NEW YORK CITY TRANSIT RIDERS COUNCIL
MINUTES OF SEPTEMBER 22, 2016
A meeting of the New York City Transit Riders Council (NYCTRC) was convened at 12 noon on September 22, 2016 in the 20th Floor Conference Room 4 at 2 Broadway, New York, New York.
The following members were present:
William K. Guild
Scott R. Nicholls
Sharon King Hoge
Burton M. Strauss, Jr.
The following members were on phone:
The following members were absent:
Trudy L. Mason
In addition, the following persons were present:
William Henderson -Executive Director
Ellyn Shannon -Associate Director
Angela Bellisio -Planning Manager
Bradley Brashears -Transportation Planner
Karyl Berger -Research Associate
Deborah Hall-Moore -NYCT
Randolph Glucksman -MNRCC
Naarah Williams -Concerned citizen
Ken Stewart -Concerned citizen
Approval of Agenda and Minutes
The agenda for the September 22, 2016 meeting was approved. The minutes of the July 28, 2016 meeting were approved.
The written Chair’s Report is attached to these minutes.
Since there was no August MTA Board meeting no report was presented.
Chris Greif stated that the NYC Department of Transportation had believed that the New Lots Avenue station was going to be closed for construction. He questioned the quality of communication between NYC Transit and the Brooklyn Borough staff at NYCDOT.
Mr. Greif also asked whether there is a starting date for the B46 Select Bus Service (SBS). Andrew Albert said that the Board has not yet been given a starting date and that he hopes to hear a lot about service at the next Board meeting. Ken Stewart said that he hopes that NYC Transit can improve SBS fare collection, as the fare machines are difficult to use for many persons.
Mr. Stewart also noted that he has had bad experiences with performers at the Columbus Circle A train station. Performers at the station often block platforms or play so loudly it is difficult to hear announcements or approaching trains. He asked a percussionist to stop playing when announcements are being made and when a train is coming in, but the performer pushed him away.
The Council discussed the NYC Transit Rules of Conduct. It was noted that performers can use station and platform areas, with limited exceptions, for music or other expression. The U.S. Constitution makes limits on artistic expression difficult to impose. It was also noted that some limits in the rules of conduct are not enforced by police and may not be realistic. Stuart Goldstein suggested that the Council talk to the MTA General Counsel to ask what to do about performers.
Mr. Albert said that he would like to draft a letter to State elected officials to ask for their help.
Randolph Glucksman said that the Port Authority has proposed to build a new bus terminal in Manhattan and that this was discussed at the New Jersey Association of Rail Passengers meeting on the past Saturday. He noted that participants in the meeting talked about extending the 7 subway line to Secaucus and the attitudes of Community Board chairs toward the Port Authority’s proposal. He said that the concepts for the new bus terminal have been released and are available on the internet. William Henderson stated that he saw a report that a group of elected officials had reached agreement with the Port Authority to conduct further study and that the bus terminal concepts were not final, but they might inform the further work on the project.
Naarah Williams asked the prospects of including electric buses in the New York City Transit fleet. Mr. Henderson commented that there was a test of electric buses several years ago, but he did not know the exact results of the test.
Deborah Hall-Moore pointed out that two of the new NYC Transit buses will be here for next month’s meeting. She suggested that NYCTRC may want to have a guest to speak about new buses. Mr. Henderson said that a presentation on buses would be an excellent idea.
Mr. Albert said that he will be asking NYC Transit about subway cars with inoperable air conditioning units and whether these cars are immediately removed from service, or rotated off as trains return to the yard. Mr. Greif noted that an N train consisting of R160 cars had to be discharged at Barclays Center because it had two cars with no air conditioning.
Mr. Greif stated that there are still problems with Brooklyn express buses. They are not arriving on time, or not having seats available. The buses in question include the X28 and X38 as well as the BM1, BM2, BM3, BM4. He said these problems exist even when there is no traffic or incidents.
Edith Prentiss stated that she had two issues related to elevators. At Fulton Center, there are buttons for four stops on elevator 418, but there is no indication of where the each exit is located posted inside the cab. She also said that she had received complaints that the Dyckman Street station elevator is out. The particular problem with elevator outages at this station is that riders cannot see the elevator from the unpaid area of the station, and so must pay a fare without knowing if they can get to the platform. She said that she has had problems getting into the elevator outage hotline and has asked NYC Transit to provide indications of the elevator’s unavailability in the unpaid area of the station when it is out of service.
Ms. Prentiss also said that she seems to have fallen off of the elevator alert email list and cannot get back on. She said that riders who could not use a station because of an elevator outage used to be able to get a paper slip that would be accepted for alternative transportation, but that now the only solution in these cases is to get two-trip MetroCard, which most Booth Agents will not issue. Mr. Greif said that he recently had to be removed from a malfunctioning elevator.
Introduction of Glenn Lunden, Senior Director—Subway Schedules, MTA New York City Transit Division of Operations Planning, to discuss the process of developing subway schedules.
Mr. Lunden said that he would not make a PowerPoint presentation, but instead will be giving a talk similar to a class he teaches for graduate-level university students in transportation.
Mr. Lunden said that he heads up the subway schedules unit within NYC Transit’s Division of Operations Planning. There are 39 people within his unit who prepare schedules for subways and Staten Island Railway. He said that the schedules are last step in the planning process, and they are a way of taking plans and making them actionable.
When developing schedules, Mr. Lunden continued, the demand side is the important factor. He said that he tells his staff that NYC Transit is here to respond to demand and that their task is to balance demand with supply available from the system through the application of MTA Board-adopted loading guidelines.
Mr. Lunden noted that schedules include when trains leave their origin point, when they reach their terminal, and when they pass specified intermediate points. The larger part of developing schedules, however, is putting together crew work programs. In this step, it is necessary to assign available crews to specific trips or tasks within the scope of labor agreements governing work assignments. Schedule makers must take into consideration the need for meal breaks, comfort breaks, and good operational procedures. Once the assignments are developed, individual crew members pick the assignments that they prefer to work twice a year. Crew members also may pick assignments that provide relief for absences, vacations and the like, rather than particular train runs.
Because of the linkage between schedules and work programs, the semi-annual pick is the point where major service changes are incorporated. In addition to the schedules developed for normal service, NYC Transit also develops supplement schedules to account for construction, diversions, weather, and special events. There are some special situations as well. For Mets games, NYC Transit provides additional 7 line service to Citi Field, but there is not a formal schedule for this accommodation. NYC Transit also provides return service, which is not scheduled because there is no advance knowledge of when games will end. There is a similar situation with Yankee games, although additional service is not provided to the games because of the volume of service normally available on weekday evenings.
Mr. Lunden said that NYC Transit produces some 4,700 schedules per year and that 85 to 90 percent of that number are supplement schedules. Currently, his staff is preparing supplement schedules necessary for signal work to proceed on the Queens Boulevard lines.
Mr. Goldstein asked how much lead time is necessary for supplement schedules. Mr. Lunden replied that his staff tries to produce them in a six week timeframe. He said that there is a weekly meeting to coordinate work on the system where the objective is to agree on a package of work leading up to projects to be undertaken six weeks out. The actual preparation of the supplement schedules requires several weeks.
Mr. Goldstein asked about the impact of a weather emergency on these plans.
Mr. Lunden responded that if there are supplements planned, they will be reviewed to determine which supplements and service plans will work with the upcoming weather.
Mr. Lunden distributed copies of the guidelines that govern subway service. Mr. Lunden stated that he has been with NYC Transit for thirty years and in 1986 when he started there were no guidelines. The first guidelines were approved by the MTA Board in February 1988, and they have been revised several times since, including in conjunction with the 2010 service cuts. The main issues that the guidelines are intended to address are frequency, loading and feasibility of operation.
Mr. Lunden discussed the content of the guidelines. Policy headways are ten minutes in the daytime and ten minutes in the evening, but twenty minutes in late night hours. Generally late night schedules are the same for every night of the week, but in some cases there are differences based on special needs, as on the L train where there is different ridership on some nights. The policy headways establish minimum frequencies for subway service.
The loading guidelines change according to the time of day, with more crowding acceptable during rush hours. At rush hour the guidelines provide for a fully seated load and three square feet per standing passenger. This space gives passengers the ability to stand without touching others and to more through the cars. Providing less space has negative consequences, since without circulation space dwell time in stations increases significantly as passenger struggle to enter and leave cars. Consequently, NYC Transit does not schedule trains for a crush load, which is defined as a fully seated load with 1.5 square feet per standing passenger.
Mr. Albert stated that he has seen record crowds in subways in the past year and asked why loading guidelines have not been revisited. Mr. Lunden replied that NYC Transit is making a lot of additions to service based on the current loading guidelines. He said that there have been additions to service on all picks since he began leading the scheduling effort, and these additions have resulted from the application of the current guidelines.
There are separate loading guidelines for off peak hours. Mr. Lunden said that in June 2010, the off-peak guidelines changed from a fully seated load to 125 percent of a seated load. He noted that the calculation of seated load is an average observed at a line’s peak load point.
Mr. Goldstein asked if there are changes to ridership patterns at places that are not being measured. Mr. Lunden said that they cannot measure everywhere, but ridership is measured at many places. One problem is that sometimes transfers create different loading patterns throughout a train. For example, the Lawrence-Jay station has high loading on the north end of the R train, but not so much loading in other cars. While some cars are crowded, on average the guidelines are met. Mr. Goldstein asked how frequently transfer points are evaluated and asked Mr. Lunden to have his team examine the transfer between the N and J lines at Canal Street and recalibrate its assumptions for riders at the station.
Mr. Lunden said that the 125 percent seated load guideline is in large part based on NYC Transit’s need for track access.
Ken Stewart said that he has heard that the Columbus Circle station is the highest entry point in the system. Mr. Lunden responded that the largest number of riders enter the system at Grand Central Station or Times Square. He said that the Columbus Circle station could possibly have the most riders per turnstile.
Mr. Lunden said that NYC Transit recognizes that it cannot always meet the 125 percent seated load guideline on weekends and that it sometimes is in fact not met. This situation is necessary so work can get completed and peak period demand can be accommodated. He noted that there is also a balance between what those operating the system want to be able to do and what they actually can do. Every time trains meet in the system, schedule makers we have to schedule the trains coming on to the same track so there is a two minute spacing between trains at a minimum, except for two places where spacing can be reduced to one and one half minutes. Mr. Lunden also said that there are studies demonstrating that, if all local and express trains were kept on their own single tracks, capacity would be increased. However, the connections between lines, which require multiple services using the same track, is what the riders want.
Mr. Lunden stated that NYC Transit is seeing growth in the shoulder periods near rush hours and that platform controllers help to manage high demand at some stations, but ultimately the question of accommodating growth comes down to modernizing signals. Ms. Prentiss said that the 96th Street 1, 2 and 3 station has been particularly crowded. Mr. Lunden responded that there is major switch work that is requiring that some 3 line trains be sent to 137th Street on local tracks, and that this is a temporary source of crowding.
Mr. Greif said that it seems that the C train moves faster than the A train almost every night and that there are no announcements made about the delays. Mr. Lunden commented that there are a couple of issues that could be responsible for this. While announcements cannot be made in some stations, at Penn Station NYC Transit should make announcements.
Ellyn Shannon asked why southbound 2 and 3 trains slow after Houston Street. Mr. Lunden said that a combination of three factors often cause NYC Transit to set signals to slow trains, including a downgrade, where speeds are reduced before the slope to prevent overspeed conditions, a curve in the track, or an interlocking, or set of switches, like that north of the Chambers Street station, where trains are slowed to allow them to move successfully through the geometry of the interlocking.
Burt Strauss asked whether, aside from adhering to policy headways, NYC Transit is increasing the frequency of trains in the off-peak hours. Mr. Lunden said that NYC Transit is running a lot of off peak service, with four minute off peak headways on the L train as an example. At the same time it is necessary to make provisions to do track work. During weekday midday periods they need to work on outdoor track, so underground work gets completed in the evenings and overnight hours. In either case, service has to be reduced to allow work to occur.
Mr. Lunden noted that he said that picks are done twice a year and that this is when major changes happen, but he said that the impacts of major construction projects are also reflected in the picks. In the upcoming pick there is major added weekend service on the 2 line and some added evening 7 line service.
The changes that will be made in spring 2017 are based on data from 2015 and 2016. The process of adding service typically starts ten months prior to the need for the service. In the case of the Second Avenue Subway, the need for new service was presented to the MTA Board seven months ahead of its scheduled start and a public hearing was held 5 ½ months before the start of service. Then NYC Transit returned to the Board with its service plan. The lead times are long because it takes so long to pick crew assignments. Crews select their jobs day by day depending on seniority. There is a six week process for the A Division, and the B Division takes 10 weeks to complete a pick.
The Second Avenue Subway team had to project ridership to allow schedules to be developed, but this is difficult when the line is not open. The projected ridership numbers were developed through modeling, which is generally accurate, but the result is still a projection.
Mr. Lunden said that the service plan for Second Avenue Subway requires 10 trains per hour in the peak, but the demand cannot be satisfied solely with one service. The present N/Q Astoria terminal can handle 15 trains per hour and the 60th Street tunnel handles 25 trains per hour. Currently, NYC Transit sends ten trains per hour each on the R, N, and Q lines from Brooklyn, so some trains are short turned before they reach the tunnel. When the W train replaces the Q train to Astoria, the terminal in Astoria will still only be able to handle fifteen trains per hour. The solution will be to rebrand some N trains as Q trains and run them over the Sea Beach line through to the Second Avenue Subway.
Mr. Albert asked whether there will be less W service provided to Astoria than is now available on the Q line. Mr. Lunden said that there will be fewer W trains than Q trains going to Astoria, but that the total number of trains to Astoria will be the same because more N trains will go to Astoria. He said that the full Second Avenue Subway operation is in the pick taking effect November 6, but because the new track will not open until later, NYC Transit will initially operate with a supplement schedule that sends Q trains to 57th Street.
Mr. Greif asked when and where the W service will begin. Mr. Lunden said that he did not know.
The meeting was adjourned at 2:10 p.m.