Second Avenue Sagas Podcast

Second Ave. Sagas

The official podcast of Second Ave Sagas with Benjamin Kabak

All Episodes

In mid-March, Phil Plotch published a new book called The Last Subway: The Long Wait for the Next Train in New York City. The former transit planner-turned-political science professor has penned the definitive book on the history of the Second Ave. Subway and its trials and travails. He joins me on to discuss the tortured saga behind the new subway, the Gov. Cuomo-inspired rush to completion and if the three-stop extension that made up Phase 1 of the project will really be New York City's last subway.

Sep 2020

41 min 15 sec

Over the past week, subway ridership has dropped by 60%, and the MTA is suddenly staring into the abyss of a multi-billion-dollar hole in a budget as the COVID-19 public health crisis has put New York City on near-lockdown. As trains and buses keep running to ensure healthcare providers can reach their patients and the city girds for a prolonged quarantine, the MTA has asked the federal government for a $4 billion bailout. The fate of the MTA's fiscal health, let alone the $51 billion capital plan, is in limbo, and the Manhattan Institute's Nicole Gelinas, an expert in the field of MTA finances, joins me to discuss what it all means. Could the MTA default on its debt payments? Are steep fare hikes in our future? And what does it mean when a usually-steady municipal bond starts to falter?

Mar 2020

25 min 15 sec

It's been a busy few weeks in NYC transit as coronavirus has descended upon the city amidst the fallout from Andy Byford's departure and the ongoing MTA Transformation effort. Jose Martinez, a long-time veteran of the transit beat and current senior report for THE CITY, joins me for the Season 2 premiere to make sense of the madness of all of the recent news.

Mar 2020

54 min 31 sec

Subway maps land in the hot seat in this episode as Eddie Jabbour, the creator the Kickmap, joins me for a wide-ranging conversation on all things design. Jabbour and I discuss the elements of subway map design, what the MTA's current map gets right and what it gets wrong, which international city is the Holy Grail for designers looking to improve underground wayfinding, and of course, the Kickmap itself, his popular dynamic subway map.

Dec 2019

38 min 36 sec

Buses are in the spotlight this week as Steven Higashide, TransitCenter's direct of research, joins me to talk about the 14th St. Busway, New York City's bus redesign efforts, and the lessons from his new book Better Buses, Better Cities: How to Plan, Run, and Win the Fight for Effective Transit.

Oct 2019

50 min 15 sec

Sarah Feinberg, the former head of the Federal Railroad Administration and current MTA Board member, joins me to discuss her experiences in Washington and her views on what's going right and what's going wrong with the MTA. With the $51 billion capital plan and MTA reorganization on tap, we discuss if the MTA is finally on the right track.

Oct 2019

1 hr 4 min

Doug Gordon, the man behind @BrooklynSpoke and co-host of The War on Cars podcast, joins me to discuss how transit advocates, pedestrian safety activists and cycling proponents are all fighting the same fight against the primacy of cars in New York City transportation planning. In an age of climate change and facilitated by conversations on the Internet, these once-divergent groups have come together to fight the war on cars.

Aug 2019

48 min 48 sec

OMNY arrives with a bang, as the MTA has rolled out its open-loop tap-and-go fare payment technology that will replace the MetroCard. But what exactly does this fare payment system of the future do? And when will New Yorkers get their unlimited OMNY passes? Al Putre, the executive director of the MTA's New Fare Payment Program, joins me to talk all things OMNY.

Jun 2019

29 min 44 sec

Rachael Fauss, Senior Research Analyst at Reinvent Albany, discusses "Open MTA," the good governance group's call for MTA reform and accountability. Fauss discusses the report, which details how Andrew Cuomo and the state government could overhaul the way the MTA is governed and improve the reliability of transit service. New York doesn't have to reinvent the transit wheel; it just need better accountability and governance guiding it.

May 2019

54 min 8 sec

Aaron Gordon, author of the "Signal Problems" transit newsletter, stops by to discuss the ins and outs and ups and downs of covering the MTA as he prepares to retire the gig. We talk rumors about a rift between Andy Byford and Andy Cuomo, the challenges of covering non-transparent government agencies and whether the subways are indeed getting better.

Apr 2019

58 min 28 sec

John Raskin, head of the Riders Alliance, discusses congestion pricing and the role his grassroots transit advocacy played in winning the 11-year fight for a traffic fee that will fund transit in New York City.

Apr 2019

39 min 56 sec

City Council Speaker Corey Johnson sits down as the first guest on my new podcast. We're talking about his "Let's Go" transit plan.

Mar 2019

46 min 11 sec