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Meeting Minutes Aug 15, 2013


A meeting of the Metro-North Railroad Commuter Council (MNRCC) was convened at 4:30 p.m. on August 15, 2013, in the 5th floor Board room, MTA Headquarters, 347 Madison Avenue, New York City.  The following members were present:

James Blair

Richard Cataggio (via phone)

Randy Glucksman

The following members were absent:

Francis Corcoran

Rhonda Herman

Neal Zuckerman


In addition, the following persons were present:


William Henderson                          -PCAC Executive Director

Ellyn Shannon                                 -PCAC Senior Transportation Planner

Fred Barlow                                      -Concerned citizen

Barry Adler                                        -Concerned citizen


Approval of Agenda and Minutes

The agenda for the August 15, 2013 meeting was approved.  The minutes of the May 16, 2013 meeting were approved.

Chair’s Report

The Chair’s Report is attached to these minutes.

Board Report

A written copy of the Board report covering Metro-North’s recent operational performance is attached to these minutes.

Jim Blair gave the Board report.  He said that at the July MTA Board Metro-North Committee meeting much of the time was spent discussing the Spuyten Duyvil derailment and Metro-North’s efforts to remove the derailed CSX freight cars from the area and to repair the damage that the derailment caused .  He said that it took 8 to 10 days to get this section of track back on line and that the work of restoring the tracks to service was very challenging.  For example, one of the cars was so damaged that Metro-North had to install a new axle to return it to the rails and remove it from the area.  There has been a lot of speculation as to the causes of the derailment, but an investigation is under way and its findings are expected to be released in the next month or two.

Mr. Blair noted that because of the recent derailments that it has suffered, Metro North has become more conservative regarding the condition of its track.  Speed restrictions were imposed after the May derailment in Connecticut, but, in addition to being more cautious about operating speeds, more inspections have been performed and more attention is being paid to keeping track in good repair.  This new attitude is being carried forward into the Bronx track program that is currently underway.  Mr. Blair said that the quantity of track to be repaired has been increased and consequently the completion date for the work has changed from Labor Day to Christmas.  He said that Metro-North is using ground penetrating radar technology to evaluate the need for trackbed repairs and is welding more joints between rails.

Mr. Blair also said that in its procurement agenda the Board authorized the rebuilding of its GP35 locomotives by Brookville Equipment Corporation.  While Brookville is the same company that supplied Metro-North with the problematic BL-20 locomotives, Mr. Blair noted that Metro-North President Howard Permut draws a distinction between Brookville’s performance as an original equipment manufacturer and their performance as a rebuilder of existing equipment, an area where they have a good reputation.  Randy Glucksman commented that nearly every day there is a failure of the BL-20 equipment and that it is not of acceptable quality.

Mr. Blair suggested that the budget presentation from the Board meeting be sent to the members of the council.   Bill Henderson said that he would make sure that it is distributed.

Mr. Blair said that the financial projections in the July Financial Plan have improved from previous versions, but that these projections remain fragile.  He said that because of the uncertainty surrounding Metro-North’s finances and questions about ridership growth that has not occurred as expected, it is hard to be too optimistic about the MTA budget.  Among the largest unknowns is whether the MTA and Metro-North will be successful in negotiating labor agreements that provide for a net zero increase in wage levels.  This would not mean that there will be no wage increases, but that any increases must be paid for with productivity improvements.

Old Business

Mr. Glucksman stated that at the Pelham Grand Influences event a rider had asked him about getting WiFi service on the trains.  Mr. Henderson responded that the last information that he had about this project is that the terms of the agreement are still being negotiated.

Mr. Glucksman commented about complaints that had been made about restroom odors in older equipment.  Mr. Henderson said that he had asked Metro-North about this but had not received a response.

Mr. Glucksman asked Mr. Blair if he had received a response regarding display of information in the TDI schedules for Metro-North.  Mr. Blair replied that he had not heard back from Sue Doering yet on this subject.

Mr. Glucksman asked about the status of prospective MNRCC members.  Mr. Henderson said that he had discussed three applicants with the Governor’s Appointment office and that they had nothing more than a recommendation letter for Francena Amparo and would get in touch with the Dutchess County Executive’s office to get Ms. Amparo’s contact information to move the process forward.  The Governor’s Appointment office confirmed that the screening process has begun for William Farrell and said that they do not have materials on Gary Prophet.  Mr. Henderson said that Jim Blair had told him that Assembly Member Sandy Galef was contacting the Appointments Office to make sure that Mr. Prophet’s recommendation was received and is on track.

Fred Barlow commented on his concerns with the pending appointment of Ms. Amparo.   He said that it is his understanding that MNRCC members are to be commuters working to improve Metro-North service with no other motives, but that Ms. Amparo is a County Legislator.  Mr. Barlow said that he has not met Ms. Amparo and he accepts that she is a commuter at face value, but he believes that appointing her to the MNRCC creates the appearance that her service on the MNRCC is in furtherance of her legislative career.  Thus he feels that appointing a County Legislator to the MNRCC is not appropriate.

Mr. Barlow also commented that on the diesel fleet, the 6100 and 6200 series coaches produce an odor when their toilets are flushed and that the odor is evident in the vestibules and down the tracks.

Mr. Blair responded to Mr. Barlow’s comments on appointments by stating that the Council has little control over the individuals who are appointed to the MNRCC.  He said that all it takes for a new member to be appointed to the Council is a recommendation from a local official and the concurrence of the Governor.

Mr. Barlow requested that the Council make a statement that the membership of the MNRCC should be apolitical.

Mr. Henderson said that the investigation of the Metro-North derailments is ongoing and the Railroad is very limited in what they can say publicly about them.  The National Transportation Safety Board will hold investigative hearings on the New Haven Line derailment and the May death of a New Haven Line track foreman in Washington, DC on October 22 and 23.

Mr. Henderson asked how forcefully the council wants to push for Metro-North service into Penn Station.  Mr. Glucksman stated that this should be discussed at PCAC Executive Committee meeting.

Mr. Glucksman asked Mr. Henderson if he could follow up on Metro North to Meadowlands for football games.  Mr. Henderson said he would do so.

Mr. Blair commented that the members of the MTA Board’s Metro-North Committee want to get a formal decision on Penn Station access for Metro-North, because the members of the committee feel that Penn Station access was an implied benefit of the East Side Access project.  The committee members feel that the LIRR has changed its operational plan to maintain its presence in Penn Station.

Mr. Glucksman wanted to know about succession planning at Metro-North.  Mr. Henderson said that this is a critical issue for Metro-North and he is working to have a guest from the Railroad come to the MNRCC meeting to discuss this topic.  Ellen Shannon said that the top tier of Metro-North has almost entirely turned over in two years and that she feels that the MNRCC needs to hear from MNR President Howard Permut.

Mr. Blair stated that as a bottom line issue, the succession problems that Metro-North is experiencing are a matter of money.  He said that the Railroad will be unable to hold people in the organization if they can’t give them any raises.  These individuals have accomplished the challenge of rebuilding Metro North, and it must be asked whether there are enough other reasons motivating them to stay at the Railroad.

Mr. Blair asked how the council should proceed on succession.  Ms. Shannon suggested a meeting with Howard Permut.

Mr. Henderson stated he will write to Mr. Permut and ask if he will meet with Mr. Glucksman, Mr. Blair and himself.

Mr. Glucksman suggested that winners of the Grand Influences raffles should be identified in Mileposts.

New Business

Mr. Henderson stated that he will send an email asking the members for their agreement in moving the October MNRCC meeting to September.  Mr. Blair suggested September 16, 17, or 18.  It was agreed that staff will try to arrange a meeting on September 17.

Mr. Barlow stated that it would have been good during the Spuyten Duyvil derailment for the Port Jervis Line to have cross honored Hudson Line tickets.  He noted that even when there are no derailments freight trains do considerable damage to the tracks.


The meeting was adjourned at 5:45 pm.

Respectfully Submitted,

William Henderson

Executive Director