As thousands of European budget travelers swarmed the rainy city and prepared to gaze at the big crystal ball in Times Square, many New Yorkers had already moved on to 2008. Bill Clinton worried about Mayor Bloomberg’s buying his way into the presidential race: “He could spend $1 billion and hardly miss it,” said the former president.
We love the Daily News's I Team. It's the print version of the local news TV van that zooms around the city on special assignment and finds out when somebody is overcharging for your plumbing. You can just hear them as they type away furiously, singing to themselves, "shame Shame SHAME!" And today the News team has come up with a story you can really use — something to get angry about. From the people who brought you "SUBWAY STRIKERS ARE OVERPAID AND LAZY" comes "MTA BRASS ON RUNAWAY CASH TRAIN." Through their investigation, they found out a bundle of different ways that the MTA is wasting money, even as they ask for a fare hike:
• Resource Duplication: "The MTA has seven agencies under its umbrella — each with its own president as well as legal, human resources, payroll and other departments: NYC Transit, Metro-North, Bridges and Tunnels, Long Island Rail Road, MTA Capital Construction, MTA Bus Company, MTA Long Island Bus."
• Overhiring for Capital Projects: "Division was formed in 2003 to handle big construction projects, like the Second Ave. line and the expansion of the 7 line. It employs 68 — by next year that number is expected to rise to 150. There are 640-plus employees already working on capital projects at other agencies who pocket $38 million in salaries."
You may have seen a bunch of renderings of potential designs for the land above the Hudson Yards in this morning's papers. But as one of the teams' lead architects pointed out to us, "The challenge is, your eye immediately goes to the buildings, but it's unlikely any of the buildings are going to look like this. That's the challenge to the MTA, to boil down fundamental issues for the public." So instead, we're giving you one of the images that probably will find its way into reality if its team is selected — one for the long, narrow green space looking eastward from the Durst/Vornado proposal. That might just be the glass arc over the proposed Moynihan Station that you see in the distance. But meanwhile, what is Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling doing in the foreground on the right? —Alec AppelbaumRelated:The Next 'West' Thing [NYP]
Five Companies Bid to Remake Six Blocks of Hudson Yards Area [NYDN]
Ever wonder/rage at the ponderous logic behind the New York subway system? For twenty seconds of late-afternoon fun, check out the animated subway map that the kids at Appealing Industries cooked up. It shows, segment by segment, the order in which the whole damn mess was created. And surprisingly enough, it wasn't the G train that started it all
Animated History of the NYC Subway [Appealing Industries] via [Towleroad]
We've been hearing for a few months now about these alleged Rider Report Cards the MTA is asking straphangers to complete, grading the cleanliness and performance and whatever else of their favorite subway lines. We finally got a glimpse of one today, when a member of Team Daily Intel was handed one at his usual J/M stop on the way into work. What do we learn from an actual handout? So many things! That station and train announcements are supposed to be both easy to hear and informative. (Who knew?) That there's supposed to be a lack of both graffiti and scratchitti in stations and cars. (And that there's apparently such a thing as "scratchitti.") That they're planning to do this survey on each line each year. Like that they've already completed grading the 7, but only the 7. And, finally, that New York City Transit president Howard H. Roberts Jr. has the most easily forgeable signature of any major city official. Just something to keep in mind.
In another grand leap forward for mobile New Yorkers, someone other than the MTA is once again making public transit easier. Google is poised to launch Google Transit for the city, which will make it possible to search for directions from one place to another, using the quickest subway or bus route. (You know, sort of like HopStop.com but with the power and popularity of Google)The system is already in place for several other U.S. cities, including Tampa, Dallas, Portland, and Seattle. When they implemented it in Duluth, public bus use shot up 12 percent. This is genius, though the MTA's routine unannounced delays and murky service changes are likely to throw a lot of wrenches in the gears. After all, can a computer algorithm possibly pre-calculate "goddamn-sick-person-on-the-train ahead-of-us"–related delays?
Google May Start NY Transit Maps to Boost Ads [Bloomberg]
Google to Map the Subway [Subway Blogger]
Earlier:Facebook to Reduce Rage, Increase Hookups on Subway
In spite of ourselves, we're beginning to think that Facebook might actually be the solution to all of life's problems. We love their new Subway application, in which members can self-update delays and changes on MTA and PATH routes. Of course, once you've signed up with your regular subway line, you are linked with everyone else on it, which can be helpful if occasionally you like to come face-to-face with people you know from the Internet. Plus, you can rant or rave about a train as much as you like, for all to see. There's also a "Missed Connections" feature for when you make eye contact across a crowded car. Which, as we all know, is the only reason anyone takes the L train.
Facebook Subway Status App [Subway Blogger]
• One actual result of Troopergate (Brunogate? Spitzergate?): The State Ethics Commission passed a new rule preventing officials from using state aircraft unless the primary purpose of their trip is state business and requiring reimbursement for those parts that are not. [NYT]
• Sure, the Feds promised Bloomberg $354 million for his traffic-reduction plan (if he can get the city and state to pass it), but that dough's mainly to put up new bus depots. Of the roughly $200 mil needed to charge drivers entering Manhattan, Uncle Sam's promised only $10 million. [NYT]
• In the wake of the Great Subway Flood, city-council members are demanding that the MTA spend some $300 million to provide cell service on subway platforms — so that the transit agency can send riders jumbled, unintelligible text messages in the event of delays. [Metro NY]
It's raining out ("lightly," according to Weather.com; heavily, according to a look out our window), one to two inches of rainfall is expected, with "locally heavier rainfall possible," and there's a flash-food watch in effect for the city. And yes, at least according to the MTA's Website, nearly all the subway trains are running — the only exception being some delays and diversions on the 2, 3, and 5 lines in Harlem, owing to a police investigation, not because of the weather. So, hey, congratulations, MTA, for doing what you're supposed to do. Well done.
Service Alert [MTA]
• Andrew Cuomo, getting a feel for this whole crusading-A.G. thing, is asking the legislature to grant his office broad jurisdiction and subpoena powers. Our new awesome conspiracy theory: He gets the state GOP to empower him by promising them Spitzer's head — and then subpoenas Bruno! [NYS]
It was a rough day for the MTA. And at a press conference this afternoon Eliot Spitzer revealed just how bad. The subway system is designed to drain up to an inch and a half of rainfall, he said; this storm inundated it with three inches in a frenzied hour. That made for what Spitzer said "is supposed to be a highly unusual event" — except for one thing: It's the third time this year that's happened. The puddling problem wasn't this morning's only calamity — MTA executive director Lee Sander later cited a downed tree near Stillwell Avenue and smoke in tunnels — but it was the most severe. At the governor's insistence, the MTA will take 30 days, or thereabouts, to research how it might bolster the drains. When it's announced, expect a round of wrangling among MTA leaders, state legislators, unions, and the rest. And perhaps buy yourself a kayak. —Alec Appelbaum
To recap: Every subway line was at some point today affected by the rain, and at midday the majority of lines were still in bad shape, according to Sewell Chan at the Times' City Room blog. Buses were packed, commuters were pissed, and, in a delightful little detail, the MTA's press office was hugely understaffed because all but one of its employees were stuck trying to get to work. There were major delays at all three airports. Four thousand Con Ed customers lost power. A woman was killed in what the Times is calling a "storm-related car accident" on Staten Island. And, perhaps most fascinating, there may have been a tornado in Bay Ridge. No fun. (But amazing photos.)
Flooding Cripples Subway System [City Room/NYT]
As you may have noticed, it is raining today. Rather heavily, even. And so, naturally, as Daily Intel's Bushwick-residing photo editor sends a text message to report, the B, D, F, V, 4, 5, and 6 trains aren't running. The MTA Website also reports major problems on the 1, 2, 3, A, C, E, L, N, R, J, Q trains and on the 42nd Street Shuttle. (We think that leaves the 7 and the G as the only trains operating properly.) Don't you just love our aging infrastructure?
Service Alert [MTA]
• Juror Bloomberg is back at his day job — and he's brokered a deal with Albany that will require more developers in more neighborhoods to include low-income housing in their projects. Spitzer's likely to sign. [NYT]
So there's this cockamamy idea that the MTA could raise money by selling Disney the rights the advertise however the company sees fit in the Times Square station. "I would rather try to sell 42nd Street's subway system underground to Disney for $60 million a year and have them paint it any way that they want to paint it," board member Norman Seabrook suggested. We noticed this in the morning, and because we're sort of opposed to the proliferation of advertising into every corner of life, and because we think there's something untoward about selling public facilities to corporate sponsors, and just because we're crotchety and don't like change, we were against it. But then we saw the cute little logo Gothamist came up with for the combination — it's a Mouseketeers hat! On the MTA logo! Ha! — and we should say we're now sort of smitten.
Mickey Mouse for MTA? [Gothamist]
• With the Spitzer camp circling the wagons, it's Joe Bruno's hour, and he's taking full advantage of it: The State Senate leader called for multiple investigations into the administration, vowing, "This is not going to go away." [NYP]
The MTA plans to add more service on the 1, 4, 5, 6, 7, and L trains as soon as next year, the agency announced at a packed board meeting this morning. The Broadway and Lexington Avenue lines will get more evening service, the 7 more weekend service, and the L more trains at all times, plus two high-speed bus routes. The usual warnings of budget shortfalls and potential fare hikes were issued, and MTA executive director Lee Sander said the agency will have to crunch some numbers before it can determine exactly how many trains will be added.