Meeting Minutes Oct 24, 2013



A meeting of the New York City Transit Riders Council (NYCTRC) was convened at 12:00 noon on October 24, 2013 in the 5th floor Board room at 347 Madison Avenue, New York City.  The following members were present:

Andrew Albert                       Sharon King Hoge

Stuart Goldstein                   Thomas Jost

Christopher Greif                 Trudy L. Mason

Jessica Gonzalez-Rojas     Edith Prentiss

William K. Guild                   Michael Sinansky

The following members were absent:

Marisol Halpern                    Burton M. Strauss, Jr.

Steve Mayo                                Toya Williford

In addition, the following persons were present:

William Henderson              -PCAC Executive Director

Karyl Berger                          -PCAC Research Associate

John Montemarano             -NYCT

Helen Hartmann                  -NYCT

Victoria Fischer                    -NYCT

Deborah Hall-Moore            -NYCT

Dan Rivoli                             -amNY

Alan Flacks                           -NY County Democratic Committee

Ann Guild                              -Concerned citizen

Brigitta Payne                       -Concerned citizen

Matt Shotkin                          -Concerned citizen

Ken Stewart                          -Concerned citizen
Approval of Agenda and Minutes
The agenda for the October 24, 2013 meeting was approved.  The minutes of the September 26, 2013 meeting were approved with the addition of a question asked of the guest speaker.  Mike Sinansky’s comments on the tolling of the East River bridges and Andrew Albert’s and Mr. Sinansky’s discussion of reductions in City support for NYC Transit will also be included in the revised minutes.

Mr. Sinansky asked whether the fact sheet on the reduction in City funding to the MTA had been transmitted to the New York City Mayoral candidates.  Mr. Henderson said that they had not.  Mr. Sinansky noted that the last candidate debate would occur in the next week and Mr. Henderson said that he would forward a fact sheet to the candidates and the debate moderators by the end of the week.

Chair’s Report

The Chair’s Report is attached to these minutes.

Sharon King Hoge pointed out that bus service to LaGuardia Airport is unreliable.  She stated that sometimes the wait is 15 to 20 minutes for a connecting bus at Astoria Blvd.  She said that the new Q70 service may be an improved option to LaGuardia, but the best connection to the Airport would be by subway, which is the case in many other major cities around the world.

Trudy Mason said that the Council should accept a date offered by MTA Capital Construction for the Fulton Center Tour and proceed with the tour on that date.  She requested that the Council not schedule the tour before Veterans Day, in view of the activity leading up to and in the week of Election Day.  She also pointed out that with a new City administration taking office at the end of the year, gaining approval of the East Midtown rezoning proposals will be difficult.

Ms. Hoge asked for the Council to recommend that the space where a station booth was removed at the 59th Street station should be made available for retail uses, such as the pop-up shops in the subway system that have been in the news recently.

Andrew Albert commented that he hopes that the State of New York is compensating the MTA at full rates for all of the advertising that it is doing in the system as part of its latest “I Love NY” campaign.  Ms. Mason remarked that the MTA has been reimbursed for similar campaigns in the past.  She also suggested that MTA Real Estate Director Jeff Rosen be invited to give the Council an update on the activities of the MTA Real Estate Department at a future meeting.

Matt Shotkin wanted to know if MTA receives reimbursement for messages that are printed on MetroCard holders.  Ms. Mason responded that the MTA licenses the MetroCard logo and receives royalties on products that include it.

Board Report

Mr. Albert said that there has been a lot of discussion at the MTA Board level of moving toward articulated trains.  He said that there are still many issues about articulated trains that need to be worked out.  Mr. Albert also noted that the service restorations approved by the Board are continuing, and there is support on the Board for further restorations if finances allow.

Mr. Albert said that the Bus Time system has been rolled out in Manhattan and has been found to be very accurate.  Edith Prentiss noted that the information provided by Bus Time is important because it allows riders to make choices about their transportation, and that the Bus Time system is useless for riders who do not have other options.

Mr. Albert noted that if the MTA’s finances continue to be strong, the next scheduled fare increase could be lower than the past several increases.  He said that MTA Board members will be briefed on the final proposed 2014 budget during the first week in November.

Old Business

Chris Greif asked if the Council had received any update regarding the Brooklyn SBS service.  He also stated that Brooklyn Community Board members and elected officials feel they have been left in the dark with respect to the project. Deborah Hall-Moore of NYC Transit responded that Transit staff has spoken to all affected Community Boards.

Ms. Prentiss mentioned that she had made a complaint about a bus operator’s refusal to open the bus ramp.  Bill Henderson replied that that the incident is in the report of pending issues.  Ms. Prentiss also pointed out on the same bus line, the same day, another bus operator refused to let an ambulatory passenger use the ramp.  Mr. Henderson stated that he will pass this along to NYC Transit.  Mr. Greif suggested that NYC Transit produce a letter to be forwarded to bus operators reminding them of their responsibilities under ADA.

Ms. Mason commented that the incident reflected in the last item in the list of pending issues was truly terrible and that the operator in question refused to provide assistance to a rider using a wheelchair who needed help.  Ms. Prentiss explained that the operator is not allowed to position the chair, but only to secure it.  The operator may have broken other operating rules but was not wrong about positioning the chair.  Federal rules prohibit the operator from positioning a wheelchair in the vehicle; the operator can only secure it once it is in place.

Ms. Mason suggested that the Council request a list of the Bus Operator’s responsibilities as part of a letter stating that Operators should be reminded of their duties.

Ms. Mason pointed out that the time required to move the 2nd Avenue SBS stop from 88th to 86th Street is unacceptable and ludicrous.  Mr. Albert asked whether there is there room at 86th Street for SBS and local stops.  Ms. Mason said that there is and said that the Council should demand the stops at 86th and 100th Streets be restored.  She also said that the Council should demand an acceptable answer to issues about the small font of the “Keep Your Ticket” message on the SBS fare machines.

Alan Flacks remarked the transfers between SBS and local buses are a problem.  Mr. Albert responded that there are many issues with buses.

Ken Stewart noted that at the May 2013 NYCTRC meeting NYPD representatives said that they have specific regulations about performers in the subway and that they enforce them.  Mr. Stewart stated that he would like the NYCTRC to request a copy of the regulations.  He said that several NYPD officers whom he has met say that they have no idea of what the regulations are.

New Business

Ms. Hoge said the emergency door at 59th and Lexington at the southeast corner is always locked.

Ms. Prentiss pointed out that there is no sign in the 1 train or at the Chambers Street station to inform customers needing an accessible trip how to travel to the South Ferry station.  She also wanted to know why there isn’t a sign on the elevators informing customers how they can access a bus to continue their trip to South Ferry.

Ms. Mason said that on October 23 at 6:50 pm at the bus stop at 79th and Broadway she came upon a group of riders waiting for the M79 bus.  She spoke to some of the riders and found that they had been waiting for at least six minutes.  When bus 5289 did arrive at the stop, it had switched on its “Next bus please” signage and was not accepting passengers.  Ms. Mason asked the bus operator why the bus was not in service and was told that it was none of her.  At 7:03 a bus that was accepting passengers pulled up, but could not get into stop.

Introduction of John Montemarano, NYCT Department of Subways Director-Stations to discuss subway station signage and wayfinding

Mr. Montemarano said that he was pleased to be invited to the meeting and distributed information to the council.

Mr. Montemarano stated that when his team took over management of signage in the subways, the Transit system had existing graphics in place.  The coming of the Americans with Disabilities Act, however, changed everything.  New requirements meant that changes to graphics took place overnight, but NYC Transit met the challenge and as a result the Federal Transit Administration has remarked that there are many municipalities that are not as far advanced as NYC Transit in terms of making their signage accessible to all users.

Mr. Montemarano noted that his team has made changes to make signs in the subways more customer-friendly.  He acknowledged that the typical design images that are used may be a little bland, but the presentation is effective.  Signs in the subways are typically produced with a black background and white lettering and must be maintained in 468 subway stations as well as the 22 stations on the Staten Island Railway.  Within the system there are 68,000 wayfinding signs and 4,000 Braille tactile signs.

Mr. Montemarano illustrated the use of wayfinding signs by showing images of signs that one would encounter on a trip from the 34th Street Harold Square complex to Times Square.  He first showed the signage at the station entrance, which includes route bullets to indicate the services available.  He noted that if the specific entrance is not accessible the location of an accessible entrance is indicated on the sign.  Also included are hours of operation for the entrance and location of a full-time booth.

Mr. Montemarano said that the entry signs that are located near turnstiles give riders information about routes and how they can get to a particular station.  Column signs on platforms are generally for station identification, while ceiling hung signs on platforms give information about service at the station.  The station name is generally on the walls behind the track.  Station exit signage shows the customers the location where they can get to a surface street.  At the exits, many signs include compass directions to tell riders which street corner an exit accesses.

Mr. Montemarano illustrated traveling the same route by an accessible path, including pointing out the use of Braille tactile signage.  He said that signage indicating an accessible path usually has word “elevator” in it, but at a minimum has the blue box with a white wheelchair that is the international symbol of accessibility.

Mr. Montemarano said that his staff had redone the signage in the 34th Street complex, involving more than 500 signs, and that the work had been done entirely in house.  The customers and Station Managers love the results, as signage is designed to be perpendicular to riders and provide information at decision points.

Ms. Hoge said that one problem is that signs do not tell the hours that service operates if it runs part-time.  Mr. Montemarano responded that it is difficult to get this information on signs.  He said that when there is no other service at the location, the hours of part time service are included on platform signs.  Stuart Goldstein asked whether diamond-shaped bullets could be used to indicate non-full-time service. Mr. Montemarano said that the Transit system is getting away from using shapes to tell riders about a route and that riders have fewer and fewer questions about the hours of service, probably because of the availability of electronic information.

Ms. Prentiss wanted to know what is done to indicate when the A train switches to providing local service and the platforms that are used may change.  Mr. Montemarano responded that this is a case where hours of operation are used on signage.  Mr. Albert noted that there is often a problem with riders waiting for the B Train on weekends.  Mr. Montemarano said that his staff will change signage to make this more oblivious to riders.

Mr. Greif asked why there is no wayfinding signage directing riders to escalators.

Mr. Montemarano stated that by moving customers beyond an inaccessible ramp, as illustrated in one slide, they get everyone to the decision point where they can reach an elevator.  Ms. Prentiss pointed out that this signage makes people believe that some lines are not accessible and does not make them understand that there is accessibility information presented later along their path.  Mr. Montemarano explained that they use signs with the international symbol of accessibility to direct riders around columns to the accessible path.

As a result of NYCTRC input, NYC Transit does not put bullets showing all possible routes on signs at station entrances, but provides information to direct customers to a better entrance for a particular line when one exists. Ms. Mason pointed out that at one platform exit in the 42nd Street/Times Square complex, it is necessary to travel a circuitous route involving the 7 train platform to access the 1, 2, and 3 trains.  Mr. Montemarano said his staff will look into this situation.  Mr. Albert agreed that this is not the best route to access the 7th Avenue trains.

Mr. Albert noted that signage that indicates connecting buses would be more useful if it had an indication of the direction in which the bus is traveling at a given exit, such as “M5 Northbound”.   Mr. Montemarano replied that bus routes change frequently, making it difficult to keep this type of signage updated.

Mr. Montemarano commented that the 7 line extension and Fulton Center are upcoming challenges for his staff.  There are 9 lines and 1400 signs at Fulton Center, along with elevators and escalators, in addition to temporary signs during construction.

Ms. Mason asked when the process of adding directional information to station exit signage will be completed.  Mr. Montemarano stated that the big stations were completed first, but there are many stations and often there is only one choice, so directions are not very helpful.  Ms. Mason also suggested that it would help to have directions for the bus routes available at each exit, and Mr. Montemarano said that NYC Transit would consider this.  He said that there is more information at intermodal terminals and NYC Transit is putting SBS information at all subway exits where this service is available.  He said that the difficulty is that if information is provided at one station, it has to be provided at all other similar stations.  Mr. Montemarano said that there are minimum font size requirements and as a result some information might have to be deleted to get all essential information on the sign.

Mr. Albert said that video screens showing the arrangement of the station where they are located may be helpful to riders.  Ms. Prentiss pointed out that this may create issues for riders with sensory disabilities.

Mr. Greif noted that on one recently installed platform sign, the routes shown were reversed.  He asked if anyone checks the signs for accuracy.  Mr. Montemarano responded that mistakes happen, but that his staff tries to correct them as soon as possible.  For example, a news report highlighting a misspelling was broadcast at 10:30 pm and the signage was temporarily changed by 11:00pm and permanently replaced by the next day.

Ms. Prentiss mentioned that on the past Tuesday she was on the 6 train from Brooklyn Bridge headed to Bleecker Street to transfer to the D Train.  When she arrived there she could not find information to locate an elevator.  Ms. Prentiss also mentioned that at the 190th Street station there is an exit sign in the wall tiles that directs people to Overlook Terrace, but the exit in question goes to Bennett Avenue.  Ms. Prentiss suggested posting a sign to clarify that Overlook Terrace is a block away from the exit.  Mr. Montemarano said he will look into this matter.

Mr. Goldstein said that he has been to Bergen Street Sign Shop and that it is a well-run operation.  He noted that it is very difficult for riders at the 59th Street/Lexington Avenue station to find their way to N/R service and that there is no signage at the end of uptown platform.  Mr. Montemarano responded that he will look into the issue.

Mr. Goldstein asked the average cost of a sign.  Mr. Montemarano said that signs generally cost from $100 to $1,000, but that NYC Transit could not get these prices without the Bergen Street Sign Shop.  At a time when most municipalities are closing sign shops, NYC Transit is expanding theirs.

Mr. Stewart remarked that there seem to be three types of signs, including temporary signs, permanent signs for places with stable service and signage that identifies routes with service that may change.  This last type of sign might be a good place to use symbols. He also asked NYC Transit to keep in mind that its ridership is aging.

Mr. Flacks said that pillar signs used to be on every pillar, but now are on every other pillar.  Mr. Montemarano replied that placement on every other pillar works, because columns have other signage on them as well.  He said that the sidewalls have signage and that hanging signs are positioned every 60 feet as well.

A resolution of appreciation for Jessica Gonzalez-Rojas, who recently resigned from the Council, was approved.


The meeting was adjourned at 2:00 pm.

Respectfully submitted,

William Henderson

Executive Director