Meeting Minutes May 29, 2008


A meeting of the New York City Transit Riders Council (NYCTRC) was convened at 12 noon on May 29, 2008 in the 5th Floor Board room at MTA Headquarters, 347 Madison Avenue, New York City. The following members were present:

Andrew Albert
Thomas Jost
Shirley Genn
Trudy L. Mason
Jessica Gonzalez
Edith Prentiss
Sharon Santa Maria
The following members were absent:

William K. Guild
Michael Sinansky
Marisol Halpern
Burton Strauss, Jr.
Toya Williford
In addition, the following persons were present:

William Henderson – PCAC Executive Director
Jan Wells – PCAC Associate Director
Ellyn Shannon – PCAC Transportation Planner
Ernest Tollerson – MTA
Deborah Hall- Moore – NYCT
George Haikalis – IRUM
Alan Flacks – NY County Democratic Committee
Joseph Garber – CPAAA
Yvonne Morrow – Concerned citizen
Meg Reed Mian – Concerned citizen
Matt Shotkin – Concerned citizen
Ken Stewart – Concerned citizen
James O’Shea – Concerned citizen
Approval of Agenda and Minutes
The Council did not have a quorum and the agenda for the May 24, 2007 meeting and the minutes of the April 26, 2007 meeting was unable to be approved due to a lack of a quorum.

Chair’s Report
The Chair’s Report is attached to these minutes.

Board Report
Andrew Albert stated that the Culver Viaduct Request for Proposals will go out in June and that the G train will be extended to Church Avenue while the viaduct is being reconstructed. The Second Avenue Subway is in process. The agreement with Tishman Speyer for the sale of the West Side Yards has fallen through, but an equivalent deal was negotiated with a joint venture of The Related Companies and Goldman Sachs. A report to the Board is expected next month on the Fulton Street Transit project redesign. The Smith/9th Street station work will take 25 months to complete and the station will be closed for one year.

Mr. Albert stated that the MTA had implemented a limited form of a regional bus system at the operational level. Eventually, a full regional bus company may be established, but the system will probably have to include Suffolk County in order for the new organization to receive legislative approval.

Mr. Albert said the board did not vote on service enhancements in May. He also said that the Select Bus Service that will be starting in the Bronx in June will replace the BX12 limited stop buses. Edith Prentiss said that NYC Transit should not use the street at 207th Street and Broadway as a layover area for Select Bus Service.

Tom Jost asked if there was any consideration of replacing the Culver Viaduct completely. He said that lowering the level of the viaduct could result in some cost savings. Andrew Albert said that the current plans were to restore the existing viaduct in place.

Introduction of Ernest Tollerson, MTA Director – Policy and Media Relations, to Discuss the MTA’s Sustainability Agenda
Ernest Tollerson said that one of the important things that was done last year is the establishment of the position of MTA Director of Sustainability Initiatives. Mr. Tollerson was pleased to announce that the MTA has just hired Projjal Dutta as the MTA Director of Sustainability Initiatives. He is a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified architect who has worked on many MTA projects. The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System, developed by the United States Green Building Council (USGBC), provides a suite of standards for environmentally sustainable construction. The hallmark of LEED is that it is an open and transparent process where the technical criteria proposed by the LEED committees are publicly reviewed for approval by more than 10,000 membership organizations that make up the USGBC.

Mr. Tollerson said the MTA region has missed out on some high tech industries and that the New York region should be stronger in the medical technology industry. He said that substantial medical technology development occurs in Boston, North Carolina, and the San Francisco Bay Area.

Mr. Tollerson believed that the MTA regions niche may be in sustainability and low impact living. In a carbon constrained world, cities are valuable, leading to increases in value of commercial and residential real estate. He said that there is an opportunity to cluster green development around the MTA network, resulting in a lighter footprint in the areas where clustering is used. Mr. Tollerson said that the Final Sustainability Commission Report would be out later this year.

Mr. Tollerson said that streetcar networks were once extensive across America, and agreed that the MTA and LIRR should be included in the public transportation network for the City. He said some people have very limited concepts of commuter rail, especially with regard to the LIRR. The Sustainability Commission wants to look at light rail and streetcar possibilities. Mr. Albert said Brooklyn and Queens have possibilities for light rail, such as at the end of the 2 and 5 lines to the end of Flatbush Avenue, and on Staten Island light rail service along Victory Boulevard could be a possibility.

Mr. Tollerson said that a hub and spoke operational plan is needed for the MTA system feeder routes to provide convenient service. Developing a hub and spoke system will require cooperation between the MTA and area governments. This may be difficult, as the MTA already has problems getting some counties to contribute toward the operation of the MTA system.

Andrew Albert asked Ernest what he saw as the difference between MNR and the LIRR on the issue of Transit Oriented Development (TOD). Mr. Tollerson said that there is more enthusiasm and capacity at Metro-North than at the LIRR. He said that capacity in the field of TOD also must be developed at NYC Transit. Ellyn Shannon said that you cannot just tell communities not to come to the MTA for money. She said that the MTA must be able to tell communities where they can go to get the resources that they need.

Mr. Tollerson said that they were working with the Smart Growth Cabinet to set up a one-stop shop for TOD and that the MTA is to be a partner in this entity. One area of emphasis is revitalization of downtowns. He said that on the LIRR many stations were moved from downtown areas, with the resulting public attitude that these stations don’t belong to the towns. They are considered only commuter territory and not truly a part of the community.

George Haikalis asked why the MTA does not revisit its service guidelines and use sustainability as a criterion for setting these guidelines. Service guidelines could be evaluated on standards such as their impact on taxi use. Mr. Tollerson said that the MTA has to be mindful that they are spending large sums of money for energy.

Jessica Gonzalez-Rojas noted that the Sustainability Commission includes a materials flow working group. She asked why there is no recycling of newspapers in much of the system. Mr. Tollerson said that the LIRR is starting a pilot program and that NYCT has determined that recovery rate of recyclables with post-collection sorting is higher than with pre-collection separation.

Tom Jost spoke about the Green TEA proposals that have been advanced for the upcoming federal transportation bill. He asked whether the MTA has any insight on Green Tea. Mr. Jost also asked whether Mr. Tollerson regarded any of these initiatives as feasible proposals.

Mr. Tollerson said that one of Executive Director Sander’s goals is to raise the MTA’s profile nationally, and the Authority will have a higher profile in federal legislation. Tom Jost asked whether the MTA would be interested in being involved in the ferry system. For example, an improved ferry system could be developed using smaller and more efficient boats than the Staten Island Ferry currently uses. Mr. Tollerson said this question relates to the hub and spoke system he was speaking about earlier. He said that there is a changing debate on ferries and that the question is who pays for what.

Ms. Shannon asked if there was any plan for the MTA to offer discounts on Ozone Alert days or any plans to offer promotions such as free rides to new students in the fall in the way that New Jersey Transit does. Mr. Tollerson responded that he was interested in knowing what transit agencies had Ozone Alert day fare promotions. Ms. Shannon said that there was a long list, including New Jersey Transit, WMATA, and BART to name a few.

Alan Flacks asked if there could be late night surcharges for commuter trains. Mr. Tollerson said that if federal transportation aid doesn’t grow, there will be competition between older systems and new starts. He noted that not all transit functions at a deficit. If transit agencies act as developers and get revenue streams from real estate, some transit initiatives can pay for themselves.

Jan Wells asked why no rider representative was named to the Sustainability Commission. Mr. Tollerson responded that they wanted outside voices and didn’t want the size of the commission to be unwieldy. Shirley Genn stated that Mr. Tollerson should tell Mr. Sander of the Council’s disapproval that there was no rider representative included on the Commission.

New Business
Nomination of NYCTRC Officers
Nominations for Council positions were also not able to proceed due to the lack of a quorum.

The Council discussed the draft letter calling on Councilmember Yassky to fund accessibility improvements at the New York Transit Museum. It was suggested that the letter include a reference to accessibility being the current PCAC project topic. The Council also suggested that the letter ask for Mr. Yassky’s help in improving signage directing visitors to the Museum. The members agreed to send the letter as amended.

Shirley Genn said that NYCT President Roberts’ response to a letter that the Council sent asking NYC Transit to post signage to direct riders to alternate elevator and escalator banks was unacceptable. Mr. Henderson said that he would send another letter to clarify the Council’s concerns.

Ken Stewart said that he inspected the 135th Street 2 and 3 line station’s uptown platform, but there were no signs telling riders where the elevator is located. When he found the elevator it was not working but there were no signs stating that the elevator was temporarily out of service. Mr. Henderson said that staff will look into this situation.

Mr. Jost asked whether there a map of accessible stations. Several persons answered that there is such a map.

Mr. Flacks stated that in the Fulton Street station at the southern exit of the southbound platform he discovered that the emergency exit gate does not work. Mr. Flacks also said that the IRT 96th Street and Broadway station’s northern entrance has its west side entrances closed, although the 24-hour booth is on the station’s west side. He said that the station’s Station Customer Assistant booth should be changed to a 24-hour booth because of the change in entrances.

Old Business
No old business was discussed.

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

Respectfully submitted,

Ellyn Shannon

Transportation Planner

May 29, 2008 Meeting Follow Up Items:

Send letter requesting Councilmember Yassky to fund Transit Museum improvements (Done)
Send letter clarifying Council’s position on signage for alternate escalators and elevators
Check elevator signage at 135th Street station
Check emergency exit at Fulton Street station (Done)
Check location of entrance and 24-hour booth at 96th Street station (Andrew to check)
Chair’s Report
Karyl Berger attended the ADA Compliance meeting held at the beginning of May. At the meeting, a presentation was given about a hearing induction loop device that is currently being tested at the Wall Street (4, 5) station and on one M79 bus. The device allows persons with hearing impairments to adjust their hearing aid to hear the station agent and blocks any outside noise, making it easier for the hearing aid user to hear. NYC Transit is looking to do a pilot test of this device in 25 subway stations and on some bus routes. We will ask NYC Transit to come to a future meeting to speak about this pilot program.

Earlier this month, Bill Henderson attended a roundtable on the future of financing transportation infrastructure, convened by the NYU Wagner Rudin Center. The panel for the event included Frank McArdle of the National Surface Transportation Policy & Revenue Commission, Kathy Ruffalo of the National Surface Transportation Infrastructure Financing Commission, and Mortimer Downey of the National Academy of Public Administration’s Intergovernmental Forum on Transportation Finance. The panelists agreed that the needs for transportation infrastructure financing are immense and that new stable revenue sources will be required to fund them. There is an opportunity in the next federal transportation bill, which will be considered in 2009, to made fundamental changes in the way that transportation is financed, and we and our sister Councils need to be involved in making transit riders’ voices heard in this debate.

In April, Shirley Genn called the PCAC office to report that she was called at home the evening before and asked to participate in a NYC Transit Origins and Destinations survey that the MTA was conducting. Ms. Genn became concerned during the course of the survey that the surveyor was asking such detailed questions about her travel pattern after asking questions about the times she left her apartment and her income level.

Transportation Planner Ellyn Shannon looked into the matter and met with Larry Fleischer, MTA Chief of Metropolitan Planning, who is in charge of overseeing the survey. He said that when Ms. Genn was called that the survey was still in its trial phase and that many changes were made. He said the questions are in fact very detailed because they are looking to identify not just commuting trips, but also the discretionary trips that people make. The phone surveyors are entering the trip information directly into a geographic information system (GIS) data base, and this requires that the questions in the survey be so detailed. The study will be extremely useful for the MTA in planning future projects. The last origins and destination study conducted by the MTA was in 1990, and the FTA is now requiring transit agencies to maintain current data in order to get federal funding for projects. Ellyn has copies of the survey and the script used by the phone surveyors. She will talk more about the survey under New Business.

Bill Henderson wrote a letter to Howard Roberts to convey the Transit Riders’ Council interest in participating in the planning of the implementation of a new generation of fare collection in the NYC Transit network. This involvement both follows from our previous work on MetroCard and smart cards and our continuing interest in improving MTA fare policy, including implementing the Freedom Ticket. A new generation of fare collection technology could not only make more flexible fares possible, but also allow for easier connections between transit agencies in the larger region.

The New York Transit Museum is seeking support for a $150,000 capital request from New York City to renovate its existing wheelchair entrance. As the Museum is a great resource for engaging the public with the transit system and in the current economy public transportation can use all the friends that it can get, I would like to take up this request under New Business.

Last week PCAC staff and some PCAC members were able to tour a new Citaro articulated bus designed and manufactured by Mercedes Benz. The bus was parked across the street from 347 Madison during the MTA committee meetings on Thursday. Although this is a European bus, the word is that it could be manufactured by Orion Bus, which is part of the Mercedes family and has built many of NYC Transit’s local buses. The bus has a lot of glass and provides improved visibility for passengers, although some of the seating arrangements and the height of some steps may need to be modified for this design to be acceptable to local riders.

Please make sure that your calendars are marked for our PCAC meeting next Thursday, June 5. Our special guest for the meeting will be MTA Board Chairman H. Dale Hemmerdinger. Please try to attend this meeting as it is a rare opportunity to discuss the state of the MTA with the Chairman.