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Meeting Minutes July 17, 2008

A meeting of the Metro-North Railroad Commuter Council (MNRCC) was convened at 4:30 p.m. on July 17, 2008, in the 5th floor Board Room, MTA headquarters, 347 Madison Avenue, New York City. The following members were present:

James Blair
Richard Cataggio
David Buchwald
Rhonda Herman
Norman Werner
The following members were absent:

Francis Corcoran
Thomas Jennings
Gerard Kopera
In addition, the following persons were present:

William Henderson – PCAC Executive Director
Ellyn Shannon – PCAC Transportation Planner
Karyl Berger – Research Associate
David Smith – MTA Metro-North
Rodney Chabot – CT Rail Community Council
Barry Adler – Concerned citizen
Douglas McKean – Concerned citizen
Jess Stevens – Concerned citizen
Ken Stewart – Concerned citizen
Approval of Agenda and Minutes
The agenda for the July 17, 2008 meeting was approved. The minutes of the May 15, 2008 meeting were approved.

Chair’s Report
The Chair’s Report is attached to these minutes.

Rhonda Herman, a newly appointed member who commutes from White Plains, said she has been commuting all her life. She indicated she has been at the U.S. Department of the Treasury for the last twenty-six years.

David Buchwald, who grew up in Larchmont, currently lives in two blocks from the White Plains train station. He is an attorney, holds a degree in public policy, and has worked on many planning issues.

Board Report
Jim Blair gave the Board Report and noted there were two additional presentations made at the Metro-North committee meeting: one about the status of the heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) systems on the trains and the other about the vendors in Grand Central Terminal. He said MNR has received about 120 complaints about air-conditioning and 50 about heating and that most of the complaints come from older car models.

Mr. Blair reported that the vendors in GCT had sales of $12.8 million in 2007. He said the sales projections for the next few years are flat or slightly down. Mr. Blair reported that on-time performance is down slightly but still at an exceptional level. He noted that ridership is up 4.6 percent He reported that earlier that afternoon he attended a briefing about the Capital Program amendment that will go before the MTA Board at its July meeting. He said that `$31.8 million in increases to the Metro-North Capital Program is being requested. He said there has been an increase in expenditures.

Mr. Blair said the percentage of trains with full consists is looking very good. He said the improvement is due to the success of the Critical Systems Replacement (CSR) program, which has greatly enhanced the performance of the M2 fleet.

New Business
The members discussed the members who have not been present at meetings over the last several months. They voted to send a letter to Tom Jennings to request that he formally write the Governor to tell him of his resignation from the Council. They also agreed that Mr. Cataggio send a letter to Francis Corcoran to ask what his intentions are about remaining on the Council. The letter to Mr. Corcoran should include a copy of the by-laws.

Jess Stevens, a commuter who lives in Beacon and commutes from Ludlow, spoke about his frustration with the train schedules. He noted that he attended the President’s Forum and had not gotten an answer about his issue. Staff indicated they would follow up with MacLagger about this issue.

The members briefly discussed ideas about what the Council should be working on. Bill Henderson said he would send out an email soliciting ideas from the members.

Old Business
Ken Stewart, a concerned citizen, noted that he continues to advocate for accessible signage that clearly denotes the track number at the front of each track at Grand Central Terminal. Mr. Stewart expressed concern about the vendors that have been placed at the portals leading to the tracks and said this is a real determent for people who are visually impaired. David Buchwald noted there are now even vendors located in the North End Access area.

The members briefly discussed meeting at times other than in the late afternoon. Mr. Blair said there seemed to be better attendance at meetings held at noon. Mr. Buchwald said he preferred later meeting times but said he could meet at
other times once in a while. Norman Werner and Rhonda Herman both said that later meeting times worked better for them.

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

Respectfully submitted,

Karyl Berger

Research Associate

Chair’s Report
We are so pleased to welcome two new members to our ranks, David Buchwald and Rhonda Herman who both commute from White Plains. Why don’t we take a moment and go around the room and introduce ourselves and then David and Rhonda can tell us a bit about themselves, tell us about their commuting concerns, and what motivated them to join the Council.

In June, Bill Henderson sent Howard Permut a letter of congratulations on being named the new President of Metro-North Railroad. He will succeed Peter A. Cannito who retired earlier this week. The letter praised him for his contributions to MNR over the past twenty-five years and acknowledged his vision for taking the Railroad into the future.

Last week Metro-North announced that it is equipping all conductors with hand held ticket machines. Those of you who were on the Council two years ago may remember that we saw a prototype of this technology during its development by Len DeSimone, who was then Metro-North’s Chief Information Officer, and his team. One of the major advantages of this technology is the time saved by automating ticket selling and record keeping for conductors, but these devices are more than just ticket machines. They will also be able to receive text messages with up to the minute information during service disruptions and include the Book of Rules that all conductors must carry. The software for these ticket machines was developed in house, and Metro-North is exploring licensing it to other transit agencies, so this system may turn out to be profitable as well as efficient.

Associate Director Jan Wells and Planner Ellyn Shannon attended an open house exhibit hosted by the Town of Harrison, New York, which is on the New Haven branch, and MTA/Metro-North Railroad. This venue provided an opportunity for attendees to review and comment on the conceptual plan for the Harrison Station downtown revitalization and transit-oriented development.

Metro-North will exchange approximately three acres of surface parking for 250 parking spaces in a new parking structure to be built. Besides a parking deck, the proposed plan includes streetscape improvements and commercial, retail and residential components.

On July 1st, I joined Congressman John Hall (D-NY19) at the Beacon station where he held a press conference to announce the passage by the House of the ‘Saving Energy Through Public Transportation Act’ (H.R. 6052). The bill gives grants to mass transit authorities to reduce public transit fares giving consumers a cost-effective alternative to $4 per gallon gasoline. The bill’s $1.7 billion in mass transit grants for the next two years could also be used to expand transit services, for the escalating operating costs of public transportation, and would be available to both rural and urban areas. This initiative still must be passed by the Senate.