NEW YORK CITY TRANSIT RIDERS COUNCIL
MINUTES OF NOVEMBER 17, 2016
A meeting of the New York City Transit Riders Council (NYCTRC) was convened at 12:00 noon, November 17, 2016, in the 20th floor Board room, 2 Broadway, New York City.
The following members were present:
Andrew Albert Sharon King Hoge
Stuart Goldstein Trudy Mason
Christopher Greif Scott Nicholls
William Guild Michael Sinansky
Burton Strauss, Jr.
The following members were absent:
Marisol Halpern Edith Prentiss
In addition, the following persons were present:
William Henderson -PCAC Executive Director
Ellyn Shannon -Associate Director
Angela Bellisio -Planning Manager
Bradley Brashears -Transportation Planner
Karyl Berger -Research Assistant
Iain Watt -NYCT
Deborah R. Hall-Moore -NYCT
Debra Greif -BFSSAC
Ann Mannino -Concerned citizen
Ken Stewart -Concerned citizen
Omar Vera -Concerned citizen
Jasa A. Pineno -Concerned citizen
Matt Schlock -Concerned citizen
Approval of Agenda and Minutes
The agenda for the November 17, 2016 meeting was approved. The October 27, 2016 minutes were approved.
Introduction of Iain Watt, NYC Transit Department of Subways Director of Recovery and Resiliency, to discuss the status of Superstorm Sandy Recovery Projects, Resiliency Efforts, and Operational Procedures to Minimize Damage to the System from Natural Hazards
Mr. Watt stated that Superstorm Sandy caused catastrophic damage in the system. There were nine under water tubes and eight stations with major flooding, and the A line tracks in the Rockaways were washed out. In addition, many of NYC Transit’s yards were flooded.
Other damage was caused by flooding in the South Ferry station and the 86 Street station on the Sea Beach line, among others. There was flooding in the system that washed over platforms. The severity and duration of flooding varied, but there were washouts in the Rockaways, with all stations below Howard Beach impacted.
Mr. Watt said that there is ongoing asset damage occurring from salt water corrosion from the flood waters. The recovery program is all about building back existing facilities, but reducing the potential for damage while doing so. NYC Transit is “ruggedizing” the components that are using to replace the damaged assets in the system so that if a similar event occurs the damage will be lessened.
So far, much has been accomplished in Rockaway service is restored. There has been a thirteen month restoration of the Montague Tube, which was severely damaged, along with five weeks of restoration work on the Greenpoint Tube, and continuing work on the Steinway Tube, but not all of the work on under river tunnels is complete. There is work planned for 2017, and other work further into the future including the reconstruction of the Canarsie Tube. The Rutgers Tube will be undertaken after the Canarsie Tube, so this work will extend for some time into the future.
Ellyn Shannon asked whether the work is the same across each of the tunnels.
Mr. Watt replied yes and no. The type of damage in each of the tunnels is similar, but the scale of damage varies.
Mr. Watt continued that yards in Rockaway Park and Coney Island that were flooded are having damaged cables replaced, and that the South Ferry station is in the process of construction and will be complete in 2017. He said that NYC Transit is very pleased with the progress that is being made and that the MTA has done well in pursuing grant funds for reconstruction and resiliency. Mr. Watt also noted that Staten Island Railway work in St. George is underway for a 2017 completion.
Chris Greif asked if the work at Rockaway Park would affect the operation of the A shuttle, and Mr. Watt said that it would not. Karyl Berger asked whether resiliency elements have been included in other projects for NYC Transit. Mr. Watt replied that resiliency factors into work done in both Hudson Yards and the Second Avenue Subway. Ms. Shannon asked whether duct banks are being strengthened and Mr. Watt said that this work is being done where it is needed.
Omar Vera asked if reconstruction would include free walking transfers Junius Street and Livonia Avenue. Mr. Albert responded that there is going to be a walking transfer permitted as a part of the L line work and eventually these stations will be connected. Debra Greif asked whether they are sure that work being done will not be destroyed in the next storm. Mr. Watt said that this is a part of NYC Transit’s resiliency mission and that he would address this next.
Mr. Watt said that he would next talk about resiliency. He wanted to emphasize not only the work that is being done, but also the changes in procedures that NYC Transit is putting in place to deal with risks. There are $2.6 billion in resiliency projects and the timelines for completion extend for several years. The guidelines that are being applied is that the projects must protect against a category two storm plus three feet of additional flooding. In addition, the Department of Subways has upgraded its hurricane plan and Transit is implementing a storm deployment tracking tool. Ms. Shannon asked if these plans consider flooding from rainfall, and Mr. Watt responded that the risk of damage from fresh water is less than that from salt water and that the largest issue in mitigating flood damage is the large number of infiltration points.
Mr. Watt explained that there are two buckets of funding, one for locally prioritized resiliency projects and one for competitive resiliency projects. Burt Strauss asked if they have enough funding to do all that needed to be done. Mr. Watt responded that they feel there is enough to accomplish their goals. Staff keeps a list of other projects, but the significant risks are covered by current committed funding. He then discussed some of the projects in each funding bucket.
ILC Dover has created Kevlar covers for station entrances that store in a box at the top of station stairs and protects the entrance from 14 to 20 feet of water. Transit has tested the covers with water and found them effective. There will be mechanical closure devices at 80 percent of the vulnerable locations in the system, and Transit will use deployable covers elsewhere. These are long term solutions. Every vent that is vulnerable to a Category 2 storm will receive a treatment. Transit considered treatments similar to those used on Hillside Avenue in Queens, but they did not seem to work for coastal storm flooding.
Mr. Strauss asked how long the deployment will take. Mr. Watt stated that when a storm is expected NYC Transit deploys as much as possible without causing service impacts, but in the last two to three days before the storm they will pick up the pace. They will not close stations, but may close stairwells or entrances, as they did and did do so at Whitehall Street during tropical storm Hermine.
Mr. Watt said that they are also working on protecting yards and portals, but this is a work in progress. They are currently using trap bags, which are essentially large sand bags, at Coney Island. These provide protection for a Category 1 storm. They also have some prefabricated plank walls and are working with ILC Dover on developing flexible gate portal protection.
Ms. Berger asked what is being done to protect buses. Mr. Watt said that the protection efforts are part of their operations, but NYC Transit is doing work to protect four depots.
Ms. Berger asked about the market for protective equipment. Mr. Watt commented that the market is improving, with more vendors and better bids in response to solicitations.
Jason Pinero asked if they are planning anything for a Category 3 storm or higher. Mr. Watt responded that they do not have mitigations for Category 3 or greater storms and that they believe that storms above Category 2 in this area would be very rare events. He said that that they have updated hurricane plans according to models of likely storms and are working on protection of rolling stock and elevation of facilities at St. George in response to these models.
Mr. Greif asked where the wall at Coney Island discussed in the presentation is. Mr. Watt responded that it is a perimeter wall surrounding the yards and that the plan is to replace existing chain link fence with a wall.
Mr. Greif asked what is being done in the Rockaways. Mr. Watt stated they are working on washout protection, but conditions in the Rockaways are very challenging
Stuart Goldstein asked whether the barrier at the fence around Coney Island rail facilities is a part of the protection. Mr. Watt said that it is a part of the temporary system of trap bags. This barrier will be replaced by a wall. Mr. Goldstein asked whether there is any project that is not on schedule. Mr. Watt replied that there is no project off schedule, but that vent protection is a challenge because of limited numbers of vendors. There is not a stated overall schedule for this work, but the work that has been done is on target with current guidelines.
Mr. Albert asked why some portals are considered more vulnerable than others. Mr. Watt stated that the differences in vulnerability comes from models they use to estimate flooding in different storm events and that there are only three portals that are vulnerable to a Category 2 storm. Mr. Vera asked about how the other portals and elevated structures are addressed. Mr. Watt reiterated that there are that only three vulnerable portals identified by the models and said that vertical structures are addressed in general Capital Program.
Debra Greif asked about Coney Island Creek and the water that runs through it, as well as the parts of the area built on landfill. Mr. Watt stated that their aim is to protect the area’s perimeter, but NYC Transit also has a robust pumping capacity.
Mr. Albert asked if they had a schedule for completing the work. Mr. Watt said that there are schedules for individual projects.
Mr. Albert delivered the Chair’s report, which is attached to these minutes.
Trudy Mason stated that she has had three buses she was approaching pull away from the curb at red lights. She also noted that she was late because the 6 train was running irregularly and that the countdown clock was giving changing information about the time until the next train.
Mr. Albert said that on the Second Avenue Subway, the MTA’s Chairman has said that the MTA will have to announce shortly when the project will open. There is some pressure from the NYPD not to open the line on New Year’s Eve, but Mr. Albert noted that the fire alarm systems on the line are the last issue, since the escalator issues have been largely resolved. He said that the members have been promised a ride on a test train before the line opens to the public.
Ms. Mason said that there is a rumor that even if there is an opening of the line, it will be ceremonial like the one done for the 7 extension. Mr. Albert stated that there are concerns, but they could be resolved and the line could open on schedule. Safety is, however, the first consideration. Mr. Vera said that he believes that the project will open the first quarter of 2017.
Mr. Albert commented that there has been a large number persons being pushed or committing suicides by jumping on subway tracks. The MTA Board had members calling for the installation of platform doors or barriers.at their November meetings. The MTA staff responded that they are testing an intrusion detection system. He noted that, other than cost, there are a lot of issues with installing platform doors. The members briefly discussed issues surrounding adding platform doors or barriers to the system.
Mr. Albert said that many of the hazards on station platforms result from riders standing too close to the edge of the platform. The new B Division countdown clocks are performing well in testing and may be a partial solution to the problem. They can be fooled, but are in general very accurate. Mr. Pinero commented that on the Broadway line the countdown clocks that are being tested do not have an audio component. Mr. Albert said that this will be reported to NYC Transit.
Mr. Albert discussed that presentation that MTA Chief Financial Officer Robert Foran and Fredericka Cuenca made on finances and fares. He said that aside from presenting the MTA staff’s proposal, a number of other fare options that can be addressed outside of the fare process, including Freedom Ticket, were presented. Mr. Albert said that five Board members spoke positively about Freedom Ticket during the meeting. He said that Mr. Foran has said that Freedom Ticket is not a financial issue but that Chairman Prendergast said there may be an operational issue, as capacity under the East River may be reduced when Amtrak repairs the tunnels. Mr. Albert said that the NYCTRC will submit a revised proposal for a test of concept using just Atlantic Terminal trains. Ms. Greif stated that both the Brooklyn and Queens developmental disabilities councils support Freedom Ticket. He said that Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams will support Freedom Ticket as well. Mr. Albert commented that there are many advantages to Freedom Ticket, and will shoot for April or May to begin implementation.
The discussion turned to the fare proposals. Mr. Albert said few riders, including low income riders, pay full fare and that it is probably better to support Plan B, since, even with a base fare increase, the cost of a trip with fare bonuses is lower.
Mr. Greif commented that raising the base fare may be a burden for reduced fare riders. Ms. Mason said that a communication effort is needed to explain the true impacts of the plans, which is more important because the base fare increase has a psychological impact. Mr. Albert responded that MTA management agrees that they must do a better job of communicating. He asked for members opinions on which option is better.
After some discussion, Mr. Goldstein stated that there seems to be a consensus to support Plan B. Ms. Mason said that she would like to speak at the Manhattan fare hearings and Mr. Greif said he would like to speak at the Brooklyn hearings.
The Council agreed that their consensus is to support Plan B with an explanation that this position is being taken because it results in a lower cost for people who ride the system regularly.
The meeting was adjourned at 2:05 pm.