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.”
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?