Meeting Minutes May 23, 2013





A meeting of the New York City Transit Riders Council (NYCTRC) was convened at 12 noon on May 23, 2013 in the 5th Floor Board room at MTA Headquarters, 347 Madison Avenue, New York City.  The following members were present:

Andrew Albert                       Thomas Jost

Stuart Goldstein                   Trudy L. Mason

Jessica Gonzalez- Rojas    Steve Mayo

Marisol Halpern                    Edith M. Prentiss

Sharon King Hoge              Michael Sinansky

Burton Strauss, Jr.

The following members were absent:

Chris Greif                           William K. Guild

Toya Williford

In addition, the following persons were present:

William Henderson              -PCAC Executive Director

Ellyn Shannon                     -PCAC Transportation Planner

Karyl Berger                          -PCAC Research Associate

Craig Cipriano                      -MTA Bus

Sunil Nair                              -NYCT

Deborah Hall-Moore            -NYCT

Brigitta Payne                       -Lindenwood Alliance

Alan Flacks                           -NY County Democratic Committee

Jonathan Rabov                  -Concerned citizen

Ken Stewart                          -Concerned citizen

Approval of Agenda and Minutes

The agenda for the May 23, 2013 meeting was approved.  The minutes of the April 25, 2013 meeting were approved.


Chair’s Report

Andrew Albert stated that several months ago he attended a Riders Alliance-organized event aimed at increasing transit service.  He also said that he has been told that NYC Transit is going to place signs to indicate where trains will stop on platforms.

Edith Prentiss commented that placing signs will not help visually impaired persons.  Mr. Albert replied that they may also place a locator tone at the spot where the front of the train will be.  He said that he will pass along these comments to NYC Transit.

Mike Sinansky noted that the response from NYC Transit to the letters that the Council sent on the Rockaways is a disgrace.  He said that their justification for not sending a MetroCard van to the Rockaways is bureaucratic and that the Council should not let them get away with this kind of response.

Tom Jost wanted to know if copies of the Council’s letters are sent to elected officials.  William Henderson responded that no elected officials were sent copies of this letter, but depending on the subject, copies of correspondence are sent to elected officials.   Mr. Albert said that the Council should discuss doing so in the future.

Stuart Goldstein said that the Council should inquire about the criteria for scheduling MetroCard buses or vans.  The inquiry should include the criteria for scheduling, the frequency at which they are scheduling, and the structure of decision making for the program.  Other questions that should be asked is whether there can be flexibility in scheduling the vehicles, the cost of positioning a van at street fairs or festivals, and how successful NYC Transit has been in recruiting new MetroCard merchants for off-site sales.

Ms. Prentiss commented that when MetroCard Vending Machines were deployed, there was a discussion of where to put them and whether NYC Transit would concentrate on accessible stations.  She said that the positioning of MetroCard vans and buses is political in nature.

Board Report

Mr. Albert said that he had little to report, since there has not been a Board meeting since the last NYCTRC meeting.  He said that having fewer Board meetings is not a good idea and that there have been no Chairman’s forums held, although two of them were to be included in the new schedule per year.  He said that at the June Board and committee meetings there is likely to be a push for service restoration, followed by debate over the service restoration at the July meeting.

Ellyn Shannon asked if there was any feedback from other Board members about restoring the previous eleven meeting per year schedule.  Mr. Albert replied that he will talk to Tom Prendergast about this subject.

Mr. Jost wanted to know whether work has been done on potential service restorations.  Mr. Albert responded that he has been asked to come up with a list of the worst remaining cuts that could be restored and hopes others will too.  Mr. Jost asked whether criteria could be developed for restorations.

Trudy Mason noted that she has been told that Tom Prendergast will be confirmed as theMTAChairman before the Senate adjourns for the summer.  She said that anything having to do withMTAservice will be political, particularly since former Chairman Joseph Lhota is running for Mayor and that in this light it is a good suggestion for Mr. Prendergast to think about service restoration.

Old Business

Ms. Prentiss had a question about South Ferry, asking whether anything is being done to improve travel to the area for those needing accessible routes.   She said that on a recent trip it took her one hour to travel from Chambers Street to South Ferry, including a half hour wait for the M5 bus.  Mr. Albert suggested that a letter be sent to the MTA Inspector General on this subject.

Ms. Prentiss pointed out that she saw a small sign telling riders that the South Ferry station is not accessible.  She remarked that she feels that NYC Transit wants to eliminate the accessibility of the station.

Ms. Mason wanted to know what is happening with posting of signage during service diversions and requested that the Council follow up on this issue.  Mr. Albert asked whether she is concerned with the initial placement of signage or the replacement of signage.  Ms. Mason responded that she is interested in both of these issues and would like to have both of them discussed.  It was agreed that a letter be sent to NYC Transit outlining the Council’s issues regarding signage and other station issues during service diversions and that Mr. Albert will follow up on the issue.

Sharon King Hoge noted that at the Lexington Avenue/59th Street station, she saw huge signs on turnstiles about FASTRACK repairs affecting service at the station.

Mr. Albert said that the Council needs to find out who is responsible for putting up and maintaining tape and signage for service diversions.

Ken Stewart said that there are still performers on platforms located in very inconvenient and dangerous places.   He suggested that the Council members meet with the NYPD Transit Bureau and explain why performers should not be in certain places.

New Business

It was noted that several weeks ago an article appeared in the NY Times about a security test that involved measuring the flow of gas through the subway system. Mr. Albert explained that it is a test aimed at improving the security of the system.  Mr. Henderson said that similar tests have taken place in other subway systems for several years.

Ms. Hoge wanted to know if Council could make a formal recommendation that there be a better provision for service disruption signage in new station designs.  Mr. Albert replied that we can ask about it.

Ms. Prentiss said that generally signage is mounted on walls, because freestanding signs can become hazards if lights go out.  She noted that the Help Point system, which NYC Transit is counting on to deliver information to riders on the platform, is not accessible.  Mr. Albert responded that NYC Transit’s plan is to make these units accessible.

PCAC Nominating Committee

Mr. Albert remarked that he had a good idea who will be nominated.  Randy Glucksman was selected as the nominee for Chair by the MNRCC.  Mr. Albert stated that he believed that Bill Guild should continue to serve as a PCAC Vice Chair, and there was general agreement that Mr. Guild should be nominated to remain a Vice Chair.  Mr. Albert said that the LIRRCC is likely to select Matt Kessler as the other Vice Chair nominee.

NYCTRC Officer Nominations

Ms. Mason moved that the Council’s current officers be nominated to serve another term.  There were no further nominations made.

Introduction of Craig Cipriano, MTA Bus Vice President – Business Strategies, and Sunil Nair, NYCT Senior Director – Bus Customer Information Systems, to provide an update on the BusTime system

Mr. Cipriano said that 36 percent of the bus fleet is equipped with BusTime components and that there will be full deployment of the system in April 2014

He noted that BusTime users are more satisfied with bus service, with 90 percent satisfied as opposed to 76 percent of all riders.

In February 2013, after BusTime was in operation in the Bronx and Staten Island, the MTA entered into a contract with Cubic Transportation Systems to provide the system in the remaining boroughs.  The installation of equipment in buses has begun for the routes in Manhattan, the next borough to receive the system.

In addition to providing information through computers or smartphones, the MTA will be using BusTime as a platform for other systems.  Some areas being explored are traffic signal priority systems that will speed buses and a new version of the On the Go kiosks that operates at street level and is powered by solar panels.

Ms. Prentiss asked how the system addresses buses making short turns or “running dark.”  Mr. Cipriano responded that BusTime should give riders information about individual buses going out of service.  Overall, from a service management standpoint, BusTime will allow MTA Bus Operations to better manage the system.

Ms. Prentiss also asked where the decision is made to take buses out of service is made.  Mr. Cipriano replied that this decision is made in satellite offices, of which there will be one in each borough.  He said that MTA Bus Operations is trying to make informed decisions about managing service.  Ms. Prentiss asked how riders will know when a bus is taken out of service.  Mr. Cipriano said that a bus taken out of service will disappear from the display screens available to customers.

Mr. Stewart wanted to know how riders will get information at bus shelters if they do not have access to technology.  Mr. Cipriano responded that there is currently no equipment installed in shelters to give bus information.  The BusTime system tells people that a bus is a given number of stops or miles away.  Ultimately, they expect to have a predictive system that will tell when a bus will arrive.

Mr. Albert suggested that there should be a telephone number to call to give riders the next few buses that will come to a stop.  Sunil Nair responded that the desktop BusTime website and the system’s text message site are audibly accessible.

Ms. Mason asked if there is any means of communication between subways and buses, so that if there is a subway disruption bus service can be adjusted.  Mr. Cipriano responded that there is communication between bus and rail control centers and corrective actions are directed to bus operators via radio.  Ms. Mason also asked what provisions are being made to give information to customers without technology.  Mr. Cipriano stated they are working with NYCDOT on adding real time information to the bus stop “lollypop” signs and other initiatives.

Mr. Sinansky wanted to know how much cooperation the guests were receiving from the NYC Department of Transportation.  Mr. Cipriano stated that his team had very good cooperation with the City while working with Eric Beaton’s group at NYCDOT.

Ms. Shannon asked when the system will be deployed in Manhattan.  Mr. Cipriano responded that it will be available later this year.

Phyllis Sylvestri pointed out that she was having problem with Queens express buses, such as the QM15.  She stated that she has to make sure to be at bus stop early, because the bus sometimes leaves early.  Mr. Cipriano commented that the BusTime system allows MTA Bus Operations to recognize these situations and to manage the system better.

Ms. Hoge pointed out the bus operators near the Flushing – Main Street subway station are waiting until their scheduled departure time to open doors while sitting at the stop.  Mr. Cipriano responded that the policy is if the operator is in the bus, it should be made accessible. Ms. Hoge said that the Bx12, M79 and M66 also have this problem.

Ms. Shannon commented that when the M79 operator is on the bus but resting at the route’s western terminal, it causes backups on the West Side Highway.  Mr. Cipriano said that he won’t speak on this situation because he didn’t know the facts, but noted that bus operators do get personal time.

Karyl Berger wanted to know how BusTime handles situations when buses are diverted from their normal route.  Mr. Cipriano replied that the system doesn’t show stops where buses are diverted, then works normally once the bus is back on its regular route.

Ms. Prentiss asked whether, while they are using the BusTime system, there is anything to tell riders of service diversions.  Mr. Cipriano said that the system tells riders of both planned and emergency diversions.

Alan Flacks asked if the guests had any information about the Cemusa contract for annunciators.   Mr. Cipriano responded that he did not know about this contract, but that it is quite expensive to lease space in shelters.

Brigitta Payne asked the proper spatial relationship between bus shelters and bus stops.  Mr. Albert responded that bus stops and equipment have changed over time and the alignment of stops and shelters sometimes need to be changed.

Ms. Prentiss pointed out that bus operators sometimes exhibit passive-aggressive behavior in making it difficult for people needing to use the ramp to access low floor buses.

Mr. Flacks remarked that people want bus shelters at the head of the bus stops.

Mr. Albert asked whether BusTime is GPS based.  Mr. Cipriano said that it is.  Mr. Albert asked if there is a problem getting a signal in Manhattan.  Mr. Cipriano responded that there are difficulties in some places, but they are testing and getting encouraging results in this area.


The meeting was adjourned at 2 p.m.

Respectfully submitted,

William Henderson, Executive Director