Meeting Minutes January 22, 2015




A meeting of the New York City Transit Riders Council (NYCTRC) was convened at 12:00 noon on January 22, 2015 in the 5th floor Board room, 347 Madison Avenue, New York City.

The following members were present:

Andrew Albert                       Trudy L. Mason

Stuart Goldstein                   Scott Nicholls

Christopher Greif                 Edith Prentiss

Sharon King Hoge              Michael Sinansky

Burton M. Strauss, Jr.

The following members were absent:

William Guild                     Marisol Halpern

In addition, the following persons were present:

William Henderson             -PCAC Executive Director

Angela Bellisio                     -PCAC Transportation Planner

Bradley Brashears               -PCAC Transportation Planner

Karyl Berger                          -PCAC Research Associate

Adam Lisberg                       -MTAHQ

Deborah Hall-Moore           -NYCT

Nidhish Patel                         -NYCT

Peter Crociata                       -NYCT

John Wiener                         -NYCT

Glen Wilson                          -NYCT

Robert Gomes                      -NYCT

Dustin Jones                        -Disabled In Action

Ken Stewart                          -Concerned citizen

Richard Schulmam             -Concerned citizen

 Approval of Agenda and Minutes

The agenda for the January 22, 2015 meeting was approved.  The minutes of the December 18, 2014 meeting were approved as amended.  Trudy Mason said that in the second line on page 2, she was quoted as saying that countdown clocks said a train would arrive in seven minutes and that this should be two minutes.

Sharon King Hoge stated that she sometimes notices a glitch in the countdown clocks at the 77th Street Lexington Line station in that the system displays odd times for train arrivals.

Ms. Mason requested a schedule of the 6 train.

Andrew Albert said that the Capital Program factored into the discussion at Board meeting.  CBTC is big part of NYC Transit’s future capital needs.

Introduction of Nidhish Patel, Program Executive, NYC Transit Capital Program Management, to discuss the status of and schedule for installation of Communication Based Train Control (CBTC) in the NYC subway system

Mr. Patel referenced a series of slides as part of his presentation, copies of which are on file in the PCAC offices.  He briefly reviewed the history of the subways as three distinct systems (IRT, BRT, IND), which are now operated as NYC Transit’s A Division and B Division.

Mr. Patel also briefly discussed the types of signals in the NYC Transit subways, fixed block signals and communication based train control (CBTC).  The deployment of CBTC began with the Canarsie Line, where the signal system was implemented in 2006.  The second line to receive CBTC is the Flushing Line, where the contract to implement the system was awarded in 2010.  The most commonly cited advantage of CBTC is that it increases throughput.  Mr. Patel explained that a fixed block signal system breaks track into blocks to provide for the control of train movement of trains along a segment.  Raising the capacity of a segment of track requires a large number of signals under fixed block operation.

Ms. Mason wanted to know the maximum throughput of trains with fixed block signaling systems.  Mr. Patel responded that with a fixed block system 26 trains per hour is the maximum, because of the equipment and maintenance demands created by increasing throughput.  He said that the use of CBTC began in Europe and now is moving to the rest of the world.  There are a number of equipment vendors for CBTC systems, but when New York City Transit outfitted the Canarsie Line it was decided that there should be a single standard for CBTC within the NYC Transit subways.

Mr. Albert asked whether NYC Transit will retrofit older cars to be used when CBTC is deployed on new lines. He noted that the Queens Boulevard Line is the next place where CBTC is scheduled, but the equipment used for the R train is not CBTC equipped. Mr. Patel replied that NYC Transit will be retrofitting R142 cars for use on the 7 Line, but in general they will have new cars built to be CBTC ready and use them on the lines where the system is implemented. This will mean that old cars will be retired as CBTC is installed. He noted that CBTC also includes the capability for Automatic Train Supervision that is not in place on the B division outside of the L Line.

Edith Prentiss asked whether cars on lines where CBTC is implemented will be retired or shifted to other lines. Mr. Patel said that the deployment plan for CBTC is staged to allow retirement of old cars on the line when the new system comes in.

Mr. Patel summed up the reasons that NYC Transit is moving to CBTC, noting safety, increased throughput capacity, the potential for increased flexibility of service, CBTC support for mixed fleet operations with trains that are not CBTC equipped, and support for automatic train operation.  He said that CBTC also provides continuous overspeed protection that allows for speed enforcement along the line, not only at signals and that

CBTC prevents wrong side doors from being opened at stations.

In addition, CBTC enhances safety by increasing protection for work crews on the tracks.  Mr. Patel said that flagging rules are still in place where CBTC has been implemented, but CBTC also enforces speeds in work areas.  He said that with fixed block signals, capacity is lost because a margin for safety is built into operating procedures, while CBTC equipped trains can operate more efficiently without compromising safety. The result is improved performance for riders.  CBTC optimizes acceleration and braking, resulting in decreased running time.  This has been demonstrated on the L Line as the use of CBTC has increased capacity and reduced platform crowding.

Sharon King Hoge asked what is left for the train operator to do.  Mr. Patel replied that, where there is an unscheduled situation, the train operator has to take manual control of the train.  This is the case in work zones, as the Automatic Train Operation feature of CBTC is not active in work zones.

Ms. Mason asked whether trains can be retrofitted with CBTC to allow implementation to move faster.  Mr. Patel replied that it is possible to retrofit older cars, but considering budget and track access considerations, the Capital Program makes it difficult to speed up installation.  Mr. Albert commented that one would suppose that R68 and R68A cars could be shifted to other lines rather than retiring them early as CBTC is implemented.

Ms. Prentiss noted that one factor that limits speed on the 7 Line is the lack of a third track over the entire route and asked whether it is possible to add a third track where one is not present. Mr. Albert stated that it would be cost prohibitive to do so.

Mr. Patel briefly outlined the components of the CBTC system. He said that when operating under CBTC, a train interfaces with the system’s zone controller and the system calculates the train’s speed and settings for optimal operation. The zone controller keeps track of trains in its zone and provides stopping points for cars in the area that it controls. Wayside radios in the CBTC system provide the communication link between the zone controller and cars.

Mr. Patel said that NYC Transit’s CBTC systems currently use R142 and R143 cars, but also have 8 R160 cars in place on the L Line.  Mr. Albert asked what would happens if the transponder in the system fails.  Mr. Patel stated that there are fail safes and backup systems in place.  Trains can still operate even if transponders are lost.

Mr. Patel noted that implementing CBTC requires some time.  He said that the Canarsie Line contract was awarded in 1999 but the system was not finished until 2006.  One of the features of the system is redundancy, as the CBTC communication system on the L is separate from the general data communication backbone.

Mr. Albert said that he understands that additional power substations are required on L Line.  Mr. Patel agreed and said that the CBTC system can move 30 trains per hour, but currently needs to have additional power to run that many trains.  He said that on the 7 Line there will be 46 trains on the system and that the cutover to CBTC operation will occur in three phases.  There will be mixed mode operations between 74th Street and Flushing and wayside signalization cannot be removed until all trains can operate in full CBTC mode. Mr. Albert asked whether the scheduled 2017 completion means that there will be 7 Line shutdowns until 2017.

Karyl Berger asked whether there is a backup for CBTC if there is a problem with the system.  Mr. Patel responded that NYC Transit would go to mixed mode operation until they are sure that the functionality of the system was fully restored, but that the CBTC system is redundant in terms of hardware. In full implementation, fixed block signaling will not be used as a backup for CBTC. Stuart Goldstein asked what would happen if everything failed. Mr. Patel said that NYC Transit has protocols for limited service when signal systems are not functioning.

Mike Sinansky said that he assumed that the system is first being implemented on the 7 and L lines because they are isolated from other lines.  Mr. Patel agreed that this was the reasoning used and briefly reviewed the implementation schedule for CBTC. He noted that there is no definite end date because the pace of installations depends on funding. Ms. Mason asked whether the 2 Avenue Line will be CBTC equipped.  Mr. Patel said that it would and that any new lines would include CBTC.

Chair’s Report

A copy of the written Chair’s Report is attached to these minutes.

Mr. Sinansky noted that news reports said that funding for the new AirTrain proposed by Governor Cuomo would come from the State’s settlements with the financial industry.

Ms. Prentiss asked whether an intermodal station at Willets Point would be accessible.  William Henderson said that it would and that reconstructed existing stations would have to be accessible.

Ms. Hoge asked about the source of the idea for a line to LaGuardia Airport from Willets Point.  Mr. Albert said that there were proposals to access the airport from Willets Point in the Giuliani administration. Ms. Mason added that the idea of a train from Willets Point may also be connected to the redevelopment of the area.

Mr. Sinansky stated that 20 years ago there was a proposed project to provide service from 59th Street to LaGuardia Airport and onward via the Grand Central Parkway to JFK.  After this idea was killed, the JFK AirTrain was proposed as a replacement.  He said that this proposal uses a part of the old proposal’s route.

Board Report

Mr. Albert reviewed the Board action on a fare increase

Mr. Albert said that he asked whether the buy-in on the MetroCard bonus could be higher and the increase in the monthly and weekly cards could be lower.  He also noted that he observed at his briefing on the proposal that the MTA does not publicize weekly, monthly and bonus discounts. The MTA will be rolling out a public information campaign to publicize discounts and dispel misconceptions about the fares and the fare increase will go into effect March 22.

Chris Greif asked how much the bonus will increase.  Mr. Albert responded that the bonus will go from 5 to 11 percent.

Mr. Albert added that Mr. Cappelli voted against the toll increase at the Board meeting.

Mr. Prentiss asked what the Reduced Fare changes will be.  Mr. Henderson noted that reduced fare is always one-half of the standard fare, rounded down to the closest even five cents.

Old Business

Mr. Albert stated that he has been asked by One Vanderbilt representatives whether NYCTRC would like to endorse the proposal.

The Council discussed having Gale Brewer and Dan Garodnick as guests at the February NYCTRC meeting to discuss the One Vanderbilt negotiations and their view on the project. Ms. Mason stated that she would mention the possibility to Mr. Garodnick that evening.

Mr. Greif pointed out that with the cold weather, there are problems with Bus Time transponders.

Ms. Mason commented that there are increasing problems with buses having “Next Bus Please” signage showing on Bus Time as available.  Mr. Henderson responded that the Council has never received a definite answer about how these buses appear on Bus Time.

Ms. Prentiss noted that there are issues with subway performers at 42nd Street and Columbus Circle stations. Scott Nicholls commented that one issue is that most people like the performers and this causes a problem when a police officer takes action to stop a performer. Mr. Albert said that perhaps the solution is to have designated areas for performers whether or not they are in the Music Under New York program.

Ms. Prentiss added that at the 1, 2, and 3 platforms at 72nd Street are often crowded because of performers. Ken Stewart pointed out that he had bumped into musicians, fell and got a broken rib in the corridor between 7th and 8th Avenues at 42nd Street.

Mr. Greif explained that the procedure is for police to tell performers when their volume is excessive.  Also safety is very important, but some performers are located in places that create a hazard.

New Business

Ms. Prentiss stated that she waited one hour and one minute on the previous Sunday for a Bx7 bus.  She noted that eight Bx7 buses passed where she was waiting and did not stop.

Dustin Jones said that he heard that Kingsbridge Depot was closed due to weather on Sunday.

Mr. Greif stated that he saw the MTA website on Sunday, but it contained only information about cancellations.


The meeting was adjourned at 2:00 pm.

Respectfully submitted,

William Henderson

Executive Director