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Meeting Minutes Apr 10, 2008

A meeting of the Metro-North Railroad Commuter Council (MNRCC) was convened at 4:30 pm on April 10, 2008 in the 5th floor Board room, MTA Headquarters, 347 Madison Avenue, New York City.

The following members were present:

James F. Blair
Gerard Kopera
Richard Cataggio
Norman Werner
The following members were absent:

Frances T. Corcoran
Thomas Jennings
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
Jeff Watson – MNR
Aruna Reddy – MNR
Joshua Crandall – Clever Commute
Nicholas J. Magiltor – New Haven Branch
Elaine Blair – Concerned citizen
Michael Rothman – Concerned citizen
Approval of Agenda and Minutes
The agenda for the April 10, 2008 meeting and the minutes of the February 21, 2008 meeting were approved.

Chair’s Report
The Chair’s Report is attached to these minutes.

Bill Henderson announced that a screening committee of three persons made up of LIRR President Helena Williams, MTA Chief Operating Officer Susan Kupferman, and MTA Chief of Staff Myrna Ramon, will interview the candidates for Metro-North Railroad President and will make a recommendation concerning finalists to Chairman Hemmerdinger and Executive Director Sander.

Mr. Henderson asked the members to talk to him directly if any of them would like to participate in the bicycle study group that Metro-North is convening.

Board Report
Jim Blair said that the Metro-North Committee reviewed the preliminary criteria for selection of a new President. Blair said the candidate must have a strong focus on customer service.

Mr. Blair said the operations report continues to be strong and the Railroad’s finances are in good shape. He said that the full consist compliance numbers are up, although they still lag on the New Haven line. Mr. Blair reported that ridership was over 80 million for 2007.

Mr. Blair said that only one-half of the funding has been identified for the $29.5 billion proposed 2008-2013 Capital Program and noted that without the expected funds from the congestion pricing plan, the Program is back to the 2005-2009 timeframe.

He also reported that the sale of the West Side Yards for just over $1 billion was approved by the MTA Board. He said that MNR celebrated its 25th anniversary at their annual meeting and a wonderful presentation about the history of the railroad was shown. He noted that President Cannito formally announced his retirement at the meeting and laid out the game plan for the future of the railroad. Mr. Cannito emphasized that customer service is going to play a critical part of that future.

Mr. Blair said the MNR Committee will be asked to vote on an increase for the commissary prices, which will also be done at the LIRR Committee. He said the prices will go up 25 percent because they have not been raised in many years and the resolution to increase commissary prices will include an authorization to adjust prices in the future according to the Consumer Price Index on an annual basis. He said that the commissary operation is a profit center.

Mr. Blair said he and a handful of other MTA Board Members had breakfast with MTA Chairman Dale Hemmerdinger. He indicated that Mr. Hemmerdinger said that the defeat of congestion pricing may not be as bad as had been expected. The funding question is a big concern, but now the legislature can’t say that the MTA is being funded through congestion pricing and step away. They must step up and find a funding source for the MTA.

New Business
The members discussed how they would like to honor Peter Cannito at his farewell party. Bill Henderson said staff would put together some ideas that the members could discuss at the May meeting.

Gerard Kopera reported that currently there is temporary platform at the Scarborough station because they are dismantling the old platform. He noted that most people prefer to alight from the back end of the train onto the platform and since the temporary platform has been installed, the first four cars have consistently been platfomed so that riders have had to walk forward. Mr. Kopera said he spoke to the conductor on the train he takes in the evening, and the conductor indicated that he is the one who decides which cars actually platform. Jeff Watson, MNR Manager – Customer Services said he would look into the matter and respond to Mr. Henderson.

Mr. Kopera briefed the members on his role as the rider representative to the Arts for Transit selection committee for art installations at the new Metro-North Yankee Stadium station. He indicated that the process was very well managed and that he enjoyed the experience.

Introduction of Josh Crandall, Director – Clever Commute
A copy of Mr. Crandall’s presentation is on file in the PCAC office.

Mr. Henderson introduced Mr. Crandall and said he had already spoken to the LIRRCC about his service. Mr. Crandall said that he started Clever Commute two years ago through a handshake deal with New Jersey Transit to cover the Montclair-Boonton line. Since then, the service has expanded rapidly. He explained that Clever Commute is not a gripe forum or a social networking site, but is solely focused upon providing information about what is happening on the system.

The Clever Commute came out of Mr. Crandall’s experiences as a commuter, he explained. He said that he covers not only New Jersey Transit and the Long Island Rail Road, but he also has an active community of Metro-North riders. He stated that the model has proven to be totally portable and has been expanded to Chicago and Boston.

He said that the nice thing about the service is that its members report only what they know. Mr. Crandall said the content that goes out to other members is the content that is sent in by community members. He said that it is a self policing system and that not everyone who is a member of the community posts information. While the number of community members has tripled in one case, the volume of posts has not increased appreciably.

Mr. Crandall said that the model he is following is that the service will always be free to the user, but that he is currently paying the cost of providing the service. In time, he will look for sponsors to underwrite the cost of the service.

The meeting was adjourned at 6:00 pm.

Respectfully Submitted,

Karyl Berger

Research Associate

Chair’s Report
On Wednesday, March 26, the Council hosted its annual President’s forum. Outgoing President, Peter A. Cannito and members of his senior staff were in attendance to answer questions from about thirty people. Prior to the question and answer period, they showed a video about the new M8 cars.

The top issue addressed at the President’s Fourm was Metro-North’s bicycle policy and the accommodations for bicycles on the new M8 cars. It appeared that there was a coordinated effort by the cycling community to attend the Forum. Mr. Cannito offered to discuss bicycle policy with representatives of the cycling community, and, although the design work on the M8 is largely completed, to look at modifications that could be made to improve the Railroad’s ability to carry bicycles on board. Metro-North is now undertaking a comprehensive review of its policies and facilities for bicycle accommodation and is reaching out to the cycling community to involve their representatives in this review.

Along with bicycle questions, there were several schedule issues raised, and two riders noted their desire for a quiet car. A rider stated his security concerns on late trains. The restriction against inbound New Haven Line passengers at Fordham was questioned, and although this issue is in the hands of the State of Connecticut, Mr. Cannito said that there were preliminary studies underway to see if a platform could be added at Fordham to allow inbound Harlem line express trains to stop, thus increasing the number of available trains.

Bill Henderson spoke to Mary Russell at the Westchester County Executive’s office the other day about new members for the Council. She said that the County Executive has sent a second recommendation for a new member to the Governor. We’re continuing to talk with the local elected officials’ offices about the importance of sending nominees for the MNRCC to Albany and are hopeful that we will see some new members soon.

In response to an inquiry Karyl Berger made about the elevators at the Fordham station, Jeff Watson, MNR Manager – Customer Services, indicated that Fordham has one custodian who works from 6 AM to 3 PM seven days a week. He reported that the elevators are cleaned and deodorized daily and cleaned more often as needed.

Mr. Watson said there is a CCTV system at the Station that is monitored by the MTAPD, but there are no cameras inside the elevators. Mr. Watson acknowledged that there have always been cleanliness issues with the elevators at Fordham as it is a very heavily used station. It might be a good idea to send a letter to MNR and MTA police to suggest that since the technology is already installed at the station, it might make sense to install cameras in the elevators. We can discuss this under New Business.

Tomorrow, Tom Schulze, Director of New Jersey Transit’s Access to the Region’s Core project, will be here to meet with any members who would like to discuss the current plans for the project. The meeting will be held tomorrow at 10:00 in the 8th Floor Conference Room.