Meeting Minutes June 23, 2016

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NEW YORK CITY TRANSIT RIDERS COUNCIL
MINUTES OF JUNE 23, 2016

A meeting of the New York City Transit Riders Council (NYCTRC) was convened at 12:00 noon on June 23, 2016, in the 20th floor Board room at MTA Headquarters, 2 Broadway, New York City.

The following members were present:

Andrew Albert
Marisol Halpern
Stuart Goldstein
Trudy L. Mason
Christopher Greif
Scott R. Nicholls
William K. Guild
Edith Prentiss
Burton M. Strauss, Jr.

The following member was not present:

Sharon King Hoge

In addition, the following persons were present:

William A. Henderson -PCAC Executive Director
Ellyn Shannon -PCAC Associate Director
Angela Bellisio -PCAC Planner Manager
Karyl Berger -PCAC Research Associate
Bradley Brashears -PCAC Transportation Planner
Deborah Morrison -PCAC Administrative Assistant
Insp. Thomas Ponella -NYPD Transit Bureau
Deborah Hall-Moore -NYCT
Yoni Bokser -Queens Boro President’s Office
Dan Biederman -34th Street Partnership
Ken Stewart -Concerned citizen
Omar Vera -Concerned citizen
Richard Schulman -Concerned citizen

Approval of Agenda and Minutes

The agenda for the June 23, 2016 meeting was approved, and the minutes were approved.

Chair’s Report

The written Chair’s report is attached.

Burt Strauss asked whether the signal changes that were referred to in relation to Select Bus Service (SBS) include traffic signal priority. Bill Henderson said that the City uses traffic signal priority as a part of its SBS toolbox.

Chris Greif commented that the Transit Museum now does travel training for school children.

Board Report

Andrew Albert presented the Board Report. He noted that there are many new MTA Board members and listed them. Mr. Albert said that he is sure that John Samuelson will be vocal in opposing service cuts and that Veronica Vanterpool has already spoken out about all door bus boarding, to which Chairman Prendergast replied that the New Fare Payment System Request for Proposals will include provisions for all door boarding. He also noted that James Vitiello replaced James Sedore, who was the longest serving MTA Board member. Mr. Albert noted that the new City members will give the City a stronger voice, but that there remain one City and one State seat unfilled on the Board.

Mr. Albert said that there are real questions about whether the Second Avenue Subway can be put in service by the end of the year. He said that the Board’s Independent Engineer has commented that if all of the tasks do not fall into place, it would be difficult to open the Second Avenue Subway by Christmas.

Mr. Albert also commented that the Brooklyn R line shuttle will be extended to Whitehall Street from its present terminus at 36th Street, Brooklyn. This is a big win for riders in Bay Ridge, but also for those in Sunset Park and other parts of Brooklyn who will now be able to reach Manhattan in the late night without transferring at 36th Street.

Omar Vera introduced himself to the Council and said that he has heard NYC Transit President Veronique Hakim say that the reestablishment of W service may wait until September. He also said that NYC Transit should route the C train to Lefferts Boulevard.

Mr. Albert said that he and staff had made a presentation to two new members of the MTA senior staff on the Freedom Ticket report and that another presentation is scheduled with NYMTC senior staff.

Ellyn Shannon thanked Yoni Bokser for the Queens contacts that he had provided to PCAC staff for the purpose of Freedom Ticket outreach.

Mr. Albert observed that it is good news that Senator Andrew Lanza is sponsoring a bill to implement the Move NY plan. Scott Nicholls stated that the changes are likely to increase truck traffic on the Staten Island Expressway, as the cost advantage of leaving Brooklyn and Manhattan via the Holland Tunnel will be reduced.

Old Business

Mr. Greif commented that he witnessed lots of F trains being turned at Church Avenue on Tuesday, June 21. Mr. Albert responded that this was due to a General Order on account of construction, but cautioned that if too many trains are turned, riders will be deprived of service. Stuart Goldstein commented that he had never noticed this occurring. Mr. Albert said that it sounds like the pattern Mr. Greif saw was an anomaly.

Mr. Nicholls stated that a major issue on Staten Island is the lack of MetroCard Vending Machines (MVMs) along the Staten Island Railway (SIR). The stations would be a good place to purchase MetroCards for those riders who do not go to St. George, the Eltingville Transit Center, or a subway station. He said that Council Members Matteo and Borelli received a letter from NYC Transit saying MVMs would not be located in the SIR stations because there are no MVMs available, but Mr. Nicholls said that there are MVMs stored in Queens at NYC Transit’s electronic warehouse.

Mr. Albert said that in his opinion that all C trains should go to Lefferts Blvd and all A trains to the Rockaways. The Rockaways are developing and tourists are confused about which A train to use. For many reasons, this is the best solution, but when it was proposed several years ago there was opposition from Richmond Hill to loss of express service. He said that Rockaway residents have historically received inferior service.

William Guild said that he wrote an article in the late 1990’s proposing the same thing. Mr. Greif agreed with Mr. Guild on this issue. Ridership to the Rockaways is high and weekend use is popular in the summer. Also, ending C service at Euclid Avenue causes congestion. Mr. Albert said that when he mentioned this proposal to NYC Transit President Hakim, she said that the problem with implementing it is a lack of car equipment.

Mr. Goldstein observed that the C train stops running in off hours while the A runs local, and questioned how the end of the C line would be served. Mr. Albert replied that there would be a shuttle to serve riders in this area.

Mr. Vera said that the people who do not want the C train to run to Lefferts Boulevard are NIMBYs. Many riders that do not want to take the local trains, but other services are structured similarly.

New Business

Mr. Albert asked whether there is agreement to write a letter regarding routing the C train to Lefferts Blvd. The consensus of the Council is that there is that agreement.

Yoni Bokser stated that the Borough President’s main concern is transit deserts in the Rockaways, so his office would be likely to look favorably on this proposal. It was noted that the City’s ferry plan had settled on Beach 108th Street for a ferry landing, as at other locations there would be a problem getting ferries under bridges. Mr. Bokser said that the Borough President’s office is also concerned about loss of service in Astoria and wants the W train to continue to Astoria. Mr. Albert said that the extension of the R shuttle shows that NYC Transit is concerned about improving service.

NYCTRC Officer Elections

There were no further nominations for NYCTRC officer positions, which resulted in Andrew Albert running unopposed for Chair, Stuart Goldstein, William Guild, and Marisol Halpern running unopposed for the NYCTRC Executive Committee, and Christopher Greif and Burt Strauss running for the Vice Chair position. The nominations were closed and members voted by paper ballot, with the result that all unopposed candidates were elected to their respective positions and Mr. Strauss was elected Vice Chair.

Mr. Guild moved and Mr. Goldstein seconded the proposal that Mr. Albert be recommended to the Governor to be appointed to another term as the Council’s MTA Board Representative. This motion was passed with no opposition.

Mr. Verra stated that it would be a good idea to extend the 6 train to turn at the loop station at South Ferry

Introduction of Inspector Thomas Ponella, NYPD Transit Bureau, to discuss the current state of policing in the subways and new initiatives that Transit Bureau is undertaking to secure the system and its riders.

Mr. Albert said that he raised the issue of people using subway station emergency exit gates leave the station with the MTA Chairman. The problem with this practice is that it is opening the way for fare evasion. Mr. Albert asked what can we do to discourage this practice.
Inspector Ponella stated that officers warn and admonish people for improperly using the exit gate, but are more focused on preventing people from opening the exit gate for others to enter. The Transit Bureau does not detain or summons riders for leaving a station through exit gate.

Edith Prentiss stated that she can wait ten minutes to enter the paid area at the 125th Street A, B, C, and D station after swiping her card due to the flow of people out of the station, and when she can enter she is followed by ten people who enter without paying. She said she has asked officers about this and they say that they do not enforce fare beating rules at this station because to do so would cause a riot.

Trudy Mason wanted to know if the disorder indicated by fare beating would fall under the broken window theory. Inspector Ponella said that the Transit Bureau does enforce laws against fare evasion. Officers who observe individuals beating the fare check for identification, do a warrant check, and may arrest recidivists, but in some cases they do not. In most cases people accused of fare evasion receive a C summons and are released. The people found to have an outstanding warrant get both the warrant and C summons adjudicated in court, where they are brought directly.

Ellyn Shannon asked whether people receive a higher penalty as repeat offenders and how those with a history of offenses in the subway are kept out of the system.

Inspector Ponella stated that they work with the parole office very closely and that 70 percent of offenders are non-violent. Some offenders receive stipulations as a condition of parole that do not allow them go into the subway. If officers stop someone with such a stipulation in the system the person’s parole can be violated and this removes them from the system.

Ms. Shannon suggested that having patrols in the system would prevent issues. Inspector Ponella replied that they have a high visibility program to make sure that people see police in the system and try to make sure that officers interact with passengers. Some of this work involves finding places where people are opening themselves for crime and talking with them to advise them to change their behavior to avoid problems. Conditions on the subways have changed, and people now use electronic devices on trains almost constantly.

Mr. Albert commented that he has asked why the MTA and Police are not working to have the four major carriers install kill switches on their phones. Inspector Ponella said that this would help, but the NYPD also works on sales of stolen electronics.

Dan Biederman stated that during off peak hours the N, Q, and R trains are bad in terms of panhandling, but that the problem is not so bad in rush hour. There is frequently violent and threatening behavior displayed by panhandlers and he called in a report recently but the officers missed the individuals. He said that he has had three of his board members talk to him about this problem.

Inspector Ponella stated that if you call 911, the Transit Bureau gets the report and tries to track down the individuals involved. He said he knows about this issue and instructs officers to consider that they would not want their families subjected to this.

Mr. Albert said that people calling in reports should provide a car number if the incident reported involves a train.

Mr. Greif remarked that there is not only panhandling on those trains, but also dancers, and that the problem is particularly bad on the A train, at the Hoyt-Schermerhorn and Utica Avenue stations. He said that he has also noticed an increase in the number of homeless persons in the 6th Avenue corridor.

Inspector Ponella responded that he will let the appropriate Borough Commanders know about the dancers. He said that the Transit Bureau has conducted operations and warned dancers but their performances do not stop. One problem is that there is very little penalty imposed, even though the arrest made is likely for reckless endangerment. Nevertheless, the NYPD does make arrests, because the dancers can cause problems. The difficulty is that some people give them money, but if people did not receive money they would not be dancing in the system.

Mr. Strauss asked how long it takes for officers to check someone’s background. Inspector Ponella responded that officers can either use radio or smartphones, but in either case it takes a couple of minutes.

Ken Stewart asked what the current regulations for performers playing instruments on the platform are. Inspector Ponella said that people can legally play on platforms, and his officers will ask them to relocate if there is a safety issue. There are also some parameters that must be honored such as distance from a station booth, not playing over announcements, and not too loud.

Ms. Mason asked the status of five gallon buckets used as drums. Inspector Ponella stated that there are a lot of issues with artistic freedom that must be taken into account regardless of individual appreciation of the performance. The officers must consider the musicians’ civil rights in doing their jobs.

Mr. Stewart mentioned that he is blind and feels that any instrument being played next to the train is a safety problem. He said that there are many places where musicians can play that is not next to a train.

Mr. Goldstein asked whether there is any room in the regulations to add provisions that could improve the situation and still respect performers’ rights to free expression. Inspector Ponella said that this is beyond the scope of his responsibility.

Adjournment

The meeting was adjourned at 2:05 p.m.

Respectfully submitted,

William Henderson
Executive Director

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