Home MTA A fully funded capital plan Walder’s top priority

A fully funded capital plan Walder’s top priority

by Benjamin Kabak

As Gov. David Paterson introduced Jay Walder as his pick to head the MTA, he expressed his desire to see the Senate rubber-stamp this appointee in short order. In fact, he was gunning for a Wednesday confirmation, but considering the pace of the State Senate these days and Paterson’s low approval ratings, Malcolm Smith and Pedro Espada aren’t rushing off to OK Walder quite yet.

In fact, the opposite is true. In a prepared statement co-signed by Smith, Espada, John Sampson and Carl Kruger, the Senate leadership warned of a protracted confirmation process:

With oversight responsibility and jurisdiction vested in the Senate, it is our responsibility to make sure the next MTA Chairman can run the ship better than his predecessors. As the recent MTA bailout debate proved – the MTA needs new management and must deliver greater transparency and accountability.

We intend to hold several joint hearings in the MTA region as we move forward with this confirmation. We look forward to meeting Mr. Walder and bringing him before our respective committees to exchange ideas about MTA management, the need to protect commuters from greater fare increases, and the imperative to improve service and better manage capital projects.

As the Senate heads to a summer recess soon, Walder’s confirmation will sit in limbo until the fall. That potential delay didn’t stop Kruger, one of the Fare Hike Four, from making an utter ass of himself. The Brooklyn native had a few choice comments about Walder’s promise of fiscal reform: “We’ll look at it over the course of the next couple of months,” he said. “I come from Missouri; don’t show me, tell me. I mean, everybody says they’re for oversight and accountability. What does that mean? What does it mean?”

Brad Aaron said it best: This news just writes itself sometimes.

Meanwhile, the real news from Walder’s press conference was his focus on fiscal responsibility and an adequately funded capital program. Right now, the MTA is on the verge of releasing its next five-year plan, but the agency has money for only the next two years. After that, the future is in limbo. “We must have a long-term financial solution for the MTA,” he said. “It’s critically important to have a capital program.”

The potential head of the MTA had a lot to say about fiscal balancing. Walder said that he may have to make some unpopular decisions concerning late-night service to keep fares affordable. He also expressed his belief that his new role — the joint Chair and CEO job — “is sufficiently independent to make difficult and sometimes unpopular decisions.”

As I mentioned briefly yesterday afternoon, one of those decisions, according to the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, should be to eschew more debt service. The MTA’s capital campaigns have recently been funded through fare-backed bombs that come due over time and lead to crushing debt service payments and potentially crippling restructuring. Steven Higashide at Mobilizing the Region sums it up succinctly:

Like a hot potato, the debt bomb was passed from governor to govenor until it went off last year, creating a crisis that was barely averted through the efforts of an even larger coalition of advocates, officials, and members of the public. Having had the MTA debt bomb go off in his hands, Gov. Paterson surely understands that the worst course of action would be for he and MTA chief Jay Walder to light it again.

All of this, meanwhile, is just the beginning. Tuesday wasn’t even Jay Walder’s first day on the job, and already, he is getting himself a crash course in MTA politics and economics. Once the Senate realizes he’s the right man for the job, his education will begin in earnest.

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rhywun July 15, 2009 - 7:47 am

I’m tired of hearing threats like “cutting late-night bus service” in response to these multi-billion-dollar funding gaps. Much like cutting customer service and cleaning crews, such cuts are a tiny drop in the bucket and do nothing to address real problems like debt service and waste. Such behavior is how we wound up with the dysfunctional system of the 70s–please let’s not go back there.

Scott E July 15, 2009 - 8:31 am

The problem here is that the Governor lost his credibility with the way he went about filling former Sen. Clinton’s seat, and the Senate (especially Pedro Espada) has lost all credibility with the antics over the MTA rescue package and then the lunacy that happened over the past month. The Governor could appoint God to run the MTA, and the Senate would object, citing His “less-than-stellar” track record of fires, famines, and floods.

I have very little faith in the public’s knowledge of the MTA as a whole (see a previous Second Ave Sagas post and the online comments of any related news article), but I think the only way to get anyone past the angry mob and in the executive seat is via a general election. Of course, that carries a ton of problems itself.

Streetsblog New York City » Today’s Headlines July 15, 2009 - 8:57 am

[…] Jay Walder Meets the New York Media (NYT, NY1, Post, AMNY, 2nd Ave Sagas) […]

Jim July 15, 2009 - 8:58 am

Hopefully Walder can go ahead and do here what he did for London. After he gets past balancing the budget, and thinning out the MTA’s fat, bringing in an “Oyster-card like” payment system would be a great step forward for the system. The Port Authority has already implemented a system of this kind for its PATH trains, and NJ Transit is also looking into the technology for it’s busses and trains. Now if he could only find a way to get some sort of joint system which would allow users of all systems (Metro North, LIRR, NJT, PA, NYC subway) to have ONE CARD for all forms of transit in the region…wow, now there’s progress. (Pie in the sky idea though…so i digress)

Marc Shepherd July 15, 2009 - 10:58 am

I don’t think the MTA has all that much fat that can be “thinned.” Oh, I’m sure there’s some, but those who think the problem can be solved primarily by belt-tightening are just whistling up the chimney.

Niccolo Machiavelli July 15, 2009 - 8:37 pm

“but I think the only way to get anyone past the angry mob and in the executive seat is via a general election”.

A general election would probably be the absolutely worst way to select an executive for the MTA. What a horrible thought, almost guaranteeing that some like Espada or Kruger would end up in the seat. Amazing.

Can New Bosses Put New York’s Subways Back on Track? : TreeHugger June 25, 2011 - 3:19 pm

[…] capital program this week. As of now, the agency has money for only the next two years, notes 2nd Avenue Sagas. “We must have a long-term financial solution for the MTA,” Walder told […]

Streetsblog New York City » Jay Walder Came to the MTA With a Plan to Improve Transit. Will Joe Lhota? October 20, 2011 - 12:11 pm

[…] system. “We must have a long-term financial solution for the MTA,” Walder said when nominated, calling for a fully funded capital plan. “It’s critically important to have a capital program.” Today, the MTA’s fiscal […]


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