Meeting Minutes Sept 23, 2010


A meeting of the New York City Transit Riders Council (NYCTRC) was convened at 12 noon on September 23, 2010 in the 5TH floor Board room at MTA Headquarters, 347 Madison Avenue, New York City.

The following members were present:

• Andrew Albert
• Sharon King Hoge
• Christopher Greif
• Trudy L. Mason
• William K. Guild
• Michael Sinansky
• Thomas Jost
• Burton M. Strauss, Jr.
• Toya Williford

The following members were absent:

• Shirley Genn
• Marisol Halpern
• Stuart Goldstein
• Edith Prentiss
• Jessica Gonzalez-Rojas

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
• Lisa Schreibman  -MTA-NYCT
• Deborah Hall-Moore -MTA-NYCT
• Michael Blaustein -NY Post
• Matt Shoktin  -Concerned citizen
• Debra Greif  -Concerned citizen
• Ken Stewart  -Concerned Citizen
Approval of Agenda and Minutes

The agenda for the September 23, 2010 meeting was approved.  The minutes of the July 22, 2010 meeting were approved.

Chair’s Report

The Chair’s Report is attached to these minutes.

Christopher Grief, the newly appointed member recommended by Brooklyn Borough President, Marty Markowitz, introduced himself.  The members also introduced themselves and noted by whom they had been recommended to the Council.

Staff will clarify the status of the hearing induction loop program.  Trudy Mason noted that Janice Schachter, one of the advocates for the installation of this technology, had not said that the program has been suspended.

Board Report

Mr. Albert said the crowds were quite small at the recent round of fare hearings and that the Bronx speakers were the angriest.  He said that very few public officials and no city-wide officials came out to testify.  Mr. Albert said organized labor was out in force.  He said there was across the board opposition to placing a cap on the number of rides that can be taken with seven and thirty day MetroCards.

Mr. Albert also noted that the turnstiles and bus fareboxes have begun to reach the end of their useful life and that it is critical for the MTA to move toward full implementation of a smart card fare collection system.

Ms. Mason said that Michael Grynbaum, the NY Times transit reporter, called her but only wanted to talk about the small turnout at the Manhattan hearing.  She told Mr. Grynbaum that people had given up and that they believed the fare increase to be a done deal, so they question why they should bother to come out and testify.  She said Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer called and said that he agreed with the Council’s position of opposing the fare increases.  She said there is talk amongst the elected officials about revisiting the concept of congestion pricing.

Ms. Mason said there is lots of anger that has been expressed against MTA Chairman Jay Walder.

Mr. Albert said it was unfortunate that LIRR President Helena Williams went to the Suffolk hearing but did not send a senior LIRR management person to the Queens hearing, because many speakers there were addressing LIRR issues.

Michael Sinansky said there should have been a representative from the LIRR at the Queens hearing especially since Ira Greenberg was on the dias and Owen Costello, a member of the LIRRCC, testified.  Mr. Sinansky also noted that the MTA was scolded for not more aggressively pursuing use of outstanding federal stimulus money for operating needs.

In response to Debra Grief’s question about increases for reduced fare card holders, Mr. Albert explained that the discount relative to full fare provided to reduced fare riders would be maintained, but that the changes in the pay per ride bonus and the percentage increase in the cost of time based MetroCards would also impact reduced fare riders.

Mr. Albert said the Board members felt the decisions about the fare increase have already been made and that he finds this very disheartening.

New Business

Christopher Greif asked why the B82 Limited rush hour and midday service is scheduled the way that it is.  Mr. Albert said staff will find out about this service.

Tom Jost noted that NYC Transit is testing LED countdown clocks on the 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 Lines.  He suggested that if they put clocks in at 34th Street, they should put them in the downstairs mezzanine as well.

Karyl Berger suggested that when members are riding the subway, they should take note of the new General Order service diversion notices as they are in a new format.  She asked that members call her with any impressions they have of the new signs.

Old Business

Ms. Mason noted there seems to be an epidemic of malfunctioning bus fare boxes.  She asked that staff ask NYC Transit about how big a problem this and how much revenue is being lost because so many fare boxes are broken.   Mr. Jost suggested that staff should ask for this information on a depot by depot basis.

Burt Strauss noted that he is a frequent bus user and has not noticed a significant increase in the number of broken fare boxes.  Mr. Albert said he would ask Joe Smith for the fare box information.

Christopher Greif reported that there are many malfunctioning fareboxes on buses that come out of the Ulmer Park depot.

Introduction of Lisa Schreibman, NYC Transit – Department of Subways to discuss the installation of security cameras in the subway system.

A copy of Ms. Schreibman’s presentation is on file in the PCAC office.

Ms. Schreibman noted that cameras have been installed sporadically in the subway system over the years.  She said that in 2004, NYC Transit President Reuter asked for a camera strategy.  She said not all closed circuit TV systems can do the same things.  She said that cameras used to prevent someone from being dragged by a train are very different than the ones used to monitor crime and access points.    Some cameras are installed for the purposes of heightening service delivery, safety, security and information.

In response to Tom Jost’s question whether any of the cameras serve more than one purpose, Ms. Schreibman said that some cameras serve a dual purpose, as cameras installed for lawsuit verification can also be useful for security.  She also noted that help point intercoms may have cameras that can be used for the purposes of enhancing safety, as operators will be able to call up images from any camera in the system.

Ms. Schreibman reported that installation of cameras at the end of platforms and in yards is now underway, although none are yet functional.  She noted that not every application is being installed at every station.

Ms. Schreibman noted that in 2005 the costs of camera installation were estimated only on an order of magnitude basis because of the possibility of unanticipated issues in the actual installation.  In 2007 the chain of custody policy for images collected by the cameras was finalized.

Some types of cameras are deployed broadly across the system.  Sometimes cameras have been installed to deal with location-specific problems, but NYC Transit is trying to get away from this kind of strategy.  The location-specific approach raises questions of why one station was chosen and not another.

Ms. Schreibman said that the cameras are not watched in real time, as there are thousands of cameras to watch.  No system of comparable size is monitored totally in real time.  She said that some cameras are monitored during specific periods of time, and some images are watched because of a specific incident.

In response to Mr. Albert’s question as to whether the Omega Booth cameras will be watched in real time, Ms. Schreibman said that this decision is up to the New York Police Department.

Ms. Schreibman said that London had put cameras everywhere in their underground system, but it would be overwhelmingly costly to put cameras throughout the subway system.  She said that NYC Transit instead came up with the Passenger Identification (PID) system, which is intended to capture facial shots of everyone who enters a fare gate or a turnstile.  She noted that the NYPD finds this to have a great impact on day to day crime.

Ms. Schreibman said funding for this system comes from the federal Department of Homeland Security, the MTA, and elected officials.  She said that 137 stations have already been funded, 102 have been put into beneficial use, 10 are in testing, and 25 are in construction.

Ms. Schreibman said that the IESS, or Integrated Electronic Security System, stemmed from an identified need to prevent intruders from entering tunnels.  The system mitigated this danger, but did not provide a total solution.

Between May and June of 2009, the IESS contractor was declared to be in default.  There had been lots of physical installation done to this point but none of the cameras were functional.    Ms. Schreibman said that in April 2010 an agreement was reached with the NYPD to share data from the cameras in real time.  She explained that the NYPD views this arrangement as a pilot program and that this agreement covers Grand Central Terminal, the 8th Avenue/42nd Street station, and the two subway stations at 34th Street/Penn Station.  Instead of using new recording equipment, the system will be tied to NYPD network.  She said that the video will be overwritten every 30 days.  She said the next phase will provide for a feed of the video to go to NYCT.

In response to Mr. Albert’s question whether there are cameras all over the Times Square station, Ms. Schreibman said that with the PID function all of the station is covered.  She said that there is one camera for every two standard turnstiles and one camera per high entry-exit turnstile.  Each camera records of an image of each person entering the turnstile from their head to their knees.

Ms. Schreibman indicated that MTA continues to roll out the system in stations where there is specific funding and at stations where the NYPD specifically asks for the cameras.  She said there are two independent decision making processes that determine the location of the cameras.

In response to Ms. Berger’s question about how the cameras are maintained and who is responsible to maintain them, Ms. Schreibman indicated that they can get information from the camera system about operational problems.  She said they have set up a preventative maintenance cycle and there is also an on-call maintenance system.  She said that the SNMP (simple network management protocol) track in the system will also alert maintenance personnel to problems.  She noted this will not reduce costs but it will increase reliability.  The NYPD will compare video that is being sent to them to what the location being monitored is supposed to look like.  She said that daily alerts are sent to MTA and NYCT.  She said there are set response times when a defect is detected, but not a set repair time.

In response to Mr. Jost’s question as to what is the plan for cameras on the Staten Island Railway, Ms. Schreibman said that this is a separate system and it will be linked to St. George ferry terminal camera system.

In response to Mr. Strauss’ question as to what is the entire cost of this program, Ms. Schreibman said that cost is the reason the program has not been rolled out everywhere.    She said that one maintainer is required for every 137 cameras and that there are 560 cameras involved in the pilot program with the NYPD.  This number of cameras alone would require four additional maintainers.

Ms. Schreibman said that NYC Transit is now using Internet Protocol based cameras, which have lower maintenance costs.  She said cable and installation costs to equip a medium sized station were three to five hundred thousand dollars, but now the costs are a little lower.

In response to Mr. Sinansky’s question about any impact on the program from concerns raised by the American Civil Liberties Union, Ms. Schreibman said they have not been heard from on this issue.

In response to Mr. Strauss’ question as to whether cameras will be put on buses, Ms. Schreibman said she is not involved with buses but indicated that an earlier pilot on the buses failed, and the company that produced the equipment went out of business.   She said that failures are sometimes due to one component in the camera and do not indicate that the system is completely defective.

In response to Ms. Greif’s question as to how NYC Transit prevents the cameras from being covered up or their data from being hacked, Ms. Schreibman said there is nothing they can do to prevent cameras from being covered up.  She said cameras are not on an independent network but feed to the NYPD system.  She said that someone who wanted to access the data feed from the camera would have to hack the NYPD system.  She noted that the cameras indicate if there is a malfunction in the camera.


The meeting was adjourned at 2:10 p.m.

Respectfully submitted,

Karyl Berger
Research Associate