Jul
20

MTA promises $2 billion in capital spending cuts

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The MTA has launched its push for capital funding today with a report that pledges an additional $2 billion in cuts to its current five-year plan. With Albany gearing up to assess the immediate future of New York City’s public transit system and its short-term capital future, the MTA is out to prove that it can spend money efficiently and wisely while acknowledging that cuts to the funding grant are necessary to move forward.

“The critical importance of the MTA’s Capital Program to protecting the transportation system and creating New York jobs doesn’t excuse the need to implement it as efficiently and effectively as possible,” MTA Chairman and CEO Jay H. Walder said. “We cut $2 billion from our Capital Program last year by planning our program more effectively. Today I’m committing the MTA to doubling the savings we’ve achieved in our Capital Program to $4 billion, not by deferring vital projects but instead by finding better ways of delivering benefits.”

Continuing the long-term theme of “Making Every Dollar Count,” the plan — available here as a PDF — cuts the total five-year bill to $24.2 billion, down from an initial request of $28.2 billion. The 15 percent in savings is a substantial amount for an organization not known for keeping costs down, and the commitment to costs along with a fear of public-private partnerships could spur Albany to act.

The MTA has top-lined the savings, and it looks a little bit like this:

  • Slash Administrative Costs ($150 million savings): Similar to the cuts put in place in the operating budget.
  • Create Project Approval Gates ($800 million savings): The MTA will review every capital project through approval gates at each stage of its development to ensure that the agency is moving forward at the lowest cost. This strategy, combined with a softer construction market, has already delivered savings of $800 million.
  • Make Changes to Track Work ($300 million savings): The MTA and its agencies are taking steps to overhaul the way employees and contractors perform work on tracks, saving more than $300 million.
  • Change Rolling Stock Acquisition and Maintenance ($300 million savings): The MTA is reducing costs of buying and maintaining trains and buses by changing design specifications, increasing competition among suppliers, getting more life out of existing units, and embracing new technologies. These changes will save $300 million.

Of course, with these changes, riders lose some benefits. Older rolling stock models will have to last longer, and station components may not be upgraded as quickly as we would like. We may also see fewer shuttle buses replacing shuttered subway routes as the report itself says the MTA will “use replacement bus services only when there are no alternative services available.”

Still, the alternative — shutting down the capital campaign until money materializes and slowing down work on big-ticket items — isn’t acceptable. The MTA has shown a clear willingness to operate at more efficient levels. Will Albany acknowledge the effort with a proper investment?



21 Responses to “MTA promises $2 billion in capital spending cuts”

  1. Hank says:

    This just looks like good management. If it saves the desperately needed capital projects, then double kudos to Jay Walder.

  2. Bolwerk says:

    Of course, with these changes, riders lose some benefits. Older rolling stock models will have to last longer, and station components may not be upgraded as quickly as we would like. We may also see fewer shuttle buses replacing shuttered subway routes as the report itself says the MTA will “use replacement bus services only when there are no alternative services available.”

    I don’t see a big deal about older components lasting longer, if the trains keep running on time and safety stays near current levels. I’m sympathetic to the idea of shutdowns, but…why not just shut down? Don’t encourage people to overwhelm existing parallel services. If a train isn’t available, and people know it won’t be, they can make alternate plans.

    Another thing that would be nice would be an all-three approach of surface LRT substituting for subways when they’re out and buses substituting for LRT when LRT is out.

    • Justin says:

      I think the NIMBY crowd would kill any light rail project. A light rail to LGA Airport could work, but I doubt the people in those parts of Queens would accept any train that would interfere with their cars. So if a train is built to LGA, it would be an Airtrain type deal (or any extension of the LIRR or the subway). The Port Authority has the money to pay for this like they did Airtrain, which should be connected to the LIRR.

      With that said, good they’re finding ways to cut costs and keep the Second Avenue Subway Construction and the ESA projects going. Walder’s hope is probably if the MTA shows greater efficiency, they may get more willingness from Washington and Albany to fund their projects.

      • Bolwerk says:

        In many cases, it would be NIYBYs – not in your back yard. They’d complain that streets far away from where they live would be converting to serve more people.

        I don’t see LRT being the best solution for LGA. That calls for heavy rail.

  3. Alon Levy says:

    Very good. This is what efficiency looks like: a series of small improvements, each significant but not earth-shattering on its own, leading at the end to much higher productivity.

    • sharon says:

      I have been screaming for over a decade that the mta should be focusing on capital projects that both cut costs and address safety concerns.

      The N line in Brooklyn has peeling LEAD PAINT and dark corridors for decades while they waste money putting in tile floors and fancy features in other stations.

      Brand new NOVA express coaches less than 2 years old were replaced with fancy MCI over the road cruzers

      The mta should focus on deploying GPS to get buses on time and eliminate field dispatchers who sleep in cars(have about 20 photos )

      Install platform cameras to roll out full train OPTO systemwide

      Fixing safety issue in stations and track and signal repair

      • pete says:

        You should check out the bus junk yard at Eastchester Depot in the bronx. 50% of the buses in it aren’t 15 years old yet (all the MCIs and New Flyer Articulateds). My car is older than the buses the MTA is scrapping. And you wonder why the MTA is broke. The MTA used to run the RTSes for 15-20 years before being scrapped. Now 10 years is the policy. The MTA sure isn’t replacing all the buses for free.

        • Bolwerk says:

          Buses in most cities don’t last much more than 15 years. It’s another reason rail really is cheaper than buses once ridership starts getting heavy.

  4. Al D says:

    I certainly hope that they have no intention of scrapping the L shuttle between Lorimer – Myrtle/Wyckoff, B’way Junction. For heaven’s sake the ridership on that shuttle line makes a regulare route green with envy. And the J M G A C alternative combos just won’t work.

    • Christopher says:

      Oh I hope they do. That shuttle is hellish. It takes 45 minutes to get the Lorimer from Myrtle/Wyckoff. And the mess coming the other direction at Lorimer is always a disaster. Meanwhile, there is 3x as many people trying to use the J/M to get around the shuttle mess — without any additional trains because I guess the MTA thinks everyone will take the shuttle. which is ridiculous to think there is not nearly enough capacity in the shuttle to handle all the people that live out there.

      Alternately, the MTA could stop shutting the L down every weekend. Or finish whatever they are doing which seems to cycle on and off for years.

      • Bolwerk says:

        I think the inconvenience factor of getting to the J/M is ridiculous, and they should extend the M uptown those days, but I don’t see a big problem with J/M capacity at those times. It’s often SRO, but seats can’t always be available.

        Of course, the J/M can only substitute for the L to a very limited extent.

    • sharon says:

      That is a place where you need the shuttle.

      When StillWell ave was renovated the mta wasted million on shuttle buses when people had other options to get to CI via local buses to other nearby CI bound subway lines.

      Most riders who stillwell CI was there destination just took another line from manahattan

      Theses buses ran EMPTY day after day.

      I hope Cuomo steps up and pressures changes to Union work rules in regard to these shuttle services. Currently Drivers are forbidden by contract from picking buses up from any depot other then there own. Driver win overtime based on citywide list and then pick bus up at home depot and drive it to where it needs to be. You had Bronx buses in Coney island who drove 1 hour plus in each direction to get there. That’s 2 hour extra OT

      The rule should give drivers at nearby depots precedent and all local buses should be used prior to any from outer boroughs

      • ajedrez says:

        The (Q) was replaced by a slightly extended B68, not a shuttle bus (and the MTA decided to keep the B68 extension to Coney Island to serve the Trump apartment buildings on Neptune Avenue).

        The (F) was replaced by a shuttle bus, but there was no easy way to get to Coney Island from Avenue X. You’d have to go all the way back to the West End Line.

    • Bolwerk says:

      That is a prime example of what I talked about above. Buses cannot handle even off-peak L service between those two points, but an LRT system that partly paralleled the L would work splendidly. It doesn’t even need to visit every L station to take much of the load off the L, since L riders are largely looking for Dekalb and Myrtle anyway. It could follow Metropolitan instead, and work its way back down to Wyckoff at Dekalb by some other route.

      Shuttle buses probably can handle the load between the shuttle terminii (Myrtle and Lorimer) and every other station between.

      • Alon Levy says:

        The problem is that the need for LRT to parallel the L is not pressing. The L’s capacity problem revolves around getting to Manhattan; the nearest crossing that LRT could use is the Williamsburg Bridge, which would make the line parallel the J/Z and not the L. There’s also no big service gap paralleling the L; there’s a gap between Brooklyn and Queens, but a line along Metropolitan connecting Williamsburg, Middle Village, and Jamaica would again not really parallel the L.

        • Bolwerk says:

          That’s not necessarily what I mean. I’d just like to see those types of routings possible when they’re needed.

          There are lots of ways to make it possible, but here’s an example. Maybe it’s stupid, maybe it’s not, but it’s probably a reasonable ballpark.

          * Line A: north-south LRT from Myrtle-Wyckoff to Dekalb to Greenpoint and into LIC fills a huge service gap. Intersects the L at Myrtle-Wyckoff, Dekalb, and maybe Jefferson. Further north probably intersects the G and 7. Could easily continue south from Mrytle or north from LIC.

          * Line B: east-west service from the Williamsburg Bridge to Lorimer, and then following Metropolitan to just about any under-served area in that part of Queens (Elliot Ave. might be a good residential example). Intersects the J to the south, the L at Lorimer and Graham, maybe the M at Middle Village.

          The two lines would intersect or perhaps even interline somewhere near Grand & Metropolitan. On the days when the L needs work, shuttle LRVs could be routed using such a service from Lorimer to around Grand, where they’d be able to turn south towards Myrtle. Normal service patterns may or may not support such a service, and the three minor L stations the LRV shuttle service misses (Grand, Montrose, Morgan) could still be served by shuttle buses.

          • John Paul N. says:

            But are those routes sustainable to operate when the subway service is normal? I would be a potential passenger of those routes, and I don’t think they would help me much. (What would be of most help is a better way between Wyckoff/DeKalb and Woodside or Queens Center, if I’m avoiding the L.) Line A, if it is amended to pass through Maspeth may be of good value.

            for current shuttle bus operations, at Lorimer, ideally I would time at least 4 buses per each train that comes from Manhattan; the bus times from the other end can be staggered. Or I would even have bus service run express between Lormier and DeKalb and points south.

            Otherwise I would keep doing what I’ve been doing: use the comfortable but longer B38 for Brooklyn or Manhattan.

            • Bolwerk says:

              They were just examples, but I don’t see why not. North Brooklyn service is terrible right now. Line B above could easily serve Maspeth. Line A could too, I guess, but it would probably have to miss Greenpoint – I would think it would make more sense for it to serve Glendale by turning east on Myrtle.

              For L shuttles, they seem to be timing way more than four buses/train with the L shuttle. What they probably need is about a bus and a half per L Train car, though I don’t know if they’re coming close to that. (The shuttle probably stuns the L service significantly. Going towards Manhattan, there is usually plenty of room once you get to the L, after leaving a jam-packed bus.)

        • XPLORER says:

          Mayor La Guardia decreed, no more trolley cars, just clean buses. If you want transportation in Glendale Middle Villiage you have to come out and fight for it, the Nimbys come out and fight against it. The Rockway Line and the Atlantic Branch of the LI RR should be made a cross Queens route with connection to the Queens Blvd and Fulton A line and the Atlantic Ave route. The later being part of the future 2nd Avenue line to Manhattan. You have to start with Community District 9. Show up in droves…………

    • John Paul N. says:

      A switch either between Morgan and Montrose or between Montrose and Grand could help things out a bit. When the L used to terminate at Montrose way back when, the switch there should never have been removed.

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