Meeting Minutes March 24, 2016



A meeting of the New York City Transit Riders Council (NYCTRC) was convened at 12 noon on Thursday, March 24 in the 20th Floor Conference Room 4 at 2 Broadway, New York City.

The following members were present:

Andrew Albert Trudy L. Mason
Stuart Goldstein Scott Nicholls
Christopher Greif Edith Prentiss
William K. Guild Michael Sinansky
Burton Strauss, Jr.

The following members were absent:

Marisol Halpern Sharon King Hoge

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 Transportation Planner
Karyl Cafiero -PCAC Research Associate
Deborah Morrison -PCAC Administrative Assistant
Deborah Hall-Moore -NYCT
Debra Greif -BFSSAC

Approval of Agenda and Minutes

The agenda for the March 24, 2016 meeting was approved. The minutes of the February 25, 2016 meeting were approved.

Chris Greif wanted to thank the PCAC staff for resolving the telephone issue at the PCAC meeting.

Chair’s Report

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

Bradley Brashears and Ellyn Shannon discussed briefly their experiences with the hackathon that Transit Center and New York City Transit had sponsored to develop plans for improvements of the Staten Island bus system. Mr. Greif asked whether the sponsors will continue to hold similar events to address Staten Island bus issues. Mr. Brashears responded that the NYC Transit Bus Study team will now be going back to the community to share some of the work they have done in view of their earlier community outreach. Trudy Mason asked whether the other organizers of the hackathon have a relationship with NYCT. Ellyn Shannon commented that the groups have a developing relationship.

Ms. Mason requested that she be authorized to testify on the changes being made to Broadway Line service in advance of the Second Avenue Subway opening. Bill Henderson said that Mr. Greif had already requested to testify on this issue as he wanted to address some issues affecting Brooklyn.

Ms. Mason said that information on the headways of the new services needs to be made public. Mr. Albert said that he will request information on headways.

Mr. Greif noted that many people want the W train to continue on to Brooklyn during rush hours.

Board Report

Mr. Albert said that the MTA Board approved some procurements to replace and repair parts of the Bushwick Viaduct, and he described the repair and the impacts that it would have on M train service. He noted that the work must be done in advance of L Train service changes for Canarsie Tube repairs. The Canarsie Tube must be partially or totally closed for repairs for between 18 and 36 months, or even longer if the work is done in off hours. NYC Transit President Hakim is nervous that continuing operations in the tunnels while work is being done will affect the parts of the tunnel under construction. Mr. Albert said that he has seen alternative service plans and the quality of the alternative service is the key to convincing residents to accept the 18 month plan. NYC Transit is currently looking at a range of possibilities, but has not decided on either an 18 or 36 month time frame.

Mr. Albert said that members have probably seen headlines that the MTA would be out of money by June. He said that this relates to capital projects and that there are several projects that could be impacted by funding, among them the R211 car order and further work on the LIRR Third Track project.

Ms. Mason said that federal funding for Phase II of the Second Avenue Subway is in the next capital program and asked whether that money could be used. Mr. Albert stated that he believed they will be working on scoping and electoral work.

Ms. Shannon asked whether any members want to work on issues related to capital funding and if so they should let staff know. Ms. Mason volunteered to work on these issues.

Mr. Albert noted that there had been reports of a film on the life of Darius McCollum, who has a history of commandeering buses and trains. Several MTA Board members have asked that the Son of Sam law be invoked to prevent him from benefitting financially from the film and the MTA is proceeding with this.

Mr. Greif asked how the eastern segment of the L train will be operated during work on the Canarsie Tube. Mr. Albert replied that this service will not be physically connected to the J train, but some additional service and transfers will be put in place, and it is likely that additional ferry service will be provided. Mr. Greif asked if provisions will be made for maintaining accessibility where the service is affected. Mr. Albert replied that the MTA will produce maps and guides.

Mr. Mason said that she has heard that there are concerns about having enough time to test the Second Avenue Subway for an opening in 2016. Mr. Henderson said that his understanding is that the testing could be completed, but, if there is a need for retesting, time could be an issue.

Introduction of MTA Regional Bus Vice President, Transportation,
Safety and Training Stephen Vidal to discuss the features and capabilities of the MTA Bus Command Center, currently under construction in East New York

Mr. Vidal stated that the things that excited him about the job of building and commissioning the new command center is that the project will take 1990’s technology and bring it up to date. He stated that currently MTA Bus Operations has 19 consoles, which communicate with buses as well as City agencies that are involved with issues affecting bus service. The number of buses on the road means it is not possible to talk extensively with operators. Currently, when an operator wants to talk to the command center, the may have to wait to connect to a console operator, even if they have a high priority request. He said that the technology is outdated, and that when President Hakim visited the bus command center, she was able to tell the guides all the issues with the existing radio system, as she had approved the procurement during her earlier tenure at NYC Transit in the Law Department

Mr. Vidal the construction of the new command center building is underway, but it will not have a new radio system until 2020. The radio system will cost four times as much as the building, and the project will expand the current system from four to thirty-two antenna dishes, as well as replacing radio equipment in the buses. This expansion is needed, as since the old radio was installed they have added Bus Time and Bus Trek to the system. Ideally, Bus Operations should monitor and control buses from a single command center, but since the system will not allow this there are borough satellite offices in place to track and manage the fleet. When this project is completed, incident control and management of the system can be combined. Originally the schedule was for this to happen by 2017, but this schedule has slipped.

Burt Strauss asked the cost of the project. Mr. Vidal responded that the cost is $53 million, exclusive of land. The project is being built over a subway center, and the homeland security aspects of the building add to its complexity. There are green elements to the building that reduce environmental impact. The power is supplied by Con Edison and there is a natural gas powered generator for emergencies. Rainwater is captured on the roof for reuse, and the facility will also include safety and security offices.

Stuart Goldstein asked how many people will be stationed there. Mr. Vidal replied that there will be 250 people over three tours, as well as some employees performing transportation policy rather than operational tasks. Mr. Goldstein asked if there will be a backup location for the Command Center. Mr. Vidal said that this is still under discussion and that the possibilities are operating in the center’s former space across the street or in mobile command center vehicles.

Mr. Goldstein said that when the Council toured Rail Control Center, a question of the quality of communication between bus and rail systems was raised, and he asked whether there will be someone from Subways at the bus command center.
Mr. Vidal said there are no plans to have representation from Subways, but the bus command center communicates with Subways on a regular basis. The greater limitation is the command center’s ability to communicate with individual buses. With the current system they have to be strategic about what is communicated but with the new system much more information can be shared.

Mr. Greif asked whether buses can be tracked even when GPS unit in them is switched off. Mr. Vidal responded that buses now have GPS hardwired into them, and the operator cannot turn it off. Therefore they can track buses at all times. Before GPS was available, staff had to search for vehicles on the street.

Mr. Greif asked about areas where buses are not visible to the Bus Time system because of signal problems. Mr. Vidal replied that they are trying to improve coverage, but it is evident to the command center when a bus leaves its route.

Edith Prentiss commented that when a bus is rerouted, the only information riders get through text messages is a notice to allow additional travel time and they do not receive information about how the change will affect service at individual stops. Mr. Vidal said that they will look into this.

Ms. Mason said that she was happy that the Bus Time text system now includes the time until the next bus, but this information is often inaccurate. Mr. Vidal replied that this information is calculated by an algorithm that makes use of schedule and bus speed information, but as they get more data and more information these factors will be worked into the algorithm. Ms. Mason said that the next bus boards on SBS routes are always wrong as well.

Ms. Shannon wanted to know how NYC Transit will guard against the obsolescence of the systems being installed while the Control Center is being constructed and fitted out. She also suggested incorporating visualization and ongoing training in the command center. Mr. Vidal said that obsolescence is a huge concern. The successful bidder has a plan that includes establishing a training center that will be in place while the project is progressing.

Mr. Greif asked if the control center will communicate with Access-a-Ride. Mr. Vidal said that they have to do better in this area, as communication is now one-on-one and very linear. Mr. Greif noted cases where Access-a-Ride has assisted when buses have had problems. Mr. Vidal acknowledged that Buses should be connected to Access-a-Ride in the same way as the Rail Command Center.

Mr. Albert asked if the switchover to the new system will be instantaneous. Mr. Vidal responded that the switchover will be bus by bus, and both command centers will be operating for some time.

Mr. Greif asked if new buses will be equipped with the new system. Mr. Vidal said that since the approval of the radio contract all buses will be delivered with the new system.

Ms. Prentiss asked if NYC Transit is getting rid of high floor buses. Mr. Vidal said that by the end of the current Capital Program there will be less than 150 and their number is dropping dramatically. Ms. Prentiss said she has a problem with ramps in new buses not being equipped for manual operation. Mr. Vidal said he would check into this.

Debra Greif suggested that NYC Transit they use retired buses for MetroCard sales. Mr. Vidal said that the buses being retired are beyond their useful life.

Stuart Goldstein asked whether NYC Transit purchase the buses used in Albany.
Mr. Vidal replied that these are made by Gillig, who will not bid on MTA contracts. Old Business

Trudy Mason asked that a letter be sent asking for a formal response to her issues with buses bearing “Next Bus Please” signage

Ms. Prentiss commented that there are still major issues with buses being short turned. Ms. Shannon responded stating that they are looking into the issue. Ms. Prentiss said that she recently had a 37 minute wait for a Bx7 bus.

New Business

Ms. Prentiss said she heard that MTA’s Senior Advisory Council got to see new buses. Ms. Mason said that she did not know about this group. William Henderson said it is a group administered by NYC Transit and that PCAC staff attend its meetings. Ms. Prentiss proposed that the anytime there is information about an opportunity to see new buses, the members receive a copy. It was agreed that members would be informed of these opportunities. Ms. Mason said that anytime staff is informed of an event that may be of interest they should inform members.

Ms. Prentiss noted that Uber is trying to get business from Access-a-Ride. She noted that it is good that Access-a-Ride is getting more MV1 vehicles, but that Access-a-Ride is costly and the real solution is more accessible taxis.

Ms. Prentiss wanted to know when the permanent South Ferry subway station would open. Mr. Albert said he would find out.

Mr. Goldstein asked whether the Council will get an explanation of the reason the 34th Street-Hudson Yards station has leak problems.


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

Respectfully submitted,

William Henderson
Executive Director