Meeting Minutes May 26, 2016



A meeting of the New York City Transit Riders Council (NYCTRC) was convened at 12 noon on May 26, 2016 in the 20th Floor Board room at MTA Headquarters, 2 Broadway, New York City. The following members were present:

Andrew Albert
Marisol Halpern
Stuart Goldstein
Trudy L. Mason
Chris Greif
Scott Nichols
William K. Guild
Edith M. Prentiss
Burton Strauss, Jr.

The following member was absent:

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 Berger -PCAC Research Associate
Peter Cafiero -NYCT
John O’Grady -NYCT
Lois Tendler -NYCT
Deborah Hall-Moore -NYCT
Vincent Barone -AmNY
Yoni Bouser -Queens Borough President’s Office
Ken Stewart -Concerned citizen

Approval of Agenda and Minutes

The agenda for the May 26, 2016 meeting was approved. The minutes of the April 23, 2016 meeting were approved.

Introduction of Peter Cafiero, NYC Transit Chief, Operations Planning, John O’Grady, NYC Transit Senior Vice President-Capital Program Management, and Lois Tendler NYC Transit Vice President-Government and Community Affairs to discuss upcoming repairs on the M subway line and options for repair of the L line’s Canarsie Tube following M line repairs.

John O’Grady stated that Superstorm Sandy was the worst storm event to hit New York City Transit. He said that in the Montague Street Tunnel, repair of the structure required that they demolish the duct bank and the removal of the cables running through it in small segments as they is large. Montague was the first tunnel to be rehabilitated in response to Sandy damage, started in 2013 and finished three weeks ahead of schedule.

Peter Cafiero said that for the work on Montague there were many alternative routes that riders could use, and that this later work does not had this luxury.

Mr. O’Grady commented that the Montague Street Tunnel was one level of challenge, but the Canarsie Tunnel is a higher level of challenge. Canarsie is a cast iron tube built in 1924. A total of 225,000 riders use the tunnel, as opposed to 400,000 for the L as a whole, 50,000 on the L in Manhattan only and 126,000 in Brooklyn only. Many tunnel passengers have a destination along 14th Street and do not transfer to another subway line.

Mr. O’Grady said that after NYC Transit did an assessment of the storm damage, it became clear that a full tunnel rebuild would be necessary. The duct banks were severely damaged and have the vital purposes of carrying cables, providing an emergency exit path, and serving as a clear up place for tunnel workers. He showed a photo of damage to circuit breaker house and noted that the line had been operating with temporary repairs to one of two of these structures but no backup. NYC Transit crews also performed temporary repairs on duct banks, but their condition is poor and a track fire could readily stop service. They are monitoring the tunnel condition while working to get repairs done as soon as possible and are also concerned that federal funding for tunnel repairs could be at risk with too long a delay.

The repairs that will be performed include reconstructing 37,000 feet of duct bank, rehabilitating vent shafts, and enhancement work on the system. These enhancements include a new substation, and new stairs and elevators at the Bedford Avenue and 1st Avenue stations. This work will extend the life of the tunnel by 50 years or more. Mr. Cafiero noted that the Bedford Avenue station is tiny, cramped, and heavily used. In fact it may be NYC Transit’s heaviest-used station per square foot. It would not work to do the needed rehabilitation on nights and weekends, as there is too much work to do, but also this schedule does not fit the usage patterns of the line. He noted that constructing a new tunnel has been suggested, but this would take too much time.

Mr. Cafiero said that there are two feasible options. The first involves an 18-month closure of the L line to Manhattan with a total closure of the Bedford Avenue station. The second would require a 36-month closure and would allow an L shuttle to run between Bedford and 8th Avenues, but the shuttle would only accommodate 20 percent of the current ridership. The service would have 12 minute headways at a minimum and would not provide a rail connection between Bedford Avenue and the rest of Brooklyn.
The advantage of the 18 month plan is that 80 percent of riders would be less impacted. There would be faster construction and better control of the site by the contractor. This option would preserve service on the Bedford Avenue to Canarsie section of the route and maximize the potential for contractor incentives for early completion. Alternative service would center around keeping people on the subway, with added M, J, and G service and the addition of a walking transfer between Broadway and Lorimer Street. An additional ferry could run between North 6th Street in Williamsburg and 20th Street in Manhattan to connect to M23 buses. This service would be close to the M34A bus and there would be a possible SBS service overlaying M14 bus service, but this all requires City involvement. In addition, a B39 SBS service is an option

Mr. Cafiero said that the main positive element of the 36 month closure plan is that it preserves rail service between Brooklyn and Manhattan as well as intra-Manhattan rail service. On the other hand, the shuttle is limited in capacity as it runs on a single tunnel and there is the risk of tunnel damage from construction in the other tube. Other planned and unplanned closures are potential risks and problems.

Mr. Cafiero said that NYC Transit would take May and June to listen to the affected communities and make a decision shortly after.

Mr. Albert opened the floor for questions. Karyl Berger asked whether she is complete in understanding that the tunnel concrete is in good condition. Mr. O’Grady responded that the concrete liners are in good condition and that the duct bank was constructed separately and can be demolished without affecting the liner.

Stuart Goldstein asked whether NYC Transit has information on ridership by time of day. Mr. Cafiero stated that they are looking at ridership patterns, but he does not have the exact numbers at hand. He said that the Williamsburg market is active as much in the off peak as the peak hours. There is a later morning peak in Williamsburg, but this is different than the more traditional morning peak in the remainder of Brooklyn and in Manhattan. Lois Tendler noted that alternative service will have to be provided on a 24 hour, 7 day per week basis.

Burt Strauss wanted to know if there is a difference in cost between the alternatives. Mr. O’Grady replied that there will be costs between $800 million and $1billion, with half of this cost expended on actual tunnel work. He said that it is likely that the total cost will be higher for a longer shutdown.

Mr. O’Grady said that funding will come from Sandy recovery funds, core capacity improvement grants from the federal government, and funding for ADA improvements previously planned, but that there is a local match required for all external funding sources.

Chris Greif asked for more details on B39 bus service. Mr. Cafiero responded that they have a lot of work to do to design alternative service. NYC Transit wants to use buses to divert people away from Williamsburg. Ms. Tendler said that the MTA is reading all comments received, such as those that Mr. Greif provided.

Mr. Cafiero said that the terminal for additional M service has yet to be decided. The final plan may take the M to 96th Street and 2nd Avenue. Trudy Mason asked whether using the 96th Street station will have any impact on phase II of the Second Avenue Subway. Mr. Cafiero responded that it would not.

Ms. Mason asked why the time is so long to begin L work if the damage to the line is an emergency. Mr. Albert responded that this is covered in the next part of the presentation.

Ms. Mason asked whether the plan takes into account climate change. Mr. O’Grady said that they are taking every feasible action to prevent flooding in the Canarsie tubes.

Mr. Goldstein asked whether substations will be built simultaneously with the tunnel restoration. Mr. O’Grady responded that they will and that they will be ready at same time the tunnel reopens.

Mr. Goldstein asked whether there will be more M service to Court Square during the L tunnel construction. Mr. Cafiero said there will be some additional service, but there are track capacity limitations.

The discussion turned to the Bushwick Viaduct, which runs between Myrtle and Central Avenues. The branch carries 60,000 trips, of which 50,000 continue beyond the branch, and 10,000 transfer to the L train.

Mr. O’Grady said that there are significant constructability challenges with this work. Some neighboring private properties are below the structure including one house’s kitchen. A full replacement of the structure will be required. Needed work also includes replacement of a bridge structure over the New York and Atlantic Railroad tracks near Fresh Pond Yard. The bridge has been hit by freight trains on several occasions and the replacement will be completed in summer 2017. The viaduct closure will begin in summer 2017 and be completed in spring 2018. The summer replacement schedule for the bridge benefits Christ the King High School, which is located near the bridge.

NYC Transit will increase L service in shoulder periods to supplement service during Bushwick Viaduct and bridge construction. There will also be shuttle buses used to provide alternative service while parts of the branch are closed, one on the north part of the spur, one on the south, and one from the end of the branch to the M and J line station at Flushing Avenue. Both contracts are to be awarded late this year and preparatory work will continue until construction gets underway.

Mr. Albert asked what the contract process will entail. Mr. O’Grady responded that there will be a Request For Proposals, with the process starting shortly. The potential proposers will be given requirements for the job without an outage plan, then given a preferred outage plan to complete their proposals. The estimates of closure time for the Canarsie Tunnels were based on the Montague Street Tunnel restoration schedule. NYC Transit will be choosing from the best contractors to do this work, and selection criteria are presently under discussion.

Ms. Mason asked who decides on the contractors who will be invited to submit proposals. Mr. O’Grady replied that the NYC Transit Procurement Department would issue the invitations.

Edith Prentiss said she is concerned about the impact of Bushwick viaduct project on nearby residents. Ms. Tendler said that those next to the track will be relocated during construction and that this includes both residential and commercial occupants.

Ellyn Shannon asked what the project cost will be. Ms. Tendler said that she would get the information for the Council.

Chair’s Report

Mr. Albert presented the Chair’s Report. A written copy is attached to these minutes.

Board Report

Mr. Albert announced that MTA finally has an approved capital program, which is the largest and latest in the history of the MTA. Much work needs to be done, and this Program includes cars, accessible stations and Phase II of the Second Avenue Subway.

Mr. Albert also noted that there is progress on Phase I of the Second Avenue Subway and that it now looks like a go for December. NYC Transit is proposing eight minute headways for the service, Mr. Albert noted that he did not think that this service will be enough to meet demand as it will change service patterns. He also noted that Chairman Prendergast indicated that NYC Transit will add service if necessary.

Ms. Mason stated that Congresswoman Maloney gave the Second Avenue Subway project an A grade and that the W train is returning. Yoni Bouser said that the Queens Borough President’s Office has concerns about overcrowding in Astoria, because proposed W is less than current Q service in rush hour. Mr. Albert said he will look into this.

Mr. Albert commented that it is good that work is progressing on the LIRR’s Jamaica station configuration, but service plans may present a problem for the Transit system. Conversion of Brooklyn service to a shuttle will lead to less use of this service and increased use of Lexington and 7th Avenue lines in Manhattan. The LIRR is also moving forward with consideration of a Main Line third track and the newly approved Capital Program progresses work on a second track between Farmingdale and Ronkonkoma.

Mr. Albert said that due to the Metro-North Park Avenue Viaduct fire, there will be increased inspections under the MTA’s elevated structures. Scott Nicholls asked who is responsible for inspection of areas under these structures. Mr. Albert replied that the MTA is looking into this issue.

Old Business

Mr. Albert said that he thinks the Council should do its annual field trip to inspect the Bushwick Viaduct area.

Ms. Prentiss asked if the trip will be accessible. Mr. Albert stated that he believes that much of the trip would be made at street level but that accessibility issues would be investigated.

F Express service is another issue that has been back in the news. Mr. Albert stated that Brooklyn has changed greatly and that if there were F express service south of Church Avenue, riders would see benefits. Starting in June, there will be a construction project that will give a good simulation of F express service south of Church.

Mr. Goldstein stated that he is an end of the line F rider and boards at Neptune Avenue or Avenue X. He stated that what has changed is the connection to the R train at 4th Avenue/9th Street and increased G service, and that riders could connect at Bergen Street. He does not believe northern communities along the line are disenfranchised.
Mr. Greif said that he agrees with Mr. Goldstein. He said people are concerned with the F express plan in terms of what will happen with trains to Kings Highway.

New Business

Mr. Henderson said that the NYCTRC will hold elections for officers at the June meeting and asked for nominations. He said that the Council could choose to fill the unexpired term for Vice Chair or not. Ms. Mason nominated Christopher Greif to fill the unexpired term for Vice Chair, seconded by Ms. Prentiss. Marisol Halpern nominated Burt Strauss for the position.

For full terms from June 2016 to June 2017, Ms. Mason nominated Mr. Albert as Chair and Mr. Greif as Vice Chair. Ms. Halpern nominated the current Executive Committee members, William Guild, Stuart Goldstein, and Marisol Halpern, for reelection to their current positions and Burt Strauss for Vice Chair. Mr. Nicholls asked whether it is necessary to fill the unexpired term for the Vice Chair. After some discussion, both nominees withdrew from contention for the unexpired term, and so the Vice Chair position will remain unfilled until a candidate is elected for the 2016-2017 term.

Mr. Henderson presented a resolution of appreciation for Michael Sinansky, which was unanimously approved

Mr. Albert said that if members have strong feelings on the reconstruction of the L line tunnels, they should express them through the MTA website and send comments to Mr. Henderson and the Council will make sure that they are heard.

Mr. Goldstein requested a copy of the day’s presentation and Mr. Henderson said that he will request it from NYC Transit.


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

Respectfully submitted,

William Henderson
Executive Director