Metro-North Survey Provides Insight into Westchester’s Emerging Mobility Needs

The Harlem Line's third track is part of the reason why Westchester job centers have had success in attracting reverse commuters. | Photo: Peter Ehrlich

The Harlem Line’s third track is part of the reason why Westchester job centers have had success in attracting reverse commuters. | Photo: Peter Ehrlich

Starting in 2007, the MTA undertook customer surveys on Metro-North and Long Island Rail Road, as well as in New York City (for New York City Transit). As MTR previously reported, the MTA’s New York City survey showed large income and age differences between bus and subway riders.

The 2007 Metro-North on-board survey — the railroad’s first origins and destinations survey — highlights the differences between those traveling from Westchester County to Manhattan (for both work and non-work purposes) and those traveling to and within Westchester. The survey had a 45 percent response rate, with 206,000 surveys distributed and 93,000 returned. The survey asked riders about the trips they were taking at the time surveyed, and riders’ planned return trips.

While work travel from Westchester to Manhattan comprised the largest share of the railroad’s passengers — 60 percent — more than one in five Metro-North passengers surveyed were either traveling from New York City into Westchester or traveling within Westchester (what the survey calls “Intermediate Travel”).

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Mayor de Blasio’s Next 100 Days (and Beyond)

Mayor Bill de Blasio | Photo: cooper.edu

Mayor Bill de Blasio | Photo: cooper.edu

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio mentioned the Vision Zero initiative early in last week’s address marking 100 days since taking office, citing a 26 percent decrease in traffic fatalities during the first quarter of 2014. He also pointed out that his administration has filled nearly 289,000 potholes this year – more than double the potholes filled last year – saying of the new record, “that’s something to be proud of.”

While he has made strides in implementing the Vision Zero program so far, much remains to be done, including identifying how he will fund the implementation of the program. Beyond Vision Zero, here are a few more transportation issues that Tri-State hopes to see tackled in the next 100 days:

Will he make good on his plan for “world class bus rapid transit?” Faster and more efficient bus service is an issue that has been gaining momentum, and better buses were a highlight of candidate de Blasio’s policy book in 2013. In it, he called for allocating funds from the city’s capital budget to “create a citywide Bus Rapid Transit network with more than 20 bus lines… at a fraction of the cost of major subway projects.” Six Select Bus Service routes have been implemented in four boroughs, but to achieve the mayor’s goal, his administration will have to devote considerable resources to the task. In addition, the mayor has yet to outline how he will go beyond SBS, or BRT-lite, and implement full BRT in New York City.

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NYC Bus Riders Tend To Be Older and Poorer than Subway Riders

mta-bus-stop

Photo: James Estrin/The New York Times

If you ride the subway, bus or train every day, you’re surrounded by others. But just what do you know about your fellow transit riders?

Turns out, the MTA was wondering this too. Starting in 2007 and continuing through 2014, the MTA undertook surveys of Metro-North customers (2007), New York City residents (2008, for NYCT) and Long Island Rail Road customers (2012-2014 – results forthcoming). The surveys shed some light on the demographics of the region’s transit riders, including why they’re using it and where they’re going.

The New York City survey was conducted from May through November 2008 and covers all respondents’ travels “for a 24-hour period, regardless of what mode was used.” The MTA’s results provide data for over 16,000 residents and more than 13,000 households. While it’s true that the survey is a little less than six years old, unlike more recent data available through the Census or American Community Survey (as well as related Census Transportation Planning Products, which use Census and ACS data), the MTA’s survey is especially useful in that it includes all travel, not just travel for work.

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Riders Lose: New York State Legislature Fails to Stop Raid on Public Transportation

Statement of the New York League of Conservation Voters, NYPIRG Straphangers Campaign, Permanent Citizens Advisory Committee to the MTA, Pratt Center for Community Development, Reinvent Albany, Riders Alliance and Tri-State Transportation Campaign on the New York State Legislature’s failure to stop Governor Cuomo’s raid of dedicated transit funds: 

For immediate release – March 29, [...]

Real-Time Bus Technology Advances While Many Bus Stops Still Lack Basic Amenities

With the launch of BusTime to Brooklyn and Queens earlier this month, the MTA completed its roll-out of BusTime, a smartphone and web app that allows bus riders to access real time bus information. This is good news for anyone who’s had the frustrating experience of waiting for a late bus. Minutes can feel like hours when you don’t know how long you’ll be waiting for the next bus — especially in inclement weather.

Advocates continue to call for other improvements like bus countdown clocks (as seen on some subway platforms), which would benefit all riders, not just those who use smartphones. And although technological advances like BusTime are welcome new amenities, many bus stops — particularly those located in the outer boroughs — still lack even the most basic infrastructure. Shelters, benches, signage with maps, route destinations and schedules, and curb-to-sidewalk accessibility are factors that can affect the comfort, safety and convenience of bus riders. When these features are missing, it impacts all riders, but particularly those who rely on buses the most: seniors, disabled riders and commuters who live in areas where the closest subway stop may be a bus ride away.

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How Far Would $40 Million Go?

The scenario outlined in the report could improve and restore service on several subway lines, including the W train, which was cut in 2010. | Photo: NY Daily News

The scenario outlined in the report could improve or restore service on many subway lines, including the W train, which was cut in 2010. | Photo: NY Daily News

Today, while legislators in Albany scramble to stop Governor Cuomo’s ill-advised diversion of $40 million in dedicated transit funds during the final hours of State budget negotiations, a report was released outlining just how far $40 million could go to restore and expand transit service in the New York metropolitan area. The report, authored by Riders Alliance and NYPIRG’s Straphangers Campaign, provides a scenario in which the $40 million is spent on transit upgrades, and details how those investments could substantially improve the commutes of the region’s transit riders.

Subways

  • Restore mid-day, nighttime and weekend service that was reduced on the 1, 7, A, F, J, L and M lines in 2010, creating shorter waits for 300,000 riders every weekday and 285,000 riders every weekend ($3.1 million)
  • Add 20 percent more morning rush hour service on the notoriously crowded C train ($1 million)
  • Restore G train service to Forest Hills–71st Avenue in Queens ($1.5 million)
  • Restore W train one-seat service from Astoria to Lower Manhattan ($3.4 million)

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Tri-State and Straphangers Say No to Governor Cuomo’s MTA Diversion

NY Assemblymembers | Photo: Dan Rivoli/AM New York

At a rally earlier this month, Assembly leaders and advocates urge Governor Cuomo to remove a $40 million transit raid. Photo: Dan Rivoli/AM New York

In an op-ed in Newsday and amNY today, Tri-State Transportation Campaign’s executive director Veronica Vanterpool, and Straphangers Campaign staff attorney Gene Russianoff, called on the New York State legislature, particularly the Long Island delegation, to hold firm on its rejection of Governor Cuomo’s proposed $40 million diversion of dedicated transit funds to the State General Fund. Such diversions can lead to service cuts and fare increases, as was the case in 2010 after $260 million in transit funding was used to plug state budget holes. Long Island’s elected officials have already stood up to the proposed diversion in both the Senate and Assembly budgets:

Long Island’s Senate and Assembly members understand the importance of this transit funding. Thanks to the efforts of State Senate co-leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) and senior Assembly members like Charles Lavine (D-Glen Cove), the proposed budgets of both the Senate and the Assembly withdrew the governor’s $40 million diversion.

But as negotiations for the final budget enter the final days, it is imperative that the Senate and Assembly remain firm in their opposition to the Governor’s proposed diversions. As the op-ed highlights, $40 million could go a long way towards stabilizing the MTA’s tenuous finances, while also potentially restoring previously cut service–like weekend service on the West Hempstead branch–or holding down next year’s proposed fare hike.

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Report Highlights the Need for Smarter Infrastructure Planning and Spending in New York City

caution-ahead-cufNews that the region’s transit ridership is growing coincided with a report this month that offers a sobering reminder of the challenges facing New York City’s critical infrastructure. In its latest report, Caution Ahead, the Center for an Urban Future reminds New York City residents, businesses and elected officials of the ugly truth: that New York City’s transportation infrastructure is old, and it needs help:

  • 30.4 percent of NYC roads are in “fair” or “poor” condition, up from 15.7 percent in 2000
  • 51 percent of highways are rated “fair” or “poor” in 2012 compared to 38 percent in 2008
  • 162 of the City’s 1445 bridges – or 11 percent – were structurally deficient

Below ground, the situation is just as dire. New York’s subway is over 100 years old, and the equipment that allows for sequencing of trains isn’t much younger. This system of signals covers 728 miles, 269 of which have exceeded their 50-year useful life. New signals aren’t exactly as sexy an investment as something like new train cars would be, but they are critically important nonetheless. If you’ve ever wondered why some lines don’t have countdown clocks, and why some seem to run on time while others seem to be constantly delayed, these signals are invariably a contributing factor. The subway is so old that even the 13 repair shops built to service these signals and other subway equipment on average were built almost 90 years ago. Continuing to rely on these antiquated facilities simply makes maintaining equipment more costly.

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Albany Budget Dance is Now in Full Swing

Transit champions Assemblymember Jim Brennan (top) and State Senator Marty Golden | Photos: Riders Alliance, NYSenate.gov

Transit champions Assemblymember Jim Brennan (top) and State Senator Marty Golden stood up for transit riders by removing Governor Cuomo’s proposal to divert $40 million from the MTA.  Photos: Riders Alliance, NYSenate.gov

This week, the New York State Assembly and Senate finally showed their cards, making public their one-house budget resolutions in response to Governor Cuomo’s Executive Budget. The next few weeks will be a flurry of negotiations and deals, and there are several issues TSTC is keeping on the radar.

Diversion of Transit Funds: Removed

The 2014-2015 Executive Budget proposes to divert $40 million in dedicated transit funds to pay off State Service Contract Bonds. The Assembly and Senate have responded in unison by standing up for transit riders and removing the proposal.

The saga began in 2002 when the State signed a contract with the MTA that obligated the State to pay the debt service on these bonds. Last year the governor backtracked on that obligation, and proposed to use $20 million in funds dedicated to transit to pay off the bonds, instead of using funds from the General Fund. Unfortunately, last year’s diversion slipped through in the budget process. The governor upped the ante in January, proposing a diversion twice the size of last year’s, while also revealing that he intended to pay down the entire $345 million in outstanding State-obligated bond debt by diverting chunks of transit funds every year over the course of the next 17 years.

As Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli points out, these are funds that could otherwise have gone to the MTA, and as the Straphangers Campaign’s Gene Russianoff told Capital New York, “We suffered through the bad times… Now with the economy improving, the MTA is being treated like a cash cow by the governor’s office.”

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Annual Transit Ridership Grows, but Not on Long Island

Transit ridership is up across the region, except in Nassau and Suffolk Counties. | Photo: Ed Betz/Newsday

Transit ridership is up across the region, except in Nassau and Suffolk Counties. | Photo: Ed Betz/Newsday

The American Public Transportation Association (APTA) released its annual overview of transit ridership in the United States today, and by and large the news across the country was good. According to the report:

In 2013 Americans took 10.7 billion trips on public transportation, which is the highest annual public transit ridership number in 57 years[...]This was the eighth year in a row that more than 10 billion trips were taken on public transportation systems nationwide. While vehicle miles traveled on roads (VMT) went up 0.3 percent, public transportation use in 2013 increased by 1.1 percent.

In New York, annual transit ridership growth largely mirrored national patterns. The Long Island Rail Road saw annual growth of over 2 percent, and even Metro-North, which had a year that Connecticut General Assembly Transportation Chair Representative Tony Guerrera aptly described as ”appalling,” still saw growth of .6 percent.

Ridership grew by 3.6 percent in New York City; in Westchester County, ridership on the County’s Bee-Line bus system grew by over 1.5 percent.

In New Jersey, ridership on the Port Authority’s transit systems grew by .47 percent and ridership on NJ Transit grew by 1.54 percent.

The lone blemish on the region’s widespread transit ridership growth was Long Island’s bus systems, with both Nassau Inter-County Express (NICE) and Suffolk County Transit (SCT) experiencing ridership drops in 2013. With a ridership drop of almost 2.4 percent, NICE ridership fell to its lowest level since 1998. In Suffolk County, ridership fell by just over 3 percent, resulting in the system’s lowest annual ridership since 2005.

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