Back to All

Meeting Minutes Feb 12, 2013





A meeting of the Metro-North Railroad Commuter Council (MNRCC) was convened at 4:30 pm on February 21, 2013 in the 5th Floor Board Room at MTA Headquarters, 347 Madison Avenue, New York City.


The following members were present:

James F. Blair

Randy Glucksman


Via Phone:                                        Francis T. Corcoran



The following members were absent:

Richard Cataggio

Rhonda Herman

Neal Zuckerman



In addition, the following persons were present:


William Henderson              -PCAC Executive Director

Susan Spraragen                -Concerned citizen


Approval of Agenda and Minutes


The agenda for the February 21, 2013 meeting was approved and the minutes of the January 17, 2013 meeting were approved as amended.


Chair’s Report


The written Chair’s Report is attached to these minutes.  Bill Henderson stated that he has invited Brian Sterman from Metro North to speak to the Council about Penn Station access for Metro-North.  Mr. Sterman requested that his appearance be delayed until some outstanding issues about the potential service can be worked out, which will likely be in the spring or early summer.   Mr. Henderson said that in addition to service from the Hudson and New Haven lines that terminates in Penn Station, he has heard that New Jersey Transit is interested in exploring through running trains that would serve both East of Hudson Metro-North and New Jersey customers.  This arrangement could be beneficial for both agencies and reduce the burden of new service on Penn Station.


Board Report


The written Board Report is attached to these minutes.  Jim Blair stated that there are no rumors that he has heard about the appointment of a new MTA Chairman.


Francis Corcoran said that the Council should be pushing from the rider’s perspective in the process of selecting a new MTA Chairman.   He stated that it would be great to get someone who has experience in turning around big organizations to lead the MTA.


Mr. Blair remarked that the MTA had something similar to this when it had Jay Walder as its Chairman and that in this role he made a number of tough decisions that were needed to cut costs.  He said that this process continued to a point that the MTA seems to be operating as a fairly lean organization.  Coming out of Mr. Walder’s tenure there have been many innovations at the MTA, such as shutting down the system prior to major storms and the implementation of FASTRACK maintenance operations in the subways.


Mr. Blair said that he does not believe that the MTA organization could take another shock of the magnitude that occurred in the Walder administration.  Joseph Lhota was an ideal follow up to Mr. Walder as Chairman, as he has the political skills necessary to capitalize on the changes that have been made.  He said that as the MTA moves forward, the organization needs someone who can lead it in a way similar to Mr. Lhota.


Mr. Blair asked what issues the members think need to be addressed.  Mr. Corcoran said that attention needs to be given to labor issues, and the fact that fares are becoming unaffordable for many riders is a major concern.  He said that he doesn’t know of many specific points that need to be addressed, but in any organization there is always more that can be done to make it more effective and efficient.


Mr. Corcoran said that his concern is that the cost of transportation on Metro-North is affecting its customer’s decisions whether to drive or use transit and that, from the standpoint of the Council, increasing fares are negatively impacting these decisions.  Mr. Henderson commented that he has seen similar questions being raised by Newsday in relation to LIRR fares and by riders in the Washington, DC area in relation to the cost of travel using the WMATA system.


Old Business


Mr. Henderson pointed out that the Council needs to decide whether Metro North will recommend one of its members to be the next PCAC Chair.  Mr. Blair proposed that Randy Glucksman be recommended as the next PCAC Chair.  Mr. Glucksman said that he would accept the Council’s endorsement to serve as PCAC chair.  Mr. Corcoran concurred with Mr. Blair and it was agreed that Mr. Glucksman would be presented as the MNRCC’s choice for PCAC Chair.


It was noted that Neal Zuckerman had raised an issue regarding the cleanliness of toilets on board trains.  Mr. Henderson stated that he would follow up on previous contacts with Metro-North about the issue.  He said that he had raised Mr. Zuckerman’s concerns in an email to Metro-North’s Director of Customer Service, but has not yet received a substantive response.



New Business


Mr. Blair introduced Susan Spraragen, a usability consultant.  Mr. Blair stated that he met her during his commute on the train and that she is interested professionally in many of the same kinds of issues that the Council deals with regularly.


Ms. Spraragen stated that she works in the realm of service design.  The focus of her work is to align the goals of providers and consumers of services so that resources are targeted efficiently.  Her field also includes identifying moments in the interaction between providers and consumers where interventions might make the service more suitable for the consumer to use.


She said that transparency is sometimes important in bringing goals into alignment align and that there are many methods of learning that go into determining what makes the goals match better.  Ms. Spraragen said that a key concept is identifying the pain points in the interaction, then deciding that you want to act on resolving the pain that is created and deciding what can be done about the problem.


Mr. Blair pointed out one of the things we have done at PCAC and LIRRCC is study the impact of lost time due to delays in the MTA system.   Mr. Henderson stated that PCAC staff had conducted some thought experiments that showed the scale of effects from seemingly minor delays and had developed findings that showed huge impacts on riders, businesses, and the economy as a whole.  He said that these findings emphasized the importance of minimizing disruptions in the system.


Mr. Blair asked what would be done regarding the 2012 PCAC annual report.  Mr. Henderson responded that it will be similar to last year’s report and designed to be viewed primarily as a PDF file.  This will allow for the printing of hard copies for distribution as needed, which would cover the front and back of a single page of paper.


Mr. Henderson briefly updated the members on the Council’s project to commemorate three local stations in conjunction with Grand Central Terminal’s centennial.  He said that PCAC staff is working with local officials, historians, and event organizers and that the process is moving along.  PCAC staff is also working with Metro-North, and the Railroad is pleased with the Council’s plans.





The meeting was adjourned at 5:45 pm.


Respectfully submitted,


William Henderson

Executive Director