to conduct a feasibility study.

Mott MacDonald presented the council with a multi-option plan to spur economic activity in Amsterdam, by essentially ripping up some of the urban renewal scheme implemented in city in the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s.

The plan also aims to reconnect the city’s traffic grid east to west and north to south. Lastly, the plan proposes opening up the city’s waterfront by razing all or a portion of the former Amsterdam Mall, which Mott MacDonald calls a “cork” that blocks traffic. This would allow access to the river and the city’s economic potential.
These are the main elements of Mott MacDonald’s plan and the cost estimates:

• Relocation of the West Main Street Amtrak station to one of two locations near downtown and build railroad platforms and a mixed-use multimodal station, which would include retail space, coffee shop, a newsstand and a Taste of New York location; cost, $20 million.
• Design of the project and contingency planning; cost, $8 million.
• Removal of the Route 5 bypass and other road improvements; cost, $5 million.
• Property acquisition; cost, $1 million.
The first element of the plan would need to be the removal of the Route 5 bypass, which Villa said for him is the key to the whole project.
“Irregardless of the multimodal station, I think removing that Route 5 corridor is the thing that I’m certainly going to push for — that we do, whether or not the multimodal happens,” Villa said. “I think it’s an integral part of reconnecting our downtown with the Mohawk Valley Gateway Overlook Pedestrian Bridge. So, we have that connectivity. I think that’s important to link the southside with our downtown. I think that it’s very important that we try to proceed. That is something that, let’s be honest, takes quite some time to not only get off the ground but get funded.”

The Common Council on May 15 voted to hire Chazen Companies for $7,500 to help assist the city with applying for a $450,000 grant from New York state. The grant would help pay for a $517,000 study to finalize plans for the multimodal center, a necessary step before applying for larger state and federal grants to fund the project. Amsterdam’s local share of the study would be $67,500.

 

Vanished downtown, disconnected city

The history of what happened to Amsterdam’s downtown is almost as complicated as the traffic system built to accommodate it.
Daily Gazette columnist Bob Cudmore listed the changes in chronological order in a 2007 column titled “Memories of a Vanished Downtown.” In the column Cudmore cited author Hugh Donlon’s 1980 “Annals of a Mill Town,” which listed the many changes to Amsterdam’s downtown in the name of urban renewal.
The major changes included:
• The first highway modernization of Route 5S on the South Side, which was relocated in 1956 from the former Bridge Street business district to its current location on higher ground near the Thruway, that opened in 1954.

• Construction in 1960, of the four-lane Route 30 stretch from the Thruway to the Mohawk River, with demolition of 30 buildings. Route 30 on the North Side from the river to the top of Market Hill was completed in 1968.
• Construction of the Mohawk River Bridge in 1973. During the 1970s other changes were completed, including relocation of the train tracks, moving the train station to its current location and creation of another four-lane highway section for Route 5.
• Construction of the Amsterdam Mall, now known as the Riverfront Center, begun in 1973. The mall opened in 1977, but construction continued on parts of it into the 1980s. A large portion of downtown was torn down to build the mall, which carved up the city’s main street, leaving the eastern side somewhat blocked by the mall from the western side.
Jackie Murphy, former Montgomery County historian and a member of the Historic Amsterdam League, said the city has long suffered from poor planning decisions, like those inspired by the philosophies of Robert Moses, an influcial downstate public official in the mid-20th century who advocated urban renewal projects that often emphasized highway construction over public transit.
“Whatever he said was gospel and he thought these malls were the way to go, and the city just went along. That’s how it’s been our whole civilization,” Murphy said.
Gerry Snyder a retired mechanical engineer, and co-founder of the Historic Amsterdam League, said altogether the urban renewal projects in Amsterdam razed 400 buildings and effectively, “tore out the heart of the city when they tore down the downtown.” He said all of the changes made to Amsterdam’s downtown made traffic flow a nightmare and cut off the city’s southside on the other side of the Mohawk River.
“When they built the new bridge your Market Street and Main Street intersection was gone. Main Street was broken into two pieces, with a little bit of a section on the western side of the mall and the rest of it on the eastern part of the mall,”

“Just trying to get to the bridge to the South Side became such a convoluted matter that, trying to explain to somebody how you got to the bridge became a ten-minute discussion,” Snyder continued. “You had to draw it on a piece of paper because you had to send them around and find the entrance ramps off what used to be Pearl Street. And you’d go up the arterial ramp and then over again. It wasn’t a matter of just going to Market and Main and just getting on the bridge anymore.”
Murphy’s complaints against misguided planning go back to the mid-19th century when the railroad was built and large portions of the city’s riverfront were acquired by the railroad companies.
“This is one thing that really gauls me, I’ve lived along the river my whole life and I’ve never put my toe in it, because of the railroad,” Murphy said.
Snyder and Murphy both expressed skepticism about the multimodal project. Snyder said he isn’t against progress, but the city has been “sold a bill of goods” by experts in the past on the basis of progress.
“It’s probably not necessary to have [the Route 5 bypass] there, I find it convenient myself, but it does create a barrier to the waterfront and that’s supposed to be the direction that everyone is trying to head these days, trying to develop the waterfront,” Snyder said.

“But is it really going to be that much of a benefit to do that?.” Snyder asked. “I like the concept of connecting the South Side back to the North Side, and I think that’s an important part of the future of the city. But they’re talking a $34 million project and tearing down an additional portion of the city to do it.”
Murphy said she doesn’t know whether residents of Amsterdam would support construction of a multimodal station downtown.
“I don’t think there’s that many people who have the feeling that something good can come out of Amsterdam and support whatever is there. I don’t know,” Murphy said.”
Snyder said the goals of the proposed project are laudable. But he is skeptical of the details.
“We used to have the downtown, which was an east-west corridor here in the city, which was a key thing for the city to have,” Snyder said. “That was were the life occurred here in the city, along the Main Street, and we lost that with the mall.”

“If we can establish a north-south corridor, even if its connected by the pedestrian bridge between Bridge Street and the South Side, and Market Street and what’s left of the downtown, I think that goes a long way toward bettering the quality of life and what we have in what’s left of our downtown area,” Snyder said. “But I’m not convinced we need to do that with a train station. Is it a $34 million project to do it and tear down more things? I don’t know.”

Reach Gazette Reporter Jason Subik at jsubik@dailygazette.net.

GE Aviation: A Century of Innovation

Airline Geeks

GE Aviation is currently one of the top aircraft engine suppliers in the world. This subsidiary of General Electric offers engines for the majority of commercial aircraft and continues to lead innovation within the industry. GE Aviation has a long and rich history that begins over 100 years ago.

The Early 1900s

With the advent of Edison’s light bulb came the demand for electricity. A company called General Electric stepped up to the plate to provide efficient steam turbines that replaced piston engines at power plants. In 1903, GE engineers Charles Curtis and William Emmet built the world’s most powerful steam turbine for a power plant in Rhode Island.

This was a key advance for the company. In the same year, another engineer, Sanford Moss, built a revolutionary gas compressor that uses centrifugal force to squeeze air before it enters a turbine. This compressor was put to use in various applications and laid the groundwork for the jet engine, the same year the Wright Brothers had taken their first flight.

World War I and II

Shortly after this invention, the United States was dragged into World War I. The U.S. Government wanted Moss to use his compressor to better the performance of an aircraft that was used in the war. Moss was successful in adapting his creation to significantly improve the performance of the aircraft, creating what is known as a turbosupercharger. On that day, GE Aviation was born.

GE’s success in significantly improving aircraft performance in World War I resulted in the company receiving a large order to build turbosuperchargers for aircraft in World War II. Moss eventually proposed building one of the first turboprop engines which would continue to revolutionize aviation.

Commercial Aviation

Shortly afterward in 1941, GE Aviation was asked by the government to bring to production one of the first jet engines. A group of engineers called the Hush Hush Boys designed the new engine and on Oct. 1, 1942, the first American jet plane, the Bell XP-59A, took off from California, ushering in the jet age.

GE doubled down on jet engines creating the J33, J35, and J47 jet engines. The J47 later became the most-produced jet engine in history with 35,000 engines manufactured. Further improvements that allowed greater control of pressure inside turbines allowed aircraft to fly faster than the speed of sound.

These innovations by GE Aviation were used by engineers in other divisions to create many derivative applications ranging from helicopter engines and power plants to engines for ships.

After many decades of creating engines for military use, GE moved into the commercial aviation market with the CF6-6 high bypass turbofan engine on the McDonnell Douglas DC-10. This spawned many other engine types such as the CF6-50 and CF6-80A. These engines powered a variety of aircraft such as the Boeing 747 and 767.

Fast forward to the early 1990s, GE Aviation develops the GE90 turbofan engine. The latest GE90 engine, the GE90-115B, is considered “the world’s most powerful jet engine.” The GE90 was chosen to power the Boeing 777 aircraft. In addition, GE Aviation also has pioneered engines that fit smaller aircraft such as Bombardier CRJs and Embraer aircraft.

Recently GE has been developing the GE9X, a derivative of the GE90. The GE9X is expected to increase fuel efficiency by 10 percent and power the upcoming Boeing 777X series of aircraft.

For over a century GE Aviation has shown a dedication to being on the bleeding edge of aircraft innovation and the company will continue to push the boundaries of air travel well into the future.

Transit head unveils plan to expedite signal upgrades on subway lines

Queens Times Ledger

AndyByfordPHOTO

New York City Transit President Andy Byford unveiled what some agency board members regard as a bold plan to bring the most critical parts of the subway system into the 21st century in just five to 10 years as opposed to the previously projected 40 years.

The plan will close stations overnight and temporarily inconvenience millions of riders for the sake of completing a full install of Communication-based Train Control to replace the century-old analog signals across multiple lines.

“Our plan demonstrates what can be done in advancedly expedited time frame to transform New York City Transit from its state of emergency,” Byford said with emphasis on the last three words at Wednesday’s board meeting. “It won’t be easy to complete such massive upgrades on such a compressed time frame on such a busy system. Transit is in a trough right now, but we can and we must come back.”

In Queens, the No. 7 train will see a complete install of CBTC in 2018 alongside the L line, followed by the E, M, F, R and G trains in the next five years, and then installations will begin on the N, R, W and A within 10 years.

But the price tag may be shocking to some with an estimated $19 billion needed in the coming years.

MTA board member Veronica Vanterpool backed Byford’s plan during Wednesday’s meeting regardless of the potential “sticker shock” expected to go along with any major spending to bring the subways into a state of good repair, especially since she believes the usual budget of $3 billion per year is not sufficient to run the agency, which serves 8.6 million people per day as a whole.

“This plan properly identifies and offers substantive solutions for the significant infrastructure problems facing the subway system,” state Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria) said. “The plan does not, however, answer the question of where the money to finance this ambitious proposal will be found. I have proposed a surcharge on New York City millionaires to help fund necessary subway improvements. Other viable solutions have also been proposed. Above all else, we must do something and quickly enact one of these ideas to establish a dedicated revenue stream to save our mass transit system from further calamity.”

The Wednesday announcement follows plans to expand service in November on the A, D, E and F lines in the hours after the morning and evening rush by one to three additional trains on each line.

Buses will also get a boost in Queens with the Q6, Q8, Q29, Q47, Q49, Q101 and the Q65 slated for increased service on Saturdays starting in July to meet high demand.

But Byford’s plan is not the only major improvement plan from the MTA.

Long Island Rail Road President Phil Eng unveiled a plan to rescue the commuter line from the decline in service it experienced throughout 2017.

The nation’s biggest commuter railroad will be bringing improvements to the system by adding countdown clocks currently in operation at 116 stations, with a full roll-out by the end of summer, and repair 10 problematic switches attributed to 44 percent of the 205 failures in 2017, including one at Jamaica Station.

“LIRR Forward is the first formal step in a new direction that will help us anticipate our problems before they arise, set standards on how to quickly and correctly respond to the challenges we face, to deliver what our ridership expects of us – which is safe, reliable service bolstered by timely, accurate and effective communicat­ion,” Eng said.

A report by state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli claims the Long Island Rail Road had the worst on-time performance in nearly two decades in 2017.

With up to 9.2 million riders inconvenienced, the regional economy sustained about a $75 million loss in productivity throughout the year, with an on-time performance of 91.4 percent, which had not been seen since 1999, according to DiNapoli.

January 2018 was the worst month for the LIRR in 22 years, making a slight recovery in February.

Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhallum@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4564.

How Screwed Will Your Subway Line Be by the L Train Shutdown? E/F/M/R Edition

Village Voice

Dumping a whole lot more G train riders into the transfer to the E and M lines is likely to leave little room for existing Queens Boulevard line riders.

During the upcoming L train shutdown set to begin in early 2019, the MTA expects 70 to 80 percent of displaced L riders to take other subway lines. This will affect not only those displaced riders, but all the commuters who currently take the lines that will become filled with L refugees. This week, the Village Voice examines the impact on the E, F, M, and R lines. Click here for previous editions and other L train shutdown coverage.

This is unfortunate for those of you who ride the E, but it will be even worse once the L shuts down in April 2019.

That’s because the E runs through one of the major transfer hubs of the shutdown, Court Square in Queens, which I have written about before. To recap, displaced L riders heading north of 14th Street will likely opt to take the newly increased G service up to Court Square and transfer there to the E, M, or 7. The M will get three extra trains per hour to help with this load, but the E will not; it already runs fifteen trains per hour, according to internal MTA documents, the most possible given the line’s terminal layouts.

While the G will significantly increase its capacity by six trains per hour (plus every train will double its current length), it’s not clear where all those new riders will go. Some will take the free out-of-station transfer to the 7 just before Court Square, but most will likely try and make the in-station transfer at Court Square to the E or M, in which case the G will dump more passengers off than the increased service can carry.

In the mornings, the crush at this junction may be particularly bad, but at least riders arriving from points east in Queens will already be on the train. The biggest problem for E/M riders will occur in the afternoon rush, when commuters planning to switch to the G have already taken up much of the space on the train, making it even more difficult for additional riders headed to eastern Queens to board.

The L Train Shutdown Scenario Just Got a Whole Lot Worse

The Williamsburg Bridge can only carry three more trains an hour to Manhattan, and that’s not going to be enough to get everyone to work

by 

EDCAMP-newark

The picture of just how bad the L train shutdown will be for commuters is getting a little bit clearer. And it’s looking even worse.

A key to the latest problem was raised during Wednesday night’s L train shutdown town hall meeting in Williamsburg, when a speaker named Sunny Ng stepped up to the microphone and asked what many current L riders have wondered: “I have concerns about how many more trains can fit on the Williamsburg Bridge.”

At first, NYC Transit president Andy Byford didn’t offer a specific number. “Rest assured, our intention is to utilize the J/M/Z lines,” he said. “We intend to use them to the max.” But another audience member shouted, “How many?! HOW MANY?” and Byford passed the question to Peter Cafiero, chief of operations planning, who relented: 24 trains per hour can travel over the Williamsburg Bridge.

But 24 trains per hour, it turns out, is the absolute best-case scenario. “They can only achieve that if everything runs perfectly,” a source familiar with the planning told the Voice, on condition of anonymity for fear of losing their job.

MTA planning documents obtained by the Voice note that “operational strategies [are] needed to maximize throughput,” which could include stationing extra trains along the route to slot in if a train is delayed or goes out of service, plus ensuring that train operators know the route perfectly and achieve the absolute maximum speed allowable under the current signal system.

Yet these same planning documents show that even 24 trains per hour, if achieved, represents an increase of only three trains per hour over the current schedule. That’s enough to carry approximately 6,000 more riders per hour than currently possible. The L train, for comparison, carries almost four times that, or 24,100 riders per hour, across the East River. Considering the MTA expects a large proportion of displaced L riders — up to 80 percent by their estimates — to opt for subway alternatives, and a large portion of those riders to opt for the J/M/Z, it’s not clear how the J/M/Z can possibly carry all the riders that will be crowding its platforms.

The problem stems from a stretch of the J/M/Z tracks between the Marcy Avenue and Essex Street stations on either side of the Williamsburg Bridge. Because the track has “S” curves on each side, trains must slow down to ensure they don’t derail. Even if the speed limit on the bridge were raised from the current 25 miles per hour, traffic jams would still form at the curves, much like when a car driver guns the engine in the middle of a city block, then slows again when getting to a red light.

Unfortunately, there aren’t any other lines with extra capacity to pick up the slack. There are currently twenty L trains running under the East River per hour; during the shutdown, there will be the three extra J/M trains from Brooklyn, plus two more 7 trains (assuming its new signaling system is finished by year’s end despite being two years behind schedule) and three more M trains from Queens — but also two fewer R trains, in order to accommodate the extra M trains (the lines share track in Queens). The MTA will also be lengthening C trains, as MTA chairman Joe Lhota promised when he announced the Subway Action Plan in July, adding the equivalent of one and a half trains per hour. That comes to 12.5 fewer trains total, an overall reduction in capacity of approximately 25,000 riders per hour.

This figure represents a big problem: It’s more riders than the MTA predicts will seek non-subway alternatives during the shutdown, meaning some number of people — roughly somewhere between 2,000 and 4,000 people per hour*, based on the MTA’s capacity estimates combined with information from the planning documents obtained by the Voice — may not be able to board Manhattan-bound trains during peak periods. But these numbers are very much in flux; the service plans are still being finalized and it’s hard to predict how commuters will react to the shutdown with any precision.

The G, which according to the planning documents currently runs nine trains per hour during peak periods, will add the most capacity of all: three additional trains running the full route, plus three trains per hour running between Court Square and Bedford-Nostrand, where they will short-turn and head back north to Queens — and all G trains will be lengthened to eight cars, double their current length.

This will increase service between Williamsburg/Greenpoint and the E, M, and 7 trains. But it’s important to remember that the G is just a means to an end for displaced L riders; nearly all of them will then be looking to cross the river via another line. So while the G can reasonably cope with the increased capacity, it is the transfer points and the other lines that will not be able to add nearly as much capacity that will suffer the most.

“It’s frustrating how secretive NYCT has been with the entire process,” the source lamented to the Voice before the information was revealed publicly at Wednesday’s town hall. “I’m not trying to make the MTA look bad, but the public deserves to know what’s going on.”

During the town hall, Cafiero stated the priority is to run as many M trains as possible, while also accommodating as many J trains as possible over the Williamsburg Bridge. If this holds true, it means the MTA will target fourteen M trains per hour and ten J trains — the most that can run under that 24 train-per-hour limit imposed by the “S” curves.

“It’s pretty much a given that the line will be over guideline,” the source told the Voice, meaning more people will be trying to pack on than the maximum capacity. “I don’t know what to say besides we’re fucked and it’ll be miserable.”

How the L Train Shutdown Will Screw Over Each Subway Line

The math goes like this: 24,100 riders per hour during rush hours currently cross the East River on the L. The MTA estimates that between 20 and 30 percent of them — between 4,820 and 7,230 — will get to work by buses, bikes, or other non-subway means. Counting the longer C trains, the MTA will be adding the equivalent of 7.5 new trains worth of capacity, enough to accommodate approximately 15,000 passengers. That would leave between 1,870 and 4,280 commuters unable to squeeze onto trains at all.

New York City’s subway disaster now has its own 8-bit video game

The Verge

‘We’re just three idiots who make topical video games’

Straphangers who want to experience the rolling nightmare that is New York City’s subway system from the comfort of their own home are in luck. A new video game called “MTA Country,” which debuted this week, takes players on a treacherous ride through graffiti-lined tunnels filled with electrical fires, broken tracks, and stalled subway cars.

Users play as Gregg T., the face of the MTA’s “New Yorkers Keep New York Safe” safety ad campaign, who has since become a bit of a meme. At the start of the game, Gregg T. jumps into a subway car with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. Together, the three must leap over track fires and broken-down subway cars full of irritated passengers while dodging pizza rats and passing under graffiti tags that say “Giuliani was here.”

The goal is to collect subway tokens and a series of glowing letters that — spoiler alert — eventually spell out the word “PRIVATIZE.” At that point, the subway car turns into a shimmering hyperloop pod, and Gregg T. disembarks safely in Washington, DC.

It’s been about as long as the last F train rolled in, but we’re back with another game about the world’s most reliable subway system: the NYC MTA. http://mtacountry.info

The game was created by Everydayarcade, a creative collective of advertising professionals that makes hot-button video games in their spare time. The group has created video games for The New York Times and The Outline. A satirical anti-Trump game, in which players throw stereotyped Mexican characters over an ever-rising border between the US and Mexico, was rejected by Apple’s App Store for being too offensive.

“We’re just three idiots who make topical video games, so we have no idea how to fix the subway,” Mike Lacher, one of the game’s creators, said in an email. “Everybody seems to propose a solution, so we thought it would be funny to play one out to the extreme. Collecting letters to spell out “RAISE FARES OVER FIVE YEARS TO FINANCE SIGNAL IMPROVEMENTS” would take too long, and be kind of a downer.”

(Lacher’s co-creator, Chris Baker, told the New York Post, “We didn’t want to hit anyone over the head with the libertarianism. We wanted it to be a funny joke that does have some merit.”)

Lacher said he and his friends were inspired to make the game by countless hours of being trapped on broken-down trains. “The three of us live in New York, and, like pretty much everyone in New York, have been frustrated by the subways,” he said. “We’ve spent lots of time trapped underground or fighting to get into full trains.”

He continued, “We’ve also been watching the intense debate and arguments around it, and we were amused by what an inescapable mess it seems to be and how no one can possibly take accountability for it. So we decided to poke some fun at the absurdity with an absurd game. We got excited about the connection between the abandoned mine level in Donkey Kong and the declining state of the subway.”

The buck-passing over the subway came into view this week as de Blasio and Cuomo sniped at each other over a $19 billion proposal to overhaul the subway. The money would pay to modernize the subway’s signal system and replace antiquated equipment, but New York’s governor and mayor characteristically couldn’t agree on who should shoulder most of the cost. (The correct answer is Cuomo, who appoints the majority of the MTA’s board members and controls its purse strings.)

I asked Lacher whether he’d prefer to ride a hyperloop, a non-existent technology first conceived by Elon Musk, rather than the subway. “In theory, sure!” he said. “A superfast, brand-new hyperloop would be a lot better than a vomit-caked C train with no air conditioning. Sadly, a one-mile test track under LA doesn’t do us a lot of good. I guess you could say the best thing about the NYC subway is that at least it exists.”

 

NYCT plan to improve subways, buses, accessibility, corporate culture

Metro

MTA New York City Transit President Andy Byford revealed a comprehensive plan to completely modernize every major aspect of the organization and its services, from subways to buses to accessibility to corporate culture.

The plan, called “Fast Forward: The Plan to Modernize New York City Transit,” focuses on four major priorities: transforming the subway, reimagining the city’s public bus network, improving accessibility for all modes, and engaging and empowering NYC Transit’s workforce to deliver the best service possible.

Highlights of the plan include:

State-of-the-art signal and track infrastructure for optimum reliability, performance and safety. Within five years, the latest computerized signal and track infrastructure will be installed on five additional lines, so three million daily riders are on lines with Communications Based Train Control (CBTC). Within 10 years, these benefits will cover a total of 11 additional lines, benefiting five million daily riders. This work will also require the refurbishment, replacement, or upgrading of myriad supporting infrastructure and equipment, such as power systems, shops and yards, and cars.

Accelerated work towards a fully accessible subway system. Within five years, more than 50 new stations will be made accessible, ensuring that all subway subway riders will not be more than two stops away from an accessible station. Within 10 years, this will expand to a total of more than 130 additional stations, with the balance of all possible stations completed by 2034. Elevator and escalator maintenance and repairs are also being enhanced. All this physical work will be coupled with equally important customer service enhancements, including new sensitivity training for all employees in the next year and better information about elevator and escalator outages and alternative routes. Shepherding these and other accessibility initiatives will be a new Accessibility Advisor reporting directly to the president of NYC Transit.

Critical station repairs and improvements. Critical structural and functional repairs, maintenance, and improvements will be performed at more than 150 stations over the course of five years, and more than 300 stations within 10 years. Keeping these stations up to date is critically necessary for regular service delivery and customer safety.

A state-of-the-art fleet of new subway cars and buses. Within five years, riders will be benefit from the reliability, performance, and safety advantages of more than 650 new subway cars, more than 1,200 refurbished cars, and 2,800 new buses including 200 electric buses, provided that there will be industry capacity to meet the demands of such a large-scale design and manufacturing initiative. Within 10 years, the plan calls for another 3,000 new subway cars and 2,100 new buses, including 1,600 electric buses. Byford has expressed a desire to achieve a fully electric bus fleet; NYC Transit will work with bus manufacturers, charging infrastructure manufacturers, power delivery utilities, and municipal officials to achieve this goal in New York City.

A completely redesigned bus route network. As noted in the NYCT Bus Plan released last month, the entire route network for local and express buses in the five boroughs is being re-evaluated and redesigned based on ridership patterns, road operating conditions and input from customers, route neighbors, advocates, and others. The Fast Forward Plan calls for this work to be done within five years.

A simpler, more reliable, more efficient paratransit experience. The Fast Forward Plan builds upon the work of the MTA Board Access-A-Ride Work Group by simplifying the application process, using modern technology like GPS to enhance ride scheduling and tracking, and working with NYC DOT to allow Access-A-Ride vehicles to use city bus lanes.

MTA New York City Transit subway platform. Photo: Patrick Cashin/MTA New York City Transit
MTA New York City Transit subway platform. Photo: Patrick Cashin/MTA New York City Transit

Engage and empower employees. The Fast Forward Plan works to improve the employee experience — and, as a result, performance — by creating new programs for recognition and for dialogue with management, by streamlining bureaucratic processes, by improving opportunities for internal promotion, by better maintaining and improving employee facilities such as bathrooms and crew rooms, by working with labor unions to refresh the approach to discipline, and by working with NYPD and prosecutors to take a strong stand against assaults on employees. The Plan also establishes a formal agency-wide mentoring program and revamps training and skills development. There will also be increased focus on diversity in the workforce and diversity training, as well as increased facilities for women and non-gender-conforming individuals.

Improving efficiency and reducing costs. The Fast Forward Plan embraces and builds upon the emerging recommendations from the MTA Board Work Group on Cost Containment and Procurement to ensure the efficient use of capital funding; overhaul processes for faster, more efficient project delivery; and better measure, track, and report publicly on performance. This includes clearer lines of accountability and strengthened project management to improve adherence to schedule and budget, improving the design process to reduce unnecessary change orders, simplifying the procurement process, and modernizing the supply chain.

Embracing and increasing capacity for innovation. The Fast Forward Plan will support a new “innovation unit” that incubates new solutions to improve the customer experience and operational efficiency, improve the integration of new technology in operations, explore the increased use of public-private partnerships, and pursue and expand upon recommendations from the Genius Transit Challenge.

Advancing environmental sustainability and resiliency. The Fast Forward Plan keeps up ongoing efforts to require environmental sustainability in new construction including using LEED-certified specifications and building upon an extensive asset recovery and recycling programs that divert 50,000 tons of waste from landfills annually. Resiliency equipment and planning efforts begun after the devastation of Superstorm Sandy continue and are making NYC Transit better prepared for major storm events than ever before in its history.

Modernizing the approach to safety. NYCT is working closely with NYPD to support its expansion of a “neighborhood policing” model to the subway system, as well as to enhance enforcement against, assault, and other crimes in the transit system. NYCT is also going to establish a 24/7 confidential safety reporting hotline for employees to strengthen the safety culture. Enhanced security measures using the latest detection technologies and collaboration with law enforcement will continue to keep the transit system and its users safe.

To track and report progress for stakeholders and the public, the Fast Forward Plan includes twice-yearly reports on the progress of its initiatives.

The MTA revealed its $37 billion plan to save NYC’s crumbling subway system —but there’s one big problem

Business Insider

New York City’s subway system has become overcrowded and unreliable.
Mario Tama/Getty
  • New York City Transit Authority president Andy Byford unveiled a plan to repair and modernize the New York City subway system on Wednesday.
  • The plan, called “Fast Forward,” would replace an antiquated signal system, redesign the way passengers pay fares, increase the number of subway cars, and install elevators at stations.
  • According to the New York Daily News, the plan would cost $37 billion.
  • It would require stations to close on nights and weekends for up to 2.5 years, though it would not close lines during weekdays while improvements are made.

New York City Transit Authority president Andy Byford unveiled a plan to repair and modernize the New York City subway system on Wednesday.

The plan, called “Fast Forward,” would replace an antiquated signal system, redesign the way passengers pay fares, increase the number of subway cars, and install elevators at stations. It would also include station repairs, an increased number of buses, and redesigned bus routes.

The plan includes signal upgrades and new subway cars

The plan is divided into two, five-year segments. The first segment would introduce a new signal system on five lines, add 650 new subway cars and 2,800 buses, bring elevators to over 50 stations, and create a new fare payment system. The second segment would result in six lines receiving a new signal system, elevators for over 130 stations, 3,000 new subway cars, and 2,100 buses.

According to the New York Daily News, the plan would cost $37 billion, though Byford and Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) president Joseph Lhota said an estimate for the plan is still being developed, an MTA representative told Business Insider.

The plan would require stations to close on nights and weekends for up to 2.5 years, though it would not close lines during weekdays while improvements are made.

In April 2019, the city will shut down the L line between Brooklyn and Manhattan for 15 months to focus on repairs for the tunnel that allows the line to travel under the East River. (The line will continue to operate in Brooklyn between Bedford Avenue and Rockaway Parkway.)

There are questions over who will pay for the improvements

New York City mayor Bill de Blasio indicated that the city would not help pay for Byford’s plan, according to The New York Times.

“It’s now fully understood that the responsibility for the M.T.A. resides in the state of New York, ultimately the governor,” he said.

New York governor Andrew Cuomo replied to de Blasio’s statement, saying a lack of investment from the city would hamper subway improvements, The Times reports.

 

“If that’s the case, then the real problem is you’re not going to be able to do anything significant to fix the subways,” Cuomo said.

The subway system has become unreliable

Decades of inadequate investment, an outdated signaling system, track fires, and overcrowding have contributed to the New York City subway system’s frequent delays. Transit projects in New York are far more expensive than those in comparable cities throughout the world partly because of generous compensation for workers and high costs from contractors, both of whom are allowed to negotiate their rates without input from any New York City agencies.

Last summer, the MTA began working on an $800 million rescue plan that included urgent track and signal repairs.

The Times has previously estimated that upgrading the signaling system for every subway line could take 50 years and $20 billion.

You can read Byford’s full plan here.

General Electric’s power unit fights for growth as wind, solar gain

Reuters

Vistra Energy Corp and Dominion Energy Inc — which serve about 5.5 million electricity customers in more than a dozen US states — both say they are done building combined-cycle natural gas-fired power plants.

Instead, they are building large solar plants, which offer plentiful and inexpensive electricity.

This bearish view of fossil-fuel energy, reflective of a growing acceptance by utilities of renewable power sources, poses a hurdle to John Flannery’s plan to turn around General Electric Co’s US$35 billion-a-year power unit.

With electricity prices trending downward, utilities are increasingly unwilling to risk capital on a new plant unless then can lock in a long-term price, executives said.

“Building new large, combined-cycle gas plants is challenging without the stability of a long-term power contract,” said Timothy Menzie, chief executive officer of InterGen, an international power generation company.

POWER PLAYER

GE faces a further challenge: long-term erosion of the large base of plants it services. After acquiring the Alstom power business in 2015, GE has a base of customers that produces one-third of the world’s electricity. Long-term contracts to service those plants bring GE billions of dollars in annual revenue.

But as utilities close older coal and gas-fired plants, the revenue growth from services is under pressure.

Wind and solar can cost as little as US$18 a megawatt hour, compared with US$40 for a large gas plant, said Mikael Backman, North America regional director at Wartsila Energy Solutions, part of the Finnish company that makes quick-start natural gas-fired generators.

Across much of the United States, some utilities now buy all the cheap renewable power they can on electricity markets and use quick-start gas engines to fill in when wind and sun falter. In California, regulators have put on hold a project that planned to buy one of GE’s large natural-gas turbines while Southern California Edison, which planned to buy the power, studies using wind and solar instead.

The shift from fossil fuels stretches beyond states like California, which is aggressively switching to renewable power.

In oil-rich Texas, wind and solar now provide 21% of the state’s electricity. Utilities there are shutting down the equivalent of about 20 average-sized coal plants this year, according a Reuters analysis of data from power system operator ERCOT. Out of 183 power-generation projects on the drawing boards, only four would run on fossil fuels, ERCOT said. The rest are wind and solar.

ExGen Texas Power, an affiliate of Exelon Corp, filed for bankruptcy protection in November for five natural-gas plants, the second such bankruptcy in Texas last year attributed to low power prices. GE supplied parts and service to several of the plants, according to the bankruptcy filings. Reuters could not determine whether the contracts will remain in effect.

In Virginia, Dominion Energy ended several maintenance contracts it had with GE this year when it mothballed a large gas-fired plant built by companies GE later acquired and idled seven other coal and natural gas units in the state.

Dominion aims to build 4,720 megawatts of solar by 2033, the equivalent of about five large combined-cycle power plants.

It is opening a new combined-cycle natural-gas plant in Virginia this year, built with GE and Mitsubishi equipment. It said it has no current plans to build more such plants.

“Solar is very cheap,” spokesman Dan Genest said. “These units were just not cutting it.”

Brightline trains begin service to and from Miami

Toledo Blade

Southeast Florida’s unique Brightline passenger-train service began operations to and from Miami last weekend with sold-out trains, but a timetable for starting work on a new phase between West Palm Beach and Orlando has yet to be announced.

“We had more than 8,000 guests in our station and on-board our trains,” Ali Soule, a spokesman for the privately owned and operated passenger line, said Thursday.

Brightline expects extension of service to Miami to substantially boost the usefulness of its trains, which for the first four months of operation ran only between Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach.

Related: Could Ohio replicate Florida’s high-speed rail system? 

The extended service has an 80-minute scheduled travel time between Miami and West Palm Beach, including a three-minute stop in Fort Lauderdale, with eight train trips per day in each direction.

Brightline, operating on tracks belonging to the Florida East Coast Railway, is the first privately developed intercity passenger-train line in the United States in more than half a century. Passenger-rail advocates hope that if successful, Brightline could become a model for developing similar train corridors elsewhere in the United States, including the Midwest.

Its creators believe it can compete for passengers in densely populated southeast Florida by offering a luxurious experience aboard fast, reliable trains.

The section now in operation, however, has a top speed of just 79 mph. Brightline plans to operate trains on the West Palm Beach-Orlando section at up to 110 mph south of Cocoa, Fla., and up to 125 mph between Cocoa and Orlando. Such would allow a total running time of about three hours between Miami and Orlando — competitive with driving or air travel between those cities.

A start date for construction along that second phase, which would include upgrades to FEC track and equipment south of Cocoa and new railroad from Cocoa to Orlando, remains to be announced.

Opponents from coastal areas north of West Palm Beach through which the trains would pass without stopping continue to object on grounds of safety, inconvenience, and noise.

South of West Palm Beach, “quiet zones” have been instituted in recent weeks at FEC railroad crossings in several communities.

In those areas, “four-quadrant” crossing gates have been installed so that streets become completely barricaded when trains approach. Train engineers thus are not required to blow their horns approaching the crossings, although they still may do so if they observe people or vehicles near the tracks.

Contact David Patch at dpatch@theblade.com or 419-724-6094.

Website ready with full info on Hartford Line

PenneyVanderbilt

BERLIN – A full buildout of the website for the upcoming CTrail Hartford Line passenger rail service is now live.

Accessible at hartfordline.com, the website provides future riders with information on the service’s launch on June 16.

“Our enhanced Hartford Line website offers quick and easy navigation to trip planning, station information, schedules and fares,” stated state Transportation Commissioner James Redeker in a release. “It also offers wide-ranging information about easy-to-reach destinations from the Hartford Line.”

When service begins, 17 trains will run between New Haven and Hartford, with 12 of them continuing on to Springfield, Mass., up from six trains previously run solely by Amtrak.

Amtrak trains and trains specifically designated for the Hartford Line will travel up to 110 mph. A trip from New Haven to Springfield will take 81 minutes.

Service will be free on June 16 and June 17, with full weekday service starting June 18.

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