So you’ve decided to join the ranks of the bicycle commuters. Now, job number one is to prepare and take some precautions to be sure to avoid any potential pitfalls, especially if you’re in a big city like New York.
It should go without saying that you need to have a helmet and reflectors. Rear-facing mirrors and a knowledge of hand signals won’t hurt, either. Now that we’ve got that out of the way, here are a few tips and tricks to help get you started:
Act Like a Car
Even though you’re a lot smaller and more vulnerable, if you’re running with the big boys, you’ll need to fit in. This means recognizing that you’re a part of traffic and not some rolling observer. In the absence of bike lanes, you can ride in the normal traffic lanes like a car would. Just don’t forget, this means following all traffic laws, too. Riding around like red lights, stop signs, and one way streets don’t apply to you is asking for trouble.
Do a Dry Run
Even if you ride all the time, there may be some idiosyncrasies of your planned route to work that you won’t be expecting. Before setting out at commute time when the most cars will be on the road, consider taking a few hours during the weekend or any other off-time to ride the route and get used to it. You might even find a better path than the one you’ve mapped out.
Prepare for Changes
This might seem obvious to most of us, but for the sweaty 1% out there: you are probably going to stink. At the least, keep some deodorant in your desk. You might want to consider a gym membership close to your office, even just for the showers. You’re already getting a great workout with your commute, so if the gym fees aren’t too high, just think of it as paying for a daily shower. Your coworkers will appreciate it.
Take Your Time
You know how stressful it can be to push through a crowded subway station to get to work when you’re late. Now imagine instead of commuters, it’s trucks and taxicabs. Budget yourself more than enough time to get to work so you won’t have to speed through traffic just to make it in by 8:59. Your safety is more important than staying up late the night before.
Yes, you want to whip yourself into shape and bring down your carbon footprint. But that doesn’t mean you need to transform yourself into a riding warrior on day one. Start slowly, because even biking one day a week is better than nothing at all. The last thing you want to do is overexert yourself and get hurt, and have to take substantial time away from the road.
Know Your Ride
You won’t have to break down and rebuild your bike, but knowing how to change a flat or replace a broken chain can be a godsend if you’re stuck out on the street by yourself. The better you can do it on your own, the less you’ll have to rely on an expensive technician’s help. Plus, the grease stains on your hands will give you something to brag about when you get to the office.
At over a century old and over maximum capacity, The New York subway system is in desperate need of an upgrade. Each weekday, over 5 million riders enter train cars built to withstand approximately 70,000 daily riders, and rely on them to safely and swiftly reach their destination. While MTA-related issues seem to pile up with each passing year, renovations require a great deal of both money and time, not to mention the patience of anxious commuters.
So how does the MTA keep operating trains and tracks safe and functional when it comes time to repair others? It’s a complicated story that has to do with money, population growth and aging infrastructure, among other factors.
Here’s what you need to know about how the MTA plans and executes their major renovations, how long they might take, and what to expect for the future of the NYC subway.
The MTA is still fixing and fortifying, years after Sandy.
To understand how the MTA works, it makes sense to look at its past and ongoing projects. When Hurricane Sandy slammed the east coast in 2012, much of the city was spared — but the subways have ceased to be the same. The ensuing “Fix & Fortify” campaign by the MTA is still ongoing. It’s next focus will be on repairing the L train, a highly trafficked cross-borough line.
This project won’t begin until 2019, but when it does, managing the commute to or from the Williamsburg and Bushwick areas won’t be easy. The MTA predicts either a complete 18-month shutdown or three years of limited service in order to repair the line’s Canarsie tube, which was severely compromised by flooding.
Sandy repairs are typically accomplished on weekends and nights to minimally impact highly-congested workday commutes. Tunnels like the Clark, Rutgers and Cranberry tubes are among those subjected to weekend repairs, to the inconvenience of F, 2 and 3 train riders.
Record numbers of riders mean more repairs and more delays.
Even before Sandy, the MTA’s struggles were real — and challenging enough that the MTA has been compared to Sisyphus in his quest to roll a boulder uphill. Increased crowding and aging infrastructure means more repairs and more funding is necessary just to keep up with average wear and tear. The prospect of future hurricanes only ramp up the gravity of the situation.
Unfortunately, the MTA isn’t in any position to accomplish these fixes immediately. This is in part thanks to record ridership, which has risen to nearly 6 million people a day up from about 4 million in the 1990s. This crowding, in turn, has lead to a swelling delays, which have quadrupled since 2012 to about 20,000 a year.
Thanks to debt and budget constraint, the MTA is in financial straits.
Another obstacle preventing the MTA from immediately acting on repairs is their delicate financial situation. The city and the state split the cost of the MTA’s budget, the rest of which is made up by riders’ fare prices, but Albany has not been eager to help fund the agency. Only when the MTA uses up its resources from the prior round of funding will the state’s contribution be “anticipated” rather than “mandated,” meaning necessary funding could be delayed even further.
Next, let’s not forget the MTA’s massive debt of $34 billion, which is greater than 30 of the world’s countries combined. In the 1980s, the MTA began borrowing from banks to fund luxury projects; now, raised rider-fares are paying back the extravagant ideas of the past. This model is especially unsustainable considering revenues are rising 1.5 percent each year, while costs rise 5.5 percent, according to NY Mag.
It could take 50 years to fix all subway’s issues.
Between debt, hurricanes, and overcrowding, the MTA certainly has its work cut out. And while crucial repairs will need to be made, some say we’re likely to be half a century before we see it all completed. That’s according to the Citizens Budget Commissions, which estimates that stairs, platforms and pillars in 280 of New York City’s 668 stations won’t be fully fixed until 2067.
52 years is two-thirds the human lifespan — far too long to wait for necessary updates to keep riders safe and the subway running smoothly. Still, gradual repairs are certainly better than none at all.
The MTA is still prioritizing tech and expansion projects.
Repairs are necessary on the day-to-day, but above all, the MTA has the future in mind. While it’s easy for daily riders to assume the MTA should focus solely on repairs, it’s critical to think ahead. As the city’s population flourishes and ridership grows, expansion will be needed just to free up space and stop the strain on current lines.
“At a time when growing ridership is leading to crowding and delays, we must pursue expansion projects,” MTA spokesman Kevin Ortiz told the NY Daily News.
Recent expansion projects have been less than fruitful so far, with projects like the Second Avenue expansion delayed indefinably.
Technology projects are moving along much better, with all underground stations set to be fully equipped with WiFi by 2017. Subways will soon begin accepting contactless payments, too, and new countdown clocks and subway cars will also be added gradually. The clocks we can expect on lettered lines in 2018, and the cars we may see replacing the old C, J and Z trains by 2022.
Creative solutions for consideration
With public services that New York’s residents and economy rely on, cutting costs and downsizing in a fashion similar to a business would only make matters worst. Revenue and a large labor force is vital to completing projects, but continuing to raise fare prices is not exactly fair to cash-strapped commuters.
The Daily Dot has suggested that the MTA could benefit from an ultra-useful train-tracking app with a one-time fee for users, as well as WiFi and solar panels for diversified revenue streams. NY Mag suggests cutting bloated administrative costs, privatizing buses, selling and leasing MTA-owned real estate, and raising toll prices for drivers. The Move NY plan in particular would collect $1.35 billion a year in revenue from bridge tolls, congestion pricing, and taxi surcharges.
It’s a complicated situation, and no solution will come without losses of its own. But in order for the subway to keep running at the quality and speed at which we need it, we need the MTA to keep its head dry amidst a storm of gnarly obstacles.