The Permanent Citizens Advisory Committee to the MTA released its annual performance review of the beleaguered transit agency. NY1 cited the report for giving high marks to the MTA while The Post believes the PCAC “blasted” the authority. The truth, of course, lies somewhere in the middle.
This year’s report is notable for its release date. Generally, the PCAC publishes its annual findings earlier in the room. But they pushed back the drop date on it this year to ensure the document would not impact “the vigorous debate over MTA fares, service, and funding.” While that debate is far from over and proponents and opponents alike could find ammunition in this report, this document offers up a nuanced look at the MTA.
The top line summary is what we would expect. The report praises the various agency heads for increased transparency — take that, Senator Lanza — but slams the capital construction crew for inexplicably missing deadlines.
The full report is available here as a PDF. I’ll summarize as I did last year the parts concerning the MTA overall and and New York City Transit. What follows are the MTA-centric aspects. I’ll publish the New York City Transit analysis at noon.
PCAC is generally pleased with MTA CEO and Executive Director Lee Sander. They praise him for his forward-looking state of the MTA address but fault for him failing to meeting anticipated levels of interaction with advocacy groups.
More damning is the committee’s critique of organizational structure. The corporate structure, they say, “still lacks rationale.” Important divisions are understaffed; unimportant positions are overstaffed. The committee would like to see an internal personnel audit.
The PCAC report is very critical of the state of the MTA’s capital projects. While praising the tunnel-boring progress of the East Side Access plan, the committee writes,”It is not clear, however, what the prognosis is for an on-time, on budget delivery of a completed station.”
Similarly, PCAC faults the MTA for its standstill with the city over funding for the 7 Line Extension stop at 41st St. and 10th Ave. This latter shortfall, the committee says, “is particularly disappointed and ironic since the main goal of extension is to provide subway service for development projects at the West Side Hudson Yards, which are now on hold due to the poor economy.” Without the second station, this project is truly in danger of becoming the Subway to Nowhere.
The PCAC reserves its wrath for the Fulton St. mess. “This project has been a disaster from the start,” says the report, “and represents a monument to ineptness on the part of the MTA and the other largely uncoordinated agencies involved in this urgently needed project.” While the PCAC recognizes that stimulus funds may be required to jump start this program, they fear that the money “will again be wasted if the work is not properly coordinated and closely supervised.”
The South Ferry station too draws the ire of the advisory committee. PCAC found “no acceptable explanation for the 11th hour platform gap problem” and notes that “there has been no visible evidence that anyone at Capital Construction of NYCT has been held accountable for errors in design and the resulting delays.” Construction, it seems, is not the MTA’s forte.
In the realm of technology and security, PCAC finds the MTA lacking as well. They fault “the slow pace” of installation of a security system and question why the MTA is delaying for three years a SmartCard fare payment system already in place throughout the world. “This [delay] is extremely unfortunate and puts the MTA significantly behind other large transit systems such as CTA, WMATA, MARTA, MBTA, etc. where riders travel easily using a ‘Touch and Go’ card linked to a credit card,” they say. “We consider the failure to move forward based on NYCT’s program very shortsighted.”
It’s hard to quibble with this assessment, and public subway watchdogs should find themselves nodding in agreement. Unfortunately, the MTA’s fiscal woes aren’t going to improve this situation any time soon. With funding up in the air, technology implementation projects remain tenuous, and big-ticket items are no sure thing. The MTA is doing as good as it can considering the circumstances, but PCAC doesn’t think that’s quite good enough.