Tag: MTA

Wanted: Subway Genius

Wanted: Subway Genius by Ari KellenThe song “Charlie on the MTA”, made famous by the folk group the Kingston Trio, tells the story of a man trapped on the Boston subways because of an MTA fare hike.  It’s a goofy song, and the story behind it is absurd, but it highlights the people of Boston’s dissatisfaction with their subway system.  And while New York and Boston are different in numerous regards, in that they can at least agree (even if their reasons for dissatisfaction are a little different).  Even Governor Cuomo seems to agree; yesterday, when addressing a crowd at CUNY Graduate Center, he challenged the MTA to look internationally for “groundbreaking and innovative solutions” for the crowding and delays for which our subways have become infamous.  And if the best solution requires funding beyond the $8 billion committed by the State to the MTA, then Cuomo has promised to find a way to pay for it.  

Cuomo’s “MTA Genius Transit Challenge” has called for three different categories: 1) signal system overhauls, 2) new subway car designs or overhauls to the preexisting ones and 3) WiFi and cell service throughout the subways.  The winner in each category will win $1 million.  When discussing the challenge, Cuomo compared other cities and their metro systems.  Copenhagen, for example, has driverless electric trains with open-ended cars, while every station in Hong Kong has high-speed Wi-Fi.  He argued that the technology is out there in different cities, for New York it’s just a matter of utilizing that technology to good use.

This comes as a different approach from before; as recently as last week, Cuomo was trying to distance himself from the MTA.  Watchdogs and advocates have expressed their approval of Cuomo’s initiative, but still have concerns about what an actual plan would entail.  Under Cuomo, the State has appropriated $5.4 billion of a promised $8 billion in capital funding for the project, yet that only becomes available after the MTA drains all of its capital resources from previous years.  To be implemented in New York City, many of the transit innovations that have worked in different cities could end up being more costly due to both a 24-hour system and the complexities from navigating preexistng infrastructure.  

Cuomo has also expressed his willingness to take over renovations of Penn Station from Amtrak and prioritize the Gateway Tunnel project, which would expand the rail line between Newark and Manhattan.  Doing this, however, would require federal, State and private funding, and how that’s going to happen remains to be seen.  

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NYC’s Newest Subway Line

Rarely do I talk about the latest news outside of fun things to do in New York City, but this story is worth covering. The nearly-century long project of constructing the 2nd avenue subway is actually coming together and is set to be completed by December of 2016. The subway system has become a bit of a punch line over the years, being compared to things that will never happen. The line is expected to see traffic ranging up to 200,000 people per day. For reference, that is about the same amount as the entire subway traffic of Los Angeles.

Two miles worth of track have been laid, along with three enormous stations to bring the project up to 85% completion. With engineering crews eyeing the final 15%, they are saying this is the most challenging portion to complete. This final stretch will be troublesome due to the coupling of a brand new line to one that is nearly 100 years old.

Despite its century long delay, this project is unlike other cities’ engineering blunders like the Big Dig and the New Bay Bridge. This project is expected to come in under its budget, albeit a little late.

Currently, the East Side of NY has about 650,000 inhabitants which equates to the population of San Francisco, Chicago, and Boston combined, has only one subway line. The 4,5,6. Those working on the newest line are excited to be able to help leave their mark on NYC and help some of those half million people commute in a bit more comfort.

This section of the subway line is only phase 1 of the project. Extending from 96-63 will be completed on time with Phase 2 reaching from 125th to 96th, phase 3 from 63rd to Houston, and phase 4 from Houston to Hanover.

It surely is exciting to see the MTA extending their lines. This is the largest extension in nearly a half century!


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