Meeting Minutes June 26, 2008


A meeting of the New York City Transit Riders Council (NYCTRC) was convened at 12:00 p.m. on June 26, 2008, 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
Mike Sinansky
Burton M. Strauss, Jr.
The following members were absent:

Thomas Jost
Jessica Gonzalez-Rojas
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
Dan Bianco – PCAC Consultant
Ted Kheel – Kheel Plan For Free Transit
David Vermillion – Kheel Plan For Free Transit
Janice Caiafa – UFRS
Alan Flacks – NY County Democratic Committee
George Haikalis – IRUM
Matt Shotkin – Concerned citizen
Ken Stewart – Concerned citizen
Meg Reed Mian – Concerned citizen
Claire Morton – Concerned citizen
Approval of Agenda and Minutes
The agenda for the June 26, 2008 meeting was approved. The minutes of the April 17, 2008 and May 29, 2008 meetings were approved as amended. Mike Sinansky asked whether a response had been received from Stanley Grill regarding the quantity of liquidated damages that had been assessed against contractors for delay. Mr. Henderson said that the NYCTRC had not yet received a list, and that a thank you letter sent to Mr. Grill had included a reminder of the Council’s request for this information.

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

Mr. Albert noted that the NYCTRC Bus Forum was held in Queens on June 18 and thanked Mike Sinansky and Jessica Gonzalez-Rojas for attending.

Board Report
Mr. Albert reported on the MTA Board’s revisions to its policies on E-Z Passes and transportation passes provided to current and former board members. He noted that for the first time in recent memory, monthly local bus ridership is up; however, TBTA crossings are down. PATH ridership is up, as is express bus usage. Mr. Albert reported on the positives and negatives of the MTA’s capital and operational response to its current financial circumstances. He also outlined service changes which will be made by NYC Transit. These changes were proposed as part of the service enhancements that were proposed in conjunction with the last fare increase but their implementation was blocked at the behest of the City. Mr. Albert noted that Transit President Howard Roberts has stated that these service changes should have been implemented in accordance with normal loading guidelines. Among the service changes to be implemented are:

145th Street and 148th Street on the 3 line are both having 24-hour service restored. This will not be shuttle service but rather full service all the way to Times Square (expected in July).
1, 4, 6 and 7 lines are receiving more service in shoulder times, outside of rush hour (expected in July).
B service is being extended from 7pm to 11pm (expected in July).
M shuttle service (between Metropolitan Avenue and Myrtle Avenue) is being extended to 11pm (expected in July).
W service is being extended to 11pm (expected in July).
Mr. Albert made the following comments about changes proposed to the Capital Program:

Revisions to capital plan lead to questions not of what will be deferred but for how long. For example, renovation of the Smith/9th Avenue station is being deferred for 9 months.
The $57M project to paint elevated structures appears to be deferred.
The Culver Viaduct project is still going forward.
Station renovation projects will get pushed back. NYCT is looking at a new water-proofing process being tested in Europe that involves the installation of a station “shield” that water-proofs everything within its footprint.
Display screens are slated for stations without a PA system.
AVL implementation has been deferred.
The rebuild of cars on the Staten Island Railway is being deferred.
There are delays on the Siemens project to install a train locator system.
An option has been taken for more R160 cars to replace the 32s, 38s, 44s and 46s eventually. The option has increased in price $100 million. Something else will have to be pushed back to accommodate this expense.
Mr. Albert noted that at a recent breakfast Sam Schwartz unveiled a new congestion pricing plan that he will be presenting to Richard Ravitch’s commission. Novel parts of this plan involve removing tolls from the Throgs Neck, Whitestone and Triborough Bridges and adding tolls to the East River bridge crossings that enter into Manhattan south of 60th Street.

Old Business
Edith Prentiss reported that privately-maintained elevators are not included in status updates on the MTA website or on NYC Transit’s elevator and escalator hotline. She also asked what impact the capital project deferments that Mr. Albert discussed will have on timetables to make subway stations handicapped-accessible. Mr. Albert said that he was not certain that the deferrals would impact accessibility projects, but that some delays may be possible.

New Business
Shirley Genn reported a slow-down on Manhattan-bound F trains between 10:30am and noon and between 3:30 and 4:00pm. During these periods, there are constant delays, the reasons for which go unannounced to passengers. Trains are only heading in one direction with frequent mid-line transitions from local to express tracks. Mr. Albert responded that the Culver Viaduct work will restore express service on the F line.

Ms. Genn attended a public meeting sponsored by the MTA regarding its real estate acquisitions as part of the Atlantic Yards project. Ms. Genn reported that she was the only public person in attendance for a significant portion of the meeting, and that discussions with area residents revealed surprise that such a meeting was being held. The MTA insisted that they contacted all relevant non-profit organizations; however, the PCAC was not notified.

It was noted that on one recent morning, the down escalator leading from Grand Central Terminal to the subway was not working. Ms. Genn also reported getting off at 34th Street station on the F line and the down escalator only appeared to be working without a sign or a notice directing passengers to another escalator. Trudy Mason responded that Station Customer Assistants (SCAs) and regular booth agents should be able to change the direction of escalators when they are alerted to an elevator outage. This would be in place until the installation of the reported automated system that is planned for the system.

Ms. Mason reported that bus drivers, when ahead of schedule, will slow down before reaching a bus stop in order to re-align themselves with the schedule. This is done instead of proceeding to the next stop to allow passengers to disembark and waiting passengers to board, and then waiting there. She requested that a letter be sent to President of MTA Bus Company Joseph Smith to request that these buses pull into the next stop to get back on schedule.

Election of NYCTRC Officers
Trudy Mason made a motion that the existing slate of officers be nominated. 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.

Introduction of Theodore Kheel, President, Nurture New York’s Nature
A copy of Mr. Kheel’s presentation is on file in the PCAC Office.

Mr. Kheel, accompanied by George Haikalis and David Vermillion, discussed his plan for a free transit system. Mr. Kheel talked about his background and how he became involved in public life. He recounted his experience with the setting of transit fares after the end of World War II and the public’s sensitivity to price.

Mr. Kheel gave a detailed description of the evolution of the functions of the Port Authority (PA) and its acquisition of the Hudson and Manhattan Railroad, which later became the PATH system. He said that then PA Executive Director Tobin exacted an agreement, after the takeover of the Hudson and Manhattan Railroad the Port Authority, that relieved the PA from responsibility to undertake any further public transportation projects in the region. While later efforts were made to rescind this covenant, the Supreme Court ruled that it must be left in place while investors continued to hold Port Authority bonds. Since these were issued as bearer bonds, the Port Authority had no way of contacting all bondholders, and so the prohibition
against further public transportation involvement ended only in 2007, when the last of the bonds in place at the rescission of the covenant was scheduled to mature.

Mr. Kheel said that for a transportation solution to be effective it must bring together transit and auto. The problem with trying to develop a coordinated solution through the MTA is that it does not bring the auto into the equation sufficiently. He said that the PA must be part of the solution. Mr. Vermillion then laid out the Kheel Plan proposal, which includes a 24-hour $16 toll on cars and $32 toll on trucks entering Manhattan below 60th Street. It also includes increased charges on parking and a surcharge on taxi fares, but in exchange Transit within the City would become free of charge.

Mr. Kheel said that his website includes a “Balanced Transportation Analyzer” that can be used to estimate the impacts of changes in fares and tolls.

He said that the Analyzer estimates that free transit would reduce congestion by 15 percent. He further noted that Assemblyman Richard Brodsky favors free transit but not congestion pricing. The Assemblyman favors raising the revenue needed to support free transit through taxes on affluent individuals.

Several members raised question about potential crowding on the system as a result of free transit. George Haikalis of the study team said that even if the fare goes to zero, most trips to work will continue to be made via their current modes. The rush hours where most work trips are made are where capacity constraints exist. Mr. Haikalis also noted that there could be some capacity increases through a more effective use of commuter railroads. Mr. Albert asked whether the study team had given any thought to the impacts of congestion charges on business. Mr. Haikalis said that there is an estimate of these impacts in the team’s final report.

Edith Prentiss noted that the transit system is heavily weighted against persons with disabilities and for this reason many persons with disabilities use cars to reach their destinations. Mr. Haikalis said that the impact of automobile use by persons with disabilities had not been factored into the study models, but that persons with license plates or placards allowing use of parking for persons with disabilities would be exempt from the toll in the Kheel Plan.

The issue of subway musicians and their impact on the ability for riders — especially disabled riders — to hear announcements was raised. It was suggested that a representative from the NYPD Transit Bureau or Arline L. Bronzaft, citizen advocate for noise reduction, will be invited to attend a future meeting to discuss the issue of excessive levels of sound in the subway.

Mr. Albert announced that the Draft 2007 Station Survey Report has been reviewed by the Council. The date and location of a press conference to announce the report’s release will be determined.

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

Respectfully submitted,

Dan Bianco


Chair’s Report
On Wednesday, June 18th, the Transit Riders Council held its 12th Bus Forum at the Queens Borough Hall from 4:30 PM to 6:30 PM. Guests included Joe Smith, Senior Vice-President of Buses and a large number of his senior staff; Captain Patrick Carney of the NYPD, and Joe Barr of NYCDOT. Queens Borough President Helen Marshall also attended and gave opening remarks. It was good to see Council representatives from Queens, Mike Sinansky and Jessica Gonzalez-Rojas, in the audience as well. The event was covered by the Daily News and a copy of the story is in your packet.

Joe Smith started the proceedings by explaining the re-organization of the three bus companies into a Regional Bus Operation which will streamline management, eliminate redundancies, improve efficiency and service, and save money.

Comments from the public were then heard which covered a wide-range of topics: customer service, route and frequency enhancements, bus and terminal conditions, driver performance, and passenger safety. The Forum was well attended and those who did not get to speak were able to fill out complaint forms which are being compiled to be transmitted to Transit. Staff is preparing a summary of the proceedings which will be distributed to the Council and posted on our website.

The MTA Board yesterday changed its policy regarding the distribution of free transportation passes to current and former Board members. Under the new policy, current Board members will be provided free passes for use only on official MTA business. All passes will be rescinded from former Board members and spouses of current and former members. MTA Police-issued parking placards will also be rescinded from former Board members, and current members will only be allowed to use them for official business, which is the current rule.

While the service enhancements that were promised last fall are still on hold, New York City Transit will be increasing some subway service next month, which they are justifying on the basis of MTA Board-approved loading guidelines. These increases include both greater frequency and expanded hours of service on a number of routes, including the 1, 3, 4, 6, 7, Grand Central-Times Square Shuttle, B, J, M, N, and W trains. Most notably, the service increases will restore 24-hour service to the 3 train north of the 135th Street Station. This will right a longstanding wrong by implementing a restoration of service that was promised to be accomplished upon the completion of the Lenox Invert project.

This morning, Bill Henderson attended a meeting of the Stakeholder Advisory Committee for NYMTC’s Human Services Transportation Coordination study. This study focuses on the target populations of senior citizens, persons with disabilities and persons with low income and their transit and paratransit needs in the New York metro region. The result of this study will be a coordinated public transit-human services transportation plan for the region.

Also in your packets today is a presentation on the amendment to the MTA’s 2005-2009 Capital Program that was approved by the Board yesterday. This amendment added to the Capital Program federal funds that have been committed for the Second Avenue Subway and East Side Access projects, as well as the remainder of funding originally reserved for planning transit access to LaGuardia Airport. The main reason for the amendment, however, is that the costs of a number of projects in the Program have grown dramatically, and the amendment shifts projects into the next capital program to pay for the escalation in costs. NYC Transit will purchase 90 additional R160 cars under this program, but the number of A division cars for the Flushing line will be reduced. Fewer articulated buses will be purchased, replaced by additional standard 40 foot buses. More Paratransit vehicles will be purchased.

The main change that is stirring controversy, however, is a movement of nineteen station rehabilitation projects to the next capital program. This affects the Pelham line, the West End line, the Sea Beach line, and the Culver Line. Another notable change is the deferral of five fan plant projects.