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Nick

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  1. My experience with Greyhound package service is from decades ago but, at least back then, people could use it themselves, in that someone could go to a Greyhound station to hand over or pick up a package. The service was not door-to-door; a Greyhound would not show up outside an office building or your home. I do not know if Greyhound had an arrangement with any truck-based carrier like UPS or USPS. https://www.greyhound.com/en/about (as accessed 12-10-20) mentions the service but nothing about connections with truck-based carriers. The website makes one statement that's either intriguing or wrong: it offers low prices and overnight service, but overnight from Miami to San Francisco would require connecting with an overnight carrier like FedEx, UPS, or USPS and that's probably not priced low. It's probably an error. If there are Greyhound-plus-carrier arrangements, Greyhound would promote them, so it's likely an error. I think this is for people in small towns shipping to nearby large cities. If Greyhound pricing is based on passengers paying the costs of running a bus, package revenue is gravy, so it can be cheap even if only one small package per trip is carried and it would still be profitable.
  2. I forgot about a whole slew of minor bus companies that compete almost head-to-head, probably mostly on price, and that don't use the Port Authority, but use, e.g., midtown curbsides or Chinatown in NYC. Some go to somewhere near Washington, D.C., like Vamoose Bus, and a few years ago I saw one company, with maybe two buses without bathrooms, connecting Brooklyn and Atlanta. Flixbus lists 138 U.S. destinations, Megabus lists 80 destinations, Wanda Coach 72, Bolt Bus 19 in the U.S., and Sprinter Bus 5; and I'm sure I'm missing some. (I don't know whether to count Coach USA with its approximately 398 U.S. destinations. Maybe my thinking that the national bus lines are limited to Greyhound and formerly Continental Trailways is outdated.) Some seem not head-to-head but are close enough that local transportation easily makes up the difference. Decades ago, one competitor to Greyhound was Grey Rabbit, using one or a few Volkswagen minibuses to go coast to coast, but it probably didn't have legal authority and I think Greyhound went after them legally.
  3. I think some intercity bus routes got government subsidies, as did some Amtrak routes, because of community pressure to maintain service despite the number of tickets being sold being inadequate. The train has some romantic appeal. Buses don't. So, maybe, some subsidies got cut. I haven't looked into it. If so, that would explain some route cuts. One Adirondack Trailways route that was cut I suspect was cut because the communities became more upscale, implying more cars, and fewer people, even counting visitors, would take buses. Families and other groups can often travel more cheaply by car than by bus. Some routes may have been taken over by lower-cost competitors, perhaps using smaller or older vehicles (older vehicles may cost less if maintenance is creative) or paying drivers less (like if the owner is the only driver). Some routes always puzzled me. Greyhound had at least one within New York City. I guess it was a feeder for passengers and packages but New York City's subway system runs much more often and conveniently to both Manhattan bus terminals and UPS, FedEx, et al. will take packages to many more places and door-to-door. I don't knoe what bus lines charge for package express. Greyhound's heyday may have been in the 1930s Depression. For decades, it generated enough loose cash that it built unrelated businesses, Armour meat and Dial soap. Trailways was a competing coast-to-coast company. Eventually, Greyhound got out of the other businesses and Trailways trunk routes got merged into Greyhound's, leaving Trailways as a collection of franchises that don't necessarily connect although they may provide better service. I'm not sure Greyhound is on a death spiral. It had dipped to about 1,200 buses and has gone up to about 1,700 lately. Route maps for major bus companies seem harder to find online than in the pre-Internet days of Russell's Bus Guide, a monthly book of schedules. Your (@Mtatransit) explanation about airlines like Spirit makes sense (though I haven't checked Spirit's route map or fares). Many people might tolerate a slightly higher fare plus ground transportation in exchange for getting there a lot faster door-to-door.
  4. Greyhound, decades ago, at one of the holidays, I think Christmas, faced so many passengers wanting to ride from New York City to the Carolinas (and likely other Southern states) that it needed around 40-50 buses for a single departure that was usually served by a single bus. Once, the N.Y. Times wrote about it. (Each bus for one departure was called a section. Buses would continuously fill and load and, I think, some would skip some stops on the way.) Greyhound, even with a bigger fleet back then, would charter buses from other companies. Back then, almost no bus, Greyhound or otherwise, featured reserved seating. That’s like 1,600-2,000 extra passengers back then, for one scheduled time. And Greyhound had more than one departure time. Yet, maybe a year or two ago, long before the pandemic, I asked a ground worker at the Port Authority Bus Terminal if that still happens. He seemed surprised at the quantity and thought there might be a couple of extra buses but that’s it. He thought it’s because passengers now have to reserve. So, I wonder: --- Have passengers simply stopped bunching into a single popular time to leave and spread out to other departures? --- Were most seats filled but not paid for? --- Do more people who live on Greyhound budgets now take trains or fly? Maybe Greyhound is no longer so cheap, even after adding for inflation in the cost of living. --- Is Christmas travel no longer much of a market and many holidays are diverting these trips? --- Is long-distance travel for annual family reunions no longer much of a market? --- Has the direction of travel has simply reversed? I don’t think so, because that would still require just as many extra buses, just in the opposite direction for each trip leg. --- Some other cause? --- Am I wrong and so was the ground worker and the passenger bunching is close to what it was?
  5. Fine, I'm glad it was in the plan and you knew about it early, but, precisely because it wasn't stated where most of the public would be likely to find it, a complaint to the management about this necessity not being in the plan was highly appropriate, and, having written and then gotten an update, I thought to share it here. It should have already been posted at OMNY.info about six months ago when I looked, but that was their oversight, albeit now remedied, not my oversight for asking and then telling readers here. That reinforces my point. You found part, but that was on pp. 60-63, and you didn't find the other part. The MTA.info and OMNY.info websites I would guess have thousands of pages of content. Most people are not likely to hunt for pp. 60-63 or even just p. 60 in anything if we're told the info is on a website and we look for where it should be on that website and it's not there. When you want to promote information to the general public (such as me) because you want most people to know, it's up to you to expose it for most people. The MTA didn't, back then. Maybe my complaining about the product got someone to put it more visibly on the website. They don't have to sell that way and many won't do that, or won't do it for long. Loss leaders are turned into profitable products or are dropped if the purpose of loss-leading isn't working. Supermarkets often don't repeat deals that don't work. When barcoding began, data revealed failures. I shop in a chain supermarket that doesn't take coupons because coupons don't work for them. Entry-level printers were long sold by many retailers with manufacturers' support at nearly break-even for the reason you cited (also for paper sales), but that's because the deal worked for them, not because they had to or Canon made them do it or because we liked them doing so. (Co-op advertising can look like a price mandate but taking the co-op deal is voluntary.) There's no reason to think that OMNY cards would fare better than, say, daily newspapers in getting people to buy something else also; some do buy something else but newspapers are still sold at a profit for the dealers, even when the publishers lose money. I don't think you'll get 200,000 retailers to waive profitability and still stock the inventory and still train employees in how to reload fares. I did forget about the MetroCard store signs, but that supports my point. Sales volume per store will usually be low and unlikely to rise, so, in most stores, promotion in windows, on awnings, etc. is unlikely. Without OMNY, there's lots of little signs in store windows. We don't read most of them. You'll probably know which retailers near your home or workplace carry OMNY even without signs, but if you go somewhere unfamiliar finding one could be a challenge, especially at night in neighborhoods where virtually all stores are closed when you need one. Subway booths might know one but bus drivers won't. And store owners won't keep late hours just to sell or refill 0-2 cards per week during the late hours, if it wasn't already worth staying late, especially mom-and-pop stores that are run by mom alone or pop alone. Thanks. I hope everyone's healthy.
  6. @Kamen_Rider and @RestrictOnTheHanger: About six months ago, it wasn't on the MTA.info website and when I inquired a reply was that OMNY cards would be sold by retailers with no mention of the MTA selling them in stations. As far as I know, that changed for the better sometime in the last six months, give or take. Because stores (unless owned by the MTA or other supplier) can, by law, pretty much charge whatever they like, won't agree to a deal in which they can't reasonably expect to make a profit, and won't settle for today's 3% cut, which, on a $3.75 ($2.75 + $1) MetroCard, comes to under 11 cents. Okay for high-volume steady sales but otherwise that's not enough. There are, at last count, about 2,000 retailers. If sales would only be at independent retailers, the MTA would need enough retailers to cover every subway station and every bus stop. If you try telling customers to look for Charlie's Luncheonette across the street from the bus stop and two doors from the corner, most customers won't remember that. Most retailers won't hang big outdoor signs about having OMNY cards and the MTA will want nearly 24x7 availability. Result: The MTA would need about 200,000 retailers in the city and nearby. Good luck getting them to sign up without a profit. They don't sell sandwiches without a profit, even when they love all their customers. The timing is not my concern. I don't like tap-and-go systens anyway, but I made a Faraday cage for a few cents to protect my investment for when I have to get OMNY. @RestrictOnTheHanger: The 3% being less than the cost of servicing subway machines may be the case; I don't know. The machines have to have their own security whereas retailers can stash cards behind the counter and perhaps use the same card activators that work on gift cards to activate OMNY cards; I don't know. The needs are different, so the cost structure would be different.
  7. The new OMNY fare card was previously apparently planned (according to PCAC) to be sold only in non-MTA places, mainly retailers. I objected in a letter to the MTA CEO, because store markups would likely add $10-20 per new card or refill for low-income riders, or $120 to $1,040 a year above what the MTA would collect from retailers. However, now it's said that OMNY cards will also be sold by the MTA in MTA facillities, like the MetroCard is now. Good. Also, it appears that OMNY card readers are being installed in buses at the back doors even on non-SBS buses. Also good.
  8. Times Square lost Trip Planners at the entrance on 42 St. slightly west of 7 Av./Broadway, in the space before paying a fare. I think they've disappeared in a few other places I often pass through. When Trip Planners go, it's because the entire On The Go kiosks go, which means their other services also go, including kiosk-based neighborhood maps. Kiosks come in two kinds, one with a Trip Planner and one without (they're from different contractors), and I'm not sure what's happening with the kiosks without Trip Planners (perhaps someone would like to ask). My guess is that both kinds will go, leaving only what's on the website, and maybe not even that. While it's prominent on the new website, if software maintenance cost is discouraging the MTA, the MTA won't want it anywhere. (Maintenance was definitely needed, including for usability, without which people who are not nerds won't use it.) If that was a discouraging factor, they'll likely revert to a klunky old-fashioned system of street indexes and paper maps for 511 operators, back-room system planners, and so on, with the public having to call 511, and I've had bad experience with slowness with that system. Neighborhood maps on walls likewise went but I don't remember from which stations. They seem to be absent from stations that have had substantial interior makeovers. In one newly renovated station, something that went up was up in duplicate, presumably as a convenience for users, but without that station having a neighborhood map. I vaguely think that was in Brooklyn, but I'm not sure. On the other hand, digital nontouch neighborhood maps are up in an apparently newly-renovated station at 28 St. on the IRT #6 line in Manhattan. I ride subways as part of work and often go somewhere I infrequently ride to, which makes remembering the stations of weeks ago unlikely. I haven't been in the Bronx or Queens in a long time, so those are probably not what I'm recalling.
  9. I paraphrased from the MTA's email to avoid a copyright issue (@Union_Tpke). A state or local government or agency owns the copyright. I had asked about the Trip Planner and the neighborhood maps in separate inquiries to MTA.info at about the same time and their reply was only on the former, but I've observed the partial loss of the neighborhood wall maps and so I'm guessing (as stated) that they're on their way out from stations. If maps online are outdated, please tell MTA.info. However, when I use them, occasionally a street's new name is not on the map, but it's not often. Almost all street names are stable for decades. Maps being online is not a substitute for their being in stations, where we can't always go online.
  10. The Trip Planners, interactive local maps, and On The Go kiosks in subway stations are becoming scarcer and may disappear altogether. According to the MTA, in an email reply to me after I sent the observation via their MTA.info contact system, touch screens weren't getting much use and, compared to that, maintenance cost was too high. They're adding digital displays, but without interactivity. I wish the kiosks would simply have been moved a few feet and expanded to all stations and places like Penn Station, and I've suggested that, but I don't know what I would have recommended given low use. I thought they were visible enough to prospective users, and adding marketing would compete against marketing for other purposes, so I don't know what should have been done. Some kiosks are being displaced by advertising displays that seem to be selling well. I'm glad for the revenue stream helping to pay for the subways. The trip planner had problems and there wasn't enough program patching going on, it didn't give any directions if the nearest subway or bus was over a mile from the destination (I can walk that and taxis and bikes are unrecognized alternatives), and many stations didn't have trip planner kiosks. All that likely discouraged some subsequent use, but the problems weren't usually unrepairable and I usually could get good location and route info for a destination. The 511 phone system has been far too slow to be of any use to me even when I need it, customer service booth staff for years haven't had maps beyond what the TA gives to the public, my basic phone's browser is virtually useless, and in the U.S. nearly a quarter of adults don't have smartphones. The Trip Planner is still on the MTA.info website home page. They've replaced the underlying mapping service from Microsoft with Google's and the one or two times I've reported a mapping error to Google Google has been corrective. I generally prefer Google over Microsoft, so I'm glad. I never figured out who makes the trip planner software itself. I doubt the MTA did. It's likely used by many U.S. cities. The most I've figured out is that some company used to make it but no longer does. When I looked, no one claimed credit for either creating or maintaining it. Someone at the MTA did respond to issues with advice. Printed neighborhood maps will, I guess, stay on some stations' walls, but not all stations have them. I guess that as stations get renovated those maps will disappear. They probably also won't get updated as street names change (but that isn't often anyway).
  11. Some buses have automated announcements outdoors that verbalize the destination sign. Twice, I've heard usability errors that would often confuse people thinking of boarding. I've reported both to MTA.info. I wouldn't know if the errors were corrected. Perhaps other people hear similar errors and might report them. Here are the two I heard: --- A bus was headed to W 37 St. The system said "double-you". It should have said "west". On another day, after I reported the first bus to the MTA, another bus made the same error. --- A bus was on the B36 route. It was announced as the "Bounty 36" or "Bouncy 36" (probably "Bounty 36"). It should have said "Bee 36". By the way, the latter bus was not bouncy. I stood in it for a short ride and it was just fine. An algorithm to govern pronunciations would be complicated, because, for example, "E" would be pronounced differently in different contexts. If the destination happened to be "Alfred E Smith Park", we should not say "Alfred Emanuel Smith Park" or ever "Alfred East Smith Park". The likelihood is that the best programming method is to write an algorithm, search the vocabulary for what is not accommodated by the algorithm, tweak the algorithm, search again, tweak more, and so on. This costs money.
  12. I hope these won't be stored-value cards. In other words, I assume the MTA will keep on its servers and not on the card the authoritative record of the balance on a pay-per-ride card or how much of the between-rides wait period is left on an unlimited card. Otherwise, having a contactless card get read by a non-MTA reader could reduce my remaining balance or impose a wait, probably without a notice we'd recognize. Faraday cage for me. Carrying two wallets is acceptable. Entering efficiently is nice, but I'd rather make everyone wait while I get my card out of its Faraday cage. Or I'll get it out only a moment before, enter, and put it away. I won't get the efficiency but entry shouldn't be slower than now, unless the plan is to have fewer turnstiles because entry would be faster and then we fumblers will take longer than now. @RFIDSecur: Cards being untuned, sensed at no more than half an inch away or possibly up to two inches away, may not depend on the gap being empty airspace. In my PATH experiment (above), a gap of nearly 2 inches filled with paper (700 pages) and 4 book covers was scanned through. I did not run the same experiment on multiple cards or at multiple turnstiles. @RFIDSecur: Instituting contactlessness for the MTA won't, by itself, spread contactlessness to many other institutions. I think I've seen only two brick-and-mortar retailers that won't take cash. One other retailer said about half of its transactions were with plastic, so the other half weren't. @INDman: "99.9% of the time when people get multiple fares deducted when trying to enter the system, happen because they don’t read the display of the turnstile and they tap . . . their card too many times." Yes; but the system should be designed for how people would use it rather than demanding more from people than they understand. Most people are not geeks. Occasional users, such as some retirees and most tourists, will have the overcharge problem more. A conflict is that a pay-per-ride card may be usable for multiple immediate rides, perhaps for families; so we may not want to prevent multiple uses in a short time front. Perhaps a solution is that a person with this problem who does not need multiple use can be allowed to preset the card to forbid two rides in a short time frame, even better if the owner can reverse that later at will. @checkmatechamp13: Whether "you can log in and check your card's balance and see where you swiped": I asked a customer service rep (and I think the MTA online) about that and was told it can't be done by someone like me (a passenger who has a MetroCard) or even by the customer service rep in a station booth. But I don't buy using a credit card, and maybe it can be done for some MetroCards, albeit not all. I assume police, MTA auditors, _et al._ can get the history at public terminals, like if a passenger tells an inspector that they paid before boarding as required for a few MTA bus lines but has lost the paper proof of payment.
  13. Interesting. I'm used to the term "guard rail" being for something taller, meant to catch a fender, not a wheel, but the term here has an additional meaning. On the elevated Brooklyn Q/B line at Sheepshead Bay, these rails don't go the whole length and part of where they don't go is part of a curve, which I assume would have a higher risk of derailment than would a straightaway, due to the train's momentum, so their ending short is a little surprising. The Times Square shuttle has them on all three tracks, but not laid the same, and the shuttle at Grand Central does not have them. On the shuttle, there's one rail just far enough from one running rail to accommodate a wheel flange. I guess that could be for the same purpose, protection of infrastructure, but with a different design. The shuttle design seems to depend on holding the wheels with little lateral leeway but on one side only, the other running rail having no guard rail near it, but if the one guard rail is strong enough then two are not needed. I've also seen the narrow space elsewhere, I think on the East River bridge carrying the B, but only for a short length. Many of the guard rails have a design that look like they're meant to catch something under the train, because they bend slightly inwardly near the ends and the ends are curved downward (and painted yellow). Whatever they should catch may be aligned to be outside of these guard rails. They don't put the down-curve ends on rails just being stored. I don't think that's necessarily for wheels except during a derailment, but maybe for a switch under a car, because sometimes there's a black metal box (perhaps electrical?) mounted between the running rails and the guard rails both terminate just before the box and resume just after it, and that would be a problem for wheels not in an emergency. I think I've also seen rails, I guess guard rails, that were very thin on top, but not for long lengths. The same tracks before or after would have regular-thickness guard rails. Thanks for answering my curiosity.
  14. @Deucey: Nearly a quarter of Americans do not have smartphones, as of nearly a year and a half ago (http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/01/12/evolution-of-technology/ (URL accessed tonight). My guess is that the percentage who don't have is higher among people who ride subways. My experience is that my basic cell does not work in all stations and I would expect that to be true of smartphones as well. It's good that the MTA provides Trip Planners in stations; I've made some suggestions via MTA.info but overall they need better design and better software maintenance. I wish I knew how to encourage that.
  15. The headway is typically 2 minutes 24 seconds to 3 minutes as of last September, at least where the system uses fixed-block signaling (almost the entire system still using it), although I don't know if that typicality was a minimum or an average. "CBTC can run 40 trains per hour per line, or a train every 90 seconds. Due to physical limitations in the system, the best the subway can hope to see with a CBTC system is probably around a train every 120 seconds, or 30 trains per hour; still, that’s an improvement over today’s subway, which typically runs only 20 to 25 trains per hour." This is according to Rich Barone, of the Regional Plan Association, according to The Village Voice, September 7, 2017 (https://www.villagevoice.com/2017/09/07/meet-the-century-old-technology-that-is-causing-your-subway-delays/ (as accessed 4-22-18)). The L line has CBTC and the #7 line is being fitted with it, according to the same Voice source, so I don't know if the #7 has shorter headways yet. I just took the L twice in the pm rush hour and the actual headways were sometimes about a minute. In answer to my opening post, we mostly do not have 90-second headways, if we have any besides on the L, but trains may be switching tracks so that same-minute arrivals are not likely dangerous.
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