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DiNapoli: MTA security improvements over budget

by Benjamin Kabak

The MTA’s capital security improvements are moving forward slowly, but these key investments are way over budget and four years behind schedule, according to yet another report released today by New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli. The audit — the seventh from DiNapoli in recent years that focuses on the agency’s security efforts — praises the authority for improving the porous system’s safety but worries that there is not enough money to fund 16 necessary projects. Furthermore, DiNapoli notes that the projects which should have wrapped in September 2008 are not due to finish until mid-2012 and that costs on key projects — including the camera system — have more than doubled in the ensuing years.

“The capital security program the MTA has implemented since 9-11 has made New Yorkers more secure,” said DiNapoli said in a statement. “The MTA has made progress, particularly in the last two years. But the mass transit system is still inherently vulnerable. Individual projects in this program are months if not years behind schedule and well over budget, and additional capital improvements are needed. My office will continue to track MTA management of this program.”

DiNapoli’s press release sums up the report (pdf):

The projects in Phase 1 of the MTA’s capital security program target the system’s most vulnerable and heavily used assets, including stations, transit hubs, bridges and tunnels. Each project involves one or more facilities and security improvements to elements such as electronic security and surveillance, fire, life and safety and evacuation enhancements, perimeter protection and structural hardening. This phase, originally scheduled for completion by September 2008, will not be completed until June 2012.

After more than nine years, the MTA has completed 11 of the original 16 security projects as well as elements of the five remaining projects. The MTA has hardened all 14 facilities planned for Phase 1; improved lighting, communication systems, and smoke and fire detection equipment in 15 facilities; installed perimeter protection around four facilities; and despite significant setbacks, the electronic security program.

As of December 2010, the MTA had completed 31 of 38 planned construction tasks and the remaining seven tasks were all in the process of construction, though more than 60 percent of the 38 tasks were behind their established schedules, including 11 that were behind by more than one year (five tasks were more than 30 months late). The cost of Phase 1 (including two facilities that were deferred from Phase 1 to Phase 2) has grown from $591 million to $851 million, an increase of 44 percent.

Ultimately, according to the report, Phase 2 will attempt to fund 33 of the original 57 areas that need security upgrades, but 16 projects will remain only on the drawing board until money becomes available.

As DiNapoli notes, since 2007, he has issued 27 releases on the MTA which include 14 audits and 13 top-line reports. He is still conducting eight more audits and a forensic audit on overtime and another performed in conjunction with the city comptroller’s office. Still, I’m left with the same question I have every time he sends out a release: What’s the point?

The MTA’s troubles with their security improvements and the exponentially increasing costs have drawn newspaper headlines for years. DiNapoli’s report doesn’t highlight ways in which the authority can implement cost-savings measures and fails to mention what they’re doing wrong. Do we really need to expend more taxpayer dollars on something we already know?

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ferryboi March 7, 2011 - 3:25 pm

MTA wasting money? In other news, the sun came up this morning and a dog bit a man.

Benjamin Kabak March 7, 2011 - 3:26 pm

I wouldn’t say “wasting” in this case. I would like our system to be as secure as possible. Rather, they’re just awful at budgeting for projects. DiNapoli’s office, on the other hand, is wasting money.

Christopher March 8, 2011 - 11:48 am

Also I wish he would talk percentages and not just raw numbers. Raw numbers in any report on government waste are specifically designed to inflate panic. (Newspapers do this ALL the time.)

Al D March 7, 2011 - 5:01 pm

We get what we voted for in DiNapoli. He’s was just recently re-elected, so he must continue the mandate that got him re-elected. He’d better not disappoint and double up on his MTA audits this term! My hard earned tax dollars at work…again.

BrooklynBus March 7, 2011 - 5:32 pm

Are you suggesting that nobody watch the MTA?

Benjamin Kabak March 7, 2011 - 5:35 pm

I can’t speak for Al, but I don’t think anyone’s saying the comptroller shouldn’t watch the MTA. But I’d rather see DiNapoli spend his efforts (and our taxpayer dollars) on a true forensic audit, and I’d prefer to see suggestions in his report.

Read the linked PDF in my post. It says absolutely nothing new. We know the subway systems are porous. We know the MTA has had massive troubles getting a security system online. We know it’s four years late and 100 percent over budget. But beyond the Siemens litigation, DiNapoli’s report doesn’t say why and it doesn’t say what the MTA can do to avoid those problems in the future. That would be a truly useful report.


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