• Will They Ever Return?

  • This forum will be for issues that don't belong specifically to one NYC area transit agency, but several. For instance, intra-MTA proposals or MTA-wide issues, which may involve both Metro-North Railroad (MNRR) and the Long Island Railroad (LIRR). Other intra-agency examples: through running such as the now discontinued MNRR-NJT Meadowlands special. Topics which only concern one operating agency should remain in their respective forums.
This forum will be for issues that don't belong specifically to one NYC area transit agency, but several. For instance, intra-MTA proposals or MTA-wide issues, which may involve both Metro-North Railroad (MNRR) and the Long Island Railroad (LIRR). Other intra-agency examples: through running such as the now discontinued MNRR-NJT Meadowlands special. Topics which only concern one operating agency should remain in their respective forums.

Moderators: GirlOnTheTrain, nomis, FL9AC, Jeff Smith

  by STrRedWolf
eolesen wrote: Tue Mar 15, 2022 12:28 am FWIW, our local gas prices have started to recede by $0.05 - $0.10 of what they were a week ago. Some of the run-up was clearly due to people panic buying...

Let's see what another week brings before deciding that everyone will be jumping back on public transit.
Crude oil prices were settling back down again after the initial panic. Like folks panicing at the pump, speculators paniced at the commodity markets. Things are settling back down, but I doubt we'll get back to under-$3 for a few months.
  by eolesen
Yup. If the drops for the past 24 hours are any indicator, we are back to where we were before this became a shooting war.

Still a far cry from the $75 we started the year at. Or the $55/bbl that Biden inherited from Trump...

  by SRich
jwhite07 wrote: Thu Mar 10, 2022 7:04 am Haven't noticed what diesel prices are around here, but my wife and I both topped off our gas tanks at $4.29/gal two days ago and it's increased even since then. As far as diesel, yesterday I got a delivery of home heating oil (which I understand is pretty much the same stuff but dyed and taxed differently)... $5.33/gal. Yeah, 90 bucks to fill up two cars, and then over $850 for oil, all in the same week. Glad I can still work from home - I can't afford to go anywhere for a while.
You know. In Europe, you pay more then 100 bucks to fill ONE car with gas or diesel....

I have payed today €2.069 ($2.2759) for ONE liter diesel. Or €7.83 ($8.613) for an gallon. My car has a capacity of around 15.90 gallons. You can do the math... :(
  by eolesen
On average, half of what you're paying per liter in the EU is due to taxes.

We on the other hand fought a war over excess taxation once....
  by Gilbert B Norman
The evidentiary matter continues to accumulate; the answer is never:

https://www.wsj.com/articles/midtown-ma ... lewebshare

Fair Use (railroad related):
Now, after two years of remote work, the formerly bustling Midtown office district feels more than a little hollowed out. A peek inside office towers reveals floors of vacant cubicles. Once-packed commuter trains arrive at Grand Central Terminal and New York Penn Station with ridership at less than half of pre-pandemic levels. Restaurants, bars and shops that depended on heavy foot traffic have gone out of business.

In New York, and other cities across the country, it’s becoming clear that even when people feel safe going out to eat or shop, most don’t want to return to their daily commutes.

New York City Mayor Eric Adams and New York Gov. Kathy Hochul have prodded employers to bring their workers back, but to little effect. Keycard swipes tracked by security company Kastle Systems show that Midtown offices barely cracked one-third of their pre-pandemic workforces in the first two weeks of March, despite falling Covid-19 infection rates.
WFH could easily be considered the greatest societal impact of the Pandemic that will linger even when young children are asking "Daddy, what was COVID?"
  by Gilbert B Norman
Mention of rail is only tangential, and for those who "have to go in" have possibly noted Wednesday is the peak day. This Journal article certainly notes such.

Fair Use:
For years, Mondays sort of haunted the weekend, a looming day when the fun would be over and it was time to get serious again.

But as employers start asking their work-from-home people to come in part of the time, a different day is taking center stage: It’s Wednesday.
  by eolesen
Looking at meeting calendars, it's clear that many are settling into a Tue/Wed/Thu in-office work week.

That's something that those of us who have had to travel our of town for work are long used to - travel on Monday, grind away on Tue/Wed, fly out Thursday evening. Friday becomes a dead day to balance out travel and longer Tue/Wed workdays...

Downtown businesses tailored to commuters simply can't survive on a three day workweek...

On a related note, I just saw a TV hit that says the 35%+ increase in crime for both CHI and NYC is causing many downtown workers to delay their return. I know we've had three shootings near our offices and a couple of carjackings at nearby parking garages. If I weren't located at our suburban satellite, I'd be avoiding the office, too.

Sent from my SM-G981U using Tapatalk

  by CharlieL
Latest I saw (today) says that only 8% of formerly full time workers who got to work remotely have returned to 5 days a week. 60 some odd percent are returning 2 or 3 days a week, and 22% say they will not return (to NYC). They will either work remote full time or no longer work in the city. Over 50% say their decision to not return full time is primarily motivated by crime.
  by Bracdude181
@CharlieL Aren’t a lot of businesses in NY moving to NJ because of taxes on top of other issues?
  by Gilbert B Norman
This Journal article is completely non-rail, but I hope the Moderator will allow it to stand.

The article is a condensation of an interview with an economist discussing the reasons why certain knowledge workers, and their employers, would benefit from an RTO5X, or a full-time return.

However, this Fair Use quotation suggests that the current situation looks bleak for all parties in interest. That of course includes the commuter railroads in the major cities, but also landlords, and the numerous small businesses such as restaurants that support the masses of workers not presently there:
“If you take the U.S. as a whole,” says Edward Glaeser, chairman of Harvard’s economics department, office attendance is “down about 19%, relative to pre-pandemic levels.” That average masks some startling variations among major cities. While Houston sits squarely on the mean at 19% and Los Angeles is “looking pretty good” at 21%, New York and Boston are both down 32%.

“And then you go to San Francisco,” Mr. Glaeser says with an almost unseemly gusto. “San Francisco is still down 52%. The tech hub is the most extreme.”

These figures are based on data drawn from Google Maps, which tracks users’ comings and goings by monitoring the location of their phones. “They’re pretty good, a reliable indicator,” he says. But numbers from Kastle Systems, a New York property-management company that provides swipe technology for clocking into fancy office buildings, are disconcerting. “Those numbers are down by over 50%” in America’s top 10 cities, Mr. Glaeser says. “They’re telling you that in the highest end of the commercial real-estate market, the picture is more severe.”
  by Gilbert B Norman
Mr. Wolf, you are indeed a "lone one":

https://www.wsj.com/articles/dreaded-co ... 1653989581

Fair Use:
Recent polling of office workers supports the analysis. In a Gallup survey last summer, for example, 52% of those who want to work remotely listed avoiding commuting time as a top reason they don’t want to go to the office. Other common reasons, like well-being and flexibility, are also closely tied to the commute.

“I think it is the biggest factor,” said Richard Florida, a professor at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management and School of Cities. “Economists and psychologists have long said that a long commute is the most immiserating condition of daily life. So it makes sense that this is what people want to avoid.”
I've noted it before and will again; COVID is proving to be the most transformative Socio-Economic event that I will now expand to 6000 years of recorded history.
Last edited by Gilbert B Norman on Thu Jun 02, 2022 3:46 pm, edited 1 time in total.
  by STrRedWolf
It isn’t the office that workers heading into the city despise. It’s the commute.
Yeah, my non-WFH commute is 10 min from house to station, 30 min to Baltimore, 10-15 down to the office by bus, so under an hour and the train is not really that crowded (most everyone goes to DC).

But looking at NJ Transit, Metro-North, and LIRR schedules... OMG Two hours on a train one direction? Then have to spend more time on a subway or driving to the station?!? Geesh, you practically have to have breakfast and/or dinner on the train!

That's why I say 75% max. If you're doing a 2 hour commute one direction... why? What's causing that? Good questions to ask.
  by Literalman
What causes 2-hour commutes: in my case I was working about 25 miles from home in the next county, and I drove to work, Spotsylvania, Virginia, to Stafford. I lost that job and ended up working in Northern Virginia and Washington from 1996 to 2020. No way could I afford to move my family north. For the first year and a half I was temping. Even after that, I could not afford the housing market in Northern Virginia. I drove 9 miles to the VRE station, took a train to Crystal City, about an hour and a quarter each way, and walked across the street. And then the commute got longer. The company moved away from the VRE station, and then I had a half hour bus ride after the train. And the company moved again … The trip was then two and a half to three hours each way. It was only 50 miles door to door, but a few times when VRE didn't run, I drove, and it never took less than 2 hours each way because of traffic. By 2017 I was living alone, kids grown, and I moved to Alexandria and ditched the car, and sometimes I would walk the two and a half miles to work, which took 50 minutes.
  by daybeers
North American commuter rail speeds are notoriously low along with low frequencies and high fares.

Top answer to why someone would spend two hours on a cramped commuter train: housing. This country hasn't had enough of it for 70 years.
  by Gilbert B Norman
As COVID becomes "manageable" and a condition "we live with", this Times Dealbook piece becomes quite relevant. The essence as I see it, is a struggle between the knowledge workers and the bosses. I think it is analogous to the "Unionization movement" during the '30's:

Fair Use:
Some corporate leaders are grasping at whatever they can to get back to the way things were. But they might find themselves fighting a culture shift beyond their control.

As long as work has existed, employers have tried to size up their employees’ commitment to their jobs. Are you on the fast track? The mommy track? The leadership track?

Now, if some corporate leaders have their way, there will be a new test for workplace devotion — and anyone who opts for remote work gets a failing grade. But can C.E.O.s really claw their way back to 2019?
While the bosses have enough evidence on hand that knowledge workers can be just as productive WFH, their egos "take a hit" in that they cannot call some useless meeting (isn't that now a "huddle" in new officespeak) and otherwise simply "be a boss".

But to the parties in interest - the business district restaurants, "watering holes", the Bootblack, and of primary interest to those gathering here, the commuter railroads, it is simply "one more nail in the coffin".

Sooner or later in the New York area, MNRR and the LIRR (maybe even NJT) will have to accept they cannot support maybe a busload of passengers on half hour frequency trains. On my trip "out East" last month, I did do about an hour of railfanning at Riverside CT (no room ready at the hotel); all told, could not see "too many faces in the windows, butts in the seats".

Back here, METRA, with a fair amount of new equipment on order and with hourly service through the day on the BNSF, is now trying out a $100 monthly "anywhere pass". The "Four Zone" monthly pass (20 miles) was about $145. All I can see is a dilution of revenue, and not much in the way of attracting new riders.

Out in San Francisco, which has seen the greatest Exodus from the office, who knows what the fate of the Peninsula line will be? That too is being rebuilt, but along the lines of an Interurban. Only problem; while I could be mistaken on this point as I haven't "been out there" in over thirty years (not a boycott; just no reason), I don't think any of the "Temples to Technology" are exactly convenient to the former SP rail line.
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