Meeting Minutes June 28, 2012

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A meeting of the New York City Transit Riders Council (NYCTRC) was convened at 12:00 noon on June 28, 2012, in the 5th floor Board room at MTA Headquarters, 347 Madison Avenue, New York City.

The following members were present:
Andrew Albert                       Tom Jost
Stuart Goldstein                   Trudy L. Mason
Christopher Greif                 Edith Prentiss
William K. Guild                   Michael Sinansky
Burton M. Strauss, Jr.

The following members were not present:
Jessica Gonzalez-Rojas     Sharon King Hoge
Marisol Halpern                    Steve Mayo
Toya Williford

In addition, the following persons were present:
William A. Henderson         -PCAC Executive Director
Jan Wells                              -PCAC Associate Director
Angela Bellisio                     -PCAC Outreach Assistant
Scott Stringer                        -Manhattan Borough President
Saschen Owen                    -Manhattan Borough President Office
Mark Epstein                         -LIRRCC
Ira Greenberg                       -LIRRCC
Matt Kessler                          -LIRRCC
Nuria Fernandez                 -MTA
Phyllis Silvestri                     -Lindenwood Alliance
Roxanne Warren                 -Vision42
Henry L. Butler                     -TWU Local 100
DaShawn Williams              -TWU Local 100
Matt Shotkin                          -Concerned citizen
Yvonne Morrow                    -Concerned citizen
Ms. Guild                               -Concerned citizen
Ken Stewart                          -Concerned citizen
Approval of Agenda and Minutes
The agenda for the June 28, 2012 meeting was approved, and the minutes of the May 24, 2012 meeting were approved.

Chair’s Report
A copy of the Chair’s Report is attached to these minutes.

Tom Jost commented that FASTRACK seems to be working well but the Council was told that we would get metrics on its performance.  He asked whether NYC Transit allows the Council to look at alternate transportation plans for the FASTRACK diversions and provide input.  Andrew Albert responded that Transit does listen, and has made some changes to alternative service plans, such as adding a shuttle bus serving the 148th and 145th Street stations on the 3 line.

Trudy Mason wanted to know if we could make an inquiry why the M101, M102, and M103 bus routes are being cut back in the September schedule adjustments.  She also requested a copy of the inquiry and any response we receive.

Chris Greif said that the B1 is only getting increases in service on weekends.  He requested an explanation of why there are no increases in service on weekdays.

Edith Prentiss stated that the M100, M101, M102, and M103 buses often do not run the full length of the route but instead are short turned.  People at the ends of the route often wait 45 minutes for a bus when the buses are short turned.

Mr. Greif stated that on F Line some Queens-bound trains now indicate a transfer to the new G stops on their on-board displays.

Mr. Jost asked whether, as part of the hump project, the Council will be looking at best practices in other areas.  Mr. Albert replied that we will be looking at how the humps line up as well as signage.  He said that we can also look at what other areas are doing.  Mr. Jost said that he and Mr. Albert are saying same thing here.

Mr. Albert said that we will be starting a “whatever happens to” section of the Chair’s report, where the status of issues that have been raised previously will be discussed.

Mr. Mason requested that in cases where staff sends a letter of commendation or complaint for a member that the letter include a request for a written response requested and that the member be sent a copy of the letter and a copy of any response that is received.

Board Report
Mr. Albert said he is hopeful that there will be restoration of some of the June 2010 service cuts.  He said that there are other MTA Board Members who are also hopeful that this will happen.  If there are restorations, the cuts that had the worst impacts will likely be addressed.

Ms. Prentiss asked if by worst Mr. Albert means the cuts that affected the most people or the cuts to service where there aren’t other options.  Mr. Albert responded that he considers the worst service cuts those where riders have no other options.  Ms. Prentiss asked whether restoring the buses running between Manhattan and Brooklyn would be a high priority.  Mr. Albert responded that the restoration of these cuts would be a high priority.

Mr. Albert noted that NYC Transit is experimenting with technologies to install countdown clocks on B division subway lines.  He said that because the B division does not have automatic train supervision this will require some creativity but that pilot studies of competing technologies are currently taking place on the Broadway Line.

Mr. Albert commented that another interesting piece of news is the progress being made toward providing transfers in any direction between trains at the Broadway-Lafayette Street and Bleeker Street stations.  He said that the completion of this project will have a major impact on the use of the subway, including a change in travel patterns. He said that NYC Transit will probably wait for new subway maps to be complete before they formally announce that new transfers are possible and that the new maps would also include name change to Barclay’s Center.

Ms. Prentiss inquired about the elevators in the Broadway-Lafayette Street and Bleeker Street stations and questioned how long after the grand opening it will take before the elevators are running.  Mr. Albert said that he will find out.

Stuart Goldstein wanted to know whether there were further discussions of the Jamaica capacity enhancement project and its impacts on LIRR service at the MTA Board meeting. Ira Greenberg responded that there had not been additional discussion of this topic at the Board meetings.  Mr. Goldstein stated that making the contemplated changes could lock in a number of problems for riders, such as the loss of a cross platform transfer between trains bound for Brooklyn and Manhattan and no one seat ride for riders going to Brooklyn.

Matt Kessler stated that Mr. Albert had raised a lot of the problems with the project at the Board level and had emphasized the issues for persons with disabilities.  He said that implementing this plan will add time to the transfer between trains at Jamaica.

Ms. Prentiss said that she will organize a group of people with a variety of disabilities and will simulate the transfer from the furthest car on an inbound train to the elevator, and on to the area where the new platform will be located to evaluate what the change will mean for riders.

Mr. Albert commented that this issue is something he would like to on work with the LIRRCC.  Mr. Goldstein remarked that the NYCTRC should take a position on this change.  Mr. Albert responded that the Council should wait for the LIRRCC to take the lead on this issue and should permit them to discuss it at their next meeting.

Mr. Greenberg questioned what members believe the issue is.  Mr. Albert said that the main issue that he sees is the ability of all riders tor transfer between trains.  Mr. Greenberg also stated that we should emphasize that improving service should make things more convenient for people instead of for trains.

Ms. Mason commented that this is an example of the value of interchange between councils.  She also suggested that we should all get notice of all Councils’ meetings.   Mr. Albert responded that he will ensure that this is done.

Old Business
Ms. Mason said that she had wanted a letter to go out on restoring the Lexington and Madison Avenue stops on the 34th Street Select Bus Service (SBS) routes.  She also noted that there is a continuing problem with not having Ambassadors on 34th Street to assist riders in using the SBS.  Bill Henderson said that a draft resolution addressing the 34th Street stops has been prepared and is being circulated.

The Council discussed the resolution.  Mr. Goldstein suggested that it also include something about bus lane enforcement.  Burt Strauss said that the resolution should specify that both the M34 and M34A SBS routes should stop at both Lexington and Madison Avenues.  Mr. Greenberg said that the use of the bus lane for parking NYCDOT vehicles also needed to be addressed.

Mike Sinansky agreed that enforcement needs to be addressed by the resolution and said that it should include language stating that enforcement is nonexistent.  Tom Jost said that there is a lot of enforcement activity with regard to the bus lanes, but that it only happens at peak traffic periods.

Ms. Mason formally requested that staff inform the Council of any letter that has not received a formal response within a month and that a follow up letter be written.

Mr. Albert stated that the draft resolution will be amended in keeping with the discussion and forwarded via email to the members.  Edith Prentiss suggested that the Council communicate with community boards that include 34th street on these issues.

Introduction of Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer to discuss his proposals for funding mass transit in the MTA Region

Mr. Stringer stated that in his opinion the MTA is a fiscal house of cards.  He said that Albany has abdicated responsibility for funding the MTA, but at the same time the MTA must be more efficient.  He said that the MTA has to reduce its capital costs, as improvements to the system cost from 5 to 6 times what they would cost in London and Paris.

Mr. Stringer said that he believes that the time is right to establish an infrastructure bank for the MTA by leveraging an existing funding stream.  The funding stream that he has in mind, the Mortgage Recording Tax, is not consistent in the amount of revenue it produces, making it unreliable for funding continuing operations, but this funding source could be moved over to finance capital spending by creating a pool of funds on which the MTA could draw.  This pool of funds could be used to leverage investment in a five Borough transportation system that would benefit users of the MTA system in the suburbs as well.  Mr. Stringer said that we must take action independently and stop depending on fare hikes and help from Albany to solve recurring financial problems.

If you remove MRT from funding operations, Mr. Stringer noted, you have to replace the revenue that it generates.  He said that he proposes making the operating fund whole with a new kind of commuter tax.  The difference between this tax and the one that had previously been in place would be that its proceeds would not go to the City or its operating fund, but its purpose would be to allow the MTA to create a capital infrastructure bank in order to build out a five Borough transportation plan that would benefit people throughout the region.  He said that he has received a lot of interest in this proposal, but that all of our neighboring Governors and many elected officials in neighboring localities are against this plan.

Mr. Albert asked if the infrastructure bank funding would go only toward projects in the five Boroughs.  Mr. Stringer responded that funding could also be used to improve entry points from the suburbs and that the MTA could devote some funding to capital projects in the suburbs.

Mr. Strauss asked about the magnitude of funding that is being considered and how it would be collected.  Mr. Stringer replied that the rate would be the same as the old commuter tax at .45% on income and would be collected with the personal income tax.

Ms. Prentiss wanted to know if some of the funds raised through this plan would be put toward increasing the accessibility of the system.   Mr. Stringer stated that there are many needs, but the basic question is how we can meet any of them without having the necessary funding in place.  He said that if we bring back a commuter tax, we can help everyone.

Mr. Albert stated that one of the proposal’s strong points is that people would see what the new commuter tax is buying.  Mr. Stringer responded that lots of people come to the City for employment and receive City services.  They may not agree, but since they would receive something for the tax that they pay, this is a different situation than the old commuter tax.

Mr. Greif asked Mr. Stringer if he has received support from other Borough Presidents.  Mr. Stringer commented that he had reached out to many elected officials and to date has not asked for their support, but that he will in the future.

Mr. Sinansky asked how you would ensure that this funding would be safeguarded for transportation.  Mr. Stringer stated that setting up an effective lockbox would require legislative effort.  He noted that it would be difficult, but not impossible, to raid a lockbox and infrastructure bank that had been negotiated in Albany.

Mark Epstein commented that the Borough President’s presentation could be construed as being very negative to suburban residents.  Mr. Epstein also asked whether reverse commuters would also pay a commuter tax.  Mr. Stringer responded that they would not, but people in the past paid a commuter tax and no one objected.  He said that when he was in the State Assembly there was not an outcry about the commuter tax.

Mr. Jost stated that an infrastructure bank is essential.  He said that it seems that one issue is equity and where the money is spent.  One way to increase acceptance would be to use some money to moderate tolls on facilities operated by MTA Bridges and Tunnels, and if some of the infrastructure bank funding were spent on facilities outside of New York City, this might increase acceptance of the tax.

Mr. Stringer responded that the question of how we replace operating funding to allow the creation of an infrastructure bank is going to be controversial, but people are beginning to recognize that we must improve infrastructure and a positive impact of this is that we have begun to get a dialogue going.

Mr. Jost pointed out that the key to building support is to give people something for their money.  This can be done by extending the projects to which funding is given outside of the City.  He also asked how the infrastructure bank in Los Angeles is being organized.  Mr. Stringer stated that in Los Angeles, the electorate agreed to raise its sales tax ½ cent to seed an infrastructure bank.  He noted that populations in urban centers are increasing and that cities have to maintain competitiveness.

Ms. Mason mentioned that the MTA was formed by Nelson Rockefeller and initially led by William Ronan with the aim of coordinating transportation.  She suggested that if a term other than “commuter tax” were used, it might go over better.

Mr. Greenberg said that if you are going to talk about a commuter tax, you have to talk about fairness. There are people that commute east on Long Island, but can’t use the LIRR because there is no 3rd track.  If you’re talking about restoring commuter tax, you have to distribute costs and provide benefits for everyone.  Mr. Stringer responded that he didn’t want to win an argument but that he wants to start a discussion.  He said that the only way that we can build out a transportation system is to create an infrastructure bank.

DeShawn Williams from TWU 100 asked whether there will be an advisory body to monitor the spending on capital projects.  Mr. Stringer replied that if the bank is established, it should provide for monitoring.  He said that he has been vocal in saying that costs must be controlled, but has also maintained that we must continue to invest in infrastructure.

New Business
Election of Council Officers

Mr. Jost nominated Andrew Albert and Mike Sinansky for another term as Chair and Vice Chair, respectively.  He said that he did not wish to nominate candidates to fill the Executive Committee because two of the incumbents are not present.

Mr. Greif inquired whether he can nominate himself for a position on the Executive Committee.  Mr. Albert responded that he could, but suggested that the elections for the Executive Committee should be held over until the next meeting since not all of the incumbents are present and have not made their wishes known.  There was no objection to this, and the Council proceeded to unanimously elect Mr. Albert and Mr. Sinansky for another term in their present positions as Chair and Vice Chair, respectively.

Mr. Greif stated that he had attended a meeting on the B44 SBS plans.  He noted that there was only one representative from the NYC Transit Department of Government and Community Affairs in attendance.  He also said that there are problems with the plans, including the routing of the service on Rogers Avenue, which is two blocks away from Kings County Hospital.  He also said that the bus stops for the planned service are to be longer than was originally stated.  Mr. Albert responded that he look into these issues.

David Kupferberg said that he has submitted a proposal for bus route restructuring to NYC Transit and circulated copies of it to the members.  Mr. Albert noted out that he has problems with reduction of the M11 bus in the proposal.  Ms. Prentiss commented that the cut to M7 buses in the proposal is a problem.  Mr. Albert said that he will review the proposals in light of the MTA’s service restoration proposals.

Ms. Prentiss commented that there is a continuing problem with bus operators who refuse to manually deploy the ramp on low floor buses.  She stated that if the ramp does not open, which is not uncommon as it can become stuck in place, operators should deploy it manually.  Mr. Henderson said that he has asked NYC Transit for the official policy on the deployment of the ramp.  Mr. Albert also suggested that the Council ask whether the need to deploy the ramps manually is endemic to this equipment and if so how many buses are affected by this problem.

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

Respectfully submitted,
William Henderson
Executive Director

 

 

New York City Transit Riders Council
Chair’s Report
June 28, 2012

In your packet today is a list of bus and subway schedule revisions that NYC Transit will implement in September.  There are 40 service decreases and 33 service increases planned, including a substantial increase in Bronx SBS service, which has been operating far above loading guidelines.  The changes would result in a small net increase in spending on operations.  A copy of the revisions is included in your packets today.

Also included in your packets is a copy of notice of the latest FasTrack subway shutdowns that are in effect this week.  It has been noted that riders have largely accepted the FasTrack program, and it is true that most riders are reasonable and recognize the benefits of this program.  We must be alert, however, to plans for the expansion of this program to areas without convenient parallel subway service and be ready to advocate for appropriate alternative service, even if it results in some additional costs.

On June 19 Bill Henderson testified before the New York City Council’s Committee on Transportation on the subject of addressing public transit needs outside Manhattan.  Bill noted the findings of the PCAC’s 2007 research report, A Long Day’s Journey into Work, and our proposals for making better use of the entire public transportation network, including implementing a Freedom Ticket.  He also cautioned that the transit routes that serve outlying areas of the City are often the most vulnerable when budget cuts are proposed, as we saw in the 2010 budget cuts that have yet to be restored.  A copy of this testimony is in your packets.

I sent a letter to NYC Transit President Prendergast noting the electronic Flexible Information and Notice Display (FIND) signage on F trains do not include accurate information for transfers to G service where it has been extended during Culver Viaduct construction.  In the letter, I urged him to make a commitment to retaining extended G service after this work is complete. Despite the necessity of funding this service from operating rather than capital accounts once the Viaduct is complete, the reception that expanded G service has received and the benefits that it presents for the transit network are solid reasons to retain expanded G service.

We sent a letter to Ted Orosz expressing the Council’s concerns with the use of on-board fare payment for the implementation of Select Bus Service on the S79 route on Staten Island and in Brooklyn.  In the letter, we stated that having differing means of fare payment on Select Bus Service in different parts of the city would lead to confusion among riders and possibly subject some riders to penalties for fare evasion if they assume that payment on Select Bus Service in Manhattan and the Bronx is the same system that is used on the S79 route.

At last month’s meeting we discussed a resolution calling on NYCDOT and the MTA to reconsider elimination of some bus stops on the 34th Street corridor. We have a resolution on this issue that we can consider today under old business.

We should have an active summer.  Bill Henderson, Edith Prentiss, and I visited several stations to look at the platform “humps” to define what we will be looking for in our member project.  We’ll be setting up field sessions for members and starting the survey process in the next month.  Also, we are investigating possibilities for a field trip this summer, which has taken the place of our August meeting for a number of years.  We will get further information on a field trip to you as we get more information.

 

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