Progress at Second Avenue Subway’s 86th St.caverns as of July 17, 2014. Photo: MTA Capital Construction / Rehema Trimiew

As the MTA gears up to release its proposal for its next five-year capital plan within the next few weeks, agency CEO and Chairman Tom Prendergast went to Albany to preview the package. We learned that funding for Phase 2 of the Second Ave. Subway will be included in the request, and a variety of other plans that I’ve discussed over the eight years of this site’s life will slowly come to fruition. Still, funding questions remain, and Prendergast challenged Albany to do something about it.

Earlier on Thursday, I noted that Prendergast had requested $1.5 billion for Phase 2 of the Second Ave. Subway. Phase 2 includes stations at 106th and 116th and Second Ave. and one at 125th St. and Lexington. The subway will use a mix of preexisting and new-build tunnels. As far as the money goes, the MTA’s plan for the next few years involves wrapping up Phase 1, refreshing the environmental impact study and working out designs for Phase 2, and beginning construction toward the end of the five-year period. I assume then that additional funding will come from the feds and from the next five-year plan that covers the years 2020-2024.

Even with a slower timeline — the full four-phase SAS was originally to be finished by 2020 — Phase 2 is the key to this project’s future. It connects with the Lexington Ave. line and Metro-North at 125th St. and provides the option for westward extensions to Manhattanville and northward to the Bronx. It provides the entire East Side will easier service to Times Square and Herald Square and will relieve crowding on the 4, 5 and 6. It can’t come soon enough.

But what else awaits? Pete Donohue provides the details. In addition to much-discussed safety enhancements for the MTA’s commuter rails, Donohue noted the following:

Prendergast said the plan, which isn’t finalized, would likely include approximately $20 billion for so-called “state of good repair” maintenance projects, like replacing tracks, signals and older subway trains. It is also projected to feature $5 billion for expansion projects, like the Second Ave. subway and the Long Island Rail Road link to Grand Central Terminal that is now being built. Further, Prendergast anticipated the plan would provide anywhere from $2 billion to $5 billion for rider enhancements, including countdown clocks on lettered subway lines and a swipe-less replacement of the MetroCard fare-payment system.

But what of the money? Prendergast and other MTA officials discussed this funding gap as well. The agency wants at least $27 billion, and although Albany could permit the MTA to issue more debt, sending the agency further into the red won’t help improve operations or financial security. “We can’t keep adding to our debt load. [It is] a formula for failure,” Prendergast noted. “The bottom line is, the capital program needs an infusion of new, sustainable funding, and we need your support in that regard.”

How that support manifests itself is up for debate. I’ve been expecting a tolling/congestion pricing plan to make a comeback simply because the state has few other avenues for revenue that could be directly tied into transit improvements while improving traffic flow throughout heavily congested areas of the city. MTA officials have also discussed contributions from the real estate interests that have piled up dollars throughout the city, and the MTA Reinvention Commission is, hopefully, looking at the issue as well.

The funding will remain a concern throughout the next few months, but I’m relieved to see the MTA focusing on moving the ball forward. They have momentum as new projects come online over the next few months and years and should maintain and build on that expertise. SAS Phase 2 is a must-have, and the sooner it starts the better. How we opt to pay for it will be very telling indeed.

  • Prendergast: SAS Phase 2 funding to be included in capital plan · For the last few years, there’s been an ongoing “will they or won’t they” watch concerning future phases of the Second Ave. Subway. With Phase 1 funded and set to open at the end of 2016, the MTA could have been preparing to get started on Phase 2 — the northern extension to 125th St. — but with finances shaky and labor contracts outstanding, the agency had kept its plans close to the vest. Well, the future for the Second Ave. Subway is no longer a secret as MTA CEO and Chairman Tom Prendergast stated today that substantial funding for Phase 2 will be included in the 2015-2019 five-year capital plan.

    While fielding questions during an Assembly hearing, Prendergast announced that the MTA will ask for $1.5 billion for Phase 2 construction. This total is approximately one-third the estimated cost, and the expectation is that the feds will kick in additional money with the rest to be determined. Phase 2 is a key part of this project as it connects the northern extension of the Q train to the Lexington Ave. line and Metro-North station at 125th St. and can help alleviate a lot of the pressure on the 4, 5 and 6 trains. I’ll have more on this later, but this is a welcome development and very, very good news. · (95)

Let’s talk about the old City Hall loop station long out of service. Sitting under City Hall Park and, well, City Hall, it’s a Guastavino beauty that served as the launching point for the crazy, cacophonous subway system we have come to know and, at various times and various moods, love or hate. It closed to passenger service in 1945, a victim of a poorly designed platform and declining ridership. It’s open now for tours, and passengers are permitted to ride 6 trains through the loop from the southbound Brooklyn Bridge platform to the north side. Take that ride during the day if you never have. It’s the closest thing you can find to hopping into a time machine.

Let’s also talk about the Transit Adjudication Bureau. The TAB is a quasi-judicial body set up to adjudicate summons issued in the subways and buses by NYPD cops. Since the hearings concern infractions and summons that don’t rise to the level of criminal charges, civil rights advocates, while wary of the TAB, have not gone to the mats over due process concerns. The TAB need not have due process protections required of criminal courts, but so long as some process is followed, it works. When that process breaks down, though, it’s concerning.

A few weeks, Joshua Patchus wanted to catch that City Hall stop, and so he and a friend rode the 6 through the loop. His subsequent blog post gives away the ending: He got a summons and decided to fight it. He lost in front of the Transit Adjudication Bureau. He broke no rules and no laws, and he shouldn’t have received a summons. Then the TAB failed. To me, that’s concerning.

Josh and I exchanged emails this week concerning his plight, and his story is a by-the-books example of transit justice gone wrong. The 6 train Patchus boarded announced “This is the last downtown stop on this train, the Next stop on this train is the Brooklyn Bridge/City Hall on the uptown platform.” That’s a clear sign that it’s safe to stay on. The train left Brooklyn Bridge and proceeded through the City Hall Loop without stopping. As Josh explained to me, it took about as long to go from the downtown platform to the uptown platform as it did for the train to go from Canal St. to Brooklyn Bridge.

When the train arrived on the uptown platform, two police officers asked Patchus and his friend to exit the train. The cops then handed out summonses alleging a violation of Rule of Conduct 1050(6)(2d) — which is a posted sign or announcement. Patchus decided to fight and had as evidence the 6 train recording and an affirmative from the conductor allowing him to stay onboard. Still, it wasn’t enough to convince the TAB judge who claimed that the summons was “legally sufficient to establish a prima facie case.” The TAB decision stated as well that the “Respondent did disregard the overhead announcement.”

Now, clearly, the TAB was wrong. There was no overhead announcement because it wasn’t a violation of any rule to ride through the City Hall Loop. The summons is more defensible because these things happen for a variety of reasons. Maybe the cops were new to the beat; maybe they weren’t trained. The MTA has since assured me that the agency will work closely with the precincts to ensure riders are not ticketed for riding through the Loop.

What happened with the TAB raises serious concerns though. The TAB’s own procedures require the ticketing officer to prove that the respondent — in this case Patchus — has violated a rule, and the person receiving the summons can then dispute this claim. It’s the bedrock American principle of innocent until proven guilty. It doesn’t seem as though the TAB adjudicator cared much for this procedure or for the rules, and a ticket for something that isn’t a ticketable offense was upheld.

Now, for Patchus, all’s well that ends well as the MTA plans to get his case dismissed, but that happened only after reporters started sniffing around the story. Patchus had in fact planned to appeal, a move that would have cost him more time. The MTA couldn’t provide much information on how TAB got this wrong, but I wouldn’t be too thrilled to have to fight an improperly issued ticket only to see it upheld. The system seems broken, and outside of concerns over the constitutionality of TAB proceedings, the consequences have real costs for subway riders.

Categories : MTA Absurdity
Comments (22)

My apologies for the silence over the last few days. I’ve been swamped with a combination of baseball games, wedding planning and work, and I haven’t had time to move through the posts I have in the queue. You’ll unfortunately have to wait a little longer, but here’s a treat for you this Wednesday. I’ve always had a huge soft spot for this 1970s-era song from Sesame Street. Dig the Vignelli map cameo too.

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A grand transit hub or a grand waste of money? (Photo via @WTCProgress)

My thoughts on the Santiago Calatrava-designed PATH World Trade Center Transportation Hub are no secret. It’s a multi-billion-dollar monument to the Spanish architect’s ego that does very little to enhance transit capacity or the aesthetics of the World Trade Center area. As the structure has arisen, it’s lack of visual appeal has become more obvious, and although its completion is a fait accompli, it’s still worth dwelling on the process. In fact, I’ve asked Port Authority, through a FOI request, for information regarding fees paid to Calatrava and his firm.

Meanwhile, in The Post on Sunday, Steve Cuozzo absolutely eviscerated the transportation hub. He doesn’t chart new ground, but his takedown is, to borrow an overused phrase, epic. He writes:

With each passing week, the embarrassing ugliness of this $4 billion boondoggle designed by Santiago Calatrava — a hideous waste of public money — grows plain for all to see. Not everyday-ugly, like a tacky brown tie or dress, but LOL-ugly. What are those spiky “ribs” and “wings” doing next door to 3 World Trade Center and the memorial pools? What happened to the “bird in flight” we were promised?

The elephantine excess won’t be fully realized until the scheduled opening at the end of 2015. But as the dragon slumbers to its feet, enough of it’s reared its head to give a sense of what the finished fiasco will look like: a self-indulgent monstrosity wildly out of proportion to everything around it, and 100% aloof from the World Trade Center’s commercial and commemorative purposes.

Hey, what’s wrong with a train station? Nothing — but today’s 40,000 daily PATH riders make do very well with the current temporary station. And the Hub’s vaunted subway line connections could have been more efficiently achieved with a simple passageway than an “Oculus” longer and taller than Grand Central Terminal’s main hall.

Having seen the parts of the Hub that are already open to the public, I’ve witnessed first-hand what Cuozzo terms “sterile and intimidating.” The floors are solid, slippery marble, and the dominant color is white — not what you’d choose for a New York City subway station bound to attract dirt, debris and all manner of grim from the surrounding environment. It’s a museum to an architect in which practicality was an afterthought if it was even a thought at all.

Cuozzo questions the architectural support for the structure and ponders who will shop in the underground mall. The latter point is less of a concern because New Yorkers and tourists tend to gravitate toward these kinds of shopping centers if the mix of retail is right, but the fact that not one but two under-built transit hubs with high-end retail are opening a block apart from each other at a time when the city desperately needs more space for housing makes me question the spending priorities and long-term planning for the city’s transit agencies.

Ultimately, it’s too late to stop the transit hub, and it will be with us for decades. But it’s a reminder of excess and poor planning. Will we learn anything from this mistake or just be doomed to repeat it, billion-dollar overrun after billion-dollar overrun, while transit capacity concerns go ignored yet again?

Categories : PANYNJ
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Nothing too nuts this weekend…

From 11:45 p.m. Friday, August 1 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, August 4, South Ferry-bound 1 trains run express from 145 St to 96 St due to CPM repair work on portal and elevated steel structure near 125 St.

From 3:45 a.m. Saturday, August 2 to 10:00 p.m. Sunday, August 3, due to track panel installation south of Prospect Av 2 trains will run in two sections:

  • Between 241 St and 149 St-Grand Concourse with Manhattan-bound 2 trains running express from E 180 St to 3 Av-149 St.
  • Between 149 St-Grand Concourse and Flatbush Av.

From 11:00 p.m. Saturday, August 2 to 6:00 a.m. Sunday, August 3, and from 11:00 p.m. Sunday, August 3 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, August 4, Crown Hts-Utica Av-bound 4 trains run local from 125 St to Grand Cantral-42 St due to CPM cable work south of 125 St.

From 6:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. Saturday, August 2, and from 8:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. Sunday, August 3, 5 trains are suspended between E180 St and Bowling Green due to track panel installation south of Prospect Av. 4 trains make all 5 station stops between 149 St-Grand Concourse and Bowling Green. 5 shuttle service operates between Dyre Av and E180 St all weekend.

From 11:45 p.m. Friday, August 1 to 4:00 a.m. Monday, August 4, Brooklyn Bridge-bound 6 trains run express from Pelham Bay Park to Parkchester due to station rehabilitation work at Buhre Av and Zerega Av.

From 11:45 p.m. Friday, August 1, to 5:00 a.m. Monday, August 4, A trains are suspended in both directions between 168 St and Inwood-207 St due to MOW track tie renewal near 181 St. Free shuttle buses provide alternate service.

From 11:45 p.m. to 6:30 a.m. Friday, August 1, to Sunday, August 3, and from 11:45 p.m. Sunday, August 3 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, August 4, Brooklyn-bound A trains run express from 59 St-Columbus Circle to Canal St due to MOW rail and plate renewal south of W 4 St-Wash Sq.

From 6:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. Saturday, August 2, and Sunday, August 3, C trains are suspended in both directions between 145 St and 168 St due to MOW track tie renewal near 181 St. Take the A train as a travel alternative. A trains run local between 145 St and 168 St.

From 6:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. Saturday, August 2, and Sunday, August 3, Brooklyn-bound C trains run express from 59 St-Columbus Circle to Canal St due to MOW rail and plate renewal south of W 4 St-Wash Sq.

12:30 a.m. Saturday, August 2, to 5:00 a.m. Monday, August 4, E trains run local in Queens due to CPM signal modernization at Forest Hills-71 Av and Kew Gardens-Union Tpke, and MOW track tie renewal at 65 St.

From 9:45 p.m. Friday, August 1, to 5:00 a.m. Monday, August 4, Jamaica-179 St-bound F trains are rerouted via the M line from 47-50 Sts Rock Ctr to Jackson Hts-Roosevelt Av due to Second Avenue Subway construction work.

12:30 a.m. Saturday, August 2, to 5:00 a.m. Monday, August 4, F trains run local in Queens due to CPM signal modernization at Forest Hills-71 Av and Kew Gardens-Union Tpke and MOW track tie renewal at 65 St.

From 11:45 p.m. Friday, August 1 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, August 4, Coney Island-Stillwell Av-bound F trains are rerouted via the A line from W 4 St-Wash Sq to Jay St-MetroTech due to MOW rail and plate renewal south of W 4 St-Wash Sq.

From 6:30 a.m. to 12 midnight Saturday, August 2, and Sunday, August 3, R service is extended to Jamaica-179 St due to MOW Jamaica Yard lead switch reconstruction.

(Franklin Av Shuttle)
From 11:45 p.m. Friday, August 1, to 9:00 p.m. Sunday, August 3, the Franklin Av Shuttle is suspended due to CPM structural repair of Crown Street Bridge. Shuttle buses provide alternate service stopping at Franklin Av, Park Pl, Botanic Garden and Prospect Park stations

Categories : Service Advisories
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Shortly after the Straphangers released their annual State of the Subway Report Card, a producer at WNYC, issued what I think is the quintessential New York take on these rankings. As you can see, his belief is that if your train isn’t at the bottom, you’ll be outraged and appalled. He’s captured the essence of the way New Yorkers tend to project their feelings on the subway, but even then, things aren’t that bad. Mostly, we get to work on time, and we get where we’re going relatively quickly even if things aren’t perfect.

So just how imperfect are things? According to the Straphangers’ rankings this year, somehow, the 7 train came out on top while the 2 train ended up at the bottom of the list. Sometimes, I think these rankings are, much like the U.S. News & World Report lists, designed to be different each year so we have something to talk about, but who am I to complain? These rankings are, after all, fodder for today’s post.

This year, the 7 line emerges victorious. Despite our seemingly endless wait for a new station at 34th St. and 11th Ave., apparently, this line with its service patterns and CBTC-inspired weekend shutdowns along with a creaky tunnel and constant crowds came out on top. The Straphangers say a ride on the 7 is $2 — though we’ll come back to that later — and praised the train for its “frequency of service”, lack of delays caused by mechanical breakdowns and, somehow, seat availability during rush hour.

On the flip side, my dear 2 train came in dead last. I ride the 2 fairly regularly in Manhattan and Brooklyn and, absent some crowding, don’t find much wrong with it. The Straphangers, though, fault the line for irregular service, mechanical breakdowns and seat availability during rush hour (but does any subway line worth its salt have seats available during rush hour?). What’s odd about the 2 train’s ranking is that its cars’ mean distance between failures is still well over 125,000 miles. But as this rolling stock is the oldest of the new breed and other lines are receiving the latest and greatest, the numbers start to sag a bit. However, in the Straphangers’ first State of the Subway report, the 2 train’s old redbirds latest just 71,000 miles on average between failures. My, how our expectations have changed.

The rest of the report card is a succinct summary of the subways. Most of the lines are very crowded at rush hour; announcements on newer rolling stock are easier to hear; trains themselves aren’t that dirty (while stations can appear dirty or grimy); and regularity of service is a low-level problem but one that’s more obvious than others.

Overall, though, for yet another year in a row, the Straphangers have determined that no subway line is worth the price of even a discounted MetroCard swipe, and this has always rubbed me the wrong way. By undercutting the value of a MetroCard, the Straphangers are urging everyone to think that we’re getting ripped off. Even as the group has tried to increase the dollar value of its rating to meet fare increases, the perception is that we’re not getting what we paid for. For at most $2.50, I can get just about anywhere reasonably quickly. I’d say that’s a good deal, warts and all.

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What time is it? (Photo by flickr user Dan Nguyen)

As straphangers filed onto my Q train at Canal St. on Monday night, I let out an inward sighed. A “Showtime!” crew in full regalia with musical accompaniment boarded my train. They announced their routine, and before legs and hats and arms could go flying, they stopped. The big guy standing near the door seemed like an undercover cop and nearly confirmed as much. The troupe decided against risking it, sat out the ride across the Manhattan Bridge and quietly switched cars.

Now, watching a Showtime crew give up isn’t a new experience. Sometimes, they board a train at rush hour that’s too crowed for the routine; sometimes, riders simply will not move over to clear enough space. Before starting a fight, they wait and move on at the next stop. (They target the Q, of course, because the bench seating on the new rolling stock leads to wide aisles.) Still, I had never seen kids stop in their tracks due to the potential presence of a plain-clothes officer.

Lately, under Commission Bill Bratton so-called quality-of-life crimes have come under police scrutiny, and as The Times detailed yesterday, subway acrobats have been on the receiving end of an NYPD crackdown. As no fan of Showtime!, I initially applauded the move, but the more I read about it, the less I’m sure it’s the way to go. Here’s how Matt Flegenheimer, soon to be off the transit beat, and J. David Goodman put it:

Cheered by tourists, tolerated by regulars, feared by those who frown upon kicks in the face, subway dancers have unwittingly found themselves a top priority for the New York Police Department — a curious collision of a Giuliani-era policing approach, a Bloomberg-age dance craze and a new administration that has cast the mostly school-age entertainers as fresh-face avatars of urban disorder.

Arrests of performers have more than quadrupled this year, to 203 through early this month, compared with 48 over the same period last year…The attention is part of a broader policing strategy in which officers, who often act on complaints from the public, place an emphasis on low-level offenses with a goal of rooting out more serious crime…

Once emblematic of urban disorder, the subways have been a focus of renewed efforts, drawing significant resources for what Deputy Inspector Edward O’Brien called “a cat-and-mouse game.” Teams of officers, dressed casually, follow tips from riders or transit personnel and fan out across cars. “They know we’re out there,” said Inspector O’Brien, who heads special operations for the Police Department’s transit bureau and who was on the train in plainclothes when other officers moved in to arrest Peppermint and Butterscotch. “They’re stepping up their game to a certain degree.”

The Times notes thats around 20 percent of subway dancers have outstanding warrants while others face charges of reckless endangerment or disorderly conduct. Even that seems on the excessive side of things. I’ve objected to the Showtime! routine on the grounds that they’re loud and disruptive with the potential for an errant foot to meet an unsuspecting head. They’re nothing though that probably can’t be solved by ejecting the kids from the system and giving them a warning or a summons.

Any charges simply seem to be rubbing it and unnecessary for any future records, but maybe I’m being too lenient. After all, the kids keep coming back, and enough people keep donating to make the whole thing worthwhile. So let me throw it open to you by revisiting a poll from earlier this year. What do you think of Showtime?

What should the cops do with "Showtime" troupes?
View Results
Comments (77)

When the MTA started moving off of its net-zero labor demands a few months ago, we knew how this story would end. The MTA’s economic picture would improve as the region’s economy grew stronger, and the unions would demand a greater share of the pie. They would get their slice while the riders would get the scraps. Now that the MTA has sealed the deal with the TWU and LIRR unions, the financial picture for the next few years has taken shape, and lo and behold, riders are getting the bare minimum in service increases and biennial 4 percent fare hikes while the labor deals will cost $1.5 billion over the next four years.

As presented by the MTA on Monday during its monthly Board meetings and as later broadcast in a press release, the MTA anticipates that the new labor deals will result in annual increases in expenditures of $260 million. They swear, though, that the money won’t come from higher-than-anticipated fare hikes. Rather, the MTA will “reallocate” resources to pay for these labor costs as well as some service enhancements while maintaining pay-as-you-go funding for $5.4 billion worth of capital expenses for the next five-year plan. Without meaningful work rule reform, this is indeed a pyrrhic victory.

In fact, it may not even be a victory. The MTA will still take $80 million away from those PAYGO funds each year and simply have less to spend on capital projects. That’s one of the reasons the MTA faces a significant capital funding gap. Here’s the agency explaining other sources of money:

The plan makes several long-term trade-offs to ensure revenues meet ongoing obligations. Over the four-year period, supplemental contributions to an LIRR pension plan totaling $110 million will be eliminated, though all actuarially-required contributions will continue. Also, $254 million will be withdrawn, and additional contributions totaling $533 million will be suspended for four years, from a discretionary fund for future retiree health benefits which has no mandatory funding level. The plan also reduces pay-as-you funding for the MTA Capital Program by $80 million per year, which is equivalent to a $1.5 billion reduction in Capital Program funding capacity.

And how about the rest of us? Tell the people what they’ve won. For $15.5 million, we’re going to get….weekend J train service to Broad St. some time in mid-2015, extensions of service to Gateway Center II along the B13 and B83 bus routes, and added service along the Bx5. Staten Island residents will enjoy more frequent SIR and bus service to lineup with the increased overnight ferry service, and we’ll get two more Select Bus Service routes next year. Transit is also planning to better respond to signal problems in order to cut down unplanned service issues during the day.

Now, I don’t want to look a gift horse in the mouth, but it’s easy to see who gets the better end of that deal. This is the fiscal reality we live in though. The unions outlasted the MTA’s economic downturn, and the rest of us get saddled with a disproportionate amount of the costs without enjoying a similar share of the benefits. Less money for capital expenses; service improvements that raise just barely above the “token” level and more delays for future expansion and technology infrastructure projects — it’s all just part of the same old song and dance.

Categories : MTA Economics
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OK, OK. Maybe there’s no Jeffrey Lebowski to ask for money, but New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli can’t seem to find around $12 billion for the MTA’s next capital plan. This is hardly a breaking piece of news for anyone who’s watched the recent politicking behind the MTA’s looming need to present a new five-year spending plan, but DiNapoli’s report drives home the fact that the MTA has to spend a lot of money it doesn’t have to keep our trains and buses running smoothly.

“Millions of New Yorkers rely on the MTA transit system and while it is in far better condition than it was 30 years ago, much more needs to be done,” DiNapoli said in a statement. “The MTA has to find a way to finance improvements without putting the financial burden on riders. This can be achieved only by working closely with the federal government, New York state and New York City to develop a long-term financing program and by using resources effectively and efficiently. Otherwise, needed repairs will be pushed even further into the future, and fares and tolls could rise even faster.”

DiNapoli’s main point isn’t necessarily that $12 billion is missing, but rather that $12 billion in funding will not materialize without sending the agency further into debt. In his short report, the New York State Comptroller analyzes the spending needs for the MTA and concludes, as we know, that the next capital plan isn’t a sexy one. Unless the MTA is aggressive in requesting funding for future phases of the Second Ave. Subway or work beyond the never-ending East Side Access plan, the capital program will fund much-needed signal and infrastructure upgrades and rolling stock purchases.

That’s not to say that these aren’t 100 percent necessary for the future healthy of New York City; they are. But when it comes to headlines, few New Yorkers are going to read about signal modernization and long delays caused by the work with any joy. This is stuff we never see even if our daily rides depend on it. Still, says DiNapoli, despite 30 years of investment, the system is not in a state of good repair and may never get there without considerably more investment.

As DiNapoli notes, this funding gap was a problem with the last five-year plan, and the MTA “solved” this problem by cutting expenditures and bonding out its obligations, thus adding more debt to the ledger. Debt service in 2018, notes the Comptroller, will be three times what it was in 2005. How long can this go on?

Ultimately, then, the issue isn’t that $12 billion is missing from the MTA’s capital budget. Rather, the issue is that the MTA will have to continue to go into debt to cover the funding gap. Can they add another round of debt to their finances without beginning to impact service? As debt counts against the operations budget, already riders pay for this debt as fares go up to cover operating obligations. DiNapoli doesn’t offer a stark picture for the future, but the meaning is there. Someone will pay for that $12 billion. Either the MTA doesn’t perform work or somehow it gets paid. Either way, without direct contributions from outside sources, riders alone will foot that bill.

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