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Walder consolidates MTA Board committees

by Benjamin Kabak

The news out of MTA HQ tonight is a rather wonky bit of restructuring, but I think it’s an important item nonetheless. In a letter to the MTA Board, CEO and Chairman Jay Walder announced a streamlined committee roster. In an effort to make the MTA’s various subagencies “more effective and more efficient,” the Board committees will be consolidated.

The biggest changes are how these committees are now grouped by service area. Instead of having two separate committees overseeing Metro-North and the Long Island Rail Road, one committee will take care of commuter rail lines. Walder wants to encourage these agencies to work together in a “more consistent and cost effective manner.” Similarly, all MTA bus operations will now be under the control of one committee as well.

Meanwhile, two committees — the Capital Construction and Real Estate groups — are being eliminated outright. The Board oversight for these projects will be subsumed by the respective committees. So, for example, New York City Transit’s committee will oversee the Second Ave. Subway and the 7 line extension while the LIRR/Metro-North committee will have oversight of the East Side Access project. The Finance Committee will take over the duties for the Real Estate group.

In a sense, this is how the MTA itself would be structured if the organization were to be built from the ground up. One group would oversee commuter rail and another the buses. Major projects would be under the purview of the agency tasked with operating the eventual new line. It would just make sense.

In other Board news, the six non-voting members who lost their seats when Albany failed to reauthorize their seats on the MTA Board are back in business. Because of eventual action in Albany and inaction by the governor, the law has been restored, and the non-voting Board members — including Andrew Albert of the New York City Transit Riders Council and Norman Brown from the Metro-North Railroad Coalition — have been reinstated.

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Andrew March 10, 2010 - 7:43 pm

You say that “Major projects would be under the purview of the agency tasked with operating the eventual new line. It would just make sense.” In fact, that’s how it used to be, until the formation of MTA Capital Construction in 2003.

Benjamin Kabak March 10, 2010 - 7:46 pm

Yup. And it’s debatable as to whether Capital Construction has fulfilled its goals. They were supposed to provide expertise to major project oversight at a time when the MTA was embarking a level of expansion they hadn’t seen in decades. Yet, cost overruns, shoddy work and missed timelines mark all of the projects so far, yes?

Redbird March 10, 2010 - 9:36 pm

Except No. 7 Line Extension, so far.

Benjamin Kabak March 10, 2010 - 9:39 pm

Even that is about a year later than originally scheduled.

Alon Levy March 12, 2010 - 12:08 am

At $1.3 billion per route-km, the extension busted the budget as soon as the budget was announced. Just because the budget foresaw that it would cost 6 times as much as comparable projects in other cities doesn’t mean the cost was reasonable.

Andrew March 10, 2010 - 10:26 pm

I don’t think there’s even much of a debate about it. I never understood why Capital Construction was split off.

bob March 11, 2010 - 5:24 pm

My theory is to avoid Civil Service (which isn’t really such a big deal IF you decide to follow the law, but these executives don’t want to) and a fair number of the engineering titles in the TA are members of DC 37. If they had just expanded the engineering force internally the new slots would have been members too.

Instead they hire tons of consultants, who often cost more (on a total compensation basis plus the profit margin of the firm they work for), and have no knowledge or experience with how the NYC subway actually works. I really wonder, when the actual construction gets done, how many things are going to need sudden fixes, like the platform gaps in the new South Ferry station.

Nathanael March 12, 2010 - 2:50 am

My theory is turf wars. Capital Construction was formed specifically with thoughts of East Side Access. East Side Access was a bit of a Metro-North/LIRR turf issue, and involved underpinning of NYC Subway. #7 has to wind around the LIRR yards.

Meanwhile, the Fulton Street Transit Center crossed A Division/B Division lines.

So that’s my theory.

Josh K. March 10, 2010 - 8:24 pm

I still don’t understand why the MTA board doesn’t pull the NYC buses out from under NYCT (MaBSTOA) and group ALL of the bus agencies together for efficiency?

Andrew March 10, 2010 - 10:30 pm

Union issues, I think.

And I’m not sure if it makes more sense to divide the agencies by mode or by geography.

nycpat March 11, 2010 - 1:21 am

Civil Service issues.

bob March 11, 2010 - 5:33 pm

Actually the TWU made concessions about Regional Bus a few contracts ago, but MTA management never did anything. I’m curious as to why.

All the different bus groups are unionized already. Rules would have to be worked out about cross seniority and such, but that isn’t impossible. The TA has had a split between Mabstoa and TA depots for decades. Fewer splits means more flexibility, but how many will really want to move that far?

Hard to say what the other comment “Civil Service issues” means. Given the union, seniority will be a major factor anyway. The other key component of civil service is hiring from the results of a test. That seems like a good idea to me anyway. Do you want your bus driver just randomly picked off the street? And since Civil Service law is actually a state law, not city, it should be applicable in and out of the city.

nycpat March 12, 2010 - 12:09 am

Not everyone represented by TWU Local 100 is a civil servant. But your probably right it should be really simple to just combine all the bus divisions. Just change the contracts, pensions and rate of pay, vacations and stuff.
Civil service law is a state law…good to know.

Benjamin Kabak March 10, 2010 - 10:44 pm

I might have read this wrong. The letter says that all MTA bus operations will be under one committee. That includes NYC Dept. of Buses/MaBSTOA, MTA Bus and LI Bus. So yes, they’re removing bus oversight from the Transit committee as of April.

Andrew March 10, 2010 - 11:05 pm

You’re talking about board committees. I think Josh is talking about the agencies themselves.

Streetsblog New York City » Today’s Headlines March 11, 2010 - 9:10 am

[…] Shuffles MTA Board Committees (SAS, […]

David Robertson March 11, 2010 - 9:45 am

Waiting for June 30, 2010 for good riddance of Norman Seabrook non-voting member of the MTA board who has sexual harassment legal troubles – who has no knowledge, familiarity or education in mass transportation [except being Kerik appointee thru Guiliani thru Pataki]

Niccolo Machiavelli March 11, 2010 - 12:16 pm

I hope I don’t come off as too cynical once again David but you whack Mr. Seabrook for his lack of knowlege and you don’t even know that he votes. He may in fact be ethically challenged but he has not been convicted of anything yet so those little issues about just cause and due process make your position problematic. And, while you are correct that he was a last-minute Pataki appointee, Giuliani and his Driver Mr. Kerik didn’t have anything to do with his appointment. Mr. Bruno did but Norman has already answered those questions and remains un-indicted (so see the due process and just cause reference above). And, strike three is that he is getting his seat back, he never lost it.

David Robertson March 15, 2010 - 11:15 am

I wonder why you are shielding Giuliani

Norman Seabrook worked for Kerik, thus he had Giuliani ears and his appointment to the MTA board was to simply do Giuliani bidding, as being un-indicted prosecutors don’t like to lose, and the other thing that Mr. Seabrook has is ability to fast-talk his way out of trouble, this combined with race card is formula prosecutor realize this. The only shocking is the unwillingness of the government to challenge him [perhaps cowardly] thus they sweep sexual harassment under the rug – his time in MTA board is going to expire in June 30, 2010 – time will tell if he will get his seat or lose.

It is not plausible that Mr. Bruno has crossed path with Mr. Seabrook – unless Mr. Bruno was going to build correction facilities in NYC and he would need Mr. Seabrook backing and endorsement – or Mr. Seabrook has bought land and invested heavily in Bruno’s district or maybe Bruno was enjoying the $200 bagels with the other political miscreant, Larry Seabrook [I wonder is there filial connection between Larry Seabrook & Norman Seabrook] that is Jeter homerun.

bob March 11, 2010 - 5:38 pm

The larger question is: What have these committees ever done that really makes a difference? I have read the minutes/agenda books for the transit committee on the MTA webite a few times and they seem to hear some nice reports from executives, ask a few questions (often answered “I’ll look into that”) and rubber stamp the procurment agenda.

Niccolo Machiavelli March 11, 2010 - 6:18 pm

Its a Board, it is not management. One of the few to oppose the management program has been Norman Seabrook who frequently casts minority opposition votes and is occasionally praised for it.


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