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Around the Horn

60 Minutes: Why has the New York City subway gone off the rails?

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Andy Byford's campaign for Fast Forward has gone national:

Quote

"Enter Andy Byford, a world-renowned Mr. Fixit for troubled subways. He's the new president of transit for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority – shorthand, the MTA – the state agency that runs the trains.  

Bill Whitaker: This has to be  the mother of all transit challenges.

Andy Byford: It is. And the way I look at it, Bill, is someone has to take this on. You know, if every transit professional said, "Oh, it's too tough I'm not gonna risk my career in going there," nothing would happen. I'm prepared to give it a go.

He's certainly got the credentials. Byford grew up a train enthusiast in Britain, in the city of Plymouth. He worked his way up in the London Tube, ran mass transit in Sydney, and most recently led a turnaround in Toronto. The MTA brought him on board in January to stop the hemorrhaging and resurrect the system.  

Andy Byford: I pinch myself sometimes 'cause-- how did this spotty kid from Plymouth suddenly end up running New York City Transit? But it's a dream.

Bill Whitaker: Well, some people would call that a nightmare.

Andy Byford: It-- when I left Toronto, there was a mix of people saying congratulations or, "Are you crazy?" But I like a challenge. if we can turn this around, then it'll be the most satisfying period of my career. I mean, it will be the pinnacle."

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/mta-why-has-the-nyc-subway-gone-off-the-rails-60-minutes/

Among the things mentioned (which we all know but is new to the national audience):

-We still use signal systems and moving parts from the 1930's (!)

-The MTA has no way to know in real time where every train is

-the Fast Forward plan will cost $40 billion dollars

-DeBlasio and Cuomo are infighting

This whole snippet:

Quote

In this age of GPS, this low-tech map marked the approximate location of nearby trains. 

Rakiya Spady: So you see how that green dot is up there behind that blue dot, it's still in transit. So it's moving into the station. And now he's stopped.

Bill Whitaker: But you don't know exactly where on the track that train is.

Rakiya Spady: No.

Bill Whitaker: No.

Bill Whitaker: This is New York City. They don't know exactly where the trains are at any given time in the subway system?

Andy Byford: Yeah, that's what we need to-- transform. It's about accelerating towards a modern signaling system. That would give us precise, absolute identification of where trains are. And it would enable you to move trains up safely, closer together. Ergo, more trains.

The B roll that they shot for this piece is gorgeous too and reminds me of the old Edison films from the subway's opening 

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Good piece, though I wish it had focused less on the flaccid "the technology is getting obsolete" and more on the "we really messed things up here, and need to do a soul-searching." Though, the latter is a lot harder to package into TV...  

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Not a single word about buses when there are almost as many bus riders as half the number of subway riders. That was a disappointment. The media acts as if NYC only has a subway system. Buses are really a step child. Maybe somethings would get fixed if they paid it more attention instead of acting like the only solutions are SBS and exclusive bus lanes. 

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21 minutes ago, BrooklynBus said:

Not a single word about buses when there are almost as many bus riders as half the number of subway riders. That was a disappointment. The media acts as if NYC only has a subway system. Buses are really a step child. Maybe somethings would get fixed if they paid it more attention instead of acting like the only solutions are SBS and exclusive bus lanes. 

One Train = 11-12 Buses. They're not going to be able to do both at the same time. And it makes sense the MTA fully controls all Subway ROW they can get right to work the Bus system even tho it's run by the MTA it's all the DOT's (NYC)  ROW the second they drive out of the depot. Way more complication. Secondly shy of Staten Island most interborough travel to NYC's core is Subway travel it should be 1st. They'll get to the bus system. But it's smart to tackle what you have control over 1st IMO that's how I'd approach it.

Edited by RailRunRob

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8 hours ago, RailRunRob said:

One Train = 11-12 Buses. They're not going to be able to do both at the same time. And it makes sense the MTA fully controls all Subway ROW they can get right to work the Bus system even tho it's run by the MTA it's all the DOT's (NYC)  ROW the second they drive out of the depot. Way more complication. Secondly shy of Staten Island most interborough travel to NYC's core is Subway travel it should be 1st. They'll get to the bus system. But it's smart to tackle what you have control over 1st IMO that's how I'd approach it.

So you are saying it's okay for the MTA to pay little attention to buses just because they don't own the streets and have no control over traffic. Absolutely ridiculous. Not saying buses should receive the same amount of resources. To say they can't handle both jobs at the same time is also ridiculous. Then give buses back to the city if it's too much for the MTA. 

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8 hours ago, RailRunRob said:

One Train = 11-12 Buses. They're not going to be able to do both at the same time. And it makes sense the MTA fully controls all Subway ROW they can get right to work the Bus system even tho it's run by the MTA it's all the DOT's (NYC)  ROW the second they drive out of the depot. Way more complication. Secondly shy of Staten Island most interborough travel to NYC's core is Subway travel it should be 1st. They'll get to the bus system. But it's smart to tackle what you have control over 1st IMO that's how I'd approach it.

Please. They have control over the subways and that’s not working out so well. 

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1 hour ago, BrooklynBus said:

So you are saying it's okay for the MTA to pay little attention to buses just because they don't own the streets and have no control over traffic. Absolutely ridiculous. Not saying buses should receive the same amount of resources. To say they can't handle both jobs at the same time is also ridiculous. Then give buses back to the city if it's too much for the MTA. 

No, im not saying it's okay what I'm saying is if your Captain of the ship and your in an emergency situation. You Prioritize!! and plan your roadmap I mean what other choice would you have if your dealing with limited staff and funding..  Mr. Byford seems to be in that position. The Subway is an easier day one roll out.  It's just logical to start anything were you control more of the variables. The Bus network is so Intertwined with other agencies naturally it would take more time to coordinate. Can they handle both? Possibly But if we know Coordination is needed between these different agencies let's not act surprised when the Subway plan starts progressing quicker and is more visible.  Is the Bus network Redesign initiative not enough? Isn't that moving forward? Any blind man can see this 60 minutes piece was more for the politicians and Albany and to mount public pressure. This was a chess move plain and simple. 

Edited by RailRunRob

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1 hour ago, Via Garibaldi 8 said:

Please. They have control over the subways and that’s not working out so well. 

Well, it seems to moving in the right direction for the first time in a generation. Let's see if all the new talent pays off.

Edited by RailRunRob
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9 minutes ago, RailRunRob said:

Then give buses back to the city if it's too much for the MTA. 

This might not be a bad move. Can't say I totally disagree. @BrooklynBus

Edited by RailRunRob

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Glad my estimates about Fast Forwards cost were on the money. 

All people had to do was look at what it cost to fix the system between 1982-1992 and then account for inflation. 

Naturally, you'd use 1982 dollars. 

Edited by LTA1992

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19 hours ago, BrooklynBus said:

Not a single word about buses when there are almost as many bus riders as half the number of subway riders. That was a disappointment. The media acts as if NYC only has a subway system. Buses are really a step child. Maybe somethings would get fixed if they paid it more attention instead of acting like the only solutions are SBS and exclusive bus lanes. 

The MTA itself does itself no justice in that category either.

19 hours ago, RailRunRob said:

One Train = 11-12 Buses. They're not going to be able to do both at the same time. And it makes sense the MTA fully controls all Subway ROW they can get right to work the Bus system even tho it's run by the MTA it's all the DOT's (NYC)  ROW the second they drive out of the depot. Way more complication. Secondly shy of Staten Island most interborough travel to NYC's core is Subway travel it should be 1st. They'll get to the bus system. But it's smart to tackle what you have control over 1st IMO that's how I'd approach it.

9 hours ago, RailRunRob said:

No, im not saying it's okay what I'm saying is if your Captain of the ship and your in an emergency situation. You Prioritize!! and plan your roadmap I mean what other choice would you have if your dealing with limited staff and funding..  Mr. Byford seems to be in that position. The Subway is an easier day one roll out.  It's just logical to start anything were you control more of the variables. The Bus network is so Intertwined with other agencies naturally it would take more time to coordinate. Can they handle both? Possibly But if we know Coordination is needed between these different agencies let's not act surprised when the Subway plan starts progressing quicker and is more visible.  Is the Bus network Redesign initiative not enough? Isn't that moving forward? Any blind man can see this 60 minutes piece was more for the politicians and Albany and to mount public pressure. This was a chess move plain and simple. 

Lol...

The hell they can't be equally attentive to the bus system as they are with the subway system.... They choose not to - especially being that the NYC subway is this iconic staple of the city.... I don't get the sense that Byford's in this hypothetical or actual position of having to prioritize the subway or the bus at all, I get the sense that his hands are tied & can't fully set out to accomplish what he'd ultimately like to get done with BOTH modes of transportation, due to the apparent culture of exalting the subway & treating the buses in this city like bastard stepchildren.... I can only imagine what he's pondering in that regard....

I mean honestly, prioritizing is only a thing with the buses when it comes down to trimming the budget....

Furthermore. you can't be serious with that implication of these impending bus network redesigns being progressive, when it comes down to righting the "ship" with public buses in this city..... If the current trend with what happened with SI's express network (i.e. bus stop consolidation, cramming multiple riderbases onto a lesser amt. of routes & supplying them with subpar service on top of it, narrowed coverage, lazy schedule creating) continues on, then it would end up being a regression.

As far as 60 minutes itself... lmfao... I didn't know that show still came on.... But that last point of yours I can concur with.

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1 hour ago, B35 via Church said:

The MTA itself does itself no justice in that category either.

Lol...

The hell they can't be equally attentive to the bus system as they are with the subway system.... They choose not to - especially being that the NYC subway is this iconic staple of the city.... I don't get the sense that Byford's in this hypothetical or actual position of having to prioritize the subway or the bus at all, I get the sense that his hands are tied & can't fully set out to accomplish what he'd ultimately like to get done with BOTH modes of transportation, due to the apparent culture of exalting the subway & treating the buses in this city like bastard stepchildren.... I can only imagine what he's pondering in that regard....

I mean honestly, prioritizing is only a thing with the buses when it comes down to trimming the budget....

Furthermore. you can't be serious with that implication of these impending bus network redesigns being progressive, when it comes down to righting the "ship" with public buses in this city..... If the current trend with what happened with SI's express network (i.e. bus stop consolidation, cramming multiple riderbases onto a lesser amt. of routes & supplying them with subpar service on top of it, narrowed coverage, lazy schedule creating) continues on, then it would end up being a regression.

As far as 60 minutes itself... lmfao... I didn't know that show still came on.... But that last point of yours I can concur with.

Let me first start by stating I don't fully know the MTA's Internal structure, budget or funding sources. I should also note im probably less knowledgeable about the everyday struggles of bus riders than some of you I don't know all the bus models by name tho im learning thanks to the forums and it still baffles me how people know even the bus schedule by heart. All that said what I do know very all after 15 years in Engineering and Technolgy is managing people, Multiple projects, Frustration of budget restraints and recently the bureaucracy of dealing with City and State agencies this my angle I can level with Andy on some of these points. Three times ive encountered Byford both in group settings and 1 on 1 to your point his hands are tied and he's looking for a funding source even pushed for us to hold our elected officials responsible. But to my point, before he did speak on needing better Coordination with the DOT and NYPD and the time it's been taking to do so. In any organization, time is the most important asset just simply saying im not going to wait 6 months for the City to get back I'm going to move onto what's in my power The Subway. So it's hard for me to say they're choosing not to do something when I don't have the data or knowledge of there interworking or books  and I know what it is to make the hard calls what it is to have $ 3million worth of work but 500K to work with trust me the fiscal quarter is starting for me as well.

As for the Bus Redesign im not saying it's fully correct but it's physical it's happening and it's something you can actually hold them accountable on. In my near 40 years I've never seen the MTA do anything remotely close before you didn't have anything hold on to even point to physically in the real world now you do and you keep your foot on there neck moving forward which I see @Via Garibaldi 8 and @RR503  are currently doing with organizing and looking for accountability.. kudos to them !!! Any large organization takes time to right itself is it happening right now? Let's check the data. But from my POV something is happening.  I think we're saying the same thing in a lot of cases here. I don't excuse any of this but I also understand it's not a zero-sum game and you have to hold the carrot up to get people to move (Albany). The Subway and its coverage in IMO is that carrot it's more than likely the most direct way to get more funding for the Bus Network as well. Sometime's it's better not say you have two people coming they'll turn you down in route. I prefer to rush the door once that persons on the hook.  After all the Subway and Buses are interconnected. 

PS: Were's Lhota and Cuomo? They seem to have gone missing!

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12 hours ago, RailRunRob said:

 Any blind man can see this 60 minutes piece was more for the politicians and Albany and to mount public pressure. This was a chess move plain and simple. 

Meanwhile, Cuomo and DeBlasio are fighting over the checkers...

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36 minutes ago, RailRunRob said:

Let me first start by stating I don't fully know the MTA's Internal structure, budget or funding sources. I should also note im probably less knowledgeable about the everyday struggles of bus riders than some of you I don't know all the bus models by name tho im learning thanks to the forums and it still baffles me how people know even the bus schedule by heart. All that said what I do know very all after 15 years in Engineering and Technolgy is managing people, Multiple projects, Frustration of budget restraints and recently the bureaucracy of dealing with City and State agencies this my angle I can level with Andy on some of these points. Three times ive encountered Byford both in group settings and 1 on 1 to your point his hands are tied and he's looking for a funding source even pushed for us to hold our elected officials responsible. But to my point, before he did speak on needing better Coordination with the DOT and NYPD and the time it's been taking to do so. In any organization, time is the most important asset just simply saying im not going to wait 6 months for the City to get back I'm going to move onto what's in my power The Subway. So it's hard for me to say they're choosing not to do something when I don't have the data or knowledge of there interworking or books  and I know what it is to make the hard calls what it is to have $ 3million worth of work but 500K to work with trust me the fiscal quarter is starting for me as well.

As for the Bus Redesign im not saying it's fully correct but it's physical it's happening and it's something you can actually hold them accountable on. In my near 40 years I've never seen the MTA do anything remotely close before you didn't have anything hold on to even point to physically in the real world now you do and you keep your foot on there neck moving forward which I see @Via Garibaldi 8 and @RR503  are currently doing with organizing and looking for accountability.. kudos to them !!! Any large organization takes time to right itself is it happening right now? Let's check the data. But from my POV something is happening.  I think we're saying the same thing in a lot of cases here. I don't excuse any of this but I also understand it's not a zero-sum game and you have to hold the carrot up to get people to move (Albany). The Subway and its coverage in IMO is that carrot it's more than likely the most direct way to get more funding for the Bus Network as well. Sometime's it's better not say you have two people coming they'll turn you down in route. I prefer to rush the door once that persons on the hook.  After all the Subway and Buses are interconnected. 

PS: Were's Lhota and Cuomo? They seem to have gone missing!

It's not enough that they're doing stuff.  There's no point in doing a half-assed redesign that is making people's commutes longer.

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17 minutes ago, Via Garibaldi 8 said:

It's not enough that they're doing stuff.  There's no point in doing a half-assed redesign that is making people's commutes longer.

That's the thing. So what would you rather? Nothing done at all?  Just leave it?  There never going to get it 100% for everyone that's just a fact any builder, planner or leader will tell you that. Every rider in every neighborhood has there view of whats not enough.. So revert S.I back to what it was? Leave the Bronx as is?  

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1 hour ago, Around the Horn said:

Meanwhile, Cuomo and DeBlasio are fighting over the checkers...

🤦‍♂️ Ridiculous.

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1 hour ago, Via Garibaldi 8 said:

It's not enough that they're doing stuff.  There's no point in doing a half-assed redesign that is making people's commutes longer.

To be fair, the express bus redesign was conducted largely before Byford (and, more importantly, his stress on engagement and accountability) arrived. Now, they're actually trying to give a shit about what the riders think -- though I cannot speak to how much that attitude has permeated into the areas that it matters, ie middle management. 

The real danger here is losing focus of the issue at hand: a managerial crisis. It's all well and good to bring new tech and ideas in, but unless those reforms are coupled with ones in the archaic and myopic structure of the organization itself, they'll all come to naught. Byford is doing great things with this, but he needs people to back him up -- which I increasingly feel are lacking. The middle/top echelons of transit are full of smart people, yes, but also full of people who give presentations on ridership without giving more than passing reference to the system's reliability. 

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3 hours ago, B35 via Church said:

The MTA itself does itself no justice in that category either.

Lol...

The hell they can't be equally attentive to the bus system as they are with the subway system.... They choose not to - especially being that the NYC subway is this iconic staple of the city.... I don't get the sense that Byford's in this hypothetical or actual position of having to prioritize the subway or the bus at all, I get the sense that his hands are tied & can't fully set out to accomplish what he'd ultimately like to get done with BOTH modes of transportation, due to the apparent culture of exalting the subway & treating the buses in this city like bastard stepchildren.... I can only imagine what he's pondering in that regard....

I mean honestly, prioritizing is only a thing with the buses when it comes down to trimming the budget....

Furthermore. you can't be serious with that implication of these impending bus network redesigns being progressive, when it comes down to righting the "ship" with public buses in this city..... If the current trend with what happened with SI's express network (i.e. bus stop consolidation, cramming multiple riderbases onto a lesser amt. of routes & supplying them with subpar service on top of it, narrowed coverage, lazy schedule creating) continues on, then it would end up being a regression.

As far as 60 minutes itself... lmfao... I didn't know that show still came on.... But that last point of yours I can concur with.

I agree with you that the MTA does no justice in that category either.

But I can see their point that is someone has a choice between the bus and subway to prefer someone use the subway over the bus because they can carry so many for passengers for less cost. But that is no excuse to favor one mode over the other to get people to use the other one. If there is a direct bus route, someone should not be forced to use a longer indirect subway route just because bus service is too infrequent or unreliable. They also have to realize that buses and subways largely serve different clientele. Buses are generally for shorter trips and subways for longer ones and for more able-bodied people without heavy packages or shopping carts. 

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I posted a photo of a Guide-A-Ride box in an Astoria group about two weeks ago. The map showed the S76 line......at the Q69 stop at Ditmars and 31st. Different borough, different number, a huge sign of incompetence and lack of common sense on the part of whoever installed it.

 

The first response to that photo from a fellow Astorian:

"The fact your taking the bus is the bigger problem here"...

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1 hour ago, RR503 said:

To be fair, the express bus redesign was conducted largely before Byford (and, more importantly, his stress on engagement and accountability) arrived. Now, they're actually trying to give a shit about what the riders think -- though I cannot speak to how much that attitude has permeated into the areas that it matters, ie middle management. 

The real danger here is losing focus of the issue at hand: a managerial crisis. It's all well and good to bring new tech and ideas in, but unless those reforms are coupled with ones in the archaic and myopic structure of the organization itself, they'll all come to naught. Byford is doing great things with this, but he needs people to back him up -- which I increasingly feel are lacking. The middle/top echelons of transit are full of smart people, yes, but also full of people who give presentations on ridership without giving more than passing reference to the system's reliability. 

All fine and good, but it seems as if they're using the same strategy for the remaining redesigns and that's a problem. Trying to implement the current system without all the tools in place to support has been a disaster.

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2 hours ago, RailRunRob said:

That's the thing. So what would you rather? Nothing done at all?  Just leave it?  There never going to get it 100% for everyone that's just a fact any builder, planner or leader will tell you that. Every rider in every neighborhood has there view of whats not enough.. So revert S.I back to what it was? Leave the Bronx as is?  

Were there changes needed to the express bus network on Staten Island? Yes.  Did they have to rush the new redesign and re-do the entire network? NO.  They were warned by bus operators AND passengers alike that this plan wouldn't work and they were given a number of reasons as to why.  Even after the fact they have still been resistant to making changes that have been suggested.  Even if they truly wanted to deliver on this plan they can't because it requires tools that they don't have in place.  You cannot promise high frequency express bus service because the bus lanes are not enforced so buses spend TONS of time stuck in traffic despite operating in supposedly dedicated bus lanes.  You have a slow antiquated payment method in the Metrocard which leads to longer dwell times and long lines that creates even MORE congestion. You don't have traffic signal priority, and more importantly, drivers are not being given enough deadhead time to start their trips. All of this is leading to tons of missing trips and late buses, so the network is actually WORSE than before. Now people can't even get on a bus or they have to stand regularly when they didn't have to before.  Additionally, having people get into their cars and DRIVE to a bus stop when they could walk to one before is just another example of poor planning.  This too is creating more congestion.

Commuters were promised faster commutes. Commutes have actually worsened and not just by a little. Peoples' jobs are now at risk because despite leaving earlier, they still arrive to work late because of no-show buses.  The schedules were poorly planned because they eliminated some lines and didn't compensate for the amount of trips needed on other lines. I could go on, but the point is they had a few years to get this right and they've managed to undo tons of progress that had been made.  This isn't just a tweek.  It's a crisis because people can't get to work, can't get to their families and are spending exorbitant amounts of money for Ubers, etc., when they already pay for express bus service that has been anything but express.

You don't use buses with any regularity to understand how bad the situation is because you live in a subway rich area, but for people with limited options it's a bad set up.

Edited by Via Garibaldi 8

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2 hours ago, Via Garibaldi 8 said:

Were there changes needed to the express bus network on Staten Island? Yes.  Did they have to rush the new redesign and re-do the entire network? NO.  They were warned by bus operators AND passengers alike that this plan wouldn't work and they were given a number of reasons as to why

Gotcha! And now that the MTA touched and changed it you have a foundation and alot of data to build on to hold them accountable. Despite the stepback currently, I feel more can get done moving forward now that there on the hook the public is looking there not going to want to take a loss in S.I .  Also from what I understand all this data is pre-current team (Byford). Let's hope the Bronx fair's better.

 

2 hours ago, Via Garibaldi 8 said:

Even if they truly wanted to deliver on this plan they can't because it requires tools that they don't have in place.  You cannot promise high frequency express bus service because the bus lanes are not enforced so buses spend TONS of time stuck in traffic despite operating in supposedly dedicated bus lanes.

My points before from Byford, DOT and NYPD Coordination. Not just on the MTA. Not saying they don't need to it together. Keep the pressure on them. But let's spread the blame as well. 

 

2 hours ago, Via Garibaldi 8 said:

You don't use buses with any regularity to understand how bad the situation is because you live in a subway rich area, but for people with limited options it's a bad set up.

That's true however I am starting to work more in the space me and my team are working on and building bus tracking systems for Several school districts Including the BOE so where I may not ride the City's bus I do have comprehension in dynamics, planning, and routing. Which is why I'm asking the questions in this manner ? How can I fix the car if you don't want me to pop the hood and touch the engine? With anything new theres someone one's thats not happy. It's the response that matters the MTA should be held accountable Accordingly. With the system were building and demo-ing there always a parent that feels it's not enough being done even with the fact they have nothing currently. I guess this kinda hits home being on the other side..  The folks at the MTA seem to be damned either way.. But that's not to say the public should be holding the MTA accountable.  Just think it's a bit different when your person(s) tasked with the Job.. Have to point out that POV. 

Edited by RailRunRob

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2 minutes ago, RailRunRob said:

Gotcha! And now that the MTA touched and changed it you have a foundation and alot of data to build on to hold them accountable. Despite the stepback currently, I feel more can get done moving forward now that there on the hook the public is looking there not going to want to take a loss in S.I .  Also from what I understand all this data is pre-current team (Byford). Let's hope the Bronx fair's better.

 

My points before from Byford, DOT and NYPD Coordination. Not just on the MTA. Not saying they don't need to it together. Keep the pressure on them. But let's spread the blame as well. 

 

That's true however I am starting to work more in the space me and my team are working on and building bus tracking systems for Several school districts Including the BOE so where I may not ride the City's bus I do have comprehension in dynamics, planning, and routing. Which is why I'm asking the questions in this manner ? How can I fix the car if you don't want me to pop the hood and touch the engine? With anything new someone one's thats not happy. It's the response that matters the MTA should be held accountable Accordingly. With the system were building and demo-ing there always a parent that feels it's not enough being done even with the fact they have nothing currently. I guess this kinda hits home being on the other side..  The folks at the MTA seem to be damned either way.. But that's not to say the public should be holding the MTA accountable.

Of course some people won't be happy.  The big picture here overall is the plan is not working for the majority of the commuters, even those that thought that it would, and yes there is plenty of blame to go around.

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