A meeting of the New York City Transit Riders Council (NYCTRC) was convened at 12:00 noon on December 16, 2010 in the 5th floor Board room of MTA Headquarters, 347 Madison Avenue, New York City. The following members were present:
• Andrew Albert
• Sharon King Hoge
• Shirley Genn
• Trudy Mason
• Stuart Goldstein
• Michael Sinansky
• William K. Guild
• Burton M. Strauss, Jr.
• Marisol Halpern
• Toya Williford
The following members were absent:
• Jessica Gonzalez-Rojas
• Thomas Jost
• Christopher Greif
• Edith Prentiss
In addition, the following persons were present:
• William Henderson -PCAC Executive Director
• Jan Wells -PCAC Associate Director
• Ellyn Shannon -PCAC Transportation planner
• Alla Reddy -NYCT
• Iliberth Popovits -NYCT
• Deborah Hall-Moore -NYCT
• Theresa Juva -AMNY
• Ken Stewart -Concerned citizen
• Matt Shotkin -Concerned citizen
• Brigette Shayne -Concerned citizen
• Marsha Whitehead -Concerned citizen
• Joseph Garber -Concerned citizen
Approval of Agenda and Minutes
The agenda for the December 16, 2010 meeting was approved. The minutes of the November 18, 2010 meeting were approved as amended.
The Chair’s Report is attached to these minutes.
Andrew Albert said that the Council should write a letter to Jay Walder about the name change for the Fulton Street station. He said it is very off putting for the riders. Bill Guild noted that Bliss Street is still on the 46th Street station sign on the 7 line and asked whether it is still part of the station’s formal name. Sharon King Hoge suggested the MTA should be selling station naming opportunities, but should keep the station’s original name in addition to the new name.
Ellyn Shannon commented on the 34th Street busway and the volume of buses that use this corridor. Mike Sinansky said he had heard on the news that businesses were opposed to the bus lanes. He said that, two days ago in the eastbound lane between 2nd and 3rd Avenues, there were a number of illegally stopped vehicles.
Trudy Mason noted that the MTA had put out a big announcement about the use of cameras on buses as a bus lane enforcement tool on 1st and 2nd Avenues. She said that enforcement is not happening in the corridor and that the closing of a lane that will be used for a bike lane and Second Avenue Subway construction continues to create congestion.
Mr. Albert noted the Jay Street connection to the R at Lawrence Street is so short of a distance, it’s amazing that a connector wasn’t built sooner.
Stuart Goldstein said there is no indication on train displays that the G goes to Church Avenue and noted this should be included in the letter about station names. He said that the letter should also note that train display signs still have the old station names, which is even more confusing to the rider. Ms. Mason suggested that the letter should ask whether the Chairman knew in advance about the name change and also ask what the procedure is for changing a station’s name.
Ms. Mason said the countdown clocks don’t work because she is aware of a situation where there was a train with a sick passenger stopped in a station, yet the countdown clock continued to say that there would be a train arriving in two minutes. Mr. Albert noted that on the A Division, the countdown clock system knows the location of the train and not the circumstances that may delay it. Thus the display will continue to say that a train will arrive in a given number of minutes even if that train is not moving. He said that the Council can check to see if the countdown clock system can be manually overridden in these cases.
Ms. Mason asked that consideration of the November 2010 minutes be reopened. She wanted to clarify that when she talked about the need for the NYCTRC to have greater visibility at the President’s Forum, she cited sitting behind the Transit staff as one example of ways in which the Council could be more visible. Mr. Albert said the minutes will be amended to reflect her clarification.
Ms. Shannon suggested that prior to the start of the President’s Forum, the members could stand near the registration table and introduce themselves to the attendees as a way to emphasize that the NYCTRC is the Forum’s sponsor.
Andrew Albert announced that the 2011 budget was approved, although it is very precarious. He reported that the union agreements contemplated in the budget provide for no net increase in pay. This means that any increase in compensation must be matched by productivity increases of equal value. He said that both commuter railroads’ union contracts have already expired. Mr. Albert said that of this moment, there has been no indication that the State has any intention of raiding the MTA’s dedicated funds.
Mr. Goldstein asked if the budget was passed before after the recent court decision on the TWU agreements that had been settled through arbitration. Mr. Albert said that the budget passed after this decision came down, but that this settlement was partially covered under a prior budget and reflected in the 2011 budget. Mr. Albert said that there had been a great deal of internal savings incorporated into the proposed budget and that in 2011 a billion dollars was shaved from the MTA’s cost structure. He said that the PCAC has been asked to sign on to a letter to be sent to Governor-elect Cuomo urging him to make sure that every dollar pledged to the MTA is received by the MTA. Ms. Mason said the letter will need to be artfully worded. Mr. Albert said that the TWU will likely be even more militant than the last round of negotiations.
Mr. Albert talked about the latest customer satisfaction survey results. He said a respondent only had to have ridden a train once within the last month in order to participate. The Council will try to get an explanation of the methodology that was used for the survey as well as an accounting of the cost to do the survey. He noted that MTA Board Members have already asked for this information.
Mr. Albert said the Board voted to defund Long Island Bus operations in 2011. Darryl Irick, acting President of Long Island Bus, said that without MTA funding the agency’s operations would cease at the end of the first quarter of 2011, and until then service would degrade due to reductions in vacancy coverage. Mr. Albert said that Long Island Bus riders have been characterized as people who do not have any other transportation options.
Discussion of NYCTRC Mission Statement and Goals
Mr. Goldstein noted the statement implies an investigation and oversight role for the Council. He said there should be a greater emphasis on this. He said that the statement should say that the NYCTRC should “study, investigate, monitor and make recommendations to improve performance and efficiency.”
Ms. Mason said the mission statement should not be put into bullet points and instead done as a narrative. It should state that the NYCTRC is the voice of NYC Transit riders. She said there needs to be a broad overall statement of the purpose of the Council.
Mr. Goldstein said that the term “watchdog” could be used. He also suggested that a statement should include language specifying that the Council also represents the riders of the Staten Island Railway. Mr. Albert said that MTA Bus should be included as well.
Mr. Guild said there should also be a reference stating that the NYCTRC monitors the MTA Capital Program.
Mr. Strauss said that he found the interaction of the mission statement and goals in the draft to be confusing.
Mr. Sinansky said the Mission Statement should be a short paragraph that is followed by the list of goals that articulate the areas the Council covers.
Ms. Genn said the statement should have a line about what the Council does and should include information about how to contact the Council.
In response to Mr. Albert’s question as to whether staff has followed up on the issues that were raised at the November President’s Forum, Mr. Henderson said that staff has followed up but no answers have been received from NYC Transit as of the current date.
Ken Stewart said he had some difficulty navigating the Times Square station and asked about the task force that was look into issues involving this station.
Ms. Mason asked if an action items list from the President’s Forum could be generated and a status report on the outstanding items could be prepared.
No New business was discussed.
Introduction of Alla Reddy, NYC Transit Senior Director — Operations Planning, to discuss collection and analysis of data for operational performance indicators
Mr. Reddy introduced Iliberth Popovits, who works for Mr. Reddy.
Mr. Reddy said he read a draft of the PCAC’s latest report on performance indicators and said it was very thorough and thought the report was very useful. He noted that in 1994 the MTA Inspector General reported that there were no meaningful indicators. He said that he was in Operations Planning working behind the scenes at this time, and that this was the period when the headway regularity indicator was introduced. He said that at this time an effort was begun to automate ridership information to improve the data that was collected.
Mr. Reddy explained that when they first started collecting the data they entered it by keypunching, then moved to entering the data from forms using optical character recognition technology, and then moved on to greater levels of automation. He said that they collect data from 42 routes for analysis.
In response to Mr. Strauss’ question as to whether this process is automated, Mr. Reddy said that on lines 1 to 6 the data collection process is automated.
In response to Ms. Mason’s question as to what are the scheduled headways for the 6 line, Mr. Albert said that he would get it for her through the RailBandit software on his cellphone.
In response to Jan Wells’ question as to the procedure used in collecting information in parts of the Bronx where Automatic Train Supervision (ATS) has not been installed, Mr. Reddy said they have enough data points to accurately estimate the information for these locations.
In response to Ms. Mason’s question as to how his unit knows the intervals between trains, Mr. Reddy said that this information is received through an electronic transmission from the ATS system.
Mr. Reddy said that they use Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs) to gather data when manual data collection is necessary. He said that NYC Transit internally developed the programming used on the handheld units.
Mr. Reddy said his unit generates special reports that have been requested to allow NYC Transit to take corrective action on schedules and service. He said the presence of ATS has allowed his unit to prepare very specific and thorough reports that had not been possible before because of the lack of technology. He noted that they are hoping to use Communication Based Train Control (CBTC) as a data source in the future.
Ms. Popovits demonstrated the Personal Digital Assistant used in data collection.
In response to Ms. Mason’s question whether the traffic checkers are hourly employees, Ms. Popovits said they are. Ms. Mason questioned why these employees are paid for travel time to their survey location. Ms. Popovits said that the surveyors have to pick up their PDA at a central location and then go to their survey location; she noted that the surveyors don’t know where they will be on any given day.
Ms. Popovits said that surveyors write down notes when issues out of the ordinary arise, such as a bus bypassing a wheelchair user, a bus with no run number listed, road work at the survey location, or the occurrence of an accident affecting the route or mechanical problems with a bus.
In response to Ms. Shannon’s question whether traffic checkers get sent to survey bus flows when there are special events that affect traffic, Mr. Reddy said that they try not to survey where unusual occurrences affect traffic and that they don’t use any data from days and locations affected by those events, so that the results reported are not skewed.
In response to Mr. Albert’s question as to what happens if a PDA stops working, Mr. Reddy said that surveyors always carry paper forms to ensure that they can collect the data in their assignment.
Ms. Mason said it would be much simpler if the checkers just had their own PDAs assigned to them and didn’t have to pick them up at the start of their shifts. Ms. Popovits said they don’t let the surveyors take home PDA’s because NYC Transit doesn’t want to lose the PDAs and any data that are stored in them. She said that the data are generally more valuable than the PDA itself. Mr. Reddy said they had tried the system that Ms. Mason suggested, but that the PDAs were often not returned in time to allow the necessary data to be utilized.
In response to Mr. Sinansky’s question as to what Transit does when there seems to be a consistent problem on a route, Mr. Reddy said that they communicate the nature of the problem to the appropriate line manager for subways. He said reports are shared on a biweekly basis, but that his unit does not have the resources to provide daily updates to managers.
The meeting was adjourned at 2:00 PM.
PCAC Research Associate