What Happens to “Fast Forward”?
Plan Strips NYC Transit President Andy Byford of Power to Oversee Engineers, Manage Construction, Hire Contractors
Another Distraction From $7.3B Cuomo Pledged to MTA 2015-2019 Capital Plan
Reinvent Albany has serious concerns about the 10-Point Plan to “Transform” the MTA released by Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio and we wonder if the plan will do more harm than good. Reinvent Albany strongly supports congestion pricing and new revenue for the MTA, but we believe the MTA’s biggest organizational problem is the Governor’s endless political meddling and sidelining of the MTA and NYC Transit professional staff.
We note that in 2016 Governor Cuomo and the legislature pledged to give the MTA 2015-2019 Capital Plan $8.3B, with $1B appropriated upfront. It still owes $7.3B. Where is this money? To date, the MTA has received only $805 million from the state in cash it can actually spend on the current plan.
- Andy Byford, NYCT President stripped of power. The Governor’s proposed reorganization takes away a huge amount of fundamental management authority from New York City Transit President Andy Byford and shifts it to MTA Headquarters (HQ). What happens with Byford’s Fast Forward Plan if he can’t implement it? The governor proposes shifting engineering, contracting and construction management to MTA HQ. We note that MTA HQ has completely mismanaged the East Side Access project with up to $7B in cost overruns. (Item #1)
- Congestion pricing proposal creates a gigantic new loophole by creating vast, vague exceptions for motorists. Given the disastrous experience with state and NYC issued parking placards, this is an invitation for abuse and petty corruption. (Item #2)
- What happens to MTA if inflation is higher than 2%? A two-percent hard cap on MTA fare and toll hikes makes no sense. More reasonable would be to index to inflation, given the many times inflation has far exceeded 2%. (Item #3)
- The Regional Transit Committee duplicates and subtracts from the MTA Board’s authority and will create even more confusion. If the legislature wants representation on the MTA board or changes to the board, it should make them instead of creating a confusing mess that further reduces accountability. The MTA board should determine fares, tolls, and budgets, etc. If it does it poorly, reform it. (Item #7)
- The MTA, like other state authorities and agencies, should be run by professionals, not overseen by unqualified, arbitrarily selected academics hand-picked by the governor. There are many people in the world with more far more expertise on transit engineering and technology than the Deans of Columbia and Cornell engineering schools — including within the MTA. Why should these informal advisors to the governor determine what kind of signals technology the MTA uses? (Item #8)
This is not the time to make major changes to redistribute power over the MTA’s governance structure, as there are too many stakeholders at risk. Changes to the governance of the MTA should be made independently of the budget after full and thorough discussion by MTA stakeholders and the public.