A meeting of the New York City Transit Riders Council (NYCTRC) was convened at 12:00 noon on December 17, 2009 in the 5th floor Board room at MTA Headquarters, 347 Madison Avenue, New York City. The following members were present:
• Andrew Albert
• Trudy Mason
• Stuart Goldstein
• Edith Prentiss
• William K. Guild
• Sharon Santa Maria
• Marisol Halpern
• Michael Sinansky
• Sharon King Hoge
• Toya Williford
The following members were absent:
• Shirley Genn
• Jessica Gonzalez-Rojas
• Thomas Jost
• Burton M. Strauss, Jr.
In addition, the following persons were present:
• William Henderson -PCAC Executive Director
• Jan Wells -PCAC Associate Director
• Ellyn Shannon -PCAC Transportation Planner
• Karyl Berger -PCAC Research Associate
• Tom Prendergast -NYCT
• Deborah Hall-Moore -NYCT
• Ashley Roberts -Assembly Member Kellner’s Office
• Beverly Dolinsky -Concerned citizen
• Matt Shotkin -Concerned citizen
• Joseph Garber -Concerned citizen
• Meg Reed Mian -Concerned citizen
• Christopher Greif -Concerned citizen
• Bob Olmsted -Concerned citizen
• Jesse Moskowitz -Concerned citizen
• Dan Benjoya -Concerned citizen
• Lou Sepersky -Concerned citizen
• Chloe Seton -Concerned citizen
• Alan Flacks -Concerned citizen
• Ray Knowles -Concerned citizen
Approval of Agenda and Minutes
The agenda for the December 17, 2009 meeting was approved. The minutes of the November 19, 2009 meeting were approved.
The Chair’s Report is attached to these minutes.
Mr. Albert reminded the members to heed the newly approved Code of Conduct rules for all meetings.
Sharon King Hoge noted that there should be electronic bus stop signs at every stop in the city.
Joseph Garber and Christopher Greif asked for copies of the B44 SBS presentation.
In response to Michael Sinansky’s question whether there was any noticeable enforcement of the 34th Street bus lanes, Jan Wells noted that she and Karyl noticed a patrolman in a police car moving cars that were stopped in the bus lane.
Edith Prentiss said there is absolutely no traffic enforcement at the 207th Street end of the BX12 SBS route and noted there is still no shelter at that location. Marisol Halpern agreed that enforcement of bus lane restrictions on the Bx12 route is hit or miss.
Andrew Albert reported that the MTA Board members are thoroughly disgusted with the current budget situation. He said one can only assume that many businesses in the northern counties have chosen not to pay the payroll taxes. He said people may think that enforcement of the payroll tax will not be very vigorous so they assume that they can get away without paying the taxes.
Mr. Albert said the one piece of good news in the service cuts proposed to balance the MTA budget is that the N Train will not be going over the Manhattan Bridge during late night hours, which means that the Broadway Line stations below Canal Street won’t be closed during this period.
Mr. Albert reported that U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood recently spoke about aiding transit. Mr. Albert said that the MTA budget situation may resurrect the congestion pricing issue, as many people are traveling out of their way to go over bridges that are still untolled.
William Henderson noted that paratransit fares have not been slated to increase in the 2010 budget. Ms. Prentiss said that more and more vouchers for black cars are being used in the paratransit program but that yellow cabs can’t accommodate wheelchairs.
Trudy Mason suggested that the schedule for implementation of the service cuts should be changed if the circumstances change. She said the greatest concerns are the changes that are proposed for paratransit and student fares. She noted that students did not receive free transportation on public buses and subways until 1989. Mr. Albert said there was supposed to be a partnership between the City, State and MTA to bear the cost of school transportation, but that the MTA’s share of this cost has grown greatly since the initial agreement between the parties.
Mr. Henderson indicated that the discontinuation of the resident rebate program for the Cross Bay Bridge was still included in the package. This program provides for a refund of crossing charges paid by Broad Channel and Rockaway Peninsula residents.
In response to Stuart Goldstein’s question whether the 10 percent non-represented payroll cut is being implemented, Mr. Henderson said it is still in the mix. Mr. Goldstein noted that the Council should go on record that all fares that are due to MTA operating agencies should be collected.
The Council discussed issues related to security cameras and service gates at the Madison Avenue entrances to the Grand Central/42nd Street station. Mr. Albert said that he would look into these issues.
Ms. Prentiss said that when NYC Transit used intercoms at the World Trade Center station’s unstaffed entrances to allow customers to contact a station agent it was a disaster.
Mr. Greif spoke about the B103 bus and asked whether it could be moved from Avenue M to Avenue L.
Introduction of Thomas F. Prendergast, President, New York City Transit
Mr. Prendergast indicated that when he started talking to Jay Walder about assuming the Presidency of NYC Transit, the budget situation was not quite as severe as it was when he assumed the job. He said that he anticipates the financial picture will be dismal until mid-2011.
Mr. Prendergast said he has talked with Chairman Walder about leveraging the investments that have been made in the transit system to improve the customers’ experience. He noted that the cars and tracks have been improved and then maintained, but this has not been the case with the stations. He said it is very important for the stations to be maintained at a high standard. Mr. Prendergast said now the strategy is to ascertain the level of necessary cuts and to decide how to make them with the least impact on customers. He emphasized that it important to use resources carefully because no additional funding is available from Albany. He said it is critical to maintain service, especially for those who are totally dependent on transit.
Mr. Prendergast said he would not promise to provide anything that he could not deliver.
Mr. Albert acknowledged that some of the proposed service cuts were worse than others. Mr. Prendergast said the Transit Riders Council can be useful in helping to set priorities on trimming service if that is what needs to be done.
Mr. Sinansky said he is hopeful that there will be a resurgence in the sources of MTA funding. He noted that achieving a State of Good Repair has been the top priority since Richard Ravitch was the MTA Chairman. In response to Mr. Sinansky’s question about the impact of current financial constraints on achieving a State of Good Repair, Mr. Prendergast said that the car fleet is in good shape as much of it is relatively new. He said that NYC Transit does have an SMS (Scheduled Maintenance System) program but they are looking at stretching maintenance intervals where they think it is possible to do so without significant negative impacts. He said this strategy could result in a $5 to $6 million savings, which is significant in terms of service cuts that could in turn be avoided.
Mr. Goldstein asked Mr. Prendergast to talk about issues, other than financial ones, that are important to him. Mr. Prendergast said his top priority is being able to implement technology successfully at a reasonable cost. He noted that at SkyTrain, there were fewer of these issues because the system is completely automated.
Mr. Prendergast said he fully agreed with Beverly Dolinsky’s comment that State of Good Repair should come before any expansion of the system. He noted that he is concerned about the costs of the expansion projects but that a commitment to complete them has been made to the Federal Government.
Trudy Mason noted that the Second Avenue Subway project is three to five years behind schedule and that the public doesn’t distinguish between capital and operating funds. Ms. Mason encouraged Mr. Prendergast to come to the Second Avenue construction zone and see the impact that the subway construction has had on the shop owners. Mr. Prendergast said that because he had just come on board, he was not totally up to speed on the SBS M15 project. He said that he finally met with Janette Sadik-Khan late last week. Mr. Prendergast said he would be happy to meet to discuss the Second Avenue/SBS issues, but said his focus right now has had to be on the budget.
Sharon Santa Maria expressed concern that the new track at the 25th Street (West End D Line) station has not been lubricated, and so the noise from this section of track has become deafening. Mr. Prendergast said he would look into this situation.
Ms. Prentiss asked that Mr. Prendergast continue to have a liaison in his office to will deal with ADA issues. Mr. Prendergast said he will continue to ensure that accessibility issues receive his attention. Ms. Prentiss said that she wanted the Access-A-Ride operation brought in house, instead of being operated by contractors. Mr. Prendergast said that Access-A-Ride accounts for $423 million of Transit’s budget and declared that he won’t bring any work in house until there are better agreements with the labor unions that would represent these workers.
In response to Karyl Berger’s questions whether Mr. Prendergast had any thoughts on the future of the line General Manager Program and how the program can better address station “complexes” that serve a number of subway lines, Mr. Prendergast said there are many elements of the program that he embraces. He noted that Alan Kiepper implemented the Station Manager program. He said it is easy to decentralize everyday cleaning, but extraordinary cleaning or maintenance issues should be handled in a more centralized fashion.
Christopher Greif said he was concerned about the proposed changes for Access-A-Ride because there is lots of diversity of information in the press. He also said that many people who can’t use the subways may be affected by the bus service cuts. Mr. Prendergast acknowledged that they were looking closely at paratransit but stated that Transit has a responsibility to provide the service. He said they have to look at the delivery of more service at the same cost or the same level of service at a lower cost. He said that they have to look at people’s abilities and their individual circumstances in evaluating needs and he understands that one size does not fit everyone.
Mr. Goldstein noted that the union leadership has been very critical of the Line General Manager program because many of the managers did not have any operational experience. Mr. Prendergast noted that since 1982, they have tried to cross pollinate across divisions. He said people can use information from outside of their specific area of responsibility to develop new solutions.
Mr. Goldstein asked Mr. Prendergast’s thoughts about One Person Train Operation (OPTO), Mr. Prendergast said that Vancouver’s SkyTrain is fully automated and they recovered 104 percent of their operational costs at the farebox . He said they can run the system safely with no crew as it is all automated and are working towards increasing automation in the NYC Transit system.
Mr. Albert noted that people are walking into the system without paying in places where there is no station agent. Mr. Prendergast acknowledged that if this is happening a lot, the savings gained by removing the agents would be lost.
In response to Ms. Mason’s question as to his position on congestion pricing, Mr. Prendergast said that he is a proponent of congestion pricing and that it could be part of a solution to the MTA’s financial problems.
Ms. Prentiss spoke about her concerns with people who use hand trucks on elevators, which prevent her from getting on, and with people who do not fold up strollers when riding on the trains. Mr. Prendergast said that because there were a number of fatalities when Transit tried to eliminate open strollers in the subways, it is better to have the kids in the strollers. He said they are trying to give access to everyone who needs to use the subway.
In response to Mr. Sepersky’s question about when the proposed service cuts will be put into effect, Mr. Prendergast said around the beginning of July but it depends on the timing of the employees’ “picks “of work assignments. He said some proposed service cuts will require a hearing while other changes will not.
Mr. Flacks noted that no help point intercom at the Grand Central Shuttle at the Madison Avenue entrance.
The meeting was adjourned at 2:00 PM.