NEW YORK CITY TRANSIT RIDERS COUNCIL
MINUTES OF APRIL 25, 2013
A meeting of the New York City Transit Riders Council (NYCTRC) was convened at 12 noon on April 25, 2013 in the 5th floor Board room, 347 Madison Avenue, New York City. The following members were present:
Andrew Albert Sharon King Hoge
Stuart Goldstein Thomas Jost
Christopher Greif Trudy L. Mason
William K. Guild Steve Mayo
Marisol Halpern Edith Prentiss
The following member was on speakerphone:
The following members were absent:
Burton M. Strauss, Jr. Toya Williford
In addition, the following persons were present:
William A. Henderson -PCAC Executive Director
Karyl Cafiero -PCAC Research Associate
Matt Kessler -LIRRCC
Joe Leader -NYCT
John O’Grady -NYCT
Deborah Hall-Moore -NYCT
Miriam Rosenberg -Wave Newspaper
Jose Martinez -NY1
Rev. Dorsey -State Senator Sanders’ office
Pete Stubben -Rockaway Park Civic
Philip McManus -Queens P.T. Com
Ronald Carroll -Regional Rail
Noreen Ellis -Rockaway Civic
Ann Guild -Concerned citizen
Matt Shotkin -Concerned citizen
Dennis O’Connor -Concerned citizen
Ken Stewart -Concerned citizen
Ray Knowles -Concerned citizen
Stanley Schulman -Concerned citizen
Kevin Bautz -Concerned citizen
Approval of Agenda and Minutes
The agenda for the April 25, 2013 meeting was approved. The minutes of the March 21, 2013 meeting were approved as amended with an addition to more fully reflect Trudy Mason’s discussion of bus issues. Ms. Mason said that she wanted it to be noted in the minutes that she had discussed issues with Lexington Avenue bus service at length at the March meeting.
The Chair’s Report is attached to these minutes.
Peter Steuben commented that there is a lack of places to purchase MetroCards in the Rockaways. Miriam Rosenberg added that customers are now paying $1.00 for new MetroCards, but they do not have the opportunity to refill them in the Rockaways.
Chris Greif asked whether the Council could request additional MetroCard vans and buses. Bill Henderson said that staff could pursue this solution, in addition to reopening of the Beach 116th Street station for MetroCard transaction, as the Council had previously requested.
Andrew Albert said that MTA Board members Mitch Pally and Allen Cappelli made a motion at the last Board meeting to establish a service restoration fund with $40 million in funding in State budget that was not anticipated in the MTA Budget. He said that MTA Chief Financial Officer Bob Foran stated that the MTA would consider this in the course of preparing the July Financial Plan. During the post-meeting press conference, Tom Prendergast suggested that this funding could also be used to moderate planned fare increases.
Edith Prentiss wanted to know if express bus fares also were increased to result in a 7.5 percent rise in fare yields. Mr. Henderson responded that he was uncertain of the change in fare yield, but that express bus fares had been increased 10% percent in the last fare hike. Tom Jost asked whether express bus ridership had fallen with the fare increase.
Ms. Mason stated there are issues during FASTRACK work on the 6 line. She said that this is a major issue because stations have been closed on evenings and weekends starting at 11:00 pm. Mr. Albert responded that this is not FASTRACK work, but overnight and 55 hour-long weekend work done under the standard general order process.
Ms. Mason stated that signs about the closures were posted only sporadically during the week preceding a weekend closure at 77nd Street and that there were also signs about this closure posted at Grand Central station. She said that during a closure this past Saturday there were no signs at 77th Street on the downtown side and that there was no tape closing off the station. Ms. Mason noted that there were no signs at street level but also no signs downstairs, except for a sign in the paid area of the station, although the turnstiles were taped off. She said that there should have been street level notification or at least notice at the base of the stairs. When she went back to the station Saturday night there were no signs.
Ms. Mason said that she asked people waiting for buses, and they had heard no announcements in station and didn’t know what had happened to the train. When she was at the bus stop, an M101 bus passed the stop, then a M102 bus that stopped and was packed. Some people reported that they had waited 15 minutes for a bus.
Ms. Mason said that there are two issues. The first is that there is no coordination between the Department of Buses and the Department of Subways. During service diversions on the 6 line, there should be extra buses or the M101 route should make local stops. Second, there should be better notice of the service diversions, including the posting of a notice at street level, or if nothing else at the base of the station stairs.
Mr. Albert told Deborah Hall Moore that the Council wants to know how often the stations are checked for signage being properly posted during these service diversions.
Stuart Goldstein suggested that the station agent should write “No Service” on the station booth whiteboard so that anyone coming to the booth for information would see it, even if the booth is not staffed.
Sharon Hoge King commented that at the Sutphin Boulevard/Archer Avenue/ JFK Airport station there is no signage about service changes until riders enter the station.
Chris Greif commented on the operation of the Broadway line N, R, and Q trains during the recent FASTRACK service suspension. He said that some customers that use the F train are upset because this train is running irregularly due to the moves that are necessary to terminate the Q train at 57th Street and 6th Avenue. These maneuvers block the tracks for the F train. Mr. Albert said that we will ask whether there is an alternative to this service plan.
Ms. Prentiss commented that after there was an outcry about poor service during a FASTRACK outage in her area, shuttle buses were provided.
Ken Stewart suggested that there should be something more substantial than thin plastic tape used to block off turnstiles. He also said that there continues to be a problem with musicians playing on the platforms and that the Music Under New York program needs to be educated about the problems that they present. Ms. Mason observed the performers on the platform are not part of the Music Under New York program.
Mr. Albert stated that he will bring the issue of platform musicians posing problems for riders up to the MTA Police the next time he sees this problem in the Times Square station. He also stated that he will discuss this issue with representatives from Music Under New York and the Transit Police.
Mr. Stewart also noted that the announcements on the 7 line platform at Grand Central Station are deafening. Ms. Prentiss said that earlier that day an elevator did not come and she tried to get assistance using an intercom, but could not hear or be heard because of amplified performers playing brass instruments.
Mr. Goldstein commented that rumors have it that the Smith/9th Streets station is opening the next day but that NYC Transit has never responded to the Council’s request for reprogramming of on-board signage for the trains that serve this station. He said that another issue that he had raised about the need for posting signage where fares are sold to clarify the costs of various fares has also not received a response from Transit.
Ms. Mason said that in reference to signage the font of the “Keep Your Receipt” notice on signage for Select Bus Service (SBS) is too small.
Mr. Stewart stated there should be an audible “Pay Fare Here” message at the SBS vending machines. Mr. Albert responded that this was proposed but rejected because of its potential disruption to persons living near the stops.
Mr. Greif discussed about the new Brooklyn bus services that are being considered. He said that they should not negatively affect the G service.
The NYCTRC officers will be nominated at the next meeting. The Council unanimously approved Mr. Albert to represent them on the nominating committee for PCAC officers.
Kevin Bautz commented that there is no way to get back from the Queens mainland to the Rockaway peninsula after midnight. He said that the Q53 bus stops running at midnight and questioned why it does not run at all hours, although the Q35 from Brooklyn runs after midnight. Mr. Albert replied that the Council will look into this issue. He noted that there has been some improvement in bus service in the morning, as it now begins at 4:30 a.m.
Noreen Ellis commented that one should not bet on the reliability of service from the MTA in the Rockaways. She said that buses are 12 to 18 minutes late and that she had to use car service at a cost of $30 when she had to work after midnight.
Phillip McManus remarked that even before Sandy the Q53 wasn’t reliable. Residents are begging for help with Far Rockaway 24 hour service.
Rev. Dorsey said that State Senator Sanders has addressed many of these issues and that these problems existed before Sandy. He said that he has seen 35 minute headways on Q103 buses, which is far in excess of the standard.
Introduction of Joe Leader, NYC Transit Vice President and Chief Maintenance Officer, and John O’Grady, NYC Transit Program Officer-Infrastructure and Facilities, to discuss NYCT’s efforts to rebuild the Rockaway Line
Mr. Leader said that there were many models that predicted the path of Sandy, but that the storm followed the European models, bringing it directly to the City. He said that the MTA worked to prepare for whatever path the storm took and in advance of storm closed off some entrances, vents, and fan plants in Lower Manhattan, as this was most vulnerable area. On Saturday October 27, the physical protection for the storm was largely complete, and on Sunday NYC Transit opened the Incident Command Center at the Rail Control Center, while continuing to assist with evacuations of low lying areas. During this time, there were 200 additional buses operating. NYC Transit was also concentrating on protecting its rolling stock, which was shown to be important when New Jersey Transit lost one-third of its rail fleet.
Much of the system protection was done with plywood and sandbags, and this worked in most places. At South Ferry, however, materials were picked up by the storm surge and broke the barriers that had been positioned there.
After the storm NYC Transit recognized that in-house forces would not be able to handle the restoration work that was needed, so the MTA authorized an emergency contract for assessment and repair of the transit system in the Rockaways.
John O’Grady stated that the first focus of the recovery effort was cleanup. After the storm, there were no lights on and no power, along with debris and boats in the streets in the Rockaways. There were 100 workers in the area from sunrise to sunset and it took two months to remove the debris. In addition, NYC Transit had to work on places where the tracks were undercut. As part of this effort there was also a need to cut off the National Park Service pond from the ocean in order to keep it a body of fresh water. The breeches in the viaduct holding the tracks were secured in December using piles. Other damage remained; the signals had been destroyed and the neutral return rail was undercut. It took a month to test the remaining cables to determine whether they could be used. Overall, there was significant damage done and at the time the MTA had no idea how the work was going to be paid for.
Mr. Albert asked if there was power to the subway after the storm. Mr. Leader responded that there was high tension power to the Broad Chanel, but no distribution system. Mr. Albert also asked why the shuttle service wasn’t extended to serve other stations on the peninsula. Mr. Leader stated that the signal system was damaged, and this prevented extending service to all stations.
Mr. O’Grady noted that the specialized cable used for transit operations cannot readily be purchased in the open market and that the speed of restoring service depends on how fast suitable cable can be obtained. NYC Transit already had some cable in house and was able to procure some from contractors, but this was not near the amount that was needed.
At present, the track has been secured, and testing will begin the weekend of May 17, working toward a June opening of service to the Rockaways. Mr. O’Grady noted that Transit cannot commit to the date when service will be restored in the Rockaways. Mr. Albert said that the A line in the Rockaways was a major transit line and asked when the rapid transit division of NYC Transit had spoken to Bus Operations about providing more service. The guests said that they were not prepared to respond to this question.
Mr. Albert inquired whether the rebuilt system will be better than the original. Mr. O’Grady responded that in some cases it would. He said that they installed sheet piles before they had the funding in hand. He also noted that they designed an embankment containment system because they knew that the system is vulnerable to storms, and that the Broad Channel station is being upgraded.
Mr. Greif stated that he agreed with what had been said by the Rockaway residents and asked whether the Beach 116th Street station could be opened to allow for the sale and refilling off MetroCards. Mr. O’Grady said that it could not be reopened for this purpose as there is no power in the Beach 116th Street station. Mr. Greif suggested that they bring in a generator to provide power.
Ron Kalb said that he wanted to talk about Rockaway Beach rail line. He stated that it had lots of advantages and would reinvigorate the area at an investment that is a fraction of that for East Side Access or the Second Avenue Subway in Manhattan.
Mr. Albert asked whether Mr. Kalb’s group is looking to revive the line as a part of the LIRR or of the subway. Mr. Kalb said that his group would like to do a study.
Mr. McManus asked whether the trains can run without signals. Mr. Leader stated that there is no 3rd rail power in parts of the system. He said that there is a problem to up to the Beach 90th Street station, above which there are both signals and power. Mr. McManus wanted to know if the current plan was for to restore both branches or whether the plan is just to bring back service on the eastern side of the peninsula. Mr. O’Grady responded they intended to restore both branches. Mr. McManus also asked whether there will be 24 hour service, and Mr. Leader replied that this is not his area and that he did not know.
Mike Sinansky pointed out the disconnect between the rebuilding effort and the MTA Bus Operations Division’s efforts to provide service to the western part of the peninsula. He said that some problems predate Sandy, but people in the area need substantial amounts of service. Mr. McManus stated that he has communicated with area politicians and have not received a response. He said that he had been told by Captain Cruz of the Transit Bureau 23 that NYC Transit are working in the Beach 116th Street station and are looking to restore services between Mott Avenue and Beach 116th Street by May 25.
Mr. Sinansky said it is a legitimate expectation that service would be restored as it was previously.
Chris Greif asked whether the restaurant next door to the Beach 116th Street station could be used as a temporary MetroCard Vending Machine location.
The meeting was adjourned at2:00 PM.