Watchdog Analysis Shows Huge Challenge for MTA to Spend Capital Funds in Timely Way

Watchdog Analysis of MTA Capital Plans Shows Spending Funding in Timely Way a Huge Challenge

In 2020, MTA Will Have Three or Four Capital Plans Underway, with at Least $25B Left from Old Plans

MTA Will Inevitably Need To Choose Which Projects Come First and Last,
So Best They Do So Transparently

Calls for MTA to Provide Honest Spending, Implementation and Debt Plans

Reinvent Albany today released a report, Analysis of MTA Capital Spending: Can the MTA Deliver its 2020-2024 Capital Plan?, in advance of the MTA Board voting on the MTA 2020-2024 Capital Plan. The plan must be approved by the Board by October 1st, and then will be considered by the Capital Program Review Board within 90 days. The Board is also simultaneously considering amendments to two prior plans (2015-2019 and 2010-2014).

The analysis shows the biggest constraint on completing MTA capital plans is the MTA’s ability to spend, not find funding. The analysis looks at expenditures, not commitments. The five major findings are:

  1. Even optimistically, it will likely take the MTA more than 10 years to spend $55B in new funds. MTA’s highest ever capital spending was $6.6B in 2018. But, the most spent on a single plan in one year was $4.5B in 2009.
  2. The announced funding is not guaranteed. A Democratic President gave the MTA $7B for the 2015-2019 plan, and this new plan expects $10.7B from the feds. It also assumes NYC will pay $3B.
  3. New proposed borrowing may negatively affect the operating budget. The plan relies on $10B of new borrowing. The MTA already spends 17% of its operating budget on debt service.
  4. The plan lacks the same basic transparency as the 2015-2019 plan, providing less detail for more spending.
  5. Amendments to the 2015-2019 and 2010-2014 plan lack a clear, itemized list of changes, and contain new, deferred and rolled over projects that are buried in pages of narrative text.

The MTA will inevitably have to choose which projects come first and last, so it is best that they do so transparently.

To increase public transparency and accountability, we urge the MTA to publish:

  1. An honest spending plan showing realistically how much MTA can actually spend per year.
  2. A clear implementation plan showing which projects come first and when all projects will be started and completed.
  3. Informative project listings, including commitment, expenditure, start and completion schedules for all projects. This should also include specific locations for items that currently say “various locations.”
  4. A detailed debt analysis of how debt service payments will affect the MTA’s operating budget.
  5. An itemized listing of all projects changes from amendments to the 2010-2014 and 2015-2019 plans.