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Meeting Minutes Apr 23, 2009

A meeting of the Metro-North Railroad Commuter Council (MNRCC) was convened at 4:30 pm on April 23, 2009 in the 3rd floor training room, MTA Headquarters, 347 Madison Avenue, New York City.

The following members were present:

James F. Blair (via phone)
Rhonda Herman
David Buchwald
Gerard Kopera
Richard Cataggio
Douglas McKean
The following members were absent:

Frances T. Corcoran
In addition, the following persons were present:

William Henderson – PCAC Executive Director
Jan Wells – PCAC Associate Director
Ellyn Shannon – PCAC Transportation Planner
Jim McCormack – Metro North
Bob MacLagger – Metro North
Dan O’Connell – Metro North
Barry Adler – Concerned citizen
Approval of Agenda and Minutes
The agenda for the April 23, 2009 meeting and the minutes of the February 19, 2009 meeting were approved as amended.

Chair’s Report
Associate Director Jan Wells attended a West of Hudson Regional Transit Access Study Roundtable Discussion that was held in Newburgh, NY on March 31, 2009. The lead in the study is Metro-North Railroad, but this effort is in conjunction with the Port Authority of NY and NJ, the owner of Stewart Airport. The project goals include improved commuter transit access and mobility between Orange County and New York City plus transit options for access to/from Stewart International Airport and surrounding regions. The analysis of options and outreach to the community is being done by AECOM. Approximately a dozen interested parties from the area attended the joint presentation by MNR and AECOM. The purpose of the roundtable was to answer questions and solicit suggestions for any alternatives that had been missed.

Earlier, on March 10, Bill Henderson and Ellyn Shannon received a briefing on the West of Hudson Regional Transit Access Study from MTA Planning, Metro-North, and Port Authority personnel. The briefing was useful in clarifying the ways in which plans for Stewart Airport and development plans in the area relate to the Access Study.

On April 7 the PCAC released its second annual Performance Review of the MTA and its agencies. You were emailed a copy of the report and the accompanying press release on April 9. We received some media coverage on the report and received a nice thank you note from Suffolk County MTA board member Mitch Pally. As was the case last year, Metro-North was rated very highly in the Review.

As you have seen in media reports and in the emails that staff and I have sent to members, there has been a lot of activity but no results in Albany on the subject of the MTA’s finances. Metro-North may not be facing the kind of immediate service cuts that NYC Transit will impose if the State does not enact new funding for the MTA, but no one can say that the Railroad will not be hurt if no agreement is reached. We can discuss issues related to funding under Old Business.

In your packets today is a synopsis of the comments and questions that were raised at the MNRCC President’s Forum, which was held on March 26. While we didn’t pack the room with riders, the comments and questions were generally thoughtful and constructive, and I consider the evening a success. Howard Permut was very pleased with the event and even mentioned it at the Metro-North Railroad MTA Board committee meeting. Jim Blair also made a public statement at the meeting to thank Howard and his staff for their participation in the event.

Board Report
A report about the March MTA/MNR committee meeting was sent to members under separate cover.

New Business
No new business was discussed at the meeting.

Nominations for MNRCC Officers
Gerard Kopera was nominated for MNRCC Chair and David Buchwald was nominated for Vice-Chair. Elections will be held during the May 21 meeting.

Introduction of Robert MacLagger, MNR Vice President – Planning
Mr. MacLagger thanked the Council for inviting him and introduced Jim McCormack who is responsible for special events and long term planning. He also introduced Daniel O’Connell who replaced him as Director of Operations Planning. Mr. Cataggio made a statement from the Council in recognition of Mr. O’Connell’s service with Metro North and his recent promotion.

Mr. MacLagger spoke about the new Yankee Stadium station that is located at 153rd Street. He also spoke about the new bicycle policy.

Mr. McCormack announced that on April 19, MNR introduced new West-of- Hudson timetables. He said these adjustments have been made to accommodate Amtrak’s concrete tie program and to provide for improved connections. He said some trains will arrive later than they did under the previous schedule. Mr. McCormack said the first Port Jervis train of the day leaves two minutes earlier than in the previous timetable. He said the last train of the day leaves 12 minutes later than it did in the previous timetable.

Mr. McCormack said that there also have been a few format changes in the printed timetables. He said that Metro-North is now using shading to indicate peak hour trains.

Mr. McCormack said the new schedules for East-of-Hudson service will go into effect on Sunday, May 3. He said these schedule changes are necessary for construction work on the Hudson line. He said these changes will be in effect through July 12, when the schedule will revert to the previous timetable. He said there are no schedule changes for the New Haven or Harlem lines.

In response to David Buchwald’s question about service changes on the Harlem line in April, Mr. McCormack said there were two very small changes. Mr. Buchwald asked why these timetables were issued for all lines instead of issuing new timetables only for the period through July 12 on lines where there are changes being made.

Mr. MacLagger said that people ask for new timetables on all lines when they hear of a service change, and so Metro-North reissues timetables even for those lines without changes. Mr. Buchwald said there was some concern among customers about whether they needed to grab a new schedule. He said that some customers went to some effort to obtain a new timetable when they didn’t need one. Mr. McCormack said that an item appeared in Mileposts discussing the schedule changes in greater detail, and regular customers were informed that the Harlem and New Haven schedules had not changed through this seat drop.

Ellyn Shannon said that Metro-North’s service advisories are terrific. Mr. MacLagger said the staff summaries are the starting point for the service change advisories. Mr. McCormack said the May 3 schedule will include the Yankee Stadium station stop, although the service will not commence until May 23. He said the station serves the stadium, residents of the surrounding area and park and ride customers.

Mr. MacLagger said that at a minimum Yankee Stadium shuttle service will run every fifteen minutes before and after games. Direct service is planned for nights and weekends after games. He said there will be an official dedication event held a couple of days before the actual opening of the Yankee Stadium station. Governor Patterson and Mayor Bloomberg will attend the event, and Mr. MacLagger will let the Council know about it once plans for the dedication have been firmed up.

In response to Gerard Kopera’s question whether the Arts for Transit piece at the station has been installed, Mr. MacLagger said that it will be in on June 1. He said that to facilitate trips to Yankee Stadium Metro-North will now be selling “via” fares, and that this would be the first time that the Railroad had sold a single ticket for a trip involving two lines on the East-of-Hudson system. The tickets for trips to Yankee Stadium will be sold starting May 1, which will allow ticket holders to buy fares in advance. Mr. MacLagger noted that any monthly ticket includes Yankee Stadium station access.

In response to David Buchwald’s question about the timing of post game trains, Mr. McCormack said the trains will be staged near the station prior to the end of the game. He said that many trains will be stored at Highbridge yard and that Track 6 in the station is a yard track so a train can be stored there as well. He said they will collect fares at gates prior to boarding and that there are fifteen gates available for fare collection. In the future the railroad may be able to move to the use of automated turnstiles, which will save costs in ticket collection. There are twelve Ticket Vending Machines located in what during game days will be the paid and unpaid areas of the station to allow passengers to purchase fares if they do not have a valid monthly or weekly ticket.

Mr. O’Connell spoke about changes to Metro-North’s bicycle policy. He said that the prohibition of bicycles is now on an exception basis, meaning that bicycles are permitted unless noted in the timetable. Bikes are allowed on reverse peak trains and during the shoulder of the peak, but peak hour trains in the primary direction of travel continue to be off limits to bicycles. Metro-North had tested a French hook that would allow cyclists to store bicycles on board during their trip, but the test of this equipment was a disaster. Mr. O’Connell said that Metro-North has issued a new Request for Expressions of Interest (RFEI) to develop a new on board bicycle storage system. This process will lead to a new pilot study, and the new solution won’t be fully implemented on the trains until 2011.

Danny O’Connell said that the trains where bicycle access has been expanded have about 50 percent capacity remaining, but he noted that when there are capacity issues Metro-North will restrict bicycle access to that train in the next timetable. Mr. McCormack said this makes for a more rational policy than a blanket prohibition of bicycles in peak hours. He said they were previously restricting bicycles on trains that were less crowded than those that were not restricted. He said there are still restrictions for bikes on holiday trains and noted that conductors always have discretion to restrict bicycles in situations, such as crowded conditions, when allowing bicycles would compromise in the safe operation of the train.

Mr. MacLagger said they will roll out information on the new bicycle policy during the first week in May in conjunction with Bike Month.

In response to Doug McKean’s question as to whether the 7:41 a.m. train out of Rye could be scheduled to stop at 125th Street, Mr. MacLagger said this is more problematic than one would think because it is a diesel train, but said that adding a 125th Street stop might be possible with the M8 cars. Mr. McKean said the 10:29 a.m. train recently blew past 125th Street, although it is scheduled to make this stop.

Barry Adler reported that the 8:55 and 9:55 trains from Grand Central Terminal to North White Plains arrive only one to two minutes before the trains that deadhead there. He asked whether the deadhead trains could be used to make these runs.

In response to Jim Blair’s question about the 2:25 pm New Haven express and whether schedules could be adjusted so that it would meet the Shoreline East train, Mr. MacLagger said he spoke to Connecticut DOT about this and will email Mr. Blair the response that he had received.

Mr. Blair asked if expanding direct service through to the New Haven line could be justified as time goes on. Mr. MacLagger said that sending trains through the wye to the New Haven line for games that end in peak hours has too great of an impact on regular operations to be considered. He said that they will look at possible improvements to the service plan for Yankee Stadium after they have seen how the service is operating. He said they may run through trains from New Haven to Yankee Stadium once the M8 cars are in service. He said the first step in establishing this service is to get the M8 cars into the fleet.

The meeting was adjourned at 6:00 pm.

Respectfully Submitted,

Karyl Berger

Research Associate