NEW YORK CITY TRANSIT RIDERS COUNCIL
MINUTES OF NOVEMBER 20, 2014
A meeting of the New York City Transit Riders Council (NYCTRC) was convened at 12:00 noon, November 20, 2014, in the fifth floor Board room, 347 Madison Avenue, New York City. The following members were present:
Andrew Albert Sharon King Hoge
Stuart Goldstein Trudy L. Mason
Christopher Greif Steve Mayo
William Guild Edith Prentiss
Marisol Halpern Michael Sinansky
Burton Strauss, Jr.
The following members were absent:
In addition, the following persons were present:
William Henderson -PCAC Executive Director
Ellyn Shannon -PCAC Associate Director
Karyl Berger -Research Assistant
Jim Dubbs -NYCT
Alex Cohen -NYCT
Robert Cumella -NYCT
Phyllis Silvestri -Lindenwood Alliance
Alan Flacks -NY County Democratic Committee
Approval of Agenda and Minutes
The agenda for the November 20, 20014 meeting was approved. The October 23, 2014 minutes were approved. Mr. Guild’s suggestion at the bottom of the page 3. Strike “to be” and add “reprimand”.
Andrew Albert’s concluding comment was clarified to state that New York has three-quarters of the Transit riders in the United States and does not get the subsidies that it deserves given its importance to the nation and region.
The spelling of Rebecca Harshbarger’s name was corrected
The minutes were approved as amended.
The Chair’s Report is attached to these minutes.
Mr. Albert said that Robert Foran gave a budget presentation at the Board meeting. There was some talk of higher 2017 fare hike because of increasing deficits and Mr. Albert said that this is shameful. He said that there were two scenarios for fare hikes presented and that he had asked whether the threshold for the pay-per-ride bonus could be higher in exchange for lower increases on monthly and weekly MetroCards.
Mr. Albert noted that the Fulton Center is beautiful and that with the opening of an unpaid walkway to the R train riders will have an underground walkway from 2nd Avenue at Water Street to the West Side.
There is talk of Port Jervis Line yard. Riders want more service, but because people along the route do not want a yard, its location is an issue. These issues have impacts on Board members. For example, Mr. Cappelli has voted against the next Capital Program, because it contained no provision for bus rapid transit or light rail for Staten Island.
Mr. Albert said that he stated at the Board meeting that we need a new source of revenue to provide for the MTA’s capital needs. We cannot put more pressure on bonding as a way of financing the Capital Program.
There was a brief discussion of the pre-opening fire drill held at the Fulton Center. Karyl Cafiero and Chris Greif participated in the drill. Mr. Albert said that he had asked MTA Capital Construction President Michael Horodniceanu whether the complex would be accessible, as some elevators had not been activated just prior to its opening. Mr. Horodniceanu replied that the complex would absolutely be accessible.
Karyl Cafiero stated that the fire drill in which she participated was conducted by NYC Transit System Safety. NYCT personnel and others were asked to scatter themselves in the building. At that point the fire system strobes and alarms went off and people had to figure out how they would leave the building. She said that there needs to be a lot of customer service training for those working in the Fulton Center, as she asked for help and a woman started to lead her out, but could not complete the process as she could not leave her post. Ms. Cafiero was then handed off to an unidentified person who brought her to an exit.
Ms. Cafiero said that she was able to re-enter the building because its doors had not been secured in the drill. The second time, she was told to exit the building by walking up the stairs. Ms. Cafiero said that she wrote up the experience and sent the account to Ken Brown at System Safety. Mr. Albert said that he noticed that arriving at Fulton Street on the 2 or 3 line there is no signage directing the rider to the Fulton Center. This must be corrected, but may be temporary as the Fulton Center commercial space is not yet occupied.
Mr. Albert stated that advocates and riders are looking for the J line to be extended to Broad Street on the weekends but that this has not happened. Chris Greif noted that there is no 4/5 service at Fulton Street on November 29-30. He asked whether the J train can be extended to Fulton Street.
Proposed MTA Fare Increase
Mike Sinansky suggested that the council include in its testimony language on proportion of costs paid by the rider and on the level of local and State support for the Capital Program. He said that he would like his testimony to follow the pattern of the testimony that he delivered in 2012.
Mr. Greif commented that he believes that the base fare should stay at $2.50. Mr. Albert noted that the number of people using time-based and bonus fares are fairly close. Approximately 50 percent of riders use time-based fares, while 46 percent take advantage of the pay-per-ride bonus.
Mr. Albert said that there are a lot of elements to the fare hearings. The commuter railroads and Bridges and Tunnels also have increases under consideration. He added that the proposal is not for a 4 percent increase in yield, but for a straight 4 percent fare increase.
Trudy Mason noted that MTA Board member Allen Cappelli was angry about bridge tolls and that in her opinion the subject of congestion pricing will come up again. Mr. Albert said that he has talked about bridge tolls with Board members Ferrer and Trottenberg and told the Transportation Commissioner that the City should provide utilization numbers on the City’s untolled bridges. Mr. Cappelli has said that he will not vote for toll hike without East River tolls.
Ms. Mason suggested that when the new State legislature is in session, the Council should have a discussion of the Move NY plan.
Mr. Albert said that the NYCTRC testimony should emphasize that the MTA’s best customers should suffer the least. He said that a base fare increase is preferable to higher reductions in the bonus or increases in the cost of 7-day or 30-day MetroCards.
Mr. Albert asked for volunteers who would be able to deliver fare hearing testimony. Ms. Mason said that she would attend the Manhattan hearing, and Mr. Sinansky said that he would attend the Queens hearing. Mr. Henderson said that staff will preregister those testifying at the hearings.
Standards of Conduct
The Council discussed changes to its standards of conduct for members. William Guild said that the phrase “which may include” should be inserted before the word “oral” in the first line of the final paragraph.
Stuart Goldstein said that in the first sentence of the last paragraph, the council may want to change the word “will” to “may.”
The Council agreed to the changes, including those raised at the meeting.
Introduction of Robert Cumella, NYC Transit Deputy Chief, Capital Planning and Budget and Alex Cohen, NYC Transit Director – Budget Control, Capital Planning and Budget to discuss the progress of NYC Transit’s Station Component Program
Mr. Cumella stated that station work is 20 percent of the NYC Transit Capital Program and that this percentage is roughly the same in the proposal for 2015 to 2019. He said that programs are easy to cut when they are not well defined, but that the stations program is very well defined. In constant dollar terms, the component program is smaller in the 2015-2019 Capital Program than in the current Capita Program.
Mr. Cumella noted that NYC Transit has a lot of floor space, many customers and a physical plant that is hard to maintain. Prior to 2009 the plan for stations was unsustainable, as it assumed a 40 year station life and condition was maintained through total rehabilitation. As a result, NYC Transit never got to repairing things that were wearing out. He said that the life cycle for many components is 10 to 15 years.
The features of the station component program include that it is priority-driven with the priorities established through reference to a data base, that it is intended not to replace components before they are due for replacement, which is cost effective but leads to some battles with architects, and that it is comprehensive, in that the entire system is addressed and that the program does not select specific stations.
Mr. Albert asked, if defects are found, whether the component system has anything to do with scheduling Fastrack work in the area of the defects. Mr. Cumella said that Fastrack is a separate program but that the station component program is flexible in addressing problems and has procedures for working on identified problems during a diversion otherwise scheduled to complete critical repairs. He said that there are few surprises in terms of the condition of components, as the data are logical and things deteriorate steadily.
The station component program consists of three steps: Step 1 – An asset survey, which takes 1 ½ years of field work and an additional ½ year for data analysis and includes work with the collected data for 5 years; Step 2 – project development; and Step 3 – Construction. Mr. Albert asked how often the surveys are performed. Mr. Cumella stated that practically they are constant. He said that there is information added and data analysis in the three years without active surveying work.
Ellyn Shannon asked if technology was used to gather data. Mr. Cumella replied that it is and that one example is that they use tablets to collect data and that they are improving the system as they go along. He said that the program has dealt with the worst problems first, and now are progressing to less severe problems.
Mr. Albert asked the length of time before the station component program learns of damage to a station. Mr. Cumella replied that they receive information about damage in the system constantly. Reports are received from customers and NYC Transit forces, among others. These reports may be addressed as repair issues, rather than capital investments, but they are received.
Mr. Greif said that he notices same defects as he travels through the system. Mr. Cumella said that there are some common defects and that there are design fixes to these problems. Well-designed concrete stairs with treads and thick granite flooring reduces defects. He again noted that the database is constantly updated to add information and defects. Where there are dangerous defects, NYC Transit can perform repairs on an emergency basis, and the ability to send pictures using cellphones is a great help. He assured the council that serious defects are taken seriously.
Ms. Berger asked what happens with new stations, such as the reconstructed stations at Fulton Street and whether Transit conducts a baseline survey. Mr. Cumella responded that they would put a survey off, but would not will not be in these stations immediately after they are opened.
Ms. Berger also asked about water damage. She said that Nevins Street went from a new station to a station in bad condition in 20 years, because of water. Mr. Cumella said that water conditions are hard to solve. They can be fixed and the problem will move elsewhere. Waterproofing is not possible; water control is what NYC Transit does. The only way to do good waterproofing is by tearing up the street above and putting down waterproofing materials, and at Wall Street even this strategy did not work. He said that NYC Transit is controlling water by sophisticated grouting techniques. Lots of water damage occurs as a result of ventilators, and in some cases this is where Transit must go to remedy the water problems.
Mr. Cumella said that the 2007 survey launch point was set to inform the 2010-2014 Capital Program and that the 2012 survey launch point was set to prepare for the 2015-2019 Capital Program.
Ms. Mason asked if elevators and escalators are included in the program. Mr. Cumella said that the next Capital Program will have a lot of elevator and escalator replacement and renewal, because these units are aging and due for rebuilding. The repairs to elevators and escalators are a different matter and outside the bounds of capital investments. Ms. Mason asked whether issues now being addressed by repairs will ever switch over to being addressed through capital expenditures. Mr. Cumella responded that they would, as at some point elevators and escalators exceed their useful lives and will need to be replaced or rebuilt.
Mr. Cumella said that in 2007 and the most recent survey, components with ratings between 5 and 3 were considered for renewal. The current surveys show that most components are serviceable, but there are some moderate defects. Some components rated 3 look bad, but are not dangerous. When work is done in an area, the renewals address everything 3 or worse and this has been the case in in both capital programs.
Alex Cohen commented that they selected a small number of stations that had a large number of components needing attention. Mr. Cumella added that there are a lot of elements that go into decisions to perform renewals. There are some cases where efficiencies can be found and others where the renewal is important because it affects the system’s presentation to the customers.
Mr. Cohen said that all components that are not scheduled for renewal and are rated 4 or worse are addressed through component replacement. He said that this threshold would be lowered to 3.5 in the next program because there are fewer 4’s and above.
Mr. Cumella stated that the dynamics of the process is that things are added to scopes from surveys. Sometimes planned work is not completed and funds will go to address needs in other places. He said that there are 166 stations in 2010-2014 program.
Ms. Shannon asked about adherence to scheduling and budget. Mr. Cumella replied that the experience is good, although there is some change until the scopes are locked in.
Mr. Cumella noted that in the second survey, Transit saw a decrease in defects, and that there is generally a normal distribution of conditions found in the survey, with a few stations with no problems, the bulk with some minor defects, and a few stations with major defects.
Mr. Sinansky asked whether Sandy renewal work was overlaid on the existing plan or was handled separately. Mr. Cumella commented that Sandy work was coordinated with previously planned work and that when issues were resolved as a result of the coordinated work they were included in the program’s progress assessments.
Mr. Greif wanted to know the status of South Ferry. Mr. Albert stated that repair work will take more than two years.
Ms. Mason said that there are many buses displaying “Next Bus Please”. Mr. Albert said that a letter will be sent about this issue.
Edith Prentiss commented on the disappearing buses on Bus Time. She stated that when she was recently used the system two buses disappeared from Bus Time. She says that she has issues with the M2, M3 and M4 buses and that at times they appear to be in service at 163rd Street, then go out of service, skip 165th Street, back in at 168th street. She also said that between 6:30 to 7:45pm six buses travel empty down Broadway from 168th Street to 135th Street, where they go out of service.
Mr. Albert said that he found out all of Fulton Center will be accessible.
Ms. Prentiss stated that the elevator between 4/5 and A is great. It has clear directions and description, but in general it is hard to find which elevator goes where.
Mr. Greif said that NYC Transit’s Holiday Train is starting, but the information is not on MTA website. Mr. Albert said that he will let MTA know.
The meeting was adjourned at 1:55 pm.