Meeting Minutes Apr 26, 2012

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NEW YORK CITY TRANSIT RIDERS COUNCIL
MINUTES OF APRIL 26, 2012

A meeting of the New York City Transit Riders Council (NYCTRC) was convened at 12 noon on April 26, 2012 in the 5th floor Board room, 347 Madison Avenue, New York City.  The following members were present:

Andrew Albert                     Thomas Jost
Stuart Goldstein                  Trudy L. Mason
Christopher Greif                Steve Mayo
William K. Guild                  Michael Sinansky
Sharon King Hoge              Burton M. Strauss, Jr.
Toya Williford

The following members were absent:
Shirley Genn                           Marisol Halpern
Jessica Gonzalez-Rojas       Edith Prentiss

In addition, the following persons were present:
William A. Henderson-PCAC Executive Director
Jan Wells-PCAC Associate Director
Ellyn Shannon-PCAC Transportation Planner
Michael Wetherell-NYCT
Debra Hall-Moore -NYCT
Ken Stewart-Concerned citizen
Ray Knowles -Concerned citizen

Approval of Agenda and Minutes
The agenda for the April 26, 2012 meeting was approved.  The minutes of the March 22, 2012 meeting were approved as amended.

Chair’s Report
The Chair’s Report is attached to these minutes.

Andrew Albert reviewed the Bus Forum that the Council had held the previous evening.  He said that not all questions asked about specific routes were answered on the spot, but policy questions were addressed at the forum.

Trudy Mason stated that the responses that were given about the lack of a 72nd Street stop on the M15 Select Bus Service (SBS) route were disappointing.  She said that it was obvious that Darryl Irick didn’t know the history of the implementation of SBS on First and Second Avenues.

Mr. Albert stated that there were many comments about the 34th Street SBS.

Ken Stewart said that the there was a room full of people at the Forum and that they need to be hear about the problem of bus bunching and how the bus operators try to avoid it.  This could lead to a better understanding of some of the things that operators and their supervisors do, such as waiting through a traffic light cycle or directing a bus to make a short turn.  He said that people also need to hear more about the complaint process.  Mr. Stewart said that in the past he always used to get a response to complaints, but not anymore.  He also said that the Forum should have included some information about the Transit Riders Council and its functions.

Mike Sinansky said that there were some other Queens issues raised at the Bus Forum that were not included on the summary distributed to members.  Ellyn Shannon said that because of the short time between the Forum and the NYCTRC meeting, the summary was based on the cards that the speakers provided at registration and not on the entirety of their comments.  She said that she will update the summary of proceedings with information gathered from viewing the video of the event.

Ms. Mason suggested that there be a description of the NYCTRC in the introduction given at the Bus Forums.

Chris Greif said that the subject of buses refusing to curb should be raised in the Bus Forum.

Karyl Berger stated that many people who came to the Bus Forum said they had complained through the MTA website and never received a response.  She said that the NYCTRC should find out how these complaints are being routed and how the MTA is ensuring that they are addressed.

It was suggested that the Council write a letter asking for details on the travel time reductions and increased numbers of buses that have been achieved with the implementation of the 34th Street SBS.  Bill Henderson said that he would send a letter.

Board Report
Mr. Albert reported that half hourly midday Port Washington Branch service has been restored on the Long Island Rail Road.  Cutting this service didn’t create the savings that were expected, and the MTA and LIRR have reconsidered this service reduction.  Mr. Albert said that there is movement on the MTA Board to push for further service restorations and that another attempt to restore some of the cuts is coming.

Mr. Albert noted that the State bond issuance fee on debt issued to refinance existing MTA bonds has been waived and the MTA will save money.  He said that Board member Allen Capelli will be advancing a proposal for a $20 million service restoration fund at the next Finance Committee meeting.  Mr. Greif asked when the issue will be decided.  Mr. Albert responded that a decision would be made in June, in advance of the release of the MTA’s proposed 2013 budget.

Ms. Mason noted that the composition of the MTA Board will be changing, as former Governor David Paterson is replacing Nancy Shevell on the Board.  Mr. Albert observed that the reaction to this nomination has not been universally positive, on account of actions that Mr. Paterson had taken as Governor that had harmed the MTA.  The members briefly discussed the Paterson Administration’s fiscal Impact on the MTA.

Old Business
Mr. Greif asked if we received a response on the issue of Service Gaps on B83 buses.  Mr. Henderson said that he had not yet received a response.

Tom Jost asked if anything happened with regard to the concerns that he stated about Limited Stop buses on Victory Boulevard and the gaps in local service.  Mr. Jost said that NYC Transit should respond to this issue in one way or another and that there should be some initial response with a case number that can be tracked.  Mr. Albert suggested that the Council have someone from NYC Transit to explain their current process of responding to public comments and complaints responses at its June meeting.

Ms. Mason said that for the Council’s May meeting we will have Scott Stringer as our guest to discuss his views on transportation.  She suggested that the members of the LIRRCC and MNRCC be invited as well, as he will also talk about the 2nd Avenue Subway and Select Bus Service.  Ms. Mason asked for a report on everything that the Council has requested from NYC Transit since the beginning of 2012 and said that she would like to keep a running tally of the requests and responses.

Ms. Mason noted that at the bus forum, there were questions about the ratio of SBS to local buses in these corridors.  She said that she would like a letter to be written asking about this ratio and how it is determined.  Mr. Albert replied that we will ask for this.  Burt Strauss said that he had recently taken a local bus from 68th to 34th Street after he had missed a SBS bus and that during the trip he was not passed by a SBS bus.

Mr. Greif asked about the schedule of implementation of the B44 SBS.  Mr. Henderson said that the current schedule is 2013 with no month specified.  Mike Sinansky said that he heard that NYC Transit had to do more consultation with the community because of length of this route.

Mr. Sinansky also noted that two of the five stations with the greatest ridership increase were on the A train to the Rockaways and that this area is experiencing increased demand because of the Arverne development and other growth.  He said that it may be the time to extend the C train to Lefferts Boulevard and to make all A train service go to the Rockaway Peninsula.  Mr. Sinansky suggested that the Council send a letter to NYC Transit suggesting service patterns of the A and C trains be reevaluated and that changes be considered.

Mr. Albert said that when this was considered previously, the reasons that it was not done included the preference of riders on the Lefferts Boulevard branch for express service and increased cost.  Mr. Albert said that the Council will send a letter asking for another look at this issue.  Mr. Greif said that the changes should also include longer trains for the C line.

Stuart Goldstein asked about his request that the MetroCard Vending Machines include information on reduced fares.  Mr. Henderson said that an email was sent on this issue and that he has not yet received a response.

Introduction of Michael Wetherell, Acting Vice President and Chief Mechanical Officer, Car Equipment to discuss new subway cars that is currently in the development or procurement processMr. Wetherell said that the focus of his presentation would be the New Millennium Rail Car and the R160 fleet.

 

He said that in the early 1990’s, NYC Transit decided to try out new technologies.  In doing this they generally prefer technologies that have been tried elsewhere.  The reason is that NYC Transit is constantly ordering cars and does not have the time to work out solutions to problems in a class of cars.  The agency needs to have cars work well without modification and move on to the next car.  There were two contracts for new cars in the early 1990’s, one for the A Division, and the other for the B Division.  As a first step, they got prototype set of 10 cars.  Mr. Wetherell said that Transit does not currently use these cars in service, but they led to development of R142, R142a, R143, and R160 cars.

Mr. Wetherell said that there are 1662 R160 cars and that this is the best performing fleet for NYC Transit, with a 700,000 miles Mean Distance Between Failures, the best in the nation.  He said that the electronic strip map used in the R160 cars was specified through a change order because these cars will be used on many lines and the electronic system is flexible.  He also noted that the doors on R160 cars are much better than those on other fleets and that these cars are Communication Based Train Control (CBTC) ready, with a lighter weight than previous car classes.

When CBTC comes to the 7 line, it will be implemented through the addition of 126 new R188 cars plus the addition of CBTC capability to 380 R142A cars. This will provide for a total of 46 11-car CBTC capable trains.  This system allows for tighter spacing of trains and more throughput.  The 11 car trainsets will include one new “C” car in addition to the “A” and “B” cars found in existing trainsets.

By December 2012, a base order that includes 23 new and 10 converted cars is scheduled to be complete.  These trainsets are needed for the testing of the 7 extension.  On the converted R142A cars there will be a bump-out to hold the CBTC equipment at the end of the car, which will require the relocation of the priority seat for persons with disabilities.  Mr. Greif wanted to know where the priority area will be relocated.  Mr. Wetherell responded he will check and get back to the Council.

Ms. Shannon asked is there anything in these cars to deal with flooding.  Mr. Wetherell stated that neither model of cars can be run with their motors under water.

He said that the delivery of R179 cars have been slowed by a delay in awarding the contract to produce them.  They had originally been slated to replace R44 cars, but due to structural issues with the R44 cars they had to be replaced earlier and now the R179s will replace the R32 cars. The R179 cars are based on R160 design and include updated cooling systems.

Ms. Mason asked what the term SMS means.  Mr. Wetherell said that it is an acronym for scheduled maintenance system and that the basic idea is to replace systems before they start failing in service.

Karyl Berger asked what Transit has to do in the shops to deal with the new classes of cars.  Mr. Wetherell replied that training on the new equipment is needed and that it is necessary that enough computers are available for diagnostic work.  He said that many of the shop personnel have enthusiastically taken on these challenges.

Mr. Weatherell said that there are also work train procurements in process, including 19 locomotives, 62 flat cars (including those for Continuous Welded Rail work and conventional flatcars), ballast regulators, and snow throwers.  Transit is currently working on specifications for a vacuum train.

Mr. Strauss asked about the horsepower of the work locomotives; Mr. Wetherell said that he will get back to the Council on this.

Next in the pipeline is the R211cars.  Mr. Wetherell said that we should not expect a procurement for these until the next Capital Program in 2015.  These cars will replace the R46s and for this new car Transit is looking to the next generation of design and talking to stakeholders about what they want.

Mr. Albert asked whether Transit is raising the MDBF requirements that new cars must meet.  Mr. Wetherell replied that the requirements are being increased, but only to 150,000 miles.  He noted that there is a cost associated with specifying higher performance requirements and that Transit knows that the systems in the new generation of cars will lead to high MDBFs.

Mr. Sinansky asked how much of the increase in MDBF is from new equipment and how much is from better maintenance.  Mr. Wetherell stated that scheduled maintenance is a significant cause of the increase, implementing it increases even older cars’ MDBFs.  He said that Transit is also raising MDBF by doing modifications to cars once they are in the fleet.

Mr. Albert asked if we will see other bidders for cars.  Mr. Wetherell said that we will still see Alstom, Kawasaki and Bombardier, but Transit will do outreach to expand the number of companies competing for procurements.

Ms. Mason asked whether there is a New York content requirement.  Mr. Wetherell stated that there can be no such requirement on federally funded cars.

Toya Williford asked where cars go when they are retired. Mr. Wetherell responded that some are used to build artificial reefs, but that the R44 cars are being scrapped.

Steve Mayo wanted to know whether there is any work being done on switching cars between the LIRR and Metro-North railroads to subways.  Mr. Wetherell noted that there are differences between the sizes of cars and that subway cars do not meet the requirement for 800,000 pounds of buff strength that applies to passenger equipment operated on the commuter railroads.

Mr. Goldstein asked where NYC Transit will be in procurement for replacement of Staten Island Railway cars.  Mr. Wetherell stated that there is no procurement at this time.  Mr. Goldstein also wanted to know if Transit is sharing the parts from retired cars with the Staten Island Railway.  Mr. Wetherell responded that they are.

Ms. Berger wanted to know if there is a plan for the troubleshooting of trains in the field.  Mr. Wetherell stated that Transit uses road car inspectors to troubleshoot trains in the field.

Ms. Shannon asked if there is a difference in spare ratio with the new cars, since they are more reliable.  Mr. Wetherell commented that they are able to increase the inspection and maintenance intervals and cut the spare ratio on the new cars.

Mr. Albert wanted to know about the arrangement of seating in the new cars.  Mr. Wetherell replied that seating on the R179 and R188 will match the last generation of cars.

Jim O’Shea asked what car will be used on the Second Avenue Subway.  Mr. Wetherell replied that the Second Avenue Subway will initially be an extension of the current Q train route, so it will use B division cars.

Mr. Greif asked what an R172 car is.  Mr. Wetherell replied that it is a ballast regulator.  Mr. Grief asked whether he knows where the R179 cars are going.  Mr. Wetherell replied, that since they are replacements for the R32 cars, the lines served by these cars would be a likely destination.

Ms. Williford wanted whether the NYCTRC can have more technical presentations of this sort.

Adjournment
The meeting was adjourned at 2:00 PM.

Respectfully submitted,
William Henderson
Executive Director

New York City Transit Riders Council
Chair’s Report
April 26, 2012

 

We held our first Bus Forum with Darryl Irick yesterday evening and had a lively airing of riders’ issues.  We had over 100 members of the public in attendance, as well as many of our members, and 40 of those attending were able to directly address their comments and questions to MTA bus operations management.

On April 10 we released our report on service diversion signage in the subway system, “DIVERTED! But – how do we know?”  We held a briefing for the press where we discussed our findings and recommendations, which was attended by reporters from the New York Post, NY1, and AM New York.  Thanks to Mike Sinansky who joined me at the press event, as well as to Ellyn and our other staff members who produced presentation graphics for the event and made sure it unfolded smoothly.

While our findings showed that the posting of service information was improved from several years ago, we still identified a number of places where signage could be improved, most notably in the posting of service notices near station entrances and the posting of comprehensive “directory” signage on subway platforms.  We also pointed out the need to improve information about alternative accessible routes when diversions impact ADA stations.  The report is in PDF form on our website, and if anyone would like a paper copy, please let the staff know and we will get you one.

On March 28, Bill Henderson attended the Community Advisory Committee meeting for the 34th Street Select Bus Service project.  As you know, the improvements to 34th Street have been scaled back considerably from the initial proposals, but even with the limited improvements made to date, travel time has decreased and ridership has increased.  The decreased travel time has allowed NYC Transit to provide more service with the same number of buses, increasing the number of trips by 24 on weekdays and Saturdays, and by 12 on Sundays.

The discussion at the meeting centered mainly on the curb regulations that would be in force throughout the corridor and what mixture of no stopping, no standing, and no parking zones and parking areas would be established and the times that restrictions would be in effect. There were no significant changes to the plan for bus stops that had been presented earlier.  The project will be phased to complete the section between 10th and 11th Avenues between June 2012 and July 2013, to coincide with work on the Hudson Yards.  The sections between 11th and 12th Avenues and 10th and Lexington Avenues will begin construction in August 2012 and complete in April 2013.  The section between Lexington Avenue and the eastern end of 34th Street will be completed between summer 2013 and fall 2014, to be coordinated with water tunnel and sewer work in this area.

The second round of FASTRACK subway repairs has begun, with the 7th Avenue (1,2,3) lines between 34th Street and Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn completed in the week of April 9 and the 8th Avenue (A,C,E) lines between 59th Street-Columbus Circle and Jay Street-Metrotech underway this week.  A copy of a letter with information on the 8th Avenue service shutdown is in your packet today.  One positive note on FASTRACK is that in the most recent shutdown NYC Transit ran a dedicated shuttle bus to serve the 145th and 148th Street 3 line stations that were left without any service when service was suspended in the first round of FASTRACK.  This is not the subway shuttle that we had wanted, but it is an improvement and President Prendergast has told me that under the current operating rules it would be impossible to operate reliable shuttle service.

The next FASTRACK service shutdowns will be on the B, D, and F lines between 59th Street-Columbus Circle and West 4th Street from May 14 to 18.

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