Richard Ravitich’s clock is now ticking. By December 5, Ravitch and his newly-appointed 12-member Committee on MTA Finances will have a ten-year plan on the desks of Gov. David Patterson and the New York State legislature, and the fate of the MTA will be tied to that report.
Patterson on Tuesday unveiled the rest of Ravitch’s committee, and the governor filled it with transportation experts and officials and finance and electricity executives. The committee will now begin its unenviable task of finding tens of billions of dollars for the MTA to meet both its capital budget and its operations budget.
City Room breaks down the well-qualified committee:
- Laura L. Anglin, the state budget director since January.
- Kevin M. Burke, chairman and chief executive of Consolidated Edison.
- Robert B. Catell, chairman of National Grid U.S., a unit of the Keyspan Corporation.
- Douglas Durst, the prominent real estate developer who runs the Durst Organization.
- Peter C. Goldmark, who directs the climate and air program at the Environmental Defense Fund. He was formerly state budget director, executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, president of the Rockefeller Foundation, and chairman and chief executive of The International Herald Tribune, part of The New York Times Company.
- Denis M. Hughes, president of the New York State A.F.L.-C.I.O. since 1999.
- Mysore L. Nagaraja, a transportation project consultant who was formerly president of the M.T.A. Capital Construction Company and senior vice president and chief engineer at New York City Transit.
- Mark Page, the city’s budget director since 2002.
- Kim Paparello Vaccari, head of the transportation group at Banc of America Securities.
- Steven M. Polan, a partner at the law firm of Manatt, Phelps & Phillips and a former general counsel to the M.T.A.
- The Rev. Joseph McShane, the president of Fordham University since 2003.
- Elliot G. Sander, executive director and chief executive officer of the M.T.A. since 2007.
I’m a bit intrigued by the appointment of Mysore Nagaraja to the committee considering the circumstances surrounding his departure, but he does have the most intimate knowledge of the MTA capital plan right now. Veronique Hakim is simply the interim head of MTA Capital Construction right now and is not really experienced enough in that role to join this group.
Meanwhile, public officials said all the right things in unveiling this commission. “New York’s leaders have too often underestimated the critical importance of mass transit to the economic wellbeing of the region and the quality of life of our citizens,” Paterson said. “The congestion pricing debate highlighted the need for sustainable funding for the MTA. This Commission will help ensure that the MTA has the resources it needs to expand and maintain a mass transit system that can increase regional prosperity while also curbing sprawl, reducing traffic congestion and improving the environment.”
While the commission is bound to recommend some form of congestion pricing providing a dedicated revenue stream for the MTA and public transit, the commission may bring about some much-need organizational change at the MTA. Ravitch and his commission will investigate “initiatives to maximize MTA efficiencies,” and I have to believe that the commission may look into some of the fiscal problems inherent in the MTA’s operations.
As I’ve said before, Ravitch is facing a tough task, but we need him to fulfill the promise he brings to the job. He’s going to have to ask tough questions of the MTA and demand tough compromises from the agency as well as from the state and its citizens. The economic future of the MTA and our region will depend on it.