City Council Speaker skeptical of MTA reorganization plan, vows hearing

Council Speaker Corey Johnson vows to hold a hearing on the MTA’s reorganization plan calling it “rushed and pushed through” without proper public review.
John McCarten/NYC Council

When the Metropolitan Transportation Authority approved a reorganization plan for the first time in more than half a century, Gov. Andrew Cuomo called it “a good start,” but the leader of the New York City Council says the state-run agency is on the wrong track.

The plan, which was approved by the MTA Board Wednesday, would cut costs by nearly $500 million per year over the next three years while eliminating as many as 2,700 jobs that will prepare the agency to “dramatically improve service, end project delays and cost overruns, and finally establish the modern system customers deserve,” according to its press release.

“Now that the Board has approved these recommendations, the work of transforming the MTA into a world-class organization that provides its customers with the service they deserve begins,” said MTA Chairman and CEO Patrick J. Foye. “It’s a new day at the MTA, our customers have demanded change, and we’re going to deliver it for the first time in nearly 50 years.”

The MTA said the plan would “institutionalize the enormous success of the Subway Action Plan, which has proven to be working and has increased on-time performance to 81.5 percent, marking the first time it had crossed the 80 percent threshold in six years.”

The controversial plan, which was prepared by a consulting firm in just three months, was approved by the Board in a 10-1 vote with one abstention, and of the 42 public speakers who testified to the Board before the vote, not one endorsed the plan.

While Cuomo said it “now comes down to execution and sound management,” City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, who called for municipal control of the MTA when he delivered his first State of the City address at LaGuardia Community College in March, had strong doubts about the reorganization plan, which he said would take power from NYC Transit president Andy Byford who launched the $40 billion “Fast Forward” plan in May 2018 to modernize the subway system.

“I am disappointed but not surprised with the MTA reorganization plan and the process by which it is being pushed through,” Johnson said. “The plan creates new layers of bureaucracy and takes critical responsibilities away from Andy Byford. Byford is the one who is actually showing us that improvements in accessibility and on time performance are possible.”

Byford added his endorsement to the plan.

“This reorganization builds upon the progress made and will transform every aspect of our service and deliver modern, fully accessible transit to riders,” he said.

But the Johnson remains skeptical and vowed to hold a hearing on the matter.

“This was rushed and is being pushed through the board without any real public review,” Johnson said. “We need real accountability, not another opaque power grab. We won’t really fix the MTA until New York City controls its own transit destiny. The subways and buses are the lifeblood of New York. Massive changes to that system should not be made in 90 days, so the Council will hold a hearing on the MTA’s plan. New Yorkers deserve real answers and a chance to be heard.”

The transit advocacy group Riders Alliance said the reorganization would be judged by its impact on the quality of public transit in the city.

“No matter how the MTA is organized, Governor Cuomo is on the hook to provide service that is safe, fast, reliable and accessible,” Riders Alliance spokesman Danny Pearlstein said. Any monetary savings from the reorganization must be reinvested in more and better transit for over eight million daily riders. Following today’s vote, the governor should focus squarely on delivering an MTA capital plan that spends congestion pricing money to finally fix the subway.”

This story first appeared on QNS.com, one of our sister publications.

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