NEW YORK CITY TRANSIT RIDERS COUNCIL
MINUTES OF MARCH 27, 2014
A meeting of the New York City Transit Riders Council (NYCTRC) was convened at 12 noon on March 27, 2014 in the 5th floor MTA Board room located at 347 Madison Avenue, New York City.
The following members were present:
Andrew Albert Sharon King Hoge
Christopher Greif Trudy L. Mason
William K. Guild Edith Prentiss
Marisol Halpern Michael Sinansky
The following members were absent:
Stuart Goldstein Steven Mayo
Thomas Jost Burton Strauss, Jr.
In addition, the following persons were present:
William Henderson -PCAC Executive Director
Ellyn Shannon -PCAC Associate Director
Karyl Cafiero -PCAC Research Associate
Angela Bellisio -PCAC Transportation Planner
Bradley Brashears -PCAC Research Assistant
Anthony Drummond -Brooklyn Borough President Office
Ken Stewart -Concerned citizen
Brigitta Payne -Concerned citizen
Matt Shotkin -Concerned citizen
Ann Guild -Concerned citizen
Aliya Rasool -Concerned citizen
Approval of Agenda and Minutes
The agenda for the March 27, 2014 meeting was approved. The minutes of the February 27, 2014 meeting were approved
The Chair’s Report is attached to these minutes.
A discussion of bus holding lights in Coney Island in the Chair’s report led to a conversation about other places where holding lights are used. Andrew Albert questioned whether there are other places that could benefit from the holding lights and whether buses that were delayed by them would be off schedule. Bill Henderson said that the practice on the bus ramps at the St. George Staten Island Ferry terminal is to hold buses until the ferry has arrived and that the bus control tower makes decisions on holding and releasing buses. He said that holding lights are installed on the bus ramps, but bus operators often do not wait for an incoming ferry that when their dispatchers are no longer on site.
Trudy Mason noted that Michelle Winfield had not received a copy of the MTA response to the NYCTRC’s letter about eligibility of children to travel fare free. Mr. Henderson said that a copy of the letter would be sent to her.
Mr. Albert said that by all indications the Fulton Center will open on time in June, but that this opening will not include the connector between the R and E subway lines. The 7 line extension’s opening, on the other hand, will be delayed to December because of issues with station escalators and incline elevators.
Mr. Albert reported that there is good news on the real estate front. He said that the Related/Oxford joint venture had closed on the West Side rail yards and that the MTA has received agreed upon funds from this transaction. He also noted that the caissons that will support the construction over the site are now being put in place.
The Council discussed the 7 line extension escalators and inclined elevators. Mr. Albert said that the opening of the project will be delayed by the failure of this equipment to pass testing. Trudy Mason requested that the Council find out why Kone rather than the Schindler Company was used for the project. She said that Schindler has experience building large escalators.
Mr. Albert stated that the recent diversion of $40 million in dedicated transit funding into the State’s general fund and the MTA’s commitment to spend $7 million for Verrazano-Narrows Bridge toll relief makes it more difficult to come up with funding for additional MTA service improvements. Ms. Mason suggested that a letter be written to Governor Cuomo urging him to drop the proposed $40 million diversion and that the letter be sent either now or whenever it would be most appropriate.
Ellyn Shannon commented that Governor Cuomo is requesting $4.9 billion from the federal government for storm resiliency projects and that this sum is more than the amount that has been set aside for this purpose in the wake of Superstorm Sandy. Ms. Mason said that a decision was made to ask for more money than is available in resiliency funding because there are other sources of funds that can be tapped to pay for resiliency projects.
Mike Sinansky asked whether the State’s use of the $40 million in transit funding to pay debt service, which had previously been paid from the general fund, would increase the MTA’s or State’s borrowing capacity. Mr. Henderson responded that it would not.
Ms. Mason said that John Gaul did not discuss all issues on the Lexington line at the February NYCTRC meeting. She said that there were delays on the line again today during rush hour and the midday period. Mr. Albert noted that there were delays on the West Side as well. He stated that the Council will investigate chronic problems on the subways.
Sharon King Hoge remarked that one reason for delays on the Lexington line is its high ridership. She said that trains are frequently delayed because of crowding.
Bill Guild mentioned that on the previous day before there were signal problems at Brooklyn Bridge that affected 4 line trains and that 4 line trains were being diverted via the 6 line. Chris Greif confirmed this problem and said that there was also a sick customer on the 5 train that created delays. Ms. Shannon asked how long the increase in problems on the Lexington line has been occurring.
Ms. Mason requested that the Minutes be changed to reflect that John Gaul did not discuss incidents other than those that occurred on January 15. She said that she would like the Council to go over six months of the line’s operations to find out the cause of delays.
Ken Stewart said that the Rules of Conduct for NYC Transit need to be revised. He stated that they are outdated and do not address many problems in the subway system that he has raised. Mr. Albert said that he will follow up and ask NYPD representatives to attend a future NYCTRC meeting and discuss enforcement of the Rules of Conduct.
Ms. Mason said that the date of Mr. Gaul’s appearance at the NYCTRC meeting needs to be corrected on the list of active NYCTRC issues.
Mr. Greif asked whether the Council has received an update on the reopening of the permanent South Ferry station. Mr. Albert responded that the work to reopen the station would require two or three years.
Mr. Greif requested that the Council check on bus ridership between Chambers Street and South Ferry and see whether providing a dedicated shuttle bus would be warranted. Mr. Albert responded that he has reviewed this issue many times with NYC Transit and that the response to his requests for shuttle service is that there is existing scheduled service.
Mr. Greif asked whether the Council had an update on the reconstruction of the Montague Street tunnel and the restoration of R train service between Brooklyn and Manhattan. Mr. Albert responded that the work is on schedule and noted that there is discussion of another tunnel being shut down for repairs after the G train is finished with its six week shutdown this summer. He said that the Cranberry Street Tunnel, which carries the A and C lines, could be next.
Mr. Greif requested that a letter be sent commending NYC Transit for their actions during the collision of an automobile with the Q Train. NYC Transit did not shut the line down because of the incident and informed the local Community Boards of the service status. Mr. Albert commented that this incident was far less serious than the recent crash in Chicago involving the Blue Line.
Bradley Brashears discussed the status of the Council’s project on planned service disruptions. He said that he has done a lot of background research and reviewed the reasons for General Orders (GOs). From doing this research he found that there is an increased focus on signal work and that GOs involving signals generally require a service outage. He also noted that the impact of GOs has been growing because of increasing night and weekend subway ridership. Mr. Brashears said that that the second portion of the report will focus on the passenger experience.
Mr. Albert said that one reason the project was done was the Council’s recognition of the increasing numbers of GOs and desire to see whether all areas are being treated equally. Ms. Shannon added that another focus of the report is the assessment of whether NYC Transit is proportionally increasing the number of workers who provide information and other services to riders in connection with GOs.
Mr. Albert said that improvements are needed in this area and used the example of a GO in force the past weekend, where riders were directed to reach a skipped stop on the 8th Avenue line by backriding, although the station could have been accessed by transferring to the E train.
Edith Prentiss asked whether there are set criteria for NYC Transit providing a shuttle bus. She noted that when the A train does not go beyond 168th Street, NYC Transit tells riders to take the M4 bus, although this bus route does not serve the subway station.
Mike Sinansky asked if any members had encountered the situation where a station affected by a GO has no signage displayed that is specific to this GO, but only a weekly summary poster. He said that he had been in stations where the only information specific to a GO affecting the station was a message written on the station booth whiteboard. Some members said that they had encountered similar situations. Mr. Greif remarked that some of his friends had brought the lack of specific signage in their stations to his attention.
Marisol Halpern commented that one problem that she encountered during GOs involved the BusTime system. She said that she used the QR code to get Bx24 bus information and the system returned inaccurate information. Ms. Hoge suggested that it would be useful for GO signage to include the affected borough or boroughs on the top of the sign.
Ms. Prentiss said that there used to be more information about alternative accessible routings on signage, but this information has been eliminated. She said that she would like this information to be on GO signage, even if it is shown in a small font, as the current alternative given is to call 511.
Ms. Mason stated that in contrast to Mr. Sinansky’s experience where information was posted on the station booth whiteboard, when she performed her survey the station booth clerks did not know what was going on. She said that there is a disconnect between the people arranging GOs and the people giving service information to riders.
Mr. Sinansky said that he believes that there was no individual poster produced for the GO covered in his survey, as the station booth clerk directed him to the weekly summary when he asked for information on the service change. Ms. Mason said that there should be some kind of communication with station booth agents to inform them of GOs affecting their station. Mr. Albert said that he has been told that there is a system to inform station booth agents and agreed that agents need to know of diversions affecting their stations.
Ms. Prentiss commented that it seems there is less effort made to inform the riding public when a GO is a recurring event. She speculated that NYC Transit believes that riders know how a diversion works and what alternatives they have when that diversion is in place over multiple weeks. Ms. Prentiss said that it seems that the more frequently a line is diverted, the less signage is posted about the diversion.
Mr. Greif pointed out that on a recent diversion on the Q line there was no signage indicating how to get an accessible trip and that there could be problems if an elevator on the route is not working. He asked whether announcements of out of service elevators in stations affected by GOs could be made and said that these announcements would prevent riders needing accessible stations from getting stranded.
Mr. Albert stated that the project will be completed, with results, talking points, and conclusions, by next month and that care is necessary to ensure that the report gets these elements right.
Ms. Mason suggested that it would be good to have everyone who did surveys at the public release of the report. Mr. Albert responded that he will circulate potential dates for the release. Ms. Shannon suggested it could be held before the April NYCTRC meeting.
Mr. Greif said that when the 7 train is shut down on weekends between Manhattan and Jackson Heights there will be chaos. He said that trains should be added to alternate routes during these shutdowns. Mr. Albert said that he believes that riders will find their way to alternate routes, but that NYC Transit should make adjustments to regular timetables to ensure that sufficient alternative service is available. The members briefly discussed options for alternative service during 7 line disruptions.
Mr. Albert noted some trains have anomalies in their schedules that are not well publicized. For example, some 2 line trains serve New Lots Avenue and the D train serves DeKalb Avenue at night. Mr. Greif commented that this second example is in place to provide service after B train service ends for the night. Mr. Albert stated that it would be useful if platform signs showed the last trains of the evening and overnight changes in service. Ms. Prentiss responded that the problem with displaying this information occurs when trains are off schedule and trains arrive after the stated time for the last train.
Mr. Albert asked whether any member has a problem with the NYCTRC sending a letter asking that platform signage reflect time-based changes in service. Ms. Prentiss noted that NYC Transit has to be careful about how much information is included on platform edge signs. More information may require an additional or longer sign so that the font used is not unacceptably small. Mr. Greif noted that this information once was included on system maps. Ms. Prentiss observed that the destination of a train is indicated on displays on the train itself.
The meeting was adjourned at 2:00 p.m.