Meeting Minutes Oct 27, 2011

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A meeting of the New York City Transit Riders Council (NYCTRC) was convened at 12:00 noon on October 27, 2011 in the 5th floor Board room at 347 Madison Avenue, New York City. The following members were present:

• Andrew Albert
• Thomas Jost
• Shirley Genn
• Sharon King Hoge
• Stuart Goldstein
• Trudy L. Mason
• Jessica Gonzalez-Rojas
• Steve Mayo
• Christopher Greif
• Edith Prentiss
• William K. Guild
• Michael Sinansky
• Burton M. Strauss, Jr.

The following members were absent:

• Marisol Halpern
• Toya Williford

In addition, the following persons were present:

• William Henderson -PCAC Executive Director
• Jan Wells -PCAC Associate Director
• Ellyn Shannon -PCAC Transportation Planner
• Karyl Berger -PCAC Research Associate
• Michael Horodniceanu -MTACC
• Ann Guild -Concerned citizen
• Brigitta Payne -Concerned citizen
• Ken Stewart -Concerned citizen
• Alan Kritzler -Concerned citizen
• Yvonne Morrrow -Concerned citizen
• Matt Shotkin -Concerned citizen
• J. Bielechi -Concerned citizen

Approval of Agenda and Minutes

The agenda for the October 27, 2011 meeting was approved. The minutes of the September 22, 2011 meeting were approved.

Chair’s Report

The Chair’s Report is attached to these minutes.

Board Report

Mr. Albert reported that although the Governor has announced Joseph Lhota as his choice for the position, the new MTA Chairman has not yet been confirmed by the Senate. On November 14, Mr. Lhota is scheduled to begin serving as MTA Executive Director, an appointive position that does not require Senate confirmation.

Mr. Albert noted that the MTA had released the results of a customer satisfaction survey that was conducted for NYC Transit. He said that the results do not appear to be credible and questioned how satisfaction with service could have increased in the face of substantial service cuts. Mr. Albert stated that the Council has to make our feelings about the survey known and that the people who were surveyed were not necessarily regular riders.

Mr. Sinansky commented that the results of the survey made him chuckle. He contrasted the high marks that the subways received in the survey with the rider confusion that he witnessed at the Fulton Street and World Trade Center when he surveyed stations with service diversions during the past weekend.

Trudy Mason said that she wanted details on survey of Select Bus Service riders that was referenced in a report to the Board this month. She said that she would like to know who, when and where was it conducted.

Mr. Albert recommended that MTA Director of Market Research Peter Harris be invited as a guest to discuss the surveys. Mr. Albert asked if the Council would like to hear from Mr. Harris first or to ask questions and express its doubts about the survey to him in a letter. Ms. Mason recommended that the Council first ask questions about the survey.

Tom Jost said one method of surveying a more active group of riders is to use email addresses and telephone numbers of regular fare media purchasers. Edith Prentiss said that a sample of email users drawn from the MTA’s lists would not be random, as self-selection is involved in people getting onto these lists. She also noted that a random digit dialing approach for telephone surveys may be flawed as many cellphone users have numbers that are not from the region’s area codes. Ms. Mason said that credit card data from MetroCard Vending Machines could be used to develop a list of regular transit users.

Stuart Goldstein asked whether the survey sample was proportional by borough. He said that he would like to see the complete report and noted that there are other databases of regular riders such as those maintained by transit benefit administrators such as Transit Center.

Michael Sinansky stated that he has doubts that 1,200 people are enough for a representative sample of riders. Jessica Gonzalez-Rojas asked if the survey was administered in other languages other than English. Ms. Mason asked the definition of the term “adult” as used in the survey.

Mr. Albert commented on NYC Transit’s pilot study of removing refuse containers from stations. He said that this pilot was not been brought before the Board before it was implemented. He said that the Board had also been told that NYC Transit is now going to schedule trash trains and that they are putting more replacement trash bags in bottom of containers. Mr. Albert said that he brought to Transit’s attention the need to rodent proof the trash containers. He noted that there has been lots of media attention to this subject and asked that members communicate to staff any observations on how this is working at the stations in the pilot, 8th Street (N, R) and Main Street (7).

Christopher Greif stated that he is not happy with NYC Transit President Tom Prendergast’s decision to remove trash cans from stations. Ms. Prentiss asked what is happening with paper recycling in the subways. She said that there are recycling bins in Grand Central Terminal and asked why they could not use them in the subways. Bill Henderson said that recycling of paper from the subways is done by post – collection sorting and NYC Transit says that this is more efficient than using recycling containers. Ms. Mason said that there will be environmental groups are speaking out about the lack of recycling and that removing trash cans will add to litter on the streets. Karyl Berger asked whether there is coordination with the NYC Department of Sanitation about the pilot. She said that it may be necessary to make sure that street baskets are emptied more often.

Old Business

Mr. Jost asked whether the Council has heard anything back about his inquiry concerning bus stops on Victory Boulevard on Staten Island. Mr. Henderson said that he has not heard back, but will follow up with NYC Transit.

Mr. Albert stated that Mitch Pally is now an ally on the MTA Board on the topic of service restoration. There is still some resistance to restoring service from other MTA Board members, although tax numbers are looking good.

Mr. Jost observed that service cuts are readily made when finances are tight, but there is no process to increase service when finances are good. Mr. Albert said that there are still some unknowns in 2012 relative to the MTA’s financial position. The cost of agreements that are currently being negotiated with organized labor are among these unknowns.

Ms. Mason stated that she would like the service restoration issue to be an issue on which the Council follows up. She described service problems that she had encountered on the 6 train between the 77th and 42nd Street stations over the past two days. Mr. Albert said that inaccurate information often appears on the countdown clocks, as Ms. Mason described, and said that there appears to be a fluke in the system.

Ms. Mason commented on the signage she had encountered while she was surveying service diversions. She said that it is not legible or understandable and there is no signage going into the system. She said that the people NYC Transit had stationed there did not know enough to tell riders anything.

Ms. Prentiss stated that she did surveys on the 1 line and that Chambers Street had no information about where people could re-enter the system.

New Business

Mr. Greif said that riders were having trouble getting block tickets at the Bowling Green and South Ferry stations on weekends when there is a walking transfer established between these stations.

Introduction of Dr. Michael Horodniceanu, President, MTA Capital Construction Company, to discuss NYC Transit Megaprojects

A copy of Dr. Horodniceanu’s presentation is on file in the NYCTRC offices.

Mr. Albert stated that 25 percent of the construction jobs in New York City have been created by MTA projects.

Dr. Horodniceanu discussed the Fulton Street Transit Center (FTSC). He said that all contracts have been awarded for this project and that the project is slightly ahead of schedule and below budget. He noted that the goal of this project is to create a great public space. As part of this, the Transit Center will improve connectivity, not only between subway lines, but also between the subway system and the PATH system and the ferries located at the World Financial Center. He also noted that the connection to the Cortlandt Street 1 line station will be provided through the PATH station.

Dr. Horodniceanu discussed the elements needed to build a great public space. He noted that a designer must:

– Create a destination with amenities that draw people;
– Provide great architecture; and
– Have an appealing form.

In the case of the FTSC, materials were chosen to emphasize light and be appealing to people passing through the complex. He said that decisions had been made to add LCD panel interactive displays and electronic advertising, which will also increase potential revenue. There will also be electronic wayfinding signage installed, which will also give service status information. The structure will also include many security features. Its walls are made of glass, but building itself is heavily reinforced.

Dr. Horodniceanu said that the space will have retail kiosks on the ground level along with digital information kiosks and Wi-Fi. At the platform level the station will have digital information kiosks and digital advertising. The goal is to eliminate the use of paper signage in the station.

Dr. Horodniceanu discussed the 7 train line extension and noted that it is a classic Transit Oriented Development (TOD) project. He said that the other clear example of TOD is the development of Grand Central Terminal using the revenues created by the sale of property along Park Avenue. In funding the 7 line extension, the City used a form of Tax Increment Financing.

In the course of the project, the City has added $260 million to the budget to provide for overbuilds on top of NYC Transit facilities such as vent plants. Some of these overbuilds may rise as high as 100 stories, as is the case on Site J. The scheduled completion date for the project is December 2013 and Dr. Horodniceanu said that there will certainly be trains running by that time, although there will still be some elements of the project to be completed. For example, after service begins, there will be another entrance added to the 11th Avenue/34th Street station.

Ms. Prentiss asked whether there is redundant accessibility designed into the project. Dr. Horodniceanu replied that the project is being built to comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act and that he did not know offhand how many elevators would be installed or their configuration.

Mr. Albert asked about the possibility of a 10th Avenue Station. Dr. Horodniceanu said that in the development they have provided an ability to come back later and construct a side platform station at that point. To do this, the City would have to acquire a nearby property owned by Hunter College.

Mr. Albert said he recalls hearing from former MTACC President Mysore Nagaraja that building a new station at 10th Avenue after the line was completed would cost half a billion dollars. Dr. Horodniceanu stated building that any station, during or after the initial development, would cost up to $1 billion.

Ms. Mason asked if Dr. Horodniceanu could comment on proposals to extend the 7 train to New Jersey. Dr. Horodniceanu stated that there are options to extend it, but it is the job of the City, the Port Authority, and the State of New Jersey to work through these proposals. He said that the Gordian knot in these plans is how to handle traffic at Grand Central, as many people traveling from New Jersey will want to go to Grand Central and the current station is overloaded without these passengers. He said that the current plans to extend service are sketch plans and the cost estimates attached to them are not necessarily accurate.

Dr. Horodniceanu noted that the systems and finishes contract for the 7 line extension had been awarded and that structural work will be finished by October 31.

Jessica Gonzalez-Rojas asked if this means that the current project will not have a station between 42nd Street and 34th Street. Dr. Horodniceanu said that that is the case, and there is no direct connection to the Javits Center in the current project, but that a knockout panel permitting simplified construction of a connection will be included.

Yvonne Morrow asked what part of the project is being constructed at 25 & 26th Streets. Dr. Horodniceanu responded that a vent facility and the tail tracks for the line are in this area.

Mr. Albert asked whether original design included three tracks. Dr. Horodniceanu said that it did.

Debra Greif said that she not see any true accessibility in the designs that have been shown. She said that materials that are shown in the designs are not compatible with people with disabilities in the areas of vision, hearing, mobility, and heart problems. Dr. Horodniceanu stated that the project drawings have been reviewed by the Federal Transit Administration and ADA compliance staff at NYC Transit.

Dr. Horodniceanu moved on to Phase 1 of the Second Avenue Subway. He said that there will be four phases that will include 8.5 miles of tunnels. This will provide for two new services, an expanded Q service and the T service. He said that work is now underway on the segment between 90th and 63rd Streets and that this work will hook into the 63rd Street station, which is currently used for the F line, but only one half of station that was constructed is currently being used. As a part of the project, Capital Construction is refurbishing the whole station.

Ms. Mason said that she heard that there will be a 3rd Avenue entrance to the 63rd Street station. Dr. Horodniceanu replied that they have acquired a storefront to house the entrance at 3rd Avenue.

Ken Stewart commented that the South Ferry station is terrible, but the Port Authority bus terminal is great in terms of visual contrast. He asked that the project architects who will be working with finishes on the Second Avenue Subway look at these examples. He also noted that if there are to be separate platforms at the terminal station there is a need for them to have distinct identities so that the next train can be announced.

Dr. Horodniceanu stated that SAS is in a very high density area and will serve to reduce crowding on the Lexington subway line, carrying 200,000 passengers on its first day and providing new transit choices. When the full project is completed, it will strengthen connections between Midtown and Downtown. He noted that tunneling is now complete for the first phase of the project and that they are now removing the tunnel boring machine.

Dr. Horodniceanu said that there were many technical challenges involved with completing the first phase of the project. There are lots of utilities in the area and for the most part engineers have no idea exactly where they are. The launch hole for the project was two football fields long. Crews are working in areas with a tight clearance, feet from home and businesses. Part of the project is relocating the utilities and the project must pay for this.

Dr. Horodniceanu said that it is his plan to start holding town hall meetings quarterly on Manhattan’s East Side this year. He said that despite mitigations, there are always impacts from construction, but that his team has tried to minimize them by doing things such as expanding sidewalks from 7 feet to 12 feet, which even at 12 feet are more narrow than they were before construction and will be after completion. He said that they are also working with Arts for Transit to dress up the muck houses that they have built to reduce the impacts of removing mined material from the tunnels.

Ms. Mason said that the project has forced many businesses to close. Dr. Horodniceanu responded that there are quarterly surveys performed being performed, and in terms of businesses closing, the 2nd Avenue workzone is doing better than parallel stretches of 1st and 3rd Avenues.

Mr. Guild as if there has been a knockout connection between Fulton Street and the Second Avenue Subway Seaport Station constructed as a part of the Fulton Street Transit Center project. Dr. Horodniceanu stated that he didn’t know the exact position of Seaport Station so it would be difficult to construct a connection now, but a connection could be created later.

Mr. Strauss asked for clarification regarding the statement that conditions are better on 2nd Avenue than on 1st and 3rd Avenue. Dr. Horodniceanu stated that there are fewer store closings on 2nd Avenue than 1st or 3rd Avenue. He said that 1st Avenue was the hardest hit by the recession.

Ms. Mason asked if the Council can receive copies of these surveys. Dr. Horodniceanu said that he will have to review them before he can make a commitment.

Mr. Sinansky said that he wanted to know Dr. Horodniceanu’s opinion as to the initial schedule and cost estimates for megaprojects and the staffing of the projects prior to his arrival. Dr. Horodniceanu replied that the initial estimates did not account for risks and were very optimistic. He said that when they received bids for the Fulton Street Transit Center, the many problems with the initial estimates became clear. Dr. Horoniceanu noted that when he came to MTACC, there was not much construction underway. The designers that were there at that time left the agency as the projects progressed, and construction managers joined the team.

Mr. Jim O’Shea asked why the glass for the Fulton Street Transit Center is being imported from China. Dr. Horodniceanu said that that there was no American firm available to treat the glass in the manner that was necessary for security purposes and that the glass was manufactured in Pittsburgh, shipped to China to be treated, and shipped to New York for use.

Ms. Genn asked how future extensions of the 7 subway line would be funded. Dr. Horodniceanu stated that funds would have to be provided by some combination of the City, Port Authority, and New Jersey. He said that the extension currently under construction is funded by the City.

Adjournment

The meeting was adjourned at 2:00 pm.

Respectfully submitted,

William Henderson
Executive Director

New York City Transit Riders Council
Chair’s Report
October 27, 2011

A week ago Governor Cuomo announced Joseph J. Lhota as his choice for MTA Chairman. Mr. Lhota was one of the candidates recommended by the Governor’s MTA Search Advisory Committee, on which our retired Executive Director, Beverly Dolinsky, served. Mr. Lhota was New York City’s Deputy Mayor for Operations under Mayor Giuliani, where he oversaw day-to-day management of the City. He also served as City Budget Director, and is known for cost cutting, agency reorganization and consolidation, and implementing performance-based strategic planning. In addition, Mr. Lhota was for a several years an MTA Board Member; he is currently Executive Vice President, Administration for The Madison Square Garden Company. He holds an M.B.A. from Harvard Business School, born in the Bronx, raised on Long Island, and lives in Brooklyn.
Governor Cuomo also announced that Nuria Fernandez will serve as the MTA’s Chief Operating Officer. She is currently the Senior Vice President of CH2M Hill, an engineering consulting firm, where her specialty is strategic planning and consulting focused on large scale urban environments. She previously served as the Commissioner for the Chicago Airport System and has held executive positions at the U.S. Department of Transportation, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, and the Chicago Transit Authority. Ms. Fernandez was also among those interviewed by the Governor’s search committee for a new MTA Chairman.
Together with these appointments, Governor Cuomo announced the appointment of Karen Rae to serve as the Deputy Secretary of Transportation. Ms. Rae is currently Deputy Administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration where she deals with the federal high speed rail initiative as well as comprehensive safety programs and regulatory initiatives, and has developed national freight and passenger rail policy. She has previously served as NYSDOT Deputy Commissioner of Policy and Planning, Deputy Secretary for Local and Area Transportation at the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, Director of the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation, and as director or general manager of transit systems in Austin, Texas, Glens Falls, New York, and Buffalo, New York. Judging from this appointment, it seems likely that the Governor will be more directly involved in the workings of the MTA than he has been in the recent past.
As you probably have read in your email, our service diversion signage survey project is moving forward. Thanks to all of the members who have already contributed your time to this effort, but we need to have more surveys completed and want all members to participate in gathering data for the project. The surveys can be done at any time over the weekends and we try to make surveying assignments as convenient as possible. Whether you’ve already done surveys or not, please take some time over the next couple of weekends to survey a station or two. Bill Henderson has a list with the set of diversions that are available to be surveyed this weekend.
On Friday, November 18, Manhattan Borough Scott Stringer will sponsor a conference entitled Transportation 2030: A Five Borough Blueprint. The Conference will start at 9:00 AM and run to 3:00 PM, will be held at John Jay College on Tenth Avenue between 58th and 59th Streets, and is free and open to the public. The location alone ought to remind people of the need for a healthy New York City bus system. Bill Henderson has been sitting on a steering committee of local transportation advocates and civic leaders that has advised the Borough President’s office in planning this event. You can find a link to register for the event and more information on the Borough President’s website at www.mbpo.org.

Our Public Service Scholar from Hunter College, Shanni Liang, is now working in the office 20 hours per week. She pilot tested the preliminary GO survey form at eight stations on the N line in southwest Brooklyn. She wrote a brief report on her findings which included pictures; and she made several suggestions for improvement of the form. These stations were chosen because they are in predominately Asian communities which are her focus during her service at PCAC.

Finally, for those of you who are Facebook users, the PCAC now has a Facebook page. At this point, the information there is also posted on the PCAC website, but the Facebook page allows for more interaction from our readers. Just search for “PCAC” in Facebook to check out the page.

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