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Meeting Minutes Feb 17, 2011

A meeting of the Metro-North Railroad Commuter Council (MNRCC) was convened at 4:30 p.m. on February 17, 2011 in the 5th floor Board room, MTA Headquarters, 347 Madison Avenue, New York City.  The following members were present:

• James F. Blair
• Richard Cataggio
• David Buchwald
• Randy Glucksman
• Neal Zuckerman

The following members were absent:

• Francis T. Corcoran
• Rhonda Herman

In addition, the following persons were present:

• William Henderson  -Executive Director
• Jan Wells   -PCAC Associate Director
• Ellyn Shannon  -Transportation Planner

Approval of Agenda and Minutes

The agenda for the February 17, 2011 meeting was approved.  The minutes of the January 20, 2011 meeting were approved.

Chair’s Report

David Buchwald presided at the meeting.  The Chair’s Report is attached to these minutes.

The Council discussed the “Meet the Commuter Council” session referenced in the Chair’s report Mr. Buchwald asked when would be a good time for this meeting.  A suggestion was made to hold it before the MNRCC President’s Forum.  In this way it could be used as a lead-to the Forum and generate interest for it.

Bill Henderson proposed that the “Meet the Commuter Council” event could happen in May or June, and then the President’s Forum could follow within the next month.

Jim Blair said that the “Meet the Commuter Council” event could be an opportunity to gather questions for the President’s Forum.  The Council discussed whether representatives at the event should be identified by County.

Board Report

Jim Blair gave the Board report.  A copy of the written report that was distributed is attached to these minutes.

He noted that MTA stands to lose $100 million in the Governor’s proposed new budget out of MMTOA funding.  He reviewed the on-time performance data that was included in the written report.  Mr. Blair also discussed specific issues from the month’s Board meeting. He noted that January on-time performance on the New Haven line had sunk below 90 percent, but that even with the problems on the line, ridership was only down .2 percent and commutation ridership was up.  He said that the average New Haven Line car had been repaired four times since January 1.

Mr. Blair said that the MTA budget is very tight and made worse by the potential State funding cut of $100 million.  He said that the real estate related taxes that the MTA receives were up and that this was in part due to Google’s purchase of a building on 8th Avenue.

Mr. Blair said that there was Capital Program Oversight Committee meeting at which the Capital Program Management group gave a presentation.  He said that the focus was ways in which they are looking at ways to do more with less.  Mr. Blair commented that the presentation had the flavor of a consultants’ recommendation, and that the MTA has engaged McKinsey and Company to look for savings in procurement.  Under the terms of the contract, McKinsey will get 9 percent of what they save.

Neal Zuckerman asked what determines whether a trip is counted as commutation.   Mr. Henderson said that this is a function of the type of ticket and time and that monthly and weekly tickets and peak 10 trip tickets would be considered commutation tickets.

Rich Cataggio said that there is a meeting March 9 at Woodbury on Transit Oriented Development (TOD).   He asked whether anyone knew anything about plans for a TOD at Harriman.  The Council members indicated that they did not.  Mr. Cataggio asked what is the most successful TOD.  Jan Wells responded that there are many successful TODs in New Jersey.  Mr. Cataggio asked how the development at Beacon would be regarded.  Ms. Wells responded that the Beacon development hasn’t happened yet and that the Town officials were slow to change zoning to allow the development.  She said that Yonkers is a good example of a town with a strong TOD.

Mr. Blair said that he attended meeting with MNR TOD staff.  He said that Randy Fleischer of Metro-North said that he and a consultant to the Town of Hastings were working to get the Mayor or Board to do something in area of TOD.

Old Business

Randy Glucksman said that he had Bill Henderson about some surplus coaches that NJ Transit has that would be usable on the New Haven Line.  Mr. Henderson said that he had spoken to Bob Lieblong of Metro-North about them, but the Railroad did not have the locomotives available to make use of them

Mr. Buchwald asked what the Council should do about the situation on the New Haven Line.  Mr. Glucksman said that Kawasaki has always built quality cars and wondered what had happened to delay the M8 cars so greatly.  Mr. Blair said that there have been serious engineering issues that have delayed the M8s.  Mr. Glucksman asked whether there are penalties for delay in the delivery of the M8s.  Mr. Henderson said that liquidated damages would be assessed if delays were found to be Kawasaki’s fault.  Mr. Zuckerman said that there seemed to be a muted reaction to the New Haven Line problems among riders.

Ellyn Shannon said that the Council needs a New Haven Line rider as a member.  Mr. Buchwald said that he saw Deputy Westchester County Executive Kevin Plunkett this weekend and restated the Council’s desire to have New Haven Line rider on the Council.  Ms. Wells said Karyl Cafiero will be contacting local officials to try to get members.  Mr. Blair noted that Mr. Buchwald could recommend someone for Council Membership by virtue of his elected office.

New Business

Ms. Wells asked the Council who they would like to have as a speaker.  Mr. Zuckerman asked if the “Meet the Commuter Council” event could be a substitute for the May meeting and said that he would like to hear about how Metro-North finds out what commuters want.  Mr. Henderson suggested that the Council invite Jeff Olwell, who does market research for Metro-North.  Ms. Wells asked what members think about the Quiet Car concept.  Mr. Glucksman said that he is for it and noted that the Council should remind the Railroad to have adequate security available for St. Patrick’s Day

It was agreed that staff would invite Jeff Olwell or another individual in the area of customer outreach or marketing to the April meeting.


The meeting was adjourned at 6:00 p.m.

Respectfully submitted,

Deborah Morrison
Administrative Assistant

Metro-North Railroad Commuter Council
Chair’s Report – February 17, 2011

If you’ll remember, at our last meeting Metro-North Senior Vice President for Operations Bob Lieblong visited us in the midst of preparations for the next snowstorm to hit Metro-North territory.  Fortunately, the January 21 snow was generally light and did not impact service on that day.  A week later, however, the January 28 storm delivered a final blow to Metro-North’s equipment.  The damage that winter weather had done to the system, particularly in terms of disabling the M2 multiple unit electric cars that run on the New Haven line, was severe.

For much of the past month, between one third and one half of the M2 fleet has been in the shop for repairs.  Despite extensive use of diesel equipment and a 24/7 schedule of repair work, the Railroad has been unable to meet the equipment requirements to run a full schedule on the New Haven Line.  In the week after the January 28 storm Metro-North struggled to run New Haven Line service with a severely depleted fleet, it was clear that under the circumstances normal service was not possible.

As a result, starting February 5 and continuing through March 4 on the New Haven line Metro-North is operating a special reduced winter schedule on weekdays and a Sunday schedule on Saturdays.  The reduced winter schedule provides about 10 percent less service in the morning and afternoon peak periods, while leaving off-peak service at the levels previously in effect.  A copy of a message to New Haven line commuters from Howard Permut is included in your packet today.

The good news, however, is that the number of New Haven line cars that are out of service is quickly dropping.  At the peak, there were about 150 cars in need of repair, and even last week the number of cars in the shop was averaging around 140, but as of this Monday, this number had declined to 109.  This is still a large number, but weather permitting, progress is being made.

The real solution to the New Haven line’s winter weather problems is, of course, the new M8 equipment that has been ordered.  Unfortunately, the M8s continue to be delayed and have not yet completed the required 4,000 mile testing that would allow production of cars to move forward.  While Metro-North remains hopeful that the testing can be successfully completed and the process can move forward, they are also declining to provide an expected date for testing to be completed.

On February 2, PCAC released our report, Minutes Matter: A review of performance metrics at the MTA.  The New York Post published a story on the release and Jan Wells appeared live on News 12’s Long Island Talks to discuss the report that evening.  You have been sent a copy of the report by email, and printed copies of the report are available upon request.  We have a copy of the LI Talks program on disk, which we can also make available to any members who are interested.

On February 8, I attended the public information meeting for proposed access and parking improvements at the North White Plains station.  In my capacity as a member of the City of White Plains Common Council and Chairman of the City’s Traffic Commission, I spoke at the event to discuss the impact of the project on the surrounding community in terms of traffic, including pedestrian and bicycle access, as well as the operation of the Railroad.  I noted that these impacts would depend on the usage of the station and that in discussing these issues it will be crucial to have information about additional or larger trains at the station that could be facilitated by the station improvements and questioned whether the environmental review had sufficient information about service to fully understand the impact of the improvements.

Staff is working with Neal Zuckerman to hold a series of four meetings in Putnam County to hear riders’ concerns and is exploring with Metro-North our idea to devote one MNRCC meeting to a “meet your Commuter Council” event in Grand Central Terminal.

Please mark your calendars for the March 3 PCAC meeting.  MTA Chief Financial Officer Robert Foran will discuss the state of the MTA’s finances with the members.  Mr. Foran has made a number of pointed remarks about the precarious state of the MTA’s 2011 budget, and that was before the Governor’s proposed 2011-2012 budget proposed a $100 million cut in funding for the MTA.  We can discuss any issues that we may want to raise with Mr. Foran under New Business.