Funding Friday: Signal Problems

One of the most vexing issues facing NYC right now is our transportation mess and at the heart of it is the subway system.

My favorite chronicler of the subway mess is Aaron Gordon and his Signal Problems blog/newsletter.

If you want an example of the quality and clarity of Aaron’s analysis and writing, I would point you all to his post on Amazon HQ2 and the transportation issues it presents.

So what does all of this have to do with Funding Friday? Well, I am glad you asked. 

Aaron is offering regular readers the opportunity to subscribe for $50/year and help support his efforts to shine a bright light on the MTA and all of its issues. 

I think we need more journalism like the kind that Aaron is providing and so I signed up for the $50 today. 

If you are a NYC resident and ride the subways regularly and want to stay on top of what’s going on, I strongly suggest subscribing to Signal Problems and while you are at it, you might consider helping to fund this effort with an annual (or monthly subscription). You can do that here.


Comments (Archived):

  1. Pointsandfigures

    When it comes to cars/cities and transport, I have found ride sharing to really clog the streets. I like London’s idea of a tax when it’s a high volume time.

    1. LE

      How do you design a system whereby the less fortunate are not disadvantaged because they don’t have the flexibility to adjust when they work. (That is what people are going to say when rejecting that idea…) It can be done but would be pretty complex and ultimately it would be gamed.

    2. jason wright

      surge pricing?

  2. iggyfanlo

    I rode the NYC subway religiously for 20 years 1983-2003. The upgrade that came about halfway thru that period (Giuliani administration) particularly with cleanliness and A/C was a complete game changer. The forces that made that happen saved me time, money and endless agita.If another upgrade is needed now, then I’m supportive. Thanks Fred for highlighting.

    1. Richard

      Old definition of religiously was 2x a day, modern version 2X a year

  3. falicon

    Done. Thanks.

    1. disqus_I6QVWySaEe

      falicon more

  4. LE

    Interesting what I learned today from reading this post (as always) that does not relate to the actual content being addressed.I like the platform he is doing the newsletter on ( but for the life of me I don’t know why Gordon doesn’t say who he is if he is trying to get revenue from this and want’s support. Why should anyone listen to what he is saying at all if you don’t know who is doing the writing or their qualifications? It’s not like it’s appearing in a daily newspaper where you assume the writer is of a certain caliber (but still good to know).I had to google to find out who he is (instead of it appearing on the actual newsletter signup).So in other words it’s not here at all:https://signalproblems.subs…It’s here (after doing a search): he just so well known in NYC that it’s obvious? is interesting. Note this crypto blog claims to be charging $30 per month and have ‘thousands of subscribers’.https://offthechain.substac…That’s at least $30k per month in revenue from a newsletter which of course is not happening almost certainly.. https://uploads.disquscdn.c

  5. LE

    I actually did read the content (quickly at least) and I am not sure I would pay for this blog even if I was in NYC and even if I cared about the topic (which I guess I would if I lived in NYC). The reason is from at least this one blog post it seems to be centered around primarily that the MTA is hiding something et al. No kidding yes they suck. Just like anything government does sucks. But the truth is as a journalist, Gordon, (and importantly one who is charging for content) he did not appear to speak to anyone else for comments or insight (such as in other cities; or experts for quotes or ideas) and he didn’t do any particular digging or research on other places doing things differently (and either succeeding or failing). Did I miss that in my quick read? To me this is typical lazy journalism and just a rant. I put more effort into my comments here. Gordon’s approach actually is what most news organizations are doing. You see this on the Nightly News. They do a story, report on some issue, and don’t interview (typically) or talk to anyone with something to add. Exception is when they have experts already on tap as consultants (like with air crashes). Or some local medical expert courtesy of a publicity hungry NYC Hospital.This idea could be good if he actually did some heavy lifting instead of saying things like (as only one example):But this eight-page PowerPoint (OK yes the PDF is nine pages but no way am I counting the title slide) does not constitute transparency on the issue. Makes sense he was a sports writer at Vice…

    1. Richard

      Yep, most journalist just don’t have the chops, insight, background to provide any meaningful analysis. I call most of this peer to peer stuff “purchasing a friendship”.

  6. William Mougayar

    Speaking of transportation, Luxembourg is about to become the first country to provide FREE public transportation. That’s something innovative to think about.

    1. JLM

      .They may be the first country to provide free transportation, but your pal JLM was on the Board of Directors of Capitol Metro (state agency which regulates bus and rail transport in Central Tx) and proposed a “free fare” experiment decades ago.Way ahead of my times.Cap Metro had a 1% tax rate and was generating gobs of cash. Every political subdivision in Central Tx was trying to get their hands on the money.As I recall, we had about $80MM cash on hand and were generating an annual surplus of about $60MM.I proposed free fares for 6 months. I’d already gotten the votes together before the meeting. I wanted to bleed off the excess and get the bloodsuckers back in their coffins.We extended it to 18 months. The ridership exploded. Absolutely exploded.I also lowered the tax rate from 1.0% to 0.75% which the political writer for Texas Monthly said was the only voluntary tax rate reduction he could find in the history of Texas.I tried to lower it to 0.5%s and lost. By then the crazies had caught on to me and the salad days were over.Alas, I went off the board, the free fare experiment was shitcanned and they decided to build an extensive light rail system which hemorrhaged cash.Back when I was a liberal.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

      1. William Mougayar

        Wow. You were prescient. I think it makes sense if the jurisdiction is rich and running their finances well.

      2. sigmaalgebra

        Occasionally some parts of government can be efficient, spend money wisely.E.g., the Manhattan Project gave General Groves a blank check, and he bought big chunks of land in New Mexico, Tennessee, and Washington, used 10% of the electric power of the US, borrowed the many thousands of tons of silver from the US Treasury, funded gas diffusion, electro-magnetic mass spectrometer, and plutonium creation as parallel efforts, spent about 3 $billion, supposedly more money than it took to build the US auto industry. But that work saved 1/2 to 1 million US KIA, WIA, MIA we would have suffered from an invasion of the main islands of Japan for a cost of about $3000 per US soldier, a grand bargain.The human genome project — grand bargain. Same for Keyhole and Hubble, the Internet, GPS, digital computing, the Interstate highway system, the CDC, and much more.Otherwise, as liberal as I might want to be, the main way to keep government from wasting money is not to let them have it.

  7. PhilipSugar

    I will tell you something that I would totally get behind. Is if Amazon said, I will take your $1.5B and I personally will improve all of the lines that go to and from LIC. We know logistics, moving bodies is not much different than moving boxes. We will show you what we can do. We’ll upgrade the stations, get to put in lockers and advertising.

  8. Justin Fyles

    Granted it’s super over-budget, but to see how well (and transparently) a transportation project can be run, check out the new Elizabeth line here in London. It’s different from a lot of the train projects in Asian cities in that they literally needed to thread the tunnels through hundreds of years of other infrastructure. At what is essentially sea level.

  9. jason wright

    I wonder what the mean, median, and mode (averages) single journey distances are on the MTA?

  10. jason wright

    as an aside…. “Substack makes it simple for a writer to start an email newsletter that makes money from subscriptions. You don’t need tech skills to get started. Just sign up, connect your bank account, and get to work.” Connecting my bank account to receive revenue, or pay a sub?