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E-ZPass On-the-Go: 150,000 Sold In Cash Lanes

New MTA Long Island Rail Road timetables that went  into effect on Monday, March 4 include enhanced late-night train service to Atlantic Terminal in Brooklyn and half-hourly, westbound AM off-peak service from Farmingdale on the Ronkonkoma Branch, the LIRR’s most crowded line.

In addition, the Railroad has restored trains to the Far Rockaway, Long Beach, Port Jefferson, Montauk and West Hempstead Branches that were eliminated in 2010 when the MTA was facing an $800 million budget shortfall. The Authority responded by cutting staff across all agencies, including the LIRR, by more than 15% and reducing expenses in addition to the service reductions.

The LIRR first announced its plan to bring back service last summer as part of $29 million MTA package of service restorations system wide. In total, the Railroad is adding 22 trains on weekdays and 8 on weekends.

The new LIRR schedules include other changes – largely during off-peak hours and on weekends - to accommodate ongoing construction projects such as East Side Access as well as scheduled track maintenance and renewal programs. All of the latest service changes are detailed in newly printed, branch timetables covering the period Monday, March 4, 2013 through Sunday, May 19, 2013. The new timetables are available at LIRR stations and can also be viewed on the MTA website at www.mta.info/lirr.

 

New York City Transit announced that it will move ahead with the second phase of a pilot project for On the Go! Travel Stations, adding at least 77 of the interactive touch-screen kiosks throughout the system that offer MTA travel information and a whole lot more.

The initial pilot launched in September 2011 has been a success.  Placed at the Bowling Green, Atlantic Ave-Barclays Center, and Jackson Heights-Roosevelt Ave subway stations as well as Penn Station and Grand Central Terminal, the On the Go! Travel Stations have been offering customers information about their entire trip, from planning with Trip Planner+, real-time service status, escalator & elevator status and local neighborhood maps.  

Based on positive customer feedback to the kiosks, and the desire to determine if the network could work on a larger scale, the decision was made to move forward with the second phase of the pilot.  In February 2012, MTA Real Estate issued a Request for Expression of Interest (RFEI) soliciting responses from entities interested in being an advertising agent or sponsor of a future, large scale network of On the Go! Travel Stations.

As a result of this RFEI, the MTA will enter into license agreements with CBS Outdoor and Control Group Inc. requiring that the two licensees purchase the kiosks and deliver them to NYC Transit for installation. CBS Outdoor will provide 30 kiosks and Control Group will provide anywhere from 47 to 90 kiosks.

This pilot will provide NYC Transit with a Digital Signage Network that will allow NYC Transit to communicate with customers at the station level, especially in times of planned and unplanned events, reducing the need to plaster stations with paper signage.

“We are excited to be using digital signage to communicate with our customers, as we believe it will provide us with a more efficient communications channel that will also provide an additional stream of revenue,” said Paul J. Fleuranges, the MTA's Senior Director of Corporate and Internal Communications.  Digital Out of Home technology is an exciting industry and we're looking forward to the benefits it will provide to us and our customers.”

As part of this proof of concept phase of the pilot, the licensees will have the creative freedom to design the customer interface and to customize the transit-related applications that will reside on the kiosks, while also selling and displaying advertising to defray the related capital and operating expenses.  During this phase, NYC Transit will evaluate customer perceptions, the ability to post and update information quickly, and advertising revenue opportunities.  This information will inform decisions regarding deployment of additional kiosks, customer communication strategies and future advertising contracts encompassing digital media and platforms.

The On the Go! Travel Stations can be customized for a specific location and by time of day.  For example, at the Penn Station Travel Station, during the morning, the screen will default to subway information and in the evenings it will default to LIRR service.  All content is remotely managed from a secure web-based management system and applications can be changed or updated as needed.

During World War II millions of men were called to fight in the war and women were called on to take their places at work in order to keep America’s economic engine operating. We all know about “Rosie the Riveter” but did you know about Tess the toll booth operator?

In honor of women’s history month, here’s a photo from the Bridges and Tunnels Special Archive of the first 12 women hired to be toll booth operators. The women are walking across the toll plaza at the Queens Midtown Tunnel on their first day on the job.  

In a press release dated April 15, 1943, Commissioner William Friedman of the New York City Tunnel Authority said the women were “replacing policemen who have either joined the armed forces or accepted jobs in specialized defense industries” and that “this step had been taken by the Authority to help conserve essential manpower for national defense.”

The women received two weeks of training in “pistol practice” and how to give traffic directions.

“They are helping the defense effort just as much as if they were in defense industries themselves, inasmuch as the Queens Midtown Tunnel is an essential interborough traffic artery which must be kept open and operating, especially since its use results in savings both rubber and gasoline by cars passing through it,” Commissioner Friedman said.

Five of the women replaced their husbands who went off to war. The women worked either an 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. or 4 p.m. to midnight shift. The tunnel was closed from midnight to 6 a.m. as a war conservation measure.

“We are confident that these women will make for themselves an enviable record and look forward to their establishing a precedent which may be more widely followed in the future.”

That future took a few decades. After the war, the jobs were returned to men. Women were not given permanent jobs as Bridge and Tunnel Officers until 1979.

The New York Tunnel Authority was established by the state in 1936 to build the Queens Midtown Tunnel and Brooklyn-Battery (now Hugh L. Carey) Tunnel. It was consolidated with the Triborough Bridge Authority in 1946 to create the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority (TBTA).

The State Legislature voted to make TBTA, now also known as MTA Bridges and Tunnels, part of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority in 1968.

 

MTA Bridges and Tunnels’ successful program to sell E-ZPass On-the-Go tags in cash lanes hit another milestone over the weekend, reaching 150,000 in sales since the program began nearly two years ago.  

“We want people to use E-ZPass because it’s good for the MTA, good for the environment and helps keep traffic moving, said MTA Interim Executive Director Thomas Prendergast.  “Through this program and others like it we are making it easier than ever for customers to pick up an

E-ZPass and at the same time give them more control over how much money and where they replenish an account.” 

Those who prefer cash can use the MTA Reload Card to conveniently refill accounts at any of the 2,500 Visa ReadyLink locations throughout the region instead of traveling to one of three regional walk-in centers. The MTA Reload Card is not a credit card; it simply identifies the account for the cash reload.

MTA customers who don’t like pre-paying for tolls, maintaining a minimum balance or supplying a credit card can also choose MTA’s Pay Per Trip payment plan where tolls are deducted from your bank account once the trip is taken using the Automated Clearing House (ACH) system.

The On-the-Go program in cash lanes edged over the 150,000 mark early Sunday morning after 518 tags were purchased the previous day. MTA E-ZPass On-the-Go tags can be purchased in cash lanes for $30, plus the price of the current trip. If linked to a credit or debit card, it can be used to pay up to $30 in tolls. There is a $10 tag deposit if it is not linked.

To date, the most tags have been sold at the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge with 35,967  (20,641 at the Bronx plaza and 15,326 at the Manhattan plaza) followed by 29,120 at the Bronx-Whitestone Bridge,  28,778 at the Throgs Neck Bridge and 21,974 at the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge.

Cash lane sales tend to be strongest on weekends and slowest on Wednesdays, and tend to increase during holiday weekends, including Thanksgiving, Martin Luther King Jr., and Presidents’ Day weekends.

A pilot program to sell On-the-Go tags in cash lanes began at the Henry Hudson Bridge in June 2011 and was expanded to the other eight crossings in March and April of 2012. On-the-Go tags must be registered within 48 hours of its first use, or the tag is deactivated. This can be done on line at www.ezpassny.com or by calling a toll free number at 1-800-333-TOLL (8655).