METRO NORTH NEW HAVEN RAIL COMMUTER COUNCIL
(Established in 1985 under Connecticut Public Act 85-239, now Sections 13b-212b and
13b -212c of the Connecticut General Statutes)
MINUTES OF DECEMBER 15, 2010
Present were: Jim Cameron, Chairman, Bob Jelley, Rodney Chabot, Terri Cronin, Sue Prosi and Roger Cirella, Mitch Fuchs, Luke Schmirring and Drew Todd, members of the Council; Gene Colonese and Jeff Parker, DOT; John Longobardi, Tim McCarthy and Susan Doering, MNR; Martin Cassidy, Stamford Advocate; John Austin, member of the public.
The meeting began at 7 pm.
Jim Cameron introduced Mitch Fuchs of Fairfield, a new member of the Council.
In response to a question, Jeff Parker said that the DOT will not hold public hearings on the legislatively-ordered fare increases until M-8 cars are in service. He said that it would then take 6-9 months for a fare increase to become operative. He said that a instituting a normal fare increase takes about 4 months, but because this one comes from a statute, it is a regulatory process, which takes a longer time.
Susan Doering spoke of the fare increase effective December 30 in New York State. It only affects fares between New York stations. However, the shorter validity periods and the $10 fee for ticket refunds affect Connecticut. Bob Jelley mentioned that the MNR email about fare increases and other ticket changes says that it only affects New York State, which is not true.
Ridership has risen strongly and is up 4.5% over a year ago.
There was a lengthy discussion of the delay in putting M-8s into operation. Until a few days ago, it had been believed that a couple of M-8 trains would be in operation before the end of 2010.
Mr. Parker said that it was on December 2 or 3 that he found out about a technical problem. There was electromagnetic interference between the trains’ computer systems and the railroad's signal systems at interchanges. Kawasaki believes that it has a fix for the problem and it will be accomplished in a week or two. Thereafter, it will require two to three weeks for the necessary 4,000 mile test.
Tim McCarthy from Metro North said that the M-8s are the most complex cars in the country and perhaps the world. Some time earlier in 2010 they learned that there was interference between one of the rail cars’ systems and the track signal circuit. They thought they could fix it easily by making changes to the track circuit but that turned out not to work. So instead they have had to come up with a fix to modify the software on the trains. He said there was also a problem between the new cars and station announcements systems.
Jim Cameron asked if they have tested two M-8 trains passing each other to see if the software systems on one train interfere with the systems on the other train. Mr. McCarthy said they had not but that other tests indicate that that won't be a problem. Mr. Cameron also asked if the M-8 cars had been tested under a 25,000 volt catenary along Shore Line East. Mr. McCarthy said that they hadn't.
Mr. Parker said that there were 24 cars in New Haven now. He said that after the first 8 cars go through the 4,000 miles test, other cars will require only a 1,000 mile test.
Terri Cronin said that people were upset by the delay. Mr. Parker said that he was hoping to get some of the M-8 cars into service in January, but was making no promises. Mr. Cameron said he thought that the DOT should have told the Council in advance of telling the press about the delay. Drew Todd said that he thought the Council should have been told of the problem when it arose, even if they thought they had an easy fix. Mitch Fuchs asked if the fix of the software on board the train was successful and Mr. McCarthy said it was.
Rodney Chabot asked about the toilets on the trains. Mr. Parker said that there is a central diagnostic system that will know if there is a problem with the bathroom. It will even flush a toilet if someone forgets to flush. A wayside system will get information from cars as they pass.
Mr. McCarthy said that 38 cars are being built in Japan, and the rest of the cars will be built in Nebraska. Cars from Nebraska will start arriving in January, so for several months there will be cars coming from both places.
WIFI ON TRAINS
Mr. McCarthy said that the M-8s have equipment space and an antenna space for a WIFI installation but outside infrastructure along the tracks is needed to provide WIFI. Mr. Jelley asked about the plan for Cablevision to supply WIFI on trains free of charge to Cablevision subscribers, but to charge others. Mr. McCarthy said he knew nothing about that. Mr. Jelley said that it continued to be his view that providing free service for Cablevision subscribers was probably unlawful.
Mr. Chabot raised a question about cleanliness of toilets. He said that he thought that they should have teams to go into toilets at turnaround points to clean them. Ms. Doering said that they pick up trash at turnaround points. Mr. McCarthy said the holding tanks on the M-8s have a one week capacity and will be pumped out daily.
MAIN LINE ISSUES
Ms. Cronin said that she understood that prices on bar cars were going up. Ms. Doering said she knew nothing about that.
Ms. Doering announced that since November 29, there have been new criteria for email alerts. She said that the new requirement is that if there is a prolonged delay of 10-15 minutes, there must be an alert within 15-20 minutes. Thereafter, alerts should be repeated every 15-20 minutes.
Sue Prosi said that the canopy in Stratford was coming along nicely. Gene Colonese reported that although nothing has happened on the canopy in Noroton Heights yet, it might happen in January.
Mr. Jelley raised the question of the public address system at the Shore Line East stations, and reported that it did not effectively work. He said that he thought a new system was needed. Mr. Colonese said that it was an old system and that they were trying to see if it could be upgraded off the new Union Station/State Street public address system but he admitted they needed money for a new Shore Line East public address system.
Roger Cirella reported that the Waterbury branch had operated pretty well recently.
It was reported that since December 1, Republic has become the new operator of the Stamford
Garage. However, there continue to be complaints of not enough lanes open for exiting later at night.
Mr. Jelley raised the question of the 38 additional M-8s that are under option but were not ordered, because the Bond Commission did not approve bonding them. Mr. Parker expressed optimism that they will be bonded and ordered.
John Longobardi was welcomed as the new Head of Operations, since Joe Kanell has retired. Mr. Parker said that Mr. Kanell had been a wonderful Head of Operations. Council members thanks Mr Kanell for his years of service.
The meeting adjourned at 8:40 pm. The next meeting will take place at SWRPA in Stamford on Wednesday, January 19th, 2011 at 7 pm.