Gov. Nero is fiddling while Rome’s subway system is burning, but some New York City lawmakers aren’t taking it sitting down. Assembly representative James Brennan, architect of a plan to fund the MTA’s capital plan, has penned a letter to the Governor asking for resolution. Streetsblog posted the letter [pdf], and Brennan secured 24 other Assembly members and 10 State Senators as co-signers.
Brennan and Co. do not hold back. I’ll excerpt at length:
While this proposed statewide capital program represents a significant number, it still falls far short of what is generally acknowledged by the comptroller and other transportation experts as what is needed to keep New York’s most valuable economic asset—its unparalleled $1 trillion transit system—in a state of good repair and to continue modest expansion. It also must be considered in the context of its broader value to the economic health of its service regions with more than 14 million people, seven million workers and one that generates $1.4 trillion in GDP. Moreover, maintaining transit systems across the state contributes significantly to the upstate economy, given the number of suppliers and value-added services that exist in upstate New York to support the transit capital plans.
The MTA’s daily ridership of 8.6 million has reached a 65-year all time high and is putting significant strain on the system. The Lexington Avenue subway alone carries 1.3 million people a day, exceeding the ridership of San Francisco, Chicago and Boston combined. The pressure on the MTA’s physical assets to serve this increasing ridership is starting to show, with equipment and facility-related train delays on the rise. Between October 2013 and October 2014, nearly 25% of all subway trains were late. Metro-North and Long Island Rail Road have similarly struggled in managing their aging assets.
A fully-funded, five-year statewide capital plan will have far reaching impacts for the entire New York metropolitan and upstate regions, regardless of which borough or county one calls home. It will fund the purchase of modern buses, subway cars and commuter rail cars; the installation of computerized signals to increase capacity and reduce crowding; safety measures such as new subway track to prevent derailments and Positive Train Control to keep commuter rail passengers safe; and rider information like countdown clocks and “BusTime” technology that will help bring New York’s largely outdated system into the 21st Century and closer to on par with the world’s other leading cities.
Our transit agencies have experienced a decrease in federal, state, and local monies for far too long. If new sources of funding are not identified soon, agencies will be forced to raise fares and tolls or reduce service to pay for much-needed infrastructure needs—taking more money from the pockets of millions of daily riders, many of whom have no other transportation options. Viable funding options exist to support these initiatives, and the time is now to take action.
These lawmakers want action during the 2015 legislative session — which ends in less than a month. This is a direct challenge to Cuomo and the loudest one he’s received on the MTA’s capital plan so far. Will he act? I wouldn’t put money on it, but the pressure is mounting as days on the legislative calendar melt away.