LONG ISLAND RAIL ROAD COMMUTER COUNCIL
MINUTES OF OCTOBER 2, 2014
A meeting of the Long Island Rail Road Commuter Council (LIRRCC) was convened at 4:30 p.m. on October 2, 2014 in the LIRR East Side Access Readiness Conference Room, 450 7th Avenue, 20th Floor, New York.
The following members were present:
Gerard Bringmann Michael Godino
Sheila Carpenter Matthew Kessler
Owen Costello Maureen Michaels
Mark Epstein Raymond Pagano
Ira R. Greenberg Larry Rubinstein
The following members participated via phone:
In addition, the following persons were present:
William Henderson -PCAC Executive Director
Patrick Nowakowski -LIRR
Jim Compton -LIRR
Joe Calderone -LIRR
Tim Keller -LIRR
Elisa Picca -LIRR
Rob Free -LIRR
Hector Garcia -LIRR
Approval of Agenda and Minutes
The agenda for the October 2, 2014 meeting was approved and the minutes of the July 10, 2014 meeting were approved.
The Chair’s Report is attached to these minutes.
The Chair’s Report was previously distributed. The members briefly discussed the impending move of the PCAC offices and the launch of the new PCAC website.
There was a discussion of the use of station space by outside groups. The members agreed that while it is best to have a commercial tenant occupy unused space in stations, there may be situations where having a public or community use would be better than having space sit vacant, even without a financial return from the space.
Mark Epstein noted the Newsday article on Amtrak’s issues with damage from Superstorm Sandy and said that he has sent a letter requesting a briefing on the issues.
Gerry Bringmann asked whether planned life safety improvements in the East River tunnels have been completed. Mr. Henderson responded that he will follow up on this question.
Maureen Michaels noted that there have been no station manager contacts posted at the Cold Spring Harbor station since early this year. Several members said that names of station managers are posted in their stations. Hector Garcia said that this may have something to do with changes in the station managers.
It was noted that there are often long lines in Penn Station at MetroCard machines located near the 1, 2, and 3 lines and that this is due in part to the fact that people do not know that there are other machines further down the passageway. Mr. Henderson said he will check with NYC Transit to see if signage can be added to direct buyers to these other machines.
Hector Garcia of the LIRR presented updates on staff changes and projects. He said that Michael Gelormino had retired from the Rail Road at the end of August and that Neil Yellin had retired at the end of June. In the area of station renovations, LIRR forces are finishing the Great Neck platform. Mike Godino asked whether the escalators to be replaced have been finished. Mr. Garcia responded that this project just started. Mr. Godino said that he wanted to know about the Lynbrook station, as work is being done there.
Mr. Garcia continued that at the Port Washington station the new platform overpass extension will be installed in two weeks, addressing the sudden closure of the original overpass. Mr. Epstein said that Wyandanch station riders are wanting to know what is happening with the redevelopment project and that parking for some commuters has been moved to a less desirable location.
Introduction of LIRR President Patrick Nowakowski to discuss the state
of the Long Island Rail Road and his vision for its future
The members and staff of the Council and the LIRR staff accompanying Mr. Nowakoski introduced themselves to all present..
Mr. Nowakowski said that he is a Civil Engineer by education and that he joined the Reading Railroad immediately out of college. He continued to work for the Reading and it successor, Conrail, until 1981, when he joined the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA). He remained at SEPTA until 2009, starting as a Project Engineer and leaving as the Assistant General Manager for operations. He said that at SEPTA he had a long career and exposure to many areas of passenger railroading.
In 2009 he left SEPTA to take the leadership of the Metro Washington Airports Authority’s effort to construct the Silver Line. This line is a 23 mile extension of the WMATA system. The 11.5 mile first phase of the project opened this year and the second and final phase is expected to be completed in 2018.
Mr. Nowakowski made a brief presentation on the MTA Capital Program and its importance to the Long Island Rail Road. He said that the Capital Program is key in the effort to maintain the system in a state of good repair. The MTA’s theme for the upcoming Capital Program is Renew, Enhance, and Expand. The
Renew element relates to the effort to do normal replacement and state of good repair work on the system. The Enhance element relates to things like countdown clocks, security cameras and station rebuilding that improves the facility for the riders. The Expand element is most notably the East Side Access (ESA) project, but includes a great deal more than East Side Access in terms of the ESA readiness projects. This work is critical to eliminating bottlenecks and allowing the LIRR to take full advantage of the East Side Access project.
Mr. Nowakowski noted that although normal replacement may not sound as exciting as the other parts of the program it includes rolling stock, shops, power, stations, signals, track, and bridges, which all have a major impact on service quality. The Capital Program is also important in that it fosters economic growth by spending as well as from impacts of the system.
Mr. Nowakowski said that the LIRR needs advocates’ support for the program and need to make sure particular interests’ requests do not supersede the whole. He said that important elements in the Capital Program are Jamaica capacity improvement projects, the M9 cars and Positive train control. Other important projects are a new Elmhurst Station and enhancements at the Nostrand Avenue and Hunterspoint stations. On the Port Jefferson Yard the LIRR will not go out with an idea that we will force a plan on the community; there will be 4 or 5 plans developed to provide a choice.
Elevators and escalators will also be addressed; elevators in the current program escalators in the next. Phase 2 of the Double Track project will be in the next program and will be completed in 2018, after the phase 1 completion in 2016. Positive train control is being done in conjunction with Metro-North, but with the LIRR in the lead. It will be implemented branch by branch and in some places, such as Greenport, there will be more protection but not full PTC. East Side Access will lead to a 20 percent increase in the size of the fleet and a similar increase in riders and service.
Mr. Epstein asked about priorities. Mr. Nowakowski replied that they need to start with safety and that the first priority of all is safety of employees, customers and communities. Customer Service is another priority, as is efficiency. Internally, management needs to be engaged with its workforce and all parts of the system need to work together. He said that my job is to create a vision and let people in the organization make decisions.
Mr. Epstein wanted to know how the LIRR sees relations with LIRRCC. Mr. Nowakowski said that the LIRRCC represents communities and riders on the trains. The LIRR hopes that LIRRCC can have more balanced view than individuals. He said that you can’t run the system by putting out fires. Need to communicate the situation and have LIRRCC help create understanding. Mr. Nowakowski said that he wants to temper expectations and make a normal business process that achieves its aims.
Mr. Nowakowski was asked about Amtrak’s Report on repairing its tunnels. He said that repairs are Amtrak’s decision and they will make it, but we will be in consultation.
Mr. Nowakowski said that customer communication is a priority. When at Septa, his one goal was improving communication to riders, but first they needed to have railroad know what is happening on railroad. He said that the LIRR does not have a Penn Station Central Control – type control center for the entire railroad and getting central information to make better decisions will take time.
Owen Costello stated that on narrow platforms trains get called before trains unload. Mr. Nowakowski stated that this is a source of potential increase in dwell time. It is a sensitive balance goals.
Matt Kessler wanted to know what the plans for fare scofflaws are. Mr. Nowakowski stated that he had a meeting with Mark Young. The recovery from promises to pay is going in the wrong direction, but if we remove people from trains this could be a source of delay.
Gerry Bringmann suggested that repeat offenders should be arrested and the Rail Road should inform the press. Mr. Nowakowski stated that trains cannot be held for 10 minutes and the LIRR cannot publicize the arrests.
Mr. Epstein asked if the LIRR plans to make fare collections more efficient. Mr. Nowakowski stated that the plan is to have conductors do their jobs. There are difficult situations and sometimes conductors give up, sometimes too easily. This is a bigger problem than non-payment. There are a lot more lost revenue from free riders because conductors do not collect.
In response to a question about the LIRR’s winter weather plans, Mr. Nowakowski said the first priority is getting through slippery rail season. Last winter was brutal because of the number of storms. He said he was dismayed by old technology in switch heaters and other winter weather technology. He was asked whether he needed additional equipment and Mr. Nowakowski noted that equipment such as jet engines do some damage.
In response to Mr. Greenberg’s question about on-time performance statistics, Mr. Nowakowski responded that the LIRR is complicated because of transfers and that really the only way the LIRR can measure performance is terminal OTP, but we can do better at giving information on operations real time. He also noted that you can do a lot by breaking down statistics to individual trains and , individual crews and that goals should be set by line.
Asked about scoot service, Mr. Nowakowski stated that right now we need to focus on the ways ESA will turn LIRR upside down and the bottlenecks in the system. He said that the LIRR doesn’t know if origin and destination assumptions for ESA service planning are correct and that there is a need to be flexible and able to adapt if planning studies do not work out.
Mike Godino asked whether the LIRR is interested in accessible signage. Mr. Nowakowski stated that it is a challenge, but would like to do this. Instead of projects focusing on this alone, it needs to be a standard in everything we do.
Mr. Costello commented on right of way and asked if the Rail Road will follow through with ROW cleanup and the removal of incursions on Haven Avenue on Port Washington line. Mr. Nowakowski stated that he has contract on his desk for brush cutting, slippery rail and visibility is also an issue. In terms of maintenance he said the LIRR cannot have people putting materials on the ROW and that there are a number of places where this is a problem.
Ray Pagano asked whether the LIRR has a succession plan. Mr. Nowakowski stated that this is a problem. Young people went to commuter lines when they were devolved. One of the dynamics of the LIRR is a good pension plan, and people have left to get second careers. He said that we have a good number of younger talented people and will work to create a succession plan that does not just kick the problem 5 years down the line.
Larry Rubinstein asked the LIRR position on more mainline capacity. Mr. Nowakowski said there is a need to fix bottlenecks and find ways to do reverse commuters. There is a need to work with stakeholders, but believe in the importance of projects like 3rd track.
Mr. Nowakowski said that the LIRR is still looking at suppliers, technology and design issues for the M9 cars. The interior finish part is still down the road. This issue goes back to role of the council. He said the LIRR has obligations to suppliers, etc. You have to give me information and let the professionals take over. You cannot be the designers of the car. I can show prototypes, gather comments. Once a contract is signed. I am focused on getting the contract to completion on time and on budget. I would like to do what we can do value information and do value input. We can do tweaks at points that prototypes are delivered value your role in moving this forward.
Penn Station Access will involve adding 20% capacity. In over 20 years, three has been no real ridership growth. The question is whether the demand is there to run the same service into NYP. Cannot run service for the sake of running service. We need to do studies to see where ridership will go, but need to be flexible. Wish I knew where growth is. We have to protect LIRR customers, don do not want to have capacity that NJT takes rather than have Metro North there.
The meeting was adjourned at 6:15 p.m.
PCAC Executive Director