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Meeting Minutes May 21, 2009

A meeting of the Metro-North Railroad Commuter Council (MNRCC) was convened at 4:30 p.m. on May 21, 2009, in the 9th floor conference room, MTA Headquarters, 347 Madison Avenue, New York City. The following members were present:

James F. Blair
Francis T. Corcoran
David Buchwald
Gerard Kopera
Richard Cataggio
The following members were absent:

Rhonda Herman
Douglas McKean*
*Attended via phone

In addition, the following persons were present:

William Henderson – PCAC Executive Director
Jan Wells – PCAC Associate Director
Ellyn Shannon – PCAC Transportation Planner
Karyl Berger – PCAC Research Associate
Approval of Agenda and Minutes
The agenda for the May 21, 2009 meeting was approved. The minutes of the April 23, 2009 meeting were approved.

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

Ellyn Shannon reported on the latest meeting she attended on the Tappan Zee Bridge project and said the big issue on the West-of-Hudson side of the Tappan Zee project is finding a suitable location for a station.

The members briefly discussed the duties that will be undertaken by the new MTA Office of Legislative and Community Input. Mr. Henderson said that he is setting up meetings with the community affairs staffs at the operating agencies to make sure we know what the procedure will be in contacts with the various groups.

Doug McKean noted that MNR was very responsive to his suggestion about adding trains and said that stopping the 6:15 p.m. train at 125th Street at 6:25 p.m. was as a result of this suggestion.

Board Report
James Blair reported that MNR had an excellent month in terms of operational performance but the financial picture was very disappointing. He said they plan to eliminate 72 positions through attrition.

Mr. Blair noted that the four outlying county Board members who have ¼ vote each voted against the newly proposed budget because of their opposition to the payroll tax provision.

Mr. Blair reported that State Senator Susie Oppenheimer finally returned the call he had made to her early on in the budget negotiation process.

Mr. Buchwald asked if there was way to merge the dissatisfaction of the politicians who represent the outer counties regarding the MTA Board members from their counties having one-quarter vote and our lack of voting representation on the MTA Board.

Mr. Blair said that one interesting action in the last round of MTA Board meetings was that the billings for station maintenance were approved. Mr. Blair said that these charges are provided for by law and routinely handled by the Board, but they represent a substantial expense for the communities in which stations are located.

Mr. Blair reported that earlier in the day he and Gerard Kopera attended the ribbon cutting ceremony at the new MNR Yankee Stadium station.

Mr. Blair reported that MNR is working on implementing a positive train control system as required by the Federal Railroad Administration, but the first step is to agree on a joint procurement process with the LIRR. He noted that this is a very expensive undertaking.

Mr. Blair noted that Raymond Burney has been named Senior Vice President of Administration and Seth Cummins has been named General Counsel for the Railroad.

Richard Cataggio asked whether the Board knows the identities of the candidates to become the new MTA Executive Director. Mr. Blair said that he had heard names mentioned, but nothing definitive.

Old Business
The members discussed the Council goals. Bill Henderson said he would speak to the MTA again about including our website as a link on the MTA website.

The members talked about strategies for doing community outreach. Jan Wells asked for some volunteers to work with her on putting together an outreach package. She noted that she has done a PowerPoint presentation that needs to be updated, and she needs input from the Council on it.

Francis Corcoran said that any presentation should include the number of riders at a station, population of the area, and income statistics. He said those are the kinds of things politicians want to know. He said the outreach should be done at a local level.

Mr. Corcoran said that the Council should take advantage of the quarterly lobbying day that takes place in Albany. Mr. Henderson said that the Council should consider participating in the public transportation lobby day that is generally held in Albany in March.

Ms. Wells said it is important to educate the local officials as well and promote the notion of Transit Oriented Development.

Mr. Corcoran said the Council should ask local officials for letters of support of the Council and to use these letters in our contacts with State legislators. He said that we should emphasize the establishment of the Office of Legislative and Community Input in our contacts with State Assembly and Senate members. The State legislators who respond to our outreach are the members with whom the Council should work.

New Business
Election of MNRCC Officers
Gerard Kopera and David Buchwald, who were nominated at the April meeting, were elected Chair and Vice Chair of the Council, respectively. Mr. Cataggio asked for input on the nomination of an MNRCC member as a PCAC Vice Chair, which also entails membership on the PCAC Executive Committee. Mr. Cataggio said that Doug McKean would be an excellent person for this job and there was general agreement on this point. As Mr. McKean ‘s telephone connection had been broken some time before, Mr. Henderson said that he would present the sense of the Council to him and ask him if he would accept a nomination to this position. Mr. Cataggio said that he would be willing to serve in this position if Mr. Mc Kean is not able to do so.

Jim Blair thanked Mr. Cataggio for his quarter century of work on the PCAC and MNRCC and for his twenty years as Chair of the MNRCC. Mr. Henderson presented a plaque expressing the thanks of the Council to Mr. Cataggio.

The meeting was adjourned at 6:00 pm.

Respectfully submitted,
Karyl Berger
PCAC Research Associate

Metro-North Railroad Commuter Council Chair’s Report
Please make a note of the change in day and date of the June PCAC meeting. It will be held on Tuesday, June 2 in the 5th floor Board Room at MTA Headquarters. The meeting will start promptly at 11:45 am to ensure that our guest, Richard Ravitch has sufficient time for his remarks. Please make every effort to attend this important meeting.

The MTA funding package that recently passed has stirred up a lot of controversy, with elected officials and business groups from Dutchess, Orange, Putnam, and Rockland Counties have been very vocal on the subject of the payroll tax that provides most of the additional funding for MTA. While this is a sore subject now, we may be able to use this sentiment as we work for additional service and improvements such as expansion of the Port Jervis yard, which is necessary for additional West of Hudson Service.

Another additional revenue source for the MTA is, unfortunately, an increase in Metro-North fares of about 10 percent. The increase will take effect June 17 for Metro-North and June 28 for NYC Transit.

We’ll hear more on this at the PCAC meeting, but I want to note the changes in the status of the PCAC that were included in the recent MTA financing legislation passed in Albany. There are two main provisions of great interest to the PCAC. First, with this legislation the PCAC is officially established in State Law, and the members of the Riders Councils are officially named as members of the PCAC. Second, the legislation establishes in the MTA an Office of Legislative and Community Input. This office is to communicate information and receive comments, concerns, and recommendations from members of two entities, the State Legislature and the PCAC. This is a major step forward in having the PCAC recognized as the point of contact between riders and the MTA.

Staff has been busy monitoring the West of Hudson Regional Transit Access Study (Stewart Airport study), sponsored by Metro-North Railroad and the Port Authority. Ellyn and Bill met with the staff of Metro-North to discuss concerns they have regarding the study. On March 31st Jan attended a public presentation on the project in Newburgh. Issues with the study involve considering too many alternatives, currently numbering 70. We have expressed our concern that this number of alternatives even for the long list is excessive.

With respect to the Tappan Zee Bridge, Ellyn and Jan attended a Stakeholders Advisory workshop on Tuesday May 5 at the Palisades Park Mall. Difficulties with station locations around Suffern on the West of Hudson side of the corridor were discussed. Ellyn may wish to comment on details that were presented later in the meeting.