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Meeting Minutes Oct 14, 2014


A meeting of the Metro-North Railroad Commuter Council (MNRCC) was convened at 4:30 PM on Tuesday, October 14, 2014, in the 5th floor Board room, MTA headquarters, 347 Madison Avenue, New York City. The following members were present:

Randy Glucksman
Neal Zuckerman

The following members participated via Telephone:

Francena Amparo
Francis Corcoran

The following members were absent:

James Blair
Rhonda Herman
Richard Cataggio

In addition, the following persons were present:

William Henderson -PCAC Executive Director
Angela Bellisio -Sr. Transportation Planner
Bradley Brashears -Assistant Transportation Planner
Craig Lader -Westchester County DPW Transportation
Barry Adler -Concerned citizen

Approval of Agenda and Minutes

The agenda for the October 14, 2014 meeting was approved. The minutes of the July 17, 2014 and August 21, 2014 meetings were approved.

Introduction of John Kennard, Metro-North Senior Director, Capital Planning and Programming, to discuss the proposed 2015-2019 MTA Capital Program and specifically the Metro-North portion of the proposal.

Mr. Kennard opened the presentation by saying that the themes of the proposed 2015-2019 Capital Program would be Renew, Enhance, and Expand. He said that Metro-North is always looking for ways to explain the Program and its benefits to stakeholders.

Mr. Kennard addressed the concept of maintaining a state of good repair. He said that this phrase implies that an asset is past the end of its useful life and overdue to be addressed. In contrast, assets addressed under a normal replacement scheme are replaced at the end of their useful lives. In addition, the Capital Program includes system enhancements, which implies the addition of a facility or function that is not currently in the system.

The enhancements to the system are largely tied to Metro-North’s model station concept, Mr. Kennard continued, and Metro-North is working on enhancing the system through implementing the elements of the model station. Included in these enhancements is a new fare payment system. The old Ticket Vending Machines are nearing the end of their useful lives, and for the next generation of fare technology Metro-North is looking to move toward using mobile devices for ticketing and other innovations to increase the efficiency and convenience of paying and collecting fares.

Mr. Kennard said that real time information will be another area to be addressed and that it will include the use of 3rd party applications to provide information to riders.

The benefits of past capital improvements can be seen in the increases in Mean Distance Between Failures, but in this Capital Program Metro-North has been looking at safety more closely. Mr. Kennard said that the Capital Program process starts with a 20 years needs assessment, which is not totally unconstrained but may exceed the resources available. In reality, the relevant constraint on the Capital Program is the amount that agencies are able to spend.

Neal Zuckerman asked the amount of spending that would return the system to a state of good repair. Mr. Kennard replied that he was not sure, but most of the state of good repair spending in the proposed Capital Program is within the NYC Transit part of the proposal. At Metro North, the elements that are characterized as out of a state of good repair are mainly under-grade bridges, but these assets are safe and reliable and regularly inspected. He said that Metro-North is trying to get away from the “State of Good Repair” terminology, since it really is not an indicator of the safety of the system.

Mr. Kennard continued that the proposal envisions spending a lot of resources on the Harmon Shops. An old building there is still being used, but Metro-North has already built a coach and locomotive facility, where locomotives are currently being maintained. The replacement of the old building will occur in two phases, with the demolition and replacement of the eastern half of the building in the 2015-2019 Capital Program. An electric multiple unit car shop will be built to replace the other side of the building in a subsequent Capital Program.

Also included in the proposal is the replacement of the remaining 140 M3 cars with M9 cars. Metro-North’s units are included as an option on the Long Island Rail Road’s contract for these cars. Parking is another area of emphasis in the proposal, as ridership growth has intensified the need for additional parking spaces. The Grand Central Train shed is also addressed in the proposal. This structure is leaky, and so it requires investment to ensure its future functionality.

Mr. Kennard noted that the proposed Capital Program also includes increased track, bridge and viaduct work. A major portion of the proposed spending is $75 to $76 million for Positive Train Control, but the proposal also includes a rolling replacement of the signal system to keep its components within their useful lifespan.

Mr. Zuckerman asked how Metro-North will deal with issues on the New Haven Line when facilities in New York are improved but the State of Connecticut does not improve equivalent systems on the northern portion of the Line. Tim McCarthy replied that in making improvements to the New York portion of the line Metro-North has to make sure that these systems interface with older infrastructure in Connecticut. He said that it is impossible to change everything overnight, and so a phased approach is necessary. As a result, there may be a difference in infrastructure, but both the old and new systems rely on the same standards.

Mr. Kennard said a visible impact of the new Capital Program will be in the area of customer communication, where Metro-North will be rolling out Yankee Stadium–style communication equipment at other stations throughout the system. Mr. Glucksman asked when this technology will be coming to the West of Hudson lines. Mr. Kennard replied that Metro-North is working on this with NJ Transit and do not yet have a timetable for these improvements.

Mr. Kennard said that the major expansion project for Metro-North in the proposed Capital Program is Penn Station Access, which is programmed for $743 million in spending. This project would provide for service from the Harlem and New Haven lines over the Hell Gate Bridge to Penn Station. Any access from the Hudson line would come later. There is currently no room in Penn Station for Metro-North and this service would only begin after the completion of East Side Access and Amtrak’s improvements to its tunnels.

Mr. Zuckerman asked how the Capital Program is likely to play out following the Capital Program Review Board’s rejection of the MTA’s initial proposal. Mr. Kennard said that the last capital program was initially approved with funding for only the first two years and then about $2 billion was cut out of the remainder of the program. A subsequent approval brought further cuts to the program. Mr. Kennard said that it is possible that a Capital Program could be once again approved with only two years of funding, so Metro-North had front-loaded the program with so that the highest priority programs are front-loaded. These programs include the M3 car replacement, cyclical track renewal programs, positive train control, under-grade bridges, and the Grand Central Terminal train shed.

Mr. Glucksman asked what plans are being made for the White Plains station and noted that funding is available to work on intermodal arrangements at White Plains. Mr. Kennard said that the City of White Plains has undertaken a study and that Metro-North now has a placeholder amount in the proposed Capital Program that would probably be used for planning for the White Plains station. There is currently no specific scope for a project. Mr. Glucksman asked about the impacts of the new Tappan Zee Bridge on the station. Mr. Kennard replied that this is a part of the study being completed by the City. He said that the question being asked within Metro-North is whether the bridge will result in impacts at Tarrytown.

Mr. Glucksman said that NJ Transit wants to move forward again on passing sidings on Pascack Valley Line. Mr. Kennard responded that they would work with NJ Transit, but they will have to do a new environmental study. He said that Metro-North would participate in funding the cost of the sidings if NJ Transit moves forward.

Mr. Glucksman noted that NJ Transit’s fleet strategy is aiming at adding double-decker coaches, and asked how this will impact Metro-North’s West of Hudson plans. Mr. Kennard said that Metro-North would buy some double-decker equipment under NJ Transit’s contracts, but this purchase would be beyond the next Capital Program.

Barry Adler stated that there is a long range plan to build three tracks at White Plains and that plans for the station need to account for this. He also suggested that Metro-North look at reconfiguring Woodlawn with a flyover and asked whether Metro-North would restore four electrified tracks. Mr. Kennard replied that Metro-North is looking at a Crestwood to North White Plains third track, but that it does not appear to be needed immediately. The railroad is preserving the potential right-of-way for this project should it move forward in the future. He said that Metro-North is also looking at Woodlawn for potential improvements.

Chair’s Report

Chair’s Report

The Chair’s Report was previously distributed. Mr. Glucksman said that the New Jersey Association of Railroad Passenger has held meetings with Ronnie Hakim, the new NJ Transit Executive Director, and that he had attended the last of these meetings. At this meeting, the group also discussed the new Port Jervis train and why it is not being implemented until 2015.

Mr. Glucksman also said that he had received a message from an Engineer on the Hudson line, who has reported problems with track at crossovers. The Engineer said that there has been no action taken by Metro-North after four reports.

Board Report

Mr. Zuckerman raised two issues: (1) the trend of increasing employee injuries, and (2) Safety, highlighting the case of Jim Lovell, who was killed in the Spuyten Duyvil derailment, and his widow Nancy Montgomery who addressed the MTA Board on safety issues.

Old Business

No Old Business was discussed.

New Business

No New Business was discussed.


At 5:35 PM the meeting was adjourned.

Respectfully submitted,

William Henderson
Executive Director