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Meeting Minutes Feb 19, 2009

A meeting of the Metro-North Railroad Commuter Council (MNRCC) was convened at 4:30 p.m. on February 19, 2009 in the 5th floor Board room, MTA Headquarters, 347 Madison Avenue, New York City.

The following members were present:

James F. Blair (via phone)
Francis T. Corcoran (via phone)
David Buchwald
Gerard Kopera
Douglas McKean
The following members were absent:

Richard Cataggio
Rhonda Herman
In addition, the following persons were present:

Jan Wells – PCAC Associate Director
Karyl Berger – PCAC Research Associate
Sharon Carlquist – Metro-North
Donna Evans – Metro-North
Barry Adler – Concerned citizen
Approval of Agenda and Minutes
The agenda for the February 19, 2009 meeting was approved as amended. The minutes of the January 15, 2009 meeting were approved as amended.

Chair’s Report
Gerard Kopera presided at the meeting.

Please mark your calendars for the March 5 PCAC meeting. Barry Kluger, the MTA Inspector General will be the guest speaker. Please make every effort to attend this meeting.

Also please mark your calendars for our annual Presidents Forum. It will be held here in the MTA Board Room on Wednesday, March 11 from 5 to 7pm. This will be our first Forum with Howard Permut as Metro-North President. Please make every effort to attend as we would like a good showing of members for Howard and as always this is an excellent way to hear what is on the minds of the riders whom we represent.

The MNRCC was represented at fare hearings in both Westchester and Rockland Counties. On the snowy evening of January 28, Doug McKean testified for the Council at the hearing at the Westchester County Center. He noted that there are many people in attendance for whom the Council could be an information source and outlet for comments on Metro-North issues. Gerard Kopera testified for us at the Palisades Center on February 2. He arrived between 7:30 and 8:00 when there were few persons in attendance, but Mark Mannix told him that the earlier speakers had mainly addressed the payroll tax proposed by the Ravitch Commission and off-peak cutbacks in West of Hudson service. Thanks to both of you for representing the Council.

Also on February 2, Bill Henderson appeared on Bronx Talk, a public affairs program carried on Bronx cable systems. He discussed the MTA’s financial position and the Ravitch Commission proposals with Robert Sinclair of the American Automobile Association. Bill noted the growth of Metro-North ridership in the Bronx and the need for adequate funding to support this expanding market, as well as the new Yankee Stadium service.

On Friday, February 13th, Associate Director Jan Wells and Transportation Planner Ellyn Shannon attended a program in New Rochelle discussing the Ravitch Commission’s proposal for a Regional Bus Authority. Larry Salley, Director of the Westchester Department of Transportation, who oversees the county’s Bee-Line Bus service, indicated that while Westchester would be willing to be part of a Regional Bus consortium, it would not consent to become part of the MTA. Ed Watt, labor representative on the MTA Board, while not directly opposing a regional bus entity, qualified his response by saying if it was a well-thought out, broad-based plan, the unions would be willing to discuss it.

Also mentioned in the panel discussion was the proposed BRT Tappan Zee Bridge connection to Westchester County and the impact it will have on the county, particularly Tarrytown. In the second half of the program, Walter Hook of the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy presented a visual look at the various bus rapid transit systems (BRT) around the world. He was followed by Naomi Klein of the Westchester DOT, who spoke about the Central Avenue BRT Assessment study for a BRT route from White Plains to the Bronx.

In the final segment Assemblymember George Latimer and the mayors of New Rochelle, Tarrytown, and Peekskill spoke on how bus service affects their towns and how it can be marketed to potential riders. The event was sponsored by Tri-State Transportation Campaign and the Regional Plan Association.

Introduction of Sharon Carlquist, MNR Conductor
Donna Evans, MNR Chief of Staff, introduced Sharon Carlquist, a conductor who works on the New Haven branch. Ms. Carlquist began her 31-year career as a server on Amtrak’s café car. She then went to Conrail and eventually Metro-North where she has held a variety of jobs. She has been a conductor on the New Haven line for the past five years. She is currently a conductor (this is the senior position on the train; she is actually over the engineer)

She described her typical day: She is up at 3:45 AM and signs in at work on a computer at 5:23 AM. There are 8 cars on her train and she has to go to the yard and check heat, doors, lights, etc. With the engineer (they work as a unit all the time) they perform a brake test, etc., and then back the train into the station. The train leaves at 5:59 AM.

Her train expresses to GCT after Stamford. Then it goes from GCT back to CP2 control (between Harrison and Rye) and returns to GCT (a “zipper”). She gets in around 10AM and then she does paperwork until around 11AM. She is free to do what she wants (nap, read, etc.) until her train leaves GCT at 2:30 PM. She gets back into New Haven at 4:18 PM and by the time they “yard” the train it is almost 6 PM.

In addition to her regular conductor duties she mentors assistant conductors and makes up “cheat sheets” (helpful hints on the train equipment, etc.) for them.

Ms. Carlquist responded to a number of questions:

How life has changed since the hand held machines were introduced? She said that some conductors feared it – thought it would be dangerous to their health.
Is it easier with the hand held machines? She said yes, “but it makes us look like plumbers around the middle!”
What does she do when someone says they don’t have money? She said she takes what they have and sends them a bill for the rest. She noted that they are now plugging the “holes” with local riders and if she sees a repeat fare beater she alerts the crew.
What’s the typical crew staffing? She said that the engineer and conductor are now a unit and that this is much better than it used to be.
Has the level of ticket buying on the train gone down? She said yes it has — from about 45 riders per car to 10 riders per car — because of web tickets and TVMs.
How many women conductors are there? She said 170 out of 800.
Ms. Carlquist said that the problem with MNR is that when they find a really good employee the company uses them too much. She noted that the locker room in GCT is in the bowels of GCT. Donna Evans, MNR Chief of Staff, noted that a new locker room is in the next capital plan.

How does she handle passengers who are disturbing (cell phone, etc.), has she has been adequately trained and do other passengers speak up about a problem? She said that since 9/11, passengers have been much more vocal about everything – packages, cell phone use, etc. She said she has periodically been sent to customer service class (“charm school”). She gave an example of when she kicked a very rude passenger off the train and the other passengers stood up for her.
How are train personnel prepared for operational problems? Ms. Carlquist said that she makes announcements when there is a delay (although she may not know the reason). She sometimes reads announcements regarding courtesy or other routine topics.
What would you do if a toilet was blocked up? She said she turns in defect items everyday. She would lock the bathroom and report it to the NY operations manager (Track 25) or turn it over to fleet management or tell someone in the New Haven station. She said that they don’t have the same equipment everyday.
She recounted an experience when a passenger died on the train. She noted that she can do CPR but in this case she called on her radio “emergency, emergency, emergency” which clears the entire system so she can talk. If it happens en route, they call ahead for help at the next station.

She stated that her pet peeve is employees who don’t wear a tie and hat and passengers who put their feet on the seat. She also noted that there are spotters on the train to see if she is doing her job.

Old Business
Jan Wells mentioned that the website is being updated and there will be a link to a draft that will be sent shortly. Also, she said that the 2008 Assessment report is about finished and a draft will be sent out on Friday. Doug McKean mentioned that the LED train information signage at 125th station is outstanding and removes the uncertainty of which train is at the station. David Buchwald asked about updating minutes on the website. Jan said that is now being done. Jan also reminded folks about the President’s Forum on March 11 and the PCAC meeting on March 5th.

Jim Blair thanked Doug McKean for testifying at White Plains fare hearings. Doug said that it was well attended.

David Buchwald asked for an updated version of the goals. He also asked who we send a letter to commend a conductor or other MNR employee. Jan said that we will find out.

The meeting was adjourned at 6:20 p.m.

Respectfully submitted,

Karyl Berger

Research Associate