A meeting of the New York City Transit Riders Council (NYCTRC) was convened at 12:00 noon on December 22, 2011 in the 5th floor Board room of the MTA Headquarters, 347 Madison Avenue, New York City. The following members were present:
• Andrew Albert
• Marisol Halpern
• Shirley Genn
• Sharon King Hoge
• Stuart Goldstein
• Trudy Mason
• Christopher Greif
• Edith Prentiss
• William K. Guild
• Toya Williford
The following members were absent:
• Jessica Gonzalez-Rojas
• Steve Mayo
• Thomas Jost
• Michael Sinansky
• 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
Shanni Liang -PCAC Consultant
Jim Wincek -NYCT
Cheryl Kennedy -NYCT
Phyllis Silvestri -Concerned citizen
Ken Stewart -Concerned citizen
Ann Guild -Concerned citizen
Debra Greif -Concerned citizen
Approval of Agenda and Minutes
The agenda for the December 22, 2011 meeting was approved. The minutes of the November 17, 2011 meeting were approved as amended. Sharon King Hoge noted that she had commented that bus drivers not only don’t have their identification badges displayed, they refuse to display them. It was agreed without objection that this comment would be reflected in the minutes.
Andrew Albert said that he had made a complaint about a M1 bus driver. He said that the driver has been relieved of his duties pending a hearing.
Ken Stewart added that he agrees that reporting a complaint works. He said that it is important that people know that their complaints have an impact.
Mr. Albert stated that when making a complaint a rider should make sure to use the bus number if he or she is unable to get the operator’s badge number. He said that there is an issue with this on some buses, as on the newest buses there is a piece blocking the passengers’ view of the bus number from the rear of the bus.
Mr. Stewart commented that the bus number should be posted in a large font behind the driver. He said that the bus number should also be on the bus in Braille.
The Chair’s Report is attached to these minutes.
Mr. Albert stated that riders are owed an assessment of the benefits of the FASTRACK program.
Chris Greif stated that he is hearing many of the concerns from people in Brooklyn about the FASTRACK pilot with regards to its impact on service to Brooklyn.
Mr. Albert stated that he will ask what will happen to Q service when FASTRACK shutdowns are in effect on the Lexington Avenue Line. He noted that another question that remains to be answered is the impact of the program on riders with disabilities and what will be done to compensate for the loss of their usual routes.
Mr. Albert also noted that new problems will be created when overnight shutdowns are implemented in areas that have no parallel lines providing service, as in parts of Queens. The proposed plan for overnight shutdowns in these areas involves people having to take an express train beyond their destination and backtracking using local service. He said that this could add an hour to someone’s trip.
Mr. Albert discussed the December MTA Board meeting. He stated that it was quite a meeting, in large part because of the proposal for a service restoration fund. He said that when a motion was made to amend the 2012 budget to include this fund, some Board members who did not vote for amendment indicated that their reluctance was caused by uncertainty that the State would make good on its commitment to replace Payroll Mobility Tax dollars that will be lost due to exemptions that have been approved.
Mr. Albert noted that he was quoted in the press saying that the MTA budget had been balanced on the riders. This is because the “PayGo” capital funds that were to be derived from the Payroll Mobility Tax will now be used for debt service. As a result this funding source will not be available for capital projects on an ongoing basis and the riders will have to make up difference. Mr. Albert said that the motion to add the service restoration fund failed by a vote of 6 to 4, but the fact that the issue was raised is a win for riders.
Mr. Albert said he believes that that there won’t be any more service cuts, because Board won’t stand for it. MTA Executive Director and nominee for Chairman Joseph Lhota expressed alarm about the prospect of the service restoration fund being added to the budget, but its cost, $20 million, is less than a rounding error in the MTA budget. Another consideration that may have influenced Mr. Lhota’s reaction is that labor contracts are currently under negotiation and restoring service could undercut the MTA’s position.
Mr. Albert introduced Shanni Liang, PCAC consultant. Ms. Liang explained the Public Service Scholar program, under which she is working at PCAC, to the Council.
Mr. Stewart wanted to know whether there was any progress on the inquiry regarding visual design elements at the Times Square Shuttle station. He said that Bill Guild was to lead an effort to look into this. Mr. Albert stated he will ask Mr. Guild about this issue.
Trudy Mason thanked the Council for all the good wishes she received following her injury. Ms. Mason stated that she could not believe that over the holiday period there was no one around to assist customers in using the recently implemented 34th Street Select Bus Service (SBS), particularly at 34th Street and 6th Avenue where Macy’s and other stores draw a large number of visitors and tourists. Ms. Mason said that at this location she observed large crowds and large numbers of people who didn’t understand off-board fare payment as used on SBS. She noted that there were no Ambassadors present, and the period for which they were provided, two weeks, is not enough.
Mr. Albert stated that he will make a recommendation for the Ambassadors to be brought back along SBS routes during heavy travel periods, especially when there are many visitors in town.
Edith Prentiss commented on the new Nova articulated buses that are appearing on NYC Transit routes. She stated that the drivers have no idea how to use the third wheelchair slot on these buses and that they are taking one wheelchair user off of the bus to get a passenger in the third slot off of the bus. These problems illustrate the importance of consulting with wheelchair users before placing orders for equipment.
Mr. Stewart stated that he and Ms. Prentiss both saw the buses. Ms. Prentiss replied that they saw the buses after the MTA had already purchased thirty buses.
Mr. Albert asked how often Ms. Prentiss had ridden a bus with three wheelchairs on board. Ms. Prentiss replied that a major problem is that due to the problems with loading a third wheelchair, drivers bypass wheelchairs when they already have two wheelchairs onboard. In addition, there are fewer bus runs when the articulated buses are uses, and being bypassed can lead to long waits.
Ms. Mason said that she had recommended that Ms. Prentiss be appointed to the Council because of issues such as these. She said that under NYC Transit President Howard Roberts and MTA Executive Director Lee Sander there was dialogue between the disability community and management. Under MTA Chairman Walder this was not the case. She said that we have to make it clear to Mr. Lhota that Council members are representatives of communities and groups and requested that we write a letter to Mr. Lhota introducing the NYCTRC to him and explaining what the Council does.
Mr. Greif commented on bus drivers who don’t curb their buses and said that he would like the Council to write a letter about this issue
Toya Williford discussed changes in the B25 route going down into the DUMBO area. She said that the drivers now claim they can’t go to Front and Main because of construction. Mr. Henderson said that he will locate the staff summary for the change in the route and forward it to Ms. Williford.
Introduction of Jim Wincek, NYCT Director, System Safety and Cheryl Kennedy, NYCT Vice President — Safety to discuss accidents and injuries in the NYCT system and the role of the Office of System Safety in preventing these incidents
Mr. Albert introduced the guests from NYC Transit. Cheryl Kennedy said that they had come to talk about current statistics on system safety and the activities that the Office of System Safety (OSS) is undertaking. She noted that employee accidents had increased 4.8 percent over the last year, and that the majority of employee injuries are due to slips, trips and falls, overexertion, and assaults.
Ms. Kennedy said that OSS is trying to move from mandatory compliance to a personal desire by employees to be safe. This is part of a move to a safety culture, where NYC Transit wants people to be able to raise an issue and have it taken seriously. The Office of System Safety’s role is to develop a report, which is sent to operating departments. Also, the OSS develops safety goal action plans that are implemented by operating departments. The OSS monitors the implementation of these plans. The OSS has also done joint inspections with the Transport Workers Union as a way of enhancing safety. They have also started pre-job inspection programs, where safety is evaluated before work is done, and put up placards with safety information for large jobs.
The OSS has worked with the track safety task force, which meets twice a month. The task force made 63 initial recommendations and has made 12 additional recommendations since the initial group.
Joint safety programs are also conducted in buses, where labor and NYC Transit have conducted joint inspections.
Ms. Kennedy said that customer injuries are up 1.5 percent in the subways, but down 2 percent on buses. She said that the OSS has implemented a Customer Safety Awareness Campaign using car and bus cards and on-board announcements. Transit also does station inspections, and daily inspections are performed on the top twenty slip, trip, and fall locations in subway stations. These inspections are done in the field and audited by OSS
In the area of fire prevention, NYC Transit relies on manual cleaning in of track areas in the stations, along with use of a specialized track-cleaning train.
Ms. Kennedy said that accident prevention also includes making bus stop announcements. Knowing that a cross street is coming up helps to get passengers ready to leave the bus and prevents injuries resulting from people rushing to get off of the bus. The OSS also facilitates a Bus Operator Action Committee, which allows them to bring in operators to get their perspective. The issues discussed here include shields for bus operators and conflict avoidance.
Ms. Prentiss asked if there are any outdoor stations in the top twenty slip, trip, and fall locations and Jim Wincek replied that there are none. Ms. Prentiss said that she has heard of fractures at the 242nd Street station, which has an overhang and an uneven platform. Ms. Kennedy stated that they will check into the situation at this station and asked whether she had an opinion on the 231st Street station. Ms. Prentiss said that at this station the platform is flaking and that in general inspections should be stepped up.
Mr. Albert asked about the cycle for inspection for elevated structures. Ms. Kennedy responded that inspections of elevated stations for structural integrity do not fall under the OSS.
Ms. Mason commented on her experiences following the recent fall that she had. She said that she was given the opportunity to review the accident report and made note of the coordination that took place among those who had come to her aid. She said that she was taken to Bellevue Hospital Center and that Bellevue had a very impressive emergency room facility. Ms. Kennedy stated that when incident occurs in a NYC Transit, a person requiring medical attention is generally taken to the closest emergency room facility.
Jan Wells asked how bus operators are chosen to provide input to the OSS. Ms. Kennedy said that they volunteer to be part of the program, but are chosen randomly from the list of volunteers. She said that recently there has been a lot of interest in assault prevention.
Shanni Liang asked how often NYC Transit does inspections for slip, trip, and fall hazards. She noted that there are many seniors using the Canal Street station on the N and Q lines and that this station has lots of potential for falls. Ms. Kennedy responded that stations are inspected on a regular basis, and that high-injury areas are inspected more often. She said that stairways are where most of the customers’ injuries occur.
Bill Guild requested information about the “3 point of contact” rule that he had heard. Mr. Wincek stated that employees should maintain 3 points of contacts with a bus or the ground when getting on or off of equipment.
Ellyn Shannon asked if NYC Transit had discussions with Metro North about their Priority One program. Mr. Wincek said that the Chair of the OSS’s culture change task force spoke to Metro-North about their safety initiatives.
Marisol Halpern asked whether the OSS consults with police to get reports of injuries occurring in the Transit system. Mr. Wincek stated that they use many sources to get injury reports and that reports go from the NYPD to Transit’s rail control system.
Mr. Greif said that there are safety issues in the work that is being done in the Neck Road Station. He also noted that many drivers are not curbing their buses, making boarding more risky. He also noted that some stations, such as the F train stations between Ditmas Avenue and Avenue X, have platform cracks and defects in the platform edges. Many of these stations have lighting that is not good, increasing the probability that the defects could cause problems.
Ms. Mason asked what constitutes a station, noting that there is a passageway between the Lexington Avenue/53rd Street and 51 Street stations that is owned by Boston Properties. She noted that this location is always full of water and questioned whether NYC Transit inspects this area. Ms. Halpern asked about the areas in which NYC Transit is responsible for clearing snow. Mr. Wincek said that Transit is responsible for steps into the station and a small area leading to them, as well as areas that are under station canopies. Ms. Halpern said that snow clearing at Pelham Bay Park is a problem, as the plaza is not cleared and people transfer from subways to buses at this location.
Ms. Halpern asked whether stations are rated. Ms. Kennedy said that they are not, but that Transit classifies A, B, and C defects, and the rating of the defect determines the urgency of its repair. Ms. Halpern also asked if more than one inspection has to find a defect before it is addressed. Ms. Kennedy answered that it is not necessary for more than one inspector to identify a defect, but that the question raises the issue of all inspectors using the same criteria in the same manner.
Mr. Albert asked whether cleanliness and the presence of rodents enter into the OSS’s work. Ms. Kennedy said that these issues do not fall under the OSS. Mr. Albert also asked the number of stations for which field managers have responsibility. Mr. Wincek stated that the number varies according to the nature of the stations.
Ms. Prentiss commented about the 191st Street station. She said that there is a steep ramp that leads into a tunnel, which is legally a street, leading to the fare control area. She asked whether the ramp fall under NYC Transit’s jurisdiction or if it is considered part of the Street and added that MTA cleaners clean the tunnel. Ms. Kennedy stated that normally connections between stations are under Transit’s supervision, but this varies. If Transit is responsible, Stations personnel inspect these locations. Ms. Mason asked whether there is a general policy on responsibility for connectors to stations.
Ms. Prentiss requested clarification of the inspection process. Ms. Kennedy stated that Stations personnel do the inspections and arrange for correcting defects. The OSS audits the results to make sure that the Department of Subways is fulfilling its responsibilities.
Ken Stewart wanted to know to what degree customers’ behavior enters into accidents. Mr. Stewart stated that he has tripped over people sitting on stairs. He said that people should be told that stairs are not for sitting. Ms. Kennedy stated that they weren’t aware of a large body of accidents involving sitting or steps but that running customers has been an issue. These behaviors are addressed as a part of customer campaigns conducted by NYC Transit.
Stuart Goldstein wanted clarification of the structure of the Office of System Safety. Ms. Kennedy said that the OSS reports directly to the NYC Transit President. There are six divisions with 88 people. The Accident Investigation Unit investigates all accidents in the subway including derailments and trains hitting line end bumpers. The Office performs hazard assessments, oversees environmental programs, and audits safety programs. The Office’s Industrial Hygiene Department takes air measurements when there are complaints about air quality.
Mr. Albert asked whether the guests recall the 181st Street station ceiling collapse and asked whether this situation falls under the OSS. Ms. Kennedy answered that it is not within the OSS’s responsibilities. She noted that her staff also works with the New York State Public Transportation Safety Board, attending their meetings and investigating incidents.
Ms. Mason asked who writes the reports on incidents within the subway system. Mr. Wincek stated that in most cases this would be Stations personnel.
Debra Greif asked whether bus operators should give precedence to safe operation or to remaining on schedule. Ms. Kennedy replied that safe operation should be the higher priority. Ms. Greif also asked if there have been problems with cleaning of snow from bus stops by NYCDOT, because there are problems at Avenue U station.
Phyllis Sylvestri asked who should be contacted when there is a problem with a bus. She stated that she had an incident with the QM15 bus. Mr. Albert stated that he would give her the information later. She also commented on her experience when she tried to take an express bus. The bus did not come, and she later found out that there were two express buses parked not far away.
Ellyn Shannon asked if the OSS gives input into the MTA Capital Program from a safety perspective. Mr. Kennedy stated that there is a unit of the Track Department that compiles information on trends in rail defects, and this information is available as an input to the Capital Program. Ms. Shannon asked whether the OSS has audited this information and Ms. Kennedy replied that it had. Mr. Albert asked whether broken rails have anything to do with the age of equipment used on the system, and Ms. Kennedy said that she does not know.
Ms. Shannon asked if the OSS audits issues such as broken rails. Ms. Kennedy said that on these issues information flows in the opposite direction. If the Department of Subways funds a pattern in rail defects, they report it to System Safety.
Shirley Genn said that there are many issues in regard to litter on the tracks and that there are many train delays.
The meeting was adjourned at 2:00 PM.
New York City Transit Riders Council
December 22, 2011
Because of the uncertainty surrounding transfer of Long Island Bus operations to Veolia, the private contractor selected by Nassau County, we have been holding off scheduling our Bus Forum. Now that it looks like the transfer of responsibility for the operation of buses will take place on January 1, 2012, we’re moving forward to schedule the Bus Forum in lower Manhattan during the first quarter of 2012. Once we have a confirmed date, we’ll let our members know the details.
We’re also moving forward on data analysis and production of a report on the findings of our survey of planned service diversion signage. Our former intern, Hye Kyung Yang, is working for us as a consultant, analyzing the data that was gathered. Thanks to the members who worked on the survey and gave us detailed comments on what they saw, we have a wealth of information to analyze. Bill and Jan have reviewed a sample spreadsheet for recording and classifying the data and have given Hye Kyung the go ahead to complete the data entry and analysis. We will be releasing our findings in the early part of 2012 and will keep you updated as we move toward the release.
Earlier this month the MTA launched an improved version of “The Weekender” website, which replaces the standard MTA website from Friday afternoon to Monday morning. The new improvements add features such as a searchable station name box and more options for zooming in on the subway diagram. The changes also include adjustments to the color of some graphic elements and text on the site to improve the site for visually impaired persons. Please take a look at the revised “Weekender” site and let me or staff know any comments that you have.
The MTA is moving forward with its new FasTrack initiative, and in your packets today is a letter from President Prendergast discussing this program. As you may remember, the FasTrack program is a new approach to performing subway system maintenance and upgrades that involves partial closures of subway lines in areas where substantial alternate subway service is available, such as Manhattan. While this initiative means that overnight service will be suspended for a period of time, the payoff to riders is that closing segments of the system allows work to proceed more quickly and allows NYC Transit to stretch its capital dollars further. With today’s tight budgets this could mean that work that would otherwise not be undertaken may be completed, improving conditions for riders.
The first use of FasTrack will be from Monday, January 9 to Thursday, January 13, 2012 on the Lexington Avenue line Between Grand Central-42nd Street and Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn. We want to get a sense of how the well the program works, so if you have any personal experience with it or other riders speak to you about it, please share those experiences or conversations with me or staff.