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Links roundup—extended edition (with lots of things for history buffs & transit geeks)

December 5, 2011

A birdseye map of Niagara Falls in 1882, via the Big Map Blog (click image for the source).

Note: for those of you who keep track of these things, my links roundup posts will probably be a little erratic over the next few weeks, what with the holidays and end-of-the-year things.    

Authority governance & debt

  • The Upstate Telecommunications Corp., a local public authority created to manage a $99 million Monroe County IT contract, might not actually be a valid corporation. As yours truly told the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle, “the consequences of a corporation not being a valid corporation are sort of unclear. A court might treat it like a corporation if it’s been acting like one. In the real world, how do you undo a $99 million contract that’s halfway done?” [Democrat & Chronicle]
  • Dear Ulster County Legislators: “Since, it appears, the Local Development Corporation (LDC) is the only viable solution that you have before you to address the financial needs of our Health Care Center, I recommend you clearly and decisively take ownership of the process and make this LDC a model.” [Ulster County Comptroller Elliot Auerbach]
  • LIPA’s 2012 Proposed Budget understates its financial needs by suggesting only a 1.5% rate increase, possibly to regain some favor with beleaguered ratepayers. It is able to accomplish this through manipulation of cash from overcharges and borrowed funds, a practice that unfortunately increases costs for the consumer in the future. With this type of financial management, LIPA customers will never see the day when rates, apart from fuel costs, are stabilized.” [Suffolk County LIPA Oversight Committee]
  • More than $3 billion in municipal securities backed by American Airlines’ parent corporation, AMR (including bonds issued by the New York City Industrial Development Agency), dropped significantly after the company filed for bankruptcy. The effects of the company’s bankruptcy on these securities is still unclear, and will depend on which facilities American Airlines decides to keep. Holders of some unsecured airport bonds might recover next to nothing. [Bloomberg Businessweek]

MTA

  • A new report from two Brooklyn elected officials is calling on the MTA do a better job providing bus service in neighborhoods that don’t have subway access. [Transportation Nation]
  • Providing more buses (or cutting fewer bus lines) would also relieve overcrowding on the subways. The problem, according to NYC Transit President Thomas Prendergast: “there’s a vicious circle with respect to the negative impact you have…. But at the end of the day, you have a certain amount of money; you have to provide service. So that’s the conundrum we have.” [NY Post]
  • The number of people being arrested for turnstile jumping is falling, a trend that some say could be due to the loss of hundreds of MTA station agents over the past several years. [NY Post]
  • Attention history buffs and transit geeks: a “fascinating” three-part study on MTA bus route planning from 1981. [Transit Blogger]
  • Attention history buffs and transit geeks: a behind-the-scenes video tour of Grand Central Station that reveals details about its iconic opal clock, the secret FDR train car, and the station’s control room. [WNYC]

Port Authority, from the New Jersey side

  • A New Jersey State Assemblyman wants Governor Christie to investigate the reasons for the Port Authority’s decision to raise tolls earlier this year. “I believe I’m being lied to, that is unacceptable,” Assemblyman Gary Schaer said in an interview. “No one has ever said that government always operates effectively. But government must be run with honesty and transparency.” [NJ Star-Ledger] [Transportation Nation]
  • A New Jersey transit rider is fighting minor criminal charges that he received for refusing to give a Port Authority police officer information about his country of origin, claiming that it’s unconstitutional to be charged for “refusing to provide pedigree information.” A spokesperson for the Port Authority, while declining to comment on the specific litigation, explained that “in general, the need for PAPD to ask a suspect for country or origin pedigree information is made on a case by case basis, determined by several factors, including whether there is a language barrier (so we can get an interpreter) or whether we need further information to confirm a person’s identity.” [Hudson Reporter] [Gothamist]

Thruway Authority

  • The Thruway Authority and the New York State Dept. of Transportation have issued an RFQ for the design and construction of the new Tappan Zee Bridge, which is reportedly the largest public works project on the pipeline in the nation. The deadline for submission to the RFQ is January 10, 2012. [Thruway Authority]
  • And just in case you missed it the first time I mentioned it, there’s actually a reason (although not necessarily a very smart one) for why the Tappan Zee Bridge was built in one of the widest parts of the Hudson River. Hint: it has to do with the competition for tolls between the Port Authority and the Thruway Authority (excuse me, the Gov. Thomas E. Dewey Thruway Authority). [Planet Money]

Economic development

  • “The New York City Economic Development Corporation has solicited developer firms to implement the Willets Point development, on the basis of a Request for Proposals (‘RFP’) that contains NO living wage provision. However, that plainly contradicts the announcements and testimony of union officials during 2008.” [Willets Point United]
  • The Cuomo Administration is drafting legislation to authorize $40 million in tax incentives for a defense contracting company that was hit hard by flooding this fall and threatened to move its 1,350 jobs out of state if it didn’t get a bailout. Other companies will apparently be eligible for flood relief benefits too. [Star Gazette]
  • Of course, there are other ways to provide relief to businesses hit hard by Tropical Storm Irene. The Essex County IDA, for example, is redirecting $250,000 of unused Champlain Bridge closure assistance funds to create a revolving loan fund for businesses that sustained flooding damage. [Adirondack Daily Enterprise]
  • “Comparing U.S. bidding wars for investment with what happens under the EU’s state of the art rules helps show just how much money is wasted by state and local governments here.” [Clawback Blog]
  • How old buildings can bring a city new life. [Kingston Times]

Beyond New York (and New Jersey)

  • San Francisco: Remember all that First Amendment controversy this summer over the decision to shut down cell service at certain San Francisco transit stations? The Bay Area Rapid Transit Authority finally adopted a policy outlining when and how it will decide to shut down underground cell service in the future, limiting shutdowns to “the most extraordinary circumstances” that pose public health and safety risks, or threats to BART property or “substantial” service disruptions. And despite all the civil liberties protests earlier this summer, only one person showed up at the board meeting to oppose the new policy. [SF Chronicle]
  • Washington, D.C.: Unlike the New York City subway system, where the cost of a ride is always the same, figuring out how much it costs to get from one point to another on the D.C. Metro is complicated—apparently because the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority cares about fairness and making fares proportional to the distance travelled. But because this system can be utterly mind-boggling for occasional riders, the is authority is considering a new “tourist zone,” which would charge a flat fee for trips within the parts of the city normally accessed by tourists. [Greater Greater Washington]
  • Pittsburgh: The Allegheny County Port Authority, which provides transit services in Pittsburgh, has its own budget problems and is preparing for drastic service reductions. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette]
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