Meeting Minutes July 23, 2009

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A meeting of the New York City Transit Riders Council (NYCTRC) was convened at 12 Noon on July 23, 2009, in the 5th floor Board Room, at MTA Headquarters 347 Madison Avenue, New York City. The following members were present:

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

Jessica Gonzalez-Rojas
Thomas Jost
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 – MTA-NYCT
Yvonne Morrow – Concerned citizen
Janice Caiafa – Concerned citizen
Arun Aguiar – Concerned citizen
Alan Flacks – Concerned citizen
Ken Stewart – Concerned citizen
Matt Shotkin – Concerned citizen
Lou Sepersky – Concerned citizen
Judy McClain – Concerned citizen
Andy Inglesby – Concerned citizen
Heather Haddon – AM New York
Linda Black – Concerned citizen
Jesse Moskowitz – Concerned citizen
Approval of Agenda and Minutes
The agenda for the July 23, 2009 meeting was approved. The minutes of the June 25, 2009 meeting were approved as amended.

Chair’s Report
We would like to start today by welcoming our newest Council member, Stuart Goldstein who has been recommended by the Mayor’s Office. Mr. Goldstein resides in Brooklyn and works for the City of New York. Let’s go around the room and introduce ourselves and state who recommended you.

I hope that each of the members received the PCAC Annual Report, which was mailed to you last week. While it took a while to get the graphics right, I’m sure you will agree that it’s a huge improvement over our old annual report format and is much more inviting than in past years. Also included in the report was our new organization graphic. Associate Director Jan Wells and our Outreach Assistant Manzell Blakeley deserve a wealth of compliments for the new materials. We have mailed an information packet with these new items to all of the elected officials in New York City (as well as to those in the service areas of LIRRCC and MNRCC). The report and organization chart can be found on the PCAC web site at www.pcac.org.

Speaking of the PCAC website, I want to encourage everyone to visit the website from time to time. Not only is it a great source of information on meetings, such as approved minutes and the schedule of upcoming Council and PCAC meetings, but it also includes articles about our activities. Currently, we have posted on the site a copy of the letter we sent to the ESDC on the Atlantic Yards project, the latest Council news, information and updates on the capital projects, and several items on accessibility issues in the NYC Transit system. Please take a look and go back often because new items are frequently being added.

A copy of the letter on Atlantic Yards, which we decided to send at the last NYCTRC meeting, is in your packet today. Because it addressed a topic that involved the interests of the LIRRCC, it was reviewed by the PCAC Executive Committee this past Monday, in accordance with the PCAC bylaws. The letter was directed to the Empire State Development Corporation, as this body must approve any changes to the original project. A thirty-day public comment period on the changes will begin July 29, and we will enter the letter into the record for this comment period as well.

Bill Henderson and Karyl Berger had the opportunity a few weeks ago to see what may well be the future of the MTA bus fleet. NYC Transit had on display a low floor hybrid turbine powered bus manufactured by Design Line, an Australian company that has come to the United States. The turbine that powers the bus is contained in a cube that is about two feet in each dimension. The interior is similar to the new Orion hybrid buses that are now entering service, but Bill and Karyl noted some issues with the elevated rear section of the bus. NYC Transit is purchasing some of these buses for testing and we will let you know where they are so you can see them in action.
Edith Prentiss said she was disturbed that the disability community was allowed to test the new NOVA hybrid bus, but was not asked for consultation on the new Design Line bus before some were purchased.

Andrew Albert noted there has been a service change on the 6 line, and although it was a small change he was upset that the Board was not notified about it. He said the change is being made to allow for trains to be stored on express tracks at Westchester Square.

Ms. Prentiss asked if the NYCTRC could send a letter asking about the purchase of the new Design Line buses and what will happen if they are not suitable for use. She also noted on the 300 new hybrid buses, they put the decals for priority seating on the affected seats so if someone is already sitting in the seat a person boarding the bus would not know that it is a priority seat. She asked that the letter also request that the decals be returned to the windows. The motion to send a letter on these two issues was approved.

Marisol Halpern said that people aren’t aware of the 6 line service change but they need to be told about it. Mr. Albert said that passengers are only being told at Hunts Point.

Ellyn Shannon reported that she had attended a New York Metropolitan Transportation Council (NYMTC) meeting and had made the suggestion that funding levels should be adjusted to meet real needs and not determined based on historical practice.

Board Report
Mr. Albert reported that the Board members were very upset when they learned of the increased delays on both the Second Avenue Subway and East Side Access projects. He said MTA Capital Construction President Michael Horodniceanu committed to a completion date of September 2016 for the East Side Access project and December 2016 for completion of the first phase of the Second Avenue Subway project. There is great concern that this influx of new riders from East Side Access will swamp the Lexington Avenue line if the Second Avenue Subway is not available.

Ms. Shannon said she thought it would be valuable to send a letter to the NYMTC principals and state the importance of considering funding levels in other metropolitan areas throughout the world in developing the region’s transportation plan.

New Business
Ken Stewart reported that he was on an E train and got off at the 7th Avenue station, and when he went to the 7th Avenue end of the station and walked up the stairs he found the top closed with a gate. He asked why there is not a gate at the bottom of the stairs instead of the top. Mr. Albert said it would be great if conductors would make announcements about the station entrances that are open as you exit the train, but that is now hard to do with automated announcements.

Alan Flacks said that 24 hour booth in any station should be located at the street that the station is named for.

Mr. Albert said he is surprised there is not a HEET at the 7th Avenue entrance of this station. In response to Alan Flacks’ question as to why there is no panic bar gate at the 96th Street station, Ellyn Shannon said it is because the station is under construction and that it will be put back in when the station work is completed.

Ms. Prentiss noted that before emergency doors that have panic bars were installed it was easier for station agents to see wheelchair users. She said it is now much harder for them to see a wheelchair user. She also noted that she has yet to hear back from President Roberts about her complaint concerning baby carriages not being folded up on subway cars. Mr. Albert said staff will follow up on this issue.

Lou Sepersky asked if the NYCTRC would support an effort to contact developers who have non functioning escalators that feed into subway stations and to see if these problems can be resolved. His aim is to address escalators and elevators that are not under the auspices of NYC Transit and are maintained by private building operators. Mr. Sepersky spoke specifically about escalators in the 875 and 885 Third Avenue buildings.

Introduction of Judith McClain, NYCT Senior Director – Rail Service Planning, to Discuss the Culver Viaduct Rehabilitation Project
A copy of Ms. McClain’s presentation is on file in the PCAC office.

Ms. McClain explained that the Viaduct will be totally waterproofed so that it will last much longer next time.

Ms. McClain explained that the during first phase of the project the G train will be extended to Church Avenue She said during Phase 2 A of the project there will be no northbound service at the Smith/9th Streets station. In the Phase 2 B service plan there will be no service at all at the Smith/9th Streets station. She said there will be buses operated to replace service at the station, but the service plan for this bus substitution has not yet been determined.

Ms. McClain noted that there may be an additional bus to subway connection for the residents of Red Hook during the construction period. She explained that the B61 route will be split in part at the urging of the residents in Red Hook. She said the route was very long, which reduced the service’s reliability, and that splitting the route should help to alleviate this problem. She noted that only a small percentage of Red Hook residents ride the B61 beyond Downtown Brooklyn and that the change will take place in January, 2010.

Ms. Prentiss asked whether the Church Avenue is the only accessible station within the project area. Ms. McClain indicated that it is, and Ms. Prentiss suggested that the map of the project area should include a symbol indicating the accessibility of this station. Ms. McClain agreed that this would be useful and said that the symbol would be reflected in future versions of the map.

Ms. McClain said only the G will run from the Smith /9th Streets station in southbound service during Phase 3B of the project.

In response to a question about F express service, Andy Inglesby of NYC Transit Government and Community Affairs said that this service can’t even be considered until the Culver Viaduct project has been completed. He said NYCT has promised to look closely at the F express once the project work is finished.

Ms. McClain said that when service must be suspended on the Culver Viaduct a bus shuttle will operate from the Church Avenue station to either the Hoyt Schermerhorn or Fulton Street station. She said that the Culver line will be shut down during four weekends this fall and twenty-one weekends overall and that there will be buses provided when this occurs.

Mike Sinansky noted that when bus shuttles are running as a substitute for trains, there should be adequate road supervision to ensure the operation runs properly.

Mr. Inglesby said they are hoping to coordinate this work with the construction work that is going on at the Jay Street/Borough Hall station.

Shirley Genn reported that on her way to the meeting, she was stuck on an F train at the Bergen Street station for 25 minutes. She said it was a very long time before any announcements were made and that if adequate announcements had been made, riders could have decided whether to leave the train to take an alternate route.

Stuart Goldstein asked whether there will be service added to the 4th Avenue line when the Culver Viaduct project gets underway. Ms. McClain said that there will be additional service on the G line and that for many of the service changes it would not help to increase service on other lines.

Mr. Goldstein noted that there has been a commitment from the MTA Board to restore service on the lower level of the Bergen Street station even without the restoration of F express service.

Ms. Prentiss noted that this is a huge project, and she expressed hope that the work being done will last longer and be better maintained than the existing structure. She questioned whether the project is simply to rebuild the existing facilities in-kind or will make use of state of the art technology. Ms. McClain said they are waterproofing the whole structure so that it will last a long time.

Toya Williford noted that closing the Smith/9th Streets station will be a great hardship to the residents of Red Hook. Ms. McClain explained that they looked at keeping the station open during the construction but because the station is so high above the street it would be difficult to build a temporary structure that would be able to accommodate the riders safely.

Ms. Williford said it is important for NYC Transit to reach out to the tenant associations for the East and West Red Hook Houses. She said that residents in the Red Hook Houses complex make up over 30 percent of the population of the neighborhood.

In response to Ms. Shannon’s question about the operational benefits of the project once it has been completed, Ms. McClain said that they will look at permanently extending the G to Church Avenue, instituting F express service, and extending the V into Brooklyn as far as Church Avenue. After the project is complete NYC Transit will also have the ability to reroute service when breakdowns occur because of additional tracks that will be made available.

In response to Mr. Albert’s suggestion that a service plan for the future should have the V run local and F run express, Ms. McClain said they are looking at various scenarios. She noted that although Carroll Street and Bergen Street are local stations, they have fairly high ridership.

Sharon King Hoge noted that in Central and South American there is an informal public transit system that makes use of retrofitted trucks to transport people and that it seems to work very well. She said that this service is provided by independent operators and wondered whether this kind of competition should be prohibited.

Mr. Sinansky noted that the problem with the so called dollar vans is that many of them do not have insurance, and so a person is taking a risk to ride in them. He also said they are taking business away from NYC Transit bus service and they also interfere with the operations of the street because they often stop wherever they are hailed to pick up passengers.

Ms. Prentiss noted that the NYC Taxi and Limousine Commission is once again considering licensing dollar vans. She said that dollar vans are totally illegal according to the public accommodations law since they are not accessible to persons with disabilities. Lou Sepersky asked whether the new rail that is being installed on the project is continuous welded rail. Mr. Inglesby said he did not know and suggested we contact NYC Transit Capital Program Management Chief Engineer Connie Crawford about this issue.

Ms. McClain said they are putting welded rail on the express tracks to minimize vibrations. She said they are removing Track B5 in the current configuration, but that this track is not currently used.

Mr. Goldstein asked about the diamond switch between the Smith/9th Streets and 4th Avenue stations that prevents express service from the Carroll and Bergen Street stations.

William Guild asked whether Transit could add express service using the Bergen and Carroll Street stations’ lower level tracks. Ms. McClain replied that this would involve a major financial investment and amount of restoration work to restore service from these tracks. Mr. Inglesby said that the lower level platforms had since been devoted to other uses, and that the other uses would have to be relocated to restore service.

In response to Ms. Genn’s question as to whether there will be an elevator at Smith/9th Streets station, Ms. Prentiss said this station did not meet ADA requirements so it would not be an efficient use of resources to install an elevator at this station.

Burt Strauss asked about the cost of the project. Ms. McClain said that it is $199 million, but noted that the bids for this project came in much lower than had been anticipated and that this result is a reflection of what is happening with the larger economy.

In response to Mr. Goldstein’s question whether the concrete finishes will be used for flooring in this project, Ms. McClain said that the flooring would be finished concrete. He asked whether the work on the Smith/9th Streets station is considered an improvement, and Ms. McClain said that the goal of the project is to return the station to a state of good repair. Mr. Inglesby indicated that if this station were to be improved it would then have to be made fully accessible. This would require six elevators, which would make the project infeasible.

In response to Mr. Goldstein’s question whether the windows and other historical elements in the affected stations will be fully restored, Ms. McClain said that this work is not a full rehabilitation project but that some important elements will be repaired. She noted that Transit is looking for outside funding to pay for some of the restoration of historical features.

Adjournment
The meeting was adjourned at 1:00 p.m.

Respectfully Submitted,

Karyl Berger
PCAC Research Associate

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