A meeting of the New York City Transit Riders Council (NYCTRC) was convened at 12 noon on April 28, 2011 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
• Edith Prentiss
• Marisol Halpern
• Michael Sinansky
• Burton M. Strauss, Jr.
The following members were absent:
• Shirley Genn
• Jessica Gonzalez-Rojas
• Toya Williford
In addition, the following persons were present:
• William A. Henderson -PCAC Executive Director
• Jan Wells -PCAC Associate Director
• Ellyn Shannon -PCAC Transportation Planner
• Frederick Smith -NYCT
• Alan Kritzler -MTA IG
• Cheska Tolentino -Concerned citizen
• Edley Thomas -Concerned citizen
• Alan Flacks -Concerned citizen
• Aaron Ramey -Concerned citizen
• Matt Shotkin -Concerned citizen
• Thomas Cobb -Concerned citizen
• Joseph Garber -Concerned citizen
• John Keefe -Concerned citizen
• Ken Stewart -Concerned citizen
Approval of Agenda and Minutes
The agenda for the April 28, 2011 meeting was approved. The minutes of the March 24, 2011 meeting were approved as amended.
The Chair’s Report is attached to these minutes.
Mike Sinansky stated that Darryl Irick’s response to the Council’s letter on bus diversions during special events was not correct. He said that after the MS race the NYPD reopened the streets but it was a half hour before bus service was resumed and that notices of the service diversions that should have been at bus stops were not posted prior to the event. Edith Prentiss said that during the Coogan’s Run in Fort Washington the service diversion signs that were posted indicated the wrong day for the event and that there were no signs posted to tell riders of diversions due to the Medieval Festival in this same area.
Due to the time required for other business, there was no Board Report given.
Alan Flacks stated that the booth agents answering the Help Point Intercoms do not have the necessary information about the system to give to customers. Edith Prentiss agreed with Mr. Flacks. Ms. Prentiss gave the example that booth agents often do not have answers to questions about which elevators are working and do not know alternate routes if a needed elevator is out of service. Stuart Goldstein suggested that the Council ask NYC Transit to provide the booth agents with training on information that would be commonly requested. Mike Sinansky stated that he recently used a Help Point Intercom and spoke to someone who seemed to be a booth agent.
Chris Greif asked if the Council could send a letter regarding retaining shuttle buses used to replace subway service stating that many routes need more buses as they are overcrowded. Ms. Prentiss raised several issues about changes to Access-A-Ride. She said that Access-A-Ride clients with conditional eligibility may have to use buses rather than receive door to door service.
Mr. Greif asked why in some stations in areas affected by weekend 4 line suspensions there are no signs or announcements stating that there is no 4 service and that special weekend J service is being provided as an alternative to service that was suspended due to construction. He said that on a recent weekend there were no platform conductors deployed to provide information to riders, but on-board conductors were making announcements about the service changes. Mr. Greif said that a letter on this subject should be sent to NYC Transit on the matter. Bill Henderson said that staff would contact NYC Transit about the issue.
Ken Stewart suggested that conductors could be provided with a special script for on board announcements.
Aaron Ramsey asked if there is a location in stations where upcoming projects are noted. He also stated that time based fare cards should be able to be reloaded. Mr. Albert replied that before NYC Transit begins to charge for new MetroCards the time based cards will be reloadable.
Ms. Prentiss commented about the many incidents she has encountered where bus lifts have been unable to be fully opened. She said that a bus operator refused to manually pull down the flap on a bus lift to let her get off the bus. Ms. Prentiss said that she had to get out of her chair to do it herself. She said that the driver stated that “John Samuelson said I don’t have to do this.”
Ms. Prentiss said that this problem is common on the M100, M5, and M4 buses, on which there are flaps on the lifts of their buses. Mr. Greif also mentioned that this is a problem with buses assigned out of the Ulmer Park depot.
There was no New Business discussed.
Introduction of Frederick E. Smith, Senior Vice President and Chief Engineer, NYC Transit Capital Program Management
Mr. Smith stated that he has been working with the Capital Program since the beginning, around 1982. He stated that at today’s meeting he wanted to outline what is in the new Capital Program and the uncertainties involved. He said that he also wanted to touch base on the status of the five year Capital Program and some of the commuter inconveniences that may result from it. Mr. Smith stated that the current MTA Capital Program is $23 billion, the megaprojects accounting for $5 billion and the NYC Transit part of the program making up $12.8 billion of the total.
There have been shifts toward bus funding in the present Capital Program, and most of these funds went toward the purchase of new vehicles. Andrew Albert asked why there is increased investment for buses. Mr. Smith commented that significant investments have been made in rail, but there is an increased demand for bus transportation and the merger of bus operations has resulted in new demands. Mr. Smith stated that NYC Transit has purchased several pilot fleets of 90 buses each for evaluation. Mr. Albert stated that 2,000 buses have been purchased in recent years.
Mr. Smith stated that NYC Transit is not in the place that we thought it would be with regard to the subway signal system. The IND lines have not been addressed to any great degree since the 1950s, so there are many needs in this part of the system. He commented in greater detail on one project, the 2 and 5 Junction at the E.180th Street interlocking. Rail yards and storage facilities are included in this project. Mr. Smith said that Capital Program Management has a redesign job in place to make moving equipment through this area easier. This project is on schedule.
Mr. Smith discussed the Flushing Line project. Part of this line is almost 100 years old, and the signals on this line needed refurbishment. This project is made more complex because it includes not only refurbishing wayside signals but also doing the work necessary to implement Communication Based Train Control (CBTC) on the Flushing Line. Mr. Albert stated that the cost of renewing the signals and implementing CBTC is not much more than redoing wayside signals alone.
Mr. Smith stated that until work at the end of the Flushing Line is completed, the performance of the line cannot be increased. When the 7 Line Extension is complete, this will go a long way toward improving the Line’s performance. Benefits include safety of operation and increased capacity by a factor of two trains per hours in the first phase. That means a better schedule adherence, reduced running time, and greater capacity for ATS & PA/CIS to be implemented.
Mr. Albert asked if these improvements will include stopping express trains at 74th Street. Mr. Smith said that the interlocking work that is part of the project will permit this. The start date for this service change will be in June 2015, with the cutover of CBTC. Ms. Prentiss asked if there will be consideration of making the accessible side of the station a permanent stop at Willets Point. Mr. Smith stated that there is no work scheduled at Willets Point through 2014. Mr. Greif asked why the Willets Point station can’t have elevators. Ms. Prentiss said that elevators are not necessary at this station as you can just open the gate to provide access to ramps. Mr. Albert stated that this may be the time to hold a press conference at the station to highlight accessibility issues.
Ellyn Shannon asked if the new cars on the 7 line represent an expansion of current fleet. Mr. Smith stated that they do and that NYC Transit expanded Corona Yard to accommodate more cars.
Mr. Greif suggested that the volume of the public address system on R143 cars on the L line should be increased so that announcements can be heard.
Mr. Smith noted that the Culver Line’s viaduct structure is being completely reconstructed. The scale of this work is the reason that it requires 54 hour service shutdowns over the weekends. Mr. Smith said that the project is prefabricating track panels to save time and is also engineering the reconstructed section for heavier trains. Tom Jost said that they raised the bridge on the Gowanus Expressway because the Gowanus Canal is considered navigable and that he believes that this was also the reason for the height of the Culver line. Mr. Jost asked whether anyone tried to change the status of Gowanus Canal so that the tracks would not have to be so high. Mr. Smith stated that there were discussions about this option, but these matters are a Coast Guard call, and NYC Transit couldn’t wait any longer to reconstruct the viaduct.
Mr. Smith commented on the work planned for stations and how NYC Transit’s approach to stations has changed. He said that there is a new strategy in place that uses a structured assessment to select the work that needs to be done. These assessments have been used to prioritize work, with a condition rating ranging from one meaning the best to a rating of five meaning the worst. There are currently 173 stations in master planning and design, but the scopes of this work vary. He said that there is station component work planned in all boroughs and renewal projects in the stations will cost about $15 Million. The plan going forward is to identify components with 3, 4, or 5 ratings and fix them.
Mr. Albert asked what the length of the inspection cycle is for stations, how many people work on surveys, and whether sound is used as a means of evaluating condition. Mr. Smith stated that a major structural survey is conducted every four years and condition surveys are performed by structural engineers every year. A station maintenance survey is performed every six months. This includes only a visual survey, and no inspections using sound are routinely performed. Alan Flacks asked why there are so many inspections and whether this work is necessary because of neglect. Mr. Smith stated that the inspections take place regularly, but there is a backlog of work because of the inability to fund all the work that should be done and the ongoing deterioration of system components.
Mr. Greif stated that he is seeing cracks on stairs at F and D line stations and has observed loose rubbing boards in open cut and elevated stations in Brooklyn. Mr. Smith stated that where there is a safety hazard, they will repair the deterioration promptly. In these cases the station supervisor should be contacted.
Ms. Prentiss commented on two stations where planned improvements fell to the wayside. She asked about renovations to Times Square Shuttle and the Kings Highway station on the Brighton Line. She said she recalls that 2008 was the initial date for completion of the Times Square improvements. Mr. Smith stated that the Times Square project is in Phase 3. Mr. Smith said that the main concern with the Times Square shuttle improvements is the cost to straighten the curves on this line. The cost for this work will be between $300 and $400 million, and as a result this project will be delayed.
Trudy Mason commented that at the 51st Street 6 line station there seem to be regular closures of the passageway to the E and M trains when it rains. In this passageway there was a piece of wall that fell in the last week and Ms. Mason asked whether this would be within Mr. Smith’s purview. Mr. Smith said that when he came to Transit, he was most concerned about water leakage. The problem is where water entering the system comes from. It could be from sewers, water mains, or another source. He said that they address water leaks by grouting, but grouting just pushes water to another location.
Ms. Mason asked if the leak remediation work falls under the Capital Program and Mr. Smith replied that it does. Ms. Mason wanted to know if the passageway and its issues would be included in the assessment. Mr. Albert asked Mr. Smith whether he can take action if the Council can get him a list of specific locations where conditions demand attention. Mr. Smith said that he is able to address specific locations that are presented to him. Mr. Albert stated that someone will go and take pictures of problematic locations and provide them to Mr. Smith.
Mr. Smith discussed the demolition of the Dyckman Street northbound station and the additional work up the line. Ms. Prentiss said that there are issues with the alternatives that people must use due to station closings. She said that the work is taxing the Bx7 bus to 225 Street. She stated that recently approximately 45 people got on the Bx7 bus because the shuttle that replaces subway service never showed up. She noticed that people would stand and wait at the shuttle stop, but when it did not arrive they then would take the Bx7 bus. She wanted to know who is responsible for the shuttle. Mr. Smith stated that there are currently people checking the numbers of riders standing on these buses.
Mr. Smith stated the station component work, including artwork at the 86th Street R line station in Brooklyn, is moving along. There are three stations on Rockaway Line that have raised some concerns because weather caused many schedule problems. Scheduled completion for these stations is at the end of the year.
Mr. Smith noted that the Kings Highway ADA elevator has a very unusual design and has been a challenge. Elevators are a custom job in the NYC Transit system, so fitting them into existing stations takes some time.
Ken Stewart commented on the tile work at the South Ferry station. He said that a white color without contrasting colors is not good for visually impaired riders. Mr. Greif asked if the platform edge at the Kings Highway (Brighton Line) and Sheepshead Bay stations could be repainted. He also asked about the Bay Parkway station.
Ms. Prentiss stated that she would like to have a list of completion dates for ADA stations. This list at one time was handed out at ADA CCC meetings but the completion dates are no longer distributed. She asked what happened. Mr. Smith informed Ms. Prentiss that the ADA stations are now ahead of schedule. Mr. Smith said that a total of 53 stations are currently under construction and they should be completed by 2012. He stated that there is also a commitment to maintain defect free stations. This program started with 19 stations in 2010, with 7 more stations added so far in 2011. The plan is to expand to 42 stations in 2011 and 60 in 2012. This initiative is being funded by the operating budget. Ellyn Shannon asked if this work is being done by a new group. Mr. Smith said that this project is being undertaken through reallocation of current funding.
Mr. Smith said that PA/CIS will eventually be installed in142 A Division stations. Currently, the system is in 122 stations, and installation in the Fulton Street and World Trade Center station is delayed because of other ongoing work.
Sharon King Hoge asked why there are no PA/CIS signs at the 59th Street and Lexington Avenue station, since there are both upstairs and downstairs tracks.
Mr. Smith stated that it is difficult to locate some PA/CIS signs because of low ceilings. He said that they would like to finish work on the initial contract, and in a second contract they will reposition some signs and change the types of signs installed at some locations. There are no PA/CIS signs at 59th and Lexington yet. This location is in the last 20 stations scheduled to be completed, and all work is to be completed by the end of September.
Ms. Mason commented on the operation of PA/CIS at the 77th Street station. She stated that on March 12 at 6 p.m. there were wait times of 17 minutes, but the signs switched between arrival times of 6 minutes, 3 minutes, and 2 minutes. The audio announcements that were being made were about there being no 7 line service, but then started saying that downtown 6 line service had been suspended. She said that it would have been better to have no information than wrong information on the countdown clocks.
Mr. Albert asked if the Rail Control Center has the ability to switch off PA/CIS signs. Mr. Smith replied that the signs are operated by software and the information on them is schedule based, with information about the location of trains also used in calculating arrival times. He said that the Rail Control Center has the capacity to make announcements throughout the system.
Jan Wells asked why we need ”1” and “2” to indicate the first and second trains on PA/CIS signs. She said that she finds these numbers confusing and that riders can determine the order in which trains will arrive based on the arrival times shown. Mr. Jost agreed with Ms. Wells’ point.
Mr. Ramey said that information on train operation should be available before riders go through the turnstile. He suggested that all trains on PA/CIS signs be designated either “up” or “down”. He said that full information is most useful at platforms and that outside of the turnstiles riders only need information about whether trains are running normally.
Mr. Goldstein asked whether all funding is committed for PA/CIS, or whether some can be reprogramed. Mr. Smith stated that there is no money for new signs, but there can be some modification of the layout of the display board. He said that they may have different kinds of displays in different areas. The questions about modifications are within the purview of planning. He said that Paul Fleuranges plays a major role in decisions on the location of display boards within stations.
Ms. King Hoge asked if there is a single person or a team of people monitoring the system. Mr. Smith stated that the system is not yet a finished project. The contractor is currently in charge of monitoring and making corrections. When the system is complete, there will be a desk at the Rail Control Center that will be responsible for the system. Mr. Smith stated that when a sign is located in the fare control area, no trains will be listed with “1” or “0” minutes to arrival, to avoid encouraging riders to run for trains. In some places, the spacing of track circuits does not allow for a message of one minute to train arrival. Mr. Goldstein asked whether existing annunciators will be left in the stations, and Mr. Smith said they would be.
Mike Sinansky asked who is responsible for East Side Access. Mr. Smith stated that the MTA Capital Construction Company is in charge. Mr. Sinansky also commented that there is an issue about removal of excavated material from this project by rail, as MTA planning had made commitments that rail would be used, but material is now being removed by truck. Mr. Albert said that Mysore Nagaraja might know about this arrangement.
Alan Flacks stated that signs should not be blocked by other signs. He also asked what is holding up the southbound Cortlandt Street station opening and questioned whether projects be suspended because of a lack of funds. Mr. Smith stated that the problem with sign location is that there are many standards that must be satisfied. The completion of the Cortlandt Street station is the responsibility of the Port Authority and will be the last part of the World Trade Center project to be completed. Mr. Smith noted that any project that is in construction will be completed. He said that funds for B Division strategies for PA/CIS-like systems that are programmed for 2012 could be delayed.
Mr. Smith stated that Help Point Intercoms will be installed throughout the system. Ms. Prentiss asked how the current design could have passed an ADA compatibility test. She asked how the intercoms accommodate people without hearing. She said that advocates are making the same complaints as were made when the Intercom design was put into the Museum of Modern Art. She said that the Intercoms provide nothing for the deaf and nothing for non-English speakers and that they are not good for individuals with disabilities.
Mr. Smith generally discussed the Capital Program. He stated that because NYC Transit received only $5 billion for the first two years, they had to shift many projects into 2012. When the Capital Program is rebalanced, they will level out the expenditures in the 2012, 2013, and 2014 years. If NYC Transit receives no money, they will protect the track program, the station component program, and signal work in Queens.
The meeting was adjourned at 2:00 PM.
PCAC Administrative Assistant
New York City Transit Riders Council
Chair’s Report – April 28, 2011
This morning Bill Henderson participated in a Long Island City press conference addressing 7 line delays, which was organized by Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer of Queens. Also speaking at the event were U.S. Representative Carolyn Maloney and State Senator Michael Gianaris. Bill spoke about the need to maintain the system in a state of good repair to prevent delays such as those occurring along the 7 line and the $10 billion MTA capital funding gap that threatens NYC Transit’s ability to address the system’s needs. The event received coverage from NY1, WNBC-4, WABC-7, WPIX-11, as well as several print reporters.
We received a response to our letter about bus diversions during public events held in the Battery Park City area. The impetus for the letter was that New York City Half Marathon that was held on March 20. In the letter, Darryl Irick, NYC Transit Senior Vice President – Buses, stated that the Department of Buses’ restoration of service is governed by the NYPD’s reopening of the streets and that detour signs are posted in all affected bus stops when service is diverted. He stated that Road Operations personnel had checked signs as frequently as possible during the Half Marathon to replace missing signs. A copy of the letter is in your packets today.
Karyl Berger and Edith Prentiss went to see the Help Point Intercom at the Brooklyn Bridge station. There are currently ten units installed at the Brooklyn Bridge station and nine units installed at the 23rd Street station for evaluation. Although the HPI was supposed to be turned on the day that Karyl and Edith visited, the unit was still dark. They looked at it anyway and have written a detailed letter to President Prendergast outlining a number of concerns. They did learn that the manufacturer made an error on the specification of the color of the buttons on the unit and that they will be made brighter when a full order is placed.
Bill Henderson has attended two Empire State Transportation Alliance (ESTA) steering committee meetings since our last NYCTRC meeting. ESTA is gearing up for a major effort to ensure adequate funding for the MTA Capital Program, which is currently funded only through the end of this year. The presentation that we just heard from Fred Smith underscores the importance of the Capital Program for the health of the transit system. Funding of the MTA Capital Program is expected to be taken up in Albany in the fall of this year and we will be letting members know ways in which they can emphasize to elected officials the MTA’s critical need for capital funds.
Jan Wells and Ellyn Shannon attended the Citizens Budget Commission breakfast on April 6 where the Commission released its report “Benchmarking Efficiency for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Services”. The report is intended to support the ongoing efforts to control costs in the MTA by identifying unit cost measures and other efficiency indicators that are used to compare the MTA’s commuter railroads, bus services, and subways to those in other large U. S. cities. PCAC staff found it to be a very good companion piece to our Minutes Matter report, and Dr. Wells, wrote a letter to the Citizens Budget Commission, to insure they were aware of our Minutes Matter report, which seeks to benchmark service performance.
You may have read news accounts of issues with the MTA Business Service Center, and in the past month there have been some major changes in leadership at the Center. President Len DeSimone has been transferred to MNR to work on special projects until his retirement in June. Chief Operating Officer Charlie Monheim will be taking over the management of the BSC.