METRO-NORTH RAILROAD COMMUTER COUNCIL
MINUTES OF JULY 17, 2014
A meeting of the Metro-North Railroad Commuter Council (MNRCC) was convened at 4:00 p.m. on July 17, 2014, in the 9th floor Conference Room, MTA Headquarters, 347 Madison Avenue, New York City. The following members were present:
The following members were via Phone:
The following members were absent:
In addition, the following persons were present:
William Henderson -PCAC Executive Director
Craig Lader -Westchester County DPW &T
Richard Schulman -Concerned citizen
Approval of Agenda and Minutes
The agenda for the July 17, 2014 meeting was approved. The minutes of the April 10, 2014 meeting were approved.
The members briefly discussed the Transportation Reinvention Commission and the transportation roundtable in which Randy Glucksman had participated. Mr. Glucksman stated that he would like to have a meeting with NJT about the possibility of adding passing sidings to the New Jersey portion of track used by Metro-North west of Hudson service. These improvements would provide greater flexibility in scheduling, as well as improving the quality of service.
William Henderson discussed Metro-North’s on-time performance statistics. He said that the numbers were still well below the historic averages and that the rush hour periods were particularly troublesome, but that there has recently been some improvement in performance. Mr. Glucksman noted that even with good on-time performance according to Metro-North’s standards, it is still often a challenge to make connections at the Secaucus transfer station. Connections require a good deal of walking from platform to platform and are closely scheduled. As a result, trains reaching their terminal within 5 minutes 59 seconds of their scheduled time will often be late enough to make it impossible for riders to make a planned transfer.
The Council instituted standards of conduct for its members. The members had agreed in principle to these standards at the MNRCC’s last meeting and voted to formally approve the standards as written.
Francis Corcoran said that he had not been on a train that was on time since the Council’s meeting with Metro-North President Joseph Guilietti. He continued that that this is an ongoing problem and forces some riders to take an earlier inbound train to ensure that they are not late for work. Mr. Henderson said that the Council agrees that Metro-North follows the industry standard in calculating on time performance, but the MNRCC and PCAC have for many years felt that this standard does not adequately reflect the impact of delays on riders and that a new standard should be developed.
The Council discussed with Neal Zuckerman the directions that he will pursue as the MNRCC’s new representative on the MTA Board. Mr. Glucksman stated that safety is definitely the focus at Metro-North and that Mr. Zuckerman should work to ensure that this focus is maintained.
Mr. Zuckerman stated that he is a friend of Nancy Montgomery, who is the widow of Jim Lovell, one of the individuals who were killed in the Spuyten Duyvil derailment. He said that she is very upset at the way that the issues arising from the derailment have been handled and feels that she has gotten limited attention from the Governor, Metro-North and others persons involved.
Jim Blair said that Metro-North seemed to have been fairly well equipped in terms of its safety program prior to the incidents of the past year. He said that the last few Railroad Presidents have put a lot of effort into infrastructure issues, but have addressed rolling stock needs more effectively than right-of-way issues. Mr. Blair said that the issues with the trackbed need to be addressed and that Mr. Zuckerman should press Metro-North management to be specific about how the deficiencies in the system will be corrected
Mr. Blair said that the problems on the New Haven Line need to be addressed and that although many of the issues are in Connecticut and Connecticut riders have their own representatives, the New York riders have to deal with a chaotic situation as a result of these deficiencies.
Mr. Glucksman asked what issues should be addressed on the New Haven Line. Mr. Blair said that in his view bridges, catenary renewal, and the performance of the M8 cars are the issues that must be addressed. He said that the Council and Mr. Zuckerman must also keep an eye on fares, as they can slip out of control rapidly and that affordability is an issue that demands attention. Controlling costs to the riders may require that other funding sources for Metro-North and the MTA be brought into the picture.
Mr. Blair said that in his view the personnel situation at Metro-North is in disarray, with no pay increases for many years and many experienced people leaving the Railroad. He said that there is a potential management crisis as Metro-North moves forward and that the experience of the workforce is a major issue, but that with the LIRR labor settlement in place perhaps the MTA can begin to deal with Metro-North’s labor issues. Mr. Blair gave an example that Metro-North’s information technology workers had voted to unionize because of long hours and a shrinking staff, but that he had been told by President Permut that the issues that drove the vote could have been solved with a small amount of resources.
Mr. Henderson asked whether Mr. Blair knew where labor negotiations currently stand at Metro-North. Mr. Glucksman suggested that Mr. Zuckerman address this issue on the MTA Board. Mr. Zuckerman said that he wants to address the need for customer focus at Metro-North, noting that he had seen a quote in the New York Times, which summed up the attitude of many riders, indicating that fares keep rising but service keeps getting worse.
Mr. Glucksman also suggested that Mr. Zuckerman follow up on the installation of alerters, the coach fleet, and Metro-North’s acquisition of M9 class cars. Mr. Henderson said that from the viewpoint of LIRR personnel, the LIRR will be the chief designers of the M9s. The LIRR believes that the M9 cars will be similar to the M7 cars with additional technology and features that had proved successful on the M8 class of cars.
Mr. Corcoran said that he would like Mr. Zuckerman to address on time performance and reliability during his time on the Board. He said that long-time riders are numb to late trains, but newer riders like his daughter notice the problem more. Francena Amparo said that she also has noted reliability and on time performance problems. Mr. Blair said that there are often problems with lateness at intermediate stops that are reduced by the end of the trip. Mr. Henderson said that he will look at what information is available on the timeliness of trains at intermediate stops. Mr. Blair said that Metro-North has great flexibility in analyzing on time performance data and is not limited to the 5 minute 59 second standard.
Mr. Henderson asked whether there are ways of emphasizing the State of Connecticut’s responsibility for New Haven Line infrastructure. Mr. Blair said that Metro-North management often allows the State of Connecticut to be shielded from blame for infrastructure-related problems, but is blunt about the State’s responsibilities in private.
The meeting was adjourned at 5:30 p.m.