Meeting Minutes Jan 22, 2009

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A meeting of the New York City Transit Riders Council (NYCTRC) was convened at 12:00 noon on January 22, 2009 in the 5th floor Board Room, 347 Madison Avenue, New York City. The following members were present:

Andrew Albert
Trudy L. Mason
Shirley Genn
Edith Prentiss
William K. Guild
Sharon Santa Maria
Marisol Halpern
Michael Sinansky
Toya Williford
The following members were absent:

Jessica Gonzalez-Rojas
Thomas Jost
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
Marsha Desormeaux – MTA Inspector General’s Office
William Goodrich – MTA Capital Construction
Bob Olmsted – MTA
Alissa Kosowsky – NYCT
Alan Flacks – NY County Democratic Committee
Yvonne Morrow – Concerned citizen
Matt Shotkin – Concerned citizen
Meg Reed Mian – Concerned citizen
James O’Shea – Concerned citizen
Ray Knootz – Concerned citizen
Linda Black – Concerned citizen
Approval of Agenda and Minutes
The agenda for the January 22, 2009 meeting was approved. The minutes of the December 18, 2008 meeting were approved.

Chair’s Report
As you know, the MTA public hearings on the proposed fare increases and service cuts have gotten underway. The hearing in Manhattan was held on Wednesday January 14, and at this hearing Trudy Mason testified on behalf of the NYCTRC. The hearing in Queens was held this past Tuesday, with Mike Sinansky testifying on behalf of the Council. I will speak more about them in my Board Report, as I was on the dais at both hearings.

Under separate cover you were sent a copy of Steve Feil’s response to the questions we posed to him during his appearance at our November meeting.

Within the last two weeks, Jan Wells has hired two graduate assistants to work in the PCAC office. Both are graduate students concentrating in transportation planning at the Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University. Manzell Blakely, who hails from Washington State, will be working on the PCAC website and will assist in the development of new promotional materials for the Councils. Please make sure to check out the latest updates on the PCAC website. A big thank you to Jan for her tireless efforts to keep the website current and fresh. Chris Jewett, from Delaware, will assist in writing Council testimony and correspondence and in gathering information on the Section 8 reports that Ellyn submits to the MTA. He is enrolled in a joint program with the Rutgers Law School and will complete his legal studies after he finishes his planning degree.

In the last few weeks Deborah Hall-Moore responded to two issues that we have raised. In response to the question of whether there is a contingency plan for the operation of the Second Avenue Subway if the W line is eliminated and the Q line extended to Astoria, Operations Planning has indicated that when the Second Avenue Subway opens, the W service, or some variant of this service, would be reintroduced.

The second issue involves an entrance at the 50th Street station on the 8th Avenue line. At the north end of the uptown platform there is an entrance that opens onto the northwest corner of 8th Avenue/51st Street. There are red globes at street level and a lockable gate in the stairway, but there is no sign at the entrance that lists the hours of operation for this entrance. At the platform level there are HEETS and high exit only turnstiles, as well as an emergency exit door. Ken Stuart said that on one occasion he had left this station through the emergency exit door, only to find the stairway gate locked, trapping him between the gate and the entrance to the paid area. He said that he had to get someone to open the emergency exit door to let him out of this area. We asked if there are set hours of operation for this entrance. We also asked what the procedure for closing the entrance is if in fact the entrance is closed at some times.

In response to this issue, the Stations department looked into this issue and indicated the following:

At the location in question (north end of the northbound entrance at 51st Street/8th Avenue), the street-level signage reads: “50 Street Station CE Uptown & Queens Downtown CE across 8 Av & 50 Street” and, “Enter with or buy MetroCard at all times or see agent at 50 Street.” The platform-level signage reads: “Exit 51st Street/8th Avenue”

The street stairway has a gate at its base that is supposed to remain locked in the OPEN position against the stairway wall. All locks and eyebolts have been checked and are operating as designed. The two red globes will be replaced with green globes as soon as possible.

This week we will be sending a letter to President Roberts to ask for his assistance in solving the noise and crowding problems at the Times Square station. Enforcement of noise and crowding regulations are practically nonexistent at this station. Staff has visited the station regularly over the last two months and spoken to several transit workers, police officers, and passengers. All seem to be in agreement that the problems are escalating and need to be solved.

In the letter, we will be asking President Roberts to create a Station Manager position whose sole responsibility is the Times Square station. Presently, the Times Square Station Supervisor is also responsible for several stations to the north and south. We are asking that President Roberts empower the newly created position with the ability to write protocols as needed, work in partnership with the NYPD Transit Bureau, and communicate regularly with MTA’s Music Under New York program staff to inform them of any issues that arise from the program. The Council would like to see order restored to the station so that riders can hear announcements and transit workers can be heard in their radio transmissions. While we are focusing on the Times Square station because we have the most information on the problems there, we are also asking that the Times Square station be used as a pilot program and that this approach be expanded to other large stations having similar issues.

Board Report
Andrew Albert presented the Board Report. He said that the public hearings on the fare increase proposals have been occupying much of the Board’s attention in the previous weeks. He reported that the Manhattan public hearing had 125 speakers and continued until 1:30 a.m. At the hearing in Flushing, Queens, 75 speakers were heard. Mr. Albert stated that about 80 percent of the comments that were made at the hearings concerned service cuts; he observed that the level of fares is not the most important issue when a needed service is no longer available to the rider. He said that the M8 and M10 bus line cuts were major issues in Manhattan and Q27 bus line cuts was a major issue in Queens. The issue of the timing of the Queens hearing was raised, as it was held while colleges that are served by the Q27 were not in session and on the day of the Presidential inauguration.

Mr. Albert noted that the idea of routing all A trains to the Rockaways and all C trains to Lefferts Boulevard was also raised in the Queens hearing. Michael Sinansky said that the NYCTRC should renew its recommendation of this change as it would simplify operations. William Guild said that he had written an article recommending this change years ago for the Committee for Better Transit newsletter. Bob Olmsted noted that the current split of A service between the Rockaways and Lefferts Boulevard is the factor that causes 20 minute off peak headways at the end of these lines. Alan Flacks asked the Council to push for M service to go to Chambers Street at all times.

Edith Prentiss observed that there were many working Access-A-Ride clients at the Queens hearing, and the assumption that paratransit trips are essentially only for access to medical care is unwarranted. Ms. Prentiss stated that she objects to Access-A-Ride using inaccessible livery cars for emergency transportation. She said that until there is a larger accessible taxi fleet, this system will not work. Yvonne Morrow questioned whether one can call an accessible taxi. Ms. Prentiss responded that accessible taxicabs can be called through the City’s 311 system but there are few available vehicles and even fewer trained drivers. She said that the accessible taxi system is unfair to both the driver and the client, as the driver is not compensated for the time spent traveling to make a pick up and the client has to pay meter rates for the time the he or she spends entering and being secured in the taxicab. As a result, a large fare can be incurred before any distance has been traveled.

Old Business
Mr. Flacks inquired whether staff had received a response regarding a letter sent to the Council by Gloria Bletter about acceptable proof of reduced fare eligibility. Mr. Henderson said that he had forwarded the letter to Deborah Hall-Moore at NYC Transit for Transit’s reaction and that he would follow up on it, as he had not yet received a response from Ms. Hall-Moore.

Ms. Prentiss said that the magnetic card readers at AutoGates should be replaced with smart card readers because the existing arrangement destroys cards. She also noted that with the installation of grating on the gates station agents often can’t see that an AutoGate user is prevented from using the gate because it has a standard MetroCard stuck in it.

Ken Stewart said that on November 12 he had accompanied NYC Transit Bus Senior Vice President Joe Smith on a tour to evaluate bus announcement systems. He said that Mr. Smith had been very good about reaching out to the low vision community.

New Business
Mr. Stewart raised the possibility of corporate sponsorship of specific stations or entrances as a means of increasing income for the MTA. Mr. Albert said that this would be a possibility so long as the existing station name and identity is maintained and the sale of naming rights does not lead to confusion among riders.

Introduction of William Goodrich, Senior Vice President – MTA Capital Construction Company (MTACC) to Discuss the Status of the Second Avenue Subway Project .
Mr. Goodrich said that he had joined the Capital Construction Company in August 2008 and serves as Program Executive of the Second Avenue Subway project. He said that he is also familiar with the Fulton Street Transit Center project, as he had previously worked on that project. Mr. Goodrich said that the current work on the Second Avenue Subway is part of Phase 1 of the project and that the phasing and scheduling of other pieces of the project have not yet been finalized, although preliminary engineering for the entire project has been completed. Only Phase 1, however, has been authorized to proceed to final design and final design work is continuing even as construction progresses.

Mr. Goodrich said that all tunneling for Phase 1 is to be completed as part of the first contract to be let. There will be three new stations constructed at 96th, 86th, and 72nd Streets and an expansion at 63rd Street. Phase 1 will also include the fitting out of existing tunnel north of 96th Street, which will be used for storage. In order to perform tunneling work, a tunnel boring machine (TBM) launch box will be constructed between 91st and 96th Streets. Trudy Mason asked whether the material removed in tunneling would be taken out through the launch box. Mr. Goodrich replied that it would be, and although a location for the spoil removal had not been set, it would probably occur at the southern portion of the launch box, between 91st and 93rd Streets.

Mr. Goodrich said that final design is complete for 3 of 11 contracts in Phase 1 and that a single tunnel boring machine, which is a refurbished model, will be used. Ms. Mason asked whether the tunnel boring machine would cause vibration similar to that experienced in the construction of the 63rd Street tunnel. Mr. Goodrich said that the performance standards in the contract incorporating tunnel boring are the same as would be demanded from new equipment and that vibration would be monitored by seismographs. He said that the bore for the tunnel would be 22 feet in diameter, and that the inside dimension of the lined tunnel would be 19 feet 9 inches. The tunnel will lie between 45 and 85 feet below the street and will be a minimum of 15 feet below the top of the bedrock.

Mr. Albert asked whether access is maintained to stores adjacent to the launch box construction. Mr. Goodrich said that maintaining sidewalks is a condition of the contract, but that they may be narrowed to 6 to 7 feet in width when construction occurs on that side of the street. Ms. Mason said that access to shops is very difficult where construction is taking place. Ms. Prentiss said that by law gangplanks to businesses must accommodate persons with disabilities, but they often don’t. Mr. Albert asked whether accessibility is the responsibility of the contractor. Mr. Goodrich responded that contractors are responsible for access as a condition of their permits and their contract with MTACC and that he would look into the matter.

Sharon Santa Maria asked whether one could access each business directly from the street. Mr. Goodrich said that access is via corners of each block. Mr. Albert asked if necessary utility work is being coordinated with the project. Mr. Goodrich responded that there is some utility work being done as a part of the project, but that there is not currently any coordination of unrelated utility work. Ms. Mason asked about work to be done at 72nd Street. Mr. Goodrich said that this work is connected to the construction of two shafts at this site that will be used to remove material for the construction of a station. He said that the station work is being done after the work at 96th Street because this sequence fits best with the overall project schedule. Mr. Goodrich said that there is currently a lot of water main and sewer line relocation being done on the project. Mr. Sinansky asked whether water users will have adequate pressure during this work. Mr. Goodrich said that ultimately he would defer judgment to the NYC Department of Environmental Protection, but that taking water mains out of service is done from time to time for other purposes.

Mr. Albert asked whether weather impedes progress on the project. Mr. Goodrich said that there are limited situations, such as the effect of rain on ironworkers’ safety, where weather has an impact and that temperature is not a factor. Karyl Berger asked whether the project team has located anything unexpected in the course of construction. Mr. Goodrich said that the foundation of the Rupert Brewery was found during excavation. Mr. Albert asked whether the completion date of 2015 for Phase 1 would hold. Mr. Goodrich said that a later date is being proposed and that a revised date would be released within a month.

Mr. Olmsted asked how much had been saved by eliminating the third track and second platform at 72nd Street. Mr. Goodrich said that the savings was about $100 million. Mr. Flacks asked whether the Second Avenue Subway would be built to withstand earthquakes. Mr. Goodrich said that the system would comply with earthquake safety requirements of applicable codes. Matt Shotkin asked what was being done to ensure that the project meets the schedules submitted to the federal government. Mr. Goodrich said that the project is in compliance with all requirements set forth by the Federal Transit Administration and that the application of federal economic stimulus dollars is being considered to speed progress on the project.

Ray Knootz asked whether the project’s two track configuration would pose a problem if there are breakdowns. Mr. Goodrich said that crossover tracks would allow movement around disabled equipment. Ellyn Shannon asked whether Mr. Goodrich could provide statistics concerning the jobs created by the project. He said that he is working on these data; Ms. Mason said that the office of Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney is also working on compiling these numbers and that she would get them from the Congresswoman.

Ms. Mason asked about the design of the 3rd Avenue exit at 63rd Street and whether a currently closed entrance would be opened. Mr. Goodrich said that the preliminary design provides for four stair entrances and an elevator and escalator at on the southeast corner at this intersection. Mr. Olmstead asked whether there would be more than one elevator per station. Mr. Goodrich said there would be in some cases, but that cost is an important consideration. He said that there was discussion with NYC Transit of two elevators per station, but in the end Transit required only one elevator per station.

Mr. Sinansky asked about the status of the Fulton Street Transit Center. Mr. Goodrich said he was not directly involved with the project, but that the foundation contract is proceeding and that the A/C mezzanine element of the project is going out for bids.

Adjournment
The meeting was adjourned at 2:00 pm.

Respectfully submitted,

William Henderson
Executive Director

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