NYT on NYC subway woes, rail delay audit, AC/DC, Rams, blame the bus: HWR, Nov. 18

Art of Transportation: 

The 10 freeway on Saturday night near the Morongo Resort and exit to Palm Springs. I was on my way back from hiking in the Whitewater Preserve, which I highly recommend visiting. Photo courtesy Steve Hymon.

This would seem an appropriate juncture to post “Highway to Hell” in tribute to AC/DC co-founder Malcolm Young. Instead, I’ll give Young Source readers a taste of some other fine work by the band:

Dept. of Blame the Bus: 



How politics and bad decisions starved New York’s subway system (NYT)

It’s hard to know where to begin on this good piece of investigation journalism that looks at why the New York subway is losing ridership and has more delays than other large transit system around the world. The key four graphs:

None of this happened on its own. It was the result of a series of decisions by both Republican and Democratic politicians — governors from George E. Pataki to Mr. Cuomo and mayors from Rudolph W. Giuliani to Bill de Blasio. Each of them cut the subway’s budget or co-opted it for their own priorities.

They stripped a combined $1.5 billion from the M.T.A. by repeatedly diverting tax revenues earmarked for the subways and also by demanding large payments for financial advice, I.T. help and other services that transit leaders say the authority could have done without.

They pressured the M.T.A. to spend billions of dollars on opulent station makeovers and other projects that did nothing to boost service or reliability, while leaving the actual movement of trains to rely on a 1930s-era signal system with fraying, cloth-covered cables.

They saddled the M.T.A. with debt and engineered a deal with creditors that brought in quick cash but locked the authority into paying $5 billion in interest that it otherwise never would have had to pay.

It’s a long story but worth a read. Although no other metro area in the U.S. runs a rail system anywhere nearly as large as the one in NYC, there are a lot of good lessons here about what to avoid. The big one: maintenance and improvements.

More than half of delays last year were caused by problems with Metro Rail cars (LAT)

Speaking of maintenance…

Media coverage of the audit by Metro’s Inspector General that was presented to Metro Board committees last week. The article concluded with this:

Metro also needs to improve communication with passengers who face delays, rider Burman Timberlake told the board Thursday. Too often, he said, conductors and employees say nothing, or say something vague.

“This is what we call, in the military, the mushroom theory of communication,” Timberlake said. “Keep them in the dark, and feed them fertilizer.”

Dept. of Bus Lanes: 


I actually don’t think blaming the lack of bus lanes on the cheap taxi industry is fair. Cities and pols have been reluctant to install more bus lanes for decades for obvious political reasons — complaints about the loss of a parking lane or traffic lanes.

Some cars can’t be fixed (Popular Mechanics)


If the car was designed and assembled by humans, shouldn’t humans be able to figure out what ails it? The biggest factor driving this is that cars have become so complex. Gone are the days where the only wires under the hood went to the distributor or the battery. Now, most cars contain more computing power than 1960s NASA had at its disposal.

Dept. of Sportsing: On paper, the NFL has an excellent game this Sunday afternoon at the Coliseum: the 8-2 New Orleans Saints at the 7-3 Los Angeles Rams. It’s by far the best game of this weekend’s slate and far more interesting than the lame Sunday night game pitting the punchless Packers at the Steelers.

The Rams appear headed for the playoffs but this game will help determine whether they get a home playoff game or have to travel (maybe not a big deal considering their road record). If you don’t feel like driving and dealing with traffic and pricey parking, the Expo Line and Silver Line are good options. More info here.

4 replies

  1. How long before you guys expect to be able to replace all of the over-20-year-old light rail cars still in use? The LAT article acknowledges that the Kinkisharyo vehicles aren’t all in service yet, but doesn’t mention any time frame for when enough of them will be available.

    • Hi Pat;

      The goal is to retire the oldest rail cars on the Blue Line by the end of next year.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  2. Again we see comments or misinformation coming from the MTA and it’s contractors. Number one, there are no Conductors on MTA rail lines only Train Operators which are only informed they must hold at a station or turn back. Many times they do not know the reason for the delay, only what they have been instructed to do. They are not informed exactly where the Bus Bridges will be located or how many buses are assigned. Again we see those who have little knowledge or experience making statements they know nothing about. It’s time the MTA realizes the best management and the best source of practical information comes from those who have experience in the field. Who would expect a Bus Operator making comments or decisions about accounting, why are those who have no experience in operating public transit vehicles making these outlandish comments?

  3. Yes, please — more communication! When a train breaks down, I’m not mad that the train has broken down. I own stuff. Stuff breaks. I get it. But what makes my blood boil is the complete lack of communication. Should I wait on the platform? Should I walk? Should I take a train back the other way? Should I call a Lyft? I know that sometimes the operators are just as frustrated as we are and trying to understand a developing situation, but give us some info so we can make an informed decision about what to do next when it’s not business-as-usual.