Filling the Void

From the Independent Subway to the Freedom Tower, Americans rightly love their independence and freedom. But our affinity for liberty can be bad for urban planning, because it can hinder collaboration, coordination, and compromise. State’s rights and municipal police powers combine to make regional planning particular difficult in the United States. In the New York region, three states (governed by faraway capitals), and numerous municipalities, independent authorities, and additional assortments of political districts attempt to operate a region that has more people than the continent of Australia.


WTC PATH Hub (RR, 2016)


While our country remains divided between North and South, and between urban and rural, our region remains divided no longer because of geography, but because of politics. Our harbor and our rivers have been tunneled under and bridged over, but political boundaries remain. Transportation infrastructure can bring us together, but it can also separate us, when it’s operated in silos, without ample communication and coordination. Our agencies are often arguably focused on politics rather than results. Each entity wants control, and sharing control, or even sharing information, carries risk. After all, if the MTA shared all of its data with the DOT, for instance, the DOT could then use that information to apply for limited grants.

As a result of a lack of regional planning, we’re left with a disjointed transportation network. Most New Yorkers don’t know that the Governor governs the MTA and New York City Transit, or that NYCDOT is an entirely separate agency. We have MTA and Port Authority bridges and tunnels, and then toll-free DOT bridges, leading to congestion. And below the Freedom Tower, the PATH doesn’t physically connect with the NYC Subway, although H&M had originally planned for a physical connection. And there isn’t even a free transfer; it also doesn’t show as a 24/7 rapid transit system which accepts MetroCard on the NYC Subway Map. The IRT, BMT, and IND only started showing up on the same map in the past few decades. All of this freedom and independence has its consequences.


The divide between the MTA’s Fulton Center and the Port Authority’s WTC. (RR, 2016)


The divide between the MTA’s Fulton Center and the Port Authority’s WTC. (RR, 2016)


The divide between the IND and H&M in Midtown. (RR, 2016)


The divide between the AirTrain and the NYC Subway. (RR, 2016)


Highways, for instance, definitely brought freedom through mobility (for whites), but divided neighborhoods, creating social, economic, political, and physical gaps. In St. Paul, an entire African-American neighborhood, Rondo, was divided, and businesses were destroyed. There are now plans to not only bridge the gap, but fill the void, by decking over the highway. The land bridge would be built contextually, and designed around the community’s values. If they are united, they’ll have a better chance at securing funding for the project, and perhaps they can use the real estate created from the decking to help pay for it. (The Skyway System‘s of Minneapolis and St. Paul are some of the best-known public spaces in the region, and they’re largely privately-owned. Unlike New York, the sidewalks of these cities are on the second floors of downtown skyscrapers, and they’re connected by bridges across the CBDs. Retail is within buildings, to keep everyone warm during the winter, and it’s certainly convenient, but it also closes early, and causes the actual sidewalks to feel quite empty.)


Minneapolis at 5PM (RR, 2016)


Empty St. Paul at Noon (RR, 2016)


Rondo residents realized that they’re stronger together, united, which is why the thirteen original colonies came together and formed the United States. It’s why the united Maori of New Zealand fared better than the Australian aboriginals when Europeans arrived in Oceania. It’s why the European Union, which can be reached by crossing a bridge from Brazil, was formed. It’s also how Boston advocates fought against a highway project, and got the Southwest Corridor built for the Orange Line, MBTA, and Amtrak. There are even ‘land bridges’ above it, known collectively as the Southwest Corridor Park, though I think they should have built taller station structures as well, and included retail, such as a supermarket for residents, which would also have provided revenue to the T.


The former MBTA Green Line “E” Branch tracks are still visible at the Forest Hills Station, where the E line once connected to the Orange Line and Commuter Rail, before it was cut back. (RR, 2016)


Perhaps there’s more decking opportunities along the Southwest Corridor? However, commuter rail trains are not electrified even though they’re running along electrified tracks, so ventilation could be a concern. (RR, 2016)


I think that the T could have built a taller station building, and leased it out for residences, offices, or retail. (RR, 2016)


Surrounding buildings are all multiple stories tall, and the T could have used the additional real estate revenue for station maintenance. (RR, 2016)


Here, there’s a few stores. That’s better than a lot of the stations along the corridor. (RR, 2016)


They could at least put up some advertising along that facade? (RR, 2016)


Our differences can bring us apart, or we can choose to come together as regions. Some of our most important cities were planned to bring people together. Ottawa, the capital of Canada, bridges the gap between Quebec and Ontario, and public transit connects French Canadians with English Canadians. Washington, D.C., also attempts to bring together the Northern states and Southern states. Canberra’s garden city design was also intended to unify Australian states.


Bus to Quebec from Ontario in Ottawa (RR, 2016)


D.C. Bike Lane (RR, 2016)


Canberra, Australia (RR, 2016)


The WTC, atop the PATH terminal, was meant to revitalize Lower Manhattan, and help it to compete with Midtown, which is far closer to Penn Station and Grand Central Terminal. The windswept superblock had its own ZIP code, and it was subsidized until its privatization, only months before 9/11, when Larry Silverstein entered a 99-year lease of the site. And the Port Authority’s PATH was largely built by the Hudson & Manhattan Railroad, but then the railroad went bankrupt because of declining ridership, mainly due to the Port Authority’s new vehicular tunnels, and especially the Holland Tunnel.

The Port Authority eventually took ownership of the H&M as part of a deal between New York and New Jersey to construct the Port Authority’s World Trade Center on the west side of Lower Manhattan, rather than the east side. Since the PA is a bi-state agency, New Jersey wanted the WTC to be closer to NJ, and they agreed to take over the H&M because it terminated at the site that would become the Twin Towers, then known as the Hudson Terminal, the predecessor twin towers of the original WTC. (The New York City Subway doesn’t leave municipal boundaries, because it was built by the City and by private companies under contract with the City; H&M was built between municipalities, and connects Newark with Hudson County and New York City.)

This was, perhaps, one of the last big acts of compromise and common sense at the Port Authority, which has recently become known more for its waste, fraud, and delays. The agency’s new WTC hub cost $4 billion, spent largely on architectural elements, with few capacity improvements for PATH riders. The agency’s main cash cow, the world’s busiest motor vehicle bridge, was used for political vengeance. And Panama is ready for the world’s newest, largest container ships, while the Port Authority won’t be ready for another year. The agency responsible for building not just a world trade center, but the World Trade Center — the symbol of globalization that Al Qaeda chose to attack — now cannot even raise a bridge for larger container ships.

And, it can’t seem to collaborate, either. Following 9/11, the Port Authority had an opportunity to unite the PATH to the IRT via the 6 Line, which was once a serious plan for the H&M. Instead, the agency kept its freedom and its Freedom Tower all for itself. Did they forget that the Statue of Liberty was built as a collaboration between the French and the Americans? Did they forget that they, themselves, are supposed to bridge the gap between New York and New Jersey, not only physically, but socially, economically, and politically? They may not be physically burning bridges, but they’re certainly cutting themselves off from their sister authorities. In any Western European country, the PATH would have been connected with the NYC Subway decades ago.

Our region has a serious problem, and it runs deeper than the subway. On most accounts, the Port Authority is failing, while raising fares and tolls to cover its soaring costs. It’s a sick institution, and it caught its cold from the Hudson River, the political wall that has divided our region into New York and New Jersey since the King of England, Charles II, decided to reward New Jersey as a new colony to his allies. But it’s not just the Port Authority. Our institutions, in general, seem to be under threat from rising costs and rising seas.

The British may have perfected a strategy of dividing and ruling, be it here at home, or in Africa or the Middle East. But the United States was founded by uniting competing colonies under a common flag, because it was realized that united as one, the thirteen colonies would be stronger. Our country’s separation of powers, including delegating most power to states, makes collaboration and compromise far more important than, say, their importance in a unitary state. Our freedom was possible because we united, collaborated, and trusted each other, despite serious differences between the colonies.

In these divided days, it seems as though we’ve forgotten how to collaborate and compromise; the British, unfortunately, have also been losing trust in their region (and amongst their own countries), having divorced themselves from the European Union under the leadership of David Cameron, whose wife is related to Charles II, the monarch that divided New Netherland into separate states along the Hudson River. As individuals, we can now connect with each other around the globe instantaneously, but our institutions appear to be growing more and more disconnected. The Supreme Court’s vacant seat cannot be filled, and politicians seek to divide us and build walls. Donald Trump’s main ally is one of the bosses of the Port Authority. Our bridges and tunnels are supposed to connect us, but instead, they’ve been used to divide and polarize.

(In response to an unstable world, the United Kingdom has chosen to become a Divided Kingdom, succumbing to fears of migration from EU citizens, refugees, and terrorists, even though the UK was not a part of the Schengen Area and already had border control. The UK also never used the Euro, so should not have been as concerned about the debt crisis. And now, Europe is weakened, and Russia has gained more influence. The less European countries cooperate, collaborate, share, and trust each other, the more terrorism becomes a risk. Brussels, ironically the center of the EU, is the capital of the world’s wealthiest failed state, partly due to Belgium‘s language divide.)



Moscow Suburbs (RR, 2016)


From Berlin and Belfast to Jerusalem and Cape Town, transportation infrastructure can be used to bridge the gap, or to burn bridges. While Berlin was divided, train service was also divided; and, Belfast’s peace walls, which remain active, effectively keep people segregated, halting movement across entire areas of the city during nights and weekends, which surely leads to inefficient, costly bus routes and commuting patterns. Today’s inefficiencies in New York, such as a lack of free transfers between the PATH and the HBLR or NYCT, seem comparatively rather insignificant.


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Belfast’s Peace Walls (RR, 2016)

And then, there’re the times that we have come together. The Brooklyn Bridge created a lasting connection between New York and Brooklyn, allowing the cities to connect and consolidate to form America’s largest region. In Istanbul, a rail tunnel now connects Europe with Asia; in the British Isles, the Channel Tunnel brought the United Kingdom closer to Europe, while the Enterprise train service connects Dublin with Belfast. On the Continent, the Gotthard Tunnel, newly completed as the world’s longest and deepest tunnel, helps to connect the EU. And by 2017, a new high speed line in Germany will finally reduce travel time between downtown Berlin and downtown Munich by 2 hours, after being planned following German reunification in 1991, and the reorganization of Deutsche Bahn. The track has been fitted with the new European Train Control System, which harmonizes Europe’s different signaling and protection systems into one.

These projects were completed because leaders agreed to collaborate and work together. The Channel Tunnel and Eurostar are both complex, profitable P3s, and ownership is shared amongst various stakeholders. It wasn’t easy to get these players to work together; the British, living on islands apart from the Continent, have always felt distinct and, perhaps, fearful of the mainland. Would the Chunnel harm national security? But they eventually got it built, even though the UK never joined the Schengen Area, or adopted the Euro. (And even still, since EU citizens could come to the UK to live and work, they recently left the EU primarily due to xenophobia, but also due to the EU’s debt crisis, fears of refugees and terrorists, and so on and so forth.)

Meanwhile, the Enterprise, a train that connects the Republic of Ireland with the UK’s Northern Ireland, is jointly operated by Ireland and Northern Ireland. This service has also not been without its problems; during the Troubles, it was frequently halted by bomb threats, and there was even a Peace Train Organisation, which rented an actual train to campaign for peace. It’s also not the fastest or most reliable service, and now that the UK has left the EU, if Northern Ireland does not secede to join the Republic, there will soon be border control between Ireland and Northern Ireland, impacting service. (Ireland was not in the Schengen Area so that it could remain in the Common Travel Area with the UK, but now that the UK is not in the EU, there may need to be border control between the EU and the UK.) In the U.S., urban planning projects ranging from the Atlanta BeltLine to the Miami Underline are also bridging the gap and filling the void.


Bridging the gap with bicycles in Dublin (RR, 2016)


Bridging the gap in Venice, where the streets are too narrow for vehicles, and most people walk, bike, and use ferries, which run 24/7; frequency varies by route. The canals are too deep for a subway, and the streets are too narrow for an overground railroad. (RR, 2016)


An accessible bridge in Venice (RR, 2016)


Venice (RR, 2016)


Venice (RR, 2016)


Venice (RR, 2016)


In the 21st century, regional collaboration is necessary for success. Brexit may have passed in the UK, but Staten Island secessionists haven’t yet succeeded with a ‘Staten Isleave’ campaign. This is because most Staten Islanders understand that being a part of NYC has more advantages than being apart from it. Perhaps they see the political battles between New Jersey and New York, regarding funding for the new North River rail tunnels to Penn Station, and don’t want to have to deal with battles with the City, if they were to secede. All of that extra time adds costs to projects, and it’s rather inefficient.

For instance, the Tappan Zee Bridge was built over the longest span of the Hudson River, raising costs, with cheap materials, so it now needs to be replaced while the Brooklyn Bridge, built a century prior, remains standing. It was built over the longest span possible because it was far enough from the grasp of the Port Authority, which governs the Hudson River 25 miles from the State of Liberty. By building outside of their control, New York State’s Thruway Authority (not the Bridge Authority) could maintain control.


Tappan Zee Bridge (RR, 2016)


New York may be a global city akin to London, but London is the capital of the United Kingdom, while New York is not even the capital of the State of New York. Our region’s transit network is prone to far more infighting because we’ve got New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut, all of which are governed from faraway capitals.

Greater London’s transportation is essentially entirely governed by TfL, which is responsible for London’s network of principal road routes (and congestion pricing), for various rail networks including the London Underground, London Overground, Docklands Light Railway, and TfL Rail, for London’s trams, buses and taxis, for cycling provision, and for river services. The underlying services are provided by a mixture of wholly owned subsidiary companies (principally London Underground), by private sector franchisees (the remaining rail services, trams and most buses) and by licensees (some buses, taxis and river services). If the Tube is delayed, Parliament knows about it, and does something about it. This would be equivalent to an agency in our region operating most of the functions provided by the MTA, NJT, ConnDOT, Port Authority, and DOT, and it would also mean that our region would not be governed by faraway places. Moreover, it could mean that we’d have better incentives for performance, since many services in Greater London are privatized. (To be fair, London was ‘governed’ by Brussels until Brexit.)

New York once had a plan for the consolidation of our regional rail network, and it was published by Tri-State, the region’s MPO that has since been severed into separate MPOs for each state.

Decades ago, with the City in dire financial straits, the State had to rescue the City’s unified subway system and bring it under MTA control. The unified IRT, BMT, and IND system was governed by the NYC Board of Transportation from 1940 until 1953, when it was replaced by the New York City Transit Authority. As a public authority, NYCTA was more removed from City politics than the former Board of Transportation, so it could raise the fares and set transit policy more effectively. Technically, NYC continues to own the subways, but leases them to NYCTA, which became part of the MTA when Governor Rockefeller and Mayor Lindsay brought Robert Moses’ Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority into the MTA, and used the toll profits to help fund the NYCTA. As a related part of this deal, the union received a generous retirement agreement, and many employees with extensive experience soon retired, creating a lack of institutional knowledge. But, this streamlining stopped at the state border, with a few exceptions, such as contracts with New Jersey Transit for MNR service on the Port Jervis and Pascack Valley lines, and contracts with Connecticut for Metro-North service on the New Haven line.

Streamlining can be difficult, however. Courtesy of NextCity:

While it is theoretically the master, in practice the MTA remains a very loose coordinating body, a bossy group that constituent agencies see more as a hinderance than a help. In 2002 there were plans to merge the two commuter railroads — Metro-North, which serves the city’s northern suburbs, and the Long Island Rail Road — into an entity called MTA Rail Road, but they never got anywhere.

One aspect of the 2002 reorganization did end up happening, when major construction projects across the various railroads were merged, a year later, into what is now known as MTA Capital Construction. But far from being a model of efficiency, Capital Construction has, in the intervening decade, proven itself as the most inept part of a very troubled transit authority. Its failure is most obvious in the East Side Access project, where the MTA is building a new Long Island Rail Road line from Queens into Manhattan, along with a new terminal below Metro-North’s Grand Central Terminal.

Grand Central has more tracks than Metro-North knows what to do with, and could have accommodated both existing Metro-North traffic and the new LIRR service out of the same massive, century-old terminal. But Metro-North didn’t want to “share its toys,” as a few people have put it, and so MTA Capital Construction is digging a multibillion-dollar hole in the ground for the exclusive use of the LIRR. It’s been the biggest driver of the project’s monstrous cost overruns, and was a mistake that a true coordinating body should never have signed off on.

Beyond a total lack of coordination, the creation of MTA Capital Construction also destroyed decades of institutional knowledge built up at the New York City Transit Authority, which had hitherto managed the city’s largest transit construction projects.

“They’ve screwed it up,” David Gunn, former Transit Authority chief and all-around American railroad veteran, said of Capital Construction during a phone interview in 2012. “They had a really good construction department at the Transit Authority. For whatever reason they centralized it at the MTA. They drove off or retired some key people at the Transit Authority, and that was a terrible mistake.”

Grand Central brought the trains of the New York Central and Hudson River Railroad, the New York and Harlem Railroad, and the New York and New Haven Railroad together in one large station. Today, railroads of the same agency can’t be brought together in that same station. Instead, LIRR will be deep underground and isolated, taking a long time to access. But, to be fair, the grade necessary for bringing LIRR trains into existing the Grand Central tracks would lower throughput, and they’d also need to figure out how to install over-running third rail for LIRR trains.

East Side Access (RR, 2015)

East Side Access (RR, 2015)


New York Central had electrified with under-running third rail, while LIRR had electrified with over-running third rail. So while B Division subway trains cannot fit in A Division subway tunnels, and while A Division subway trains are dangerously narrow for B Division revenue service, MNR trains cannot operate on over-running third rail territory, because their shoes won’t fit; the same is true for LIRR trains on under-running third rail territory.

The New York, New Haven, and Hartford Railroad electrified with overhead power, so today’s New Haven trains have shoes for under-running third rail as they enter New York Central territory, and also take overhead power along their main corridor. MNR also has hybrid locomotives for service into non-electrified territory, such as northern portions of the Hudson Line. Amtrak’s Empire Service has over-running third rail shoes, because these trains enter Penn Station, and the shoes on the hybrid locomotive are folded up in order to clear MNR’s under-running third rail on the Hudson Line. MNR’s hybrids do not have retractable third rail shoes, and don’t take over-running third rail, so they wouldn’t be able to enter Penn Station. Also, EMUs can’t take the Empire Connection, because it is only electrified at Penn Station.

Similarly, the MNR service from New Haven to football games in the Meadowlands operate with NJT equipment and overhead power. While they’re essentially using Amtrak’s NEC route, which has overhead power, the section of over-running third rail at Sunnyside for the LIRR would cause MNR trains with third rail shoes to not proceed. Overhead power can’t be used for the LIRR, since overhead infrastructure ends when Amtrak heads towards the Hell Gate Bridge at Sunnyside, and third rail power can’t be used in New Jersey, since there’s only overhead power there. Hybrid locomotives would probably be needed, since it would be more expensive to install third rail along the Hell Gate Bridge and in New Jersey, and then build a locomotive that takes over-running and under-running, like the retired EMD FL9, which required extensive maintenance. Once East Side Access is completed, MNR could send some of their trains to Penn, since there’ll be some room for them.

Regional through-running would need to take all of these quirks into account, and coordination with the MTA, ConnDOT, NJT, Amtrak, and freight companies would be necessary.


There’s plenty of room for MNR stations along this Amtrak corridor in the Bronx. (RR, 2016)


Could this structure be returned to station service for Penn Access? (RR, 2016)


Hell Gate Bridge (RR, 2016)


Hell Gate Bridge (RR, 2016)


All of this extra coordination raises costs. Robert Moses was able to fund his projects because the TBTA was self-sufficient, and he also did not need to do much external coordination, since he was a power broker and controlled various political entities. This culture arguably persists in our public authorities today, even though the Port Authority uses its profitable enterprises to subsidize PATH, while the MTA uses Moses’ former empire to help fund mass transit. At one point, the Port Authority was considered as an operator for the New York City Subway, and perhaps that would have caused New Jersey to force the connection between the PATH at the World Trade Center and the IRT along the 6. After all, unlike the MBTA subway (or the PATH), which services many municipalities, the New York City Subway doesn’t leave NYC because it was proposed by the City and contracted out to private operators.


The original railroad, H&M, which owned and operated today’s PATH, had planned for a connection with the IRT, but it never happened. Now that the Port Authority has made a connection impossible with their new WTC hub, it’s doubtful that the PATH will be connected. Even though they run next to the IND 6th Avenue Line, the trains are too narrow for the B Division. (When the IND 6th Avenue Line was being constructed, original proposals included widening the H&M tunnels for IND service, since H&M tunnels were built narrower than IND or BMT tunnels, akin to IRT tunnels. While this level of cooperation wasn’t achieved, the IND did rebuild H&M’s 33rd Street Station, since it needed to be relocated one block south in order to fit the IND 34th Street Station concourse. As a result of this change, H&M closed their 28th Street Station, now too close to their new terminal.)

But rest assured, in any other developed country, the PATH would have been connected with the IRT decades ago (perhaps with the 1 or 6), and a $4 billion project to renovate a terminal would have included a physical connection with the rest of the subway system. But in the United States, founded only by uniting colonies in exchange for ample states’ rights, public authorities would rarely voluntarily elect to share power, and lose their freedom and independence.

True, PATH is regulated by the FRA, not the FTA like the NYC Subway, because it used to share trackage with the PRR between Harrison and Journal Square. While this connection has been severed, it has numerous additional FRA regulations, which raises costs. It could seek to be let loose of the FRA, and if it does, perhaps considerations for a connection to the NYC Subway could be made, or at least, PATH could be shown on the NYC Subway map as a 24/7, underground, rapid transit service in Manhattan and Hudson County, which accepts MetroCard.


PATH in New Jersey (RR, 2016)


Long Island Rail Road had also planned for a connection with the IRT at Atlantic Terminal in Brooklyn, and they even had a ROW for it, while the IRT built a switch, until the ROW was later filled by LIRR ticket booth offices. Atlantic Terminal could have been a station, not a terminal, and the LIRR could have used narrow trains that fit onto subway tracks. The IRT could have granted trackage rights, similar to how the IRT granted rights to the BMT in Queens, or how the LIRR operated joint service with the BRT along the Atlantic Branch. But, Atlantic Terminal fell into decay, and many of its platforms were removed from service; today, there is little remaining evidence of the former ROW. Proposals to extend the LIRR to Lower Manhattan, or to extend the PATH to Atlantic Terminal, continue to surface from time to time.


The LIRR Rockaway Beach Branch was partially converted into the IND Rockaway Line. (RR, 2016)


Yet even within the MTA, operating agencies tend to not want to cooperate with each other; the LIRR’s culture remains quite different from the MNR’s, because unlike the MNR, formed as a new agency from the ashes of Penn Central and Conrail, the LIRR has been around for more than a century. (Though, the 63rd Street Tunnel was planned well, decades ago, as they had the foresight to include a ROW for the LIRR’s East Side Access. And the Roosevelt Island Station is apparently powered by tidal energy generated by turbines under the East River. Plus, the Roosevelt Island Tramway, operated by a contractor for the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation is one of the few forms of mass transit in the City that is not operated by the MTA, but takes the MetroCard and has free transfers to the MTA.)


This is the former ROW from the LIRR to the IRT on July 17, 1908 (Courtesy of Arrt’s Arrchives)


And the same ROW in 1978 (Courtesy of Arrt’s Arrchives)


It was then filled by ticket offices during station renovation efforts. (Courtesy of Arrt’s Arrchives)


This is how it looked like prior to the currently completed renovation. (Courtesy of Arrt’s Arrchives)


Now, due to East Side Access, the Atlantic branch of the LIRR may become a scoot service, at least partially, because Jamaica Station‘s platforms are set up for three-way transfers to and from City Zone terminals: 1-2-3, 4-5, and then 6-7-8. Trains are coordinated to arrive at certain times, and passengers can travel between the opened doors of the train on the center track (2 or 7), to track 1 or 3, or 6 or 8. Diesel trains to Long Island City will continue to operate from eastern Long Island, providing direct service to NYC, and Penn Station and GCT service will also eventually be provided, meaning that some Atlantic trains will be operating between Downtown Brooklyn and Jamaica, at a new platform that’s being constructed.


Retail at Jamaica Station (RR, 2016)


LIRR offices were expanded from this old station building to the new building on the other side of the station, next to the AirTrain. Also, notice that the subway grates are elevated from the sidewalk, to prevent flooding. (RR, 2016)


If this service becomes isolated, perhaps it could be turned over to the NYC Subway. The Long Island Rail Road is one of only two American commuter rail networks to use third rail power (with the other being Metro-North), so the connection to the subway would not be too difficult. Unlike Metro-North, LIRR uses over-running third rail, because it had planned on connecting with the IRT, which used over-running third rail because under-running third rail hadn’t been invented yet. Over-running third rail causes more problems than under-running third rail, because it is more dangerous, and it also is more exposed to the elements. But, it’s there and it’s not going to be changed.

In the 1900s, this branch was considered a subway branch because it had been placed in a tunnel along Atlantic Avenue and electrified, due to a ban on steam locomotives within the City of Brooklyn. Many stations along the street were closed. Maybe it will become a part of the subway, or maybe it won’t; hopefully, it won’t simply get demolished, considering it’s the fastest rail route in Brooklyn, and it doesn’t even change slope by going above ground for portions of the branch. It would be a complete waste to be demolished, since Atlantic Terminal was just updated, and the elevated trestle was repaired, along with station improvements. Keeping it would also provide a fast link to JFK Airport via the AirTrain at Jamaica.

Atlantic Avenue is not only an LIRR corridor. In fact, it is a major east-west vehicular corridor in Brooklyn, but it is also one of the city’s most dangerous. Ironically, despite providing for mobility, it also creates immobility in the neighborhood, as it is far from an urban street. Vehicles speed along the corridor, which is lined with auto body shops. However, DOT and DCP have been working to redesign the corridor to be pedestrian-friendly, focusing on improving safety and convenience for pedestrians and bicyclists, and also improving transit access and, potentially, exploring rezoning. Mayor Bill de Blasio’s affordable housing plans have identified the Atlantic Avenue Corridor and East New York as priority areas for renewing, enhancing, and expanding affordable housing options. The City and the MTA should work together to improve this area.

New York will only continue to thrive if it is connected and coordinated. But New Yorkers do not understand that renewing, enhancing, and expanding infrastructure requires temporary inconvenience. Uproar ensues at any change, accompanied by fears of gentrification and displacement. Naturally, this makes politicians nervous, and limits the scale of projects, while raising costs.

In the end, it is not just about physically connecting railroads. It’s about socially, economically, and politically connecting people through collaboration. Instead of building walls, we should be bridging the gaps, filling the voids, and thinking beyond boundaries, as Masdar City has done in the UAE.


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Masdar City (RR, 2016)

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32 Comments on “Filling the Void”

  1. Chief November 14, 2016 at 4:29 am #

    Trump, the pussy grabbing wall building climate change denying healthcare abolishing tax dodging scandal shit spewing president, really won around 25% of the country. Not even the majority of voters. The deplorable behavior of some shouldn’t be overlooked, but neither should the economic needs of an entire region of the country… It’s extremely arrogant to just dismiss what people in those states have been telling democrats and republicans for years. It’s not just me by the way, apparently Bill Clinton told the HRC campaign the same thing at several junctures.

    I do think the electoral college is good, it protects the interests of smaller states, but it should be proportional like Maine and Nebraska. Otherwise, with the House fixed at 435, the proportions are going to keep small states like WY with 3 electoral votes, as NY shrinks even though it is growing, compared to places like TX, AZ whch are growing more… but, we live in a republic that was founded on principles of limited federal government and state’s rights. Electoral college is fair because smaller states aren’t completely ignored. If you do not like Trump, you should be happy that we have strong municipal and state powers and a limited federal government.

    All the redistricting after the census to keep that fixed 435 of course causes issues due to gerrymandering. That should also be fixed.

    I do think it is funny that liberals were complaining trump would say the elction is riggered, and now they’re the ones calling it unfair because hillary won popular vote.

    This is not going to be nazi germany, we have hundreds of years of democracy and strong institutions, unlike weimar germany. And go to canada? Lol, with all their tar sands? Give me a break liberals. Obama has deported more illegal immigrants than any president in recent memory. And do you think he got anything done for climate change? Not really… will trump? not really… most of that change can happen with local and state governments. Maybe less regulation will be a good thing, so we can frack more and get less reliant on foreign energy. If it is profitable to have solar or wind, then let’s do that too.

    From humans of new york
    “I feel homeless. Like this isn’t the place that I thought it was. I feel like I don’t understand where I am. Where we all are. Last week students started chanting ‘build the wall’ in the lunchroom of a local middle school. Some of the Hispanic children started crying. If you’re the principal– how are you supposed to stop that behavior? If the president can behave in a certain way, how are you supposed to tell a child that it’s unacceptable? How does that hold up? It breaks my heart. I’ve had friends reach out to me. They’ve told me: ‘I understand the reasons that you’re upset. But those aren’t the reasons I voted for him.’ And I’m just starting to understand that. I’m realizing that a lot of people wanted change more than they wanted kids not to cry. We all have our own code of ethics. My bottom line happened to be tolerance. Their bottom line was abortion. Or the Supreme Court. I guess we all have the right to choose our own bottom line.”


  2. Stickler November 14, 2016 at 10:09 am #

    There was still more ridership in the 1940s. I guess people whined less about being in tight areas and they were skinnier and there were also more elevated trains.

    Also, MTA Bus now consolidates NYCT buses and the old DOT franchises. So that’s a good example of cooperation for all those articulated, natural gas buses…

    I also think the MTA collects revenue for the AirTrain and PATH and redistributes, since you can use a MetroCard for them. (same for the Roosevelt Tram)… Sounds like complicated financing…


  3. Ambassador November 20, 2016 at 1:50 pm #

    With Trump’s climate agenda, what will be the point of any of this? The subways will be flooded in another few decades almost every high tide. Millions more will become refugees, making today’s refugee crisis seem small in comparison. More hatred, xenophobia, fighting against health care benefits, etc. Thank you, Trump. For all your racism, sexism, attacks on people who cannot defend themselves. Blacks who have for centuries faced discrimination, assumed to be criminals/dangerous, never been understood… Imagine walking down the block, people avoiding you out of fear, they have to prove their worth every day…

    I can if I wish arrange to be in the company of people of my race most of the time.
    If I should need to move, I can be pretty sure of renting or purchasing housing in an area which I can afford and in which I would want to live.
    I can be pretty sure that my neighbors in such a location will be neutral or pleasant to me.
    I can go shopping alone most of the time, pretty well assured that I will not be followed or harassed.
    I can turn on the television or open to the front page of the paper and see people of my race widely represented.
    When I am told about our national heritage or about “civilization,” I am shown that people of my color made it what it is.
    I can be sure that my children will be given curricular materials that testify to the existence of their race.
    If I want to, I can be pretty sure of finding a publisher for this piece on white privilege.
    I can go into a music shop and count on finding the music of my race represented, into a supermarket and find the staple foods that fit with my cultural traditions, into a hairdresser’s shop and find someone who can cut my hair.
    Whether I use checks, credit cards or cash, I can count on my skin color not to work against the appearance of financial reliability.
    I can arrange to protect my children most of the time from people who might not like them.
    I can swear, or dress in second-hand clothes, or not answer letters, without having people attribute these choices to the bad morals, the poverty, or the illiteracy of my race.
    I can speak in public to a powerful male group without putting my race on trial.
    I can do well in a challenging situation without being called a credit to my race.
    I am never asked to speak for all the people of my racial group.
    I can remain oblivious of the language and customs of persons of color who constitute the world’s majority without feeling in my culture any penalty for such oblivion.
    I can criticize our government and talk about how much I fear its policies and behavior without being seen as a cultural outsider.
    I can be pretty sure that if I ask to talk to “the person in charge,” I will be facing a person of my race.
    If a traffic cop pulls me over or if the IRS audits my tax return, I can be sure I haven’t been singled out because of my race.
    I can easily buy posters, postcards, picture books, greeting cards, dolls, toys, and children’s magazines featuring people of my race.
    I can go home from most meetings of organizations I belong to feeling somewhat tied in, rather than isolated, out-of-place, outnumbered, unheard, held at a distance, or feared.
    I can take a job with an affirmative action employer without having co-workers on the job suspect that I got it because of race.
    I can choose public accommodations without fearing that people of my race cannot get in or will be mistreated in the places I have chosen.
    I can be sure that if I need legal or medical help, my race will not work against me.
    If my day, week, or year is going badly, I need not ask of each negative episode or situation whether it has racial overtones.
    I can choose blemish cover or bandages in “flesh” color and have them more less match my skin.

    I repeatedly forgot each of the realizations on this list until I wrote it down. For me, white privilege has turned out to be an elusive and fugitive subject. The pressure to avoid it is great, for in facing it I must give up the myth of meritocracy. If these things are true, this is not such a free country; one’s life is not what one makes it; many doors open for certain people through no virtues of their own.

    In unpacking this invisible knapsack of white privilege, I have listed conditions of daily experience that I once took for granted. Nor did I think of any of these perquisites as bad for the holder. I now think that we need a more finely differentiated taxonomy of privilege, for some of these varieties are only what one would want for everyone in a just society, and others give license to be ignorant, oblivious, arrogant and destructive.

    I see a pattern running through the matrix of white privilege, a pattern of assumptions that were passed on to me as a white person. There was one main piece of cultural turf; it was my own turf, and I was among those who could control the turf. My skin color was an asset for any move I was educated to want to make. I could think of myself as belonging in major ways and of making social systems work for me. I could freely disparage, fear, neglect, or be oblivious to anything outside of the dominant cultural forms. Being of the main culture, I could also criticize it fairly freely.

    In proportion as my racial group was being made confident, comfortable, and oblivious, other groups were likely being made inconfident, uncomfortable, and alienated. Whiteness protected me from many kinds of hostility, distress and violence, which I was being subtly trained to visit, in turn, upon people of color.

    For this reason, the word “privilege” now seems to me misleading. We usually think of privilege as being a favored state, whether earned or conferred by birth or luck. Yet some of the conditions I have described here work systematically to overempower certain groups. Such privilege simply confers dominance because of one’s race or sex.

    I want, then, to distinguish between earned strength and unearned power conferred systemically. Power from unearned privilege can look like strength when it is in fact permission to escape or to dominate. But not all of the privileges on my list are inevitably damaging. Some, like the expectation that neighbors will be decent to you, or that your race will not count against you in court, should be the norm in a just society. Others, like the privilege to ignore less powerful people, distort the humanity of the holders as well as the ignored groups.

    We might at least start by distinguishing between positive advantages, which we can work to spread, and negative types of advantage, which unless rejected will always reinforce our present hierarchies. For example, the feeling that one belongs within the human circle, as Native Americans say, should not be seen as privilege for a few. Ideally it is an unearned entitlement. At present, since only a few have it, it is an unearned advantage for them. This paper results from a process of coming to see that some of the power that I originally saw as attendant on being a human being in the United States consisted in unearned advantage and conferred dominance.

    The question is: “Having described white privilege, what will I do to end it?
    I have met very few men who are truly distressed about systemic, unearned male advantage and conferred dominance. And so one question for me and others like me is whether we will be like them, or whether we will get truly distressed, even outraged, about unearned race advantage and conferred dominance, and, if so, what will we do to lessen them. In any case, we need to do more work in identifying how they actually affect our daily lives. Many, perhaps most, of our white students in the U.S. think that racism doesn’t affect them because they are not people of color, they do not see “whiteness” as a racial identity. In addition, since race and sex are not the only advantaging systems at work, we need similarly to examine the daily experience of having age advantage, or ethnic advantage, or physical ability, or advantage related to nationality, religion, or sexual orientation.

    Difficulties and dangers surrounding the task of finding parallels are many. Since racism, sexism, and heterosexism are not the same, the advantages associated with them should not be seen as the same. In addition, it is hard to disentangle aspects of unearned advantage which rest more on social class, economic class, race, religion, sex, and ethnic identity than on other factors. Still, all of the oppressions are interlocking, as the Combahee River Collective Statement of 1977 continues to remind us eloquently.

    One factor seems clear about all of the interlocking oppressions. They take both active forms, which we can see, and embedded forms, which as a member of the dominant group one is taught not to see. In my class and place, I did not see myself as a racist because I was taught to recognize racism only in individual acts of meanness by members of my group, never in invisible systems conferring unsought racial dominance on my group from birth.

    Disapproving of the systems won’t be enough to change them. I was taught to think that racism could end if white individuals changed their attitudes. But a “white” skin in the United States opens many doors for whites whether or not we approve of the way dominance has been conferred on us. Individual acts can palliate, but cannot end, these problems.

    To redesign social systems, we need first to acknowledge their colossal unseen dimensions. The silences and denials surrounding privilege are the key political tool here. They keep the thinking about equality or equity incomplete, protecting unearned advantage and conferred dominance by making these taboo subjects. Most talk by whites about equal opportunity seems to me now to be about equal opportunity to try to get into a position of dominance while denying that systems of dominance exist.

    It seems to me that obliviousness about white advantage, like obliviousness about male advantage, is kept strongly inculturated in the United States so as to maintain the myth of meritocracy, the myth that democratic choice is equally available to all. Keeping most people unaware that freedom of confident action is there for just a small number of people props up those in power and serves to keep power in the hands of the same groups that have most of it already.

    Although systemic change takes many decades, there are pressing questions for me and I imagine for some others like me if we raise our daily consciousness on the perquisites of being light-skinned. What will we do with such knowledge? As we know from watching men, it is an open question whether we will choose to use unearned advantage to weaken hidden systems of advantage, and whether we will use any of our arbitrarily awarded power to try to reconstruct power systems on a broader base.


  4. Honestalb November 23, 2016 at 12:15 pm #

    This is a good point. Stop worrying about when the Second Avenue subway will open. Worry about the bigger problems, such as the high costs and constant delays, the crowding on the A Division (those trains and platforms are narrower and at more capacity), and the planned and unplanned work on the B Division (generally more maintenance work), etc.

    Platform controllers… are they doing anything? Does anyone know? Can’t conductors just tap into the station PA and tell people to stop holding doors? Ridership has been going down, but delays keep going up. there was more ridership in the 40s, I’m sure, but probably fewer delays because safety standards weren’t as strict, signals were more relaxed, people were not as fat, electronic data was not collected so it wasn’t as accurate, etc. now, external groups can collect data for the mta, bus gps/gtfs indicators are all in the public domain!

    Ironically passengers are more informed of delays than most MTA employees, especially the platform controllers and booth agents, who don’t have internet access! Though I think they are adding tablets for them, so they can see things, be aware of special event calendar changes, etc.

    Maybe they can charge a peak fare on rush hour. But I don’t know, probably won’t happen for equity issues. What else can they do, in a subway built for fewer people at the time? Change signals? Cbtc? Extend platforms? Relax safety rules?

    Also, lol, apparently newer trains can calculate the weight of the cars (manually, so it is not done because it is too time consuming), but it could be a good way to see if people are getting fatter over time! Maybe time to widen those turnstiles for better flow!


    • Carcar November 23, 2016 at 3:59 pm #

      As with any working railroad, communication between train operators, dispatchers, station personnel and passengers is critical. Failures will result in delays, accidents, and even fatalities. It is therefore important that a comprehensive signal system operated by a central authority be in place. And, platform controllers:

      newer trains will have wider doors, and they can recycle locally so the whole train doesn’t reopen if 1 door is held… signals are being fixed, schedules are being changed… but none of that matters if motormen still enter stations and drive so slowly… if platform controllers do not keep people from holding doors, letting them out first, making people move to center of car, etc… the subway was designed for speed! amtrak speeds by passengers waiting on platforms, the subway can enter a platform at more than 5 mph.


  5. DESIGN AND BUILD November 23, 2016 at 1:59 pm #

    NYC is facing tremendous challenges. The subway has increased ridership between 2009 and 2014 dramatically, the change in ridership between 2009 and 2014 is more than any other system in the US in TOTAL!
    So, what can we do to get rid of this congestion? CBTC? Platform extensions? Better regional connections and payment methods, to the LIRR? Bus rapid transit? Ferries? MoveNY tolling?

    And, is congestion even a bad thing? When we build new lines, we should be up-zoning, using that developer money to pay for infrastructure. But will those developers build affordable housing? Half of New York is in poverty, and our city cannot be dynamic, inclusive, resilient, and healthy with so much inequality.

    Should we raise minimum wage, increase access to health care, education, reduce GHG, improve water and air, reduce landfill and improve access to parks, improve building efficiency and transit, telecomm, water, energy infrastructure for rising seas? How can businesses, communities, and the public help?

    NY is the center of commerce, culture, trade, innovation, diversity… from the erie canal to the subway, aqueducts, and world trade center, it’s pioneered in the past and hopefully will continue to do so socially, economically, environmentally. To be the gateway for immigrants, the welcome mat for the world. There are more students in NYC than there’s total population in boston.

    Mayor de blasio is quite progressive. Progressives of the past got health boards and fire districts and public parks, now he is expanding access to pre-k, IDs, 311, LinkNYC, public art, internet, school meals, bike lanes, trees, and making us more resilient against superstorms, unemployment, aging, violence, population growth, development, etc.

    NY is blessed with a deep harbor and rivers. It survived 9/11, the recession, and hurricane sandy. It is safe, full of tourists, the waterfront is being reclaimed, there are so many things to do here. Soon there will be 9 million people!

    The airports are clogged without a one seat rail ride, penn station and the bus terminal are clogged, trucks clog the streets and tear up the roads, buses still don’t all have real time information, metro-north doesn’t come into penn station… bike lanes are dangerous…

    Maybe smartphones can help, as they help disabled pedestrians? And more cameras to enforce bus lanes, signal priority, if approved by Albany? Everything seems over budget and behind schedule, why? Because procurement takes so long, permitting rules are so complex, they need DESIGN-BUILD to save time and money, increase transparency and accountability!

    I guess that’s the answer. To solving bureaucracy, high costs, etc. DESIGN-BUILD!


    • design and build November 23, 2016 at 3:13 pm #

      New track laying between Central Islip and Ronkonkoma for the LIRR Double Track project is complete, and work on the final phase between Farmingdale and Central Islip is already underway and on schedule to be completed in 2018. Governor Cuomo made the announcement today in Hauppauge. The Double Track, extending from Farmingdale to Ronkonkoma, will dramatically reduce delays on the LIRR and enable more off peak service in both directions by adding 13 miles of parallel track. Together with the full MTA eTix rollout, the LIRR Third Track proposal on the Main Line, East Side Access, and four new Metro-North Stations in the Bronx, the milestone reached today moves the MTA’s commuter rail priorities forward in the Governor’s $100 billion Infrastructure and Development Plan for New York.

      “New York State is moving aggressively to bring our mass transit systems into the 21st century — not just to meet the needs of our current population, but to foster smart, sensible and sustainable growth,” Governor Cuomo said. “Adding a second track to the Ronkonkoma Branch is a project has been talked about for decades, but was never set into motion. By pairing innovative equipment with our strategy of design-build construction, we are accelerating the pace of these types of critical infrastructure projects to improve Long Island commutes and strengthen the region’s economy. Put simply, we are building today for a better tomorrow.”

      Governor Cuomo today toured the Double Track site in Central Islip with MTA Chairman and CEO Thomas Prendergast, where the New Track Construction machine was laying the final stretch of Phase I track. The New Track Construction machine lays track more than ten times faster than the MTA has ever done before, saving $2.4 million in construction costs. Photos of the Governor at the construction site will be available on the Governor’s Flikr page. Video of the tour and the machine, as well as this afternoon’s Double Track press conference will follow.

      MTA Chairman and CEO Thomas F. Prendergast said: “The Governor has challenged us to move more quickly and efficiently in all we do and to use new, innovative ideas to advance projects. With the use of this new track-laying technology, MTA will save $2.4 million in the first phase of Double Track alone and bring us a big step forward in reducing delays and providing better service on the Ronkonkoma Branch in both directions.”

      Completion of New Track Laying for Phase I

      Ridership on the LIRR’s Ronkonkoma Branch is more than 48,000 each weekday. With just one track along most of the 18-mile route between Farmingdale and Ronkonkoma, the LIRR can operate only a limited number of trains and lacks operational flexibility in the event of a disruption. If one train becomes disabled, all other trains – coming from both east and west – have no way around the problem.

      The Double Track project will enable the LIRR to provide more frequent off-peak service to the Ronkonkoma Branch in both directions, with off-peak service going from one train every hour, to one train every 30 minutes in both directions. The project will reduce delays associated with service disruptions by giving the railroad flexibility to go around obstacles that it cannot currently in single track territory.

      Work for the Double Track project is being done in two phases using design-build contracting; funding for the project of $387.2 million has been secured in its entirety by Governor Cuomo and the State Legislature.

      Phase I adds 3.5 miles of track between Central Islip and Ronkonkoma, and new track construction of this segment will be complete as early as today. Phase II work is already underway, which primarily focuses on building the remaining track between Farmingdale and Central Islip, as well as signal installation the entire Farmingdale to Ronkonkema distance. The MTA awarded design-build contracts for these components in June. In large part because design-build contracting holds private construction management firms accountable for achieving deadlines set by the MTA, the Double Track is on schedule to open as initially announced in 2018.

      Using Specialized Machinery Laying Track 10x Faster

      The Double Track project marks the MTA’s first-ever use of the New Track Construction machine, which is capable of laying one mile of track per day – more than ten times faster than the 500 feet of track per day that the MTA manually laid previously. By speeding up this process, the MTA is significantly improving productivity, increasing safety and reducing the potential of construction disruption to local communities. Use of the machine reduces the cost of laying Phase I’s 3.5 miles of track from more than $3.6 million to $1.2 million, saving approximately $2.4 million.

      The machine is pulled from the front end by a bulldozer along the route of the new track. It automatically handles the flow of materials, negating the use of overhead cranes for track construction. The machine’s ability to bring in supplies by rail negates the need for trucking supplies in. The MTA plans to use the machine in future projects in response to the Governor’s challenge to increase efficiency in its projects.

      In concert with the proposed Main Line Expansion Project, which would add a third track to the heavily utilized segment between Floral Park and Hicksville, the construction of the Double Track between Farmingdale and Ronkonkoma will support Long Island-wide resiliency by enabling the LIRR to provide better Main Line Service options in conditions where either the Montauk Branch or Port Jefferson Branch is compromised because of severe weather.

      In addition to the Double Track and the proposed LIRR Expansion Project, the railroad is also moving forward with other projects that will help improve railroad operations, including the Jamaica Capacity Improvement Project which streamlines the Jamaica track layout and modernizes the switch and signal system; the expansion of the train storage yard in Ronkonkoma and the addition of pocket tracks along the Port Washington and Babylon Branches.


      • Regulation Rail Road December 9, 2016 at 11:06 am #

        Railroad operations are cool! You can’t see all the cables under the tracks, routing the signals to control center… and most commuter rails are push-pull, the carriages can be connected so the rear cab connects to locomotive, and then trains don’t need to waste time and money turning around at terminals. Amtrak meanwhile doesn’t have push-pull on some trains because it turns around at South Station loop or the wye in DC. Since it would confuse business class passengers who want the location of their cab to be always in the same place. (Acela has locomotives on both ends for redundancy and extra power, so they don’t need to turn around.)

        Quite complicated, all the leases, agreements for railroads, freight (like that Selkirk Hurdle route) civil service issues (bridges and tunnels is City employees, but not the railroads, but PATH is regulated by FRA even though they severed their railroad connection, but they need FRA regulations still.)

        Then on the other side of the Hudson:

        “The original line was opened in segments by a number of different companies from the 1860s to the opening of the full line in the 1880s, by which time it was known as the New York, West Shore and Buffalo Railway.[2] Through mergers, leases, and takeovers, it became part of the New York Central Railroad and then Conrail in 1976. When the majority of Conrail was broken up in 1999, its River Line was assigned to CSX.

        While not part of the River Subdivision, the Poughkeepsie Bridge “Walkway over the Hudson” crosses over the River Subdivision. This location offers a spectacular vantage point overlooking the River SD trackage, and as a backdrop when photographing the River Subdivision from the ground in and around the vicinity of MP QR 72. The views are spectacular to the north, and with a good zoom lens, a series of s-curves can be photographed.

        At Selkirk, NY; the River Subdivision ends at “CP-SK” (MP QR 132.6) where it curves west and merges into the Castleton Subdivision, and of which this location is the extreme eastern end of Selkirk Yard

        mostly of long distance trains composed of intermodal, TOFC (Trailer On Flat Car), unit, and mixed commodity trains. Traffic density varies, but on weekdays, you can expect to see 15 to 20 trains during daylight hours. Saturdays can provide 18-24 trains during the day, Sundays may only have 8-14 trains. Again, this can vary greatly, depending on available crews, track work, etc. You can expect to see 2-5 oil trains and 1-2 ethanol trains per day.(2015)

        The route holds great promise since it travels through the heart of New Jersey Transit Bus Operations Midtown “commutershed”, with four bus routes (165,167, 168 & 177) running well beyond capacity.

        The right-of-way has space for four tracks from Croxton Yard northwards to Dumont. Issues in starting commuter rail service are:

        CSX owns the trackage and uses them heavily to link the NYC area to their national network at Selkirk yard in upstate New York.
        CSX offered to allow NJ Transit use of the ROW if the agency constructed sound barriers along the entire length of track for commuter operations.
        A City Terminal is not connected to this line, since the Weehawken & Pavonia Terminals were demolished decades ago. A loop connecting this line with the North River Tunnels into New York Penn Station where the West Shore Tracks pass under the Northeast Corridor just south of NJ Route 3 and Tonnelle Ave would directly connect this line into New York Penn Station. This configuration would provide a 25-minute travel time to New York Penn Station, but would bypass Secaucus Junction, leaving the West Shore with no transfer connection to the rest of New Jersey other than a possible transfer station on Tonnelle Ave with the Hudson Bergen Light Rail.
        With these considerable construction issues, as well as no available space in New York Penn Station for West Shore Line trains, this proposal was put on hold until capacity into New York is increased (then with the completion of the ARC Tunnel, now Gateway Tunnel).”

        This connects to trucks, not hoboken.

        At West Point:


    • Horace November 30, 2016 at 11:15 am #

      They need to be able to run them closer together, with CBTC. Open-gangway trains, wider doors, more space on platforms… more BRT and water taxis…

      But you know, over crowding increases even when ridership decreases, according to the board books. I just hope people don’t develop an anti-development mindset, and assume that New York can’t accept more people. After all, developers are paying for GCT capacity improvements.

      Costs are rising, new crews are slower, flagging changes have impacted service, there’s more and more planned work… labor and pension costs, tough times ahead.

      As every New Yorker knows, the subways are crowded—
record-breaking, claustrophobia-inducing crowded. Some 1.8 billion riders piled in last year, up more than 11% from 2009, as the city’s job rolls climbed to a record 4.2 million and its population to 8.6 million. Unlimited-ride MetroCards, low crime, expanded free transfers and the issuance of 500,000 free or reduced-fare student MetroCards has also led to more transit use. The system has simply not kept up. Some cars date to the 1960s and 22% of signals are 70 to 80 years old, leading to breakdowns, delays and slower speeds. With the city and economy still growing, things are poised to get much worse. Transit advocates are deeply concerned. “A generation subjected to severe crowding and growing 
unreliability is neither happy nor overly optimistic,” Straphangers 
Campaign head Gene Russianoff said earlier this year.

      Many New Yorkers do not know who is in charge of the agency that runs the subways, buses and commuter railroads. A recent poll found 47% of New Yorkers think it’s the mayor’s job, but the Metropolitan Transportation Authority answers to Gov. Andrew Cuomo. He appoints the MTA’s chairman, CEO and a plurality of board members, and he crafts the state budget, on which the agency relies for billions of dollars. Mayor Bill de Blasio, pressured by Cuomo, reluctantly increased city funding for a system he doesn’t control. Generally, politicians use the MTA as a punching bag to score points with constituents while city-based advocacy groups such as the Straphangers and the Riders Alliance are shoestring operations with little pull.

      For decades, transit investment fell short. The private companies and city agencies that were precursors to the MTA were not permitted to raise fares, which remained a nickel from the day the subway opened in 1904 until the late 1940s. That necessitated a government takeover, but the state and city likewise underfunded transit, and the MTA struggled to maintain the system, let alone improve it. In the 1970s, the agency even considered shutting down some subway lines on their last legs. A series of five-year capital plans saved the system by pumping in billions of dollars, but the MTA is still playing catch-up. It has added just one subway station, at Hudson Yards, since 1989. Today, with fare discounts, the average subway ride generates less revenue for the MTA than in 1996.

      For all the complaints and paucity of political allies, the system runs 24/7, unlike its counterparts in London and Paris, and is slowly expanding. “If only New Yorkers knew how good they have it” is a constant refrain from out-of-town visitors who marvel over subway service at 2:15 a.m. on a Tuesday (even if the late-night waits can stretch for 20 minutes). Plus, the 469 stations are the most of any such system, putting the subways within a half-mile of 73% of city residents. The first leg of the long-awaited Second Avenue subway will open within the next few months, and other projects are underway or planned to better link the subways to the Long Island Rail Road, Metro-North, NJ Transit and Amtrak

      Positive signs are on the horizon. Cuomo this summer announced the MTA would introduce open-ended subway cars—standard in modern transit systems—which can increase capacity by 10%. The MTA has deployed platform attendants to urge people to enter and exit subway cars faster, cutting down delays, and, at Cuomo’s behest, plans to speed the installation of countdown clocks. The popular displays reveal when the next trains are coming, giving some riders confidence to wait for a less crowded train or take another route. Other developments could also divert riders: In conjunction with the city, the MTA is adding Select Bus Service routes, which are faster than regular bus lines, and the city plans streetcar service linking the Brooklyn and Queens waterfronts. Improvements underway, including the East Side Access project, will benefit users of Grand Central Terminal and Penn Station. In a few years, a long-
anticipated replacement for MetroCards could speed turnstile entry and be accepted by commuter rail lines. Even with the city’s population and subway use growing, straphangers should notice more elbow room before long.


  6. Partnerships too November 23, 2016 at 3:09 pm #

    P3s are nice, so are BIDs and non-profits, which maintain many of our parks and business districts. They help to clean them, put up lighting, street furniture, programming and marketing and branding, WiFi, maps, networking opportunities, etc. If there is local support, it’ll happen, and non-profits and governments don’t pay into the assessment, neither do residences really, so they need private businesses for it to work, for the demographics and vision to pan out. Here are some resources if u are interested:


  7. Historybuff 7834 November 23, 2016 at 3:38 pm #

    Our country is a big one, and unlike Europe, it’s hard to travel internationally, because it’s more expensive and it takes more time; plus, many Americans are not guaranteed time off, as in European countries. But if one were to travel, one would see that Americans in particular are striving toward a political and social ideal. Our heritage is founded upon this; we want to be part of a revolution, we want to be independent from the other. Thus, we find solace in our silos – our single-family homes, our school districts, our municipalities, our public authorities, our counties, our states. But our country’s increasing density and our world’s 21st century economy requires connection, not isolation. Our regions battle within themselves, rather than coordinate, together.

    We take pride in our polarization – our independence – rather than in thinking beyond borders. And today, America is more lonely and more polarized. According to Robert Putnam’s groundbreaking book, Bowling Alone, we are signing fewer petitions, belonging to fewer organizations that meet, and knowing our neighbors less, while meeting with friends less frequently, and even socializing with our families less often. He argues that changes in work, family structure, age, suburban life, television, computers, women’s roles and other factors have contributed to this decline.

    This is distinctly American. Many groups that arrived here were fleeing persecution, and sought a new social and political ideal in the Americas. They brought their families and the ideas and technologies of the United Kingdom, along with a Protestant work ethic that emphasized hard work, discipline, and frugality. In the northern states, complete with ample navigable rivers and natural resources, factories were built, fueled by cheap immigrant labor, and dense cities were formed. In the rural southern states, a warmer climate allowed agricultural slavery to take hold at a scale impossible in the north (and in Canada).


  8. Historybuff 7834 November 23, 2016 at 3:43 pm #

    …Also, elsewhere in the country, cities are shrinking. When cities grow, planners plan for growth. When cities shrink, few planners actively plan for decline. Rather, they may choose to ignore it, or fight it. But perhaps some areas are not going to bounce back to their peak – such as Detroit – and it is best to plan for decline?

    While Detroit’s suburbs are stable, the city continues to shrink. Many industries have left the city, and office parks abound outside municipal limits. Factories are collapsing, brick by brick, and school buildings may not be too far behind. Today’s Rust Belt used to be a Patent Belt. It was the Silicon Valley of the 20th century, crowded and diverse, especially after the Great Migration brought African-Americans out of the Southern United States. African-Americans became an urbanized demographic, moving for jobs and from oppression, leaving behind southern states, some of which had a majority black population.

    Then came race riots, white flight, highways, urban renewal, and deindustrialization. Downtown’s empty spaces were turned into parking spaces in order to attract suburbanites to the CBD for working and playing, and while it made it convenient to commute, it helped to destroy the dynamism that would otherwise attract businesses and shoppers in the first place. Rather, downtowns need quality office space, parks, shopping, and a narrative. And cities need good schools, and money to pay for cops and firemen. Rather than build a new parking lot in a declining city, perhaps add an urban farm or a park?

    Even though gentrification could be seen as a blessing for these places, shrinking does not need to necessarily be a bad process. Vacant lots and abandoned buildings need to be protected and maintained, and perhaps the road network can also be slimmed, while new development is prioritized in clusters next to anchor institutions. Transit networks can also prioritize these corridors, speeding between them in order to connect a slimming city faster and more efficiently.


  9. Mosesphile November 23, 2016 at 4:33 pm #

    Your Masdar photos are impressive. It is easier to build something like that in the UAE, where there are no real democratic rights. For instance:

    One undisputed winner emerged from the presidential debate Monday night: Dubai International Airport. The Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump praised the facility as he slammed beleaguered U.S. aviation hubs. “Our airports are like from a third world country,” he said (echoing comments Vice-President Joe Biden made in 2014). “You land at LaGuardia, you land at Kennedy, you land at LAX, you land at Newark, and you come in from Dubai and Qatar and you see these incredible—you come in from China, you see these incredible airports, and you land—we’ve become a third world country.”

    This was one of the few moments of factual clarity in 90 minutes otherwise marked by Trump’s word-salad-tossing and Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton’s stunning poker face. Dubai International Airport is indeed a very, very swanky place. It’s estimated that one in every twenty households in Dubai is a millionaire, a fact that the state officials who run the 7,000-acre airport—whichopened its fourth concourse earlier this year and surpassed London Heathrowas the third-busiest* in the world for passenger travel—seem keenly aware of. Instead of Cinnabons, a kiosk in one terminal sells gold by the ounce.Concourses feature waterfalls and indoor gardens, the largest duty-free retailer in the world, and a concierge service that allows travelers rich enough to use “VIP” arrival and departure facilities. Meanwhile, aging LaGuardia, which is currently enduring a traffic-snarling $8 billion renovation, enjoys some of the worst arrival delays in the country.

    But there are some obvious reasons why U.S. airports suck, while Gulf airports wow. The former are run by entangled webs of local transportation authorities and quasi-private operating boards. Any effort to improve or expand these airports is subject to the same competing political interests, tax-tinkering, and fund-scrounging that most major infrastructure projects in the U.S. face. The United Arab Emirates and Qatar, on the other hand, are governed by petro-monarchies (substitute “authoritarian-capitalist regimes” for China, which has been on a fancy-airport-building tear) with seemingly limitless capital to pamper American plutocrats bearing golf-course plans. (OK—not quite limitless; Dubai International enacted its very first passenger fee earlier this summer to pay for its expansion, a sign of the region’s dwindling oil revenues.)

    These countries can also build their billionaire playlands with the help ofinhumane labor practices. In the UAE, according to research by Harvard University, migrants make up roughly 90 percent of the labor force. They’re legally bound to work only for the employer who sponsors them, without any kind of minimum wage protection. Worker protests over payment delays have broken out at Dubai International over the years. While the exact accident and fatality rate among guest workers around the Gulf is hard to assess, at least600 laborers died every year building Qatar’s World Cup facilities. It’s been estimated that of Indian expat laborers in Dubai, two commit suicide every week. China has labor laws which the government routinely fails to uphold.

    No doubt, Trump has had extensive opportunity to visit Dubai International, as well as Doha’s Hamad International and East Asia’s many lovely aero-tropolises. He owes some part of his undisclosed fortune to business partnerships with companies and individuals in the oil-rich Gulf, between his golf-course and hotel-building ventures and the Manhattan office space hereportedly rents to Qatar Airways. His clothing and souvenir goods are manufactured in China, and Hong Kong billionaires saved Trump from the brink of bankruptcy in the 1990s, so he’s probably killed some time at Hong Kong International, which was built on an artificial island and was the most expensive airport in the world when it opened. As a man who openly admires dictatorships, Trump would naturally see the gleaming facilities that can emerge from them as appropriate examples to illustrate America’s infrastructural flaws. Of course, non-repressive governments can make great airports, too. And U.S. airports, and the authorities that operate them, can certainly stand improvements. But under a Trump administration, it seems like progress would come at the cost of the basic commitment to democracy (however flawed) that keeps people flying.


  10. Mosesphile November 23, 2016 at 5:27 pm #

    Also, this article reminded me of this post a while ago…


    When the Port Authority of New York (and, later, New Jersey) was first created, it was a trailblazing agency. Its infrastructure projects were second to none — the George Washington Bridge, its first major project and most impressive, carries more traffic than any other vehicular bridge on earth. And its political structure as an independent authority overcame corruption and petty rivalries between the two states to build half a dozen crossings on the Hudson River. It was a triumph of progressivism.

    But those days are long gone. The agency’s freshest scandal is extraordinarily brazen and petty, and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s political ambitions have launched it into the national news. Tellingly, the George Washington Bridge lane closures scandal is actually one of the Port Authority’s more benign foibles in recent years.

    The independent authority model was supposed to — and perhaps initially did — encourage professionalism and discourage political interference. Today, we seem to get the worst of both words out of the Port Authority. Its political independence is gone, but its financial independence remains intact and has enabled a profligacy and string of failures that only the U.S. military could match.

    Its most high-profile failure has been the reconstruction of the World Trade Center, which never had much of a relationship to bistate commerce in the first place. Under pressure from then-New York Gov. George Pataki, the Port Authority made design decisions without anything resembling a realistic planning process. The result, a few governors later, is that the site has set world cost records in probably four categories: Office towers, subway stations, parking complexes and pedestrian passageways. (As for petty rivalries, there’s some of that too at the World Trade Center.)
    And that’s far from the agency’s only major policy failing. The Port Authority would have been the perfect actor to take the lead on a new trans-Hudson passenger rail crossing in the 1990s and 2000s. A new passenger rail tunnel between New York and New Jersey is desperately needed, since Amtrak’s intercity and New Jersey Transit’s commuter trains still squeeze through one pair of century-old tunnels.

    Cooperation between New Jersey Transit, Amtrak and the Long Island Rail Road would have gone a long way toward maximizing the value from new tracks beneath the Hudson. In any other first-world country, a tunnel beneath the Hudson would have been accompanied by a regional plan that would forge together routes from all three services, creating a subway-like pattern that could take you from one end of the region to the other on a single train. It would have been a massive change for stultified organizations like the MTA, New Jersey Transit and Amtrak, but uniting warring factions was supposed to be at the core of the Port Authority’s mandate.

    The Authority did take part in early studies about what later became known as the ARCtunnel, and was supposed to fund much of it. But it took no leadership role in designing the tunnel. New Jersey Transit instead came up with an expensive and inefficient scheme to build a tunnel 15 stories below Macy’s, near Herald Square. This would have literally cemented in place bureaucratic turf battles between the region’s railroads, leaving the new terminal permanently disconnected from Penn Station and all other rail services while dramatically increasing capital and operating costs, flying in the face of basic tenets of engineering.

    “If you’re not in charge, you’re fucked,” NJ Transit’s executive director told one transit advocate pleading for more cross-agency cooperation. The Port Authority, whose founding mission a century ago was to build a rail connection between New Jersey and Manhattan, was too preoccupied with the World Trade Center to get involved with designing the tunnel that they were going to spend $3 billion on.

    Christie eventually killed the tunnel. He did it for the wrong reasons — so that he could use the money to keep New Jersey’s gas tax low — but the project at that point was so poorly designed that this came as an unintentional mercy killing. It’s a shame the project was set back so many years, but Amtrak’s Gateway version of the tunnel will likely one day get built in its place, and riders will be much better off for it.

    Even the smallest transit projects suffer from Port Authority mismanagement. The Lincoln Tunnel exclusive bus lane, the only one on any of its half-dozen Hudson River crossings, is only active during the morning rush hour going into Manhattan. Despite its status as the most productive bus lane in North America — when open, it carries more commuters into Manhattan than either the PATH subway or NJ Transit commuter rail — the Port Authority has maintained just the one lane part-time for over 40 years.

    As measure of how far the Port Authority has strayed from its core function, it now does not have the money to rebuild the Goethals Bridge, something that would cost just one year’s worth of toll revenue. Instead, it is seeking more expensive private financing, which it’s spinning as the region’s largest public-private partnership.

    The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey has clearly ceased to be an effective agency, and it’s time to consider alternative arrangements. Crain’s suggests splitting it in two. “Why can’t there be a Port Authority of New York and a Port Authority of New Jersey?” it posits. “Turning one overly politicized bureaucracy into two smaller bureaucracies would mean a single line of command from governor to grunt. No more multiple masters. A healthier change for all.”

    Thomas Wright, executive director of the Regional Plan Association, suggests fixing the agency by having its commissioners pick its leadership — that is, having political appointees select the agency’s heads, instead of politicians doing it directly.

    Both Crain’s and Wright ignore the biggest flaw with the agency: Its independent authority structure combined with a massive guaranteed funding stream. The Port Authority has no ability to levy taxes in New York or New Jersey. Rather, it derives power from the tolls that its portfolio of Hudson River crossings takes in each year: $1.4 billionbudgeted for 2013, with the George Washington Bridge responsible for almost half of it. This arrangement was supposed to insulate the agency from political pressure. Back in the early days, with strong leadership at the helm, it worked. But Christie and the many governors before him have long since breached this firewall. Now, the Port Authority’s off-budget existence serves to insulate it from oversight.

    To return accountability to the critical transportation assets managed by the Port Authority, it’s time to cut off the flow of money. The agency’s lifeblood, its toll revenues, should be returned to a combination of the New Jersey, New York state and New York City general treasuries, to be doled out by their respective legislatures (minus the cost of maintaining the crossings). A bistate authority with no ability to spend outside of rebuilding could carry this out, and the legislatures should ensure that NJ Transit and bus companies are given more access to dedicated lanes on Hudson River bridges and tunnels.

    Next up are the airports. The independent authority model works for airports, since strong ones (such as JFK, LaGuardia and Newark Liberty) are relatively self-funding. Unlike New York’s existing bridges and tunnels, airports do not throw off so much revenue that they inevitably attract corruption.

    The seaports can be handed back to their respective states or cities, leaving it up to them decide what to do with the facilities — to privatize, contract out or manage themselves; to keep them separate or join through partnerships; to operate directly or as independent authorities.
    This leaves the PATH subway as the last major piece of Port Authority infrastructure. At one time, incorporation into the New York City subway system would have made sense. The networks could have been physically fused through a short tunnel between the 6 train terminal at the Brooklyn Bridge and the World Trade Center terminal of thePATH system. But the Port Authority ruled that out with its nearly $4 billion Calatrava-designed extravaganza.

    Anyway, the MTA has similar, though not quite as dire, problems to the Port Authority, as well as a similar independent, self-financing authority structure. (It still sells bonds against future East River bridge and tunnel tolls under the legal name “Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority,” reflecting its origins as Robert Moses’ unchecked road-building fiefdom.) Like the Port Authority, it’s beset by skyrocketing construction costs and steadily rising labor outlays, and has shown itself completely unable to encourage cooperation between its constituent agencies.

    The best home for the PATH would be with New Jersey Transit. Though by no means a perfect agency, suffering from gubernatorial neglect and general American transit agency disfunction, NJ Transit has shown occasional initiative — since 2000, it has built the very successful Hudson-Bergen Light Rail system in the Port Authority’s own backyard, and has extended Newark’s light rail system. It has not shown the same propensity for waste as the Port Authority, and handing it control of the PATH will at least ensure that effective transit, not budget-busting architecture and feats of engineering or airport access, is the bistate subway’s primary mission. Even if the PATH doesn’t get any better under NJ Transit, it would cost taxpayers a lot less money.

    Then there’s the real estate. The Port Authority had no business building the World Trade Center in the first place, and should auction off portions of the site it still owns as soon as possible, returning the funds to New York City and the states of New York and New Jersey.

    The New York region has, in its past, had two wildly successful independent transportation authorities. Over time, they’ve acquired a reputation for poor performance and a grievous lack of political accountability. At their best, they efficiently reflected the policy goals of the personalities who drove them. At their worst — and the Port Authority, at least, is clearly there — they have devolved into off-budget slush funds, wasteful and easily politicized. The Port Authority has been corrupted by its riches, and it’s time to give the people of New Jersey and New York their infrastructure back.


  11. Mar November 26, 2016 at 7:11 pm #

    It comes down to incentives. Why would a government agency want to improve anything? Bureaucracies are not good at innovation or change. And now people are going to start fighting development because they think our city is at “capacity”, but there is so much more room for growth, for taller buildings, etc.

    You know, we don’t have tall buildings because of bedrock. We have tall buildings because there is demand for them. We have two CBDs because businesses moved north to Grand Central, to the park, hopping over the slums and factories between Wall Street and Midtown. It’s about demand, capital, land, labor, rule of law. Get politics out of the way.


  12. Venicio November 30, 2016 at 12:47 pm #

    Venice has no Uber, just a people mover to the cruise ships, trams and buses and boats to the airport.

    The ferry system is interesting, there are local and express ferries. the minutes until arrival are listed on the map, there are pre-payment turnstiles, the boats stop on both sides of canals to act as a “bridge”…

    Maybe the NYC ferry system can learn from venice

    regarding our map…

    The subway map should have all of this and more – like showing which stations have free cross-overs, but then it will appear too busy. At 50th on 8th Ave and Bergen Street for F/G, passengers cannot crossover, so SB F passengers need to go to Carroll to get Queens-bound G. And at 50th, downtown passengers trying to get to queens on the E need to go to 42. But the new cars have automatic announcements to tell people to transfer at those places, where accessible elevators/escalators are…. Still, I think a clearer map makes more people comfortable to ride, lowering congestion and pollution… I know it is a challenge, with a narrow geography, many lines on a grid (cut and cover, aka the G goes along streets and zig-zags in Queens), locals and expresses… but maybe it was designed poorly… even Hunter on the IRT has a mezzanine and that’s the IRT, the earliest subway before the IND figured out they need concourses and mezzanines to reduce congestion on the platforms, have many entrances/exits so they are not crowded, to reduce dwells… the IRT did that, those narrow trains/platforms! imagine if they knew how crowded things would get, how big the city would grow… elevator escalator status… (wifi in all stations now!)


  13. rexcurry December 5, 2016 at 9:03 am #

    I recommend a refocus project — especially over the next four years.

    1. 60% of your thinking goes to national land use policy development based on links between dense urban centers across the U.S. and north/south on the continent. Draw a line around these centers. Inside the line — unlimited growth. Outside the line — reduced growth. Ratio measures are FAR and OSR all the rest is BS, although “footprint” stuff might wander through.

    2. 20% of the thinking out there on dense core movement systems given the local infrastructure (form knowledge teams) and then support unlimited growth and hyper-density

    3. 20% of your thinking on everything outside of the dense core areas you select and support environmental stewardship and a reduction from low density to super-low density toward true wilderness areas.

    Yogi’s ideas about transit turns out to be very good advice. It goes something like you have to be careful if don’t know where your going, because you might not get there.

    Have a great New Year.


  14. Mendipality December 7, 2016 at 10:10 am #

    Battle Over New Bus Terminal Threatens to Paralyze Port Authority’s Board
    DEC. 6, 2016

    After three years of planning for a new bus terminal in Manhattan, the commissioners of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey still agree that New York City badly needs one. But, as the nasty debate over paying for it has spilled out in public, they appear to agree on little else.

    The discord has threatened to paralyze the board that oversees the agency and that is responsible for transportation projects critical to the region. When the time came on Friday to publish the board’s monthly agenda, the agency punted, hinting that Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York, a Democrat, might instruct his appointees not to conduct any business, just as he did before the board’s previous meeting.

    When the agenda for the meeting this week finally appeared on Monday afternoon, it suggested that politicians from the opposite sides of the Hudson River had still not bridged their differences. They may still be billions of dollars apart in their views on how the agency should spend the money it collects from tolls and transportation fees.

    The battle over the bus terminal shows just how quickly the Port Authority can fall into the kind of dysfunction that allowed appointees of Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, a Republican, to spitefully close lanes at the George Washington Bridge in 2013. Mr. Christie has since stepped back from the agency, but the tussle for influence over its vast finances has remained fierce.

    It has caused at least one of Mr. Cuomo’s associates to quit abruptly and has drawn in city and state officials from both states, as well as Representative Jerrold Nadler, a Manhattan Democrat. Accusations of bad-faith bargaining have flown back and forth. Mr. Nadler went so far as to question the motivations of the agency’s chairman, John J. Degnan, and to call on him to recuse himself from deliberations over the bus terminal.
    On Monday, Mr. Nadler declined to discuss his allegation. But he said of Mr. Degnan, “All I do know is that the New York people at the Port Authority, and the governor’s people, they all say that he’s been just dictatorial on everything.”

    Angered by the attacks, Mr. Degnan, a Christie appointee, has planted his feet and squared up for a fight. “I am the chairman of the Port Authority,” he said. “The Port Authority needs to work with the governors, but it should not be submissive to either one of them.”

    No decisions have been made about how or where to replace the 66-year-old terminal, a destination widely derided as forlorn, and one that is overrun by over 115,000 daily commuters from New Jersey and beyond. But there is general agreement that the solution must include a new or revamped terminal within a few blocks of the existing one, on Eighth Avenue in Manhattan.

    The crux of the current dispute is how much money the authority should commit to the project. The commissioners have been wrestling all year with a revision of the agency’s 10-year capital plan. That budget, drawn up in 2014, did not include any money for the bus terminal.

    Facing cost estimates of $3.7 billion to $15.3 billion, Mr. Degnan has demanded that at least $3.5 billion of the capital plan be designated for the terminal. But on Tuesday, Richard Azzopardi, a spokesman for Mr. Cuomo, said the governor would agree to that only if at least two-thirds of the total was effectively contributed by New Jersey. “Asking New Yorkers to shoulder the burden of a $10 billion project many of them won’t ever use is a bad deal and a non-starter,” he said.

    Jameson W. Doig, a professor emeritus at Princeton who has chronicled the history of the Port Authority, said he had been told that Mr. Cuomo did not want his appointees to attend the board meeting in November while the dispute was unresolved. One of them, Steve Cohen, who was the vice chairman of the board, skipped the meeting and resigned.

    Mr. Cohen was the second Cuomo appointee to depart in the last few months, leaving the New York commissioners outnumbered, six to four. The previous vice chairman, Scott Rechler, left this fall.

    Mr. Doig said although there had been gridlock at the agency in the past, he could not recall another instance of a governor’s asking commissioners to boycott a board meeting.

    “We know that Governor Cuomo has been very interested in having substantial funds to carry out projects that he thinks are important,” he said, alluding to Mr. Cuomo’s championing of an overhaul of La Guardia Airport. “From his point of view, the bus terminal is not one of them.”

    Mr. Azzopardi said: “The law provides that either governor can veto any action of the Port Authority. So if someone wants to run the Port Authority, they should run for governor.”

    Mr. Nadler said he thought $2 billion was fair because the Port Authority was including the same amount in the capital plan for a project to build train tunnels under the Hudson River, known as Gateway, which is critical to improving travel in the region.

    No draft of the revised capital plan has been released, and the agency has not said how much would go for the Gateway project. Steve Coleman, a spokesman for the agency, said late on Monday that he had no answers to questions about the capital plan.

    It was not clear whether the commissioners would have answers when they gather for their monthly board meeting on Thursday. The delayed agenda indicated that they would vote on a resolution to publish a draft of the capital plan by Dec. 19.

    After that, the resolution says, the agency would invite the public to join in the debate over how it should spend more than $28 billion in capital funds. Public hearings will be held before any final decisions are made, according to the resolution.

    That is a very different process than the authority has used in the past, though it is, essentially, the same process the agency adopted to ram through an unpopular, steep toll increase in 2011.

    The public hearings are likely to draw crowds, given the strong reactions to the agency’s previous decisions about the bus terminal.

    New Jersey officials fear the agency will decide to build a satellite depot in their state, forcing many bus riders to transfer to PATH trains to reach Manhattan. Residents of the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood, which surrounds the terminal, fear eminent domain will be invoked to take private property for the project.

    Last week, a group of New Jersey officials gathered in Hackensack, N.J., to call for a commitment to fully fund a new terminal on the West Side of Manhattan that would preserve a one-seat ride for commuters. Stephen M. Sweeney, a New Jersey Democrat who is the president of the State Senate, said $2 billion would be too little to ensure that the project moved forward.

    State Senator Loretta Weinberg, a Bergen County Democrat, said $2 billion was “ not nearly enough to guarantee a commitment to the bus terminal.” Ms. Weinberg said she thought that she and the New Jersey officials had reached the framework of an agreement more than a month ago, and was caught off-guard when the debate turned hostile. Ms. Weinberg said she hoped “cooler heads will prevail” when the commissioners meet and try to wrap up the capital plan.

    Mr. Doig said he believed that the infighting was avoidable.

    “The kind of severe political meddling that we’ve seen in the last six years is not inescapable,” he said. “You need to have governors who think about the important issues the region faces as opposed to thinking, Let’s find a way to use the Port Authority and its money to enhance my reputation.”


  15. ilovenycity December 8, 2016 at 9:16 pm #

    All of planning’s basic tenets — and lessons learned — are on display in New York. For example …

    Walkability. Welcome to America’s most walkable city — with a Walk Score of 85/100. On the grid system, streets are short and avenues are long. That’s north of Houston. South of Houston (pronounced House-ton), pack a GPS.

    Density. New York is the most densely populated major city in the United States. The city has double the population of L.A., within a smaller footprint. Sprawl? Nope.

    Greenery. Concrete jungle? Not so much. About 14 percent of the city — 29,000 acres — is parkland. Central Park (883 acres) is the most visited urban park in the country. In a city essentially surrounded by water, you’d also expect to find some beaches. Check. New York has 14 miles of sandy shoreline.

    Diversity. As many as 800 languages are spoken here, making New York the world’s most linguistically diverse city. Queens, the largest borough, is the most ethnically diverse urban area on the planet.

    Healthy communities. Could all that walking and green space make New Yorkers live longer? Something does. Life expectancy in the Big Apple is nearly 81, about two years longer than the national average.

    Safety. The New York murder rate is the third lowest among major U.S. cities. And while some other cities’ spiked, New York’s rate fell in 2016.

    Resiliency. From the September 11 attack to Hurricane Sandy, the New York region has proven its ability to experience catastrophe and come back stronger.

    Mobility. The New York City subway runs 24/7. That’s not to mention buses — crosstown and intercity — and commuter trains. Most New Yorkers get to work on mass transit and this is the only U.S. city where more than half the households don’t have a car. Learn more about getting around in New York.

    Food trucks! Look around: New York has about 4,000 licensed mobile food vendors. There’s a good chance you can grab a hot dog or falafel wherever you roam. So when you get up and go, you won’t go hungry.

    History’s Been Made Here
    Broadway, from 159th Street to 218th Street, is named Juan Rodriguez Way in honor of New York’s first non-Native American settler. He came from the island of Hispaniola in the winter of 1613–14.

    The Federal Hall National Memorial, 26 Wall Street, is where the John Peter Zenger trial of 1735 established freedom of the press in North America. In 1789, Federal Hall became the seat of America’s first capital. President Washington was inaugurated, the first U.S. Congress and Supreme Court sat, and the Bill of Rights came into being there.

    The Brown Building, site of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire, still stands at the east edge of Washington Park. The 1911 fire claimed the lives of 146 garment workers and spurred better conditions for factory workers.

    One of the hottest spots during the Harlem Renaissance was the Apollo Theater. It opened its doors in 1914 as a burlesque theater and became the Apollo in 1934. About 1.3 million people visit the Apollo every year.

    The Stonewall Inn gave its name to the 1969 riots credited with launching the LGBT rights movement. The inn, at 53 Christopher Street, is still open for business. And it’s a National Historic Landmark. How many of those are open until 4 a.m. every day?

    The Five Boroughs

    The Bronx
    The Bronx has a complex — the largest cooperatively owned housing complex in the country. Co-op City has 15,372 residences in 35 high-rise buildings and seven townhouse clusters on 320 acres of land. That leaves plenty of room for shops, schools, and green space.

    Pelham Bay Park, all 2,765 acres of it, is the city’s largest park. Biking. Birding. Bocce. Beaches.

    And don’t forget the Bronx Zoo — the largest metropolitan zoo in the world — and the New York Botanical Garden.

    Downtown Brooklyn is the third-largest CBD in NYC, behind Midtown and Lower Manhattan. It’s also the only central core neighborhood in the outer boroughs. Move along to the New York Transit Museum, located in an out-of-commission rail station.

    Want to walk the Brooklyn Bridge? Consider taking the subway to the Brooklyn side and walking toward the Manhattan skyline. Allow an hour if you want to stop for photos.

    Coney Island, dating back to the 1870s, was one of the first amusement parks in the United States. The rides, boardwalk, and beach are still drawing crowds.

    The High Line is a rails-to-trails park running above the streets on Manhattan’s West Side. You can follow it from the Meatpacking District just about to the Javits Center.

    Head down to the Lowline Lab, on the Lower East Side, testing ground for the world’s first underground park.

    Ten museums are located on Museum Mile: Fifth Avenue from 82nd Street to 105th Street on the Upper East Side.

    Get your bearings at the Queens Museum of Art. It houses a 9,335-square-foot scale replica of the five boroughs. About 895,000 New York structures make an appearance.

    Queens has welcomed musicians — especially musicians of color — for decades. In the 1940s, Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, and Charlie Parker called Queens home. More recently, hip-hop artists like LL Cool J, Nicki Minaj, and A Tribe Called Quest have lived and worked there.

    Flushing Meadows–Corona Park hosted the 1939 and 1964 World’s Fairs. The U.S. Open Tennis Championships are held there each year.

    Staten Island
    In September 1776, Benjamin Franklin met with General Howe to try to work out a peaceful end to the American Revolution. The effort failed, but the Conference House on Staten Island where they met still stands.

    The Staten Island Greenbelt has the city’s largest remaining forest preserve (2,500 acres), plus 28 miles of walking trails and seven city parks.

    The Staten Island Ferry offers unobstructed views of Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, and Lower Manhattan. It runs 24/7, and it’s free.

    Fast Facts

    You are not alone. Nearly 60 million tourists visited New York in 2015.

    Smile! New York is the most photographed city in the world.

    Those water tanks on the roofs of New York buildings aren’t relics. The city started requiring them in the 1800s on buildings higher than six stories. Why? To keep high water pressure from breaking municipal pipes. The pressure’s still on, and the tanks are still full.

    When the Brooklyn Bridge first opened in 1883, New Yorkers were afraid to cross it. To prove its strength, P. T. Barnum led 12 elephants across the bridge.

    New York City accounts for one in three mass transit users in the United States and two-thirds of the nation’s rail riders.

    Taxi! There are about 13,000 yellow cabs in New York.

    Although half of New York households don’t have a car, the George Washington Bridge is the world’s busiest motor vehicle bridge. Must be the taxis.

    New York City health inspectors give letter grades to the city’s 24,000 restaurants. They’re supposed to be posted in restaurant windows. Don’t see a letter? Could be a sign!

    You could eat at a different New York restaurant every day for 12 years and still have more eateries to try.

    If you want to have what she’s having, head for Katz’s Delicatessen where the famous scene in When Harry Met Sally was filmed.

    What do Scrabble, gelatin, air conditioning, and Foursquare have in common? They were all invented in New York.

    The I Love New York campaign debuted in 1977, when the city was on the edge of bankruptcy. Madison Avenue ad agency Wells Rich Greene came up with the campaign, and designer Milton Glaser created the iconic logo.


  16. Regulation Rail Road December 9, 2016 at 10:16 am #

    Regulations ruin us…

    Who Haunts U.K. Ghost Trains? Railway Enthusiasts

    The phrase “ghost train” conjures up eerie, fantastical images: a spectral locomotive barreling through the night, passengers doomed to ride the rails forever.

    In Britain, ghost trains are real — but they’re more of a bureaucratic curiosity than a Halloween nightmare.

    They are scheduled passenger trains that hardly anyone actually rides, running infrequently at obscure hours and stopping at stations that almost no one uses. They might operate only once a week or in only one direction. Other than a lonely crew member or two, they are often completely empty.

    Why do they even operate? Believe it or not, to save money.

    Railway companies would rather not serve these routes at all, because they generate too little traffic. But if the companies discontinued the routes completely, they would be obliged under British law to formally abandon the lines, and that’s a very costly, time-consuming and legally complex business.

    The only way to avoid that trouble and expense is to maintain some passenger service on the line, even if only on the barest of bare-bones schedules. So the railways run the ghost trains, officially called parliamentary trains, just to satisfy the law — and don’t care whether anyone rides them.

    And it shows. At the stations where they originate, the railway may not bother to list parliamentary trains on the departure board or announce which platform they will use until the last minute, resulting in a mad dash by the rare intrepid traveler hoping to board.

    One of the more accessible ghost train experiences leaves at 11:36 a.m. on weekdays from Paddington Station in London, bound for West Ruislip over the Acton-to-Northolt line. Its platform is hidden in a far corner of the station, behind a temporary construction wall.

    On a recent run, there were just six passengers. One was Steve Hamshere, who had come to London from Berkshire, about 50 miles away, specifically to ride that train.

    “This line was built by the Great Western Railway and was the main line to Birmingham up until the 1960s,” Mr. Hamshere said.

    These days the Birmingham trains go a different way, and Acton-to-Northolt is kept open mainly as a quiet place where new drivers can practice away from other traffic.

    Obscurity and the relative difficulty of catching the parliamentary trains makes them strongly alluring for railway enthusiasts, who make a hobby out of riding as many as they can. Two ghost train fans, Liz Moralee and Tim Hall-Smith, even run a website for fellow devotees.

    “It is great to have a whole train to yourself,” Ms. Moralee wrote in an email.

    One of her strangest trips, she said, was to the Teesside Airport railway station, one of the least-used in Britain. The parliamentary train there makes one round trip a week, on Sundays, and only 16 passengers used the station in all of 2015. The half-mile walk from there to the airport terminal it was built to serve may be why.

    “It is far from convenient for anyone using the airport, unless they fancy a 20-minute trek,” Ms. Moralee said.


  17. incentivelasticity December 9, 2016 at 11:52 am #

    I like your DC note. Yes, Washington, D.C., built as a planned city to resemble ancient, classical Rome and Greece, was built between the Northern United States and Southern United States, compromising power between the two regions in a federal district. Similar compromises were made in other countries; Buenos Aires is also a federal district, while South Africa even has three capital cities. St. Petersburg, Russia, was built to be Russia’s window to Europe, complete with colorful European architecture, while Moscow would be more focused inward.

    Then there’s Dubai, a resort city for the rich and a compound for migrant laborers. Where there are pink taxis for women, with women drivers…Where there are Islamic banks and fancy trains all built from oil money, not running during Islamic holidays. The trains are super crowded and tiny, not built with enough capacity, and there are female-only carriages and a gold class carriage that is not crowded. At least they have platform screen doors, or else people would push themselves into the tracks. The buses are tap on/off, and the bus stops have AC bus shelters. A huge highway runs down the center of the CBD, making it hard to get across without getting in a car. Few sidewalks…

    Saudi Arabia is going to soon have the tallest building in the world, meanwhile LGBTs are killed, women cannot drive (they can’t see through their burqas) and they need a male guardian, the bible is banned, there is only islam allowed… Women are separated in transit, they have their own trains and taxis and drivers… unemployment is rising, while oil is probably cheaper than water. Which is a problem – in Venezuela, the government works 2 days a week no to save money, they have no food, it is unsafe to walk at night, people don’t leave their cars, police are corrupt…


  18. railfreak70954 December 9, 2016 at 3:16 pm #

    Catenary power specs are spot on. During rush hour three of the four East River tunnels are in the peak direction and one is for returning to Long Island. Hudson crossings are one in and one out on the weekdays and single tracking in only one tunnel on the weekends (you can see if you check the schedule that trains depart only at the end of one hour to the beginning of the next and that’s it).

    On the weekends, one tunnel closes completely for repairs. It also gives us a glimpse into what life would be like with only one track. Yes you could boost peak hour service by expanding the singletrack window, but it’s still not good.

    Basically by through-routing, you minimize berthing at NYP and can eliminate the need for a ton of storage at WSY. Moving more out then means you free up slots so you can open another tunnel EB for through to LI and sunny side. NJT already goes to Sunnyside yard, just without passengers, they have to check everyone at Penn, taking up dwell time…

    Debt, unions, jurisdictions, rising costs… 21st century transportation. We just waste so much time, especially with all these delays, processing, all the diesel work trains… longer lines, merges, schedule issues, coordination… and this, capacity and reliability are impacted. If the 5 is messed up, so are all of its merges. Thankfully, we have a lot of flexibility – 4 track segments, even Metro north has a lot of 4 track segments, though not LIRR – so we have that going for us in new York.


  19. Pastitious December 14, 2016 at 5:34 pm #

    Listen up, folks. There’s nothing new here. Mayors and Governors have been feuding for centuries. So have NYC and New York State; Manhattan and the outer boroughs; New York and New Jersey. Regionalization is not a new concept. Governor Rockefeller created the MCTA in order to take over LIRR operations, and later renamed it to the MTA, kicking Robert Moses out of a job, funneling TBTA toll revenue into the NYCTA, both of which joined the MTA. MNR later was formed from Conrail, joining the MTA.

    John Lindsay, NYC Mayor during this time, also wanted to get rid of Moses; he removed him from his post directing federal funds to NYC. But he could not tap into the TBTA for fundsm, which was a public authority designed to be impervious to politicians through its bond language, and so on and so forth. Moses had, for decades, gathered dirt on foes, and kept a close list of connections to gain power and trade power. His investors and bondholders had many allies too, even in Albany.

    Governor Rockefeller succeeded where Lindsay failed because his brother led Chase Bank, which was the largest holder of the TBTA at the time! The state is also more powerful than the city; the state, for instance, needs to approve congestion pricing, or even camera enforcement in bus lanes. NYC was in dire straits back then, needed the money, and perhaps it was a relief that they were no longer responsible for operating the subway and buses, or dealing with TWU. Moses had not built one new mile of transit or invested in it at all. Vandalism, graffiti, all rampant on the subways.

    Today, Bloomberg was able to get the 7 extended, but mayors often take a back seat… governor’s too. It’s all politics, power, and maintaining it, and pummeling anyone who gets in the way. For public authorities, bondholders and leaseholders and unions and politicians often get their way, get their legacy projects built ahead of providing quality services, quality of life, good transit, etc. The governor is more powerful than the mayor, and can get things approved for the city that the mayor cannot without support from upstate New York. The governor can promise more aid to other districts in the state that NYC cannot directly promise.

    The TBTA certainly had no reason to listen to the public – it had unlimited funds from its tolls. And the Port Authority, don’t forget, was similarly structured, and could not receive taxes, so they turned themselves into a cash cow under Tobin, the Moses across the Hudson. Tobin built bridges between NJ and Staten Island and Manhattan – Lincoln Tunnel, GWB (upper and lower level), PA Bus Terminal, and also got JFK and LGA under PA control, a major defeat to Robert Moses. The PA already controlled Newark Airport and argued that a port agency should be responsible for all airports, in order to streamline – regionalize operations. Moses argued that NJ would take control of city airports, just as NJ was taking containerization to Elizabeth and getting rid of the port jobs in Manhattan and Brooklyn.

    (The Port Authority was founded to smooth interstate commerce in the area. Brooklyn Navy Yard, founded in 1801 before railroads really took off, was not connected to a railroad, as it was in Brooklyn, and all the railroads terminating in New Jersey used barges to bring supplies to Brooklyn. Imagine the chaos, corruption, scandals…)

    The MTA and Port Authority ARE regional authorities. All that’s missing are combining the MTA and PA with NJT and ferry operations, as well as local roads/NYCDOT toll-free bridges, built prior to Robert Moses, often with rail – such as Brooklyn bridge (BMT removed later), manhattan bridge, Williamsburg bridge, queensboro bridge (IRT removed later). No wonder Tobin and Moses didn’t build rail on their bridges. Where is the money in those tolls? They thought rail was as outdated as the horse and buggy.

    IRT and BMT had made money, and the city had helped them build through the dual contracts, but then they weren’t allowed to raise their fares, they were forced to build into sparsely populated areas to decrease congestion in Manhattan, they weren’t allowed to do much advertising or retail, etc. I think now with ridership increasing because the subway is getting investment again and it is safe again, maybe we can make some money! If they used real estate more wisely, raised the fares to toll levels for cars on outer bridges, and cut down the waste, fraud, and abuse… but there is little incentive to do so. Not a private business, and will continue to get money even if it is wasted. MTR in HK is privatized, look at them, they are profitable, have so much ridership, such good performance, real estate development, because they have the incentives, and also because China gives them land to develop and doesn’t listen to NIMBYists… no democracy there… And OK, HK is more dense than NY. Most public transit systems need government help these days because they are forced to maintain low fares. And I guess businesses get a lot of government help too… stadiums get built with our investment, oil companies get huge breaks, government subsidies farmers, etc. Back then, few people had cars, they had to use mass transit to get around, but now, just as vehicles and trucks and airports made passenger railroad service unprofitable, except for NEC where it is revenue-positive, we have these government take-overs. People used to have no other option but railroad.

    The MTA and PA have cooperated. Tobin and Moses financed the VZ Bridge together, because Tobin knew that more vehicles there would mean more vehicles on his bridges. Moses wanted bridges rather than tunnels, because it meant more capacity and more money. They both wanted bonds to be tax-exempt, to not have to deal with local zoning (thus the PA built the WTC originally to oversee ‘ports’). And NY and NJ compromised when building the WTC and bringing H&M under PA subsidy, to make PATH.

    We’re almost done with SAS, ESA, and other capital projects. We’ll get a redone Penn Station soon, with MNR service. Yes, there were tough times, getting rid of services with low ridership – myrtle El, third avenue El, etc. Lindsay was pro-mass transit, thinking subways needed subsidies, just like automobiles. But Moses thought cities were for cars, and though he never learned to drive, he wanted people to enjoy driving, leisurely, through parkways – the lungs of the city – without dirty buses and minorities getting to his parks, beaches, suburbs due to low clearance bridges. He funneled traffic out of the city, though he also built swimming pools, housing, Lincoln center, world’s fairs, UN… and got Dodger’s to leave, insisting on building Shea Stadium in Queens, instead of letting dodger’s move to where Barclays’ Center is today.

    These are ruthless politicians that thought big, wanting to expand their power with regional authority. Moses brought highways to the city, region, and through his inspiration, the country, with his shovel ready projects during the great depression and beyond. He destroyed neighborhoods but it was his money and his leverage, until jane Jacobs came, and attitudes shifted against him. He started razing playgrounds for parking lots, trying to get highways through manhattan, managed the world’s fair poorly, and the demolition of penn station definitely didn’t help. But while in power, he had his own flag, fleet, offices, and helped car owning families, while trapping everyone else with disinvestment.

    The PA, too, had similar plans. It was the area’s first public authority, an interstate compact, and it made our shores lifeless through containerization in NJ. Of course, this was inevitable and efficient, bringing them closer to the railroads. But they built bridges and tunnels rather than rail, since they received no taxes and didn’t want their bond rating to suffer through unprofitable rail enterprises.

    Both Tobin and Moses built tunnels primarily into Manhattan. Once the technology for vehicular tunnels became available (after all the older East River bridges had been built, after the electric-powered railroad tunnels to Penn had been built, after GCT was built at 42nd due to a ban on steam railroads under 42nd street), then the Lincoln, Holland, Midtown all got built… they may have less capacity than a bridge, but they did not wreak havoc on real estate as a bridge would, with all of the ramps/approaches needing to demolish many properties, as was done in the outer boroughs (VZ bridge, etc.) They still ended up connecting most to highways, because the municipalities listened to them, they had all the politicians on their knees, they had access to funds and money and power…

    They got the city’s airports and added retail, turning a profit on them leasing from the city, just as the NYCTA leases subways from the city. The PA and MTA are both land owners, both massive and similar public authorities. The city did not have the money to invest in its airports, so it gave them the PA, which was independent of politicians and taxes and could invest, the entire purpose of a public authority. It’s why the WTC was built – no private company or city would build such a massive waste of office, and no bank would lend to anyone but a public authority, which is capable of accumulating massive amounts of debt, more than a state is allowed. They can cut through zoning, they can cut through politics and public input.

    Nyc is blessed with a huge harbor and the erie canal. The port authority should thank our geography for their wealth and corruption. Power alters behavior, people become less sensitive to cues, they live in a cocoon until it comes falling down. And these authorities certainly breed this – they have no debt limit, little municipal regulation.

    Amtrak is similar, a company 100% owned by the federal government shareholders. But, unlike Germany’s DB, it never nationalized all freight in the country (the US is not as socialist as Europe), so it doesn’t make profit. It does have station-to-station package services, so does Greyhound!

    Here are some resources for you.


    • also December 14, 2016 at 5:57 pm #

      It is hard to imagine, but there was a time before every family owned a vehicle in the suburbs, before aviation took off, that railroads made a profit. Now, airlines and bus companies make the money. They do not have to maintain airports or roads for the most part — that is left to government. But railroads in the US maintain their own track. In Europe, often the government owns the track and private companies use it.


    • Hux December 24, 2017 at 6:59 pm #

      Sunset Park’s residents had begged Moses to build the expressway over Second Avenue. This was closer to the water and the industrial din and might have preserved the many small businesses and happy homes that once punctuated Third Avenue’s happy line. But Moses, citing the recently opened subway that now serves the D, N, and R underneath Fourth Avenue and the available support beams from the soon-to-be-demolished El, was determined to raise a freeway on Third Avenue that he claimed was much cheaper, even though the engineers who weren’t on Moses’s payroll had observed that one mere mile of freeway looping back to the shore wouldn’t substantially reduce the cost. But Moses had fought barons before and had made a few curving compromises while constructing the Northern State Parkway. Armed with the power of eminent domain and a formidable administrative power in which bulldozers and blockades could be summoned against opponents almost as fast as a modern day Seamless delivery, Moses was not about to see his vision vitiated. And if that meant calling the good parts of Sunset Park a “slum,” which it wasn’t, or spouting off any number of lies or threats to destroy perfectly respectable working class neighborhoods, then he’d do it.

      As documented by Caro, the Gowanus stretched a raised subway line’s harmless Venetian-blind shadow into a dirty expanse that was nearly two and a half times as wide, wider than a football field and twice as onyx. The traffic lights were so swiftly timed that one had to be a running back to sprint beneath the smog-choking blackness to the other side of the street. The condensation from the steel pillars created such a relentless dripping that it transformed this once sunny thoroughfare into a dirt-clogged river Styx for cars. The cost was seven movie theaters, dozens of restaurants, endless mom and pop stores, butcher shops that raffled Christmas turkeys, and tidy affordable apartments — all shuttered. Moses did not plan for the increased industrial traffic that sprinkled into Sunset Park’s streets, just as he hadn’t for his many other freeways and bridges. Garbage and rats accumulated in the surrounding lots. There was violence and drugs and gang wars. The traffic tightened and slowed to a crawl, demanding more roads, more buildings to gut, more more neighborhoods to disrupt for the worse.

      Who was this man? And why was he so determined to assert his will? He fancied himself New York’s answer to Georges-Eugène Haussmann (even reusing a doughnut-shaped building for the 1964 World’s Fair that the Parisian planner himself had put together in 1867), yet didn’t begin to earn a dime for his tyranny until his forties. (He lived off his family’s money and secured early planning jobs by declining a salary.) He thought himself a poet (not an especially good one), but if he had any potential prose style, it turned sour and hard and technocratic by the time he hit Oxford and received his doctorate at Columbia. He worked seemingly every hour of the day and took endless walks, memorizing the precise points where he would later build big parks and tennis courts. And he loved to swim, taking broad strokes well beyond the shores in his sixties and seventies with an endurance and strength that crushed men who were two decades younger. Small wonder that Moses gave the city so many public pools.

      After I finished reading The Power Broker, I wanted to know more. I found myself plunging into the collected works of Jane Jacobs (Jacobs’s successful battle to save Washington Square Park was left out by Caro due to the enormity of The Power Broker‘s original manuscript), as well as Anthony Flint’s excellent volume Wrestling with Moses (documenting the battles between Moses and Jacobs), an extremely useful volume edited by Hilary Ballon and Kenneth T. Jackson called Robert Moses and the Modern City that may be the best overview of every Moses project (and attempts, not entirely successfully, to refute some of Caro’s claims), as well as a wonderful graphic novel from Pierre Christin and Olivier Balez (Robert Moses: The Master Builder of New York City) which I recommend for anyone who doesn’t have enough time to read Caro’s 1,200 page biography written in very small print (although you really should read it).

      I wanted to know how a man like Moses could operate so long without too many challenging him. His behavior often resembled a spoiled infant braying for his binky. When faced by an authority figure, Moses would often threaten to resign from a position until he got his way. Moses used this tactic so frequently that Mayor La Guardia once sent him a note reading, “Enclosed are your last five or six resignations; I’m starting a new file,” followed by city corporation counsel Paul Windels creating a pad of forms reading “I, Robert Moses, do hereby resign as _______ effective __________,” which further infuriated Moses.

      The answer, of course, was through money and influence that Moses had raised through a bridge bond scheme floated through the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority, with Moses as Chairman:

      Moses wanted banks to be so anxious to purchase Triborough bonds that they would use all of their immense power to force elected officials to give his public works proposals the approval that would result in their issuance. So although the safety of the banks’ money was already amply assured by Triborough’s current earnings (so great that each year the Authority collected far more money than it spent), by the irrevocable covenants guaranteeing that tolls could never be removed without the bondholders’ consent, and by Triborough’s monopoly, also irrevocable, that guaranteed them that if any future intracity water crossing were built, they would share in its tolls, too, Moses provided them with additional assurances. He maintained huge cash reserves — “Fantastic,” says Jackson Phillips, director of municipal research for Dun and Bradstreet; “the last time I looked they had ten years’ interest on reserve” — and when he floated the Verrazano bonds he agreed to lay aside — in addition to the existing reserves! — 15 percent ($45,000,000) of the cash he received for the new bond issue, and not touch it until the bridge was open and operating five years later. Purchasers of the Verrazano bonds could be all but certain that they could collect their interest every year even if the bridge never collected a single toll. Small wonder that Phillips says, “Triborough’s are just about the best bonds there are.” Wall Streeters may believe that “any investment is a bet,” but Robert Moses was certainly running the safest game in town.

      In other words, Moses pulled off one of the most sinister financial games in New York history. The Triborough Authority could not only collect tolls on its bridges and capitalize on these receipts by issuing revenue bonds, which would in turn generate considerable income for Moses to fund his many public works projects, but it was capable of spending more money than the City of New York. Which meant that the city often had to come crawling back to Moses. And if the city or the state wanted to audit the Triborough Authority, this operation was so incredibly complicated that it would require at least fifty accountants working full-time for a year in order to comprehend it. Government did not have this kind of money to place safeguards against Moses. Moreover, it needed Moses’s financial assistance in order to provide for the commonweal.

      It wasn’t until 1968, when Governor Nelson Rockefeller and Mayor John Lindsay put an end to these remarkable shenanigans by siphoning tolls into the newly created Metropolitan Transportation Authority. The bondholders might have sued over this. It was, after all, unconstitutional to uproot existing contractual obligations. But Rockefeller’s brother David happened to be the head of Chase Manhattan Bank. And Chase was the largest TBTA bondholder. In a glaring case of “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know,” the Triborough Authority as puppet organization for Moses was finished. Moses was forced to abandon his role. And the man’s political hold on New York was effectively finished after four decades of relentless building and endless resignation threats.

      It seemed a fitting end for a man who had maintained such a stranglehold over such a large area. Six years later, Robert Caro’s biography appeared. Moses wrote a 23 page response shortly after the book’s publication. Caro’s rebuttal was five paragraphs, concluding with this one:

      It is slightly absurd (but typical of Robert Moses) to label as without documentation a book that has 83 solid pages of single-spaced, small-type notes and that is based on seven years of research, including 522 separate interviews.


  20. metropolitan portransportation authority December 19, 2016 at 11:37 am #

    you’ve got the PATH and NYC subway, right! PATH is a lot older, narrower, tighter trains, the conductor doesn’t even have his own space because they are trying to cram the people in those 7-car trains… NYC subway has cameras especially along curved platforms so conductors can see the whole length of the platform, but PATH platforms are shorter so who cares! hah. and NYCT now has wifi on all platforms, and soon, countdown clocks on B division with wifi technology communicating between the trains! unlike now, with towers on B division not knowing exactly which train it is due to simple PLC data, they’ll have PLC, ITRAC, Wifi… and better communications, so more information for passengers!!

    I like this map, shows the PATH on it:


  21. SAS! January 5, 2017 at 5:10 pm #

    Second Av. Subway!!! New train wrap, elevators, stations, art, column-free, deep underground, ventilation buildings, eminent domain… $$$


    • SAS! January 5, 2017 at 5:24 pm #

      and… new connection at WTC, connecting PA/MTA… as you write about, i remember going thru here before 9/11…

      new countdown clocks on B Division coming soon, with bluetooth Wifi data connecting the trains to the stations and the schedule. Not based on signals (like A division with ATS hooked up to rail control rcc) or PLC circuit data… info kiosks are just schedule only, can be wrong.

      But, we need BETTER SERVICE! Delays are going up, OTP is going down… signal failures, car equipment failures, sick customers… INTERNAL and EXTERNAL causes!

      now they have countdown clocks coming in, replacing the older beeping ones, with date/time, beacon wifi countdown information… cool!

      • Increasing the reliability of subway cars is an absolutely essential short-term priority. The new initiative will target poor-performing components of cars through enhanced inspections, root-cause analyses, and car fleet performance statistics. We are adding inspectors and redeploying resources for pre-trip inspections, as well as planning for component replacement focusing on doors, heating and air conditioning, and master controllers.
      • Increased Emergency Dispatch Vehicle (EDV) and Road Car Inspector (RCI) coverage to reduce response time to incidents and reduce delays. RCIs respond to train trouble incidents on the road (not in yards). Some RCIs travel to incidents via the subway, but some RCIs have vehicles (EDVs) that enable them to carry more equipment. RCIs with EDVs generally respond to more serious breakdowns. (The maintenance shops also have RCI’s that pre-service trains in yards, and they also investigate train trouble incidents after cars are layed up in yards.)
      • NYCT has expanded Wi-Fi connections to all underground stations, enabling the use of mobile devices, which has allowed NYCT to equip staff with tablets in order to have better information to manage incidents.
      • We plan to deploy Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) at five key stations to speed up response times and reduce delays: 125th St, 59th St. – Columbus Circle, 14th St, West 4th St.-Washington Square, and Fulton St.
      • A public awareness campaign will encourage use of the EMTs in stations. We are also working with the NYPD to increase visibility of law enforcement at key corridor stations and we are exploring ways to connect platform controllers using an innovative platform controller communication channel.
      • Continued to install and upgrade of “Help Point” devices, with more than 2,300 units installed in 380 subway stations by the end of 2016. In addition to incident reports and emergency contact with the RCC, customers can also get live travel directions, assistance with MetroCard claims, and more. The Help Point call center handled approximately 375,000 calls in 2016.

      • By increasing the frequency of inspections, the agency is catching more maintenance issues before they cause service disruptions. This has resulted in an 8.0 percent reduction in right-of-way (ROW) incidents causing delays in 2016. We are now doubling ultrasonic testing from once a month to twice monthly. This is expected to further reduce the number of unplanned outages and associated delays.
      • We are improving the condition of subway track through the use of Track Geometry Cars for ultrasonic testing of rails and through NYCT Subway’s aggressive effort to install continuously welded rail (CWR). The original goal of installing 38,856 track feet of CWR in 2016 was exceeded by 62.9 percent, with 63,288 track feet of CWR installed.
      • The highly successful FASTRACK program, which enables line repairs and maintenance on rotating, concentrated schedules for minimal service disruption and maximum worker safety. NYCT completed 22 FASTRACK programs in 2016 and continues to repair damage from Superstorm Sandy and harden the system against extreme weather. Significant progress was made towards the reconstruction of the South Ferry Terminal (1 Line), while tube rehabilitation continued apace.
      • NYCT also increased the number of multi-disciplinary crews positioned for rapid response to service disruptions. With more live camera feeds and additional “staged personnel,” strategically located supervisors and multidisciplinary work teams can respond rapidly to right-of-way disruptions and other situations. We are expanding the number of our track and signals rapid response teams, adding subway car emergency vehicles and road car inspector staff to get repair crews where they need to be faster. We aim to reduce emergency crew response time from 30 to 15 minutes to restore service faster.
      • NYCT continues to enhance signaling. Following full CBTC implementation on the L line, peak scheduled running times were shortened, and excluding shuttles, the L now has the highest OTP. When adjusting for route length, the L still has a higher OTP than expected. This is because there are no signal modifications found on the rest of the system that are slowing down service, and because slow operators aren’t applicable on a CBTC line. NYCT plans to fully implement CBTC on the 7 line in 2017.
      • NYCT is continuing “Operation Track Sweep” to dramatically reduce trash on tracks and improve station environments, which in turn reduces debris fires that cause train delays. The program has implemented a new cleaning schedule that increases track cleaning and reprioritizes stations based on the amount of trash that has accumulated. NYCT has purchased three powerful new track vacuum trains, the first of which is due to arrive in 2017. Vacuum trains can remove up to 14 cubic yards of trash per day. In addition, the MTA is purchasing 27 new refuse cars to move debris out of the system more quickly and is testing two prototypes of portable vacuum systems that can be quickly deployed without work trains or other special equipment. We will expand on our successful portable vacuum pilot program and bring it system-wide through the purchase of ten more portable units. In addition, our latest two-week cleaning blitz at all 472 subway stations begins in May 2017.

      New York City Transit is committed to ensuring the safety of all of our customers and employees, while providing on-time and reliable service to all passengers, including those with disabilities. We understand the importance of repairing, replacing, and expanding our infrastructure in an efficient manner, and maximizing system usage.

      NYCT is deploying wide-ranging strategies to manage the impacts on OTP of record ridership and growing maintenance needs. The improvement plan targets the key causes of subway system delays, including track and signal issues; sick passengers and police activity; subway car equipment failures; loading and unloading in stations; and bottlenecks that occur at critical points in the system where lines merge. These programs aim to prevent unplanned disruptions through enhanced inspections targeting the highest incident locations, and aim to enhance responses when incidents do occur.

      A delayed train may have more passengers waiting at the next station, increasing dwell time, and this pattern often snowballs from station to station, escalating into large gaps of service and a series of bunched trains. Also, often, when trains aren’t kept to schedule, merges cannot be met, and other trains end up getting delayed throughout the system. Delays not only keep trains from arriving at their terminals on time, but also keeps them from departing on time, since many late trains can’t depart again on time. Delays make service slower along the line, adding running time and requiring more crews and trains to meet demand, adding costs in order to maintain the same level of capacity.
      Long-Term Changes in Operating Conditions
      Long-term changes in operating conditions cause a majority of delays, and they also make it more difficult to recover from delays. Safety-related signal changes, for instance, affect throughput and the ability to recover from delays due to extended control lines and additional speed restrictions and timed signals. Because of the increased emphasis on safety, many crews are slower, and timed signals only clear if trains operate at or below the posted speed. Train operators tend to operate significantly below the posted speeds, further reducing capacity and lengthening running times. And our increasing number of probationary/inexperienced employees have longer running times and more delays.
      With 15 out of 20 lines at peak track capacity, including ten lines already at track and train (passenger carrying) capacity, crowding is a major challenge for our system. Capacity is significantly constrained and ridership is not declining. In order to renew, enhance, and expand our capacity, we complete critical maintenance and some capital work under traffic. We have increased the frequency of infrastructure, track and signal inspections. However, additional roadway worker protection rules (i.e. “flagging rules”) delay trains and reduce capacity.
      Stricter flagging rules are the most significant change in the method of planned work on the ROW with respect to delays. Slow speeds (10 mph) past work sites ensure worker safety (“flagging”), but lower capacity. Flagging rule enhancements since 2003 have lengthened slow speed zones and have added slow speed protection on adjacent tracks. The implementation of these rule changes is gradual, so the impact on delays often lags official enactment.
      Data Quality
      These factors have been measured due to better data quality, which has improved significantly. The conversation to ATS-A and I-TRAC has resulted in approximately 14,000 additional recorded delays per month.
      Recently, we have also continued to improve our subway performance indicators by transitioning to fully electronic data for both the A and B divisions. Due to ATS only being available in the A-division, we had been forced to rely on manually collected data in the B-division. The small sample of trains manually observed limited the precision and granularity of our metrics. We have designed and implemented a method for transforming raw data captured from the signal system (PLCs) as well as data recorded by personnel in the field (I-TRAC) into structured, interpretable performance data, greatly improving the level of information available on B-division train movements. In addition to its use in performance metrics, this data supports visualization tools such as the Stringlines.


  22. Abraxas January 30, 2017 at 10:44 pm #

    Do Americans really love their freedom?

    View story at

    Trial Balloon for a Coup?
    Analyzing the news of the past 24 hours

    The theme of this morning’s news updates from Washington is additional clarity emerging, rather than meaningful changes in the field. But this clarity is enough to give us a sense of what we just saw happen, and why it happened the way it did.
    I’ll separate what’s below into the raw news reports and analysis; you may also find these two pieces from yesterday (heavily referenced below) to be useful.

    News Reports

    (1) Priebus made two public statements today. One is that the ban on Muslims will no longer be applied to green card holders. Notably absent from his statement was anything about people with other types of visa (including long-term ones), or anything about the DHS’ power to unilaterally revoke green cards in bulk.

    The other was that the omission of Jews from the statement for Holocaust Remembrance Day was deliberate and is not regretted.

    A point of note here is that Priebus is the one making these statements, which is not normally the Chief of Staff’s job. I’ll come back to that below.

    (2) Rudy Giuliani told Fox News that the intent of yesterday’s order was very much a ban on Muslims, described in those words, and he was among the people Trump asked how they could find a way to do this legally.

    (3) CNN has a detailed story (heavily sourced) about the process by which this ban was created and announced. Notable in this is that the DHS’ lawyers objected to the order, specifically its exclusion of green card holders, as illegal, and also pressed for there to be a grace period so that people currently out of the country wouldn’t be stranded — and they were personally overruled by Bannon and Stephen Miller. Also notable is that career DHS staff, up to and including the head of Customs & Border Patrol, were kept entirely out of the loop until the order was signed.

    (4) The Guardian is reporting (heavily sourced) that the “mass resignations” of nearly all senior staff at the State Department on Thursday were not, in fact, resignations, but a purge ordered by the White House. As the diagram below (by Emily Roslin v Praze) shows, this leaves almost nobody in the entire senior staff of the State Department at this point.

    The seniormost staff of the Department of State. Blue X’s are unfilled positions; red X’s are positions which were purged. Note that the “filled” positions are not actually confirmed yet.

    As the Guardian points out, this has an important and likely not accidental effect: it leaves the State Department entirely unstaffed during these critical first weeks, when orders like the Muslim ban (which they would normally resist) are coming down.

    The article points out another point worth highlighting: “In the past, the state department has been asked to set up early foreign contacts for an incoming administration. This time however it has been bypassed, and Trump’s immediate circle of Steve Bannon, Michael Flynn, son-in-law Jared Kushner and Reince Priebus are making their own calls.”

    (5) On Inauguration Day, Trump apparently filed his candidacy for 2020. Beyond being unusual, this opens up the ability for him to start accepting “campaign contributions” right away. Given that a sizable fraction of the campaign funds from the previous cycle were paid directly to the Trump organization in exchange for building leases, etc., at inflated rates, you can assume that those campaign coffers are a mechanism by which US nationals can easily give cash bribes directly to Trump. Non-US nationals can, of course, continue to use Trump’s hotels and other businesses as a way to funnel money to him.

    (6) Finally, I want to highlight a story that many people haven’t noticed. On Wednesday, Reuters reported (in great detail) how 19.5% of Rosneft, Russia’s state oil company, has been sold to parties unknown. This was done through a dizzying array of shell companies, so that the most that can be said with certainty now is that the money “paying” for it was originally loaned out to the shell layers by VTB (the government’s official bank), even though it’s highly unclear who, if anyone, would be paying that loan back; and the recipients have been traced as far as some Cayman Islands shell companies.

    Why is this interesting? Because the much-maligned Steele Dossier (the one with the golden showers in it) included the statement that Putin had offered Trump 19% of Rosneft if he became president and removed sanctions. The reason this is so interesting is that the dossier said this in July, and the sale didn’t happen until early December. And 19.5% sounds an awful lot like “19% plus a brokerage commission.”

    Conclusive? No. But it raises some very interesting questions for journalists to investigate.
    What does this all mean?

    I see a few key patterns here. First, the decision to first block, and then allow, green card holders was meant to create chaos and pull out opposition; they never intended to hold it for too long. It wouldn’t surprise me if the goal is to create “resistance fatigue,” to get Americans to the point where they’re more likely to say “Oh, another protest? Don’t you guys ever stop?” relatively quickly.

    However, the conspicuous absence of provisions preventing them from executing any of the “next steps” I outlined yesterday, such as bulk revocation of visas (including green cards) from nationals of various countries, and then pursuing them using mechanisms being set up for Latinos, highlights that this does not mean any sort of backing down on the part of the regime.

    Note also the most frightening escalation last night was that the DHS made it fairly clear that they did not feel bound to obey any court orders. CBP continued to deny all access to counsel, detain people, and deport them in direct contravention to the court’s order, citing “upper management,” and the DHS made a formal (but confusing) statement that they would continue to follow the President’s orders. (See my updates from yesterday, and the various links there, for details) Significant in today’s updates is any lack of suggestion that the courts’ authority played a role in the decision.

    That is to say, the administration is testing the extent to which the DHS (and other executive agencies) can act and ignore orders from the other branches of government. This is as serious as it can possibly get: all of the arguments about whether order X or Y is unconstitutional mean nothing if elements of the government are executing them and the courts are being ignored.

    Yesterday was the trial balloon for a coup d’état against the United States. It gave them useful information.

    A second major theme is watching the set of people involved. There appears to be a very tight “inner circle,” containing at least Trump, Bannon, Miller, Priebus, Kushner, and possibly Flynn, which is making all of the decisions. Other departments and appointees have been deliberately hobbled, with key orders announced to them only after the fact, staff gutted, and so on. Yesterday’s reorganization of the National Security Council mirrors this: Bannon and Priebus now have permanent seats on the Principals’ Committee; the Director of National Intelligence and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff have both been demoted to only attending meetings where they are told that their expertise is relevant; the Secretary of Energy and the US representative to the UN were kicked off the committee altogether (in defiance of the authorizing statute, incidentally).

    I am reminded of Trump’s continued operation of a private personal security force, and his deep rift with the intelligence community. Last Sunday, Kellyanne Conway (likely another member of the inner circle) said that “It’s really time for [Trump] to put in his own security and intelligence community,” and this seems likely to be the case.

    As per my analysis yesterday, Trump is likely to want his own intelligence service disjoint from existing ones and reporting directly to him; given the current staffing and roles of his inner circle, Bannon is the natural choice for them to report through. (Having neither a large existing staff, nor any Congressional or Constitutional restrictions on his role as most other Cabinet-level appointees do) Keith Schiller would continue to run the personal security force, which would take over an increasing fraction of the Secret Service’s job.
    Especially if combined with the DHS and the FBI, which appear to have remained loyal to the President throughout the recent transition, this creates the armature of a shadow government: intelligence and police services which are not accountable through any of the normal means, answerable only to the President.

    (Note, incidentally, that the DHS already has police authority within 100 miles of any border of the US; since that includes coastlines, this area includes over 60% of Americans, and eleven entire states. They also have a standing force of over 45,000 officers, and just received authorization to hire 15,000 more on Wednesday.)

    The third theme is money. Trump’s decision to keep all his businesses (not bothering with any blind trusts or the like), and his fairly open diversion of campaign funds, made it fairly clear from the beginning that he was seeing this as a way to become rich in the way that only dedicated kleptocrats can, and this week’s updates definitely tally with that. Kushner looks increasingly likely to be the money-man, acting as the liaison between piles of cash and the president.

    This gives us a pretty good guess as to what the exit strategy is: become tremendously, and untraceably, rich, by looting any coffers that come within reach.

    Combining all of these facts, we have a fairly clear picture in play.

    Trump was, indeed, perfectly honest during the campaign; he intends to do everything he said, and more. This should not be reassuring to you.

    The regime’s main organizational goal right now is to transfer all effective power to a tight inner circle, eliminating any possible checks from either the Federal bureaucracy, Congress, or the Courts. Departments are being reorganized or purged to effect this.
    The inner circle is actively probing the means by which they can seize unchallenged power; yesterday’s moves should be read as the first part of that.

    The aims of crushing various groups — Muslims, Latinos, the black and trans communities, academics, the press — are very much primary aims of the regime, and are likely to be acted on with much greater speed than was earlier suspected. The secondary aim of personal enrichment is also very much in play, and clever people will find ways to play these two goals off each other.

    If you’re looking for estimates of what this means for the future, I’ll refer you back to yesterday’s post on what “things going wrong” can look like. Fair warning: I stuffed that post with pictures of cute animals for a reason.


    • Abraxas January 30, 2017 at 10:55 pm #

      From Heather Richardson, professor of History at Boston College:
      “What Bannon is doing, most dramatically with last night’s ban on immigration from seven predominantly Muslim countries– is creating what is known as a “shock event.”
      Such an event is unexpected and confusing and throws a society into chaos. People scramble to react to the event, usually along some fault line that those responsible for the event can widen by claiming that they alone know how to restore order.
      When opponents speak out, the authors of the shock event call them enemies. As society reels and tempers run high, those responsible for the shock event perform a sleight of hand to achieve their real goal, a goal they know to be hugely unpopular, but from which everyone has been distracted as they fight over the initial event. There is no longer concerted opposition to the real goal; opposition divides along the partisan lines established by the shock event.
      Last night’s Executive Order has all the hallmarks of a shock event. It was not reviewed by any governmental agencies or lawyers before it was released, and counterterrorism experts insist they did not ask for it. People charged with enforcing it got no instructions about how to do so. Courts immediately have declared parts of it unconstitutional, but border police in some airports are refusing to stop enforcing it.
      Predictably, chaos has followed and tempers are hot.
      My point today is this: unless you are the person setting it up, it is in no one’s interest to play the shock event game. It is designed explicitly to divide people who might otherwise come together so they cannot stand against something its authors think they won’t like.
      I don’t know what Bannon is up to– although I have some guesses– but because I know Bannon’s ideas well, I am positive that there is not a single person whom I consider a friend on either side of the aisle– and my friends range pretty widely– who will benefit from whatever it is.
      If the shock event strategy works, though, many of you will blame each other, rather than Bannon, for the fallout. And the country will have been tricked into accepting their real goal.
      But because shock events destabilize a society, they can also be used positively. We do not have to respond along old fault lines. We could just as easily reorganize into a different pattern that threatens the people who sparked the event.
      A successful shock event depends on speed and chaos because it requires knee-jerk reactions so that people divide along established lines. This, for example, is how Confederate leaders railroaded the initial southern states out of the Union.
      If people realize they are being played, though, they can reach across old lines and reorganize to challenge the leaders who are pulling the strings. This was Lincoln’s strategy when he joined together Whigs, Democrats, Free-Soilers, anti-Nebraska voters, and nativists into the new Republican Party to stand against the Slave Power.
      Five years before, such a coalition would have been unimaginable. Members of those groups agreed on very little other than that they wanted all Americans to have equal economic opportunity. Once they began to work together to promote a fair economic system, though, they found much common ground. They ended up rededicating the nation to a “government of the people, by the people, and for the people.”
      Confederate leaders and Lincoln both knew about the political potential of a shock event. As we are in the midst of one, it seems worth noting that Lincoln seemed to have the better idea about how to use it.”

      … Trump, throughout the campaign, has mocked minorities, disabled, gays, Muslims, mocked the media, praised dictators… and you’re surprised???
      Trump was elected by less than 100,000 votes, and lost the popular vote by millions. We all need to be AFRAID AND WOKE!!! This country was built on slavery and genocide, but not anymore! Don’t let him take away our rights or divide us!

      I don’t think Jesus would like Trump. He is attacking facts, faith, the environment, dissent, allies, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, disability… He wants to bring back torture and he wants to get rid of health care for millions of Americans. I don’t want to give someone a chance, if they are going to be responsible for sacking programs that help people live, while cutting taxes and spending more on war. Americans are dying every day because they do not have health insurance. I would not be surprised if Trump ends up killing more Americans than a terrorist. He is not a normal president, he is not a good person. He is a hypocrite and a dangerous man. If you think Obama did a bad job, Trump should be fixing problems by working with Congress and not enacting executive orders and keeping only his fascist friends in the loop. He thinks political correctness is wrong, but he is fine suing people who hurt his feelings. He thinks Obama was not born in the US and demanded his birth certificate, but he does not want to release his taxes. He thought Hillary was corrupt for her private e-mails, but many on Trump’s team continue to use private e-mails, and his foundation and company present many conflicts of interest. Trump is doing nothing to expand beyond his group of supporters, and this is not normal, especially for someone who lost the popular vote and only won the Electoral College by less than 100,000 votes.

      What is wrong with being exclusive? Sometimes, we can be too inclusive… multiculturalism and diversity are great, but they’ll disappear if people confuse equality with being “included” and being the same. Men and women are different, it doesn’t mean they should not be treated equally. Different races are prone to different biology as well, but that doesn’t mean they are inferior.

      What if we celebrated difference, instead of getting offended by it? Sometimes people get hurt and offended, we should embrace our emotions instead of trying to ban things that are scary.

      But what happens if Trump is not impeached? How far will he go destroying institutions? Where will he stop? Will that not be the end of America as we know it? I fully understand the implications of impeachment, but I think it is the better alternative. What the establishment needs to realize is that they need political reform. Angry voters with the establishment are right to be angry because they are not well represented. You need to end gerrymandering. Political campaigns should be funded with public money, not private contributions and super packs. If you change those two things, it will be a real upgrade to American democracy. Sadly, this change will be very difficult because the establishment seems happy with the status quo.


  23. Bridj March 24, 2017 at 7:43 pm #

    Forget air rights… what about all the land owned by authorities (ground) but others own their apartments (like condos)… BPC, Roosevelt Island, where once the only way to get there was thru an elevator on the bridge…

    And, all the increased supply of housing these days seems to be making prices a bit lower — plus, fewer people coming looking for places to live, due to Trump and fears of immigrants/tourists…

    The big headline that came out of Thursday’s Census release: Chicago is shedding population. In 2016, an estimated 22,000 souls left the blustery shores of Lake Michigan* (and its surrounding 14 counties). They seemed to be bound for warmer climes. In continuing with a dominant post-recession migration trend, the Sunbelt picked up new residents at breakneck speed, with Phoenix and Orlando making some of the biggest gains.

    But as sharp eyes in the Twitter-sphere noticed, the numbers also reveal another trend: Growth in America’s megaregions slowed significantly. Nine out of ten of the country’s largest combined statistical areas—the largest unit by which you might judge an anchor city’s orb—came in well short of the population gains they’ve averaged since 2010. Most dramatically, the New York City-Newark CSA gained roughly one third of the number of new residents that it averaged, annually, between 2010 and 2016. The chart below reveals that stumble. Washington, D.C.’s CSA also registered a serious slowdown, as did the San Jose/San Francisco area. Only the Dallas-Fort Worth region outpaced its average gains, netting close to 150,000 people in 2016.

    What explains the slowdown? Denizens are leaving in higher numbers than in the past. New York-Newark lost 223,000 people in 2016, compared to an average of 158,000 between 2010 and 2015. Los Angeles-Long Beach lost 76,000, compared to an average of 50,000 in past years. Only a handful of CSAs have averaged gains in domestic migration (that is, folks coming in from other parts of the U.S.) over the past several years: Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston-Woodlands, Miami-Fort Lauderdale, and San Jose-San Francisco. Of those, only Dallas-Fort Worth outpaced its average. The Miami and SJ/SF regions registered net migration losses in 2016—seriously behind, in the Bay Area’s case.

    These dips in urban migration could be a blip. But in some of these cities, these numbers are consistent with smaller-level trends we’ve heard about already. We know, for example, that even as Silicon Valley continues to add jobs, it is losing people due to the incredible shortage of affordable housing. Workers are living further and further from their offices, putting a stranglehold on traffic and straining transit systems. It is astonishing to imagine that, at at the much-larger CSA level—which, in this case, includes San Francisco, San Jose, and Oakland—the same pattern may hold. Folks are not simply moving out to the suburbs. Some may be moving way, way out out of even the widest bounds you’d normally ascribe to the area.

    Mitchell L. Moss, a professor of urban policy and planning, the director of NYU’s Rudin Center for Transportation, and expert on all things New York, believes that this dynamic is playing across the New York City CSA, based on his research about super-commuting. Largely because of New York City’s housing crunch, “our population is not growing at the level that our jobs are,” he says. “So you see a growth of people traveling into work at much longer distances, from eastern Pennsylvania, and further out in Connecticut.” The rise of telecommuting also probably contributes, he says.

    It’s hard to tease out the influence of local housing markets from these numbers, since they reflect such a wide swath of urban space. New York’s CSA, for example, includes Newark, New Jersey, and Bridgeport, Connecticut, two distressed cities that have been hemorrhaging residents for decades—and not for lack of affordable housing. The new Census estimates don’t include city-level numbers.

    But MSA counts (the slightly smaller unit to gauge city populations) show very similar trends. Moreover, looking more closely at the five counties that make up housing-crunched New York City, every borough registers a serious slowdown in growth, thanks to major increases in out-migration. For example, Kings County, New York—also known as Brooklyn—netted just over 4,000 new residents last year, compared to 12,000 in 2015. That was largely because more than 43,000 people migrated out of the borough in 2016, compared to an annual out-migration of 25,000 in previous years. Manhattan lost more than 21,000 last year, compared to a recent average of 16,000.

    Yet with the exception of Chicago, all of the major CSAs are still growing. The flight of residents to the exurbs and to warmer states has not thrown these metros into Rust Belt mode yet. What keeps them afloat? A steady influx of immigrants from other countries. Indeed, New York City continues to be the magnet for international job-seekers, as the chart above shows. The new president’s efforts to ban immigration from certain countries suggests that it, and other major CSAs, could lose a critical source of demographic energy in the future. If the Statue of Liberty is forced out of a job, those cities could shift into a state of a Chicago-like decline.


    • Bridj March 24, 2017 at 9:32 pm #

      Sometimes during incidents, Amtrak goes to GCT instead of Penn… but usually they go to Penn since Amtrak runs Penn and it is easier for transfers. GCT also has different power source. So diesel is used.

      EMUs are good for commuter rail, woth relatively close atations and fast acceleration…

      EMUs are popular on commuter and suburban rail networks around the world due to their fast acceleration and pollution-free operation.[1] Being quieter than DMUs and locomotive-drawn trains, EMUs can operate later at night and more frequently without disturbing residents living near the railway lines. In addition, tunnel design for EMU trains is simpler as provisions do not need to be made for diesel exhaust fumes, although retrofitting existing tunnels to accommodate the extra equipment needed to transmit the power to the train can be expensive and difficult if the tunnel has limited clearance.

      Jurisdictions. Selfish politicians. They all want their own silos… power… no one wants to fix things. Just make themselves look good, keep the union happy… they are always just sitting around doing nothing. Sure sometimes everyone is needed on the job sote and a lot of the time they aren’t… but can’t they make things more efficient?


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