Inside the MTA’s $29.5 billion programBy
The MTA, on Wednesday, unveiled a $29.554 billion capital plan designed to cover maintenance, upkeep and system-wide expansions from 2009-2014. The plan, as I noted yesterday, is substantially similar to the broad one the MTA presented to the public in November and would allow for a wide transit expansion in and around the New York Metropolitan.
While presenting the package yesterday, MTA CEO and Executive Director Lee Sander called attention to the need for the congestion fee. “This proposed Capital Program will ensure that our transportation network is both maintained and expanded to support the region’s economic growth,” Sander said. “A fully-funded Program is critical to encourage transit use, to improve our customers’ experience and to keep pace with global competitors like London and Shanghai, where billions are being invested in transit each year. We won’t be able to get there without a robust funding package that includes congestion pricing.”
In broad strokes, the MTA is planning a three-tiered approach to system improvements. The first tier involves “state of good repair, normal replacement and system improvement” including station renovations and the purchase of new rolling stock. The second tier focuses around the completion of current projections such as Phase 1 of the Second Ave. Subway, the pesky Fulton St. transportation hub and the East Side Access project. The final tier revolves around system expansion and includes communications-based train control system, Phase 2 of the Second Ave. Subway and the Metro-North Penn Station access plan.
The capital plan also allows for system upgrades that would be enacted if the congestion fee is approved. These include more bus routes and buses; more service on the 1, E and F trains; and longer C trains. This is, of course, the most expendable part of the capital plan.
For those of you with a taste for government documents, the entire 237-page plan is available as a PDF on the MTA’s Website. I’m going to take a look at what I consider to be some of the more interesting and tangible benefits.
As part of its ongoing effort to maintain and upgrade its rolling stock, the MTA plans to invest nearly $1.5 billion in new cars over the next five years. The agency hopes to replace 500 cars and add 90 new ones to the system, all in the B division. Most interesting to rail fans is the announcement of the R179s. The MTA plans to purchase 208 R179s to replace the R44s currently in service as A trains. Discussion of the R179s has generated a six-page rumor thread on the NYC Transit Forums.
Station Rehabilitation Plans
Outside of the rolling stock, station rehabilitation plans are the most visible aspect of any capital program. The flagship plan is probably the Bleecker St./Broadway & Lafayette renovation. The MTA will finally connect the uptown IRT stop to the rest of the complex. The agency also plans to make the Grand Central stop on the IRT a little more rider-friendly with more staircases and better access points. The moving platforms at Union Square are in line for replacement as well.
Additionally, the MTA is planning on overhauling 44 stations. Most of them — 41 — are above-ground stops in the outer boroughs. Nine stations along the Sea Beach line, 10 along the West End line, six in Far Rockaway, six in Rockaway, three along the Myrtle line and seven along the New Lots line are set for renovations. The MTA also plans to work on the 205th St. and 182-183rd Sts. stations in the Bronx and the IRT’s 14th St. stop in Manhattan.
The MTA plans to bring communications-based train control to the Flushing and Queens Boulevard line. This represents the first expansion of the technological upgrades currently in testing along the L line. These upgrades should allow the MTA to increase service along high-demand train lines in Queens.
Second Ave. Subway
In the plan, the MTA admits that the budget for Phase 1 of the Second Ave. subway will exceed the initial, four-year-old estimates by a substantial amount. The new budget is set at $4.437 billion. The target completion date is also being pushed back to 2015 due to market forces and a weak economy. At the same time, the MTA is already planning for Phase 2, a good sign for those of us who don’t really expect to see a subway line heading up Second Ave. ever.
In this ambitious, expensive and necessary plan, the aspect that jumps out at me is the utter lack of discussion about the future of the MetroCard. The document notes that “the current MetroCard system is still performing well.” However, with newer and better technologies available, I’d like to see the MTA consider a change to something more flexible than the MetroCard. Smart-card technologies really do speed up passengers at the point of entry.