Meeting Minutes March 19, 2015




A meeting of the New York City Transit Riders Council (NYCTRC) was convened at 12 noon on March 19 in the 3rd floor MTA training room located at 347 Madison Avenue, New York City.

The following members were present:

Andrew Albert                       Trudy L. Mason

Christopher Greif                 Edith Prentiss

William K. Guild                   Michael Sinansky

Sharon King Hoge              Burton Strauss, Jr.

The following members were absent:

Stuart Goldstein                   Marisol Halpern

Scott Nicholls

In addition, the following persons were present:

William Henderson              -PCAC Executive Director

Ellyn Shannon                       -PCAC Associate Director

Angela Bellisio                       -PCAC Transportation Planner

Bradley Brashears                 -PCAC Research Assistant

Karyl Cafiero                          -PCAC Research Associate

Deborah Morrison                -PCAC Administrative Assistant

Deborah Hall-Moore            -NYCT

Greg Mocker                          -PIX11

Paul Rosen                             -PIX11

Alan Flacks                            -NY County Democratic Committee

Richard Schulman               -Concerned citizen

Aliya Rasool                          -Concerned citizen

Approval of Agenda and Minutes

The agenda for the March 19, 2015 meeting was approved.  The minutes of the February 26, 2015 meeting were approved. It was agreed that the list of issues being addressed by the Council will be distributed to the members.

Chair’s Report

The Chair’s Report is attached to these minutes.

Trudy Mason stated that she has received positive comments about staff at the Second Avenue Subway Community Outreach Center. She suggested that a tour of the Second Avenue Subway be set up for members. Andrew Albert said that it would also be valuable for the Council to tour the 7 line extension project.

Board Report

Mr. Albert said that he had no Board Report to present, as the Board does not meet until the following week

Old Business

Ms. Mason said that previous evening on NY1, the MTA Capital Program was the topic discussed on “The Call.”  The discussion of the Capital Program devolved into a gripe session on fare increases, the increasing number of buses displaying “Next Bus Please” signage, and the lack of buses.  She said that the Council should send another letter about the “Next Bus Please” issue and whether these buses appear on the Bus Time system.  She also suggested that this letter include discussion of the ratio of local to limited-stop buses.

Chris Greif said that he has received many complaints on the B44 bus concerning gaps between buses and buses not showing up on schedule.  He said that there is a problem with buses dispatched from the Ulmer Park depot keeping to their schedules.

Sharon King Hoge said that the countdown clocks on the 6 train show the irregularity of service on the line.  Mr. Albert replied that he has asked NYC Transit about this problem and that he was told that they are aware of the problem.  He said that there are problems with switches above 96th Street and at 125th Street that account for many of these delays.

Chris Greif noted that the condition of the East 143rd Street station on the 6 line is terrible. Mr. Albert said that he will find out what happened at East 143 Street and why it is in such bad condition.

New Business

Ms. Mason said that at the last PCAC meeting the issue of recording meetings was raised, and a decision to record the meetings as an aid to preparing their minutes was made.  She stated that she would like to do this for NYCTRC meetings as well and moved that the NYCTRC record its meetings in the same manner as the PCAC.  The motion was seconded by Mr. Greif and all present voted in favor of the motion with none opposed.

Mr. Greif commented that it was useful to have the speakers for Council meetings on the PCAC website.  He also suggested that Council should be holding public forums on service once again.

William Henderson said that he would find out whether MTA is still planning to hold riders’ forums and would look into how the NYCTRC could effectively provide riders with a forum where they can make comments and ask questions, assuming that the MTA will not move forward with their own events. Edith Prentiss stated that she feels that the NYCTRC forums are different from events run by the MTA.  She also said that she believes that the Councils should interact more with Community Boards.

Ms. Mason suggested that members attend their Community Board and neighborhood association meetings.  Mr. Albert proposed that the Council obtain the names of Community Board transportation chairs and contact them to suggest that they forward transit-related issues to the NYCTRC.

Mr. Albert noted that his Community Board is working on a resolution to ask the MTA to make transferring funds between MetroCards easier and make reimbursement lost or stolen cards more convenient.

Mr. Greif stated that he would like the staff to understand that when he spoke of trips to the Community Board he meant that they would be made by Council members. He also said that he would like someone to provide subway superintendents with information about the NYCTRC.

Mike Sinansky commented on the New York Road Runners event on the West Side the past Sunday, which disrupted bus service to BPC. He said that he wanted to know at what time the M9, M20, and M22 buses were brought back into service after the Road Runners event, which led to rerouted traffic on streets adjoining Battery Park City

Ms. Prentiss noted that with the reconfiguration of the M1, M2, M3 and M4 buses it is difficult to get a bus above 135th Street.  She said that there are lots of short turns on these routes and that it is particularly troublesome on Saturday and Sunday because of the lower frequency of service.

Introduction of David Knights, Chief Officer – Track and Anthony Cabrera, Assistant Chief Officer – Track Engineering to discuss track maintenance and inspection protocols and the operation of NYC Transit’s Track Geometry Car

Mr. Cabrera gave a brief introduction to the procedures that NYC Transit uses in performing track inspections.  The basic inspection is a track walker inspection, where each walker inspects his or her assigned tracks twice a week. Track walkers also inspect the yard tracks once a month.  A supervisory inspection is performed every fifteen days on the mainline tracks.  The mainline switches are inspected monthly and yard switches are inspected quarterly. In addition, there are superintendent inspections performed as well as automated inspections.

Mr. Cabrera said that track workers perform visual inspection, looking for problems in the rails.  The inspectors report conditions and rate the defects in accordance with MW1 track standards. In underground sections of the system, all track inspections are performed in the middle of the night but on elevated and open cut sections the track inspections are done in the middle of the day.

Ms. Prentiss asked how cracks that are not visible are detected.  Mr. Cabrera responded that this will be discussed later in the presentation. Mr. Cabrera said that the requirements for dynamic inspection are enough clearance and an unobstructed vantage point.  Most dynamic inspection work is performed by NYC Transit’s track geometry cars.

Mr. Albert asked whether new tracks are inspected by the track geometry cars when they are installed.  Mr. Cabrera said that new tracks are inspected and that the track geometry car is generally a set of two paired cars.  He said that there are four units on the NYC Transit system, with a one car unit assigned to the Staten Island Railway.

Mr. Albert asked whether trains run slower after a defect is found. Mr. Cabrera replied that the measures taken depend on the nature of the defect and that sometimes they will shut down a section of track, sometimes operate on it subject to a slow speed order and sometimes put other temporary measures in place.

Ellyn Shannon asked how many slow speed areas are typically in force on the system. David Knights responded that there are not many slow speed areas attributable to defects and that most slow speed orders are due to work being performed on the right of way.  He said that the turnaround time required to fix serious defects is not long.

Mr. Cabrera commented that the track geometry car also has a tunnel clearance measurement function where the right of way is checked for proper clearances.  Problems happen rarely in this area, but they are not unknown.  Also, there is a thermal imaging system that is used to detect problems such as defective insulators on the third rail causing current to go to ground.  This problem cannot be detected visually.

Ms. Mason asked whether there is an inspection performed for rodents.  Mr. Knights responded that they do note this problem when it is observed and that there is a baiting program to control rats in the system.

Ms. Shannon asked the age of the oldest tracks in the system.  Mr. Cabrera responded that some tracks date back to 1914, but they make up at most 2 percent of the system and are located in little used areas.

Mr. Cabrera stated that there are three kinds of video systems in place on the track geometry car.  The right of way video system, the rail view video system that is mounted under the car, and the side view video system that can detect defects in the side of the rail. He said that track personnel can look at all videos and track geometry data simultaneously to help identify defects.  Generally, the staff in the office look at video and track geometry graphs within one day of their collection, which allows them to identify priority one defects and send help immediately.  Other defects are addressed within a day or several days, as appropriate to the situation.

The track geometry car has the advantage of safety for performing inspections, as well as allowing for higher quality inspections, correlation of different views of the same section of rail, maintenance of a permanent record, and faster inspection of track.  NYC Transit would need another track geometry car to do a full job of inspection.  Mr. Cabrera said that there are plans to get another car near the end of current capital program, assuming that it is approved.

Richard Schulman asked whether NYC Transit uses the Sperry Rail Car.  Mr. Cabrera said that it does not but that NYC Transit is looking to acquire defect identification software and upgrades to the existing system to increase its capabilities.

Mr. Cabrera said that fully loaded cars can weigh as much as 130,000 pounds per train and at 6,000 trains per day there is a lot of stress on track in the system.  He said that track is generally not ballasted in the subway, which makes it more susceptible to breakage.  NYC Transit also performs ultrasonic testing to identify rail flaws.

Ms. Prentiss asked whether NYC Transit uses continuous welded rail.  Mr. Cabrera responded that they do, and that it is better because it is more flexible and resists damage.  He said that ultrasonic testing works because a rail flaw bounces back a distinctive pattern of sound waves, and then the system software reports what is happening in the track.  When defects are detected they are classified as Priority 1, 2, or 3, depending on the size and location of the defect, and addressed according to those priority levels.  Mr. Cabrera said that NYC Transit is working with Sperry to implement a state of the art rail flaw detection system.

Mr. Cabrera discussed the circumstances of the Queens F train derailment.  NYC Transit does quarterly inspections, and the track where the derailment occurred was checked in March, while the incident happened in May.  At the point of the derailment there was a cracked rail found in February, and it was replaced.  In the three months between the inspection and the derailment a crack expanded to 7 feet, 11 inches.   Nothing was detected in prior to April, so the crack must have expanded greatly during that month.

Ms. Prentiss asked whether cracks can be found in walking inspections.  Mr. Cabrera responded that it is very difficult to find cracks in a visual inspection.  He said that more defects are being found now because they are performing more ultrasonic testing.  In the past year, the weather has also been a factor in the number of cracks detected.

Karyl Berger asked what is being done to address the broken rail problem.  Mr. Cabrera responded that NYC Transit is expediting the replacement of track with continuous welded rail on five critical corridors.

Mr. Knights said that eventually NYC Transit wants to replace all inside track with continuous welded rail.

Alan Flacks asked whether the length and weight of cars have increased.  Mr. Cabrera said that on the BMT system a 67 foot length was the standard until the development of the IND system, which had a 60 foot standard.  As the systems came together, 60 foot cars because the norm and the 67 foot cars disappeared in the1960’s.

In 1973, people came up with idea of 75 foot cars, but the system’s infrastructure was not built for these cars.  As a result, NYC Transit had to chip out some bench walls to allow longer cars to travel through the system. There were also other clearance issues that had to be addressed and there were problems with the heavier weight of the 75 foot cars.

Mr. Flacks asked whether a third running rail helps on curves. Mr. Cabrera responded that adding a guide rail is helpful, as the third running rail guides the car around the curve, protects the track, and prevents rail wear.

Mr. Sinansky wanted to know if they are able to correlate accidents and conditions and to improve the metallurgical composition of the rail used.  Mr. Cabrera responded that this is possible, but NYC Transit has to deal with industry standards.  He said that the Class 1 railroads drive the materials that are available and only one manufacturer in North America makes the 100 pound rail used in the NYC subway system.

Mr. Sinansky said that when these were problems with stress failures in highway bridges the steel suppliers responded.  Mr. Cabrera stated there are improvements being made in track components over time.  Only SEPTA, PATH and NYC Transit use 100 pound rail, and this limits the amount of attention paid to these issues on this particular type of rail.


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

Respectfully submitted,

William Henderson

Executive Director