Meeting Minutes Oct 28, 2010


A meeting of the New York City Transit Riders Council (NYCTRC) was convened at 12:00 noon on October 28, 2010 in the 5th floor Board room at 347 Madison Avenue, New York City.  The following members were present:

• Andrew Albert
• William K. Guild
• Shirley Genn
• Marisol Halpern
• Stuart Goldstein
• Sharon King Hoge
• Jessica Gonzalez-Rojas
• Trudy L. Mason
• Christopher Greif
• Michael Sinansky
• Burton M. 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
• Jan Wells   -PCAC Associate Director
• Ellyn Shannon  -PCAC Transportation Planner
• Karyl Berger   -PCAC Research Associate
• John Gaito   -NYCT
• Deborah Hall-Moore -NYCT
• Branko Kleva   -NYCT
• Brigitta Payne  -Concerned Citizen
• Alan Flacks   -Concerned Citizen
• Ken Stewart   -Concerned Citizen
• Jerry Gold   -Concerned Citizen

Approval of Agenda and Minutes

The agenda for the October 28, 2010 meeting was approved.  The minutes of the September 28, 2010 meeting were approved.

Chair’s Report

The Chair’s Report is attached to these minutes.

Board Report

Mr. Albert reported that there was far less debate about the toll hike for MTA Bridges and Tunnels than there was for the bus and subway fare hike.  He said there is a limit to the amount that a Rockaways resident with EZPass will be charged in a calendar day.  Mike Sinansky said a person needs to make one round trip before the cap on tolls kicks in.  The cap results in only a $400,000 annual reduction in tolls collected.  He said it was very shortsighted of the MTA to keep this toll in effect, when the TBTA has a $600 million surplus.

Mr. Albert reported that an item brought to the Finance Committee led to a change in the committee meeting schedule.  Due to an objection that was made with respect to the Finance Committee approving an item that had not yet been considered by the Bridges and Tunnels Committee, all operating committees will now meet prior to the Finance Committee.  This arrangement ensures that all relevant items will be considered in their operating committees before they go to the Finance Committee for approval.

Mr. Albert reported that the Capital Construction Company announced that it will take a variety of actions to beautify the area where Second Avenue Subway construction is proceeding in an effort to make the overall area more attractive and to help the local businesses that have suffered because of the construction.  Mr. Albert said that a variety of new elements are being rolled out sequentially at the Fulton Street Transit Center.  It was suggested that the Council obtain a timeline of the elements that are being rolled out.

Mr. Albert said it is likely that the MTA will be going after the funding that New Jersey Transit forfeited when New Jersey Governor Christie canceled the ARC project.  Ms. Berger noted that the derailment in Penn Station earlier in the week was a perfect example why an additional tunnel would be beneficial.

Trudy Mason remarked that the Second Avenue Subway work is affecting the underpinnings of many buildings in the area.  She said that many people who moved to hotels will not be able to move back into their homes for some time, as there was massive destruction of their buildings’ underpinnings   Mr. Albert said that Capital Construction will do work to remove obstructions, beautify the area, and shore up buildings that would not normally be the responsibility of the MTA.  Ms. Mason said this work to improve Second Avenue is wasteful as the superstructure of the buildings in the area has been totally undermined, and the area’s small businesses will not be able to move back once work is completed.  Ms. Mason said that the MTA should have worked in Albany to promote a bill introduced by Jonathan Bing that would have helped the store owners.  She said that if there had been a push by the Mayor and MTA it might have been approved.

Stuart Goldstein noted that the Fulton Street Transit Center project is moving forward at a fast and furious pace.  He said some finish work is being done before construction is complete.  He said that floor tiles are being broken and that new signage in the A/C portion of the complex refers to “Fulton Street“with no mention of Broadway-Nassau.

In response to Chris Greif’s question concerning the date when riders will be able to travel through the station from the 4/5 subway to the PATH trains, Mr. Albert said there will be a single mezzanine that will go through the station, but the J/Z will not be part of this circulation system as it won’t be connected in the same way.  Mr. Greif noted that the Chambers Street J/Z station is in a total state of disrepair.

Ms. Mason said she believes the MTA Board must approve any change to a station name.  Alan Flacks said the full station name should be on every sign in the station.

Mr. Albert announced that MTA Bus President Joseph Smith will be retiring, and it will be a huge loss to the MTA.  Mr. Smith has been at NYCT for 35 years.  Mr. Albert said he doesn’t know who will be named in his stead.  Mr. Albert said Mr. Smith will truly be missed.

Old Business

Ms. Mason related her personal experiences about the SBS service.  The people who were stationed along the route as ambassadors have been removed, and there are still many people who do not know how to use the SBS fare collector machines.

Ms. Mason noted that people are angry that the SBS does not stop at 72nd Street as it is a major thoroughfare and was one of the big stops for M15 limited service.

Ms. Mason complained that on the west side of 2nd Avenue at 79th Street the curb is taken up with two separate bus stops: one for the local M15 and the other for the M15 SBS.  She also reported that there have been times when both fare collector machines have been out of order.  She also said that it is sometimes hard to distinguish between SBS buses and local buses.  She related a story where a local bus came and that people waiting thought it was an SBS, so that everyone who was holding a SBS fare receipt got on. The bus operator (#1857) was confused.  Then a bus with a flashing blue light arrived behind the first bus.  In the end, however, the local bus got to 51st Street faster than the SBS bus.

Mr. Albert suggested that if Ms. Mason would take the same ride now, she would see some changes that have been made since the service started.   Mr. Albert said the policy has been changed so that now the local bus operators can accept the SBS payment receipt for passage ticket.

Brigitta Payne, a resident of the Upper East Side, related her SBS experience.  Ms. Payne lives at 1st Avenue and 74th Street and thought there was a 72nd Street SBS stop.  She said that many elderly people can’t use the subways and that she does not understand why the M15 stop at City Hall was eliminated.  She was told to take the M103 as a substitute for the City Hall-bound M15, and it ended up taking her one and a half hours, during which the Bus Operator did not make bus stop announcements.  Mr. Albert said staff will ask NYC Transit why the 72nd Street stop was eliminated.

Mr. Strauss noted that New York State law generally prohibits the use of blue lights on vehicles as they are reserved for use by first responders.

Ken Stewart asked that when the NYC Department of Transportation puts up concrete curbs around the bike lanes, they should put in special features to make them easier to find.

Mr. Greif reported that he had ridden the M15 and noted that it is the bus operator’s responsibility to follow the rules such as making bus stop announcements, but stated that many of the operators don’t have complete lists of the SBS stops.

Mr. Flacks noted that in London, there are mandatory bus stops and NYC Transit should do the same here on the SBS route.  He said Ms. Mason was right in that the M15 map does not show a connection with the M9.

Mr. Strauss said that the SBS brochure explains that if a fare collector machine is not working, a passenger should board the bus and tell the bus operator that the machine is not working.

Ms. Mason said that the NYCTRC should go on record about its concerns regarding SBS service: 1) why are the schedules for the SBS not clearly identified, 2) why are there two bus stops instead of one for both services, but if there are to be two stops SBS and local stops should have a different appearance so riders can easily differentiate the services, 3) why are the machines so poorly positioned as to be hard to access and too close to the street, 4) the font and color contrast on the brochure makes it very difficult to read, 5) why were the SBS ambassadors removed so quickly after implementation of the service and from which departments at NYCT did they come, 6) Bus Operators need ongoing instruction about SBS service.

Mr. Albert said that in order to make a complaint about a Bus Operator, we need to have bus and Bus Operator numbers.  He also said that the Bus Operators have a script that has not been updated with new subway routes.

Marisol Halpern noted ambassadors were in place at the initial launch of the Bx12 SBS in June 2008 and then they were removed, but were brought back in September at the request of the Bronx Borough President.

Sharon King Hoge noted that it is important for the Council to provide input as a way to help NYC Transit improve Select Bus Service.

In response to Jessica Rojas’ question about the fare inspectors, Ms. Halpern said that they have to be continuously asked for enforcement on the SBS route.

In response to Mr. Sinansky’s question as to whether they installed dedicated bike lanes with SBS in the Bronx, Ms. Halpern said they did not.

New Business

Mike Sinansky raised the issue of special events requiring street closures, such as the Bike MS NYC event held near Battery Park City on October 3.  He said that he would talk to staff regarding a letter on this issue.

Introduction of John Gaito, NYC Transit’s Chief Station Officer, to discuss the current management structure overseeing subway stations and the conditions in the stations.

Mr. Albert introduced John Gaito, NYC Transit’s Vice President – Station Environment who introduced Branko Kleva, NYC Transit Assistant Chief Station Officer – Capital Program Management.

Mr. Gaito is in change of all station cleaning and maintenance and has 850 station maintainers.  He said the big problem is that NYC Transit has not kept up with its investments by maintaining them properly.

Mr. Albert highlighted the Council’s concern about the conditions at the 205th Street/Norwood station and stated that it is a disaster.  He said that despite the station’s poor condition the lighting is good and there was no litter when it was inspected, so it got a passing grade on the PES.  Mr. Gaito explained that his Department does not conduct the PES survey, but rather they deal with structural component surveys that are done by Capital Program Management.

In response to Ms. Berger’s question about the reorganization of the Line Managers program concerning to whom a rider should go to if they have a station related problem, Mr. Gaito said he is not responsible for station booth clerks.  He said President Prendergast did not want to make too many changes so the station agents fall under Service Delivery, which is headed up by John Gaul.  He said MetroCard Vending Machines and turnstiles are under Revenue Equipment.

In response to Mr. Sinansky’s question as to station personnel’s ability to communicate impending problems so that they can be addressed under station rehabilitations, Mr. Gaito said that he has complete access to the station data base in Capital Program Management.  Once the statistics are compiled, they sit down and have detailed discussions.  Mr. Gaito stated that one of the goals for 2010 was to catch up on the backlog in a pilot group of 19 selected stations, which originally had a total of 2,300 defects.

Mr. Gaito said that he reported to Chairman Walder last month, who had questioned the level of resources that would be needed to keep all stations at the level of the 19 stations where maintenance backlogs had been addressed.  The finding was that maintaining this condition level would require 2.5 times more work hours from cleaners than is currently provided.  In addition to the 19 stations currently in this program, 8 more stations will be added next year.

In response to Ms. Mason’s question about Chairman Walder’s statement that when Station Customer Assistants were removed from stations, cleaning and maintenance personnel would serve as the human presence in the stations, Mr. Gaito assured the members that safety and security is a paramount concern and noted that there will always be a station agent in every station 24 hours a day.

In response to Ms. Mason’s follow-up question about what would happen if an incident occurs on the side of the station where there is no station agent, Mr. Gaito said the station agents are prepared to assist and they have been trained to use the customer assistance intercoms to report an incident.

Mr. Greif reported that the F line station at 63rd Street and Lexington Avenue does not have a tactile warning strip on the platform and asked why this is the case, since this station has elevator access.  Jerry Gold said that this station is being renovated as part of the Second Avenue subway project.

Mr. Greif also noted there are cracks and holes on the Culver line station platforms.  Mr. Albert said it is very easy to see the decay on the elevated lines.

Mr. Kleva said that those inspections are handled by different programs.

In response to Ms. Rojas’ question concerning plans for 74th Street/Roosevelt Avenue station, in view of the station’s severe pigeon dropping problem, Mr. Kleva noted that many locations have pigeon problems and said he will look into this location.  Mr. Gaito said they can do an intensive cleaning of stations with a power washer but noted that line structures are not within his purview.

In response to Mr. Strauss’ question about maintenance and the impact of staffing cuts, Mr. Gaito said NYC Transit had planned to add staff to maintain newly renovated stations and that this occurred for a while, but then the agency’s budget was cut.  President Prendergast and Chairman Walder are now very interested in understanding what resources are needed to maintain acceptable conditions in the stations.

Mr. Gaito said that he has 1506 cleaners budgeted for all positions.  A larger station may have a full cleaner per tour or a small station will have a cleaner’s attention for 2 hours per tour.

Mr. Goldstein said that a successful pigeon deterrent was installed on a Belt Parkway overpass that was rebuilt.  He said they used a low power electrically charged wire at this location.

Stuart Goldstein asked whether there have been budgetary problems in obtaining necessary supplies.  Mr. Gaito said the availability of supplies have been an issue due to budget constraints.  There has also been staff turnover.

Mr. Goldstein asked how the maintenance backlog is being addressed and how priorities are being established.  Mr. Gaito explained that defects with an A rating are “safety” defects that get addressed immediately.  He said defect with a C rating must be responded to within 60 days.  There is a backlog simply because the flow is constant.  He said there is never a zero balance of issues that must be addressed.

In response to a question about track fires, Mr. Kleva said track cleaning is done by a separate group.  He said most stations have three cleanings in a 24 hour period and a power wash is done every six weeks.  In the group of 19 stations this is done every other week. Some stations have tile on far side of track that is washed once every two months. Overhead cleaning is done every six months in most stations and every two months for the 19 stations in the pilot program.

Mr. Gaito is still going through analysis to determine number of cleaners that are needed. He said that 1900 was the highest number of cleaners that NYC Transit has employed, but indications are that about 2800 are needed.


The meeting was adjourned at 2:00 pm.

Respectfully submitted,

Karyl Berger
Research Associate