Meeting Minutes Oct 25, 2012



A meeting of the New York City Transit Riders Council (NYCTRC) was convened at 12:00 noon on October 25, 2012 in the 5th floor Board room at 347 Madison Avenue, New York City.  The following members were present:


Andrew Albert                       Marisol Halpern

Stuart Goldstein                   Trudy L. Mason

Christopher Greif                 Steve Mayo

Jessica Gonzalez-Rojas     Edith Prentiss

William K. Guild                   Michael Sinansky

The following members were absent:

Thomas Jost                         Burton M. Strauss, Jr.

Sharon King Hoge              Toya Williford

In addition, the following persons were present:

William Henderson              -PCAC Executive Director

Jan Wells                              -PCAC Associate Director

Ellyn Shannon                     -PCAC Senior Transportation Planner

Karyl Berger                          -PCAC Research Associate

Carmen Bianco                    -NYCT

Adrienne Taub                     -NYCT

Herbie Lambert                     -NYCT

Alan Flacks                           -NY County Democratic Committee

Ken Stewart                          -Concerned citizen

Bette Dewine                                    -Concerned citizen

Yvonne Morrow                    -Concerned citizen

Matt Shotkin                          -Concerned citizen

Elizabeth Klaber                  -Concerned citizen

Ann Guild                              -Concerned citizen

Approval of Agenda and Minutes

The agenda for the October 25, 2012 meeting was approved.  The minutes of the September 27, 2012 meeting were approved with the addition of a question asked of the guest speaker.
Chair’s Report

The Chair’s Report is attached to these minutes.

Michael Sinansky asked whether there has been any discussion of prohibiting eating in the subway system as a part of the consideration of the pilot program to remove trash cans from stations.  Andrew Albert said that the discussions had occurred, but that they had not gone anywhere.  Mr. Sinansky said that removing trash cans without prohibiting eating seems like a backward approach.

Stuart Goldstein asked whether the new bus services to LaGuardia airport that had been announced will have luggage racks.  Bill Henderson responded that he had been told the articulated buses serving the M60 route would be outfitted with luggage racks.  He said that Bus Operations has been pleased with the luggage racks and would be expected to include them on other buses serving the airport, but ensuring that racks are available on service from the Bronx would be a challenge, as this service is planned as a set of extensions of runs on a Select Bus Service route.

Elizabeth Klaber asked whether there was coordination of the station trash can pilot with the NYC Department of Sanitation.  Mr. Albert said that NYC Transit had checked to ensure that street baskets are available outside of the affected stations.  Ms. Klaber said that she had heard of problems at the Brighton Beach station.

Board Report

Mr. Albert said that he had asked what changes to time-based MetroCard prices would be necessary if the base fare were raised to $2.50 and the bonus were maintained at 5 percent.  He said that he had been told that the 7 day MetroCard would increase from $29 to $30, and that the 30 day MetroCard would increase from $104 to $111.

Trudy Mason said that if the Council wants to be relevant it should have released a statement at the time the fare proposals were made public.  She said that there should have been an online discussion that would lead to a statement to be released soon after the fare proposals were presented.

Chris Greif asked about the proposals for reduced fare.  He said that the proposed changes in reduced fare aren’t explicit on the hearing notice but that he found out from NYC Transit that the reduced fare would remain at $1.10 if the base fare remains at $2.25 and rise to $1.25 if the base fare rises to $2.50.  Mr. Albert said that he will get a clarification of the proposed reduced fares.  He said that he also had heard that a reduced buy-in point for the MetroCard bonus is being considered.

Stuart Goldstein said that alternate proposals such as the one that Mr. Albert had described were not very different in their impact on riders from those that are formally proposed.  He said that going form a 7 to a 5 percent bonus level has a minimal impact on the price of a 7 day or 30 day MetroCard.

Chris Greif said that the discussion of bonus and student fares in the hearing notice is confusing and that people do not understand the posters that are in the subways and buses.

Mr. Albert asked whether the Council should testify at each of the hearings.  The Council agreed to make a statement at each meeting and members volunteered for and were assigned to the City hearings.  Mr. Albert said that the Council should have a position on tolling, since as soon as the tolls rise, more traffic will divert to the untolled bridges.  He said that it is time to equalize the tolls, especially with the uncertain fate of the Payroll Mobility Tax, and that tolls could be a better source of revenue.

Mr. Albert said that he had not discussed toll policy with other Councils.  It was noted that toll policy does not directly impact the commuter railroads, while it does have some impact on surface streets and thus NYC Transit.  Mr. Albert said that it is possible to argue for a more rational toll policy without endorsing Sam Schwartz’s “Fair Plan.”  Mr. Sinansky said that he would object to any reference to Sam Schwartz in the testimony and believes that those giving the testimony should be able to insert issues of local concern.

Marisol Halpern said that she has concerns about the financial impacts of any toll plan on residents of the Bronx and can’t support adding tolls to bridges serving the Bronx.  Mr. Greif expressed concern that the infrastructure needed to collect tolls would add to congestion.  Mr. Albert said that any tolling would be cashless and would not slow traffic.

Steve Mayo asked how the statement would be developed.  Mr. Albert said that a draft would be written including some fundamental issues, such as the need for greater support from New York State, the need to maintain the MetroCard bonus, and the need to moderate increases in the 7 and 30 day MetroCards.  The draft will then be distributed to Council members for comments.

Old Business

Mr. Greif said that Buses are failing to curb as required.  He said that he has made several complaints through staff and said that the Bus Division has been disrespectful to seniors and persons with disabilities.

Edith Prentiss said she was involved in an incident when a bus operator refused to clip her wheelchair in.  She said that police were called and a supervisor on the scene suggested she board another bus in the middle of the street.  She asked whether these personnel are ever retrained.  Mr. Henderson said that operators are required to be trained on new equipment when it comes to a depot, but whether the training happens or is retained is sometimes questionable.

Ken Stewart said that he used to receive responses indicating that corrective action had been taken when he filed complaints about Transit personnel.  He said that the NYCTRC should make recommendations aimed at ensuring that new retail uses in the subway system do not compromise accessibility.  Ms. Prentiss said that some retailers had made modifications to be more accessible, such as the Spice and Tea shop in Grand Central Terminal.

New Business

No New Business was discussed.

Introduction of Carmen Bianco, Senior Vice President – Subways, NYC Transit to discuss the NYC Subways

Mr. Bianco said that John Gaul, who had planned to accompany him, was unable to attend and that Herbie Lambert, NYC Transit Chief Transportation Officer – Subways, who has been with NYC Transit for 31 years, was with him.  He thanked the members of the Council for their work to improve the system and their advocacy on behalf of NYC Transit customers. Mr. Bianco said that he wants his employees to think about their actions’ impact on the customers as they perform their jobs.

Mr. Bianco discussed the shift in emphasis from on time performance (OTP) statistics to wait assessment in evaluating the quality of service.  He said that when he came to his current job 3 years ago the agency put a lot of emphasis on OTP.  While this makes sense for a commuter railroad, and has some relevance for NYC Transit, wait assessment better reflects what is important to the riders. They are most concerned that trains come at regular intervals that are close to what is promised.  When there are service disruptions, the focus is to get service back to an even pattern, and the key indicator of this is wait assessment.

Mr. Bianco said that as the only 24 hour per day, 7 day per week system NYC Transit also has to maintain a balance between providing service and making sure that the system is safe.  He said that there are many variables that go into this balance, but that he will not sacrifice maintenance for keeping OTP high.

Mr. Albert asked what happens when tight budgets force a cutback in maintenance and whether the system can be as safe with longer maintenance intervals.  Mr. Bianco responded that when NYC Transit looks at the system, they never want to sacrifice safety or reliability but want to find efficiencies in the way that a job is done.

Mr. Bianco said that one way of gaining efficiencies is the FASTRACK program.  He said that the benefits of the program were clear the first time it was used and that it allowed for a list of 100 tasks to be completed at the same time.  Unfortunately, the impacts do not last forever, and Mr. Bianco said that he had gone back to an area where tracks were cleaned 2 weeks ago and that they were already dirty.

Mr. Bianco said that FASTRACK is also justified because of its positive impact on productivity.  He said that the work done under FASTRACK would have cost $11 million more had it been done in a conventional manner.  FASTRACK also improves worker safety, and there have been only 3 injuries under FASTRACK, despite the amount of heavy work that has been accomplished.

One indicator of FASTRACK’s effectiveness is the number of track fires, which are down 50 percent where FASTRACK has been used.  Next year, FASTRACK will expand to other areas, such as the A line north of 116th Street, the D line north of 59th Street, and the NRQ  lines in Manhattan and EFM and R lines in Queens.  The question is how Transit can implement FASTRACK and still keep the inconvenience to riders at an acceptable level, but he said that Transit will keep looking for ways to expand the program to new areas.

Mr. Greif asked whether the B train will run at times when FASTRACK is used on the Broadway line.  Mr. Bianco said that this has not yet been decided and that his team will work with Operations Planning to find substitute service.  Mr. Greif asked when the Parkside Avenue rehabilitation will be completed.  Mr. Bianco said that he would get the answer for the Council.

Ms. Prentiss said that when Howard Roberts was NYC Transit President, she showed him the “orphan” stations such as 135th, 163rd and 155th Street on the C line and he was appalled.  She asked what will happen to parts of the system not included in FASTRACK.  Mr. Bianco said that the intention is to get to every part of the system and not to “orphan” any stations.  He said that station work is determined by an assessment and that he is encouraged about FASTRACK as a way of getting things done.  Ms. Prentiss asked whether the experience with FASTRACK shows that it may be necessary to close parts of the system for maintenance.  Mr. Bianco said this would be difficult, but work under flagging is also difficult.  The main question is how to get maintenance workers more “wrench time.”

Mr. Bianco addressed the pilot program for removing trash cans from stations.  He said that the system moves 39 tons of refuse daily using 9 refuse trains by night and 9 trucks by day.  Using the trains is a balancing act, as they may delay revenue trains, but the goal is to move all bags of refuse off of platforms.

Other systems have moved garbage cans out of the system, Mr. Bianco noted, and said that Transit is trying this approach to see if behavior can be changed.  At the first two stations, Transit checked the refuse removed and amount cleaned from the track and found that less trash was present.  In the next phase, the program was expanded to 2 stations in each borough with subways and there was more emphasis on determining the baseline conditions before the program.  The final results aren’t in, but the data is encouraging.  One major objective of the program is to reduce the rodent population through keeping food off the tracks.  Jan Wells said that it seems necessary to have a partnership with the City to make the program work.  Mr. Bianco said that they have consulted with the City.

Mr. Albert asked if there are 2 vacuum trains.  Mr. Bianco said that there are, but that when he came to Transit they weren’t getting much use.  He said that the goal is now to run them every night.  Ms. Halpern asked whether he could get a list of stations scheduled for FASTRACK and Mr. Albert said that we will get them to her.  Karyl Cafiero asked whether track fires are generally related to debris.  Mr. Bianco said that they are and have been reduced in number.  He said that the vacuum trains aren’t run in the stations.

Mr. Greif said that he had received a message that there are street baskets outside the Brighton Beach station, which had been discussed earlier.  Alan Flacks asked whether Mr. Bianco has plans to add staff.  Mr. Bianco responded that he would love to have more employees but that he has received help from the Work Experience Program.  Of 900 persons who have participated in the program, 49 have become full time NYC Transit employees.

Mr. Bianco addressed planning for the expected storm.  He said that a Category 2 storm was headed north and might make landfall as a tropical storm Monday. He said that his department needs to plan and position work and pump trains, to participate in evacuations and to move equipment to higher ground.  He said that they have been actively planning for 24 hours and if the storm hits, senior management will be on the property.

In a crisis, a control center is set up and an incident command center engages in strategic thinking, while top management looks at policy concerns.  Ms. Prentiss asked if lessons were learned from Hurricane Irene.  Mr. Bianco said that with Irene, Transit worked with the City, identified low lying areas, and removed vulnerable equipment.  He said that they learned the limits of going without sleep and to plan for feeding and rest.  During Irene, station agents were pulled out of the system, which has not been done for several years.


The meeting was adjourned at 2:00 pm.

Respectfully submitted,

William Henderson

Executive Director

October 27, 2011 Meeting Follow Up Items

Request status of Parkside Avenue station rehabilitation – done

Request list of upcoming FASTRACK stations – Done