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Meeting Minutes July 29, 2009

A meeting of the Metro-North Railroad Commuter Council (MNRCC) was convened at 4:30 p.m. on July 29, 2009, 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
Francis Corcoran
Gerard Kopera
The following members were absent:

Douglas McKean
Rhonda Herman
In addition, the following persons were present:

William Henderson – PCAC Executive Director
Janice Wells – PCAC Associate Director
Randy Glucksman – Concerned citizen
Approval of Agenda and Minutes
The agenda for the July 29, 2009 meeting was approved. The minutes of the May 14, 2009 meeting were approved.

Chair’s Report
I’m happy to report that Randy Glucksman from Rockland County has been recommended by County Executive Vanderhoef to the Governor for appointment to the Metro-North Council.

Ellyn spoke to Tobey Ritz, MNR Director of Facilities – Capital Engineering, regarding the scheduled capital improvements to be made to the New Haven line New York Stations. Mr. Ritz was very helpful and said they held a kick off meeting for the Port Chester and Rye station contracts last week. Doug McKean travels from the Rye station and has several concerns regarding its condition. Mr. Ritz said it is expected that several other New Haven line stations will be in the next capital program. A brief outline of what is to be done at the stations is included in your packet. Mr. Ritz also said a separate catenary tower painting project, which will paint the tower columns up to a certain elevation, is currently underway on the line.

We received a letter from Howard Permut in response to our 2008 MTA Year End Performance review. The letter is in your packets. Ellyn spoke to Donna Evans, who arranged for a link to the report on Metro-North’s website. You can see it by clicking on ; our report is listed second from the bottom under the News column.

The Tappan Zee Bridge/I-287 Corridor Project Scoping Summary Report is now available and can be found at: Ellyn is also an alternate on the study’s Land Use and Traffic and Transit stakeholders Advisory Working Group, which will meet on July 30.

On June 1, an open house was held for the West of Hudson Regional Transit Access study (WHRTA) study. The purpose of the study is to improve public transportation for commuters and access to Stewart Airport. The project will be discussed under Old Business as staff will be preparing comments regarding the project over the next few weeks to the MTA. This will be discussed further under old business.

We received a copy of the Status Summary Report and fact sheet update on the North White Plains Parking and Access study which can be found in your packets. For two years Metro-North examined the possibility of building a 1,300 space multi story customer parking facility on the west side of the station. The County and Metro-North determined that the structure was not financially viable. The study team has refocused its energies on the east side of the station, where Metro-North now owns a building that may have the capacity to add up to 600 spaces for Metro-North riders at 525 Broadway. The need for additional spaces at the station has been forecast to be 1,600 spaces in 2015 and to approximately 3,300 spaces in 2025.

Board Report
The Board Report that was circulated to the members prior to the meeting is attached to these minutes. Jim Blair said the MTA Board members have expressed concerns about the pedestrian plan for East Side Access and would like to reopen a discussion of this issue.

New Business
The members agreed that the MNRCC should develop a Mission Statement. Mr. Henderson said staff would put together a draft and circulate it for comment.

Randy Glucksman said that riders generally, and in some cases Metro-North employees, are unaware that a monthly or weekly ticket on West of Hudson lines may be used for a trip of equivalent distance on Metro-North East of Hudson services. He recounted a disagreement that he had with a conductor who demanded payment for East of Hudson travel, although Mr. Glucksman held and presented a ticket for travel of an equivalent distance on a West of Hudson line.

While some fellow passengers were aware of the equivalent distance policy, and even offered to pay the fare demanded of Mr. Glucksman, the Metro-North conductor did not understand this. The Council voted to send a letter to Metro-North asking that this policy on trips of equivalent distance be better publicized and explained and that information about this policy be included in Metro-North timetables.

Old Business
The members discussed the contents of the presentation Jan Wells put together for outside groups. Jim Blair said that currently there are two pieces of information that the Council can provide to outside individuals and groups: the 2008 Annual Report and organizational graphic.

Jan Wells went through the PowerPoint presentation that she had prepared and a mock handout and asked for comments.

Francis Corcoran said it is important to think about the Goals at a high level, not as functions to be performed, but as high level targets that the Council is seeking to move toward. He said that some of the present goals are in fact examples of actions that the Council has decided to take.

Mr. Blair said the second bullet should be changed as it is too inwardly directed, and the Council’s goals should be more than promotion of MNRCC.

David Buchwald said the MNRCC past accomplishments should be highlighted, and a bit of the Council’s history should be included as well.

Mr. Buchwald said the Council should take advantage of other locals who can make appointment recommendations, rather than just the County Executives, in seeking to fill the remaining positions on the MNRCC.

Mr. Buchwald also suggested that the organizational graphic should be added to the PowerPoint presentation. Rich Cataggio added that the members’ names should be listed with a note as to who appointed them. Jan noted that that can work for the PowerPoint but not the handout as it will be professionally printed and must be general enough to be used well into the future.

Mr. Corcoran suggested that staff ask Naomi Klein to set up a meeting with appropriate people in Westchester DOT. He said that a similar process should be followed in other counties.

Mr. Buchwald said staff should ask local officials and groups for questions that the Council should ask MTA, in light of the PCAC’s new status in state law. He said the Council should offer to represent these persons and groups and carry their concerns to the MTA.

Mr. Corcoran said that he feels that it should be reorganized to focus on a Council mission statement.

Mr. Blair said it is important to establish objectives and noted that the Council needs to know what we want from the groups to whom we make presentations. Mr. Corcoran said it is helpful to have some numbers to back up the themes expressed in the presentation and said that it is important to let the audience know statistics such as how many people use the system, how many towns are served, and in which states service is provided.

In response to Mr. Buchwald’s question as to what the MNRCC research project would be in the 2009-2010 year, Jan Wells noted that this outreach effort is the research project for the Council.

Mr. Corcoran explained that the purpose in doing this project is to redirect the Council’s focus to better connect with the community. He said it will help to get feedback from the riders who we represent so that we can better represent them at the MTA level.

Mr. Cataggio noted that it is probably good for all three councils to have outreach programs.

Mr. Kopera acknowledged that it would be a major accomplishment to get this project up and running.

Mr. Blair said that it is possible that once the outreach process starts, input from the community may generate some ideas for projects.

In response to Mr. Buchwald’s concern that the MNRCC will not have anything to report about a project, Mr. Kopera said that staff will include an update at every meeting on the progress of the outreach effort and will give a full update on our activities at the PCAC meeting.

Randy Glucksman, a concerned citizen, said he is interested in the new train service that is being offered for travel to the Meadowlands and would like to participate in a site visit to examine the service.

Mr. Blair said that the Council may want to take a tour of Metro-North’s Harmon shops and that the MTA Board has been offered a tour of the facility. He also said that the size and prominence of the “how to become a member” section on the draft flyer should be reduced.

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

Respectfully submitted,

Karyl Berger
Research Associate