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Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Roosevelt Island Main Street Traffic Is Getting Worse, Worse And Worse According To RIOC Transportation Manager - Future Problems Coming Up With Cornell NYC Tech Construction - Proposes Red Bus Route, Stop and Separate Bus Lane Changes

During the November 15 Roosevelt Island Operating Corp (RIOC) Operations Committee meeting (audio webcast is here), RIOC Transportation Manager Cy Opperman

 RIOCTransportation Manager Cy Opperman at Red Bus Stop From Jonathan Kalkin at Yfrog

reported that Roosevelt Island Main Street traffic:
...  is getting worse, worse, and worse with trucks, cars, school buses everywhere, now limos during day and increase at night, cyclists running around the Island and the Access A Ride parking anywhere they want to park ... future problems coming up with the Cornell construction... with 50 more cars going down Main Street, the buses will never make their schedule...
Mr. Opperman's remarks begin at the 2 hour 46 minute mark.

Mr. Opperman proposed the following changes to the Red Bus system in order, he says, to improve it's efficiency.

1 - For safety reasons due to building pillar obstruction, move southbound bus stop at 40 River Road to across the street by the park.

Image of 40 River Road Southbound Bus Stop

2 - Delivery Trucks parked on Main Street Near Gristedes delay northbound traffic. Mr Opperman proposed eliminating the southbound Gristedes Turnaround Red Bus Stop

Image Of Gristedes Turnaround Bus Stop

allowing delivery trucks to park in the turnaround

Image of Gristedes Turnaround

which will improve Main Street traffic flow. Several RIOC Directors pointed out that eliminating the Southbound Gristedes Turnaround Bus Stop may be an additional hardship for elderly and disabled residents who will have to cross the street to the park to get on the southbound bus.

3 - Create a separate bus lane from PS/IS 217 to Good Shepherd Community Center from 7 AM - 10 AM. The separate bus lane will eliminate parking spaces in the area during that time.

4 - Have Octagon Express Bus stop at the Good Shepherd Community Center on way to the subway. However, that may be difficult to get the Octagon owners to agree to since they pay for the bus.

5- Better coordination between the MTA Q 102 bus and the Red Bus Schedule. Mr. Opperman would like the Q 102 Bus to turn South at the helix in the afternoon/evening so it can pick up passengers coming home at the subway and drop them off at Manhattan Park and the Octagon. (Q 102 currently turns north at the helix all the time.)

6 - Eliminate dollar bill in fare box because it causes jams in the fare box and increases lines to get on the bus. Dollar bills are also filthy. (Blue gloves that are put on to count the dollar bills are no longer blue when count is finished)

Mr Opperman suggested that it would be cheaper to run the bus without a fare but RIOC Directors are not likely to go along with that suggestion. According to RIOC Chief Financial Officer Steve Chironis, Red Bus annual revenue is $300 hundred thousand from riders and $100 Thousand from the Octagon Express for a total of $400 thousand annually. The annual Red Bus expenses are $1.2 million for a net annual loss of $800 thousand.

Mr. Opperman also noted that he is seeing more grafitti on the Red Buses, that they are getting dirtier at night and has received complaints by Bus Operators that they have been threatened and cursed at by some passengers. There was even an incident of a kid shining a laser light in the eye of a Bus Operator.

Regarding coordination of Cornell construction transportation issues, Mr. Opperman reported that after an initial meeting several months ago, there has been no follow up with Cornell representatives.

Here's the audio web cast of the November 15 RIOC Operations Committee meeting. The Red Bus discussion starts at 2 hour 46 minute mark.


Mark Lyon said...

There's not a good mechanism in RIOC's leases to do this, but I'd prefer to have the Red Bus be free and assess each apartment on the island a yearly or monthly "transportation fee" that would be paid by the landlords and then assessed to the units.

According to the USPS, there are 4,893 residential addresses in 10044. In 2014, the proposed budget shows $382,000 in revenue from Red Bus operations. If divided equally, that's $78 per apartment per year ($6.50/mo). At that level of funding, the Red Bus is projected to lose a little over $1M in 2014. Funding on a per apartment basis, the Red Bus could break even at an assessment of $292 per unit ($24.33/mo).

With some adjusting, a formula for closer to full funding could allow some offsets for low income apartment units, or buildings could allocate the Red Bus assessment based on rents.

Mark Lyon said...

The Q102 sign at the relocated 40RR stop needs to be returned. The Q102 drivers don't stop there anymore, since there is no sign.

Frank Farance said...

My comments to Mr. Opperman two weeks ago on red bus changes ...

Mr. Opperman:

Thanks for taking the time to clarify some of the ideas from last weeks Operations Committee meeting. As you're probably aware, RIRA just had its elections, so we have a new President, and we'll be re-forming our Island Services and Planning committees, so just take this as One Person's Input, not a RIRA position.

Here's my take on some of the improvements:

* Avoid pillars that limit sight-lines at 10 River Road and 40 River Road by moving bus stops.

The Manhattan Park people can weigh in on this, but the bus stops are presently at those places to provide shelter during bad weather. Having had to use both MP stops this fall, I think they make sense at their present location. Regardless, I think the community would like to understand the rationale for any changes.

* Eliminate bus turnaround at Gristede's with southbound bus stopping at 10 RR and the turnaround given to Gristede's delivery trucks. This would move delivery vehicles from Main Street giving northbound buses a clear run.

My sense is that the traffic situation will clear up when the Main Street repaving has completed (looks like they're working on it today). With the Main Street construction, many people were upset about having to lug bags across the street, especially seniors and disabled. The present turnaround location affords shelter, a bench for rest/waiting, and close proximity to the store (even if Gristede's moves their main entrance).

* Create a bus lane from 7 to 10 a.m. from PS/IS 217 to Good Shepherd, eliminating parking spots for three hours there.

I'm glad I got your understanding on this, which is to reduce congestion. I was the originator of this idea a couple years ago, so here's my suggestions:

(1) don't call it a bus lane because cars, taxis, car service, delivery trucks, and school buses will have to stop/stand in that lane, i.e., the main reason for the change is to eliminate the double parking that causes the congestion

(2) limit the No Parking area from RIOC to Good Shepherd, not only will it make it easier for PS/IS 217 drop off in the morning, for all the handicap parkers (which will have to move), they can move to Westview or Rivercross parking ... if you make it from PS/IS 217 to Good Shepherd, you will significantly inconvenience many handicap parkers

(3) be sure to permit tax/car-service pick-up and merchant delivery in WIRE buildings, and student drop off in front of PS/IS 217

(4) limit the parking restriction to 7-9 AM, congestion isn't a problem outside those hours

* Require Octagon Express to stop at Good Shepherd going south a.m. and north p.m.

Given the low ridership, this might be OK. My sense is this is a contractual issue, so if Octagon is not getting the extra service they paid for at $110K/year, then RIOC might be in trouble.

* Schedule Q102 to head south off the ramp after 3 that it could pick up passengers at the subway and Tram before heading north.

I'm glad I better understand this suggestion. In short, you'll need RIRA's help to get the MTA to come here and listen to our need for this kind of change.

I note that in some towns (e.g., the N62 in Freeport, Long Island), the buses have reverse loops for AM/PM schedules, so this could be OK. However, the time slot needs to be easily understood, e.g., AM turns north, PM turns south. If 3PM is the proposed starting time, then when does the reverse direction stop? I think simple AM/PM approach is better.

* Eliminate dollar bill payment on the bus; it jams the machine and adds man-hours counting the bills. Coins can be counted by machine without anyone touching them. (NYC buses don’t accept bills.)

Sounds like a great idea for passengers, too, because dollar bills just slow the boarding of the bus.


YetAnotherRIer said...

Some do, some don't. It's been pretty random lately. When did the sign disappear? I was susprised when one day the Q102 refused to stop at 40RR and I realized that the sign was gone.

YetAnotherRIer said...

1) I am a clear yes to relocating the bus stop at 40RR as long as we'll get one of the shelters installed. The pillars are a bit dangerous.

2) Never really understood or agreed with the need for this silly loop. In the many years I have been on this island it's still a strange sight.

3) Yes, get rid of street parking along Main Street. It's a disaster.

4) It's a privately chartered bus. Good luck with that. Purchase an extra bus or two for RIOC use instead.

5) Yeah, that't not going to happen.

6) If the RIOC plans on eliminating dollar bills again they should think of implementing some kind of payment card that can be refilled online or at machines instead. Requiring coins is quite antiquated. The excuse that it takes so long to board is because they chose that brain-damaged technology and not dollar bills per se. There are better things out there.

YetAnotherRIer said...

"In short, you'll need RIRA's help to get the MTA to come here and listen to our need for this kind of change."

That made me laugh. Thanks!

Jesse Webster said...

That's what I was thinking. MetroCard negates the need for bills on MTA buses. A contactless stored value card would help with this on the Red Bus.

Frank Farance said...

YetAnotherRIer, that was Mr. Opperman's suggestion. He's worked for the MTA and felt that the MTA doesn't listen as much to other government agencies as it does to members of the community. So us in RIRA will try to help Mr. Opperman on his suggestion. (Now don't criticize, because I'm just reporting Mr. Opperman's point and following his suggestion.)

Yes we looked into Metrocard a while ago. I recall that there was a significant per-transaction cost (10-20 cents?) that made it infeasible for the red bus, even if we had the Metrocard readers installed for free.

I think Mr. Lyon's suggestion is the best: make it free and offload the cost to the buildings. Given the price changes in the past (free, ten cents, a quarter), the demand is mostly inelastic as the price gets lower, e.g., a free bus doesn't generate significantly more passengers.

Frank Farance said...

Actually, bill readers and card readers are relatively slow compared to single quarters (thus, the reason MTA Select Buses have payment at curbside).

YetAnotherRIer said...

You could install a card swiper or... since the suggestion came up that the buis should be free maybe something similar to the MTA Select Service could be implemented. Once in a while the PSD would patrol the bus to check everybody's ticket but over all it's based on trust.

YetAnotherRIer said...

Nobody said "Metrocard". Some other contact-less mechanism that a) doesn't take as long as those card readers on the MTA bus and b) not as wasteful and slow as the current readers on the RIOC buses.

OctagonParent said...

Southtown has no real incentive to pay for the Red Bus so you would need to reduce your address count by that amount.

Mark Lyon said...

Bearing the costs of RIOC's operation is part of living in this community. People pay taxes for things which don't personally benefit them or even to which they object. Southtown residents benefit from having Red Bus service available, even if they don't personally use it as frequently as those who live farther north.

OctagonParent said...

RIOC is not a taxing authority and provides services on a contractual
basis. Southtown contributing to the operation of the Red Bus as part of a "community benefit" while nice in theory would most likely be a non-starter. I stand by my opinion that a more realistic number would include only those who are currently using the service.

Frank Farance said...

YetAnotherRIer, you say "Nobody said Metrocard", but that's not true. In you prior post you say "NYC buses don't accept bills, they do an alternative to accepting coins" and you're talking about a reader mechanism, well then that only leaves Metrocard as presently deployed. I've seen no other payment system on the MTA buses system-wide. (Note: You're excluding Select Bus mechanism because you're talking about an on-bus payment system, which Select Bus is not.)

As pointed out, regardless of speed, there is still a transaction cost which would be a significant part of the 25 cent fare. And you won't be able to eliminate the quarter payment mechanism (make everyone purchase a fob?), so the only people who will buy the fob are people who don't carry quarters. And who wants to carry an extra card in their wallet just for the red buses that can't be used elsewhere (like Metrocard)? I'm not sure your approach passes the cost/benefit analysis test. Ditto for a select bus mechanism: it's just cheaper to have quarters.

Of course, making it "free" (billing back to buildings) gets rid of most of those problems.

Frank Farance said...

Although not a taxing authority per se, RIOC soon might be an "assessing" organization (see Maple Tree Group legislation that Assemblymember Kellner has put forward), which would have the same effect, i.e., RIOC could have assessments, regardless of what it says in the ground leases.

CheshireKitty said...

They already use a stored-value card for change from dollar bills. Maybe they could just use the same system - but expand it so that cards could hold more value. Like they have parking card dispensers, they could have bus card dispensers within the bus shelters (or a few of them). It seems the technology is already in place. Actually, though, I don't quite understand what the problem is with handling money. Many of us still pay cash for Metrocards. I guess the TA has to have employees go through the "horror" of handling those bills, like it has since time immemorial. The bills jam, it's true - so on a bus just have the stored value cards. But somewhere along the line - such as when people buy those stored value cards at the dispensers - cash is going to come into play. Not everyone always uses plastic for all transactions.

mpresident said...

I already pay federal, state and NYC taxes. I would prefer to not pay an RI tax for laziness when people could just as well walk to the subway. GOOD EXERCISE!

Frank Farance said...

mpresident, you already pay a RIOC tax: it's called the ground lease and it is a part of your rent/maintenance. Based upon Mr. Lyon's numbers, it costs about a dollar for every ride, of which riders pay 25 cents. So we're already paying the other (approx) 75 cents of the trip.

It has long been the position of the residents that we should not require mass transportation to be self-sufficient, as is the case virtually everywhere else (mass transit systems all have some kind of subsidy). Thus, when RIOC was looking to cut the third shift of the tram (to increase profitability), there were strong protests.

Also, I wouldn't characterize mass transportation as "laziness", each person makes their own decision on when to walk and when to ride.

YetAnotherRIer said...

A decision based partially for some out of laziness.

Trevre Andrews said...

Agreed, we are already paying 75% for the red buses whether we ride them or not, making everyone pay a quarter a ride is obviously born out of a bureaucratic need to count things, check boxes, and have systems. You could cut the costs by 25% if the bus was free, because the bus would spend 25% less time idling waiting for people to pay their 25% fair. The answer to this problem is simple. Run two weeks with no fair, 25% fewer buses, run two weeks with the fair, I bet you get there faster and cheaper with the first option.

YetAnotherRIer said...

Or just bump up the fare to a buck, keep it at a quarter for seniors, and free for students.

Frank Farance said...

YetAnotherRIer, the price is elastic going up, but inelastic going down: i.e., raising the price to a dollar will greatly decrease demand and make it less profitable, but a free bus doesn't generate significantly more passengers. The bus was free up until about 1990 when the State was having a budget crunch and the word came down that there must be a fee attached to everything, so the fare was 10 cents. Then later it was raised to 25 cents.

Mr. Andrews, I like your idea of an experiment: maybe there is a way to do this a little better. And, if we transition Public Safety to NYPD out-sourcing (e.g., keeping the best PSD officers), we can save the $1.2 Public Safety deficit, which will cover the loss of fare collection ... and then some.

OctagonParent said...

How do you cut a off-peak bus schedule by 25% when there are only two buses in operation? You can't. The only way to improve service and remain revenue neutral is to have the buildings agree to pass this on as a fee to their residents.

If the goal is to improve profitability as well as service then they should experiment, as you suggested, increasing the price until they have maximized revenues and will thereby decrease ridership making the buses run faster.

Frank Farance said...

I agree that it is difficult to cut 25% at certain hours, but there might be other times where cutting costs is possible. For example, if only a single bus ran late at night (but a faster route, say 20 minutes rather than 30 minutes), yet the buses at all times are free ... is that a reasonable trade-off? I don't yet know the answer to that question. Ditto for rush hours: we might have faster boarding through both doors (like The Old Days) and only need 5 buses instead of 7, which is a substantial savings.

YetAnotherRIer said...

You are correct with the elasticity of bus fares. I do believe, though, that we haven't reached the sweet spot at 25 cents.

Frank Farance said...

YetAnotherRIer, optimizing for that sweet spot involves number theory (coin change, see McNugget Numbers), queuing theory (more change means longer boarding times), psychology, and economics. My hunch is that the sweet spot is around 32 cents, i.e., either 30 or 35 cents, because 40 cents starts to discourage people. Because we have only non-penny coins and no change, the McNuggets numbers are multiples of 5, i.e., 32 cents is not an element of that set. (Note: Based upon the original 6, 9, and 20 piece packages, the McNuggets numbers do not include 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 10, 11, 13, 14, 16, 17, 19, 22, 23, 25, 28, 31, 34, 37, and 43, e.g., it is not possible to have 23 McNuggets based upon combinations of 6, 9, and 20 piece packages.)

As for queuing theory, it is combined with another number theory problem on: What Is The Best Selection Of Currency Denominations To Get The Minimum Number Of Coins As Change? At certain points during rush hour, the coin machine is limiting factor on boarding the bus (which translates into the route time, which affects the number of buses required to service the community, which affect profitability). So most combinations of McNugget numbers require at least 2 or 3 coins, e.g., if the fare were 40 cents, it would require a minimum of 3 coins, which might delay boarding.

In the past transit systems solved this problem by minting tokens (the Tram used to have its own token), but that gets into issue of buying tokens. I don't recall the cost of tokens, but if the fare needed to go up, that might be a possibility (other issues involved, too).

YetAnotherRIer said...

"because 40 cents starts to discourage people"

That is just your hunch, though, and not based on anything else. Just like my hunch that 50 cents sounds like a good working compromise between a quater and a dollar.

Also, the term "McNugget numbers" is a very specific coin problem that really has not much to do with our problem (because the coin values in that problem is, as you noted, 6, 9, and 20).

The coin problem is a non-issue anyway because coins should go away (or its usage discouraged) and a fare card should be used instead. It would eliminate all queuing problems as well.

Trevre Andrews said...

Theories, numbers, all great stuff, but seriously this place is a laboratory, lets use it to run some experiments. Make the bus free for two weeks, see if they can cut the duration of bus operations by 25%, if its to crowded or doesn't work just use the old system, it can't get much worse.

Also I still catch the buses waiting at stops, rather than circling the island as fast as possible. The less time the bus waits at any one station the more times it makes it around the island and on average the ride time goes down and capacity goes up.

YetAnotherRIer said...

"Also I still catch the buses waiting at stops, rather than circling the island as fast as possible."

I think that is actually necessary in order to keep in sync with the schedule. If the bus is ahead in time it has to wait until it's scheduled departure time. If that is not done, buses will batch up and fill very unevenly. The idea to let them go around and around and around may sound intuitive but it really is not a solution.

Frank Farance said...

YetAnotherRIer, in your non-scientific mind, a "hunch" is also known as a hypothesis. That hunch was based upon listening to about 15-20 years of conversations with residents (some in formal settings, some not). Certainly, an experimental approach (as Mr. Andrews suggests) sounds reasonable and might give insight to several "hunches" (yours included).

YetAnotherRIer, in your non-mathematical mind, it was obvious to other readers that I wasn't actually talking about combinations of 6s, 9s, and 20s, but combinations of 5 (nickels), 10 (dimes), and 25 (quarters), which are related to finding the "sweet spot" because if 32 or 43 cents is the "sweet spot", it might not be possible to achieve for other reasons/effects.

YetAnotherRIer, in your non-systems mind, the reason the coinage is a factor is because it relates to boarding time, which then affects route time, which then affects the number buses RIOC needs in operation, which affects cost. (The MTA groks this, you don't.)

YetAnotherRIer, in your non-historic mind, your suggestion of the fare card ignores several important obstacles and concerns. Not to mention, Octagon pays for $110K for the Octagon Express, so will be the case that the Octagon Express costs 25 cents (because they've paid for bus service at 25 cents fare), or will the Octagon Express bus cost raise to 50 cents?

YetAnotherRIer, in your inconsistent mind you suggest "just bump up the fare to a buck" but your hunch is 50 cents and you don't let us know where you believe the "sweet spot" is: 50 cents, a dollar, somewhere else?

In summary, your suggestions aren't mindful of the significant implementation issues, maybe its just about being anonymously disagreeable because you can get away with it, right? That is, maybe you have no real intellectual commitment to suggesting something useful/constructive.

But my "hunch" (i.e., hypothesis) is that you understand this much better than you portray in your post above, and your (almost certain) response will be the experiment that gives insight to my hypothesis.

YetAnotherRIer said...

A hunch is a hunch is a hunch. You are not more qualified to have hunches than I or anybody else. Your hunch can be as dead wrong as mine. It is a hunch. Throwing in queuing theory or coin problems is just an attempt to throw people off track. But, hey, 32 cents is the optimal fare that the RIOC should collect. Frank Farance's hunches are very precise and backed up by decades of talking to people and the occasional Wikipedia article.

Frank Farance said...

YetAnotherRIer, clearly you want the community less informed by discouraging sharing info. I cite a Wikipedia article to provide background so *others* can understand it better. I already have a strong background in math, I don't need the article to understand it myself. (And truth be told, how would one even think to look for such an article (coin denominations) if he/she didn't understand the issue?, and hadn't already applied this kind of theory to real-world problems, such as object partitioning?)

It's not the issue of your hunch is better than mine, it's that you're dismissive of my voicing a hunch "That is just your hunch, though, and not based on anything else", and my response was to rebut your point "not based on anything else", and gave you what it was based upon.

You're also dismissive of understanding the problem better/deeper. A couple years ago when RIOC had proposed a free-running schedule, I predicted (because the theory predicts it so) that boarding time affects the bus schedule: this is why the buses would all bunch 2-3 in a row. So boarding time is an important factor in our red bus system (as demonstrated by experience and experiment). But you want to dismiss it, how does that help other readers of this blog become better informed?

YetAnotherRIer said...

Yes, Frank, you got me. I want the RI population to be less informed. How did you figure me out that quickly?

Gabriel cohen said...

I cant wait until one of you brilliant engineers and Mathematic PhD's come up with the proposal to open up one of the "back" roads for commercial traffic. Cars already speed down these roads with abandon. Hell, no need for traffic lights, just put random people there as road blocks. Look the plain and simple fact this Island was not D-E-S-I-G-N-E-D (planned) to control nevertheless SUSTAIN this amount of traffic. But GREEDY RIOC and all of you "ELECTED" reps's don't give a shit, all you fuckin want is money money....My mother and I moved here in 1975 we have seen the good the bad the ugly and I must say - the interlopers who have no idea what the vision and standard RI was supposed to develop into. go on tear down NORTHTOWN for a parking lot - open up the the back road for traffic and blow-up the population density of this once beautiful jewel....your all greedy POS..

Mark Lyon said...

I don't think anyone has discussed opening up the promenades for traffic. I see PSD driving down them near my apartment, but not other users. I always assumed that was because they don't want to get out of their vehicles and patrol on foot, bike, segway, golf cart or any of the other vehicles available to them.

There's no way the promenades were designed for construction traffic.

The best option for all would be to expand motorgate, evict the derelict vehicles that haven't moved in years and dramatically reduce on-street parking.

Frank Farance said...

Huh? Someone is suggesting construction traffic on the promenades? No way. Years ago, some of the garbage (carting) trucks tried it, but it is way too unsafe to have those heavy vehicles moving, even at 5-10 MPH. I've seen some trucks on the promenade but only because they were doing work there, e.g., a tree truck clearing a tree.

As for expanding Motorgate to eliminate on-street parking, that's fine if you live next to Motorgate. But if you're in Southtown, Northtown, or Octagon, you really need to be able to drop stuff off in front of your building ... the red bus won't transport what you can put in your car and deliver to your building, i.e., even if you were willing to park in Motorgate with the transfer to the red bus, it still wouldn't not be possible.

Or said differently, even if you made Motorgate parking free, you wouldn't significantly reduce much of the on-street parking in Northtown and Southtown.

Pat Walker said...

Wow! This blog has really gone down the toilet. I can't believe this post hasn't been deleted by Rick O'Connor. With all the colorful language spewed in this diatribe, it's amazing that any reputable blogger would allow this to be posted for 2 days.

westviewgirl said...

I can already see that RIOC is going to be trashed, seems that Cornell is the new boss here. RIRA will do all it can to get money out of Cornell ... There is no more " what the population wants" here anymore. Never really was that way, so what the Hell! Let Pollara come in and take over, build a huge fence to cut out the pie she wants, let Cornell come in and think we all are asleep here and just give them the whole island! It is happeing right before all 14,000 people that live here. They will change the name of the island one day to Weill Cornell Campus. Am I the only person that can see what is happening here? Remember back in April Ms. Dove VP of Cornell and the President of Cornell Mr.Skrotal I think his name is coming to a town hall meeting? Now Ms. Dove has a column in the Wire hand feeding us what the President wants her to tell us... FF parks is doing a land grab to get the ruins before Cornell gets hold of it...think of the t shirt sales one day! Maybe a Cornell corn dog even? There will be a hotel in the future, maybe an amusment park for the kids!