MTA capital plan under scrutiny as Cuomo, transit watchdogs weigh in on top priorities

Posted On Tue, September 10, 2019 By

Posted On Tue, September 10, 2019 By In Policy, Transportation

Image © 6sqft

The MTA’s five-year capital spending plan for major system-wide repairs from 2020 to 2024 has been under increasing scrutiny from public transportation watchdog groups, who have asked the MTA to provide more detailed priorities and policy goals for the project. The organizations–including the newly-formed Build Trust Campaign made up of TransitCenter, the Riders Alliance, the Tri-State Transportation Campaign and Reinvent Albany, released a report Monday asking that the MTA and Gov. Andrew Cuomo significantly improve transparency in planning the project and provide a fiscal roadmap to outline the plans for major repairs to the subway, Long Island Rail Road, Metro-North, and the bridges and tunnels that fall under MTA management, Curbed reports. Cuomo also issued a letter to the MTA board Monday outlining his own list of priorities for the Capital Plan.

nyc subway, subway, 34th street

Via Roman Kruglov Flickr

The report by the Build Trust Campaign emphasized the need for strategic investment in the project rather than what the organization saw as “gold-plated expansion mega-projects” that would eat up funding rather than address much-needed–but less immediately visible–issues. Priorities mentioned included core maintenance imperatives, making 50 more stations ADA accessible, upgrading the system’s busiest lines with state-of-the-art communications-based train control signaling (CBTC) and adding new cars to the subway fleet.

The report also called for greater transparency and accountability on the part of the MTA including a “user-friendly online project tracker” that would enable the public to follow construction progress and cost updates. Advocates also asked state lawmakers to hold oversight hearings on the plan this fall.

In his priority “wish list” statement for the plan, which is expected to be made public in October, Cuomo said, “The Capital Plan provides an historic opportunity in that new funding has been secured to support $25 billion in Capital Plan projects including from the State’s passage of Congestion Pricing in the Central Business District. The State Legislature and the Mayor of New York City have made their priorities clear in the bills they have passed and in public statements.”

The governor’s top priorities include making stations accessible for people with disabilities as well as the installation of state-of-the-art signal systems, progress on long-delayed construction projects, the equitable distribution of resources to outer boroughs and Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North Railroad, new hybrid or electric buses, new train cars delivered promptly, and a general improvement in speed and service.

Cuomo also emphasized the need to address “quality of life” issues such as homelessness, fare evasion, panhandling, securing access to the tracks, worker safety and additional training and staffing for MTA police, saying that riders “must be provided a safe environment.”

“There is no doubt that the rigor and activism of the Subway Action Plan has achieved quantifiable progress. Performance is demonstrably improved,” Cuomo said in his letter to the MTA board.

“The management discipline and capacity must now be institutionalized through the Reorganization Plan and accompanying Task Forces and Special Initiatives. An intelligent Capital Plan that can be approved by the Legislature and New York City Mayor in an expeditious fashion will secure and advance progress.”

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