A meeting of the New York City Transit Riders Council (NYCTRC) was convened at 12 noon on February 24, 2011, in the 5th floor Board room, MTA headquarters, 347 Madison Avenue, New York City. The following members were present:
• Andrew Albert
• William K. Guild
• Shirley Genn
• Thomas Jost
• Stuart Goldstein
• Trudy L. Mason
• Christopher Greif
• Michael Sinansky
• Jessica Gonzalez Rojas
• Burton Strauss
• Toya Williford
The following members were absent:
• Marisol Halpern
• Sharon King Hoge
• Edith Prentiss
In addition, the following persons were present:
• William Henderson -PCAC Executive Director
• Ellyn Shannon -PCAC Transportation Planner
• Karyl Berger -PCAC Research Associate
• Leonard Ciaccio -NYCT
• Deborah Hall-Moore -NYCT
• Alan Kritzler -MTA OIG
• Larry Rubinstein -LIRRCC
• Alan Flacks -NY County Democratic Committee
• Yvonne Morrow -Concerned citizen
• Matt Shotkin -Concerned citizen
• Ken Stewart -Concerned citizen
• Joseph Garber -Concerned citizen
Approval of Agenda and Minutes
The agenda for the February 24, 2011 meeting was approved. The minutes of the February 8, 2011 meeting were approved as amended.
The Chair’s Report is attached to these minutes.
In response to the discussion of station name changes in the Chair’s report, Karyl Berger noted that NYC Transit is changing the name of the all stations at the Long Island City/Court Square complex to reference “Court Square.” This will affect the 45th Road/Courthouse Square and 23rd Street/Ely Avenue stations. Bill Henderson said that all stations at this location will have Court Square as part of their name.
Shirley Genn commented that she had to go to the R train from the F at the Jay Street/Metrotech station and that she saw no directions to the R in the station.
Mr. Albert gave the Board Report; he stated that there is a proposal in the Governor’s budget for a $100 million cut in MTA funding. He said that Chairman Walder has said that despite the reduction in state funding he will not cut the quality of service. Mr. Albert said that the money that is intended under the State’s tax structure to support public transportation should go to transit agencies and that as a result of the diversion of dedicated funding there is a movement to establish a lockbox for public transportation.
Trudy Mason said that she has heard that this movement is part of an effort to bring back the discussion over congestion pricing. She said that the effort could focus on either imposing East River bridge tolls or a more complete version of congestion pricing.
Mr. Albert asked the group’s opinion on how to proceed with regard to the funding issues. The members agreed that the Council should obtain a legal opinion on the feasibility of a lockbox for funds intended for transit. Mr. Albert then asked whether the stand that is to be taken should be a PCAC or an NYCTRC position. Bill Henderson said that he believes that the position should be taken by the PCAC as it could impact on the commuter railroads as well as NYC Transit. Ms. Mason suggested that this issue be put on the agenda for the upcoming PCAC meeting. She said that at the meeting we should mention that the NYCTRC reaffirmed support of the concept of congestion pricing.
Ms. Berger said that it looks like gas prices will rise considerably this year and that this will increase transit usage. Mike Sinansky said that a new statement on funding issues should include the provisions that the PCAC had in its prior statements of support for congestion pricing. Mr. Henderson said that the emphasis on bus transportation in the prior debate on congestion pricing was because of a major expansion of the bus system in the Ravitch Commission’s plan. He suggested that members look at the report recently issued by the Center for an Urban Future Report, which dealt with the need for expansion of the bus system. Ms. Mason suggested that the Council invite someone from Center for an Urban Future as a guest at a future meeting.
Mr. Albert said that he also wanted to note the recent discussion of a plan to add doors on subway station platforms. He said that he is opposed to this for operational and financial reasons, stating that the JFK AirTrain moves very slowly in stations because of need to align the train with platform doors. He also stated that the MTA does not have enough money to implement this plan.
Shirley Genn said that when a rider is on the former Lawrence Street station platform, one direction goes to Manhattan, one to Bay Ridge, but there is little information provided to tell A, C, and F train users where to exit the train to get to the R train.
Burt Strauss noted that NYC Transit service cuts took effect on June 27, but that bus shelters still have information for old discontinued routes. He said that this is the case at the former M30 stop at 72nd Street and Madison Avenue. Mr. Albert said that the Council will take action to correct this situation.
Stuart Goldstein asked whether the Council is still pursuing the Accenture report and whether it will seek to obtain any reports from McKinsey pursuant to their newly approved contract to find cost savings. Mr. Albert said that we should meet with MTA Inspector General Barry Kluger on this topic.
Ms. Mason said that Manhattan Borough President Stringer has specifically talked about the Second Avenue Subway and the disaster it has created. She said that the “Shop 2nd Avenue” campaign is a joke and that Borough President Stringer, Assembly Members Bing and Kellner, and Congresswoman Maloney have formed a task force to see what can be done to provide immediate improvement in the Second Avenue Subway construction zone.
Ms. Mason said that the MTA should be supportive of measures to aid business in the same way that they have remediated structural problems arising from subway construction, as the area is a disaster zone and many businesses have gone out of business. She said that at 86th Street the subway construction is blocking the middle of the street and that Select Bus Service is making the situation worse, resulting in local buses bunching up with a result that there is less service. Mr. Albert said that the Council will look at the situation. Ms. Mason said that she still wants satisfactory answers to her questions to NYC Transit about Select Bus Service.
Ken Stewart noted that there recently has been an increase in the number of musicians on subway platforms and that some of them are very loud, making it impossible to hear announcements. It was agreed that the Council will send a letter asking for improved enforcement of rules pertaining to musicians on platforms. Ms. Mason asked whether break dancers are allowed on trains. Mr. Henderson said that they are not.
Mr. Sinansky reported that on March 20, the New York Road Runners club are having a race and holding their closing ceremony in Battery Park City. He said that the Council should send a letter to NYC Transit to urge them to maintain service on the M20 and M22 buses as well as Access-a-Ride through day to the greatest extent possible. He noted that the local Community Board opposes the event.
Chris Greif said that in Brooklyn there are late night and weekend outages with trains running in segments and people having to transfer between the N at Pacific Street to the Q at Atlantic Avenue. He said that the signage for these service changes is not clear and that shuttle buses being used to replace subway service are difficult to find. Mr. Albert said that at the MTA Board meetings there had been a long discussion of the use of shuttle buses during subway general orders. He said that NYC Transit wants to reduce number of substitute buses used in the shuttles.
Introduction of Leonard Ciaccio, NYC Transit Department of Subways Chief Electronic Maintenance Officer to discuss the development of a train arrival information display system for B Division subway lines
A copy of Mr. Ciaccio’s presentation is on file in the PCAC office.
Mr. Ciaccio said that while the B Division system is still under development, most messages that will appear in B Division stations will contain language to the effect that that trains are one, two, or three stations away.
Mr. Ciaccio said that the train arrival displays currently in B Division stations are part of a pilot program, and that different stations use different technologies. He said that the 145th Street A/C station’s system uses programmable logic controllers, while other stations use technology that relies on the existing signal system. He said that the first pilots involve A and C line stations between 207th and 23rd Streets. Mr. Ciaccio said that installations on the 7 line will use a system that will feed information from track sensors into a server, which can also take into account schedule information to provide more detailed arrival information.
Mr. Ciaccio said that there would also be pilot systems on the Queens Line between 5th Avenue and Woodhaven Boulevard and that they would use similar technology to that used on the A and C lines. Ms. Mason asked whether the system could tell riders whether a local or express train is approaching. Mr. Ciaccio said that the technology being used can’t differentiate between local and express trains but only trains on local or express tracks.
Ms. Genn said that elevated and open cut stations in Brooklyn have public address systems that are impossible to understand. Mr. Ciaccio said that other proofs of concept that are coming up address elevated and open cut systems using Global Positioning Satellite technology and that other radio frequency identification (RFID) systems will also be tested. He said that “smart” signs are also being tested and that these signs bypass existing public address systems because of the public address systems’ age and condition. In the “smart” sign systems processing and memory capacity is contained in the sign.
Mr. Ciaccio said that the model that is being used is one of parallel efforts and approaches and not a one-size-fits-all concept. In the end, the project will provide a full detailed scope for the system to be built. Ms. Berger said that the Station Advisory Information Display board at Atlantic Avenue is very dark and difficult to read. Mr. Ciaccio said that he would have it checked.
Mr. Greif said that at some of the pilot installation sites trains don’t come in the time frame that is displayed. Mr. Albert said that on the West Side, the countdown clock seems to progress to “1 minute” before a train arrives, but on East Side, the countdown clock frequently goes from “2 minutes” to the arrival message. Mr. Ciaccio said that there is a lot of modification remaining to be done and that the system is not yet implemented in its final form.
Ms. Genn said that at the Avenue N station, it would be useful where there is no agent to have these signs at entrances and exits. Mr. Ciaccio said that in the pilot they are now trying to use existing signs but may look at adding signs in the process of fully implementing the system.
Mr. Goldstein asked whether the signs are to be on platforms or on mezzanines. He noted that on the F line there are signs on mezzanines that tell riders a train is coming. Mr. Ciaccio said that some of the triggers that provide information to these annunciators will be used in the system.
Mr. Strauss asked how many signs will be required. Mr. Ciaccio responded that he is not sure of the exact number, but it will be in the thousands. Mr. Strauss asked whether all stations will be covered by the system. Mr. Ciaccio replied that he is unsure, as this is subject to funding.
Ms. Berger asked whether the system will be able to tell riders about delays. Mr. Ciaccio said that this is included on the A Division system and will be implemented later on the B Division. Ms. Mason asked where the funding is coming from for this initiative. Mr. Albert said that this initiative has been planned since Peter Kalikow was MTA Chair and that funding for it is in the Capital Program. Mr. Sinansky said that he understands that the system makes use of other planned improvements. Mr. Ciaccio said that while the countdown clock system on the A Division is a new project, the installations on the B Division are pilot programs and their implementation costs have been low.
Alan Flacks asked whether signs will be position on both mezzanines and platforms and noted that this is not the case at 96th Street. Mr. Albert said that it was probably due to construction at that station that the system was not yet installed on platform. Mr. Ciaccio said that the general guideline is to put signs on both the mezzanine and platform. Mr. Greif asked that the Council be kept informed of the progress of the B Division system. Mr. Stewart noted that the ideal place for signs to be placed is at decision points for riders.
The meeting was adjourned at 2:15 p.m.