Meeting Minutes 10/22/2009

 

A meeting of the New York City Transit Riders Council (NYCTRC) was convened at 12:00 noon on October 22, 2009 in the 5th floor Board room at 347 Madison Avenue, New York City.  The following members were present:

Andrew Albert 
Sharon King Hoge
Shirley Genn
Trudy L. Mason
Stuart Goldstein
Edith Prentiss
Jessica Gonzalez-Rojas 
Sharon Santa Maria
William K. Guild
Michael Sinansky
Marisol Halpern 
Burton M. Strauss, Jr.
Thomas Jost
Toya Williford       

In addition, the following persons were present:

William Henderson  -PCAC Executive Director
Jan Wells  -PCAC Associate Director
Ellyn Shannon -PCAC Transportation Planner
Karyl Berger -PCAC Research Associate
Stanley Grill  -NYCT
Gene Sansone  -NYCT
Deborah Hall-Moore -NYCT
Joseph Garber -Concerned Citizen
Matt Shotkin -Concerned Citizen
Marsha Whitehead  -Concerned Citizen
Ken Stewart -Concerned Citizen
James O’Shea  -Concerned Citizen
Alan Flacks -Concerned Citizen
Jonathan Rubin -Concerned Citizen
George Haikalis  -Concerned Citizen                                      

Approval of Agenda and Minutes

 The agenda for the October 22, 2009 meeting was approved.  The minutes of the September 24, 2009 meeting were approved as amended.

Chair’s Report
The new MTA Chairman, Jay H. Walder, officially started work on October 5.  He has spent the first few weeks meeting with legislators and agency staff and riding the system.  Charles Monheim, who was with New York City Transit for 15 years and worked with Jay in London for the past fifteen years, has been named the MTA’s Chief Operating Officer.  Fredericka Cuenca, who has worked in MTA Planning for several years, has been named the MTA’s acting Chief of Staff.   Staff and PCAC Chair Ira Greenberg had a get acquainted meeting with Charlie Monheim on October 6th.  He was very interested in the Office of Community and Legislative Input that was established as part of the MTA funding and reform legislation enacted on May 7th. 

On Tuesday, October 20, PCAC staff, Bill Guild, and I attended a forum sponsored by the Citizens Budget Commission entitled Working in the Dark: Implementation of the MTA’s Capital Program. MTA Chairman Jay Walder gave the opening remarks, and CBC Director or Research Charles Brecher summarized the report’s findings.  A panel made up of State Senator Craig Johnson of Nassau County, who is one of the four members of the CPRB, Jeffrey Kay, Director of the Mayor’s Office of Operations and an MTA Board member appointed by Mayor Bloomberg, John Liu, Chair of the NYC Council Committee on Transportation and Democratic nominee for NYC Comptroller, and Denise Richardson, Managing Director of the General Contractor’s Association, responded to the report.  Steve Polan, former MTA Chief Counsel, moderated the discussion.  The report is on the Citizens Budget Commission’s website: www.cbcny.org

This past Tuesday, we released the 2009 PCAC report: Going the Distance: Transportation Mobility in the NY Metropolitan Region.  Because of the detail involved in the report, we discussed the report one-on-one with reporters rather than holding a press event.  Jan and Bill spoke to the transit reporters and suggested ideas for stories they could write based on the information in the report.  I hope you have all taken the time to read through the report.  Jan Wells deserves a big thank you for pulling the information together and linking it to some very timely issues.  There was a story about the report in the NY Post on Tuesday.

On the day of our meeting last month, Karyl Berger attended a hearing held by the New York City Council Transportation Committee regarding NYCT’s Line General Managers program.  After making some opening remarks, President Roberts answered questions from a number of Council members.  Gene Russianoff of the Straphangers Campaign spoke in favor of the program and the positive impact it has had on the delivery of service.  A woman from the TWU also spoke in favor of the program; however she voiced strong opposition to the removal of Station Customer Assistants from subway stations.  Her remarks were praised by the committee members.  Elevator and escalator issues also received some attention during the questioning period.  

On Friday, October 10, Karyl Berger and Ken Stewart met with Sam Forde and Helen Hartmann from NYCT’s Office of ADA Compliance, and Vicky Fisher and Herb Shonhaut from the NYCT Stations Department to discuss station signage issues and specifically issues at the new South Ferry 1 line station.  Ken and Karyl emphasized the importance of consistent wording and placement of signage in subway stations.  Also, Ken made clear the importance of visual contrast in signs.

On September 24, Jan sent an e-mail to Joe Smith, President of the NYCT Bus Department, describing her uncomfortable ride from LaGuardia Airport on the M60 bus because riders had no place to put their luggage.  As a result, 10 buses that serve LaGuardia and JFK Airports will be fitted with luggage racks as part of a pilot program.  Mr. Smith had a sample M60 bus sent to 347 Madison so that Jan, Ellyn and Bill could take a look at the new rack installed opposite the back door before it was put into service.  Ellyn has since ridden on one of the pilot M60 buses and noted that the luggage rack was definitely being used.  Bus drivers also agreed that this was a needed amenity.  If the pilot proves successful, Mr. Smith said he would have the racks installed on all buses for routes serving the airports.  The Daily News and the NY Times did pieces on the new racks. 

On September 23, Bill Henderson attended a Community Advisory Committee meeting for the 1st and 2nd Avenue Manhattan Select Bus Service.  The schedule for implementation of this route is September 2010, so the MTA and NYCDOT have much to do in the time before the service’s debut.  The meeting included an overview of the group’s tour of the Fordham Road SBS route, as well as an update on the prospects for camera enforcement of bus lane restrictions.  Most of the meeting focused upon receiving comments on the stop locations that have been tentatively identified for the service.  Additional meetings will be held in the coming months. 

We will host our Bus Forum, which will be held in Manhattan this time around, early next year.  Between the Capital Program process and the changes in leadership at the MTA it has been difficult to schedule an appropriate date this fall. 

The members agreed that there are major concerns with the removal of the Station Customer Assistants as part of the budget cuts. 

Edith Prentiss reported that she and some friends rode an M60 that has the luggage racks during the midday last Saturday and the bus was packed and the luggage racks were full.  She noted that the installation of the luggage racks had taken away seats, which puts more pressure on the capacity of the buses.

Trudy Mason noted that luggage racks on the A train would definitely make it easier for people taking the train to the airport.   Mr. Albert suggested that if all the C trains were sent to Euclid Avenue, you could then put luggage racks on the A trains.

After a discussion about the proposed M15 Select Bus Service on 1st and 2nd Avenues, Ms. Mason made a motion that the NYCTRC write a letter to protest implementation of SBS on that route until the construction for the Second Avenue Subway is cleaned up.  She said there is no way the buses could get through right now.  

In response to Burt Strauss’ question about the construction of bus lanes in the area, William Henderson said that the construction of structures such as bus bulbs is planned for Phase II of the project and that the bus lane in Phase I will be a painted lane.

Toya Williford said she would not be comfortable signing on to a letter until the BRT team has been given an opportunity to explain their plans.

Ms. Mason withdrew her original motion and made a new motion that the Council invite the BRT team to the next NYCTRC meeting, and if they aren’t able to come then a letter will be sent expressing the Council’s view about the project.  This motion passed unanimously.

Board Report
Mr. Albert noted that monthly reports are no longer being given about the South Ferry project at Capital Construction Committee meetings.  There is still work at the site connected to the completion of Peter Minuet Plaza and the Capital Construction Company will brief the Committee on this work.

Mr. Albert spoke briefly about the procurement that will be put forth at the Finance Committee on Wednesday that asks for approval of an agreement for expert services with Transport for London

Mr. Albert expressed his concern and dismay that the quote he gave to New York Times reporter Michael Grynbaum about the implementation of reduced fares during the off peak travel period was taken totally out of context.

Ms. Mason noted there was a 16 minute delay between 6 line trains that morning and said that everyone should watch the piece on NY1 with Jeremy Soffin about the off peak fares issue because he made it sound like the proposal was going to be implemented immediately.   

Mr. Albert said he spoke to Jay Walder who said he was speaking about the long term possibilities once smart card is in place and there can be more flexibility in the fare system.

Mr. Albert expressed concern about the shutdown of 1 Line service this summer so the Port Authority can do work on the PATH station.  He also reported that the northbound platform of the Cortlandt Street (R/W lines) station is scheduled to open in December.

Old Business
In response to Alan Flacks’ question as to what is the status of the pilot program to install lock up seats in subway cars, Mr. Albert said the program is still being considered.

In response to Matt Shotkin’s question about what is being done about the unstable buildings on Second Avenue due to the subway construction, Mr. Albert said that MTA is doing temporary bracing but no long term repairs. 

Ms. Mason noted that the people on Second Avenue were assured that everything would be taken care of, but it now appears that the MTA is trying to pass the buck.

New Business
Sharon Santa Maria reported that this morning she reported a passenger on a train who looked very suspicious and said the conductor was very responsive.  She said it was a very unsettling situation.

Toya Williford reported that she has received rider complaints about a bus operator on the B25 who is smoking on the bus during the layover.  Staff asked her to ask those complaining to provide identifying information such as a bus or operator number so that the complaints could be pursued.

She also reported that there has been lots of F train congestion during the a.m. rush period between Union Turnpike and Roosevelt Avenue but no announcements were made as to the nature of the problem. 

Edith Prentiss reported that she submitted photos to her Community Board of a beam on the ceiling at the 157th Street station that appears to be literally held together by a clamp.

Ms. Prentiss also noted that she has been told that the 163rd Street station is the place where garbage from other stations is gathered, and as a result there is a major rat problem at the station.  Mr. Henderson said staff will look into this problem.  Mr. Albert said staff will look into the 157th St. station issue as well.

Ms. Prentiss reported that during the weekends when bus shuttles are being used, the buses layover in front of businesses, but now they are in front of a hardware store that is closing after eighty years.  She asked if staff could find out how long weekend shuttle will be going on.  She also noted that there was a diversion on the day of Coogan’s race and that was listed and signs were posted the day before, but on the actual race day, buses were diverted and there was no notice of the diversion visible to riders.

Mr. Flacks said that the platform at 96th Street/Broadway is very irregular and undulating in many places and is a major tripping hazard. Mr. Flacks said that NYC Transit should have “Take Ones” for weekend service changes.  Mr. Albert said he plans to discuss weekend service issues with Chairman Walder. 

Ms. Prentiss said that would be helpful to get a more detailed description of bus diversions because now they only give a list of buses that are diverted.

Discussion of Council Project
Mr. Albert said that the focus of the project will be on the B division lines (the lettered lines).  He said the project was delayed because of the service cuts that were proposed in the doomsday budget.  Mr. Albert said he would like to get the project going this month.  He said the point of the project is to see if NYC Transit is actually running the service they say they are.  He said we will look at the counts of the trains during a one hour period that were observed by the members and compare it to what the schedule was supposed to be.  Bill Henderson will give out the details for the project.

In response to Ms. Mason’s question as to why the project is limited to the B division lines, Mr. Albert said that on the A division lines the Automatic Train supervision system generates the information that the Council will be gathering in this project.  

Mr. Albert said he will assign Edith an accessible station.

Introduction of Stanley Grill, NYC Transit Vice President – Material and Gennaro Sansone, NYC Transit Chief Mechanical Officer, Department of Subways’ division of Car Equipment to Discuss Car Procurements in the 2010-2014 Capital Program. Stanley Grill said that in the 2010-2011 portion of the proposed Capital Program, there is a commitment for 200 cars that will replace the R44 cars and 140 cars are slated for the 2012-2014 portion of the Program.  He explained that the number of cars is based on the number of cars needed if 60 foot cars are built.  He said the RFP is out now so an award can be made as soon as the Capital Program is approved.  There will be an option for 140 cars if it is determined that they are needed.  In addition, 80 cars have been included for the Staten Island Railway system.  Mr. Grill said the NYCT cars and SIRT cars will be designed separately and that this separate process will not slow down the procurement of the Staten Island cars. 

 

Mr. Grill said that a normal procurement requires more than 30 months for design and nine months to one year to run a pilot test on a car and then production kicks in.  He said the 60 foot car in design istion that the Council will be gathering in this project.  

Mr. Albert said he will assign Edith an accessible station.

Introduction of Stanley Grill, NYC Transit Vice President – Material and Gennaro Sansone, NYC Transit Chief Mechanical Officer, Department of Subways’ division of Car Equipment to Discuss Car Procurements in the 2010-2014 Capital Program. Stanley Grill said that in the 2010-2011 portion of the proposed Capital Program, there is a commitment for 200 cars that will replace the R44 cars and 140 cars are slated for the 2012-2014 portion of the Program.  He explained that the number of cars is based on the number of cars needed if 60 foot cars are built.  He said the RFP is out now so an award can be made as soon as the Capital Program is approved.  There will be an option for 140 cars if it is determined that they are needed.  In addition, 80 cars have been included for the Staten Island Railway system.  Mr. Grill said the NYCT cars and SIRT cars will be designed separately and that this separate process will not slow down the procurement of the Staten Island cars. 

 

Mr. Grill said that a normal procurement requires more than 30 months for design and nine months to one year to run a pilot test on a car and then production kicks in.  He said the 60 foot car in design is basically the current R160.  He said that production would be quicker if an incumbent vendor were used. 

In response to Ms. Mason’s question whether this procurement will include a “Buy NY” requirement, Mr. Grill explained that if federal funds are used for this procurement, the Buy NY requirement cannot be imposed.  He said only small car orders are funded without federal dollars. 

Mr. Sansone said R 32 cars are not going away until after 2010. 

In response to Ms. Prentiss’ question about the process used by NYC Transit to reach out to disability community to hear their thoughts on the cars, Mr. Sansone said that they have had focus groups with the disability community and they commented extensively on the R110 car.  Mr. Albert noted that this was the last time the Council was called upon to participate in the car design before the design was finalized. 

Mr. Sansone said they have eliminated a number of poles from the new cars.  He said there would be areas for wheelchairs.  In the new cars there will be no more folding seats and the priority seating is being relocated.  Mr. Sansone said they are using the basic design of the R160 car.  He said the seating will be of the longitudinal type. 

In response to the question posed by Stuart Goldstein of whether the R44 had been previously reconditioned, Mr. Sansone said that they had not and some scheduled maintenance on these cars has been suspended because they will be decommissioned.

Mr. Sansone said the Staten Island Railway cars have a design life of 35 years, but they have been extended to forty years.  He said the new cars will have conversational seating because this operation is more like commuter rail.

Mr. Goldstein made the suggestion that if there is no money for car procurement for Staten Island, it would be worthwhile to take existing R44 subway cars and use them on SIRT instead of scrapping them.  He suggested that the existing cars could be used as maintenance spares with appropriate modifications. 

Tom Jost said it is important that the procurement for SIRT cars is in sync with what is being planned.  He said SIR ridership suffers because of slow service and limited parking.  He noted if you plan the cars for more a suburban type of service you then foreclose the ability to run different kinds of service.  Mr. Grill said NYC Transit is performing studies now to be used in designing a car that meets the needs of the SIRT service. 

In response to Mr. Strauss’ question as to why they just don’t produce more R160 cars, Mr. Grill said that there was a move in the federal stimulus debate to allow non-competitive, sole source procurements but that the effort failed and this process is not typically permitted under federal law.

Ellyn Shannon asked that if NYC Transit does hold focus groups on new car designs that the Council be allowed to observe the proceedings.  Mr. Sansone said the R179 is a follow up to the R160.  He said there are many changes that are invisible to the rider that have already been made to the design such as reducing the weight of the car.  He said they are investigating the use of LED lights and will write the Council at the point the when the design team is ready for them to be looked at.  He also said the pole design may be changed and the designers will definitely consult the Council on this issue. 

Ms. Mason suggested that the Council be given the opportunity to talk to the designers directly about the car features.  Mr. Sansone indicated that they ask people of all different types to evaluate the cars.  Mr. Sansone said they discussed the pros and cons of providing strap handholds thoroughly and after evaluating the pluses and minuses, they decided not to include them.

George Haikalis said that repairing old cars keeps jobs here but new cars are outsourced to other places.  He commented that there is a lack of planning for the future with regard to the purchase of cars and that there should be more foresight to ensure that the cars purchased meet rider and system needs.  Mr  Haikalis said the longer cars are more efficient, but the rationale for ordering shorter cars is that they provide the ability to walk through trains.  This point is no longer valid, as people are not permitted to walk between cars any longer.  He noted that most countries are going to articulated cars and stated that NYC Transit should repair the existing R44 fleet and redesign the new cars. 

Mr. Sansone said the R44 fleet had structural problems from the beginning and only had a Mean Distance Between Failures record of 10,000 miles.  He said these were the last cars to have unlocked doors.  Mr. Sansone said that for NYCT to be able to run articulated cars, they would have to be a maximum of 42 feet long as opposed to the 51 foot length that is common internationally. 

Ken Stewart said it is important to involve user groups at the beginning of the process.  He said he missed the opportunit

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