METRO-NORTH RAILROAD COMMUTER COUNCIL
MINUTES OF FEBRUARY 20, 2014
A meeting of the Metro-North Railroad Commuter Council (MNRCC) was convened at 4:30 pm on February 20, 2014 in the 5th Floor Board Room at MTA Headquarters, 347 Madison Avenue, New York City.
The following members were present:
James F. Blair
The following members were absent:
In addition, the following persons were present:
William Henderson -PCAC Executive Director
Ellyn Shannon -Associate Director
Rich Schulman -Concerned citizen
Approval of Agenda and Minutes
The agenda for the February 20, 2014 meeting was approved and the minutes of the November 14, 2013 meeting were approved.
The written Chair’s Report is attached to these minutes.
Randy Glucksman stated that he has asked Jim Blair to arrange a meeting with Metro-North’s new President for himself and to include Neal Zuckerman because of the safety concerns that he has expressed.
Jim Blair commented on the presentation on Positive Train Control (PTC) made in the Capital Program Oversight Committee. He said that the purpose of this presentation was to explain PTC to the committee members. In the presentation it was noted that the implementation dates have been shortened, and Mr. Blair said that this is because of pressure exerted on Metro-North after the Spuyten Duyvil derailment. William Henderson noted that there are important changes that have to be made between Amtrak’s system, which will form the basis of the Metro-North PTC system, and a workable implementation of PTC for commuter rail operations.
Mr. Glucksman asked whether the MTA will be receiving money from outside sources for the implementation of PTC. Mr. Blair responded that outside funding was not discussed, but that Chairman Prendergast said in the meeting that funding is not an issue.
Mr. Blair commented that he said in his report that the Metro-North Committee would be given a briefing on the incidents that occurred on Metro-North in the past year, but that he has not heard anything from Metro-North and that the Railroad has seemingly gone totally silent.
Mr. Blair said that he had a conversation with Mark Mannix about how Metro-North is functioning with new leadership. Mr. Blair said from this conversation and other indications, the arrival of Joe Giulietti arrival is viewed positively throughout the organization.
Mr. Blair said Operation Deep Dive, conducted by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), is complete and the report on the investigation is due to the FRA Administrator next week. Congress will receive a report in March. Metro-North officials are going to Hartford next Thursday for meetings with the State of Connecticut. The Railroad is looking at all elements that are necessary to provide reliable service and there is a concern that its timetables are not reliable. He said that Metro-North management is hearing from riders and others not to promise what they cannot deliver.
Rhonda Herman noted that the Harlem line has been off schedule in recent days. The platform signage in stations often says that trains are “on time”, but the email alerts issued at the same time warn of 15 minute delays.
Mr. Blair said that Ray Burney has left Metro-North and taken a position at the MTA Business Services Center. He also noted that Greg Bradley is now working at MTA Headquarters. Former MTA General Counsel James Henly is now the General Counsel of Metro-North and former Metro-North General Counsel Seth Cummins is working on Positive Train Control. Mr. Blair said that Mark Mannix did not provide a clear answer about what motivated the changes.
Mr. Blair mentioned that the February Metro-North Committee agenda book is now available and that it shows performance issues similar to those in his written report. On-time performance for January was 89 percent for the system, which is back to 1994-1996 levels. He said that Metro-North has never gone down to these levels in recent years and that the new goal for OTP is 93 percent, similar to the LIRR. Mr. Blair said that the question that occurs to him is whether the performance numbers were actually as good as reported before. He said that it is hard to understand what has happened to Metro-North, when their new maintenance facilities and new fleet should be improving performance.
Ms. Shannon noted that vacancies and attrition of experienced employees are also problems. She said that they are weighing down the system.
The Council briefly discussed its mission statement and goals. Rhonda Herman said that she believes that the mission statement still works, and that the goals of the Council should include ensuring safety, integrity, and transparency. Mr. Blair suggested that these goals be highlighted separately. Mr. Glucksman said that the MTA Board Metro-North Committee Chair has given the Railroad a pass on too many things that should have been addressed.
Mr. Glucksman said that the MNRCC needs to be more involved with the MTA Board Metro-North Committee and Metro-North’s President and hold the Railroad’s feet to the fire. Mr. Glucksman said that the members are knowledgeable; for example he has forty years of operating experience and Neal Zuckerman has experience with safety. Ms. Shannon said that closer connections have worked well with the other Councils.
Mr. Blair suggested that the Council should have a representative from Metro-North at meetings. He also said that the MNRCC needs responsible persons from management to attend its meetings and discuss issues of importance. Mr. Glucksman said that the Council should ask Mr. Giulietti to be its guest at its April meeting.
William Henderson responded that he would schedule Mr. Giulietti in April and that the Council would hold its Meet the Council event in May. He said that for the remainder of the year, the Council with invite Metro-North management to discuss different topics.
Mr. Blair asked whether meetings can be shifted to noon. Mr. Glucksman said there should be a survey of the members about this.
Francena Amparo stated that she was working on a flyer to inform people about the MNRCC. She would like to meet with commuters prior to the meetings and bring their concerns to the meetings. Mr. Henderson said that there had been posters about the Council in stations and that there may be a need to print more posters.
Mr. Blair suggested that the Council may want to schedule speakers and post their appearance in the Mileposts. Rhonda Herman said that it seems like this is an opportunity to use social media. Mr. Blair said that he is very much in favor of having face to face contact with riders. He stated that there is a need to put people and their concerns in front of Metro-North management. Ms. Shannon commented that there is now openness at Metro-North toward being more involved in events such as these.
Mr. Glucksman pointed out that the National Transportation Safety Board had three preliminary recommendations to Metro-North which could be discussed. He said that he believes that there should be more reviews of crew fitness.
The Council discussed the concepts involved in implementing civil speed controls on Metro-North and the LIRR.
Mr. Blair pointed out that there is a $375,000 procurement pending to replace public address equipment that was installed in 1985. He said that there is a question how this work was delayed to the present. He also noted that in the revised budget, Metro-North is scheduled to put $12.6 million into real time train status monitors, but that they will be spreading installations out to 2020. He asked how a relatively minor expenditure can take so long and speculated that this project does not have the same priority as others because it is viewed as a customer amenity.
Mr. Blair also stated that there is a $10M reimbursement from Con Edison that has been negotiated to compensate for the power problems on the New Haven Line this summer and that it is not disproportionate to Metro-North’s costs to reimburse riders.
The meeting was adjourned at 5:45 pm.