A meeting of the New York City Transit Riders Council (NYCTRC) was convened at 12:00 noon on January 28, 2010 in the 5th floor Board Room, 347 Madison Avenue, New York City. The following members were present:
• Andrew Albert
• Sharon King Hoge
• Shirley Genn
• Thomas Jost
• Stuart Goldstein
• Trudy L. Mason
• Jessica Gonzalez-Rojas
• Edith Prentiss
• Marisol Halpern
• Michael Sinansky
• Burton M. Strauss, Jr.
The following members were absent:
• William K. Guild
• Sharon Santa Maria
• Toya Williford
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
• Deborah Hall-Moore -NYCT
• Joseph Chiarmonte -NYCT
• Ted Orosz -NYCT
• Cordell Rogers -NYCT
• Anna Peck -NYCT
• Joseph Barr -NYCDOT
• Aaron Sugiura -NYCCOT
• Joseph Chan -MTA Real Estate
• Christopher Greif -Concerned citizen
• Ken Stewart -Concerned citizen
• Phyllis Silvestri -Concerned citizen
• Jesse Moskowitz -Concerned citizen
• Michael Shefel -Concerned citizen
• Linda Black -Concerned citizen
Approval of Agenda and Minutes
The agenda for the January 28, 2010 meeting was approved. The minutes of the December 17, 2009 meeting were approved as amended.
The Chair’s Report is attached to these minutes.
Michael Sinansky reported that he was on 34th Street recently and noted that he observed eight vehicles stopped in the bus lane, one of which was a limo stopped in the lane waiting for a passenger. Mr. Sinansky asked that staff send a follow-up letter be sent to the New York City Police Department, New York City Department of Transportation, and New York City Transit about the lack of enforcement activity on the 34th Street dedicated bus lane.
Several members who had recently observed conditions on 34th Street agreed that bus lane enforcement is inconsistent.
Tom Jost suggested that the Council invite NYCDOT Commissioner Sadik Khan to come to a meeting to discuss BRT and her other initiatives, including the Broadway Boulevard.
Mr. Albert reported that the NY State Assembly had passed legislation restoring the nonvoting MTA Board members but the Senate had not yet done so.
Mr. Albert indicated that the proposed service cuts have really divided the Board. He said that he attended all the January Board committee meetings and spoke out about the cuts and the work that Accenture has been doing with hundreds of people running around the agencies looking at management structure and functions. Bill Henderson noted that he has been told that the MTA Board “Cut Committee” has not been consulted on the work that Accenture is doing.
Mr. Albert said the MTA has shot itself in the foot by scheduling two public hearings on each of the four nights. He said he would want to go to the hearings in all five of the boroughs but with this schedule can’t do so. He said it is important for the Board members to hear what their customers have to say. He also noted that lack of public transit resulting from the proposed service cuts in some areas will devalue surrounding property.
Christopher Greif noted that the elimination of some B4 service will greatly impact people who need to get to the hospital and subways. Stuart Goldstein noted that NYCT stressed that in making the proposed cuts they wanted to maintain the transit network as best they could with limited resources, but he pointed out bus users are not the same population as subway riders. He noted that under the proposed cuts if you live east of Sheepshead Bay Road there is no bus service alternative in your area. He said there is low ridership on buses in this area because the frequency of service is low.
Mr. Sinansky said the testimony for the hearings should be tailored to the service cuts being proposed for each of the Boroughs. He said that once the testimony is written, it should be sent to the members who will give it so they can add any additional items for which they feel strongly. Mr. Albert said the increase in off peak subway loading standards to 125 percent of seated load will greatly impact service, and he said there are already big gaps in service.
Edith Prentiss reported that she sees many buses that do not actually complete their scheduled trips, but have their runs terminated before reaching their scheduled destinations. She said that she recently experienced this practice while waiting 45 minutes for an M4 bus in Upper Manhattan. She said that buses are regularly being turned at 110th, 125th and 135th Streets.
Ms. Prentiss said she will be happy to give the testimony in Staten Island if necessary and Shirley Genn said she could give it in Brooklyn.
In response to Jessica Rojas’ comment about the age and condition of buses operating on the Q32 route, Anna Peck, NYCT Assistant General Superintendent – Department of Buses, noted that these buses were purchased from the Westchester Department of Transportation and they have just been refurbished.
Ms. Genn said she is concerned about the cleanliness of MetroCard readers; she said that she has been forced to go to the staffed end of the Avenue N station because the turnstiles at the Avenue M entrance could not read her card. She said that this has happened on numerous occasions. Ms. Hall-Moore noted that NYCT has indicated the turnstiles are being cleaned regularly and will be closely monitored. Mr. Albert said he has noticed that HEET-only entrance turnstiles are not cleaned as often as staffed entrances.
Marisol Halpern noted that even if funding is provided to NYC Transit to preserve free and half fare school passes, this does not mean that the remaining service cuts would be taken off the table.
Ms. Prentiss said the Council should write a letter to METRO about the photo of the Chambers Street station that was used in an article about the condition of subway stations. She said that it was unfortunate that the photo showed a platform not used for revenue service although there are numerous areas used by riders that are in similar condition.
No Old Business was discussed.
In response to Mr. Albert’s question about enforcement activity focusing on the 34th Street bus lane, Joseph Barr of the NYC Department of Transportation said that at the moment he could not give specifics about enforcement efforts but noted that there was an initial blitz of enforcement to get the attention of drivers. He said that now there is concentrated enforcement activity in the corridor only once a week.
In response to Ms. Prentiss’ question about bus stop enforcement in other locations, Ms. Peck said that NYCT managers have the ability to write tickets for violations involving bus stops, but they can’t be everywhere at once.
Mr. Barr indicated that NYCDOT used grant funding to pay the NYPD for enforcement activities but that the funding has a three year term.
Introduction of Theodore Orosz, NYC Transit Director – Long Range Bus Planning, Anna Peck, NYC Transit General Manager – Bus Road Control, and Joseph Barr, NYC Department of Transportation to Discuss Select Bus Service on the M15/1st and 2nd Avenue Select Bus Service Corridor.
A copy of the SBS presentation is on file in the PCAC Office.
Mr. Orosz gave a brief overview of how the Select Bus Service program evolved out of changes to bus operations over the past six decades. He noted they have gained additional data about bus operations since the last time they were guests at an NYCTRC meeting. He said that in the last several years bus speeds have dropped because of increased bus ridership, increased traffic on the streets, and slower boarding of buses because passengers are busy with cell phones and other electronic devices.
Mr. Orosz described how NYC Transit and NYCDOT developed the five initial SBS routes. Mr. Orosz reported that early next year, the 34th Street bus corridor will be outfitted with an off-board fare collection system like the one on the Bx12 SBS route in the Bronx.
In response to Mr. Sinansky’s question why there has never been a SBS route designated in Queens, Mr. Orosz said there are many good candidates for Queens SBS routes, but there has been open hostility to the proposed corridors. Mr. Orosz said that Hillside Avenue, Flushing, Jamaica and the area around LaGuardia are all good candidates for locations of SBS routes.
Mr. Sinansky said six of the fifteen routes that were deemed to be finalists in the study process are in Queens, but none of them were selected for implementation. He noted that many of these proposed routes were in the southeastern and northeastern portions of the Borough where there is no subway service. Mr. Sinansky said that he has not heard anything about new SBS initiatives.
Mr. Orosz said the consultants working on Phase 2 of the SBS project are looking at the remaining corridors from the list of 15 and gathering further background information. He said that the SBS team is looking to make bus improvements in the Jamaica Center area. Mr. Orosz noted, however, that it will be quite a while before any new routes are announced.
Mr. Orosz indicated that the SBS on 1st and 2nd Avenues would follow the same route that the M15 travels now but with far fewer stops. He said that south of Houston Street the stops will generally be placed where the Second Avenue Subway stations will be located. He said uptown the SBS will have a greater span of service than the current limited stop buses and that all SBS buses will go from 125th Street to South Ferry. He said the service will include off-board fare collection, with two machines accepting MetroCards and one machine accepting cash at every stop, and traffic signal prioritization improvements.
Mr. Orosz said there will be dedicated bus lanes for the entire route except in the area of construction for the Second Avenue Subway. He said the bus lane will not be physically separated from the rest of the roadway. He noted there are some benefits to physically separated lanes but noted that there are places where it is imperative for vehicles to have curb access and that physically separating bus lanes would make it hard for buses to pass other vehicles stopped in the curb lane.
Aaron Sugiura from the NYC Department of Transportation noted there are three basic designs under consideration. Mr. Orosz said that there will be four moving traffic lanes at all times in the Second Avenue Subway construction zone and the lane closest to the curb would be wider than the others, but it would not be a true bus lane. He said the stops with off-board fare collection would be at 100th, 88th, 79th, and 67 Streets. Mr. Orosz said there is not continuous construction throughout the corridor but only at station sites. He said that because riders rely on catching their bus at a fixed location, Transit can’t move the stops from place to place. As a result, they picked stops that will not change even during the periods that Second Avenue Subway construction is taking place. The stops will be restored when construction is completed.
Mr. Orosz said that they expect there will be a 20 percent decrease in running time compared to the limited stop buses now operating in the corridor.
In response to Stuart Goldstein’s question concerning the how businesses receive deliveries when bus lanes follow the B and C design scenarios, in which the bus lane is a curb lane, Mr. Barr said there will specific delivery times provided during the midday hours and the businesses will have to adjust their schedules accordingly.
In response to Shirley Genn’s question about whether people waiting at SBS bus stops will disrupt neighboring businesses, Mr. Barr said there are generally already people waiting for local and limited-stop buses at these locations and bus bulbs are being included in the project’s second phase in order to provide additional space to wait for buses. He said that the fare machines are small and quick to use but do not currently have smart card capabilities, although they can be readily modified to accept smart cards if necessary.
Marisol Halpern noted that there is widespread concern that there has been a lot of lost revenue on the Bx12 SBS route because of the off-board fare collection system. Mr. Orosz said that in fact the revenue on the Bx12 route is up and noted that the media keeps writing this story because they don’t really believe that off-board fare collection works. Mr. Orosz said they have done a number of audits and it appears that the fare evasion rate is the same or lower than it was before the route was converted to include SBS.
Ms. Mason extended an invitation to the guests at the meeting to come up to 2nd Avenue and speak with the merchants and residents to hear how the Second Avenue Subway construction is affecting their lives. .
Cordell Rogers, who works with Ms. Peck, said they have closely monitored the M15 route and they are not making any physical changes in the construction zone for SBS, but the buses will still have to make stops on 2nd Avenue regardless of the service that is operated.
In response to Ms. Mason’s question as to what happens when a bus breaks down and there are only two lanes of traffic moving, Mr. Rogers said that the same process is followed no matter where a breakdown occurs and that road operations personnel respond in these situations. Mr. Barr said there are stipulations in the permit granted for Second Avenue construction that provide for lanes to be open during the peak traffic periods. Mr. Albert said the contractor gets fined if they do not comply with the conditions of the permit for use of street space.
In response to Mr. Goldstein’s question whether any thought has been given to shifting the route to another roadway that is not affected by Second Avenue Subway construction, Mr. Orosz said that they considered modifying the route, but he noted that the average trip length on this route is 2.5 miles and that the busiest part of the route is from 50th Street to just south of the construction zone. He said that to disrupt the existing route would be harmful to the overall service. Mr. Orosz pointed out that Lexington Avenue is one of the more narrow Avenues in Manhattan. He said that the impacts of the subway construction have been manageable to this point. He also noted that there has been a loss of ridership on the M15 but that change is mainly due to the economy’s downturn and in part to the loss of the bus stops in the construction zone.
In response to Tom Jost’s question about the steps that would be taken to prevent turning traffic from interfering with bus movements and whether the design that was shown could be changed to provide for turns, Mr. Barr said that in the area approaching heavily traveled cross streets parking would be restricted in the curb lane to provide space for vehicles to make turning movements without obstructing the bus lane.
In response to Mr. Jost’s question about whether other agencies that may be affected, such as the Department of Sanitation, have been consulted on the SBS design, Mr. Barr said that Sanitation has worked with NYCDOT on a similar project for 8th and 9th Avenues and are very much a part of the process. He said they want to figure out a design that will be acceptable to all parties involved to avoid having to make changes once the plan has been implemented.
Ms. Prentiss said she has a real problem with having multiple buses in the bus lane. She said that when there is a bus in a stop with a bus serving a different route behind it, the second bus just goes around the first bus without stopping for passengers who were waiting for the second bus. Mr. Rogers noted that local and SBS stops are in different places. He said they have addressed an issue at 42nd Street and 2nd Avenue where an operator intentionally bypassed a customer using a wheelchair.
In response to Mr. Sinansky’s question concerning the levels of service before and after implementation of SBS on 1st and 2nd Avenues, Mr. Barr said they are in the middle of the analysis. He said traffic volumes before 9/11/2001 were 500 vehicles greater than they are now. He said in the short term congestion may increase but in the long term the hope is that it will decrease.
In response to Ms. Shannon’s question about what they plan to do with regard to the current locations where express buses lay over along the route, Mr. Orosz said that they are looking at alternative locations and one solution that has been identified is to have the buses layover at the 126th Street depot.
In response to Mr. Grief’s question as to whether the B49 route would be affected by the new B44 SBS route, Mr. Orosz said that the B49 route would not be changed at all by this new service. He said the SBS route would not service Kings County Hospital, but the local B44 route would remain the same.
The meeting was adjourned at 2:25 pm.