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Meeting Minutes July 21, 2011

A meeting of the Metro-North Railroad Commuter Council (MNRCC) was convened at 4:00 p.m. on July 21, 2011, in the 5th floor Board room, MTA headquarters, 347 Madison Avenue, New York City. The following members were present:

• James Blair
• Randy Glucksman
• David Buchwald
• Rhonda Herman
• Neil Zuckerman

The following members were absent:

• Richard Cataggio
• Francis Corcoran

In addition, the following persons were present:

• William Henderson -PCAC Executive Director
• Janice Wells -PCAC Associate Director
• Ellyn Shannon -Transportation Planner

Approval of Agenda and Minutes

The agenda for the July 21, 2011 meeting was approved. Mr. Buchwald said that Randy Glucksman asked that some items be added for discussion under New Business. The minutes of the February 17, 2011 meeting were approved.

Election of Officers

David Buchwald commented that the Council has great members with busy lives and so he was particularly thankful to Rhonda Herman for her willingness to serve as Vice Chair.

Mr. Buchwald said that he has spoken to Randy Glucksman and that Mr. Glucksman is willing to serve as the Chair’s representative to the Executive Committee. This will require some modification of Council and PCAC bylaws, but this arrangement has been well received by the PCAC Executive Committee.

A motion was made to elect a state of officers consisting of Mr. Buchwald as Chair and Ms. Herman as Vice Chair for two year terms ending May 2013, which passed unanimously.

Bill Henderson distributed a draft amendment to the MNRCC bylaws that would allow the Chair to designate another member to represent him at Executive Committee. Jim Blair moved that the draft be adopted and the motion was seconded by Neal Zuckerman. In accordance with the procedure for bylaw changes, the proposal will be voted upon at the Council’s next regular meeting.

Chair’s Report

Mr. Buchwald said that he believes that the first item of business should be a discussion of MTA Chairman Jay Walder’s resignation, which was announced that afternoon. Mr. Buchwald made a comment that he believes that Mr. Walder has been good for the organization, but that this transition in leadership may create an opportunity for positive change.

Jim Blair said the recent change to the MTA Board that he finds troubling is that Governor Cuomo has chosen to replace former member Doreen Frasca with Fernando Ferrer. He said that he greatly valued the contributions of Ms. Frasca and that there are other slots on the Board that could have been offered to Mr. Ferrer. Mr. Blair also stated that he did not take Mr. Walder’s departure kindly and said that in his view the job that Mr. Walder came to do is only half completed. Mr. Blair continued that for Mr. Walder to leave the job of reforming the organization to others is a disservice to the MTA and that his action is also greatly demoralizing to the staff.

Randy Glucksman commented on the bill banning smoking on Metro-North station platforms that is currently awaiting final approval by the Governor. He said that the only cases where he has seen smoking on the New Jersey Transit system, where smoking on platforms is banned, is where it was being done by an AMTRAK employee. He stated that “No Smoking” signs are generally effective.

Mr. Glucksman also stated that he has not used the West of Hudson quiet cars extensively, but he has asked conductors and other train personnel for their observations and opinions and they have found the program on West of Hudson trains to be successful. He said that these programs may have to be adjusted; on Metra, they had to move the quiet car from the first to the second car because the locomotive was too noisy.

Ellyn Shannon stated that one red flag for Metro North riders is the emerging issues with final design of the East Side Access terminal and their potential impacts on the Metro North operations.

Mr. Glucksman stated that he has forwarded an email message to Andrew Albert in regard to the 7 Line Extension Tour. Mr. Henderson said that the 7 Line Extension may be overly strenuous for some NYCTRC members and that an alternative tour is being considered. Mr. Glucksman said that he would like to be informed of the schedule for upcoming Metro-North inspection trains.

Mr. Buchwald stated that the FTA approved the North White Plains parking facility. He asked if the Council can get a copy of whatever documents the FTA produced.

Board Report

The Board Report was distributed.

Mr. Blair stated that there is some consideration of configuring the next generation of rolling stock as locomotives and bilevel coaches. Mr. Glucksman stated that that there will never be the same performance out of locomotives and bilevel coaches as can be achieved through the use of multiple unit (MU) cars.

Mr. Blair noted that on August 1 there will be a public hearing on a proposed fare increase for travel to and from Connecticut stations. He said that Metro-North Chief of Staff Donna Evans stated that the fare increase is high enough that fare “hold down” arrangements that are sometimes implemented for rationalizing fares in stations near the State line will not need to be used.

Mr. Blair stated that the new edition of On Track was mailed to the members and suggested that members read it, as it is a good resource for learning where Metro-North stands in many aspects of its operation.

New Business

Neal Zuckerman wanted to know the procedure that an average rider would use to submit a complaint to the MTA. Mr. Henderson stated that the MTA website and phone are the most common channels but that they are not readily accessible to the riders.

Mr. Zuckerman stated that he has ways to complain because of his membership on the Council, but he is concerned that his fellow riders don’t have these channels. He said that he would like for the Council to find better ways for customers to make their views known and that he would like to find a way for customers to comment on issues. As an example, Mr. Zuckerman stated that speakers are broken in the Garrison station but that no one knows where a complaint should be addressed. He said that the Council should press the MTA to have permanent signage that gives riders information about how they can contact the MTA.

Mr. Blair asked if we should have the MNRCC in September instead of meeting in August.

Old Business

No Old Business was discussed.


The meeting was adjourned at 5:20 p.m.

Respectfully submitted,

William Henderson
Executive Director

Metro-North Railroad Commuter Council
Chair’s Report
July 21, 2011

We last met three months ago because of the PCAC meeting month of June and the replacement of our May meeting with our first Meet the Commuter Council event that we held in Grand Central Terminal. At this event we spent two hours greeting riders, shaking hands, and talking about the MNRCC and its mission, as well as inviting commuters to come to our President’s Forum, which we hosted in this room a few weeks later. The Grand Central event introduced many commuters to the work of the Council. We also received several comments and suggestions about Metro-North operations, which we passed along to the Railroad. Jim Blair and Randy Glucksman joined me at the event, and we were assisted there by Bill and Karyl of our staff. In all, this was a good way of showing our face to the riders and learning something about their concerns and issues.

Our annual President’s forum was held here at MTA Headquarters on June 8. As always we had a good turnout of commuters who raised a number of issues important to Metro-North riders. MNR President Howard Permut began the meeting by addressing the Railroad’s performance over the last year and in particular the difficulties presented by this winter’s storms. It was a good experience for us, and we heard back from President Permut, who expressed his appreciation for us hosting the meeting.

Last year for our August meeting we visited the East Side Access project. Later in the meeting we can discuss whether we want to do something similar this year.

We’ve discussed proposals to ban smoking on Metro-North Railroad and Long Island Rail Road platforms. Legislation to this effect passed the Assembly and Senate and is currently awaiting transmission to the Governor. Bill spoke to the office of Assembly Member Ellen Jaffee, who sponsored the bill, and was told that they are confident that the bill will be signed into law by the Governor.

We’re planning to pick up again in September with our Putnam County listening sessions, which are being convened by Neal Zuckerman with staff assistance. The next session is tentatively scheduled for September 21 in Garrison. We as a Council need to hold more meetings like these to raise our profile in the community. If members have ideas for visits to civic or local government groups or similar meetings in their communities please share them with me or with staff so that we can begin to arrange them. Staff is continuing to develop materials that we can use in these meetings and a sample of the latest product, a folder to hold Council flyers and similarly sized materials, has been given to you today.

Speaking of meetings, September is also a good time to catch our State Assembly and Senate members in their districts. As you know, the 2010-2014 MTA Capital Program is funded only through the end of the current year, and any acceptable solution will require legislative action.

Finally, MTA Arts for Transit will be conducting an artist selection process for permanent artwork at the Croton-Harmon station and we’ve been invited to attend in an advisory capacity. The first of two meetings will be held next Tuesday, July 26 from 10:00 a.m. to about 3:00 p.m. here at MTA headquarters. We sent members information on this opportunity several months ago and did not receive a response, but if you’re interested and your schedule allows you to attend, please speak to Bill.