NEW YORK CITY TRANSIT RIDERS COUNCIL
MINUTES OF DECEMBER 18, 2014
A meeting of the New York City Transit Riders Council (NYCTRC) was convened at 12:00 noon on December 18, 2014 in the 5th Floor Board Room at 347 Madison Avenue, New York City.
The following members were present:
Andrew Albert Sharon King Hoge
Christopher Greif Trudy Mason
Jessica Gonzalez-Rojas Edith Prentiss
William K. Guild Michael Sinansky
Marisol Halpern Burton M. Strauss, Jr.
The following members were absent:
Stuart Goldstein Scott Nicholls
In addition, the following persons were present:
William Henderson -PCAC Executive Director
Ellyn Shannon -PCAC Associate Director
Karyl Berger -PCAC Research Assistant
Bradley Brashears -PCAC Transportation Planner
Deborah Morrison -PCAC Administrative Assistant
Robert Schiffer -Investment Group, Green Realty
Anthony Drummond -Brooklyn Boro President’s Office
Yvonne Morrow -Concerned citizen
Ken Stewart -Concerned citizen
Debra Greif -Concerned citizen
Approval of Agenda and Minutes
The agenda for the December 18, 2014 meeting was approved. The minutes of the November 20, 2014 meeting were approved as amended
The written Chair’s Report is attached to these minutes.
Trudy Mason pointed that while coming into Grand Central on the 6 line from 77th Street, the countdown clock said that the next train would arrive in seven minutes, but it took nine minutes. She said that she was in car 7486 and the doors did not open at Grand Central for 1 minute and 37 seconds after arriving. The train lurched forward 20 feet, then stopped short. At the same time a 4 or 5 train was arriving across the platform, and people were trying to get on the 6 train. It was another 30 seconds from that time before the 6 train doors opened. This made it difficult for the express train across the platform to close its doors and proceed.
Andrew Albert noted that it seemed that the 6 train was initially not all of the way into the station.
Sharon King Hoge commented that this an example of some of things that occur because of overcrowding on the 6 line. Ms. Mason said that if a member identifies a problem, it should be noted.
Chris Greif said that the Holiday Trains currently running provoke interesting reactions from the riders. He suggested that another holiday train should be added due to the demand for rides on the train. Edith Prentiss said that the holiday train was 45 minutes off schedule when she attempted to ride it.
Andrew Albert presented the Board report. He said that he attended the Manhattan, Brooklyn, Long Island and Staten Island fare hearings and noted that timing, the lower percentage of the proposed fare increase, and the lack of proposed service cuts may have been reasons for the low attendance at the fare hearings. Mr. Albert said that the MTA budget was passed at the Board meeting one day earlier. The budget included the weekend extension of the J train to Broad Street.
Mr. Albert said that the delays on the system are receiving a lot of attention at the Board level. He said that Tom Prendergast stated at the Board committee meetings that this is a situation that can boil over and suggested that NYC Transit should use overtime funds to pay for platform conductors. Mr. Albert said that NYC Transit is also looking for help with crowding from CBTC and other signalization improvements.
Trudy Mason said that she recently experienced two incidents where there were near riots on platforms. She commented that platform conductors are ineffective.
Ms. Hoge said that she agreed and suggested that more funds should be used for additional rolling stock. Chris Greif stated that he has been receiving complaints about the A line. He stated that performance on the line is a problem because of the condition of the equipment on it.
Mr. Albert said that once again, Board Members Cappelli and Pally tried to amend the proposed budget to add service, but as was the case in 2014, the Chairman agreed to revisit the issue in mid-2015 and the amendment was withdrawn. He said that many people at the fare hearings stated they would be willing to pay more if they received more service. Mr. Albert said that there were many public comments at the Staten Island hearing and that it is likely that Staten Island and the West of Hudson portion of Metro-North will get additional improvements as a result of CPRP process.
Ms. Mason commented that people didn’t come to the fare hearings because they have given up on influencing the system.
Ms. Hoge stated that on the 6 train, the “step aside” signage on platforms are worn out and need replacement. Karyl Berger stated that there is a plan in the works to replace the signage, but the manufacturer of the new signs is taking longer than expected to complete them.
Mr. Albert announced that the opening of the 7 line extension will be delayed until May 2015 at the earliest.
Ms. Prentiss pointed out that Baruch College was a bad location for fare hearing. She stated that the handicapped access to the facility was through a corridor where garbage was stored and that the directions to access the building were not correct. Ms. Berger added that the address for the Manhattan hearing was not correct on the notices produced by the MTA. Mr. Albert suggested that a letter to Steve Morello on these problems should be sent.
Ms. Hoge stated that timetables are posted for buses and that when buses are running off schedule she usually asks the operator whether his or her bus is the one scheduled for a specific time on the timetable. Mr. Greif noted that people can wait a long time in the cold weather for buses. Mr. Albert mentioned that he recently rode the M79 bus and that it was impacted by roadwork. He said that he thought there was an embargo on construction on holidays.
Mr. Greif suggested that the Bronx hearings should be held near an accessible station. Mr. Albert stated that the 149th Street/Grand Concourse station will gain ADA accessibility as a result of planned improvements.
Ms. Prentiss noted that one problem in the distribution of accessible stations is that the key station list was originally populated by the Eastern Paralyzed Veterans Association membership, which is not largely composed of transit riders.
Ms. Mason stated that she had to wait a long time for a bus on 3rd Avenue because of buses with Next Bus Please signage and that it took 35 minutes for a local bus to arrive. She said that buses with Next Bus Please signage should be removed from the Bus Time system and requested a private meeting with Darryl Irick to discuss the issue.
Ms. Prentiss commented that in Inwood the M100 bus was rerouted and the Bx7 bus is packed. The solution that NYC Transit seems to be using is to run the Bx7 bus empty from 168 Street to 181 Street, then bring it back into service. As a result of this Ms. Prentiss said that it took 1 hour and 40 minutes for her to get to a community board meeting. She said that the driver also had problems operating his bus lift.
Ms. Mason asked what basis the dispatcher uses to make a decision to run buses light. Mr. Albert responded that the dispatchers tell the operators to move faster and use Next Bus Please signage if a bus is tracking another closely. He said that there is a range of abilities in dispatchers and that some leave a lot to be desired.
Ken Stewart commented that he was very disappointed in the Fulton Center features for persons with visual disabilities. Ms. Berger agreed with this assessment. Mr. Albert noted that they are not finished with the signage and finishes in the Fulton Center and that he is optimistic that it will improve.
Ms. Prentiss stated that she did not want the mistakes that were made at South Ferry to be carried over to Fulton Center. Debra Grief stated that it is very dark in the Fulton Center near the public restrooms and that this poses a danger. She also said that mirrors are needed in passageway between the 4 and 5 and R trains.
Introduction of Robert Schiffer, Managing Director – Investment Group, SL Green Realty Corporation to discuss transportation investments proposed to be provided in connection with the development of the One Vanderbilt project.
Mr. Schiffer began by noting that SL Green is the largest commercial landlord in Manhattan, Midtown, and Midtown East and as a result it shares interests with transit advocates, since infrastructure investments are beneficial to the firm. He reviewed the development team members involved in One Vanderbilt, including Kohn Pederson Fox, the project’s architect.
Mr. Schiffer said that the One Vanderbilt proposal provides for at least $210 million in public realm investments, and that his team believes the value is higher. The development team is looking to obtain a permit for the project in spring 2015, with demolition of the existing building on the site following. Construction would take place in 2017 and a temporary certificate of occupancy could be issued in 2020. The issuance of the temporary certificate of occupancy would be tied to the agreed-upon transit improvements being completed.
Mr. Schiffer also noted that building in a tapered design and moving the building back from the street would make for a better pedestrian environment and preserve views of Chrysler building, as well as preserve the view of Grand Central Terminal from the vicinity of the building. He said that the design team had made changes to the plan for the building in response to Community Board comments.
The scope of the public realm improvements to be provided were negotiated with the MTA over the course of two years. The developer is responsible for completing Responsible for scope, even if there are cost increases. There are two classes of improvements, off-site and on-site. Off-site improvements include those enhancements that will benefit the Lexington line, although most of the benefit will accrue to the 4 and 5 express train lines rather than the 6 local train. Mr. Schiffer noted that at peak hour the 4 and 5 trains run at 103 percent of capacity and that Grand Central is the bottleneck in the system.
Mr. Schiffer said that they are pursuing a multi-pronged solution to the capacity problems in Grand Central station. The first is to optimize the existing platform by modifying platform columns and stairs. They will narrow the stairs, because the capacity issue is not caused by people getting upstairs, but obstructions created by wide stairs and column enclosures. People are unable to get off trains, creating a constriction in flow. Narrowing the stairs will not reduce the number of lanes up and lanes down on the stairs. Another problem needing to be addressed is the people using the Lexington Avenue Line platform to get to the 7 train.
Ms. Prentiss stated that this also would alleviate problems for wheelchair users who are going to the elevator. People do not move to let wheelchairs past, and it is difficult to move along the platform.
Ms. Mason asked why the improvements are focused on the 4 and 5 lines. Mr. Schiffer responded that they are doing some treatments on both sides of platform, but crowding is less severe on the 6 train.
The second element of the solution is the addition of two new staircases at the north end and one new staircase at the south end to provide a relief value for the R238 stairs at the end of the southbound platform. This element also adds pedestrian circulation space. Mr. Greif asked if existing buildings are being protected during construction. Mr. Schiffer replied that they are. Ms. Prentiss commented that this project is not touching the core of Grand Central Terminal.
Ms. Mason asked if anything was being done to the existing entrance to the 7 line at 150 E. 42nd Street. Mr. Schiffer said it is not being changed, but they are adding entrances from street on 42nd Street to take pressure off the R238 stairs.
The proposal also contains on-site improvements. Mr. Schiffer noted that East Side Access will come on line in 2023 and that 25 percent of its riders are heading south or southwest, or making a transit to transit transfer. Without the improvements proposed as part of One Vanderbilt, they will go into the dining concourse of Grand Central.
Mr. Schiffer noted that the MTA found pedestrian levels of service unacceptable without mitigation and that mitigation was to come through future development. As a result of these improvements, East Side Access riders go under the One Vanderbilt footprint, instead of through Grand Central Terminal, using a 10,000 square foot intermodal connector. Both sides of the connector will have retail and there will be ADA elevators at all connecting points.
As for the Shuttle, the improvements are designed to remedy access problems. The western and northern connections in the station are underutilized and are confusing. The project will be reserving space in One Vanderbilt for 6,000 square foot circulation space to bring people into the Shuttle from a midblock access point on 42nd Street between Madison and Vanderbilt. There will be a new control area here with escalators to the street. For a western entrance to Grand Central, the project will reserve the northeast corner of the building for a transit hall with a train departure board
Mr. Greif wanted to know whether public bathrooms be added. Mr. Schiffer said that they would not, but the MTA is adding them to Grand Central Terminal.
Mr. Albert asked whether the planning commission will have to approve the plan. Mr. Schiffer responded that it would, following consideration by the Manhattan Borough President.
Ms. Prentiss asked whether there is any plan for increasing the Transit Museum Annex space. Mr. Schiffer said that he did not know.
Ms. Mason asked whether this plan was just a change to prior Midtown East Plan. Mr. Schiffer stated that the new City administration has a two part strategy: 1) The rezonings in the Vanderbilt corridor and 2) The study of a larger rezoning of the surrounding area. Ms. Mason asked where the project is in the process of consideration by the Community Board and Manhattan Borough President. Julie Greenberg stated that the Manhattan Borough President will issue recommendations in March and that the Community Boards have been generally supportive, but have asked for some changes.
Burt Strauss asked what five blocks were to be considered in part one of the strategy. Mr. Schiffer stated that this refers to all of Vanderbilt Avenue.
Mr. Sinansky wanted to know the schedule relative to East Side Access. Mr. Schiffer stated that improvements will be completed two years before ESA in 2023.
Chris Greif questioned whether there can be outside transfers at Fulton Center to allow people to move between the R train and the 2 and 3 or A and C trains. Mr. Albert questioned why one would not take the train to Brooklyn and transfer there. He said that he will ask NYC Transit about it.
Ms. Prentiss stated that on the A train at Penn Station, people are directed to local track after 11:30pm by temporary signage on poles. Also, almost every time she goes to 177th for downtown train, there is an uptown waiting for a slot to open at 207th St.
No Old Business was discussed.
The meeting was adjourned at 2:00 PM.
William Henderson, Executive Director