A meeting of the New York City Transit Riders Council (NYCTRC) was convened at 12:00 noon on February 8, 2011 in the 5th floor Board Room, 347 Madison Avenue, New York City. The meeting was rescheduled from a January 27 cancellation due to weather. The following members were present:
• Andrew Albert
• William Guild
• Shirley Genn
• Marisol Halpern
• Stuart Goldstein
• Trudy L. Mason
• Jessica Gonzalez-Rojas
• Edith Prentiss
• Christopher Greif
• Michael Sinansky
• Toya Williford
The following members were absent:
• Thomas Jost
• Sharon King Hoge
• 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
• Theresa Juva -amNY
Approval of Agenda and Minutes
The agenda for the February 8, 2011 meeting was approved. The minutes of the December 16, 2011 meeting were approved as amended.
The Chair’s Report is attached to these minutes.
Chris Greif reported that when F trains are routed through the Fulton Street complex, they still show the stop as Broadway-Nassau. Stuart Goldstein said that NYC Transit hasn’t changed the automatic announcement program on F trains to reflect a connection to the G train at stations south of the Smith-9th Street station. Mr. Greif and Mr. Goldstein agreed that they have seen references to the V train, which has been discontinued, in the subway system.
Mr. Greif noted that riders are complaining about the new service pattern that has been instituted to allow for the repair of the Culver Viaduct. Mr. Goldstein said that winter storms had delayed implementation of this service plan, and that brochures explaining the change are limited in availability and announcements about the changes are seldom made. Andrew Albert stated that the inaccurate announcements on the R160 cars must be repaired. Bill Henderson said that he would ask for copies of the brochures produced for the Culver Viaduct rehabilitation.
Trudy Mason said that the letter that the Council received discussing issues raised about Select Bus Service responded to some of the issues, but not to all that was discussed in the meeting. She said that the answers that were provided in the letter were not satisfactory.
Mr. Greif also reported that the displays on N trains still say “Lawrence-Jay Street” rather than “Jay-Metrotech”.
Mike Sinansky asked Mr. Albert what he meant when he said the station name “Fulton Street” is off putting to riders. Mr. Albert replied that people are expecting to see “Broadway/Nassau” as a station name and may not realize that they are leaving Manhattan. He said that there should have been an education period for the name changes at these stations, and that the “Broadway-Nassau” name could have been retained for an interim period.
Mr. Albert also said that he has seen signs telling riders that B service is ending earlier, presumably because of work on the line, and has asked NYC Transit for a further explanation, but has not have not yet received one. Similarly, he noted, the letters about station renaming that we wrote to President Prendergast and Chairman Walder that are in the members’ packets have not yet received a response.
Mr. Sinansky commented on NYC Transit’s response to his questions at the President’s Forum about A train service. He said that despite the response that cited bridge openings as the cause of delays, trains were still being dead headed from the Rockaway Park branch, skipping stations. Mr. Sinansky said that he saw this occurring himself and that it took 45 minutes before a train running into Manhattan stopped at the station.
Mr. Albert said that the response to the January 11 storm wasn’t that much better for LIRR and Access-A-Ride riders than the response to the December 26 storm. He said that he did learn that the City’s failure to declare snow emergency had a great impact on service as the areas around bus depots were not given priority for plowing. As a result buses didn’t get out of their depots.
Ms. Mason said that it was documented 10 years ago that articulated buses perform poorly in snow and that she has pictures from the December 26, 2010 snowstorm of an articulated bus jack-knifed across 3rd Avenue. She said that the problem is especially severe with old articulated buses, and that they have problems on 79th and 86th Streets and wherever there is a hill. She said that she would like to know how many incidents there were and whether old buses perform worse than new models.
Mr. Albert said that NYC Transit only declared a level 1 emergency, on a scale that goes to level 4, prior to the December 26 storm. As a result, diesel locomotives were trapped in the yards and buses did not have tire chains installed. He said that the stranding of passengers on an A train for seven hours should never have happened and that if this train could have gone one more stop the riders would have had choices. As a result, NYC Transit is developing a fifth level of emergency, which includes the suspension of service. He said that now on the MTA website there is better information available on what service is running and what is not.
Mr. Albert noted that the Governor’s proposed budget cuts $100 million in support from MTA, but that Chairman Walder had said that there will be no service cuts or fare hikes as a result. He asked that members look at the list of NYC Transit service adjustments that are included in their packets. He said that he suspects that some routes are being cut again and again. Mr. Sinansky noted that NYC Transit is cutting service on the M22 after cutting M9 in last years’ service reductions. Mr. Goldstein asked about the basis for the cuts and questioned what counts the changes are based upon.
Mr. Albert said that the Council should look at the last few service adjustments check to see if some routes are being cut repeatedly. He said that he believes that the cuts are compounding over time, with the result that people walk away from a route and then it dies. He said that there are lots of protests about bus service, including the QM21 and Q79 and that riders are being left without service following the failure of van service that was to be a replacement for some discontinued routes. Mr. Albert noted that Congressman Nadler got a law passed specifying that a cumulative service cut of 20 percent will require a public hearing.
Ms. Mason said that Manhattan is only borough in the service adjustments that received bus service cuts and no service increases and that the cuts all impact crosstown lines except for M22. She said that people will split cabs instead of waiting for buses and will go from time based to pay per-ride MetroCards if they don’t use the crosstown buses.
Ms. Mason asked whether NYC Transit has made this level of seasonal cuts before and Mr. Albert responded that they had.
Mr. Grief noted that the B3 bus is being cut and stated that this bus has problems with traffic. He said that Community Board 15 has received many complaints about the B3.
The Council considered draft goals and a mission statement. Mr. Goldstein said that he feels that the statement is missing the Council’s oversight mission. Mr. Albert suggested that this might be addressed by language about the Council monitoring the MTA’s performance.
Edith Prentiss said that Access-A-Ride should be included, because the Access-A-Ride advisory council is not independent. She said that its members are appointed by the Chair and as a result they are essentially selected by the MTA. Mr. Goldstein noted that the Council can include something about Access-A-Ride in the goals by making a statement that riders should have access to the system. He suggested that the goals include that the Council will be forceful advocates for subway, bus and paratransit riders.
Shirley Genn said that the word “advocacy” should be in the Mission Statement.
The Council approved a draft mission statement and goals subject to changes agreed to after staff circulates the draft.
Ms. Mason said that members’ names should be included on the Council’s brochures. Mr. Goldstein said that the brochure should include information on the PCAC website and urge people to become involved in the work of the Council. Jessica Gonzalez said that she did not believe that members’ names should be in the brochure. Ms. Genn said that including the office telephone number on the brochure would allow riders to contact the Council. The Council voted to leave members’ names off of the brochure.
The Council discussed the most recent winter storm. Ms. Prentiss said that in the storm on February 2 NYC Transit had shut down Access-A-Ride from midnight to 10:00 a.m. She said that the justification given is that the paratransit vehicles are not made to operate in winter weather, but noted that paratransit service operates in other cities with far more severe winter weather. Ms. Prentiss said that one Access A Ride client had spent a large amount of money on a car service because he had to get to work and when he tried to arrange a ride home, Access-A-Ride responded by opening an investigation into his eligibility for the program.
Mr. Albert asked whether Access-A-Ride vehicles are owned by NYC Transit or the carriers. Ms. Prentiss responded that they are owned by NYC Transit and maintained by the carriers. She said that the vehicles stay overnight at the carrier depots. Mr. Albert said that one reason for service cancellations is that depots were not given preference in plowing. Ms. Prentiss said that Access-A-Ride has said that their vehicles couldn’t use chains.
Mr. Goldstein said that it was his understanding that Access-A-Ride was responding only to emergency calls prior to 10:00 a.m. on February 2. Ms. Prentiss said the MTA’s press release and website said all trips were cancelled, but what the website site said is that if you had medical emergency, they would reschedule it after 10 a.m. Ms. Genn asked why car service vouchers could not have been used as a substitute service. Ms. Prentiss explained that car service vehicles are not accessible and that this would have been in violation of the law. Mr. Sinansky suggested that the Council get a more full understanding of the operation of Access-A-Ride during this period.
Ms. Mason discussed the Manhattan Select Bus Service (SBS). She said that the Manhattan Borough President would hold a press event on SBS in the next week or two and that other elected officials are concerned about the service. She said that the issue of a stop at 72nd Street will be raised again and that Councilmember Lappin had addressed it in discussing her report card on the SBS.
The meeting was adjourned at 2:00 pm.