Meeting Minutes June 25, 2009


A meeting of the New York City Transit Riders Council (NYCTRC) was convened at 12:00 p.m. on June 25, 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
William K. Guild
Sharon Santa Maria
Marisol Halpern
Michael Sinansky
Tom Jost
Burton M. Strauss, Jr.
The following members were absent:

Jessica Gonzalez-Rojas
Sharon King Hoge
Toya Williford
In addition, the following persons were present:

William A. Henderson – PCAC Executive Director
Jan Wells – PCAC Associate Director
Ellyn Shannon – PCAC Transportation Planner
Karyl Berger – PCAC Research Associate
Doreen Frasca – MTA
Alan Flacks – NY County Democratic Committee
Joseph Garber – Civil Service Council
Ken Stewart – Concerned citizen
Matt Shotkin – Concerned citizen
Geraldine Florence – Concerned citizen
Approval of Agenda and Minutes
The agenda for the June 25, 2009 meeting was approved. The minutes of the May 28, 2009 meeting were approved as amended.

Chair’s Report
The Chair’s Report is attached to these minutes.

Mr. Albert said he was going to postpone the proposed summer project of looking at General Order posters because of adjustments to the summer schedules.

Board Report
Mr. Albert reported that MTA Board members Pally, Cappelli and Cecil spoke out against the new Atlantic Yards deal, but Mr. Cecil voted for it after the discussion was finished. Mr. Albert also noted that many elected officials were opposed to the deal as they thought the MTA was giving away their assets. Mr. Albert said he brought up the naming issues related to the subway station. He said the station complex will still be called Atlantic/Pacific and there will be a secondary sign that says Barclays Center. He stated that the geographic identification must be maintained.

Trudy Mason said that the MTA Board sold out to Forest City Ratner. She proposed that the NYCTRC should go on the record to express extreme concern about the deal that was approved.

Mr. Albert said the proposal should be stated in the form of a resolution with “whereas” clauses.

Ellyn Shannon said the naming provision should have included station cleaning responsibilities. Ms. Mason explained that station cleaning is like elevators; they have nothing to do with the name of the station. She noted that the developers should provide for maintenance over and above the compensation for naming rights.

Mr. Albert noted that MTA Board member Frasca had a long conversation with Gary Dellaverson, Helena Williams, and other MTA staff prior to the MTA Board meeting and felt comfortable that her list of questions had been adequately addressed on the Atlantic Yards deal. She stated that this is why she voted in favor of it in the end.

Ms. Mason made a motion that the Council send a letter to the MTA Board and other affected parties to express our concern about the deal that was approved by the MTA Board for the new Atlantic Yards agreement. The motion passed unanimously, but it was decided that because it affects the Long Island Rail Road Commuter’s Council, the motion will have to be first approved by the PCAC Executive Committee.

Mr. Albert briefly reviewed the few service improvements that will go into effect over the next few weeks. He noted that the 4 line super express pilot would be ending this coming weekend. He said it is terrific that they have used the center tracks. Mr. Albert noted that he has not yet had the chance to ride it because the last southbound train leaves the end of the line at 8 a.m., so he would have to get up very early to catch even this last train.

Mr. Albert also noted that the 5 line will go to Flatbush Avenue during the midday period starting on June 28. He said this means the service on the Jerome line will be slightly reduced to ensure that the 4 and 5 trains are evenly spaced.

Mr. Albert also reported that the G train will end at Church Avenue as part of the Culver Viaduct work. He said this service will begin on July 12.

Mr. Albert reported that the so-called Cut Committee is still working and plans to make recommendations, but the sense is that nothing will happen with their report until a permanent MTA Chairman and CEO is named. Mr. Albert said he believes that if there are cuts to blue collar jobs then there should be similar cuts for white collar jobs.

In response to Alan Flacks’ question as to whether there has been any decision about adding more cleaners in subway stations, Mr. Albert said that NYCT President Roberts addressed this issue at the NYCTRC President’s Forum.

Ms. Mason noted that there was a NY1 story about the fact that the effort to install wireless capabilities in the subway system has not moved forward at all. Mr. Albert said that there are many reasons for this, including that the system is not completely wired, that there is not enough money for the project, and that there have been delays in bringing cellular providers into a consortium to proceed with the project.

Edith Prentiss asked when elevator alerts will be available from NYC Transit. Mr. Albert said they should begin in July and noted that staff will follow up on this issue.

Shirley Genn reported that she has noticed that the cars on the F line are always filthy and said there is no enforcement from the police about food on the subways. Mr. Henderson said staff will send a letter to NYPD Chief Hall about this matter.

Ms. Prentiss said that on an A Train, car 5713, only one door opened. Mr. Henderson said staff would report it.

In response to Joseph Garber’s inquiry about the composition of the MTA Cut Committee, Mr. Albert said that Doreen Frasca serves as the chairwoman along with Norman Brown, Jeffrey Kay and Andrew Saul.

Old Business
No old business was discussed.

New Business
No new business was discussed.

Election of NYCTRC Officers
Trudy Mason made a motion that the existing slate of officers nominated at the May meeting be elected. The following slate of officers was elected for a one-year term: Chair- Andrew Albert, Vice Chair – Michael Sinansky, and Executive Committee members – William K. Guild, Marisol Halpern, and Toya Williford.

Tom Jost asked that staff obtain an update on the Staten Island North Shore Rail study.

Ms. Prentiss said that in fact two wheelchairs can fit into the accessible taxi that is being developed for the City’s taxi fleet.

Marisol Halpern said there needs to be more information about BRT available for customers and also suggested that NYC Transit target high school students to get them involved in the planning process, as these kids will be the next generation of Transit customers.

Introduction of Doreen Frasca, MTA Board Member and Chair of the MTA Board New York City Transit Committee
Mr. Albert read some introductory remarks about Ms. Frasca.

Ms. Frasca began by saying that if she could she would make Mr. Albert a voting member of the MTA Board. She said she shares the Council’s concerns about the state of the subway stations. She said she is a daily user of the system and grew up using the 6 line and now uses it as well as the E line. She said she did not learn how to drive until she was 37. She noted that she has learned a tremendous amount about the system since she was appointed to the Board.

She said she believes the NYCTRC has a critical role to play as it serves as a reality check on the system. She said that she is very focused on headways and issue of seated loads.

Ms. Frasca noted that the system was at its lowest point in the 1970s and expressed her belief that the public does not truly appreciate the improvements have been made to this point. She noted that the system is so much better than it had been. She said it is important to stay vigilant and it is imperative to get additional funding. She said that she is concened that the revenue stream for the MTA is not eroded and that the MTA will issue revenue anticipation notes in the next few weeks because revenue from new funding sources will be slow in coming.

Trudy Mason noted that earlier in the meeting she had put forth a motion, which was unanimously passed by the members, expressing concern about the deal that had been approved by the MTA Board the day before. She said that in the past the MTA did not allow itself to be held up by developers. She noted that there were a whole host of Brooklynites and elected officials who spoke out against the project. Ms. Frasca noted that no deal is perfect and that she respects that not everyone supported the final deal. She said that a functioning rail yard has a very different value than a piece of empty land. She also understands the costs associated with a development project of this nature. She said that the asset value has been reduced and that the arena parcel is now valued at $20 million with the right to purchase MTA-owned air rights as needed for future development phases. She said the most important thing is the rail yard and ensuring that it is included in this deal and that its design will provide for a high level of service.

Ms. Mason noted that the MTA allowed Mr. Ratner to arrange the necessary funding and proceed with a project that is not what was originally proposed. She noted that Mr. Ratner has received everything he sought without paying enough for it, including the naming rights. He was also essentially given 20 years to see if he could get the development completed.

Tom Jost noted that the MTA handled this deal strictly as a transportation entity. He said if the development is to be built, there need to be restrictions that cause the development to be more carbon neutral and to provide less parking. The MTA should have taken the opportunity to create a paradigm shift. Ms. Frasca agreed that this was missed opportunity. She noted that Mr. Ratner is still doing the transit improvements at the site, but said she did not specifically know if Forest City Ratner is responsible for maintenance of the facilities.

In response to Alan Flacks’ comments about the makeup of the MTA Board, Ms. Frasca said that it is no secret that she would like to see a different kind of relationship between the Board members and the staffs of the agencies. She emphasized that she has deep respect for NYCT President Roberts and Joe Smith, Senior Vice President – Department of Buses but that she believes in the “Trust and Verify” system. She said there have been instances where she would have liked the Board to have been briefed before information was given to the press. She noted that the relationship between Board and staff is a work in progress and that she has an active relationship with MTA management.

Ms. Frasca acknowledged that she does not always get all the information she needs to make a fully informed decision.

In response to William Henderson’s question as to what involvement would Ms. Frasca like to see with regard to MTA finances, Ms. Frasca said amongst the Board members there is a range of interest and capabilities. She said she has worked with public agencies for many years in connection with these issues, acting as a financial advisor to operators of aviation facilities.

Ms. Frasca noted that at the MTA there is a general delegation of details by the Board to the staff. She said that the Board spends a lot of time on $25,000 procurements, but then delegates million dollar deals for the issuance of MTA Bonds to Finance staff. She said that she has made her concerns about this process known. She said that the Board has to recover its active role in making these major decisions.

Karyl Berger noted that Ms. Frasca did not include the word “transparency” in her description of the MTA finances. Ms. Frasca said the MTA does put out a lot of information out for public consumption, but noted they could do a better job of putting it into plain English. She said it is important to put this kind of information out in a way that the average rider can understand.

In response to Burt Strauss’ question about the NY State Legislature’s actions in regards to the MTA, Ms. Frasca said she was disheartened by Albany’s actions and said it is important to work closely with the State Senate Transportation committee.

Jan Wells noted that in the PCAC’s 2008 Performance Review of the MTA and its operating agencies, organizational structure and size was highlighted. She noted that the MTA Real Estate Department needs to have more prominence and that its Director should report directly to the MTA Chairman. Ms. Wells asked if anyone is looking at the entire organization structure of the MTA. Ms. Frasca said she was glad that the question was asked and noted she has received lots of different organizational charts from the various agencies but has not yet received one from MTA Headquarters. She said they are not looking at comprehensive changes to the MTA’s structure yet, as there are a total of 61,000 employees. She said they are presently looking at the Business Service Center, MTA Capital Construction, the commuter railroads and general administrative functions.

Edith Prentiss noted that there is real concern that the Farebox Operating Ratio (FOR) is higher for NYC Transit than it is for the two commuter railroads and Staten Island Railway. Ms. Frasca said there are lots of elements to consider when evaluating this issue. She said that riders of NYC Transit pay more than those of any other systems of which she is aware. Ms. Shannon said it might be helpful to talk to the State legislators and Ms. Frasca agreed and said it is important the MTA put its best foot forward.

Ms. Berger noted that the perception is that the MTA and its operating agencies do not do a good job of promoting themselves and the things they do well. Ms. Frasca complimented the PCAC and NYCTRC for pointing out both the good and bad things that New York City Transit does and said the work that these groups do is very meaningful. She admitted that the entire public relations effort has been less than satisfactory.

The meeting was adjourned at 2:00 p.m.

Respectfully submitted,
Karyl Berger
PCAC Research Associate

New York City Transit Riders Council Chair’s Report
We held our annual President’s Forum last Wednesday at 2 Broadway. President Roberts and a number of his staff were on hand to answer questions from 25 people. Unlike last year when the majority of questions were about service, this year’s question focused on accessibility, fares, flooding and customer communication. Thanks to Council members Mike Sinansky, Shirley Genn, Trudy Mason and Edith Prentiss for attending the event.

I am pleased to announce that our illustrious new PCAC Chairman, Ira Greenberg, has been confirmed by the State Senate to be the LIRRCC non-voting member on the MTA Board.

PCAC staff met with Chris Boylan, Hilary Ring, and staff from the Government and Community Affairs offices of the LIRR, MNR and NYCT to discuss how to implement the mandate of the office of Legislative and Community Input, of which PCAC is one of the major players.

On June 9, Karyl Berger attended the BRT Visioning session for Phase II in Brooklyn co-hosted by NYCDOT and New York City Transit. This was the first of two sessions that were held in Brooklyn. Forty participants were split into five groups to discuss the concept of BRT and routes that they would like to have considered for this type of service. It was very clear that people like signal prioritization and subway-like spacing for stops as well as the off-board fare collection system. Parking concerns and route enforcement were the two most talked about negative aspects of the service. Shirley Genn attended the second session which was held on the campus of Brooklyn College, her Alma Mater.

Bill Henderson attended the BRT workshop on Staten Island and Ellyn Shannon went to the session at the Fashion Institute of Technology last Thursday. The group that Bill was with recommended adding BRT service that, along with the Phase I Staten Island BRT route along Hylan Boulevard, would create a ring linking major activity centers on Staten Island. The Manhattan BRT workshop showed the currently planned BRT First/Second avenues and 34th Street routes, and identified potential BRT routes on the west side of Manhattan and another south of 34th Street. The group Ellyn was with recommended two cross corridor BRTs, one from the upper east side down to the lower west side and another that would go from the upper east side up to Columbia Presbyterian on the upper west side. A 125th Street corridor was also strongly recommended.

Bill Henderson attended New York City Transit’s public hearing on the Supplemental Environmental Assessment for the Second Avenue Subway 72nd and 86th Street stations. The hearing was made necessary by design changes in these two stations. Community reaction to the design changes varied according to the station. Residents from the 72nd Street area complimented the design team on the changes to the station in their area, which compensated for the removal of escalators with additional ADA elevators. These elevators were made possible by the purchase of a building at 300 East 72nd Street that had been offered for sale by its owner. At 86th Street, neighbors were not nearly as happy about the new station plan .

On Wednesday, June 10 Karyl Berger went to see the new accessible taxi that has been developed for the City. There was a very positive reaction from the wheelchair users who came to see the taxi. The taxi design is continually being tweaked, but the biggest concern that was expressed is that this version is only able to accommodate one wheelchair. I will pass around a brochure so you can see the design.

The funding package approved by the State Legislature was designed to avoid service cuts, but there will still be a reduction in B Division subway service this summer. Because of the threat of cuts, some subway operating personnel picked work schedules based on fewer trains in the system, and NYC Transit was not able to reach an agreement with the TWU to change these work assignments. As a result, B Division headways will go from 8 to 10 minutes this summer, but shorter headways will be restored when the fall work schedule pick takes effect. A letter outlining the situation is in your packets today. This will complicate our service analysis project, and we can discuss the situation under Old Business.