Here we go again . . .

July 8, 2016

This recent Times Union story shows the persistence of unrealistic, grandiose thinking in relation to our local Amtrak station. The proposal to study spending $20 – $30 million, and who knows how much time, building an aerial tramway to transport a few hundred people a day across the Hudson, in all likelihood at significant public expense, is another example of the thinking that got us the present bloated, cavernous station that leaks money and water, and whose large outdoor clocks never tell the same time. Here’s something to try first, if there’s really a need for an alternative to the existing taxicab service most railroad passengers use (there is):

Realign the two bus routes that serve the station so they both stop at the same place on East St. for trips in each direction. Coordinate bus schedules with train schedules. Have a covered walkway from the station exit to the bus stop. Sell one way or round trip bus passes at the railroad ticket windows or at nearby kiosks. Have “Amtrak connect” schedules printed up that show when busses leave the station for popular downtown destinations and when they return, with a large map on the back showing the locations of bus stops and downtown landmarks.

If the above does not work, thousands, not tens of millions, will have been wasted. Then you can say “I told you so,” and try the gondola.

My favorite scandal just won’t quit

February 24, 2014

Another LIRR disability scam update

July 3, 2013

Looks like 600 scammers will be giving up (and back) their federal disability pensions, according to this recent New York Times report and this AP report from the Times Union.

It’s not over yet

May 24, 2013

More fallout from the stunning LIRR pension fraud mess.


Another one bites the dust

August 15, 2012

This New York Times story shows the LIRR pension scandal is far from over.

LIRR disability pension update

May 22, 2012

The Post reports more arrests.

“Second” trips

May 9, 2012

For those who frequently travel by air and other forms of public transit, a major inconvenience can be the “second” trips between one’s home and departure airport and one’s arrival airport and ultimate destination. In many areas, the only options are driving and paying exorbitant parking fees at the airport, expensive and often unreliable taxis and renting a car, which may not be appropriate when one’s ultimate destination is a city center with limited or prohibitively expensive parking.  All the auto-based options also subject the user to getting stuck in traffic and risking missing a plane that won’t wait or an important meeting at the ultimate destination.  Many cities provide an answer to this problem with direct transit links to their major commercial airports. Traveling to cities like Boston, Chicago and Atlanta is a pleasure due to the existence of inexpensive, direct rapid transit service between the airport and downtown. I’ve written about the direct bus service between the airport and downtown in New Orleans (not as good as rail transit, but a viable option for smaller metro areas). I’ve also written about CDTA’s virtual failure to provide such service in our area, though I think there could be a demand for it, especially if routed via Wolf Road and the Bus Plus route to downtown Albany, perhaps extending across the river to the Amtrak station.

In planning an international trip from which J. F. Kennedy airport in New York City is my air departure point, I was reminded of New York’s utter failure in this important area. After alighting from Amtrak in New York’s Penn Station, I would expect the greatest city in the world to offer a direct rail connection from that transit hub to the airport that is that city’s international gateway. Instead, what I get is the option of schlepping to either the Long Island Railroad (quicker but more expensive) or the subway, from which I need to change to another train to get to the airport.

What’s the big deal, you may ask? The web sites I’ve consulted do not indicate whether the change of trains in Jamaica (assuming the Long Island Railroad option, which I plan to use) is across the platform or requires climbing stairs (with the luggage for an international trip), which would preclude all but the physically robust from using it (I assume the subway option does involve stairs, which is why I’m springing for the LIRR). Another change of conveyance also offers the traveler (especially if not proficient in English) another chance to get on the wrong train, and it offers another chance for a missed connection due to bad weather or mechanical breakdown.

Flying to JFK (and having to get from one terminal to another) is cost-prohibitive.  Taxis and buses are subject to getting stuck in traffic, a risk I cannot take due to my schedule.  For me, the two-train option is the only practical one, though far less desirable than a one-train option would be.  I will hope for the best, and upon my return write a post about how it works out.

Obviously, it is difficult if not impossible to overlay new transit lines in a fully-developed environment such as New York, and the visionaries who planned its airports did not consider direct rail links necessary.*  Nonetheless, I find in difficult to believe that the greatest city in the world cannot have found a way (with its various transit partners) to provide a direct rail link between JFK (and its other airports) and midtown Manhattan, even it the route it follows is not the shortest.  If it really is impossible, how about a system of HOV lanes on the highways linking the airports with midtown so that bus service can operate with less likelihood of traffic delay?


*Update (10/9/12)– my recent re-reading of Caro’s biography of Robert Moses, The Power Broker, reveals that one of Moses’s staff members suggested reserving land in the median of the Van Wyck Expressway, when it was being constructed to serve the airport, for future transit use.  Moses, a strong opponent of public transit, vetoed the suggestion.