Meeting Minutes July 28, 2016



A meeting of the New York City Transit Riders Council (NYCTRC) was convened at 12 Noon on July 28, 2016, in the 20th floor Board room at 2 Broadway, New York City.

The following members were present:

Andrew Albert
William K. Guild
Stuart Goldstein
Sharon King Hoge
Christopher Greif
Edith Prentiss

The following members were absent:

Marisol Halpern
Scott Nicholls
Trudy L. Mason
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
Uday R. Schultz -PCAC Intern
Deborah Hall-Moore -NYCT
Alice Lowman -NYCT
Morgan Geraghty -Queens Boro President’s Office
Yoni Bokser -Queens Boro President’s Office
Arthur Piccolo – BGA
Debra Greif -BFSSAC
Jason A. Pineiro -Transit Advocate
Omar Vera -Transit Advocate
Alan Flacks -Concerned citizen

Approval of Agenda and Minutes

The agenda for the July 28, 2016 meeting was approved. The minutes of the June 23 meeting were approved.

Chair’s Report

The Chair’s Report was presented by Andrew Albert. A copy of the written report is attached to these minutes.
Ellyn Shannon stated that staff is now very much interested in the public engagement process and impressed by what the MTA did in dealing with the decision over refurbishing the L train’s Canarsie Tube. She said that the PCAC will give input on what should happen at the fare hearings.

Edith Prentiss asked whether the open gangways announced on new subway cars will be large. William Henderson said that the open area will comprise almost all of the ends of the cars.

Chris Greif reported that he is seeing R160 cars on the D and B lines. Andrew Albert responded that this assignment is probably temporary while the R68 cars normally serving these lines are being repaired.

Ms. Prentiss commented that there are problems with doors not working on A train, as sometimes only one leaf opens. Mr. Albert noted that there are advantages to the R46 cars, but often they have the wrong destination on their signage when they are on the A line.

Jason Pineiro commented that 40 foot buses are not feasible for use on the Q70 route and that MTA Bus should be using 60 foot long articulated buses. Mr. Henderson responded that using longer buses would likely reduce the frequency of buses. Yoni Bokser commented that he is not sure whether the Jackson Heights station geometry will accommodate articulated buses on the Q70 route.

Ms. Prentiss stated that when articulated buses were introduced to the fleet there was a commitment to not reduce the frequency of trips, but over time this reduction has happened. She said that the problem with the articulated buses is that there are fewer wheelchair spaces per passenger seat than on standard buses. In addition, there are many baby carriages using the wheelchair spaces and operators refuse to enforce the preference for wheelchairs in these spaces. Ms. Prentiss also said that she had drivers told to pull out by their supervision when she was still on the sidewalk waiting to board the bus.

Debra Greif commented that drivers do not enforce or understand the Americans With Disabilities Act. Operators do not understand that walkers are permitted, even when buses are empty.

Ms. Prentiss stated that operators sometimes assert that people seeking to board their buses are not disabled.

Omar Vera said that he had heard of these issues. He also asked whether the Q10 could be converted to Select Bus Service.

Mr. Greif stated that he has seen in many places bus operators being discourteous to riders. One operator told a rider to go on a diet. It was suggested that one incentive for good operator behavior would have to have operators’ identifying information prominently displayed on buses. This would reduce unacceptable behavior.

Deborah Hall-Moore commented that training is not the issue in regards to operator misbehavior and what would help is more aggressive reporting. Ms. Prentiss stated that she once filed a report about an operator and as a result she could not get a Bx7 bus to stop and allow her to board for months. Mr. Goldstein suggested that the NYCTRC ask the Department of Buses to supply us with the curriculum and schedule for training. He said that it would be valuable to look at training and how frequently it is reinforced.

Mr. Albert introduced Uday Schultz, who has been completing an internship in the PCAC office.

Board Report

Mr. Albert said that some of the new members who have been appointed to the Board had attended meetings over the past two months. He said that the Peter Ward, Andrew Saul and John Samuelson have yet to be in attendance.

Mr. Albert noted that there are differing stories about the status of a December opening for the Second Avenue Subway. Chairman Prendergast was asked whether the project would open on schedule and he said that there is no way he is prepared to say that it will not open in December.

The plan for splitting the M5 bus route was approved, and the final plan includes a thirteen block overlap between the new routes, with the northern section going to 31st Street and the southern to 44th Street. Mr. Albert noted that the new routes will include three legged transfers, so that riders can use both segments and another bus or subway on a single fare.

Ms. Prentiss said this is a problem with MetroCards given to Access-A-Ride users as they often run out of trips. She noted that three legged transfers are not necessarily valid in perpetuity and that when NYC Transit shortened the M103, a new fare was necessary for some riders.

Mr. Vera said that he did not understand why it was ever proposed that the M5 would be split at 37th Street. Mr. Albert responded that the position of the split had to do with available curb space as well as connections.

Mr. Vera commented that all crosstown routes should be Select Bus Service.

Mr. Henderson, Ms. Shannon and Mr. Albert briefly reviewed the status of the Freedom Ticket proposal and the meetings that they had had with elected officials regarding the proposal.

Old Business

Mr. Greif noted that Ms. Shannon and Mr. Brashears attended the Brooklyn Developmental Disabilities Council and presented on Freedom Ticket and the group had included Freedom Ticket in their plan for services.

Mr. Goldstein commented that Ms. Shannon circulated an email about changing the rule on where performers can perform. He stated that there was not much response to this and that this effort should not be allowed to lose momentum.

Ms. Prentiss said that if people perform next to boarding area it may be impossible to board a train. In addition it is impossible to hear announcements near the Times Square shuttle because of musicians playing there. Jason Pineiro said that when he was riding on the Q train the “showtime” dancers were performing on the train as it traveled over the Manhattan Bridge. There were also people selling items on the train.

Mr. Goldstein stated that the Business Service Center is not realizing the level of savings that it promised and needs to be examined.

Mr. Albert said that he is working to have the new second in command at MTA Bus Operations meet with the Council. Mr. Goldstein suggested that council should be in a communication with MTA Bus Operations and have an opportunity to see the training materials that are used in advance of this meeting.

Alan Flacks stated that he cannot get in the 2 Broadway building with his senior MetroCard. He also said that he applied for temporary Access-A-Ride service, which was not approved until he did not need it. Mr. Flacks also said that NYC Transit is locking an exit at 168th Street on the 1 train. Mr. Albert responded that the entrance is closed. Sharon King Hoge noted that the 59th Street/Lexington Avenue station emergency exit was locked the other day.

Introduction of John Gaito, Vice President and Chief Officer, Station Environment, MTA New York City Transit to discuss station cleaning and refuse removal and the resources available for this work

Mr. Gaito stated that much has changed in nine years since he last presented to the NYCTRC on cleaning, but the available resources have changed. He noted that there is 16 million square feet of area to be cleaned and that Stations is the only division in NYC Transit that works in the areas of maintenance, operations and customer service.

Station Environment is responsible for a wide variety of areas, including cleaning of MetroCard Vending Machines, turnstiles, HEETS, elevators, escalators, trash receptacles, platform edges, track tiles, and floors. The duties include cleaning and maintenance of tile floors. His employees are also responsible for subway car cleaning, as several years ago, terminal car cleaners were transferred into stations on the belief that this would be more efficient.

Mr. Gaito said that routine station cleaning includes sweeping, mopping, disinfecting, emptying trash, and removing graffiti and stickers. One issue that his staff faces is that no two stations are identical. In addition, snow can disrupt cleaning cycles as his personnel work to make station areas safe for riders. There are a total of 3,800 trash receptacles and they are emptied 1, 2, 4 or 5 times per day.

Mr. Gaito said that elevators are the biggest problem that cleaners. There are frequent complaints from the disability community about the condition of the elevators, and his staff has focused on them. Keeping the elevators clean is difficult, as people frequently use them as restrooms. The members discussed some of the elevator problems that they encountered with Mr. Gaito.

Heavy duty cleaning is done using scrubber machines, and Mr. Gaito noted that operating these machines requires training, which is difficult when his staff is working hard to keep up with cleaning needs. The cleaning staff does a good job under difficult conditions, and one problem is that they do not have enough cleaners. The problem from the standpoint of resource allocation is that cleaners do not directly provide bus or train service and have been targets for cutbacks. Mr. Gaito said that the cleaners’ schedules have been stretched to the maximum.

Mr. Flacks agreed that cleaners are necessary for a good passenger experience and noted that these positions are excellent entry level jobs.

Mr. Goldstein asked how many cleaners are on duty at any one time. Mr. Gaito stated that there are often few in evidence at any one time. There are many people working on garbage trains or in track tile cleaning that riders may not see and the employees who are doing traditional cleaning are not numerous. Even this number is stretched across 7 days, 3 shifts. In addition, some stations have more cleaners than others because they are assigned work according to passenger volumes at different stations.

Ms. Prentiss asked whether, when sections of track are closed, cleaners move to other areas open to passengers or whether they stay in the closed area. Mr. Gaito said that unless he provides advance notice, workers have a contractual rights to stay in the areas in which they have picked to work. However, he has found that if supervisors respect their workers and ask courteously, often workers will agree to move to an area more in need of attention.

Ms. Shannon asked, factoring in sick and other leave, how many people are working in stations. Mr. Gaito stated that between 80 and 100 people are typically absent in each 24 hour period. He is able to cover one-third of the vacancies with voluntary overtime, but must leave the rest of the vacancies unfilled.

Mr. Gaito said that the specialized cleaning that his staff does includes use of mobile wash equipment and that one of most satisfying things about this work is seeing the improvement in station condition after a mobile wash. The frequency of this cleaning varies. In high volume stations the cycles are frequent, but in other stations it is done every eight weeks.

Mr. Greif said that it seems that the 7th Avenue station on the B/Q has never been cleaned and that he has seen rodents and the stench Is a problem. Mr. Gaito said he will follow up on the comment and noted that they are now prohibited from using Orange Magic, which is effective in dealing with odors. He said he assumed that the prohibition must have to do with OSHA requirements.

Ms. Prentiss commented that the C train stations in upper Manhattan are disgusting.

Karyl Berger asked what is done to address water damage in stations and whether there are specific cleaning agents to address this problem. Mr. Gaito responded that they do not have much of the resources needed and do not have the ability to clean rust stains. They get the bulk off, but some stains remain.

Mr. Vera asked if there are different methods used in underground and elevated stations. Mr. Gaito replied that elevators in open air get less cleaning, and that there is less use of mobile wash equipment in elevated stations.

Mr. Vera asked about odors in the Myrtle/Wyckoff station. Mr. Gaito said the cause was a sewer leak and it has been corrected.

Ms. Shannon stated that she hoped that some of the things the Council has heard are a part of the fare hearings. She said that there are now more passengers and this creates a larger demand on cleaners.

Ms. Prentiss asked if there is any way of ensuring that stations are not skipped two cycles in a row. Mr. Gaito stated that there are so many variables, but in reality stations may go more than one cycle between cleanings.

Ms. Prentiss said that she is concerned with individual stations being skipped, and not with generalized situations like snow that keep cleaners from their regular duties. She also noted that there is a problem with snow clearing, because MTA cleaners clear only a small area around stations. Typically this is a three foot square with no connections to pedestrian ramps or elevators. Mr. Gaito reviewed the different responsibilities that parties have in clearing snow.

Mr. Gaito also discussed the Work Experience Program, noting that many people have been hired permanently out of the program. He said that these workers are the only way NYC Transit is able to sustain the cleaning effort, and that there are about 695 of these workers in a week, each working a small number of hours.

The number one complaint of cleaners is being interrupted by customers. Mr. Gaito related a story about Barclay Center, where a cleaner would not wear her vest, to keep from constantly being asked questions.

Mr. Gaito addressed the topic of newspaper racks in stations, noting they now are in 83 stations and that over time there will be more racks in stations. It is the responsibility of vendors to remove extra papers. Mr. Bokser asked if MTA received revenue from these racks. Mr. Gaito said he was unsure of the specifics, but knows that the MTA gets public service advertising space.

Mr. Gaito closed by noting that as ridership has grown, the number of cleaners has remained steady. He said that NYC Transit is working on its Key Performance Indicators for stations so that they provide a better sense of the range of station conditions. As it stands, one problem can fail an entire station. He said that once former NYC Transit President Carmen Bianco had complemented the condition of a station, and that five minutes later riders were criticizing its condition after a sloppy customer had come through.


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

Respectfully Submitted,

William Henderson
Executive Director