Meeting Minutes Apr 22, 2010

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A meeting of the New York City Transit Riders Council (NYCTRC) was convened at 12 noon on April 22, 2010 in the 5th floor Board room, 347 Madison Avenue, New York City.  The following members were present:

• Andrew Albert
• Marisol Halpern
• Shirley Genn
• Sharon King Hoge
• Stuart Goldstein
• Trudy L. Mason
• William K. Guild
• Michael Sinansky

The following members were absent:

• Thomas Jost
• Jessica Gonzalez-Rojas
• Toya Williford
• Edith Prentiss
• Sharon Santa Maria
• Burton M. Strauss, Jr.

In addition, the following persons were present:

• William A. Henderson -PCAC Executive Director
• Jan Wells  -PCAC Associate Director
• Ellyn Shannon  -PCAC Transportation Planner
• Karyl Berger  -PCAC Research Associate
• Ashley Emerole  -PCAC Consultant
• Carmen Bianco  -NYCT
• Deborah Hall-Moore -NYCT
• Heather Haddon  -AM NY
• Tom Namako  -NY Post
• Christopher Greif -Concerned citizen
• Jesse Moskowitz  -Concerned citizen
• Alan Flacks  -Concerned citizen
• Ken Stewart   -Concerned citizen

Approval of Agenda and Minutes

The agenda for the April 22, 2010 meeting was approved.  The minutes of the March 25, 2010 meeting were approved as amended.

Chair’s Report

The Chair’s Report is attached to these minutes.

Andrew Albert also reported that he testified at a Manhattan Community Board meeting regarding the proposed development project by Vornado that would include the reopening of the Gimbel’s passageway.

Board Report

Mr. Albert briefed the members on the meeting he, Ira Greenberg, and Jim Blair had with Chairman Walder.  He said they wanted to know Mr. Walder’s long term view of the MTA and what cost cutting measures he will propose for the operating agencies.  Mr. Walder explained that he wants to see how things look in July when the new financial plan is unveiled.  Mr. Walder noted that if it looks like the subsidies and revenues are showing increases, he won’t consider any further service cuts, but he would hope that the PCAC and its Councils would support actions like shortening consists on commuter railroads.

Mr. Albert noted that Mr. Walder said that if stimulus funds could be used as a bridge to a normal situation with in terms of 2011 revenue levels, he could consider using them for operating needs.  Mr. Albert said there was another meeting of the MTA Board’s “cut committee” and they are looking at a number of internal cuts but did not have any specific details as of the date of the meeting.  Stuart Goldstein asked the status of the management study on the MTA that is being done by Accenture.  Mr. Henderson said that PCAC staff has been told that there is not a single study and that Accenture is providing analysis on specific topics at the request of MTA management.

Shirley Genn asked that the council discuss the budget because she is very concerned about security issues in light of the budget cuts.  She noted that she read in the New York Times that staff would not be eliminated if security cameras and other measures were not fully in place.

Mr. Albert said that Mr. Walder said that the booth agents will definitely be removed from the system.  Mr. Albert said that he was assured the intercoms would be in place before agents are removed from an entrance, but the surveillance cameras may not be installed before the agents are gone.

Old Business

Trudy Mason asked that her concerns on the lack of communication and coordination between the SBS team, the NYCT Department of Buses, and MTACCC be duly noted.  She also asked for status reports on bus schedule adherence on Second Avenue, which she had requested from the SBS team at the January NYCTRC meeting, and noted the time that had passed since the last request.  She restated her displeasure that NYCT DOB VP Joe Smith had still not appeared at an NYCTRC meeting or communicated with NYCTRC directly.

Mr. Sinansky said that he was on 34th Street recently and observed a number of cars parked between Lexington and Third Avenues, including a police car.   He assumed that the police were there to enforce the bus lane regulations, but he saw a police officer sitting in the car, which was parked in the bus lane, eating lunch.  He also said he saw a truck parked in the lane close to 2nd Avenue and saw the driver reading a newspaper for over half an hour.  He said that if there is no enforcement of bus lane regulations, there is no way the proposed 34th Street transitway can be successful.

Marisol Halpern asked why the Transit Bureau police can’t do the enforcement on this route.  Stuart Goldstein asked whether transit supervisors can write summonses or issue traffic citations.  Bill Henderson said that some supervisors in the Department of Buses have that power.

Trudy Mason asked that staff follow up on getting the statistics that had been requested by the TRC when the SBS group was at the January meeting.

New Business

Mr. Albert announced that he would like to propose a new project to be done by the Council.  He would like for the NYCTRC to look at the improper use of emergency gates.  He noted that the alarms are now being ignored or they serve as an invitation to tell people that they can enter the system through the open gates.  Ms. Mason said she has seen station agents simply prop the gates open and that some agents are disabling the alarms.

Mr. Albert said he has even seen people jumping or back cocking the turnstiles.  He said that he believes the losses through fare evasion are two times greater than the $27 million figure that was announced.

Ms. Mason said she has noticed that many bus fareboxes are out of order.  Mr. Albert announced that the Phase II of the Smart Card project will be operational in June and that the use of smart cards should help to address the bus farebox issue.  He noted that a number of Manhattan cross-town bus routes will be equipped with the smartcard readers.

Mr. Albert said that it is important for the Council to document the improper use of subway station emergency gates.  Sharon King Hoge noted that some people with big pieces of luggage use the gates to exit the stations.

Mike Sinansky noted that at the east end of the 46th Street (R, V) station on the Manhattan bound side, there is rampant turnstile jumping.  He said on the Queens bound side of the station, people open the gate for other passengers.

Shirley Genn noted they repaired one of the staircases at the Avenue M end of the Avenue N station but noted that one step is much higher than all the others.

Ms. Mason asked if the project would include looking at stations that have had Station Customer Assistants and at those that no longer have them.   Mr. Albert noted that most of the places that are experiencing increased fare evasion are locations without SCAs or agents.  He said the list of locations to be surveyed will include a representative sample of stations.

Introduction of Carmen Bianco, NYC Transit Senior Vice President – Department of Subways

Mr. Albert introduced Mr. Bianco who had previously worked at New York City Transit in the 1990’s as Assistant Vice President – System Safety.

Mr. Bianco began his remarks by saying that he can sense this is a very active group who really cares about the subway system.  He noted there are a lot of areas that can be improved but said there is also a lot to consider.  He said it is much easier to be critical but said he also wants to be fair and balanced.  He said the people at New York City Transit are truly remarkable and that he was very proud of their performance during the recent Nor’easter.

Mr. Bianco noted that after he left NYCT, he worked at Amtrak for five years and then went into consulting where he worked across many industries, including oil, gas, and mining.  He said the problems and people that he encountered are basically all the same.

Mr. Bianco said there is much to do, but it is important that everyone is aligned around a mission to produce the best customer experience possible.

Mr. Bianco said he is concerned about the customers and the experience they have in the stations, but has to focus on the overall performance of the system at the same time.

Mr. Bianco said he is responsible for 27,000 employees   He said the decisions he makes have to take into account not only the customers, but also these employees and their families.

Mr. Bianco explained the reorganization of the Department of Subways that he is in the process of implementing.  He said there are some very good things about the Line General Manager program and his intention is not to disband it completely.  He said there are parts of the Transit operation where a consistent high level of performance must be guaranteed, including maintenance and the cleanliness of the station environment.  Having many managers responsible for these areas made it difficult to maintain a consistent standard.

Mr. Bianco said that in his reorganization there would be a Service Delivery unit, headed up by John Gaul, which will consist of three groups: IRT, IND and BMT.  He said there would be twelve Line General Managers.  He noted that all infrastructure issues would fall under the new Maintenance of Way (MOW) unit.

Mr. Bianco has named Steve Feil to head up the MOW unit.  He said separating MOW from other functions would ensure that a single standard and list of priorities applies throughout the system.  He said there will also be a Stations group headed up by John Gaito.  He said the focus of this unit will be on implementing better cleaning procedures.  He said there will also be a Car Equipment unit and that the General Manager of the Staten Island Railway will report to him as well.

Mr. Bianco said there are expenses that can be cut in the system but that he could not compromise the reliability and safety of the system.  He said he wants to make the system attractive but with limited capital dollars, he will have to determine how best to divide available dollars between infrastructure performance and appearance.

Ms. Mason commented that the Line General Manager program was developed with the idea of having one point of contact for the entire line.  She asked why Mr. Bianco believed that this new system would work better in terms of dealing with the public.  Mr. Bianco stated that there will still be Line General Managers in the system.  He said they will interact very closely with the units that have been established.  He said the Line General Manager will have to call upon the MOW unit to find out who is the best person to deal with a specific infrastructure issue.

In response to Mr. Sinansky’s question of the benefits that will be achieved by combining cleaning and maintenance and bringing these responsibilities under one individual, Mr. Bianco said that the reorganization would allow him to establish one standard and a common approach and will lead to better utilization of resources.

Sharon King Hoge noted that she has seen more trash in the subway stations recently than she had previously.  In response to her question of the number of cleaning personnel per station or per line, Mr. Bianco said that staffing depends on a number of factors, but noted the reality of the situation is that they must determine the best way to keep the facilities clean.  He said they must ensure a clean environment even if the personnel are off the job for a day.

Ellyn Shannon asked if Mr. Bianco has a plan for addressing the station complexes.  She said that there is no supervisor at the Times Square station.  She noted this is a very vulnerable location and needs to have a supervisor.  Mr. Bianco said he would get answer to her about this issue.

In response to Christopher Greif’s question about the division of responsibilities, Mr. Bianco said the main focus of the Line Managers will be on service delivery.  He noted that prior to the change the managers were responsible for station cleaning and fixing elevators.  He said that now there will be other groups responsible for addressing these issues on a daily basis.

Jesse Moskowitz, a store owner in the Times Square station, explained that he has a lot of issues with musicians at Times Square because he said no one is willing to take responsibility and enforce the rules.  Mr. Bianco said he would discuss this issue with President Prendergast and would get back to him.

Mr. Bianco said he understands that announcements are a big issue and he is looking at ways to improve them.

Mr. Albert noted that weekend diversion service is often not what is scheduled.  He said weekend General Order work impacts the Monday morning rush period and overnight General Order work impacts the following morning rush period.

Mr. Bianco acknowledged that they must get better at operating service during GOs and clearing the track more efficiently when GOs end.  He said it is difficult to balance the responsibility of providing 24 hour service and the need to maintain the system at the same time.

In response to Alan Flacks’ question about the status of the countdown clock installation, Mr. Bianco said the IRT clocks should all be operational by the end of the year.  Mr. Bianco said in response to a question of the status of the lockup seat pilot that there is a four car train set on the E train with lockup seats.

Ellyn Shannon noted she rarely hears announcements at the GCT Shuttle when there are major delays on the LIRR at Penn Station.  She said it would be helpful to alert people to LIRR delays before they go to Penn Station.

Ken Stewart noted that platform announcements at the 59th Street/Lexington Avenue station are very loud and it would be helpful if the volume could be lowered, which would in turn make the announcements much more understandable.  Mr. Bianco said this could be done through the Line General Manager or the Maintenance of Way Electronics Unit.  Mr. Stewart asked how this problem could be reported.  Mr. Bianco said that the LGM could be contacted or that the intercom system in the station could be used to report the problem to a booth agent.

Adjournment

The meeting was adjourned at 2:00 PM.

Respectfully submitted,

Karyl Berger
PCAC Research Associate

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