NEW YORK CITY TRANSIT RIDERS COUNCIL
MINUTES OF SEPTEMBER 24, 2015
A meeting of the New York City Transit Riders Council (NYCTRC) was convened at 12 noon on September 24, 2015 in the 20th Floor Board Room MTA Headquarters, 2 Broadway, New York, New York.
The following members were present:
Andrew Albert Marisol Halpern
Stuart Goldstein Trudy L. Mason
Christopher Greif Edith Prentiss
William K. Guild Michael Sinansky
Burton M. Strauss, Jr.
The following members were absent:
Sharon King Hoge Scott R. Nicholls
In addition, the following persons were present:
William Henderson -Executive Director
Ellyn Shannon -Associate Director
Bradley Brashears -Transportation Planner
Karyl Berger -Research Associate
Deborah Morrison -Administrative Assistant
Deborah Hall-Moore -NYCT
Debra Greif -BFSSAC
Dustin Jones -Disabled In Action
Aliya Hussein -QCDD
Yvonne Morrow -Concerned citizen
Ken Stewart -Concerned citizen
Richard Schulman -Concerned citizen
Approval of Agenda and Minutes
The agenda for the September 24, 2015 meeting was approved. The minutes of the July 23, 2015 meeting were approved.
The written Chair’s Report is attached to these minutes.
Trudy Mason requested that the Council ask whether the Bike on Bus pilot is only to test its performance on Staten Island, or has a larger purpose to inform decisions on expanding the use of bike racks on all bus routes.
Ms. Mason asked whether that the Bus Time system could be consistent on its use of the number of stops or the distance in miles to the next bus. At this point the system uses miles except when a bus is within three stops of the location used. Mr. Albert said that the NYCTRC will make this comment to Department of Buses personnel.
Ms. Mason asked whether activating the “Next Bus Please” message on a bus removes that bus from the list of available vehicles on the Bus Time system. Mr. Albert responded that he has been told that when a bus changes to “Next Bus Please” signage it is no longer shown on the system as an available vehicle. Ms. Mason stated that there are a lot of buses shown on the Bus Time system that pass stops displaying “Next Bus Please.” She stated that she could take down the times and dates that this occurs, but would prefer that the Department of Buses address this problem.
Edith Prentiss said that the Council may need some explanation of the features of the Bus Time system. She stated that she was on the Bx7 when a dispatcher at 207th Street told the operator to run with a “Next Bus Please” sign to 192nd Street. Ms. Prentiss asked whether this change in status would be reflected in the BusTime system. Mr. Albert said that he will find out.
Mr. Albert noted that the bad blood between Mayor de Blasio and Governor Cuomo has spilled over into the last MTA Board meeting. He said that there were comments made at Monday’s Finance Committee about the City’s funding of the MTA Capital Program. There were also discussions of cuts to the Capital Program if more funding is not committed. Currently there is a $2.5 Billion gap between expenditures and identified funding and some are saying that this means that the next phase of the Second Avenue Subway will be delayed until the 2020 Capital Program. Some members of the Board said that the MTA should first cut projects that affect fewer people. Mr. Albert said that he has heard hopeful news that discussions are continuing, but the State and City must quickly work out the funding issues as this is the longest that the MTA has gone without an approved Capital Program.
Mr. Albert also noted that there are many commuter rail systems that have threatened to shut down at the end of the year if there is no extension of the Positive Train Control (PTC) mandate deadline, currently set for December 31, 2015. Burt Strauss asked whether this issue was being considered in Congress. Mr. Albert replied that it is being considered, but no action has yet been taken.
Chris Greif asked whether the shutdowns would affect the LIRR and MNR. Mr. Albert replied that they could have an impact. Richard Schulman commented that freight railroads may also shut down movement of hazardous cargo, such as oil trains, if the PTC deadline is not extended.
Mr. Greif stated that he has heard rumors that the two passengers injured during the G train derailment were intoxicated. He said that he is also concerned about the S53/93 bus bicycle racks. Mr. Greif said that people who have used the racks have complained about the drivers not having enough information about their operation. Mr. Albert responded that he will inquire about these issues. Ms. Prentiss said that some bike riders had suggested that an instruction sticker be added to the racks to instruct users about their operation.
Ms. Mason stated that she is making a formal demand that the NYCTRC have a meeting with Darryl Irick before the end of the year.
Deborah Hall-Moore commented that a request for meeting went to Mr. Irick and John Kivlehan will be representing Bus Operations at the meeting. She stated that she is working out the dates. Ms. Mason stated that she wants a meeting with Mr. Irick and that she will call him herself if one is not scheduled.
Stuart Goldstein suggested that if council members have concerns about various issues, they should forward them to staff so that they can pursue the concerns. He also noted that there have been failures of elevators and escalators in the new station 34th Street/Hudson Yards station and that these failures need to be monitored. Mike Sinansky asked whether the Council knows anything about the failures. It was noted that there were several reports of issues with the new equipment, but it is uncertain whether the issues are persisting.
Mr. Sinansky said that he would like to compliment the checking of fare payment on the M34 Select Bus Service. He described the process as very organized and noted that the bus operator told passengers to have their proof of payment out as they approached the stop where fare inspectors were waiting. Both Mr. Albert and Ms. Prentiss agreed that inspections for proof of fare payment had become a more smooth process.
Ken Stewart stated that he had submitted a copy of a draft of changes to the NYC Transit Rules of Conduct that regulate performers’ actions. He wanted to know if the Council can do anything else to push for these changes. Mr. Henderson responded that the NYPD Transit Bureau seems to be changing its approach to performers in the subway in that they are trying to get them out of the system by providing alternative places to perform. He said that there is a pilot program in place currently that applies to dancers. Mr. Greif stated that he has seen performers told that they could not use certain areas in the station, but that they could move to other parts of the station.
Ms. Prentiss commented that every day there are many buses that are not running well because of surface traffic. She said that the congestion at 110th Street is problematic for buses and there is congestion down 5th Avenue in the morning and up Madison Avenue in the evening. She said that because there are no elevators at many subway stations persons with disabilities are forced to use buses that have inferior service and that this has the effect of discrimination.
Mr. Albert stated that he should mention that the Board heard about changes to bus routing this month that were made because of City changes to street regulations. Ms. Mason said that when routes are changed the signage informing passengers of the change is often not good.
Mr. Greif stated that passengers do not obey regulations on buses and do not make way for wheelchairs or walkers to get to their spaces. People are also not obeying the white line marking the forward limit for people standing on the bus. Mr. Albert asked if this occurs on all buses that Mr. Greif uses. Mr. Greif responded that the behavior is only on some buses.
Mr. Greif asked whether the Council could work on a campaign to get riders to get their fares out and ready to pay at bus stops and subway turnstiles. Mr. Albert stated that this is not a bad idea for a car card and that he would mention it to Paul Fleuranges at NYC Transit.
Ms. Prentiss stated that she would like the Council to talk about putting a sticker reserving seats for seniors and riders with disabilities over the first forward facing seats. She said that the first single seats are where passengers with walkers should go. Also, in the new driver protection partitions, the partition sticks out into the area that some passengers need to use at the point that is designed to allow the operator’s elbow to stick out.
Ms. Prentiss noted that there is cell data service at Dyckman Street, but not at other stations above 96th Street. Mr. Albert stated that the Council would find out the schedule for the Transit Wireless buildout of stations.
Mr. Stewart suggested that it is important to have doors in stations that do not swing into the path of travel.
It was questioned how much usage bicycle racks on buses will receive. Ms. Hall-Moore stated that she knows that a lot of people have tried to board buses with bikes at the last Brooklyn stop.
Ms. Prentiss stated that 125th Street and Lexington Avenue station elevator rehabilitation projects are each taking 9 months, and that elevator projects at 59th Street and 50th Street are each taking 3 months. The last two are private elevators, but outside contractors are doing all of this work. She questioned why there is such a difference in the time required.
Mr. Albert responded that there will be a number of disruptions as the underwater tubes are rehabilitated and that Transit will try to take advantage of the disruptions to complete other projects.
Introduction of Guest – Ydanis Rodriguez
Council Member Rodriguez apologized for his lateness and said that he had an event connected to the Pope’s visit added to his schedule. He said that he had been a member of the Council’s Transportation Committee before becoming Chair. He said that he has two daughters and that this leads him to think of what legacy we want to leave to them. Mr. Rodriguez said that he credits the MTA Board for its work, but there is a lot more that we can do to improve transportation within the City.
Council Member Rodriguez said that often small changes have a big impact on the system. One example of improvements that have been useful is tunnel providing access to the subway at 190th Street. Previously it led people to a location where the street had no stop sign to allow pedestrians to cross and poor lighting near the exit. By working with the MTA and the NYC Department of Transportation (NYCDOT), he was able to get a stop sign installed to improve safety in the area.
The Council Member said that he was also able to get the MTA to make M101 bus route changes to better serve riders. He said that the MTA should identify transit deserts within its territory every five years and then work to resolve the lack of transportation in those areas. Part of the solution is using a variety of modes and the Council Member said that we have to connect water transportation to the larger transit system and take advantage of all modes including bicycles, walking and others that are not usually a part of transit planning.
Council Member Rodriguez said that improvements should also include new transit facilities, There should be included in next Capital Program a study of a new subway to connect the 207th Street station on the A train to the Metro-North Railroad at Fordham Road, as well as the 4 and B trains’ Fordham stations. He also said that the MTA should be more creative at raising revenue by using more technology and increasing advertising, as transit systems are doing in Europe. One way to increase revenue would be to take advantage of MTA-owned space for advertising.
Mr. Albert stated that one of the things that the Council has been working on is Freedom Ticket. Freedom Ticket would make use of commuter rail more affordable to City residents. He stated that this has been a very important issue to him and that many people with limited transportation choices could be served.
Council Member Rodriguez said that NYU will be hosting a transportation summit on October 5 and that the discussion there will be about many of the issues that are being discussed at this meeting. He said that it would be a good idea to schedule a meeting to strategize on how to bring about more economical use of commuter railroads.
Mr. Goldstein commented that the Council Member has mentioned the need to raise revenue without raising the fare. He wanted to know if Mr. Rodriguez or Council Speaker Mark-Viverito has taken a position on whether the City should contribute more than the Mayor has committed to the MTA Capital Program.
Mr. Rodriguez commented that New York City contributes 70 percent of the MTA budget and is a major source of the real estate related fees and taxes that are a significant part of MTA income. Yet there are only four City seats on the MTA Board. He said that Mayor de Blasio has made a legitimate case for greater control and suggested that there be a discussion over the City’s role in MTA governance. In addition, three of four of the Mayor’s recommendations to the MTA Board have not yet been confirmed and the suburban counties have not been asked to contribute to the Capital Program on the same basis as the City.
The Council Member said that MTA should receive more federal support for its budget as well.
Mr. Greif said that Mr. Rodriguez had not yet mentioned accessible stations and improvements in the system to meet Americans with Disabilities Act requirements. He said accessible transportation is threatened when money is tight. Mr. Rodriguez said that he has been champion of accessible transportation.
William Guild asked about plans for water transportation. Mr. Rodriguez stated that they are looking at past plans for water transportation. They include a plan to go up to Dyckman Street from Midtown by ferry, and there is $8 million allocated to build a ferry landing at Dyckman Street. This service will be for commuting, but also for tourism.
Ms. Prentiss stated that there are plans for elevators at the 168th, 181st and 191st Street 1 line stations and that there need to be some other methods of providing accessibility than elevators. She said that here were plans for elevators to the platforms in the Washington Heights 1 train stations when they were built, but the City did not follow through on the plans. The stairways that were built in their place have subsequently been used by the FDNY. Ms. Prentiss suggested that a ramp may work at Dyckman Street.
Mr. Rodriguez said one example where a ramp may be possible is at 168th Street to replace one stairwell. Ms. Prentiss responded that a ramp at this location may have some technical difficulties. Mr. Rodriguez stated that we have to be open to all possibilities. Where there is development, we should take advantage of this development to add accessibility.
Ellyn Shannon stated her concerns that the summit at NYU is being held in October but there is not yet a list of projects that the City wants for the MTA system.
Mr. Rodriguez stated that there are different roles that individual are playing in the process. He said that that the MTA came to City and asked for more funding and Mayor de Blasio agreed to this request. After this the MTA amended its request and the next phase of the discussion is underway.
The meeting was adjourned at 2:10 p.m.