BY TRONE DOWD
In recent months, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority has seen tremendous setbacks due to an aging infrastructure and increased ridership. In attempt to fix some of these issues, MTA Chairman Joe Lhota has announced a comprehensive plan that would tackle some of the immediate issues with trains as well as a long-term approach to maintaining the functionality of the transit service.
“New Yorkers are rightfully frustrated with the current state of the subways and their demands for better service have been heard,” Lhota said. “We are committed to earning back their trust by implementing solutions that will enhance the customer experience in the short and long term.”
In a two-phase plan, Lhota and Gov. Andrew Cuomo have announced the NYC Subway Action Plan, which includes five short-term milestones that would be set for repairs and various other changes. The work would start immediately, with the first phase of completed improvements starting as soon as next summer.
“The NYC Subway Action Plan marks the beginning of a new chapter for the MTA and provides an opportunity to stabilize and improve the system and lay the foundation for modernization,” Lhota said. “As we work to build a better system, customers can expect to see progress in ways both big and small.”
Phase one of the plan includes signal and track maintenance, improving subway car reliability and capacity by removing seats, inspecting doors and other measures, improving the cleanliness of stations throughout the city, overhauling customer communication methods and shaking up MTA management to work more quickly and efficiently.
Phase two of the action plan is yet to be announced. According to the MTA, it will address “long-term, system-wide improvements, including better subway cars, the adoption of a new signal system and modern communications technology to facilitate new signaling and enable customer benefits.”
Cuomo has said that in order for the plan to work, the state would need to split the $836 million cost with the city. But according to the mayor, the state should have more than enough funds to cover this cost on its own.
“Before he asks hardworking New York City taxpayers to kick in more, the governor should return the money he siphoned away from MTA riders, re-allocate the money he’s using to light up bridges and fulfill his $1 billion promise,” de Blasio said.
The mayor laid out a scathing critique of the governor’s recommendation, pointing out that $456 million earmarked by the city for the MTA since 2011 had been repeatedly diverted into the state’s general funds. De Blasio also pointed to the governor’s $216 million plan to light city bridges different colors as a waste of state funds that could be used to assist subway issues.
Lhota did not take kindly to those statements.
“It is befuddling that the mayor praised the MTA repair plan, but said he would not agree to fund it 50/50 with the state,” Lhota said. “One half of a repair plan won’t make the trains run on time. The MTA is looking for the city to be a funding partner that assists the six million New Yorkers, the mayor’s constituents, who use the subway.”
Lhota also claimed that the city “underfunded the MTA for years,” while the state has contributed more money than it ever has.
“The mayor should step up to the plate and do what’s fair and fund the plan 50/50 and stop diminishing his responsibility so we can move forward on behalf of New Yorkers,” Lhota said. “This is not about politics, it’s about good government and the mayor should exercise responsible leadership and meet the state in funding the plan.”
Southeast Queens own Rory Lancman (D-Hillcrest) agreed with Lhota, saying that “no mayor should ever wash their hands of the responsibility to keep our city moving.”
“Our transit system is in crisis and New York City must step up to the plate,” Lancman said. “I urge Mayor de Blasio to accept Gov. Cuomo’s offer to split the cost of implementing MTA Chairman Lhota’s emergency plan, while the MTA should also give serious consideration to the mayor’s and TWU Local 100’s additional suggestions for action.”