Meeting Minutes July 23, 2015

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NEW YORK CITY TRANSIT RIDERS COUNCIL

MINUTES OF JULY 23, 2015

A meeting of the New York City Transit Riders Council (NYCTRC) was convened at 12 Noon on July 23, 2015, in the 20th floor Board 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 K. Guild                   Scott Nicholls

The following members were absent:

Edith Prentiss                       Michael Sinansky

Burt Strauss

In addition, the following persons were present:

William Henderson             -PCAC Executive Director

Ellyn Shannon                      -PCAC Associate Director

Karyl Berger                          -PCAC Research Associate

Bradley Brashears               -PCAC Transportation Planner

Oliver Chemtob                    -PCAC Intern

David Haase                         -NYCT

Deborah Hall-Moore          -NYCT

Ken Stewart                          -Concerned citizen

Approval of Agenda and Minutes

The agenda for the July 23, 2015 meeting was approved.    The minutes of the June 25 meeting were approved with the addition that Trudy Mason spoke generally about the Second Avenue Subway Community Center and noted that there is a computer set up to give visitors the experience of operating a subway train through phase one of the Second Avenue Subway and to give them a sense of what it will be like to ride the line.

Chair’s Report

The Chair’s Report was presented by Andrew Albert.  A copy of the written report is attached to these minutes.

Ms. Mason commented that the Transportation Committee of the NY State Assembly has nothing to do with oversight of the MTA.  She said that the MTA is under the jurisdiction of the Assembly Committee on Corporations, Authorities and Commissions.

Andrew Albert noted that there was a New York Moves transportation conference held on the previous day.  He said that the program included panels on alternative transit, bicycling, and other topics.

Ms. Mason noted that there has been lots of discussion about the opening date of the first phase of the Second Avenue Subway.  The MTA is holding to its stated opening date of December 2016.  The Federal Government is saying that it expects the segment to open in mid to late 2018. There have been other indications that the opening date may be in late 2017.  The reason for the uncertainty include funding, as there is no indication where resources for cost overruns could be found. Without a federal transportation bill, the source of funding for a number of transportation projects is uncertain.  As construction on the project continues, there is a congestion issue at 86th Street.

Mr. Albert stated that the MTA Board’s independent engineer has said that, unless funding and resources are devoted to accelerate work on the project, its completion date could be pushed back to mid-2017 or later.  He noted that the New York Moves conference may be archived on the City and State website and that there were many interesting ideas at the conference.

Board Report

Mr. Albert noted that there was an MTA Board meeting yesterday where the budget was released.  Among the main features of the presentation was a $1.1 cash balance at the end of 2016, which would swing to a deficit in the out years of the four year financial plan.  He said that there is also a problem with the Affordable Care Act’s “Cadillac Tax” provisions that could be costly to the MTA because of the relatively high cost of employee health care plans that have been agreed to through collective bargaining.

Issues were also raised concerning the historically high ridership that is slowing the system. Mr. Albert said that one Board Member went in a different direction and suggested that the positive cash balance in 2016 be used to eliminate one of the upcoming fare and toll hikes.

Mr. Albert noted that he was shocked to see the Move NY proposal back in the news because of a letter from First Deputy Mayor Anthony Shorris.  Ms. Mason said that a great deal of discussion of the Move NY proposal took place at the New York Moves conference on the previous day.

Also, MTA Board members Mitch Pally and Allen Cappelli put forward their proposals for amending the budget to provide for service enhancements. There was no action taken to implement the package, but discussions will take place about the potential items in their proposal.

Ms. Mason stated that NYC Council Transportation Committee Chair Ydanis Rodriquez has proposed a connector between subway and rail lines in Upper Manhattan and The Bronx. Marisol Halpern said that she saw a very preliminary version of this plan and that the Bronx Borough President’s office agreed that there should be further study, but did not sign on to support the project.  They are uncertain how a tram would be built along Fordham Road. Ms. Mason confirmed that Mr. Rodriquez said the study will go forward.

Ellyn Shannon pointed out that MTA Board Member Fernando Ferrer had spoken about the MTA debt at the Board Meeting, noting that if the MTA follows its proposed financial plan, it will be one percentage point away from using twenty percent of its resources for debt service.  Mr. Ferrer said that no more than twenty percent of the budget should be used for debt service was the rule of thumb that he had used in his career with the City and that being this close to this standard makes him very nervous.

Mr. Albert stated that Carmen Bianco said a loose pet cat delayed of hundreds of trains the night before, which shows what a small disruption can do to the entire system.

Chris Greif pointed out that many people are concerned about bus service to East New York, as many retail facilities are being built there.  He also stated that the Shoprite supermarket does not have a bus stop, with the nearest bus stop for customers at Gateway Mall.  He said that there should be stops at Shoprite and BJ’s Wholesale Club.

Mr. Albert suggested that Mr. Greif mark where he would like the bus stops on a map so that this suggestion could be shared with NYC Transit.  He also noted that there are likely to be additions to the Capital Program as negotiations continue, including work on a BRT system on Staten Island and a yard for Metro-North Railroad’s Port Jervis Line.

New Business

Oliver Chemtob presented the work that he has done with his summer internship with the PCAC.  Mr. Chemtob thanked Ms. Mason for facilitating his internship.  He said that he has always been obsessed with trains and that as part of his internship he created a blog that is available at TheTrainExplainer.com.  The blog includes a poll on M86 SBS service and a video supporting investment in the system, which he showed to the meeting.  Mr. Chemtob took all of the images used in the video except for Sandy footage.

Introduction of David Haase, NYC Transit Director, Stations Planning to discuss measures that are planned to be employed to improve passenger circulation at the Grand Central Station

Mr. Albert introduced the Mr. Haase, who was accompanied by Christine O. Mayer.  He said that there are three people in stations planning at NYC Transit, who study circulation in the subways and make recommendations to capital designers.  Mr. Haase brought with him a presentation on proposed Grand Central subway station improvements to illustrate the work that his unit does.

Mr. Haase said that this work does not directly concern Grand Central Terminal (GCT), which was built by the New York Central Railroad in 1910, but instead pertains to the subway station below.  The current ridership at the station includes about 55,400 moves by riders, of which 20 percent are transfers, 57 percent are to surrounding streets, mostly exits, and 23 percent are intermodal changes between Metro-North and the Subway. These figures reflect AM peak as recorded in 2012.  He said that the Shuttle carries 17 percent of all traffic through the station, with the 7 line at 27 percent and the Lexington Avenue line at 56 percent.

Projected station ridership for 2035 is estimated at about 71,300, including growth from East Side Access. Mr. Haase showed a simulation of platform congestion at these levels of usage.  The worst congestion now is at the main entrance to Grand Central Terminal.  Here, riders go down to the subway level and get stuck at the turnstiles or at the escalators upon exiting the turnstiles.  The peak volumes are seen between 8:30 and 8:45 AM.

In addition to growth in existing service, new service has effects.  The 7 extension will create more ridership, the Second Avenue Subway will help reduce the load at Grand Central station, and East Side Access will both help and hurt congestion, as 10 percent of its users will go to the subway.

The Lexington line has the largest columns in the system, with fireproofing concrete around them.  The concrete is required when a station is under private property.  The design of the existing system presents opportunities for improvements.  Among the improvements to be made at Grand Central are:

  1. Adding stairs, mainly at the north end of the station;
  2. Shifting stair locations, allowing the stair to be widened from 6 to 9 feet and almost doubling capacity;
  3. Cutting back stair backs to allow circulation when stairs reach 6 or 7 feet above the platform, instead of the arrangement at Grand Central where stairs are enclosed to the next column. Existing concrete stairs will be replaced with metal stairs, opening up the area and increasing circulation space;
  4. Making columns thinner and exposing all steel, bolting on new sections, and cutting away some steel, which will save 6 inches for each column. Between the foot of savings for 2 columns and a 7 inch reduction in stair width, there will now be enough room to get past the columns.

Mr. Haase then showed a simulation with the improvements illustrating better flow on the platform.  He said that they will acquire space from Hyatt to expand the station mezzanine. In all, platform capacity will be increased downtown by 45 percent and uptown by 15 percent.  More capacity is needed downtown, plus the downtown platforms started with one fewer stair.

The Flushing Line platform is not under the Terminal building, but is a mined, vaulted station. This platform gets crowded but is in better shape than Lexington Avenue.

Sharon King Hoge asked whether there are any new escalators planned.  Mr. Haase replied that there are none from platforms, but some from mezzanines as a part of the One Vanderbilt development.  The project will also widen the east end platform stairs, add a stair, improve the transfer passage, widen stairs to the Lexington Line, and expand and reconfigure the escalators at the west side of the station.

For the 7 line, switchbacks will be replaced with direct escalators and the project will add new escalators to lower level of Grand Central Terminal and the East Side Access concourse.  This shifts escalator or mezzanine foot traffic away from the fare control area.  Improvements for the 7 Line will increase capacity 46 percent.

The Shuttle is currently flowing well at the Grand Central Terminal end, but One Vanderbilt will add access points near the Shuttle, and combined with track changes, this will increase capacity by 26 percent.

There will also be improvements to the Strawberry stairs and a replacement from the Mobil passageway, which is closed, in the form of sidewalk stairs put in place to use the passageway at 42nd & Lexington Avenue.  While sidewalk stairs are generally not preferred, NYCDOT approves their use in this case, as they will draw pedestrians away from crossing at 42nd Street and Lexington Avenue.

The total project increases access to street by 65 percent, while ridership growth tops out at 29 percent.  The result in this case is that we can build our way out of congestion. Mr. Albert wanted to know whether this can work even with future throughput improvements on the trains serving Grand Central.  Mr. Haase stated that he believes that a total of two trains can be added because of Phase 1 of the Second Avenue Subway and platform improvements.

Ms. Hoge asked if “Step Aside” markings will be placed on platforms.  Mr. Haase said that there are some at Grand Central station and NYC Transit is testing new markings at 51st Street station.

Mr. Greif asked whether elevators will be upgraded.  Mr. Haase said that ADA elevators are set for replacement and because they are early elevators, the replacement units will improve on their design. Mr. Greif said that he is concerned that there could be problems during construction. Mr. Haase replied that there will be new capacity added first, then reconstruction of existing elements.

Ms. Shannon asked about NYC Transit’s capacity for doing this analysis at other stations.  Mr. Haase stated that Grand Central is the biggest station if the 8th Avenue side is separated from Times Square-42nd Street and that they entered into this analysis because of this.  He noted that that are getting $100 million from One Vanderbilt and the give 30 percent design to the One Vanderbilt team, which completes the design work.

Ms. Shannon asked whether reopening existing entrances triggers ADA requirements and whether there have been discussions about flexibility in these rules.  Mr. Haase responded that this does trigger the requirements and that MTA is having discussions with the FTA to change its interpretation of the rules.

Ms. Mason asked if there was any input into the process during the East Midtown rezoning process.  Mr. Haase stated that they were working on these issues before they knew anything of One Vanderbilt.  The MTA gave the plan to S.L. Green for them to include in their improvements and that most of the discussions held with S.L. Green involve circulation in the One Vanderbilt building.

Old Business

Mr. Greif asked when will there be meeting with Darryl Irick.  Mr. Henderson responded that they are looking for a date

New Business

Mr. Greif commented that the shuttle busing for the N line diversions worked well last week and should be a model for the future.  Mr. Albert stated that he noticed that there are staff out during Go’s and this helps.

Adjournment

The meeting was adjourned at 2:10 p.m.

Respectfully Submitted,

William Henderson

Executive Director

 

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