Tag Archive | "transportation"

City Seeks Bronx Residents’ Views on Greenways

Cyclists get ready to survey the Bronx. (Sonia Paul/ The Bronx Ink)

Groups of cyclists aren’t a common sight in the South Bronx, especially on a blistering, late-summer day.

But on Aug. 26, community advocates from the Bronx River Alliance, Transportation Alternatives, Bronx Health Reach and other local organizations gathered on the corner of Whitlock Avenue and Westchester Avenue with helmets on their heads and their bicycles by their sides.

Their mission was to document the conditions on the roads linking Hunts Point Riverside Park, Concrete Plant Park and the soon-to-be-opened Starlight Park. For years, these groups have been asking the city’s Departments of Transportation and City Planning to improve the greenways within the parks. Now, city officials finally seem to be paying attention — and in an ongoing series of meetings, they’ve been asking the community firsthand what they want for the greenways.

Concrete Plant Park has been open to the public since 2009, and Hunts Point Riverside Park since 2007, but the community groups say both parks need upgrading.

View Current Conditions on the Bronx River Greenways in a larger map

“A part of the issue is that the on-street connections haven’t been properly connected,” said Devona Sharpe, greenway coordinator for the Bronx River Alliance. “And the condition of the street itself, it’s not inviting to users.”

The most direct path connecting the three different parks follows a north-south route along the Bronx River, with a U-turn around the busy Bruckner Expressway. From Hunts Point Riverside Park to Starlight Park, pedestrians and cyclists have to navigate through difficult terrain simply to get from one street to the next, as well as from one park to the next. Tree roots pushing through cracked sidewalks, shards of glass on the road and nonexistent bike lanes are just some of the physical barriers on the roads.

Though greenways exist inside the parks, they don’t fit into the grander scheme of urban planning in the area, said Linda R. Cox, executive director and Bronx River administrator of the Bronx River Alliance, at a community meeting on Sept. 6, after the cyclists documented the conditions on the roads.

“The greenway isn’t just about the parks,” she said at the meeting. “It really is about what we do on the streets.”

Staffers from the city’s Department of Transportation were also present to show their plans for the greenway and take comments and suggestions. According to Scott Gastell, spokesperson for the Department of Transportation, city planners have been working on a greenway proposal for the past three years. Their priority is to make the greenway more accessible to pedestrians and cyclists, but they must consider the large number of vehicles that cross the area every day.

Figuring out how to negotiate access for pedestrians and cyclists is a growing issue in the Bronx, where vehicles dominate the roads. In 2010, 169,550 vehicles traveled daily in both directions on the Sheridan Expressway, according to traffic volume reports from the state Department of Transportation. The number of vehicles passing through Westchester Avenue the same year was 108,770. To get to Starlight Park, which is scheduled to open this fall, residents and visitors must navigate both roads.

At the Sept. 6 meeting, representatives from the Department of Transportation said they are planning to visit local community boards in the next couple of months to gather more opinions on their greenway proposal before they submit it for official city approval.

Posted in Bronx Life, Bronx Neighborhoods, Featured, Southern Bronx, TransportationComments (0)

Feds seek to solve impasse over Bronx bridge, NY Daily News

A Bronx bridge project, which has languished for years due to a legal fight between Amtrak and New York State’s Department of Transportation, could finally become a reality,  thanks to the intervention of the federal government.

According to the NY Daily News, the bridge over an Amtrak rail line will eventually connect two new waterfront parks located in Hunts Point and West Farms Square. It will serve pedestrians and cyclists in the area.

Rep. Jose Serrano (D-South Bronx) asked the the U.S. Department of the Interior to broker a meeting between the state transportation office and Amtrak, which has reportedly refused to cooperate with the project, now costing taxpayers $150 million.

Posted in NewswireComments (0)

MTA Pulls Ticket Agents from Subway Stations

Bars of steel cover this ticket desk in East Tremont

Bars of steel cover this ticket desk in East Tremont. Photo by Fred Dreier

by Fred Dreier

Inside the cavernous north entrance to the 174-175th Street subway station, an emergency-door alarm blares, a ticket machine is jammed and two men walk in and jump the barriers with ease. The station’s ticket booth, which used to house two station agents, is barred  and empty, blindly facing the turnstiles it once patrolled.

It’s a different scene at the south entrance to the station, which is not connected but serves the same B and D metro lines in the Morris Heights neighborhood. Customers queue up to functioning ticket machines. An MTA station agent, who asked to be identified only as “Joshua,” mans the booth and flips off the alarm when customers open the emergency door.

“If people see you, most of the time they are not going to jump over the barrier,” Joshua said.

The 174-175th Street stop is one of eight in the Bronx to lose its station agent in the latest round of cost cuts done by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. On Sept. 20, the MTA trimmed 99 of the positions — called Station Customer Assistants — from 86 stations spread throughout the city’s five boroughs. It was the first wave of slices in a long-range plan to replace 772 positions with automated ticket selling machines by the middle of 2010.

According to spokesman Charles Seaton, the MTA cut personnel from lesser-used stations. The 174-175th Street station had 1.5 million visits in 2008, making it the 285th busiest out of the city’s 421 stations. In contrast, the city’s busiest station, 42nd Street-Times Square, saw more than 60 million riders year.

“Station Customer Assistant jobs are being cut because they do not sell fares,” Seaton wrote in an email. “The integration into the system of high-entry turnstiles, MetroCard vending machines and express machines has actually increased station access.”

Seaton said the agents themselves would not lose their jobs, but would be reassigned to other MTA jobs. Station agent positions, Seaton said, will gradually be phased out over the coming years.

But replacing human beings with machines isn’t a step in the right direction, says Dave Katzman, a spokesman for the Transportation Worker’s Union Local-100. Katzman added that the plan will actually cost the MTA more money than it saves.

“If the kiosks are dismantled, there will be additional costs,” Katzman said. “Despite the claim to be savings driven, this approach is ideological.”

The MTA cuts come despite a recent subway fare increase and a $2.3 billion emergency bailout from the New York State government in May. But the MTA faces falling revenues and $26.8 billion in debt, and Seaton said the cuts are needed for the agency to simply balance its 2009 budget.

Not all customers are feeling safe with the new changes. Dave Cisneros is a part-time cameraman whose apartment building is 100 yards from the 174-175th Street station. Cisneros said he does not enter the station at night.

“It’s just a big empty corridor down there and you’re a sitting duck,” Cisneros said. “People get robbed around here; it happens. When you see someone inside the subway, you feel safer.”

Delia Madera, 19, said the station agents provide a basic level of support when the ticket machines break down or the turnstiles malfunction.

“I see it as more of an annoyance,” Madera said. “If I’m in a hurry, maybe I won’t take the subway.”

The loss of agents also affects how law enforcement patrols the subway. Sgt. Tim Casey works with the New York Police Department’s transit district, which is located inside the 161st Street-Yankee Stadium subway station. The precinct patrols the subway system in the Bronx with officers in uniform and plain clothes.

Casey called the station agents the “eyes and ears” for the transit cops.

“We have a huge problem of theft in the stations, with people swiping MetroCards,” Casey said. “When station agents are there it is down to a minimum because they shoo the thieves away.”

Casey said his precinct had not drawn up a strategy for operating without the agents at select subway stops, but said that they will be missed.

“The overall picture doesn’t look good, Casey said. “It’s going to rear its ugly little head later on. When you replace people with machines, it doesn’t always work.”

The agents also manage problems with the ticket machines. Joshua said that with the closure of the ticket booth at the north entrance, he now receives constant intercom calls from customers complaining about broken ticket machines or jammed turnstiles. He or a coworker must walk over to the other entrance to fix the problems.

His repair work only lasts for so long. After a few hours of traffic, he said, the south entrance is usually back to its dysfunctional state.

“It does not make sense,” Joshua said. “It is now the customer who is at risk.”

Posted in Bronx Neighborhoods, CrimeComments (1)