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Meeting Minutes March 4, 2010

A meeting of the Permanent Citizens Advisory Committee (PCAC) to the MTA was convened at 12:00 noon on March 4, 2010, in the 5th floor Board room, at MTA Headquarters, 347 Madison Avenue, New York City. The following members were present:

• Andrew Albert
• William K. Guild
• James F. Blair
• Marisol Halpern
• Ronald Breuer
• Rhonda Herman
• Gerard Bringmann
• Matthew Kessler
• David Buchwald
• Sharon King Hoge
• Mark Epstein
• Trudy Mason
• Shirley Genn
• Maureen Michaels
• Randy Glucksman
• Edith M. Prentiss
• Stuart Goldstein
• Larry Rubinstein
• Ira Greenberg
• Michael Sinansky
• Burton M. Strauss, Jr.
The following members were absent:

• Sheila Carpenter
• Thomas Jost
• Richard Cataggio
• Gerard Kopera
• Francis T. Corcoran
• Sharon Santa Maria
• Owen Costello
• Toya Williford
• Jessica Gonzalez-Rojas
• Neal Zuckerman

In addition, the following persons were present:

• William Henderson -PCAC Executive Director
• Jan Wells  -PCAC Associate Director
• Ellyn Shannon  -PCAC Transportation Planner
• Jay Walder  -MTA
• Alan Kritzler  -MTA
• Marsha Desormeaux -MTA
• Holli Dunayer  -LIRR
• James O’Shea  -Concerned citizen
• Anne Guild  -Concerned citizen
• Joseph Garber  -Concerned citizen
• Rodney Chabot  -Concerned citizen
• Linda Black  -Concerned citizen
• Jonathan Robins  -Concerned citizen
• Clare Stuart  -Concerned citizen
• Fred Clark  -Concerned citizen
• Chantal R. Cotton -Concerned citizen
• Ken Stewart  -Concerned citizen
• Bob Jelley  -Concerned citizen
• Helen Haddon  -Concerned citizen
• Carlos Valiejo  -Concerned citizen
• George Haikalis  -Concerned citizen
• Alan Flacks  -Concerned citizen

Approval of Agenda and Minutes

The agenda for the March 4, 2010 meeting was approved as amended.  The minutes of the December 3, 2009 meeting were approved as amended.

Chairs’ Reports

The PCAC, LIRRCC, MNRCC and NYCTRC Chairs’ Reports are attached to these minutes.

Andrew Albert explained that there is a possibility to use a portion of federal stimulus funds and pay as you go capital funding in the current budget to bridge the MTA’s operating deficit

Trudy Mason said that there is a concern in Washington that money should not be taken from sources intended for capital spending and used for operating needs.

Ms. Michaels stated that the LIRRCC has called for an investigation into the LIRR response to snow emergencies after their disastrous response to the snowstorm in late December.  She said the LIRRCC would like to see the LIRR develop a new policy in terms of emergencies.

Ms. Michaels said the Council has generated an issue list of the outstanding items that the LIRRCC has raised with the LIRR for but have yet to be addressed by the Rail Road.  She said she would be meeting with Joe Calderone, LIRR Vice President – Market Development to review the list.  She noted that customers spend at least two hours a day on the LIRR and in turn, the LIRR needs to be more customer centered.

Ms. Michaels said she is not happy with the LIRR’s focus on “cost per mile” in terms of the LIRR using miles traveled to set pricing and influence other policies for Suffolk commuters.  She said that this orientation operates at cross purposes with the Rail Road’s efforts to build ridership.

Mr. Bringmann noted there continues to be lots of opposition to the payroll mobility tax on Long Island.

Mr. Buchwald said that the possibility of getting rid of late night trains is a sore point with MNR commuters.  Ms. Michaels said that late night service is very important.

Old Business

No old business was discussed.

New Business

No new business was discussed.

Introduction of Jay H. Walder, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Metropolitan Transportation Authority

Mr. Greenberg introduced Mr. Walder and the members introduced themselves.

Mr. Walder said that he has spent a lot of time familiarizing himself with the system and acknowledged that he recognizes the great need to consolidate services, such as the various call centers, within the agencies.  However, he noted that the loss of a balanced budget immediately after his first day on the job made addressing the needs that he has identified challenging.  Mr. Walder said he was informed the day before a bond offering that the payroll mobility tax revenues would be much less than had been projected by the State, resulting in an instant downgrade in the credit supporting these bonds by Moody’s Investors’ Services.  He said that NYC Transit’s contract with the TWU included no productivity increases in exchange for increased pay.

Mr. Walder acknowledged the general perception that the public hearings are pro forma and strictly for show.  He said that the MTA Board got the public’s message about the school MetroCards loud and clear and understands that this will inflict real pain.  He also understands that eliminating the resident toll rebate for the Cross Bay Bridge will create a barrier for many people who must travel to and from the Rockaway Peninsula.

Mr. Walder said 90 percent of the MTA’s controllable costs are for labor, and, as a result, there is no way to substantially reduce the MTA’s costs except through service cuts.

Mr. Walder said that the situation is the same as in 1977, in that the MTA is broke.  He said that this same tale has been told over and over.  Mr. Walder said his main trouble is convincing everyone the present situation is not totally the same as it was in the 1970’s.  He said the MTA cannot afford to make the same mistakes as in the 1970’s.   He noted that Albany will not come to the MTA’s rescue.  Mr. Walder recalled the 1980’s and the deterioration of the system and noted that the reason he went to high school in the Rockaways was because he did not want to take the subway to Stuyvesant due to the condition of the system.

Mr. Walder said the main points to take away are that we cannot let our infrastructure deteriorate and that it is important to safeguard our fundamental values.  He said there will be very real impacts for the MTA employees, customers and New York City if the MTA fails in these areas.

Mr. Walder said that the plan is to institute a planned fare increase yield of 7 percent every 2 years beginning in 2011, in contrast to London’s fare policy where on the 1st day of every year there are small fare increases.  The increases are expected and keep pace with inflation to cover operating and capital costs and help to avoid crises.

This is also the question of workforce productivity, such as past practices and work rules, which protect workers but create inefficiency.  For example, some workers do not work a full day, yet get paid for a full day.

Maureen Michaels noted that Mr. Walder did not mention either the LIRR or MNR during his remarks and suggested that he needs to think on a systemwide basis.  She noted there are a number of issues that need to be addressed: safety concerns including the gap problem, the near head on collision of two LIRR trains on the Montauk Branch, the unauthorized person recently found driving a LIRR train, revenue collection issues, and the cleanliness of stations and of the right-of-way.

Mr. Walder said he is working with Helena Williams and Howard Permut and said that they understand that the top priorities have to be maintaining safety on all levels and improving customer service.  He acknowledged that there have been long standing issues that still exist at the LIRR but said that he is trying to move the organization to a different place.  He noted that he was not arguing with the message that Ms. Michaels had delivered.

David Buchwald noted his concern about Metro-North’s service reductions is that the long term connection between users of the Railroad and MNR will deteriorate and that reliability will be reduced.  He also said there should be a greater outreach effort to West of Hudson riders.  Mr. Buchwald said that riders are concerned about crowding issues and the message they are receiving is that they should be driving their cars.  He said the Council’s sense is that the service cuts will have impacts on both the local and regional economies that will be counterproductive.

Mr. Walder said he did not create the problem but feels that the MTA has not done enough to reach out to the elected officials, especially on the local level.  He said that there is a real disconnect between the MTA and the communities that it serves, with local officials unaware that their station ticket offices would be closing.

Mr. Buchwald posed several other questions for Mr. Walder to address at a later point, in view of the limited time available.  He asked what the decision process was for deciding to proceed with service cuts rather than a fare increase.  He also asked how the MTA commuter railroads’ pricing policy compares to that of other railroads. Finally he asked whether there will be restructuring as a way to reduce costs and whether Mr. Walder is thinking of using contactless smart cards on the commuter railroads.

Mr. Albert noted that so many of the proposed reductions will greatly impact the bus network and the removal of the subway station agents will put the public in harm’s way.  He said the NYCTRC was assured that intercoms would be in place before any additional booth agents would be removed.  He said that the Council was told that the installation of cameras would allow agents to see passengers.  He said station entrances aren’t secure, and he is worried about the consequences if solutions to these problems are not put in place before cutbacks begin.  Mr. Greenberg said the cutbacks will affect the riders of the commuter railroads as well.

Mr. Walder said there is no easy answer when looking at service cuts or fare increases.  He said there was agreement with Albany that legislators would support additional state funding and that the MTA would move to a series of predictable fare increases.  This is one of the strengths of the program that had been developed and to give up these achievements would be a loss.  He said that fare increases must not be taken lightly, but neither should service cuts.

He said that the issue of productivity must be considered along with questions of salary and benefits.  This is a matter of collective bargaining and said he has met with all of MTA’s labor leaders.  He has shared the MTA’s financial records with them to give them a better understanding of the financial situation.

Mr. Walder acknowledged that the fare media sales need to be changed.  He said they will eventually move to a smart card system.  He reported that the crime rate is the lowest in the history of the subway system; he knows it is not perfect but thinks that is very good.  He said that every station will be staffed even after any station agent cuts, and there are 2,500 police officers in the system, as well as cleaners who are working in the stations.  He expressed disappointment with the slow implementation of the station intercoms.   Mr. Walder said that technology can be important to giving comfort to riders.  He said that police presence and installation of technology can be the answer to improving security at a reduced cost.

In response to Edith Prentiss’ question as to why the subway countdown clocks are only on the Brooklyn bound side of A line trains in upper Manhattan, Mr. Walder said that the B Division would get train arrival signs in 2025 under the existing plan.  He said they are trying to use existing equipment to provide arrival information on the B division much sooner than had been planned and that these signs are a pilot of this program.


The meeting was adjourned at 2:00 pm

Respectfully submitted,

Karyl Berger
Research Associate