NEW YORK CITY TRANSIT RIDERS COUNCIL
MINUTES OF FEBRUARY 26, 2015
A meeting of the New York City Transit Riders Council (NYCTRC) was convened at 12:00 noon on February 26, 2015 in the 16th floor Conference Room at 2 Broadway, New York City.
The following members were present:
Andrew Albert Marisol Halpern
Stuart Goldstein Sharon King Hoge
Christopher Greif Trudy L. Mason
William Guild Michael Sinansky
Burton M. Strauss, Jr.
The following members were absent:
In addition, the following persons were present:
William Henderson -PCAC Executive Director
Ellyn Shannon -PCAC Associate Director
Angela Bellisio -PCAC Transportation Planner
Bradley Brashears -PCAC Research Assistant
Karyl Berger -PCAC Research Associate
Deborah Hall-Moore -NYCT
Daniel Garodnick -City Council
Genevieve Michel -City Council
Alexandra Gonzalez -34th St. Partnership
Aliya Rasool -Public Advocate Appointee
Richard Schulman -Concerned citizen
Ken Stewart -Concerned citizen
Alan Flacks -Concerned citizen
Approval of Agenda and Minutes
The agenda for the February 26, 2015 meeting was approved. The minutes of the December, 2014 meeting were approved as amended. On the portion of the Chair’s Report dealing with AirTrain, it will be clarified that the 59th Street referenced is on the East Side of Manhattan.
Introduction of Council Member Daniel Garodnick to discuss his views on the One Vanderbilt project and requirements for developers to provide transportation improvements as part of their projects
Trudy Mason introduced Council Member Garodnick. She said that he represents the East Side of Manhattan, including the area around Grand Central Terminal and also noted that he authored a new requirement that employers provide pretax transit benefits to their employees.
Council Member Garodnick said that he appreciated the invitation as mass transit issues are central to him. He said that he believes that there are opportunities to do more in the rezoning of Midtown Manhattan and said that he wants to hear the NYCTRC’s views on the subject and to give the members a flavor of what is going on.
The original proposal for the East Midtown rezoning during the Bloomberg administration was lacking in public process. Council Member Garodnick said that because of this and other concerns that he stopped that proposal from progressing. Among the concerns are that the City was pricing the development rights, instead of relying on the market to set their value. Also of concern is that developers had to buy rights from the City to build bigger projects and that the value of a unit of development rights did not vary by location. He said that there other issues with the proposal as well, including details on the use of funds and community input into the process and the fact that transportation needs would only be met if development occurred. Council Member Garodnick reached a resolution with Mayor DeBlasio that provided that the rezoning would be split into two parts, with the larger part of East Midtown handled separately from the Vanderbilt corridor.
In the Vanderbilt corridor, the resolution creates the opportunity to evaluate proposals through a special permit process and produces significant benefits. One advantage to this process is that public benefits can be locked in before the building can be occupied. In this area, the equation is infrastructure for density or permission to build more than the bulk permitted as of right through the transfer of air rights. This makes sense as it places the highest density around the transit hub at Grand Central.
Council Member Garodnick said that he has not taken a specific position on One Vanderbilt, but that he believes that the relevant questions are (1) What improvements are worthy of increased density (2) How are they prioritized, and (3) How is it insured that the improvements are made.
Ellyn Shannon asked whether there was any consideration of using value capture for ongoing maintenance costs associated with increased density. Council Member Garodnick replied that this is a fair point and it is a misperception that the change in density in the area would be immediate. The only way redevelopment can happen is that building owners will replace existing structures, which may be grandfathered in at densities exceeding the current zoning.
Ken Stewart asked whether the rezoning would impact bus service. Council Member Garodnick stated that the plan as currently fashioned would not improve bus service. He said that the improvements included in the One Vanderbilt proposal were those specified by the MTA as the most important improvements in the Grand Central Terminal and Station.
Ms. Mason said that one of her concerns was that the improvements are for current issues and that the impacts of East Side Access on the area are not a major part of the discussion. She also said that she is troubled that the One Vanderbilt team discussed improvements for the 4 and 5 lines, but not the 6 train.
Council Member Garodnick responded that the developer’s team is responding to MTA’s wishes and that they are upfront about this. He said that his question
Is whether this plan reflects the correct set of priorities and whether there are other improvements that are critical. This is one area where he wants the NYCTRC’s input.
Andrew Albert noted that the idea of an AirTrain from Willets Point to LaGuardia airport brings into question the need for improvements on the 7 train. Council Member Garodnick agreed with this and asked whether there are other ways of dealing with this issue, such as running a fraction of the M15 SBS buses to the airport. Mr. Albert noted that this would impact reliability on the M15 route because of congestion along the route and at and LaGuardia airport.
Chris Greif suggested that there is a need to ensure that accessibility is addressed in improvements. It was agreed that accessibility should be built in to the improvements, but that it will be required under federal law.
Mike Sinansky stated that he would like to commend the process that has been established for the requirement that improvements must be built before a certificate of occupancy is issued. He noted that one of the issues we see is how facilities built by private developers are maintained and that the Council sees issues in maintenance and repairs where developers fund transit improvements.
Mr. Albert wanted to know whether the rezoning is subject to the UULRP process. Council Member Garodnick replied that every proposal in the Vanderbilt corridor is subject to UULRP, but the process in the larger Midtown East area has not yet been determined. He said that the working group that he is leading with Gale Brewer will make recommendations on the process in the larger are to City Planning by this summer. The questions are what the process will be, what kinds of properties are eligible for density increases, and whether the proposed new development is subject to UULRP. Council Member Garodnick said that many buildings are overbuilt relative to current zoning and that there is a question of how developers will pay for the higher density. He suggested that some additional density could be added through the sale of air rights from landmarks, which would be sold with the City getting a piece of the proceeds.
Marisol Halpern suggested that there should be some minimum of what developers are required to do for the community in order to build.
Ms. Shannon gave a brief summary of the findings of the study that the PCAC has undertaken with the Urban Land Institute-NY on the value of investing in the MTA system. Ms. Mason thanked Ms. Shannon and Ms. Bellisio for their work. She also noted that Edith Prentiss wanted it stated that she is not attending meetings in the current location because of cramped quarters. Mr. Henderson said that the meetings will move to the MTA Board facilities at 2 Broadway as soon as they are available.
The written Chair’s Report is attached to these minutes.
Mr. Albert stated that the next tube to be repaired is Cranberry tube that carries the A and C lines. These services will operate via the Rutgers Street tube for 30 weekends over the next year. The rehabilitation of the Rutgers tube is probably next on the schedule of repairs to storm damaged lines. He said that the real problem is the Canarsie Line, which has no direct replacement in terms of its route. Mr. Albert also noted that the concern of MTA with the Move NY plan is how the responsibility and cost for maintenance of bridges will be apportioned.
Alan Flacks requested an update on the Nassau Loop. Mr. Albert replied that, in the spring, the J train is to run to Broad Street and in addition the Hudson Yards Station on the 7 train is scheduled to open
Mr. Albert said that the Capital Program Oversight Committee received a presentation on the Jamaica station reconfiguration presentation, but the presentation did not present the whole truth. The LIRR emphasized that the reconfiguration would end the Jamaica crawl, but did not address the loss of direct Brooklyn service with the reconfiguration.
He said that the Jamaica reconfiguration raises the issue of the proper use of the Atlantic Viaduct and that one use of the Atlantic Viaduct would involve the rebuilding of the Springfield Gardens and Woodhaven stations and the conversion of the line to transit service. Mr. Albert also noted that on Ticket Vending Machines, the nomenclature for the Brooklyn terminal is “Atlantic Terminal”, which is confusing to visitors and occasional users.
Mr. Albert continued that the Sea Beach line is finally going to be rebuilt, as easements for access to structures were obtained and construction should start soon. The MTA is also approved taking over management of the Cortlandt Street station rebuilding from the Port Authority. He said that once the 7 line extension is open and this work is done, the system will be at 473 stations when phase I of the Second Avenue Subway.
Mr. Greif wanted to know what work will be done on the Sea Beach line. Mr. Albert replied that he will get the details. Mr. Greif asked whether the council has heard anything about changes to upcoming Culver line construction. Mr. Albert respond that he has not.
Burt Strauss asked what the conversion of the M86 bus to Select Bus Service will do. Mr. Albert said that there are several stops that are bottlenecks and that there are still several details to be worked out, such as the need to supply power to the stop at Central Park, but along the line crowds waiting to board can be so large that buses can bunch. Ms. Mason asked whether the changes will eliminate any stops and Mr. Albert said that they would not.
Sharon King Hoge stated that also a bottleneck on the M66 at Lincoln Center. Mr. Albert stated that the Community Board had just approved the Lincoln Square bowtie plan and that this should help the problem.
Mr. Flacks suggested that the Central Park stop be converted to a flag stop. Mr. Albert stated that the issue at this stop is space for the fare machines and power to operate them.
Ms. Mason stated that prevalence of buses with Next Bus Please signage has gotten worse. Mr. Albert stated he will send a letter, or make a call about the issue. William Henderson stated that he will send Ms. Mason a copy of Darryl Irick’s letter on the issue.
Ms. Mason said that on 3rd Avenue, as she waited at local stop, there were five M101 buses in a row with no local buses. She said that when there is bad weather, some limited buses and some SBS buses should be turned into locals.
Mr. Strauss noted there are no fare machines at local stops on SBS routes. Mr. Albert commented that Ms. Mason’s plan would be a better proposal applied to limited buses.
Mr. Greif stated that when the cold weather plan is in effect, announcements are not being made in Brooklyn about B train ending earlier. There should be courtesy announcements in long stretches like tunnels that the B is ending early
Stuart Goldstein said that, on the topic of buses, the Mayor’s Vision Zero initiative has led to the arrest of some drivers and the MTA said that they will look at routes and change them to reduce the number of turns. He said that the NYCTRC should look into this and support moves to make bus operations safer. He also noted that Uber and similar services do not collect the surcharge paid on taxi rides that goes to the MTA and that perhaps the NYCTRC should take a position on this. Mr. Albert said that maybe the NYCTRC would like to invite the TLC Commissioner to come to one of its meetings.
Mr. Goldstein also said that at the last meeting he had a much more extensive discussion about the technology installed on the L line than what is reflected in the minutes. He had asked about the vendor who is supplying CBTC on the 7 line and whether there are warranties in place, as there had been failures of the equipment during testing of similar equipment on the L line.
Mr. Stewart requested that the council support having non-visual information, including tactile and audible cues, which tells people where to pay their fares on SBS buses. Mr. Albert said that any treatments of the sidewalk would probably fall under NYCDOT. Ms. Mason noted that the notice should include that fares must be paid prior to riding. Mr. Albert said that one complication is that some fare machines are in residential areas, but there should be a way to have a low volume message that locates the fare machine and tells people to purchase tickets.
Bradley Brashears stated that Freedom Ticket project is coming along well. He said that he has found that there is lots of excess capacity on commuter trains even in rush hours, but not on all lines. Mr. Albert explained the concept of the Freedom Ticket, which he has been talking about for some time. He said that he has even thought of a potential title for the report: “Demand Your Freedom (Ticket).” Mr. Flacks added that in London, there is a general ticket that allow you to take any mode of transportation.
Mr. Greif noted that there was a derailment on the 6 train this week.
Mr. Flacks commented that NYC Transit is unable to lawfully set an expiration date on MetroCards and that he is always successful in receiving credit for cards that are beyond the stated redemption date.
The meeting was adjourned at 2:05 pm.