METRO-NORTH RAILROAD COMMUTER COUNCIL
MINUTES OF APRIL 16, 2015
A meeting of the Metro-North Railroad Commuter Council (MNRCC) was convened at 4:30 pm on April 16, 2015 in the 10th floor Conference Room, Metro-North Offices-Graybar Building, 420 Lexington Avenue, New York City.
The following members were present:
The following members were on the telephone:
Frances T. Corcoran
The following members were absent:
In addition, the following persons were present:
William Henderson -PCAC Executive Director
Karyl Cafiero -PCAC Research Associate
Richard Schulman -Concerned citizen
Approval of Agenda and Minutes
The agenda for the April 16, 2015 meeting was approved. Also approved were the Minutes of the February 19, 2015 meeting.
Neal Zuckerman said that one major issue at the MTA Board and committee meetings was affordable housing. The issue was raised in connection with the Harrison transit oriented development project to be built on station parking areas. The issue was also raised in connection with the MTA’s sale of air rights in Queens. Several Board members asked that the MTA have a policy of supporting affordable housing in connection with projects in which it is involved.
Mr. Zuckerman said that he had mixed feelings on the topic. On one hand, the MTA is a public agency and as such should serve public purposes to further housing affordability, but there is a legitimate argument that the MTA is charged with providing transportation and as a part of their mission they must recognize a duty to get the highest value when they dispose of their assets.
Randolph Glucksman agreed that addressing the problem of affordable housing is the right thing to do, as it is a major issue for the Railroad’s existing and future riders.
Rhonda Herman agreed with Mr. Glucksman. She stated that the State has a legitimate interest in furthering the affordability of housing and that the MTA should further the State’s policy of increasing affordability.
Francis Corcoran stated that if there is anything that can be done, especially in Westchester County where affordability is a major issue, it should be done.
Mr. Zuckerman asked the members if they have a view on the point where it becomes onerous for the rider to forego capital funds that can be used for the improvement of the system in exchange for affordable housing.
Mr. Corcoran replied that he did not know precisely the point where the trade-off would not be acceptable, but the proposals that have been made to increase affordability have generally been modest.
Karyl Cafiero asked what percentage of the units might be proposed to be affordable.
Mr. Zuckerman stated that the provisions for affordability are the subject of negotiations, but that he did not know what guidance to provide to the Real Estate Director Jeffrey Rosen as to the steps that would be acceptable. He stated that he believes MTA Chairman Tom Prendergast and his staff are working on a policy for affordable housing. He said that Mr. Corcoran had raised an interesting question of whether the MTA’s path should be to set policy at the MTA level or resolve to support local affordable housing goals as put in place by lead agency at municipal level. The members agreed that the MTA should support local affordable housing goals.
Mr. Zuckerman said that he had breakfast with MTA Chief Safety Officer David Mayer. He said that Dr. Mayer was with the National Transportation Safety Board for more than 20 years and that for the last few years he was the lead career official at the NTSB. In their meeting, Dr. Mayer talked about changing the culture of safety with constituencies including the general public, riders, employees and engineers and conductors. He stated that his perception is that communication with the general public and Metro-North riders is not good and that the MTA is not doing what is required to communicate effectively with these two groups.
Mr. Zuckerman said that Dr. Mayer had described his role as a coach for the individual heads of agency safety departments, who report to the Presidents of the operating agencies. Mr. Glucksman suggested that Dr. Mayer’s role should be more than a coach. He said that the MTA needs a leader in safety matters across all of its agencies.
The Council discussed grade crossing safety. Mr. Glucksman said that he is concerned with a lack of signage at railroad crossings at Spring Valley. He said that he had spoken with local officials and found that the grade crossing signage is a local responsibility and in this case is the responsibility of the County.
Bradley Brashears said that he is working on a research project on grade crossing safety, which is to be a review of best practices for improving safety. He is currently putting together resources to be used in the project and asked the members if there are any issues that they would like to have addressed in the project.
Mr. Glucksman stated that at Tri-Rail rail crossings, there are signs that tell drivers not to proceed beyond a painted line unless the track is clear and that similar markings might resolve confusion over where drivers can stop safely.
Mr. Zuckerman said that there are now a lot of eyes on the grade crossing issue, but that he wants to look proactively at the other issues that can rise up to bite the MTA.
Mr. Glucksman said there had been several local newspaper articles on a proposal to require that Metro-North make on-board safety announcements and that the rider sentiment expressed in the article had not been in favor of the proposed frequency of announcements. Mr. Glucksman asked whether the members would like to take a position on the proposal.
Ms. Herman said that she would like more safety announcements, but not every 20 minutes as has been proposed. The members agreed that, while additional safety announcements may be positive, the number of announcements proposed in the Legislature was more frequent than would be desired by riders.
Mr. Glucksman said that he would communicate with Assembly Member David Buchwald and ask him not to support the proposal as currently drafted.
No new business was discussed.
The meeting was adjourned at 5:40 pm.