The New York City subway system is at a turning point. Despite strong population and job growth, unreliable transit service is causing ridership to decline for the first time in decades. Unless New York’s leaders reverse this decline, the continued economic health and prosperity of the region will be at risk.
The future of the subway is riding on the 2020-2024 MTA Capital Program, the agency’s forthcoming plan to maintain and upgrade assets like track, rolling stock, and stations. In addition to keeping existing infrastructure in a state of good repair, the capital program is expected to include major investments in station accessibility, modern signaling, and new subway cars –– a key selling point for congestion pricing in the 2019 legislative session.
Governor Cuomo, who controls the MTA and its budget, should not repeat the mistakes of past capital programs, where too many resources went toward gold-plated expansion mega-projects, at the expense of the existing system that millions of people depend on. The governor and the MTA must produce a capital program that includes the right investments; the MTA must deliver those projects at the right price; and the MTA and state lawmakers must set up accountability and oversight mechanisms that keep this critical work on the right track.
TransitCenter and our partners have launched the Build Trust campaign to hold elected officials and MTA leadership accountable to riders as the 2020-2024 Capital Program is developed, approved, and implemented. Millions of transit riders are counting on Governor Cuomo, MTA Chairman Pat Foye, and state lawmakers to set the subway on a course of steady improvement. Here’s how they can fix and modernize the subway -- and build trust in the MTA to spend public funds effectively.
1. Release an on-time 2020-2024 MTA Capital Program that addresses core maintenance needs, and follows through on public commitments to make 50 more stations accessible, upgrade five of the busiest subway lines with modern communications-based train control (CBTC) signaling, and update the subway fleet with 650 new cars and 1,200 CBTC-equipped cars. The capital program must be accompanied by a five-year implementation plan.
2. Review transit capital costs from other large cities with old rail networks, and set benchmark unit cost targets for a station accessibility project, a track-mile of modern signaling, a new subway car, and a mile of subway expansion.
3. Report on construction progress and cost control by creating an accurate, user-friendly online project tracker, and by improving the existing capital program dashboard with clearer, more accurate information.
4. Starting in the fall of 2019, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins should pursue meaningful oversight of the MTA Capital Program.