METRO-NORTH RAILROAD COMMUTER COUNCIL
MINUTES OF JULY 16, 2015
A meeting of the Metro-North Railroad Commuter Council (MNRCC) was convened at 4:30 p.m. on July 16, 2015, in the 10th floor Conference Room, Metro North Offices-Graybar Building, 420 Lexington Avenue, New York City.
The following members were present:
The following members were present via Phone:
The following members were absent:
In addition, the following persons were present:
William Henderson -PCAC Executive Director
Approval of Agenda and Minutes
The agenda for the July 16, 2015 meeting was approved. The minutes of the May 21, 2015 meeting were approved.
William Henderson briefly reviewed Metro North’s performance indicators for May and June, which had been recently released. He said that performance had improved and overall on-time performance for June and mean distance between failures for May had exceeded their goals. He said that the Railroad generally seems to be performing well, except for the recent problems with the operation of bridges in Connecticut. These problems are generally the responsibility of the State of Connecticut, as they have failed to provide resources to refurbish or replace the problematic bridges.
Mr. Zuckerman said that it is Capital Program season and that much of the attention of MTA management and the Board is concentrated on achieving an approved Capital Program. He said that the Governor originally referred to the Capital Program as bloated, but not it seems that the size of the Program will be in the mid $20 billions. He said that he did not know whether the Second Avenue Subway or Penn Station Access for Metro-North will be funded in the final Capital Program, but East Side Access will certainly be funded. Mr. Zuckerman said that much of the discussion on the Capital Program is centering around how the MTA can obtain more funding from the City of New York, as over 70 percent of the value of the system is within the City.
Mr. Zuckerman noted that he had ridden the Port Jervis Line the day before on an inspection trip to investigate locations for a yard on the line. He also said that the MTA Board Safety Committee will meet on the following Wednesday and that he continues to be an advocate for the safe operation of the system. Mr. Zuckerman also said that MTA Chairman Tom Prendergast is committed to increasing the safety of the system.
Mr. Zuckerman said that he is looking to find the issues that presents risks of future accidents before they occur. He said that he wants to speak about this at Wednesday’s Safety Committee meeting, but that the use of the Confidential Close Call Reporting System should inform this discussion. Mr. Zuckerman noted that Anne Kirsch has moved from her former position as Chief Safety Officer for Metro-North to the MTA Safety office and there will be a new Chief Safety Officer at Metro-North.
At the July meetings MTA management also unveils its proposed budget for the next year, and Mr. Zuckerman said that this has been a very good year financially for the MTA and that there will be a larger than expected surplus this year. The surplus, however, will swing to a deficit by 2018 in the $200 to $300 million range due to labor costs that are projected to rise faster than revenues. The MTA will need something closer to a 4 percent annual fare increase, rather than 2 percent, to close this through fares alone. The threat to these moderate fare increases is a lack of alternative revenue streams from federal, State, and local sources.
Randolph Glucksman commented that he has spoken several times on the subject of New Jersey Transit’s proposal to eliminate Train 1601, which is the last train of the day serving Pascack Valley Line stations. He noted that he has made statements at the MTA Board Metro-North Committee meeting and at several New Jersey Transit meetings, including a Board meeting the day before. He said that he is also sending a statement to be presented at the MTA Board Metro-North Committee meeting on the following Monday, and that Mr. Henderson would present it on his behalf.
Mr. Glucksman briefly reviewed the problems that the elimination of Train 1601 poses for riders. He said that he had attempted to contact Rockland County MTA Board Member Carl Wortendyke but had not yet been successful. He said that as a result of speaking with Mark Mannix he felt that Metro-North would not financially support continuing the train as a Metro-North express. Therefore, Mr. Glucksman said he has come up with an alternative plan to preserve late night service to the Pascack Valley Line stations.
This plan involves running replacement bus service from the Secaucus transfer station, which could potentially serve the Montvale station if NJ Transit participated financially, before proceeding on to the New York stations. He said that this is a better proposal than that made by Metro-North to adjust schedules of the Tappan Zee Express to provide late night service to Spring Valley, which is not workable because the Tappan Zee Express runs nowhere near the other New York Pascack Valley Line stations.
Mr. Glucksman said that he has called on Metro-North to do what is fair, as Metro-North will be reducing its costs with the Train 1601 cancellation and as there is a large gap between the revenue that the MTA receives from Rockland County and the service provided to the County. Neal Zuckerman asked if he could be helpful at the MTA Board level in advancing this alternative. Mr. Glucksman said that he believes that Mr. Zuckerman’s intervention could be very helpful. He also stated that it is odd that NJ Transit is changing its timetable in mid-week on October 1 to eliminate Train 1601, rather than making the change at the beginning of the week as is normally done.
Mr. Glucksman said that he has spoken Rockland County about using its buses to provide the service and that he has also spoken to Braga Bus Company, which is a local firm that could provide the service. Mr. Henderson suggested that it would be useful for Neal Zuckerman to speak about the issue at the Metro-North Committee. Mr. Zuckerman agreed to do so and suggested that someone also reach out to MTA Orange County Board Member Susan Metzger. Mr. Glucksman said that he would do so.
Mr. Glucksman said that time is of the essence to provide replacement service, as Train 1601 will only run through the end of September. He said that he is open to the MTA operating the alternative service, but he believes that a contractor might be able to do it more efficiently. Mr. Henderson agreed that, even assuming that the MTA obtained the proper operating authority, it would make no sense for the Authority to directly operate service. Mr. Glucksman noted that many local officials have sent letters to NJ Transit, the MTA and Metro-North calling for a solution to the problem.
Mr. Henderson provided an update on Metro-North’s handling of the change in platforms used for boarding at New Hamburg. He said that he had been told by Metro-North that the shift in boarding location would be reversed the following Monday. Francena Amparo said that the tracks had been returned to regular operations on Monday and that the boarding locations were changed again by the next Thursday. She said that there is a need for at least a notification when boarding locations are changed, but that she is not told about this through the alert system. It was agreed that the Council would send a letter stating that changes in boarding locations should be included in the alert system.
Ms. Amparo also noted that she has heard that Google will be including warnings about railroad crossings in its maps system. The Council briefly discussed the benefits of having this system in place for motorists who use Google Maps as a navigational aid.
The meeting was adjourned at 5:20 p.m.