Meeting Minutes June 25, 2015




A meeting of the New York City Transit Riders Council (NYCTRC) was convened at 12:00 noon on June 25, 2015, in the 20th floor Board room at MTA Headquarters, 2 Broadway, New York City.

The following members were present:

Andrew Albert                                   Trudy L. Mason

Stuart Goldstein                               Scott R. Nicholls

Christopher Greif                             Edith Prentiss

William K. Guild                              Michael Sinansky

Sharon King Hoge                           Burton M. Strauss, Jr.

The following member was not present:

Marisol Halpern

In addition, the following persons were present:

William A. Henderson         -PCAC Executive Director

Ellyn Shannon                       -PCAC Associate Director

Angela Bellisio                       -PCAC Transportation Planner

Karyl Berger                           -PCAC Research Associate

Bradley Brashears                 -PCAC Transportation Planner

Deborah Morrison                -PCAC Administrative Assistant

Oliver Chemtob                     -PCAC Intern

Deborah Hall-Moore            -NYCT

Rayn Riel                                -NYCT

Kyle M. Kirschling                -NYCT

Dustin Jones                          -Disabled In Action

Jasmine Melzer                     -Good Neighbors of Park Slope

Bruce Zimmerman               -Concerned citizen

Ken Steward                          -Concerned citizen

Approval of Agenda and Minutes

The agenda for the June 25, 2015 meeting was approved, and the minutes of the May 28, 2015 meeting were approved.

Chair’s Report

Andrew Albert gave the Chair’s Report. A copy of the written Chair’s Report is attached to these minutes.

Stuart Goldstein said that he noticed the M train is continuing to Chambers Street on the weekends. Mr. Albert responded that this routing is due to general orders for work on the system and that this is not a permanent change.

Trudy Mason stated that the Second Avenue Subway simulator has made a big difference in community support for the project.  She asked that the Council extend her thanks to everyone involved in setting up the simulator.

Chris Greif pointed out that there will be a need for more service to Astoria and in Brooklyn when Second Avenue Subway becomes the route for the Q Train.

Ms. Mason mentioned that she was at the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign launch and said that people there did not know that one can get to Roosevelt Island using the F Train.

Burt Strauss asked when the M86 bus will convert to Select Bus Service.  Mr. Albert said that he believes the date will be June 29 and that the MTA and NYCDOT have been at work preparing for the changeover.

Board Report

Mr. Albert said that he has had a discussion with Daryl Irick and Mike Ribosh about “Next Bus Please” signage. He said that Bus Operators may be instructed to pick up waiting riders when they make stops to discharge passengers on their bus at times they are displaying “Next Bus Please” signage.

Mr. Greif stated that cameras on B44 buses have been catching bus lane violators.

Mr. Albert mentioned that the next Capital Program is stalled, but there is a bill in the State Legislature that would give the MTA all that it needs to fund the next Capital Program through borrowing backed by a piece of the growth in State income tax revenues.

Mr. Albert also noted that not having an approved Capital Program may delay the completion of East Side Access.

Another issue at the Board is the replacement of some Board Members. Mr. Albert said that the impending departure of Allen Cappelli is particularly distressing.

Mr. Albert said that the crowding issue continues in the subways and that one of the points raised is that the normal weekday ridership is trending toward six million, where in the past this level of ridership was a rarity.

Mike Sinansky wanted to know if the NYPD Transit Bureau has discovered anything further on the recent theft of copper cable from the A line.  Mr. Albert said that he has not heard of any further developments in the case, but Board members have received a letter from the TWU lobbying for an exemption to the Right of Way law for bus operators.  He said that the State Senate has passed legislation establishing this exemption.

Old Business

No Old Business was discussed.

New Business

Mr. Greif said that he wanted to thank Bill Henderson and Edith Prentiss for being at the last Family Support Fair in Brooklyn.  He also noted that people like the PCAC website and want to thank Andrew Albert for his work in gaining subway service extensions on the weekends. Mr. Henderson said that Angela Bellisio is responsible for maintaining the website and that she should receive much of the credit for its popularity.

Edith Prentiss pointed out that there were seventeen elevators out of service at the beginning of the week, mostly in Manhattan.  Remarkably, there were several not working at Fulton Street, despite the complex being open for less than a year.  By midnight of the day that she saw the notice, fifteen elevators were still out of service.  From Sunday to Tuesday the elevator at 177th Street was out, and often the wrong elevators are listed as out of service on the MTA website.  She said that the information the MTA is presenting has gotten sloppy and that she heard MTA Capital Construction is still having problems with the elevator at the 34th Street station on the 7 line. Ms. Prentiss stated that she has been through too many incidents when elevators were not working for a long period of time, such as at Pelham Bay Park where the elevator will be out for six months.  She noted that she is worried that elevators in the system are reaching the end of their lifespans and will need replacement.

Ms. Mason said that she heard that station booth attendants can change direction of escalators and said that if so there should be a directive sent out by NYC Transit that booth attendants should ensure that there is at least one escalator going up.

Dustin Jones stated that at the website there is a smart phone application that provides elevator information.

Ms. Prentiss stated that the information may not be useful to riders as there are not alternatives available to persons who need accessible transportation.

Scott Nicholls asked if anything can be done to increase the capacity of the Staten Island Railway as the trains are becoming crowded.  Mr. Albert said that he believes that the cars on the Staten Island Railway must be added in pairs, which could be more than its platforms can handle.  Mr. Henderson said that a solution may be adding trains, but that a complication with this strategy is the need to make connections with the ferry.

NYCTRC Officer Elections

Bill Henderson announced the candidates for NYCTRC offices who had been nominated to date, including Andrew Albert for Chair, Michael Sinansky for Vice Chair and Stuart Goldstein, Christopher Greif, William Guild, and Marisol Halpern for the three seats on the Executive Committee. Ballots were distributed and tallied during the guests’ presentation; at the end of the meeting Mr. Henderson announced that Mr. Albert and Mr. Sinansky had been elected Chair and Vice Chair, and Mr. Goldstein, Mr. Guild, and Ms. Halpern had been elected to the Executive Committee.

Introduction of Joseph Leader, NYC Transit Senior Vice President-Subways and Peter Cafiero, NYC Transit Chief-Operations Planning to discuss challenges to maintaining subway performance and the service improvement plan that is being implemented to deal with these challenges

Mr. Leader commented that the system is over 100 years old, includes 820 miles of track and employs 27,000 staff in the Department of Subways. He said that there has already been one day with over six million riders and in the 4th quarter of 2014 there were twenty nine days with over six million riders.

Mr. Leader noted that there are many issues in the subway system, but there are several major challenges.  These include ridership that is growing in both peak and off peak hours, critical maintenance needs that require work to be completed under traffic, and unplanned events that have significant impacts on service, including failures of infrastructure, weather related disruptions and sick or unruly customers. NYC Transit works to both prevent and mitigate these events, as well as respond to them as quickly as possible.

In dealing with issues in the system, NYC Transit uses two terms, incident and delay. An incident refers to something that leads to a disruption in service and a delay is a situation in which a train that reaches its terminal more than five minutes behind schedule. Mr. Leader gave an example of a sick customer incident that lasted ten minutes and delayed 72 trains.  He said that the impact of incidents depend on time and duration as well as line.

Ridership in 2014 exceeded that in 2008 in all hours and this growth is greater in peak hours than in the off-peak, which is a more challenging situation than the reverse.  In addition, 15 of 20 lines are at track or passenger capacity. In addition, Peter Cafiero noted that these statistics assume that the 1 line is operating with the new South Ferry station, but in its present configuration the line is at track capacity.

Mr. Leader said that as ridership goes up, delays typically go up as well. NYC Transit is also doing more work on the system than in the past.  Superstorm Sandy is part of the reason.  In 2003 6 percent of delays were because of work being done on the system, while in 2014 26 percent of delays were because of work. As the assets in the system get older, there is a need to do more inspections and work on these assets.  Mr. Leader gave the example that NYC Transit is performing more track inspections in the Queens Boulevard corridor and undertaking more installations of continuous welded rail.

Mr. Albert asked whether older equipment degrades tracks more quickly.  Mr. Leader responded that wheel defects have a large impact on track, but that aggregate weight on the tracks also impacts the quality of the rails.

Mr. Leader said that there are 400 worksites on the system on an average day and 150 of these are active between 9 am and 4 pm.  He said that work zone protection procedures slow trains to 10 mph for 1/3 of a mile before the work site.  This reduces capacity from 28 to 18 trains per hour.  Also slow speed zones are getting longer as rules have been changed due to new cars that can reach higher speeds.

Peter Cafiero presented NYC Transit’s Service Improvement Plan.  He said that NYC Transit is emphasizing wait assessment. On time performance is important on commuter railroads and airlines, but on the subway, service is frequent and customers do not care what specific train they are on. If there is a larger than normal gap in service, however, trains get crowded. The standard acceptable variance in waits is 25 percent of the scheduled interval.  This may only be 30 seconds, but even this deviation has a big impact on the number of passengers on each train.

To take advantage of trains ahead of a service gap that have capacity, rail controllers hold these trains, while trains behind the delay skip stops.  Mr. Cafiero discussed the actions that are taken to restore even spacing.

Mr. Albert asked whether there is a rule about bypassing stations to ensure that bypassed stations get service. Mr. Cafiero responded that they try to not skip stations unless there is a train behind to provide service.

Mr. Albert stated that NYC Transit’s Rail Control Center can track A Division trains but asked how much information controllers have about B Division trains.  Mr. Leader replied that they have some information from programmable logic controllers on the B Division and that master towers have the responsibility to keep track of B Division trains.  Regardless of the available information, NYC Transit’s actions have impacts. Recently on Lexington Line, they held a train for 3 or 4 minutes.  Passengers did not understand the action, but it was taken to restore even spacing.

Mr. Cafiero commented that NYC Transit is also updating train schedules, which had not been done previously because it was very expensive.  In the past, traffic checkers had to ride the trains to establish running times, but with new technology some of the measurements can be made remotely and NYC Transit is doing a line by line review of running times.  On the B Division there is a mixture of manually collected and automated information available to revise schedules.

Mr. Leader commented that there are differences with respect to delays across subway lines.  The A Division has much more delays that are due to crowding, police, and sick customers.  The B Division has many more delays from planned work.  He said that going forward NYC Transit will look closely at the 6, 7 and F lines.  Future initiatives will include a focus on reducing station dwell times and will involve “step aside” boxes on the platforms and use of camera feeds to manage crowding in stations.

In terms of unplanned events, NYC Transit is looking for ways to respond more quickly and to prevent incidents.  Mr. Leader said that these efforts include an increased number of Combined Action Teams (CAT) that blend signal, track and 3rd rail personnel.

Ms. Mason stated that the 6 train station at 77th Street is the most used local stop on the East Side and that there will be an incident at the station if something is not done.  She said that at a minimum the information provided to riders could be improved. Mr. Leader agreed that communication is an area that can be improved.  He said that NYC Transit has a vision for 21st Century service and that one of the impacts of technology is that often customers with mobile phone apps have better information than NYC Transit employees.

Ms. Mason said that at Grand Central station, 4 and 5 trains are not held for connections with arriving 6 trains, but should be.  Mr. Cafiero said that if the express trains were held it would delay them and reduce the line’s capacity.  He said that platform conductors will be deployed to keep these trains moving.

Mr. Sinansky stated that he notices that a lot of repairs are performed under traffic.  He asked the guests to elaborate on safety training for track personnel.

Mr. Leader responded that track worker introductory training lasts eight weeks. There are four weeks of classroom study and four weeks spent in the field, mainly in the yards.  The workers are taught flagging and the hazards of working near the 3rd rail.  There is a supervisor for all crews and the supervisor receives additional training by being sent to experience different kinds of work.  In addition, there is an annual refresher training for workers and an enhanced safety briefing four times a year that involves two hours spent on safety.

Ms. Prentiss asked what happened Monday morning on the A, B, C, and D lines.  Mr. Leader said he would get back to her with information on the delays.

Mr. Goldstein that the Council has noted that there is no coordination between subways and buses. Mr. Leader replied that coordination has improved, but at times the Department of Buses cannot provide the number of buses needed to compensate for a subway delay.  Buses hold 60 people compared with 1,100 on a subway train.  He said that once subway personnel know the extent of a problem they notify the bus command center and request a bus shuttle if necessary. They also call in Operations Planning, but it is very difficult for buses to respond as it takes 30 minutes to an hour to get buses to the scene. Mr. Goldstein stated that a part of this problem is getting information about additional bus service to stations.  Mr. Leader responded that he is working on this with the Department of Buses.

Mr. Albert asked if On the Go kiosks have this information.  Mr. Leader said that they do as soon as the information is released on the MTA website.

Karyl Berger asked if the bus drivers know of incidents in the subway.  Mr. Leader stated that they are looking at ways to get that information to and from buses.  Ms. Berger also asked what customer service training the platform conductors receive.  Mr. Leader explained that the platform controllers are conductors and that customer service training is a part of their training as conductors, but they also receive enhanced training.  He also said that they hope to have customer ambassadors deployed in the subways in the future.

Mr. Greif pointed out that there is a communication problem at Utica Avenue as to which train is to go first and what other service is available.  Mr. Leader stated that it is extremely difficult to set up bus shuttles and that they hope not to get to this point.  The rail service is better way of moving people.

Ken Stewart asked whether, when there is a sick customer between stations, NYC Transit can remove that customer from the train.  Mr. Leader responded that they are not Emergency Medical Technicians and that they usually move the customer under his or her own power to a bench and then wait with the individual for Police or emergency medical services.  A customer cannot be moved if he or she is unconscious or seriously injured.


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

Respectfully submitted,

William Henderson

Executive Director