METRO-NORTH RAILROAD COMMUTER COUNCIL
MINUTES OF FEBRUARY 19, 2015
A meeting of the Metro-North Railroad Commuter Council (MNRCC) was convened at 4:30 pm on February 19 in the 10th Floor Conference Room at Metro North Graybar Building, 402 Lexington Avenue, New York City.
The following members were present:
Approval of Agenda and Minutes
The agenda for the February 19, 2015 meeting was approved and the minutes of the October 14, 2014 meeting were approved.
The written Chair’s Report is attached to these minutes.
Randy Glucksman said that the Chair’s report had been distributed to members and that he would not read the entire report. He asked for questions on the report and received none.
A Board report had been distributed to the members prior to the meeting. The report was not presented at the meeting.
The Council discussed the issue of safety on the Railroad. The members reviewed the safety initiatives that had been undertaken by Metro-North and reviewed point by point a letter from Metro-North Railroad president Joseph Giulietti outlining the steps that the Railroad had taken to ensure the safety of passengers on Metro-North trains.
The members then discussed the fatal collision at Valhalla and reviewed the circumstances of the accident. It was noted that many of the drivers coming through the crossing were diverted because of an accident on the Taconic Parkway and may have not been familiar with the crossing. The Council discussed the design of crossing gates and how the gates are designed to allow a motorist who is between the gates when they close to break or swing open the gate to allow exit from the tracks. Ellyn Shannon noted that the response to the New York Times article on the accident included a number of steps that are taken in other areas to reduce the risk from at grade crossings.
It was suggested that the PCAC staff could prepare a short white paper that could identify the major policy, regulatory, and engineering actions that may be taken to make grade crossings safer. Ms. Amparo asked whether there is a difference in the speed of trains at crossings in other countries. Ms. Shannon responded that many other countries have trains that operate at higher speeds. Bill Henderson said that the speed of the trains is not reduced in other countries, but there are a number of initiatives to keep vehicles off the tracks that are undertaken elsewhere. He said that the long distances needed to stop trains even at lower speeds makes ensuring motorist compliance with crossing rules the most effective method of increasing safety.
Richard Schulman noted that there are more stringent standards for crossings that are implemented where communities wish to reduce the use of train horns. He also noted that the New York Times had published a list of the most dangerous grade crossings in the nation and that many of these crossings are on Long Island. Mr. Henderson said that upgraded crossings can be very expensive.
Mr. Glucksman said that the issues that had been raised by the Valhalla accident includes the design of the cars, especially in light of the impending purchase of new cars by the MTA’s commuter railroads. Mr. Henderson noted that the Federal Railroad Administration has created standards for the design of cars and the strength of their components. It was noted that there was a variety of experience in the Valhalla accident with the use of emergency exit windows in the cars. Mr. Henderson said that this is an issue for LIRRCC members and that staff has been trying to arrange an outing to the LIRR’s Hillside Maintenance Facility to see how safety features on the train cars function.
Mr. Glucksman noted that staff will be engaging in a new effort to recruit members for the MNRCC and that Bradley Brashears will coordinate this work.
Mr. Glucksman proposed that the MNRCC adopt a resolution calling for local jurisdictions to post signs telling motorists not to proceed onto the tracks in at-grade crossings unless there is room to clear the tracks. He asked the members whether they had any changes to a proposed resolution that he had circulated. A copy of the resolution is on file in the PCAC office. Richard Cattagio asked whether anyone had addressed this issue with New Jersey Transit for the West of Hudson lines. Mr. Glucksman said that this would be addressed through a group of New Jersey advocates who regularly meet with New Jersey Transit officials. All members present voted to approve the resolution.
Mr. Henderson said that a primary issue for the MTA and its agencies in the next year is funding the Capital Program. He said that the MTA can pay for capital investments with cash that it has on hand, but that it would be unable to undertake major commitments for capital investments. It was noted that this could handcuff the MTA after currently funded projects draw to an end.
Mr. Glucksman asked what the MNRCC could do to improve the situation and whether the Council can enlist Assembly Member and former Chair David Buchwald to help in this effort. Mr. Henderson said that the Capital Program has suffered from a lack of strong advocates, particularly on the Assembly side. He said that the MNRCC could help to motivate Assembly members to advocate for the program.
The meeting was adjourned at 5:45 pm.