Groups call for Open MTA Reorganization Process

New York League of Conservation Voters / Permanent Citizens Advisory Committee to the MTA / Pratt Center for Community Development / Tri-State Transportation Campaign / TransitCenter / Regional Plan Association / Reinvent Albany / Riders Alliance / Straphangers Campaign / StreetsPAC

Advocates call for an MTA reorganization plan that puts riders first

With the deadline for adoption of an initial MTA reorganization plan on June 30, 10 groups urge Governor Cuomo and legislative leaders to oversee a transparent, public-facing process that orients the MTA toward delivering great transit service.

Today a coalition of transit advocates and good government groups released a public letter and brief to Governor Andrew Cuomo, Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, calling on state leaders to ensure that the upcoming reorganization plan for the MTA is conducted in the interest of transit riders and in consultation with the public. (See letter and brief below.)

The brief outlines five aspects of MTA governance and practice which advocates want to see addressed in the reorganization. The brief recommends:

Clear lines of accountability. When the public does not know whom to hold responsible for the MTA’s performance, incentives to perform well weaken and service suffers. It is imperative to clarify the MTA Board’s responsibilities and authority in relation to the Governor.

Openness and transparency. Transparency allows the public to track the agency’s progress. By being open about its activities, performance, and needs, the MTA can also make a stronger case to the public for funding and other resources, rather than playing defense.

Coordinating construction projects and service delivery. Construction is more efficient when capital work and service delivery are housed under a unified entity that can mediate disputes and ensure quick resolution. At New York City Transit, the agency’s authority over service delivery puts it in the best position to coordinate its Fast Forward modernization plan, while also running a 24-hour transit network.

Develop internal talent. Investment in employee development will retain and attract the talent necessary to deliver excellent service. A top priority should be to end the agency-wide hiring freeze, which has produced shortages of key personnel needed to turn around the agency at a critical time, and has harmed employee morale.

Contain costs. New York’s high transit capital costs limit the ability to deliver everything from station elevators to major subway extensions. To bring costs down, MTA leadership must be empowered to exercise strong, independent judgment, free from political calculations.

AlixPartners will submit its reorganization recommendations to the MTA before June 30, the deadline for adoption of a plan. A separate review of “waste, fraud, and abuse” is due July 31. The MTA Board will then vote on final reorganization measures within 90 days of receiving them.

A strong reorganization plan can enact critical reforms to improve service for riders. But a plan rushed through without public vetting risks cementing in place organizational structures and practices detrimental to the long-term health of the MTA and to the service that millions of riders depend on.

In order to succeed, the MTA reorganization process must be open to the public and allow for constructive feedback. Recommendations from AlixPartners must be posted online as soon as the MTA receives them. State leaders must engage transit riders, independent experts, and other stakeholders in the evaluation and refinement of the initial plan, with a consultation process that enables greater dialogue than the MTA Board meeting format allows.

By committing to an open, consultative process, Governor Cuomo and legislative leaders will enhance the credibility of the MTA reorganization plan and ensure that it produces reforms in the best interest of the riding public.