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Trainspotter

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  1. NYC Transit failed to fix hazards on subway platforms citywide - despite warnings and instances of riders falling to the tracks, a report released Tuesday reveals. The MTA inspector general's office found significant trip-and-fall hazards along platform edges in need of immediate repair at 23 of 27 stations surveyed last year, the report said. The survey of so-called rubbing boards was launched after a Brooklyn teen fell to the tracks after a board broke under him in January 2008, and NYC Transit promised to improve inspection and maintenance efforts. The 14-year-old boy scrambled to safety seconds before a train roared into the station. "Rubbing boards with safety defects resulting from damage and deterioration pose a serious, predictable and widespread safety hazard," the report by Inspector General Barry Kluger's office concluded. "Yet, despite increased awareness, new procedures and good intentions ... a highly significant number of platform-edge conditions sampled were not correctly identified and reported by NYCT as safety defects." NYC Transit's haphazard and unsound inspections "created a false impression of system safety" and significantly delayed repairs, the report says. "It's an absolute disgrace," fumed Assemblyman Dov Hikind (D-Brooklyn). The Daily News has repeatedly reported on loose, crumbling or missing rubbing boards on platforms. Between 2005 and January 2008, three riders fell to the tracks when they stepped on rubbing boards that broke under their weight. All three managed to scramble back to the platform and avoid being struck by a train. After Avi Katz fell in January 2008 at the Kings Highway subway Q station, Hikind publicly blasted NYC Transit. Avi, now 15, told The News Tuesday that he avoids subways whenever possible. "Every time a train passes me, I freeze up," Avi said. The boy's mom, Rena, said her son has still not fully recovered emotionally. The inspector general's report found about two dozen instances where NYC Transit inspectors gave ratings indicating defects didn't pose significant safety risks - even though they wrote comments on reports clearly indicating dangerous conditions. NYC Transit said Tuesday it has done extensive repairs and right now 911 platform edges are characterized as in "good" condition, and 211 as "fair." None is in "poor" condition. By Pete Donohue DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER Tuesday, May 26th
  2. Fare-beaters are running rampant over the honor system that governs Bx12 Select Bus Service buses in the Bronx - at the very time the cash-strapped MTA needs the money most. Bronx Boro News counted five farebeaters within one hour on a recent day, 23 more in a half-hour another day, and 15 more within an hour another day, all at the Williamsbridge Road stop on Pelham Parkway. "They're not checking, so why should I pay?" said one man. "I pay enough for everything else in this world." A youngster who beat the fare at first protested that he had purchased a ticket - but only grinned when asked to show it. The Bx12 express buses, marked by flashing blue lights, allow riders, before boarding, to buy tickets from either a MetroCard or coin-operated terminal, the idea being to make the bus ride quicker. The MTA is supposed to have cops and members of its Transit Department of Security riding to check for tickets. "They very rarely check," said Julia Sacasa, 73, as she waited for the Select Bus Service. "I've been on the bus a lot of times, and they only checked once." Complicating matters, riders said the terminals - especially the coin-operated ones - are often broken, forcing people either to fare-jump or take a local bus. On a recent day, the coin-operated terminal at Williamsbridge Road and Pelham Parkway was not operational. "It's broken. It's always broken," huffed one woman, who declined to give her name. "I'm going to get on the other bus. What can I do? I'll take the local." Instead, she wound up beating the fare on the express bus. The MTA said it has issued 3,000 $100 summonses to fare-beaters since the service began 10 months ago. "The overwhelming majority of SBS customers pay their fares and bene-fit from a speedier bus ride to their destination," Vincent DeMarino, NYC Transit vice president of security, said in a statement. "It is faster and more efficient than other bus services in the city. And it is fast becoming the model for other transit agencies throughout the region to emulate," he said. Still, the fare-beating continues. On a recent day, a group of schoolchildren approached the Bx12 bus, wondering aloud whether to buy a ticket. "They never check," said one. "You're right," said another. BY Mike Jaccarino May 19th 2009
  3. Thankfully, it was only a test. "Wounded" straphangers staggered out of a smoke-filled train station Sunday morning as hundreds of firefighters and cops raced to respond to an explosion in a tunnel under the Hudson. More than 800 first responders, plus dozens of volunteers who pretended to be injured or dead, participated in the largest interagency training drill since the Sept. 11 terror attacks. Firefighters carried oxygen tanks, hoses and axes into the underground PATH station, while NYPD and Port Authority cops helped "survivors" flee the disaster near the site of the former World Trade Center. The drill, which was modeled after the July 2005 subway bombings in London, was designed to test communications among the different agencies. "We have a better system now," said Joseph Pfeifer, the chief of counterterrorism for the FDNY. "Things are very different today than on 9/11." At precisely 8:01 a.m., the drill called for the simulation of a bomb's detonation on a train between Manhattan and New Jersey. The victims, many wearing makeup simulating bloody injuries, were then stranded on the train about 1,200 feet from the Ground Zero station. Their plight was relayed to emergency responders by a series of realistic 911 calls and panic-stricken dispatches from injured PATH train conductors. "If we're going to make mistakes, we want to make them here," said Deputy Mayor for Operations Edward Skyler. "We want to learn from them [and] we want to build them into our plans." Although officials bought TV ads, plastered posters to the walls of train stations and put out alerts through the media, some travelers were still surprised at the massive mobilization. "I had to do a double take," said Iman Hayes, 12, of Brooklyn, who came across the hundreds of responders treating the wounded victims. "It was shocking and surprising at the same time." BY Joe Kemp DAILY NEWS WRITER Monday, May 18th 2009
  4. Doomsday derailed! Gov. Paterson and state legislative leaders agreed Tuesday night on a transit-funding plan eliminating the need for sky-high fare hikes and deep service cuts, officials said. The bailout, which could be adopted through legislation as soon as Wednesday, includes an employer-paid payroll tax, a 50-cent surcharge on taxi trips and other measures to fund the subway, bus and commuter train system. "Halleluiah," Gene Russianoff of the Straphangers Campaign said. "It's great news for subway, bus and commuter rail riders." The deal also provides two-years worth of funding for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's next five-year capital program starting next year. That program includes basic maintenance and upgrades to tracks, signals and other equipment. "We have rescued this system from the brink of the abyss," Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) said. Facing massive - and ballooning - deficits, the MTA had scheduled fare hikes up to 30% to hit straphangers May 1, and commuter train riders the next day. A monthly MetroCard was set to rise from $81 to an eye-popping $103. The deal, announced in Albany by Paterson, Silver and Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith (D-Queens), calls for more modest hikes raising fare and toll revenues by 10%, officials said. A monthly MetroCard now will likely be priced at about $89. The one-way cash subway and bus fare, now $2, is expected to increase to $2.25 - not $2.50. The deal signals an end to the roller coaster ride straphangers have been on for nearly a year with a series of MTA budget proposals, hearings, cost-cutting plans and ballooning deficits as the recession continued to depress tax revenues. The MTA will not have to enact such Draconian cuts leading to the elimination of more than two dozen local bus routes, longer waits for subway trains and the overnight shuttering of a few stations it authorized earlier this year. "This has been very difficult for the commuters of the MTA region," Paterson said. "We can assure them this evening there will be no surprises. There will be no further cuts or fears about fare hikes or toll increases." A state commission headed by former MTA Chairman Richard Ravitch released a transit-funding plan in December that included the payroll tax and tolls on East and Harlem river bridges. Some senate Democrats opposed tolls, stalling the rescue effort. The plan agreed to Tuesday does not include tolling the free bridges. Smith called it "victory for the public" that the Senate stood firm against tolls. Democrats have a 32-30 majority in the Senate and need every Democrat to vote for the rescue plan in the face of unified Republian opposition. Transit officials have said that they would likely push back the May 31 and June 1 fare-hikes to do the computer programing and other necessary work to implement the scaled-back increases. By Glenn Blain and Pete Donohue DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITERS May 5th 2009
  5. The lettered subway lines are coming under new management - a move transit officials hope will mean fewer delays. NYC Transit this summer will put a general manager in charge of each lettered line, expanding a program some credit with improving the on-time performance on the IRT or numbered routes. The general manager's program establishes a clearer chain of command and accountability for each subway route - with a GM at the top, NYC Transit President Howard Roberts said. "If you have a single individual focusing on everything that happens or doesn't happen on a given line, you're going to see improvements," Roberts said. The new structure debuted on the No. and lines in December 2007, and spread to the entire IRT last fall. Workers across several departments, from station cleaners to signal maintainers, march to the orders of their line manager, not division bosses. In March, on-time performance of the numbered lines increased by about 3%, according to Louis Brusati, one of two supervising general managers. On one West Side line, on-time performance jumped more than 11%, he said. Roberts credited a new approach to maintaining signals and handling sick passengers on trains. The No. line has had the worst on-time record, as riders squeezing onto packed trains cause delays that ripple along the line. But in March, the Lexington Ave. express moved up from the bottom of the heap, beating two other hyper-busy lines - the and , Roberts said. Transit advocates welcomed the program's expansion. "It has improved subway service to have one official directly in charge of a line," Gene Russianoff of the Straphangers Campaign said, "so it makes sense to appoint line general managers throughout the system." BY Pete Donohue DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER May 5th 2009
  6. A bustling Columbus Circle subway station is a fare-beater's dream. And all they have to do is walk right in. Fare-beaters strolled through an emergency exit door Wednesday at the 59th St. stop after MTA token booth clerks disabled the bleating alarm. Seven riders entered through the door in an hour. An additional 122 straphangers exited through the door, which is supposed to erupt in an earsplitting alarm unless turned off for an emergency or to allow access for the disabled. Confronted over the practice, the clerk promptly activated the alarm - and insisted it had been on the whole time. "Look, it's working," he said, before referring a Daily News reporter to a supervisor. A Metropolitan Transportation Authority spokesman did not respond to a request for comment on the door alarm. Some cheaters insisted they were doing nothing wrong, even though cops say they are just as guilty as someone who hops the turnstile. "Since when is walking through an open door breaking the law?" said one 22-year-old fare-beater, who prudently refused to give his name. "If that clerk doesn't care enough to close the door, why shouldn't I go through?" One straphanger called it inexcusable to give folks an easier path to a free ride. "It might be annoying to buzz people in or turn the alarm off, but ... that's your job," said Kelly Rosenberg, 32, a florist from Long Island. "It's just laziness." Most riders said allowing riders to exit through the doors is a common-sense way of easing congestion at packed turnstiles. "I think it's great," said Sandy Vallarta, 28, of the Bronx. "I'm in a rush. I wish they'd turn all the alarms off." Cops arrested Todd Zielinski, of Queens, on Feb. 19 and held him for 28 hours after he was caught using the emergency subway exit at a Brooklyn subway stop. A quick survey found the Columbus Circle station was not alone. At Penn Station, scores of riders yesterday streamed through the emergency exit door, where the alarm is regularly left off for hours at a time. No one entered the subway through the door when it was open, possibly because cops occasionally arrest people for doing that. "What difference does it make if I use the door or the turnstile?" asked Jonathan Cardinal, 22, of Brooklyn. "The mob is going to push through, alarm or no." "If we didn't use the door there would be a human bottleneck," added Dee Banks, 35, of Brooklyn. BY Matt Lysiak AND Dave Goldiner DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITERS May 1st 2009
  7. Yo, Joe - it ain't so. You don't know what you're talking about. Vice President Biden took an express train to Stupidville Thursday after blurting out that he's ordered his family to stay off planes and subways to avoid the swine flu - needlessly stoking fears about how the virus is spread. The advice was contrary to what President Obama and health officials have advised, which is that swine flu - while certainly contagious - should not prevent healthy people from traveling anywhere, except maybe Mexico. "I would tell members of my family - and I have - I wouldn't go anywhere in confined places now," Biden said on NBC's "Today" show. Dr. Biden pressed on with his faulty diagnosis: "It's not that it's going to Mexico - if you're in a confined aircraft and one person sneezes, it goes all the way through the aircraft." For the straphangers out there, Biden added, "I would not be at this point, if [my family] had another way of transportation, [be] suggesting they ride the subway." Wrong, experts say. "There's nothing about a subway that's more risky than any other part of New York," said Dr. John Balbus, chief health scientist for the Environmental Defense Fund. While droplets from a sneezing or coughing person can fly up to 6 feet, the best advice is to stay home if sick, cover your mouth when sneezing or coughing, and wash your hands frequently - no matter how you travel. To keep Biden's blunder from going viral, his staff quickly put out a what-Joe-really-meant statement, saying the veep thought planes and subways were still safe and that his family should only stay off them if ill. "The advice he is giving family members is the same advice the administration is giving to all Americans: that they should avoid unnecessary air travel to and from Mexico," said spokeswoman Elizabeth Alexander. "If they are sick, they should avoid airplanes and other confined public spaces, such as subways." Unfortunately for Biden, though, his errant train-of- thought gaffe had already left the station. "We just don't need that type of misinformation going out," groaned Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa). James May, president of the Air Transport Association, sent Biden a blistering letter expressing "extreme disappointment" at his suggestion that planes were unsafe. Even the ladies on "The View" unloaded - Joy Behar said, "Joe Biden doesn't remember he's the vice president sometimes." The White House later delivered its own spanking after reporters asked press secretary Robert Gibbs whether Biden's comments deserved an apology. David Saltonstall DAILY NEWS SENIOR CORRESPONDENT May 1st 2009
  8. A screwdriver-wielding panhandler stabbed a cop and tried to take another's gun in a Brooklyn subway station Thursday, prompting both officers to shoot, officials said. The suspect was wounded three times and a 16-year-old bystander was grazed in the leg by an errant bullet as mayhem erupted on a Crown Heights platform crowded with rush-hour commuters. "Kids were screaming, 'He's got a gun!' Everyone was running and hysterical," said witness Lee Beckford, 40, of Brooklyn. The violence erupted at 3:40 p.m. when suspect Stephen McKenzie, 32, tried to bum a cigarette off plainclothes cop Tyrone Barrionuevo, part of a team dispatched to the Utica Ave. station to watch for pickpockets. Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said McKenzie has a long history of psychiatric problems and lives in a shelter near the station. After aggressively demanding a cigarette, McKenzie started cursing at the 26-year-old Barrionuevo, who has been on the force for 15 months. "Are you a cop?" McKenzie reportedly asked. "Yes, I am," Barrionuevo responded, pulling out his badge, a police source said. Without warning, McKenzie drew a sharpened screwdriver and plunged it into the cop's left shoulder and leg, the source said. McKenzie allegedly attempted to stab Barrionuevo in the chest, but the thrust was blocked by the cop's bulletproof vest, Kelly said. The officer's 27-year-old partner, Alfonso Villacres, raced to help, whacking the 6-foot, 240-pound McKenzie with a baton, Kelly said. McKenzie then turned on Villacres, wrestling him to the platform and trying to grab his gun, sources said. During the tussle, two shots went off before Villacres could break free. "Both officers fired their weapons," Kelly said. A total of five shots were fired in the chaos. McKenzie was hit twice in the chest and once in the hip. He was in serious condition at Kings County Hospital. He's expected to be charged with attempted murder. The innocent teen bystander, Darnell Williams, was treated for a graze wound to his left calf. Barrionuevo was being treated Thursday night at New York Methodist Hospital. "He's shook up," said Patrick Lynch, president of the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association. "He's as well as you can be when you are stabbed." Villacres, who joined the force in 2007, was treated for minor injuries at Methodist and released. "He's fine, that's what's important," said a man who answered the door at the Villacres home and identified himself as the cop's older brother. "I was scared and mom was worried and was crying, but Alfonso called to say he was okay," brother said. The officers are assigned to the NYPD transit bureau's Operation Impact team dispatched to fight crime in Brooklynsubway stations. McKenzie's family confirmed Thursday night that he has waged a life-long battle with schizophrenia, but insisted he's never been violent. "When he takes his medication he's fine," Joy McKenzie, 50, a nurse, said of her brother. Brother-in-law Orlando Severn said McKenzie showed up unexpectedly at his Brooklyn home Wednesday and calmly sat on the front stoop as his niece braided his hair. "There was no sign he was going off," Severn said. BY Alison Gendar, Kerry Burke and Bill Hutchinson DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITERS May 1st 2009
  9. We just missed the train, but another one came minutes later and good luck seemed to have canceled out bad until I heard the first cough. I looked across the car from where I stood with my 15-year-old daughter and decided the source of the cough was a woman in a dark blue top. She sat slumped in a seat, eyes bleary, looking not well. I heard another cough and a sneeze to my right. I looked down the car to see a woman in a tan jacket, holding a crumpled tissue to her nose. The train stopped for the next station, Bergen St. A woman in black boarded and promptly coughed. She had covered her mouth, but she then used her hand to grab a pole. I doubt I would have noticed any of this had I not been riding with my daughter during a H1N1 flu scare. I wondered for a fleeting instant if there were even the remotest chance the balky MetroCard that caused us to miss the first train had led to her being exposed. I quickly reminded myself there had been only a small number of cases in a very large city. I also reassured myself that the flu season has been much milder here than in Mexico for reasons the experts are still trying to determine. The half-dozen people I know who contracted it were all on the mend. The train rolled on and I wondered what I would do if the virus turned vicious or a new and deadly one struck. Would I still let my daughter ride the train to school? How else would she get there and back? She could ride a bike, but she had gotten a reminder of the hazards that entails when she saw a bicyclist killed by a school bus the other day. I had read that the city reduced subway crowding during the 1918 flu epidemic by staggering the opening of businesses and theaters. Fear further reduced the ridership by 12 million riders in a month. "The most dangerous means of transmitting disease was the subway," said the city health commissioner at the time, Royal Copeland. "Undoubtedly, there were many cases of influenza in the cars, and these infected others. Many a man who was sick must have felt that he had to go to work, and must have taken his disease into the subway and spread it." The car in which we were riding seemed suddenly smaller as the woman in black took her hand off the pole, coughed and grabbed it again. The pole my daughter was holding certainly had a microbial history of its own. "Maybe I should get you some hand sanitizer you can carry," I told her. I felt silly and unduly alarmist even as I said it. This was not 1918. And I had always felt that a Brooklyn kid has a stronger immune system than most as a result of the daily workout he or she gets moving on the streets and the subway. At the next stop, my daughter gave a quick teenage "Bye, Dad" and stepped off. She was followed by the woman in black, fortunately not too closely. New passengers boarded, including a man who grabbed the pole just about where the woman had after coughing. I heard three more sneezes and two more coughs before I got off at Penn Station. I saw 39-year-old Frank Patterson of Massapequa, L.I., on the platform, rubbing sanitizer in his hands. "My wife turned me on to it," he said. He reported he had begun using sanitizer before the flu scare. So had another straphanger, Louise Shultz of the Bronx, who was also rubbing her hands. "I do it a little more now," she allowed. So do a good number of other people, if hand sanitizer sales at the Duane Reade by the escalators is any indication. "We sold out yesterday,'" a cashier said. "We're waiting for a delivery." "A lot of people are asking for it," said a second cashier. "You need some?" a third cashier asked me. "I have one spray by my register." I declined the kind offer, but as I rode uptown later I could not help hearing two coughs I would have never noticed before the scare. MICHAEL DALY NY DAILY NEWS April 30th 2009
  10. The cash-strapped MTA will soon tell labor leaders and nonunionized workers it doesn't have money for raises this year, the Daily News has learned. Metropolitan Transportation Authority CEO Elliot Sander has invited union officials to meetings next Tuesday to discuss the fiscal crisis that has the authority preparing to raise fares up to 30% and enact deep service cuts. Sources said Sander will announce the MTA can't afford to pay even the meager 1.5% raises, totaling about $50 million, included in its austere budget approved in December. The contract with the largest union - Transport Workers Union Local 100, representing bus and subway workers - expired in January. An arbitration panel is charged with dictating the new terms of a contract. Citing the opinions of labor experts, The News reported exclusively on Tuesday that a wage freeze was possible because arbitration centers on an employer's ability to pay raises and provide improved benefits. The MTA wouldn't reveal if it intends to ask the arbitration panel to maintain the existing pay rates for approximately 36,000 bus and subway workers. The MTA has about 70,000 workers in all its divisions, which include the Long Island Rail Road, Metro-North Railroad and MTA Bridges and Tunnels. Most if not all of the unions representing workers other than TWU members have existing contracts at least through the end of this year. MTA spokesman Jeremy Soffin confirmed Tuesday's meetings but declined to provide details. Authority officials have said the 2009 budget deficit, projected at $1.2 billion, is expanding dramatically as transit-dedicated tax revenues continue to plummet. The five-year construction and maintenance program starting next year is largely unfunded. Gov. Paterson and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver have agreed on a transit-funding package that includes tolling the Harlem and East River bridges, but can't get the Senate on board. TWU Local 100 held protests against previously announced layoffs outside the MTA's Madison Ave. headquarters late Thursday afternoon and evening. "TWU has called a meeting of the coalition of MTA unions to plot a course of action," a union spokesman said. The MTA's budget trims about 3,000 positions. Many will be vacated through retirement, but about 1,000 workers face layoffs, transit officials said. Even if it receives a bailout, the MTA plans to eliminate a program in which token booth clerks are posted outside the booths to help riders with directions and MetroCard vending machines. Earlier Thursday, about 100 construction workers and leaders of trade unions, business and civic associations rallied on the steps of City Hall demanding Albany fund transportation construction projects. BY Pete Donohue DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER April 24th 2009
  11. It’s a dog-eat-dog world for Brooklyn’s top hot dog sellers these days. The sinking economy has taken a big bite out of the borough’s top-grossing hot dog carts — which are now struggling to lure enough customers to pay their sky-high rents. Vendor Timothaos Ayad, who pays the borough’s top-dog price of $48,000 a year in rent to the city to set up his cart outside Brooklyn Supreme Court, said business is down nearly 50% since August. “I hope I will break even,” said Ayad, 46, a father of three, who has had the pricey contract for more than two years. Ayad, who peddles $1.75 hot dogs and $5 gyros to the throngs of court workers, jurors and others passing through the bustling downtown Brooklyn spot, said he has been hurt by the fact that so many people now bring their lunches from home as a way to save money. “In the morning, I see everybody coming by with their bag of lunch,” he said, adding he has decided to throw in the towel and not bid on the spot when it is up again at the end of the year. “The job is too tiring and the economy is bad, so it’s not worth it anymore,” he said, adding he has to finish out his contract or lose his hefty deposit. Outside Ayad’s cart, mom Jenny Guerra, 35, wouldn’t let her son Houston, 10, stop for a $1.75 pretzel because the family is tightening its belt after her husband’s retail employer stopped giving bonuses. “My husband is packing his lunch and I’m packing snacks for the kids,” said Guerra, who tried to offer Houston crackers instead. “I feel bad he still has to pay the same rent,” she said of Ayad. “But not bad enough,” she added. In Prospect Park, where some of the next-biggest rents are located, times are also tough. Tarek Elhashash, who pays $27,000 to operate a cart at the busy Ninth St. entrance in Park Slope, and another $20,250 to work the Ninth St. ballfields, is bracing for an even worse summer than last year. “It’s hurting us very much,” said Elhashash, 32, whose business last year was already down 30% from the year before. “The same customer who used to come to me and spend $10 on two hot dogs and two drinks and an ice cream, now they get one ice cream and they split it.” Elhashash said he has also been hurt by brown-baggers. “Now, people come to the park with their cooler and their own stuff,” he said. “Everybody is trying to save money.” Still, Elhashash said there could be a silver lining to the bad economy, if streams of people cancel vacations this summer and instead head to the park for fun. “I hope so,” he said. “Maybe then, it’ll be a good year.” BY Elizabeth Hays DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER April 21st 2009
  12. The writing could soon be on the wall for the MTA. Disgruntled straphangers have a new way to vent their frustrations at looming fare hikes and service cuts - creating their own notices that tell commuters about schedule changes. The Web site whereandy.com offers subway riders the chance to give authorities a piece of their mind - or display any message of their choosing - by printing off signs like those commonly seen on the walls and columns of subway stations. The site's creator, Andy Cheung, says he is not out to make a political statement, just to let people make their voices heard. "It's really just kind of a joke," said Cheung, 29. "I'm not really that political at all. I thought it would be a fun way for people to blow off some steam." Cheung's site has actually been up and running since 2006, shortly after the December 2005, three-day subway strike, when he says large numbers of people began downloading posters for fun. But he has noticed another big uptick in visitors in recent weeks - which coincides with the MTA's plans to raise fares up to 30% and enact widespread service cuts, including the elimination of dozens of bus routes. The state Legislature has failed to adopt an MTA bailout plan, months after a state commission released a transit-funding proposal that the Transit Authority hoped would avert harsh hikes. Cheung, who now lives in Holland, says commuters have free rein to pick whatever subway line they want to make a comment about and then print off whatever sign they choose. Previous posters pictured on the site have messages such as: "This train is not going where you want," "You should have left earlier" and "You better start walking." "Thousands and thousands of people have used [the site]," Cheung said. "People really did take to it." BY Christina Boyle DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER April 19th 2009
  13. A woman who lost her left leg after being hit by a city bus has been awarded $27.5 million by a Manhattan jury. Gloria Aguilar was on her way back from a housecleaning job in Queens when she was struck by a New York City Transit bus turning off 10th Ave. at the moment she made her way through the 50th St. crosswalk on Nov. 4, 2005. "I did everything right, I had the walk sign and I was in the crosswalk," Aguilar said. "I just never saw the bus until the moment it hit me." Aguilar is now in a wheelchair. "Every aspect of her life has been affected," said her lawyer, Ben Rubinowitz. "She can't even open up a door because the wheelchair won't allow her to." NYC Transit argued that Aguilar was not in the crosswalk when she was hit, that she wasn't paying attention to her surroundings and that she walked into the bus. But the jury sided with Aguilar and found NYC Transit to blame. A spokesman said the agency is going to appeal the verdict. "You can imagine a 40,000-pound bus hitting a woman who weighs 125 pounds - no contest there," Rubinowitz said. "She thought she was dying." An NYC Transit investigation also concluded that bus driver Andrew Monaco failed to properly scan his surroundings before going into the intersection and didn't slow the bus enough before making the turn. An arbitrator later determined that Monaco should be demoted to a nondriving position for two years with the right to apply for reinstatement. The 49-year-old mother of three, who is originally from Honduras, said she sometimes wears a prosthesis from above her left knee. "It's not easy," she said. "But I am alive, and that's what is important." BY Jose Martinez DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER April 17th 2009
  14. The E-ZPass of the subways has arrived. Straphangers can now buy unlimited-ride MetroCards that last two years - averting the need to stand on line at a token booth or MetroCard vending machine. The EasyPayXpress MetroCard is automatically replenished every 30 days when linked to a credit card, just like the electronic E-ZPass tags used by millions of drivers. Similar to the E-ZPass program, riders with EasyPayXpress can go online and see the details of their trips, including where they entered the system and made transfers. "I think it would be really convenient," paint salesman Steven Gonzalez, 40, of Manhattan, said at a midtown subway station. "You wouldn't have to deal with the machines." The price for 30 days of unlimited subway-bus travel is $81 - but will jump to $103 on May 31 if the Legislature doesn't agree on an MTA bailout plan. The EasyPayXpress MetroCard debuted in 2006 primarily as an option for express bus riders. It was recently upgraded to appeal to riders buying monthly MetroCards. Nickie Johnson, 25, of Manhattan, a receptionist, said she would benefit from the new feature. "I'm not a timely person so wasting time getting a new card in the morning is a big hassle," she said. Peter Walsh, 51, also of Manhattan, said he's wary of giving out credit card information online. Riders have to apply online to get their first EasyPayXpress MetroCard at http://www.easypaymetrocard.com Unlimited-ride monthly MetroCards are used for 32% of all subway and bus trips. If many of those riders switch to the automatically refilled MetroCard, NYC Transit could see savings by having to make fewer plastic cards. Meanwhile, a spokesman for Senate Majority Malcolm Smith (D-Queens) said a revised Metropolitan Transportation Authority bailout plan will be discussed Monday when the Legislature convenes in Albany. Former MTA Chairman Richard Ravitch and a commission formed by Gov. Paterson support a combination of modest fare hikes, an employer-paid payroll tax and tolls on East and Harlem River bridges. Under the most recent proposal, the state Legislature would grant exemptions to certain drivers for business and health-care-related travel. BY Sarah Armaghan and Pete Donohue DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITERS April 17th 2009
  15. A Pepsi-sponsored Yankee ticket giveaway turned into a fizzy mess Thursday when organizers suddenly threw fans - some of whom had been waiting since dawn - some curveballs. Instead of the 250 pairs of promised tickets for today's historic opening game at the new Yankee Stadium, the Pepsi people showed up with just 100 sets - most for a game in June. Instead of letting fans meet Goose Gossage, they had him step out of a limo and wave. Then handlers whisked the legendary Yankee relief pitcher away. Instead of holding the event where they said they would - at 44th and Broadway - organizers suddenly moved it to 47th and Broadway, forcing fans who had staked out spots to make a mad dash across Times Square. "They kept telling us to go from one location to another," said Kevin Keegan, 38, of Putnam Valley, N.Y., who waited for hours and ended up with no tickets. "Everyone was running through the streets. It was like a mob scene." It got so chaotic at one point - with angry fans pushing and shoving, yelling "Pepsi sucks!," and pouring their Pepsis into the street - extra cops were called in to calm things down. "They had a mob situation," said Mai Jiang, 31, of Manhattan. "It was horrible. Nobody wants to drink Pepsi anymore." Jiang said she managed to snag a pair of Yankee tickets, but for a June game against the Texas Rangers. "I could care less about June 2nd," she said. "I thought they were for today. They were misinforming the public." "I took the day off from work today to come down and get the tickets and go to the game (today)," added Darrell Edmonson, 49, of the Bronx, who also got June tickets. "I'm disappointed because I was looking forward to the ceremony. It was totally hectic." Miguel Collazo, 29, of Park Slope, and his 13-year-old son, Chris, would have been happy to come away with tickets to any game instead of their "consolation prizes" - a Derek Jeter bobble head doll, Pepsi and Gatorade posters, and some Aquafina T-shirts. "It was too crowded, too packed," the angry dad said. "They were just trying to get the crowd together." Pepsi sponsored the event to tap the hoopla around the new stadium - and to showcase their Pepsi Max drink. Nicole Bradley, a Pepsi spokeswoman, said a dozen pairs of tickets were for today's game but blamed the overall ticket shortage on an "internal miscommunication." "It had nothing to do with the Yankees," she said. Bradley also said Gossage "didn't have a chance to hand out the tickets because it got so crowded." "As you know, New Yorkers and Yankee fans are very passionate and luckily we were able to give out a lot of tickets and make a lot of people happy," she said. "We wish that we could have given out tickets to everyone, but unfortunately we only had a limited amount." By Sarah Armaghan and Corky Siemaszko DAILY NEWS WRITERS April 16th 2009

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