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Meeting Minutes Oct 20, 2011

A meeting of the Metro-North Railroad Commuter Council (MNRCC) was convened at 4:30 p.m. on October 20, 2011, in the 3rd floor training room, MTA Headquarters, 347 Madison Avenue, New York City. The following members were present:

• James Blair
• David Buchwald
• Randy Glucksman

Via Telephone:
• Richard Cataggio

The following members were absent:
• Francis Corcoran
• Rhonda Herman
• Neal Zuckerman

In addition, the following persons were present:

• William Henderson -PCAC Executive Director
• Jan Wells -PCAC Associate Director
• Ellyn Shannon -PCAC Transportation Planner
• Robert Lieblong -Metro-North

Approval of Agenda and Minutes

The agenda for the October 20, 2011 meeting was approved. The minutes of August 18, 2011 meeting were approved.

Chair’s Report

A copy of the prepared Chair’s report is attached to these minutes. David Buchwald gave the Chair’s report and noted that in the time since it had been distributed Governor Cuomo had announced his choices for the positions of MTA Chairman and Chief Operating Officer, Joseph Lhota and Nuria Fernandez, respectively. Mr. Buchwald briefly discussed the individuals who had been named to these posts.

In response to the discussion of changes to the Tappan Zee Bridge project, Randy Glucksman said that he will be attending the rescoping meeting for the project. The Council noted that the decision to remove transit from the present form of the project was made at the State and federal levels, and that Metro-North is no longer a principal in the planning process.

Mr. Buchwald briefly discussed the proposed PCAC bylaw amendment relating to the composition of the PCAC Executive Committee. He noted that the MNRCC has approved a revision to its bylaws that will allow it to take advantage of the PCAC bylaw amendment if it is approved. He encouraged the members of the Council to attend the December PCAC meeting, where a vote is scheduled on the proposal, to ensure that the MNRCC’s perspective on the proposed amendment is included in any discussion of this proposal.

Mr. Buchwald said that immediately prior to the MNRCC meeting he had met with the MTA’s Director of Federal Affairs, David Garten, regarding the passenger bill of rights or pledge that has been proposed for the commuter railroads. He stated that Mr. Garten had said that the MTA wants a document that contains promises that they can meet and would like the documents that apply to each commuter railroad to be in general agreement with each other. It is unlikely that they will be exactly the same, however, because of differences between the LIRR and Metro-North.

Mr. Buchwald said that he had asked about language in the draft that Mr. Garten had shown him, which stated that passengers should never leave the train, and had offered his opinion that the document should make it clear that passengers could leave the train upon the direction of authorized persons such as railroad personnel and emergency responders. Aside from this suggestion, Mr. Buchwald said that he generally supported the development and posting of the document and noted that there are several venues, such as hospitals and attorneys’ offices, where a “bill of rights” is required to be posted. He also said that he liked the Connecticut Rail Commuter Council’s recommendation that mandates announcements and other communication after a service delay time threshold has been reached.

Mr. Blair said that he disagreed somewhat with regard to the posting, noting that he believes that having the document posted can keep everyone honest, but is uncertain whether the document should be placed on trains. Mr. Buchwald stated that as a practical matter there may not be any available space on the train cars.

Board Report

Jim Blair stated that Metro-North ridership was up .4 percent in September and that ridership was up .7 percent from the midyear forecast and .8 percent above September 2010 levels at the LIRR. For the year to date through September, Metro-North ridership was off .6 percent from the midyear forecast but up .9 percent over last year. Mr. Blair also commented that he attended a Metro-North service award ceremony. There were four individual awards and one team award. Mr. Blair noted that one of the awards was presented to a secretary who had started with one of Metro-North’s predecessor railroads 60 years ago.

Old Business

No old business was discussed.

New Business

The Council voted to support the development of a bill of rights or pledge to riders by Metro-North and to assist the Railroad in its development.

Introduction of Robert Lieblong, Metro North Senior Vice President, Operations

Mr. Lieblong commented that as a result of Hurricane Irene there was 14 miles of track in need of repair on the Port Jervis line, with most of it between Harriman and Suffern. Included in this are fifty points where the track was washed out and a total of two miles of track that was washed out. The engineering firm AECOM was retained to assess the damage and began its work September 2. Alternative bus operations were started and minor damage was repaired west of Harriman. The shuttle bus service now being operated replaces 16 of the 26 trains that originally operated on the line. Train service is being operated between Port Jervis and Harriman, with shuttle bus service operating between Harriman and Ramsey. This service used 28 buses in the morning and 28 in the evening. Operations of the bus shuttles are split between the MTA Bus Company and Leprechaun Coach lines.

Mr. Buchwald asked about the percentage of persons riding the trains prior to the hurricane that have been using interim services. Mr. Lieblong responded stating that there are about 800 daily passengers using Metro-North’s alternative service, compared with over 1900 regular Railroad riders on the Port Jervis line. He said that some former Port Jervis commuters are now going to Beacon to access Hudson line service. Metro-North is currently building an overflow lot for parking on the former hat factory property at Beacon.

Mr. Lieblong said that the plan for rebuilding the line was for AECOM to first do the assessment of damage. Third party contractors would then perform the bulk of the work, as there are only twelve people in Metro-North’s West of Hudson maintenance of way forces. Despite their small number, Metro-North’s forces started the initial work. The Railroad had to negotiate with the Teamsters Union to get the personnel that it wanted on the job, and after reaching agreement was able to bypass the seniority roster and hand pick supervisors and members of the work force. The Railroad also rented heavy equipment to supplement Metro-North owned equipment.

With those arrangements made, Metro-North forces started work on September 16 on a single track section between Harriman and north of the Tuxedo station. Metro-North forces are continuing their work and in conjunction with outside contractors have restored 40 of 50 washout areas. The outside Contractor is handling the larger washout areas. Metro-North went out to bid to select contractors, with Halmar selected as the low bidder. Halmar started work on October 18 and is concentrating on bridge repairs. Embankment stabilization is also part of the project.

Mr. Buchwald wanted to know what parts of the work have gone better than expected. Mr. Lieblong stated that the Railroad was able to reclaim a lot of existing materials. They had originally estimated that 150,000 cubic yards of material would be needed, but it is now clear that much less material will need to be trucked in. Currently the contractor is working on track surfacing, and if all goes according to plan they will surface all Metro North work areas as well as the areas that the contractors have been addressing by mid-November. Mr. Lieblong said that he anticipates completion of the single track by the end of the year and that it will probably cost between $30 and $40 million for the restoration work. The final outcome of the work will be the restoration of the line to a pre-hurricane condition.

Mr. Glucksman asked the probability of having 60 M8 cars delivered to Metro-North by end of the year. Mr. Lieblong stated that there will be 4 trainsets in service with the new schedule that will go into effect, accounting for 28 cars in service. The 5th trainset is to be in operation in the next few weeks and 7 or 8 trainsets are expected to be in operation by the end of the year.

Mr. Glucksman said that he recently noticed a late train announcement on the displays at Tarrytown, but that it went away before the train arrived. Mr. Buchwald said that the Train Time application on his BlackBerry is much more accurate than the announcements in the station. Mr. Lieblong agreed that the station announcement technology is approaching the end of its useful life.

Mr. Lieblong reported that quiet cars are in place now on the Hudson and Harlem lines. He said that this is a pilot program that will continue at least through the Spring timetable change.

Mr. Blair said that at the next Board meeting he will suggest that in-car identification be used to tell riders that they are in a quiet car. He said that he realizes that this may be difficult because of the repositioning of cars that occurs in the course of making up trains. Mr. Lieblong said that he is looking to see if onboard LED signs can be used to indicate that a single car is a quiet car.

Mr. Lieblong noted that there will be a West-of-Hudson schedule change on November 6.

Mr. Blair asked if there were any problems in the East-of-Hudson region because of shifts of maintenance forces to the West-of-Hudson region. Mr. Lieblong responded that there were some deferrals of planned work, but these had only a minor impact on the East-of-Hudson lines.

Mr. Glucksman noted that he had checked the stated addresses of some Metro-North stations and that entering these addresses into a Global Positioning Satellite receiver yields an inaccurate location for the station. He said that this could be a problem for emergency response and that the station addresses should be checked and corrected if necessary.


At 6:00 PM the meeting was adjourned.

Respectfully submitted,
William Henderson, Executive Director

Metro-North Railroad Commuter Council
Chair’s Report
October 20, 2011

The Tappan Zee Bridge was chosen by the Obama Adminstration as a project to be given expedited federal review and approval, as announced on October 11. The good news is that this move could allow work on a new bridge to begin as early as the spring of 2013. The bad news for transit users is that the form of the project that will move forward in this process will not include a bus or rail transit option, at least in its initial form. Instead of including a bus or rail line in the initial project, which was estimated to have cost $9 to $16 billion, the State’s current plan is to construct a $5.2 billion eight-lane bridge to which transit could be added in the future. The bridge would be financed by issuing $3 billion in bonds backed by toll revenues and borrowing $2.2 billion from labor pension funds and funds available through the federal Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act.
The question for us is what this development means for Metro-North riders. It had become clear that the bridge would not include rail service on its opening day under any scenario, and the State’s plan appears to preserve the option to add rail to the bridge at a later date. The question is whether adding rail capacity to the bridge that will built under the current plan will be an economically viable option, and that will largely depend on the revised design of the bridge. The MTA and Metro-North are evaluating the situation and have not yet reached a conclusion as to the impact of this change on Metro-North. It seems clear, however, that for drivers this resolution will lead to higher tolls for the Tappan Zee Bridge.
Metro-North has made remarkable progress on repairing damage to the Port Jervis line caused by Hurricane Irene. We will have a guest from Metro-North join us later in this meeting to provide a more detailed status report, but, in large part because Metro-North’s maintenance of way forces have been working twelve-hour shifts seven days a week in advance of private contractors hired to help rebuild the line, service along the full length of the Port Jervis line is expected to resume significantly before the original target of the end of December 2011 and the cost of rebuilding the line is expected to be significantly less than the original $50 million estimate. All those involved in restoring service deserve Metro-North riders’ deep appreciation.
Appropriately, Metro-North introduced quiet cars on the Harlem and Hudson lines this past Monday without a great deal of fanfare. The quiet cars are part of a pilot program on East of Hudson lines that will involve 31 trains in the morning and evening rush hours. A “Q” on the timetable will indicate the trains with quiet cars, and the quiet car will always be the northernmost passenger car in the train, or in other words, the first car out of Grand Central on outbound trips and the last car into the Terminal on inbound trips. As was the case with the West of Hudson lines, Metro-North will evaluate passenger reaction to the quiet car pilot before arriving at a decision on making the quiet car program a permanent feature.
On Wednesday, September 21st, MNRCC Putnam County member Neal Zuckerman hosted a “listening” meeting for MNR riders in the Village of Garrison. Similar to a meeting held in Cold Spring in March, riders were invited to come and air their issues, concerns and suggestions. The meeting in Garrison was held at the Garrison Art Center, adjacent to the station, from 6:30-8:00 pm. Although turnout was light, several points were raised, including elevator maintenance, overcrowding on trains since the service cuts and the desire to work more closely with MNR on developing Getaway packages. Neal has promised to hold a listening session at the other full-time MNR stations in Putnam County – Southeast, Patterson and Brewster. Bill and Jan also attended the meeting and Jan sent comments on to Metro-North staff.
Finally, Metro-North was honored by an international panel of transportation and design experts last Friday when it received the Jury Prize for Overall Design Excellence for 2011 from The Watford Group and The Center for Industrial Design in Transportation. The prize was presented as a part of the tri-annual Brunel Awards ceremony held in Washington, D.C. Metro-North also won first prize in the Brunel Awards’ “Freight and Railway Support Buildings” category for its Croton-Harmon Locomotive and Coach Shops.

The Brunel Award competition is open to public and private railway organizations and “recognizes and promotes the best in railway architecture, engineering, landscape and environmental design, product design, locomotive and car design, graphic arts, and corporate branding among the world’s railways.” Railways that enter a project in each of the competition’s five categories are eligible for the Jury Prize, and Metro-North was the first U.S. railroad to win this award in its 26-year history. Forty-three railways from 15 countries on three continents entered 150 projects in this year’s international competition. The other projects that Metro-North entered and their categories are:

•Yankees-E. 153rd Street Station (Passenger Station Buildings)

•Operations Control Center (Technical Infrastructure and Design)

•M8 Rail Cars (Rolling Stock)

•”The Home of the Stars” MTA Arts for Transit installation at Yankees-153rd Street (Industrial Design, Graphics and Art Branding)