Meeting Minutes Nov 18, 2010


A meeting of the New York City Transit Riders Council (NYCTRC) was convened at 12:00 noon, November 18, 2010, in the fifth floor Board room, 347 Madison Avenue, New York City.  The following members were present:

• Andrew Albert
• William Guild
• Shirley Genn
• Marisol Halpern
• Stuart Goldstein
• Sharon King Hoge
• Christopher Greif
• Trudy L. Mason
• Jessica Gonzalez-Rojas
• Michael Sinansky
• Burton Strauss, Jr.

The following members were absent:

• Edith Prentiss
• Thomas Jost
• Toya Williford

In addition, the following persons were present:

• William Henderson -PCAC Executive Director
• Ellyn Shannon  -PCAC Transportation Planner
• Karyl Berger  -PCAC Research Associate
• John Gaul  -NYCT
• Deborah Hall-Moore -NYCT
• Matt Shotkin  -Concerned Citizen
• Joseph G. Garber -Concerned Citizen
• Ken Stewart  -Concerned Citizen
• Alan Flacks  -Concerned Citizen

Approval of Agenda and Minutes

The agenda for the November 18, 2010 meeting was approved.  The October 29, 2010 minutes were approved as amended.

Mike Sinansky noted that at the October meeting there was a new business item that was not in the minutes.  He said that there was to be a letter written to NYC Transit, the NYPD, and NYCDOT stating that steps should be taken to minimize the elimination of bus service in cases of reroutings for special events.  Mr. Sinansky said that NYC Transit and the MTA should be more proactive in fighting for service when special events threaten to disrupt it.  In the case he had mentioned, the Battery Park City area lost bus service for the day on Sunday, October 3, but the Bike MS Ride NYC event only lasted 45 minutes in the area. He asked that the letter go out as soon as possible.

Old Business

Andrew Albert said that because Trudy Mason had to leave the meeting early he would allow her to bring up some issues before the start of the regular meeting.

Ms. Mason distributed an article that appeared in the New York Observer about Governor-Elect Cuomo’s transportation transition team.  She noted that there are no transit advocacy groups on the team.  She said that she had spoken to David Friedlander, the author of the article, and had noted that we were not quoted and said that Mr. Friedlander told her that he did not know what the PCAC or NYCTRC is.

She noted that Pete Donahue is always looking for articles for his now daily column.  She said the Council should be feeding him ideas for stories.

Ms. Mason suggested that the members should have done something that would have actively involved them in the President’s Forum, such as sitting behind the NYCT staff members who were on the dais to respond to those issues in which the Council has been involved.

Ms. Mason suggested that the Council has to become more proactive and noted that the President’s Forum on Tuesday night was a wake up call because most people think the Forum was sponsored by New York City Transit.

Ms. Mason said that at the October meeting, she raised issues about the SBS and requested that we write a detailed letter about the Council’s concerns.  She noted that the minutes did not include the issue that some of the “limited bus” stops have been eliminated and that there is no longer a 72nd Street stop.  She said having a 68th Street stop with no 72nd Street stop makes no sense.  She noted that her phone has been ringing off the hook with people calling to complain about the SBS service.

Ms. Mason said that she had asked that she would get to see a copy of the letter before it went out or at least that Mr. Albert and she should expect that they would get a copy of the letter after it went out.

Ms. Mason said she was surprised that the letter said that Bill Henderson would be happy to meet with NYCT staff to discuss the Council’s concerns.  She thought the members should be part of such a meeting as well.  She said that if “we” as a group want a meeting, it should be set up with the members.  She said she would send an email to Mr. Henderson detailing the points she would like included in a follow up letter.

Mr. Albert clarified that NYCTRC is a different kind of group than some of the other advocates in that we have to be a little more responsible because of our legislative mandate.  He said that the NYCTRC can’t do some of the things that Straphangers does.

Ms. Mason said the Council needs to be more proactive and not reactive.

Stuart Goldstein said the staff should be applauded for their efforts and he noted that even though the forum may not have achieved what we wanted, it was a productive effort.  He suggested that they might want to think about advertising it differently going forward.  He noted that there is no prohibition for members to ask questions at the forum and that indeed Mike Sinansky did raise issues from the audience.

Marisol Halpern disagreed with Ms. Mason’s suggestion that the NYCTRC members sit behind NYC Transit staff while they respond to questions and comments.

Karyl Berger noted that there have been forums that were consumed by a single one issue.  She said it might be necessary to rethink the format for the forum.

Ms. Mason said the Council members should meet with the Borough Presidents’ staff people and brief them on current issues.  Mr. Albert noted that the members appointed by the Public Advocate have been meeting with his staff from time to time to maintain a dialogue on issues important to the Public Advocate.

Mike Sinansky said the President’s Forum is an opportunity for individuals to speak to the President and his senior staff and that this is the primary reason for holding the forum.

Mr. Greif said he rode the M15 and told Mr. Henderson there may still be issues and noted the fare inspectors need to spread out more.  He said a woman from the Borough President’s office was interested in our group.  He said that the members should be talking to those who appointed them.

Joseph Garber noted that the NYPD has community districts and councils and there should be similar groups that deal with transit service.  He said that the NYC Transit Departments of Subways and Buses should meet with the public.

Shirley Genn reported she rode the SBS on the M15 route from 14th Street to 37th Street.  There are three hospital stops and said many people got on the bus who use those facilities.  She said that the bus operators work unbelievably hard to help all the people.

In response to Chris Greif’s question as to whether you can transfer from the SBS route to a crosstown bus route if you pay cash, Bill Henderson said yes but you must get a transfer from the driver at the front door.

Chair’s Report

The Chair’s Report is attached to these minutes.

Board Report

Mr. Albert gave the Board report.  He reported that at MTA Board meeting that was held the day before, the members were briefed on the preliminary budget.  He said that it is a precarious document in that it is based on many assumptions including implementation of productivity measures as well as the State not taking away any more of the money that they have promised would be used to support public transportation.  Mr. Albert said we need something like Proposition 22, recently adopted in California, which would prevent the State from taking back money once it has been allotted to any agency.

Shirley Genn requested that the Council ask for a meeting with the Governor elect.  Mr. Albert said he would speak with Peter Kalikow who is on Cuomo’s transportation team and will request the meeting.

Mr. Goldstein suggested that the Council contact Bob Freeman from the State’s Committee on Open Government to ask his advice on advancing our request for the full report that Accenture made to the MTA.

New Business

Mr. Goldstein said the Business Service Center was a consistent theme at the NYCTRC President’s Forum.  He asked whether the agency is doing enough to cut waste and achieving the savings that was originally projected.  He said it appears that the BSC is becoming a dumping ground for staff from MTA agencies.  Mr. Albert said these questions should be addressed to Len DeSimone, President – MTA Business Service Center, who will be the guest speaker at the quarterly PCAC meeting next month.

Introduction of John Gaul, NYC Transit Vice President and Chief Officer –  Department of Subways Division of Service Delivery to discuss his responsibilities under the new subway management structure.

A copy of Mr. Gaul’s presentation is on file in the PCAC office.

Mr. Gaul opened his remarks by saying he wanted to share with the council some thoughts about the Department of Subways reorganization structure.  He noted that when President Prendergast took over late last year, he was concerned about the loss of accountability and responsibility in the area of maintenance because of the decentralization of functions.

He noted that the goal of the latest reorganization was to preserve the good features of the system that had been put in place.  Mr. Gaul said that involvement of individuals responsible for service, transportation, and stations with each other is a good thing and that there were detrimental impacts when they were operating separately from each other.  He said the goal is to reestablish central control on critical maintenance issues and to have a closer alignment between Rapid Transit Operations (RTO) personnel who move trains and the stations people.  Mr. Gaul said that the division of the system into smaller parts worked to the detriment of the passengers and that this philosophy is the reason that the number of groups has been reduced to three from five.

As an illustration of the issues that can occur when different elements of service are not coordinated with each other, Mr. Gaul cited the situation where two different stories about delays would emerge from conductors and station agents.

Mr. Gaul said there are now three line general manager groups: IRT, BMT and IND, and the Chief Transportation Officer reports directly to the Vice President for Service Delivery, who also oversees the Assistant Chief Transportation Officer, who is responsible for the Rail Control Center.

Mr. Gaul emphasized that safety is of paramount concern.  He said President Prendergast is aware that there are still too many near misses in the system.  He said after Thanksgiving there will be a big effort on safety, as NYC Transit management has scheduled conferences for the operating employees at all levels.  He said that front line supervisors are a main focus of this effort.

In response to Mr. Strauss’ question whether data exists about safety that shows how NYCT compares to other agencies, Mr. Gaul said that the Community of Metros (CoMET), an international benchmarking group to which NYC Transit belongs, gathers data of this kind.  He noted that NYC Transit falls in the middle of the pack on its safety record.

In response to Ms. Genn’s question as to who is involved in safety planning, Mr. Gaul responded that both management and unions are involved.  He said that there are joint inspections performed as a way to indentify problems before they occur.  Ms. Genn asked if the safety plans are subject to change by the people working in the area being involved in the process.  Mr. Gaul said that the plans have to be subject to change through the input of those working in the system, as they know the actual conditions in the system.  Mr. Gaul noted that there are presently three current or past heads of system safety now working at NYC Transit.

In response to Ellyn Shannon’s question whether a case study should be undertaken to look at a major delay that occurred before implementation of Automatic Train Supervision and a delay that happened after, to demonstrate how much faster the system can recover with ATS, Mr. Gaul acknowledged that this would be possible and that an added benefit of the ATS system is that they can now review what happened in an incident and critique the response that was made.

Mr. Gaul spoke about service quality initiatives.  He said that service regularity has become a key performance indicator and that NYC Transit had revamped its wait assessment indicator.  Mr. Gaul noted that terminal on time performance is an appropriate measure for the commuter railroads or intercity transit but does not tell the whole story for subway systems.

Mr. Albert said that he understands there are things beyond NYC Transit’s control, but people are upset about the effects of recovery from an incident, such as when battery runs are made to improve spacing of trains.  In response to Mr. Albert’s question whether the countdown clocks will reflect these service changes, Mr. Gaul said there needs to be human intervention to make the countdown clocks accurately reflect actual operations when stations are being skipped.  Mr. Gaul said that Transit does not need to change any delay management procedures because they already work well, but they have to be coordinated or they will be working at cross purposes.  He said the lead IRT person at the Rail Control Center is responsible for making headway schedule adjustments.

Mr. Gaul said the PA/CIS installation on the A Division will be completed at end of next year.  Charlie Monheim has asked that NYCT look at creative ways to use the system when the service is running normally, and he would like to see posting of public service announcements using PA/CIS.  Mr. Albert noted the clocks should always say how many minutes remain until the next train.

Mr. Gaul said that installing countdown clocks on the BMT lines is a bit more complicated, but there is new technology that will allow a train arrival information system to be implemented on these lines more easily.

Mr. Gaul said the procedures have to be updated on the IRT to move from a decentralized system to centralized control.

In response to Jan Wells’ question as to whether NYCT can work toward passenger based statistics, Mr. Gaul said that this is what the key performance indicator is all about, but there is no one perfect statistic.

Mr. Gaul said he would provide the Council with the current list of Line General Managers.

Mr. Greif noted that people are confused about the elevator buttons and aren’t sure which one to push.  Mr. Gaul said he would look into this.

In response to Mr. Greif’s question whether subway cars would be cleaned at their terminals, Mr. Gaul said that cleaning is being cut and they are working hard to figure out ways to minimize the impacts of less cleaning.


The meeting was adjourned at 2:10 pm.

Respectfully submitted,

Karyl Berger
Research Associate