METRO-NORTH RAILROAD COMMUTER COUNCIL
MINUTES OF OCTOBER 15, 2015
A meeting of the Metro-North Railroad Commuter Council (MNRCC) was convened at 4:30 PM on Tuesday, October 15, 2015, in the 5th floor Board room, MTA headquarters, 347 Madison Avenue, New York City. The following members were present:
The following members participated via telephone:
The following members were absent:
In addition, the following persons were present:
William Henderson -PCAC Executive Director
Bradley Brashears -Transportation Planner
Approval of Agenda and Minutes
The agenda for the October 15, 2015 meeting was approved. The minutes of the July 16, 2015 meeting were approved.
Randy Glucksman gave the Chair’s Report. He said that he spoke at the MTA Board Metro-North Committee meeting about the removal of the Monday through Thursday runs of train 1601 from the schedule. He said that although the service cut has now been in place for a month, the only concession that Metro-North has made to the riders of train 1601 is to move the departure for the prior Pascack Valley train to a later time. Mr. Glucksman said that he feels that, although there are a small number of riders that depend on the run, train 1601 is an important service that allows some riders with late schedules to use the Railroad. He said that Metro North’s proposals sounded like “Let Them Eat Cake” to the riders.
Mr. Glucksman said that Metro-North had investigated other options for serving the Train 1601 customers, one of which involved using the Port Jervis line to reach Suffern at 1:48 am, then taking a 40 minute bus ride to Nanuet from the station. Other proposals had riders traveling to Tarrytown on the Hudson Line and using the Tappan Zee Express buses or using an earlier Coach USA bus from the Port Authority Bus Terminal that serves the communities, but neither of these provides the late night service to the stations that the riders need. He said that the proposal that he had made involves having riders change to a shuttle bus at the Secaucus transfer station, then travel directly to the Pearl River, Nanuet, and Spring Valley stations, and that this proposal would allow riders to arrive home at approximately the same time as they had with train 1601.
Mr. Glucksman referred the members to emails that he had circulated and said that the process had been frustrating, as only 4 days per week of service has to be replaced. He said that the issue is not money but will, that the Rockland County Executive is firmly behind providing adequate service and that Orange County MTA Board member Susan Metgzer is disturbed that the MTA appears to be using savings from the discontinuation of train 1601 to pay for implementing an added midday train for the Port Jervis Line.
On the issue of Positive Train Control (PTC), Mr. Glucksman noted that he had circulated information about positive train control and that a number of railroads had said that they would curtail service if the deadline for installing PTC is not extended, including Amtrak which has announced a mid-December timeframe for shutting down service is no extension is approved. Bill Henderson said that the PCAC had sent letters to the Chair and Ranking Member of the House and Senate committees having jurisdiction over legislation to extend the PTC deadline. He noted that there were a number of other issues that had to be handled first in the House, and Rhonda Herman said that there is a lot of other legislation must be passed to extend provisions expiring at the end of the year.
As the MTA Board had not yet met in October and recent performance data for Metro-North has not yet been released, no Board Report was presented.
Bradley Brashears said that in the course of his work on grade crossing safety he has reached out to Joe Streany of Metro-North to discuss the MNRCC working with Metro-North to reach out to commuters on grade crossing safety. Mr. Streany was positive about the idea, but the railroad is engaged in an internal review of its safety performance and will be able to work with the Council once this work is completed. Mr. Henderson suggested that the results of Metro-North’s work might aid the outreach effort to riders. Mr. Brashears said that it is likely that the Council can partner with Metro-North in the springtime.
Mr. Glucksman said that there are a number of safety issues concerning grade crossings. Mr. Henderson said that staff had a call with Mr. Streany and discussed some of the issues that Metro-North faces in making grade crossings safer, including its limited control of the area around the crossings. Mr. Henderson noted that Metro-North had been able to engage the governments with maintenance responsibility for roads crossing the tracks and made some progress in resolving safety issues. He also noted that Mr. Streany pointed out that there are limitations on the risk assessment formulas for grade crossings and said that Metro-North’s priority crossings may differ from those assigned the highest risk rating by these formulas.
Mr. Glucksman said that he had spoken to staff about filling the at large position on the Council, which has been vacant for some time. He said that Orin Getz is interested in joining the Council and has been recommended to the Governor by the County Executive. Mr. Glucksman said that Mr. Getz is retired, but still riding, and said that he is responsible for many of the improvements that have been made in Pascack Valley Line train service.
Mr. Glucksman noted that the Bronx seat on the Council remains vacant and that there are three seats for Westchester County members that remain unfilled. Mr. Henderson said that the Bronx Borough President has made a recommendation and that the individual has begun the process required for consideration by the Governor. He said that the Council should take another try at interesting local officials other than the County Executive in recommending Westchester residents for appointment to the MNRCC and asked the members to let him know if they know of any local officials who might be willing to recommend a prospective member.
Mr. Glucksman commented that NJ Transit is starting a new customer courtesy campaign. He also said that he as recommended to Clarkstown that the town resurface the Nanuet parking lot. The process is moving slowly, but drainage work that needs to be done has only recently started. This work requires permission of the land owners, as Clarkstown controls the property through a lease. Mr. Glucksman also noted that a grade crossing at Spring Valley was in bad shape but that He and Mr. Getz had asked New Jersey Transit to repair it and they did.
Mr. Glucksman said that he and Mr. Getz had been discussing the Spuyten Duyvil derailment wreck and were speculating on what the rest of the crew was doing when the engineer failed to slow the train. The other crew members did not realize that the speed was too fast, and Mr. Glucksman said that he hopes that the Federal Railroad Administration will address the responsibilities of other crew members in avoiding serious accidents as they develop rules and procedures to prevent these accidents.
At 5:10 PM the meeting was adjourned.