NEW YORK CITY TRANSIT RIDERS COUNCIL
MINUTES OF OCTOBER 27, 2016
A meeting of the New York City Transit Riders Council (NYCTRC) was convened at 12 noon on October 27, 2016 in the 20th Floor Board Room at 2 Broadway, New York City.
The following members were present:
Sharon King Hoge
Trudy L. Mason
William K. Guild
Burton M. Strauss, Jr.
The following members were absent:
Scott R. Nicholls
In addition, the following persons were present:
William Henderson -PCAC Executive Director
Ellyn Shannon -PCAC Associate Director
Angela Bellisio -PCAC Planner Manager
Bradley Brashears -PCAC Transportation Planner
Karyl Berger -PCAC Research Associate
Deborah Hall-Moore -NYCT
Barton Betz -NYCT
Debra Greif -BFSSAC
Richard Schulman -Concerned citizen
Matt Shotkin -Concerned citizen
Ken Stewart -Concerned citizen
Reginald Redish -Concerned citizen
Jacqueline Simpson -Concerned citizen
Naarah Williams -Concerned citizen
Burt Strauss presided over the meeting in the absence of Andrew Albert.
Approval of Agenda and Minutes
The agenda for Thursday, October 27, 2016 meeting was approved. The minutes of the September 22, 2016 were approved with an addition that Chris Greif asked Glenn Lunden when the W train will start operating and Stewart Goldstein asked Mr. Lunden how frequently transfer points are evaluated. Mr. Goldstein specifically asked about the N to J train transfer at Canal Street and requested that NYC Transit reevaluate it.
Introduction of Barton Betz, Assistant Chief Mechanical Officer –New Bus Project Management, MTA Bus Operations, to discuss new bus purchases and development
Mr. Betz said that his team brought two pilot New Flyer buses that had been available for inspection downstairs. These buses are a 40 foot long compressed natural gas (CNG) unit that is operating out of the Jackie Gleason Depot on the B35 route and a 60 foot long articulate bus that is operating on the Q44 route out of the Casey Stengl depot. The articulated buses will replace Nova bus vehicles on the Q44 route, and NYC Transit will be making similar replacements on the M60 route. Mr. Betz noted that, when they are in SBS service, buses stay on a single route rather than being rotated through a variety of operating environments.
Mr. Betz reviewed the process by which NYC Transit purchases equipment. In the current Capital Program funds are being made available later than usual, putting additional pressure on the process. There are currently 130 CNG buses and 139 articulated buses on order from New Flyer. The company has its headquarters in New Cloud, Minnesota but is in the process of establishing a factory in New York. He noted that there are already many New Flyer buses operating at several depots and that there is also an active contract with Nova Bus, which builds buses in Plattsburg, NY. Mr. Betz noted that NYC Transit is currently doing quality control work at the Nova Bus factory.
In the Capital Program is funding for 628 40 foot long buses and negotiations are currently in process for 110 articulated buses that will be sent to the West Farms and Jackie Gleason Depots. Mr. Betz also said that NYC Transit is also in discussions to purchase five all electric buses for Manhattan and five for Brooklyn. The buses will be operated using two charging methods and will be used to gain experience with electric buses in advance of any major purchases. He also said that there are plans to purchase large numbers of hybrid buses in the next Capital Program.
Mr. Betz explained that NYC Transit uses a request for proposals (RFP) process for buying buses. Using the RFP opens up the procurement system and allows manufacturers to offer new technologies and refinements. The buses that are now being purchased have the latest engine technology. He said that one of the aims of bus procurement is to foster competition. The goal is to have multiple suppliers for each type of bus and multiple vendors for components such as destination signs. One difficulty is that there are only two Buy America requirement-qualified bus manufacturers and they must have this designation for MTA Bus purchases, as they involve federal funds. In a typical procurement there are many options specified and the proposals are evaluated on price and cost structure.
Mr. Betz said that his group works in both contract negotiations and contract administration. Prior to pilot buses being built, his team does lots of design reviews, including attention to very small components. The team also performs many audits to ensure that each detail is correct. The team is always looking for input from a variety of sources, such as committees like the NYCTRC, bus operators, and individuals. The team gets a lot of feedback and has sought out feedback from individual passengers. Regardless of the form that the feedback takes, meeting with stakeholders to get their feedback is an important part of the process.
Mr. Betz noted that his team does much of work with bus depots as well. During the in-service period with pilot buses there is intense review of the new buses with personnel in the depots. Once the in-service period is completed, his team compiles a list of all identified issues and then proceeds to discuss them with the manufacturer. Once a resolution is reached, the manufacturer is given notice to proceed. It will take 90 days from the pilot phase and then as little as 30 days after the notice to proceed to begin the build.
All procurements for buses either include Buy America rules, which mandates 60 percent domestic content and final assembly in the United States, or New York content provisions, where bidders receive advantages for including content from New York State in their buses. Many of our manufacturers build buses in Canada but they are finished in the United States. Mr. Betz explained that when the MTA uses only local and State funds it is required to consider New York State content as part of the evaluation of bids. Bidders receive “evaluative dollars” that improve their cost competitiveness in the bidding process. As a result of these rules there are many suppliers in Plattsburgh who provide components. He said that he and the MTA believe very strongly in spending procurement funds generated within the State to purchase New York State content, as well as supporting minority and disadvantaged business enterprises.
Mr. Betz said that as a part of the process, they sometimes split contracts to spur competition and that many recent contracts for new buses are split. He said that the new RFP may or may not be split and will be for 628 buses. Once successful proposers begin work, Buses has auditors on site who inspect the buses and give a release to have them driven to New York City, where there is another inspection before acceptance. Warranties are purchased as part of the contract and used to remedy both individual and fleet defects.
The buses that are coming to be in place today have much new technology. The Governor has been very involved in the process, which is rare, but his input has made the process work better. Some of the new elements of the new buses include customer information centers, cameras, Wi-Fi, USB charging ports, wheelchair bays that can accommodate more types of chairs, wheelchair ramps with a less steep 1:6 slope ratio, and changes in seating arrangement. In the new buses there are two seats on the curb side, which enhances passenger flow. The stanchions and bars in the buses are yellow, which makes them easier to see. The windows use the Diamond Guard system, which is more durable and resistant to graffiti and other damage than the window coatings used in older vehicles. The new buses also have improved operator barriers, which give protection from abusive passengers.
Edith Prentiss asked if there will eventually be a single model of operator barrier. One model that sticks out at an angle causes passengers in wheelchairs to hit their heads. Operators like this model because it gives elbow space. These buses are on the Bx7 or M100 routes. Mr. Betz said that these are probably Nova Bus models and that are going to do some redesign on them. He said that his group has a model that they push through the bus to check its accessibility and they will take another look at these models.
Mr. Betz thanked the NYCTRC for giving input into the process.
Burt Strauss asked whether the MTA can work with other bus systems on procuring new buses. Mr. Betz said that NYC Transit has worked to organize a group of northeast US transit agencies where they discuss the issues that each of them face. In this group, the MTA interacts with others and offers to exchange information, and the MTA receives many questions because people see New York City as the most challenging operating environment. Mr. Strauss asked whether the MTA they order jointly with other agencies. Mr. Betz said there was a federal program that allowed agencies to place option orders on contracts negotiated with other agencies, but the MTA process is to write many options into the contract, so that the final bus can be an evolution of what has been purchased in the past.
Mr. Goldstein asked about buses’ fuel economy. Mr. Betz said that they have improved fuel economy by 25 percent in recent years. This has happened largely through improvements in air conditioning. New units use advanced clutches and screw compressors to get better performance.
William Guild asked how the turning radius of a 60 foot New Flyer bus compares with older buses and 40 foot buses. Mr. Betz said these buses compare favorably with Nova articulated buses, which had front wheels set farther back. Articulated buses have shorter front section wheel bases so their turning radius is smaller.
Ken Stewart said statistics indicate that quieter hybrid and electric buses can present hazards and asked what they are doing to add sound. Mr. Betz said that he is aware of this and that new technologies are being tested.
Ms. Prentiss said that the location of USB ports on buses is sometimes too high, even for standees. Mr. Betz responded that on new buses there are USB ports on the bottom of flip up seats and that his team has a long history of working with disability advocates. Ms. Prentiss asked if they are using s-hooks for securing wheelchairs. Mr. Betz responded that s-hooks are being used on all new buses.
Ms. Prentiss said that she was not invited to look at new buses, but the Senior Citizens Advisory group was, and noted that this group differs from the disability community.
Karyl Berger asked how they decide on the locations of handholds and about how MTA disposes of old buses. Mr. Betz commented that they work to ensure that there is always a hard hold all the way back into the bus. They have straps over the wheel wells to provide that hand holds. On express buses, they now have hand holds at every seat instead of every two seats. Old buses are auctioned and generally purchased by scrap dealers who disassemble them for the value of their components.
Chris Greif asked whether old buses can be directed for MetroCard mobile sales.
Mr. Betz said that they can repurpose vehicles, and the mobile sales staff can reach out to him to discuss their needs.
Mr. Greif said that in a transit system upstate there is a ramp on the rear portion rather than steps and that he feels this increases passenger seats and makes some riders feel safer, such as those who cannot reach hand holds. Mr. Betz said that he believes that that bus is manufactured by Gillig, which does not work with the MTA because they mainly deal in small orders. He said that the MTA has the market power to get design changes, but MCI express buses have ramps and they have presented tripping hazards. The MTA also tried side facing seats, but it lost too many seats to make the tradeoff for maneuverability worthwhile.
Ellyn Shannon asked whether buses are tested with a crush load of passengers.
A member of the public asked if new buses will have improved public address systems and said vehicles on the B46 and B6 routes have problems. Mr. Betz said that the newer public address systems are better and that they are working on innovations in the Speak Easy system that operators use.
Mr. Goldstein asked what Mr. Betz’s comments about improved fuel efficiency had used as a basis for comparison. Mr. Betz said that the comparison is with buses purchased five to seven years ago. The advantage is more pronounced with older models like the RTS. His team looked very carefully at transmissions and air conditioning to save fuel and spent a lot of time on the subjects of noise and fuel economy. They have recently been evaluating Nova and New Flyer buses for their fuel economy and have concluded that weight is a major place where savings can be achieved through strong and light vehicles. He said he will share these results with Deborah Hall-Moore so that she can give them to the Council.
Sharon King Hoge asked what training is required to familiarize operators with new models. Mr. Betz said familiarization time varies and takes two hours for new articulated buses because their wheel bases are smaller than older models. Most of the time it takes about an hour.
Mr. Strauss thanked Mr. Betz for his presentation.
Mr. Strauss gave the Chair’s report, which is attached to the minutes.
Mr. Henderson said that the issue that struck him in the recent MTA Board NYC Transit and Bus Committee meeting was the discussion on operational measures. NYC Transit is seeing historically low on-time performance measures, although they are no longer managing to maximize on-time performance. He said that PCAC staff has been working on alternative measures of performance for the subways and has received a good reaction from executives up to the MTA Chairman. These measures focus on the subways, but the principles behind them can be extended to other MTA services.
Mr. Henderson said staff will present to top MTA management and will come back to the NYCTRC to report on the results of their discussions. Ellyn Shannon said that this effort had been propelled by a discussion earlier this year at the MTA Board level concerning the best operational indicators. She said that there are indicators other than on-time performance that better capture the rider experience although on-time performance is useful for demonstrating throughput.
Mr. Henderson said that the Mean Distance between Failures statistics were also of interest. There is a gap developing between the older legacy fleet and more modern subway cars, as the old cars wear out. The statistics for the new cars rival those seen on commuter railroads, which often have a less demanding duty cycle. On the bus side the purchases of new buses is having a positive impact, as are the initiatives for increased and targeted maintenance of existing buses.
Trudy Mason commented that a bus driver recently pulled out into the street at a stop she was approaching and did not pick her up. The head of the stop was at a red traffic signal, and the bus could not proceed beyond pulling the end of the bus out of the stop, but the operator nonetheless did not open the bus doors for her. She said that this is happening on both east and west sides of Manhattan. She reiterated her formal request for a meeting with Buses management.
Ms. Mason said that Tom Prendergast told Congresswoman Maloney that the Second Avenue Subway target date is still December 31, but said that it is likely that one or two stations will not open with the rest of the line. There are issues with elevators and escalators that may prevent all stations from opening, and the first consideration is safety rather than totally meeting the schedule. She also said that planning and preliminary work has begun on Phase 2 and that this is not affected by the completion date of Phase 1.
Mr. Henderson briefly outlined the changes to service that will happen when the W train returns. Mr. Strauss said that this will be done in advance of the Second Avenue Subway opening to get crews in place with the current change in work schedules.
Ms. Prentiss said that there are problems for years for multiple buses stopping in some stops. Operators do not abide by the rule where they have to wait to enter a stop when the bus stop is full, but instead bypass the stop. Some people cannot use subways, and this practice treats them as second class citizens. Mr. Strauss agreed that this is an ongoing problem and requires attention to resolve it. Mr. Henderson said that the issue can be addressed to regional bus operations personnel when members meet with them.
Chris Greif asked if there are updates on construction along the Sea Beach Line. Mr. Henderson said that he was not sure of the extent of their progress, but that there is a completion date in the contract that binds the contractor.
Matt Shotkin said that there is a temporary bus stop on M15/SBS at 88th Street. He asked when it will be returned. Ms. Mason said that the 86th Street stop is the only one that has not been restored. Mr. Henderson said he would inquire about this, but that his memory is that the stop is to be restored once the first phase of the Second Avenue Subway is complete.
The meeting was adjourned at 2:00 p.m.