Wednesday, April 02, 2008

How Does Congestion Pricing Help A City That Can't Manage Public Transit?

The future of congestion pricing was displayed yesterday morning on the subway platform at Ditmas Avenue: the outdoor platform was chock-full of people (on a thankfully mild morning) while a train (expected to make all local stops) barreled through the station, blowing air horns, making express stops only, leaving everyone on the platform.

Mayor Bloomberg thinks people should use their cars less and use public transportation more; but as a New Yorker with a prince's view of commuting in New York, he has no idea what it is like to have to spend three hours a day commuting WITHIN THE CITY LIMITS, watching trains pass you by for no apparent reason other than incompetence.

In theory, a subway line has two terminals, a beginning and an end, if you will; and these terminals are sort of like parents. The terminals are where the trains are cared for and provided orders and guidance. Without terminals, trains really have no chance of succeeding.

I want to introduce the notion of bastard subway lines, a term I am coining for the subway lines put in place during the Giuliani and Pataki administrations that serve no useful purpose, and lack a terminal at one end of the line or the other. The four lines I am primarily concerned with are the Q, V, W, and G lines that go half-way to almost nowhere and fail to do anything but delay the lines on whose tracks they are squatting (primarily, Sixth Avenue and Broadway locals).

Bastard lines are an albatross around the necks of commuters.

When I moved to New York, the Q ran from Coney Island, Brooklyn, through Manhattan along Sixth Avenue, into Queens. It has been dismembered and replaced by a shortened Q that runs along the Broadway Line, ends at 57th Street in Manhattan and is supplemented (Monday through Friday) by the bastard V line which starts its journey as a Sixth Avenue Local at Second Avenue in the Lower East Side of Manhattan and runs through Queens.

The bastard W line that starts at Whitehall Street in Lower Manhattan on the Broadway express track runs as a local to Astoria, Queens.

None of 57th Street, Whitehall Street, nor 2nd Avenue that now serve as terminals are actually designed as terminals. They have no facilities to provide the services that are needed at terminals. Express tracks that are not otherwise used (for no good reason) have been turned into switching tracks. Switching the trains from Local to Express tracks and Northbound to Southbound, and/or any combination of those events, during rush hours causes delays for all trains sharing those rails.

These delays create the need for local trains to be run as express trains and inconveniencing thousands of commuters daily.

The F train, a vital local train running under Sixth Avenue, suffers not only the indignity of disruption by the bastard V line, but then suffers in Brooklyn disruption by the bastardized G line. During the week, the F train is delayed along its route to allow V and G trains to do their bastard switching.

The G line is a local train that used to run from Queens to Coney Island, Brooklyn, never entering Manhattan. Though not a terribly popular line, it is a useful line. Sadly, some supply-side economics re-engineering freak paying homage to the destruction of America that is Reaganomics, determined that the G should go from nowhere to nowhere.

The G now begins its trip at Court Square, in Long Island City, Queens, a station that is NOT a terminal, and ends at Smith & Ninth Streets (also not a terminal) atop a massive viaduct spanning the Gowanus Canal, in Brooklyn. This Brooklyn terminus is just one stop shy of a stop that would connect the bastardized G to the Fourth Avenue locals (M, R), allowing easy connection to Sunset Park and Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. Also, one further stop would have brought the bastardized G into the subway at Seventh Avenue in Park Slope, providing shelter to those who must switch to the now-delayed F train.

Having the G end inside the subway may help prevent desperate announcements during the Winter that it is very windy and dangerously cold standing on the terminus platform atop the viaduct, and advising commuters to switch at Bergen or Carroll Streets for the F train.

When an F train, in its arduous effort to make its way to Coney Island, approaches Bergen Street, in Brooklyn, it must wait for the bastardized G to make its way to its non-terminal terminus, wait while the conductors change positions to the opposite ends of the trains, then limp over to the (unused) Express track to delay an additional F train when it wants to head back to Queens.

The Coney Island-bound F must then make up its lost time by running express and inconveniencing thousands of commuters.

Why this re-routing? Lines seem to have been re-routed for no good reason, it seems, than to make way for bastard lines that interrupt service. The only reason I can see for the W and V lines is to create additional cleaning contracts to be given to private companies that take the tax dollars but fail to clean the cars.

Cleaning a subway car takes more effort than dumping a bottle of artificial-strawberry room deodorizer into a pail of dirty water and sloshing the grimey concoction around the linoleum-covered floor. But his is all that is done to the V train at 2nd Avenue.

The G trains cannot be cleaned in Brooklyn because they are on a viaduct high above the Gowanus Canal trying to change direction with no platforms to aid conductors, inspectors or cleaners.

Under Republicans Giuliani and Pataki, subway lines have been destroyed, distorted, and made ineffectual, but the contracts for maintaining the subway by private companies have skyrocketed even when no effective work is performed and no gainful employment is realized by the citizenry. Another Republican (albeit a fake Republican), Bloomberg, does nothing to fix the subway, because he has no grasp of what it means to actually live as a person in a city; he lives as a prince and must assume the rest of us enjoy his privileges (yachts and helicopters and limousines, to enhance the occasional subway ride).

Mike Bloomberg is not fit to run New York. He has done less for New York than Giuliani. Bloomberg should be blocked from thinking up any new ideas for 'improving' New York until he shows he can fix that which once worked and is now broken; namely, the subway!

Until Bloomberg can make needed improvements to the subway, New Yorkers should work to block his plan to implement a congestion tax.

No comments: