Regional Plan Association Testimony to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority Board of Directors on MTA Transformation Plan

Thank you for the opportunity to testify today.

We applaud the Governor, State Legislature and MTA’s attention to improving management, bringing greater transparency, and reducing costs of capital projects at the MTA. Even with the additional resources provided by congestion pricing, the MTA needs to do a better job of delivering accessibility and mobility for everyone who lives and works in New York. Many of these recommendations will advance those goals. 

While we share the goals of this effort and the urgency to make reforms, they need to be done thoughtfully to make sure they are done right. This transformation plan will dramatically change the way the MTA functions, and deserves appropriate attention and input from stakeholders. We would recommend that the MTA board allocate more time for public engagement in this process before a final plan is adopted. 

In particular, we have questions about the following issues:

Modernization plans 

It is unclear how existing modernization plans will be implemented under the new structure. The Save Seconds plan and the Subway Action plan have succeeded in improving the reliability of subway service. But it isn’t clear how the Transformation Plan will build upon these gains, and whether moving these functions to a different department within the MTA is warranted. 

Signal upgrades

Upgrading the existing signaling system is paramount to improving subway service. NYC Transit recently hired experts to focus exclusively on implementing CBTC and evaluating ultra-wide band. How will these signal upgrades stay on track?

Consolidation

RPA agrees with recommendations to centralize certain functions, but separating out key elements of the transit system from the system’s operational leadership must be done very carefully.

Reporting structure

We have long urged an MTA reporting structure of a CEO reporting directly to the board with divisions reporting to the CEO. Creating new staff positions who do not report to the CEO undermines these lines of accountability, which are especially important during this transition period. 

MTA capital program

The MTA’s upcoming 5-year capital plan will be a critical part of restoring mobility in the region. We urge the board to support a robust and fully-funded capital plan that addresses the major needs of the system, from upgrading signals to purchasing new buses to expanding capacity and network coverage.

Again, we applaud the Governor, the State Legislature and the MTA leadership for commitments and progress made in recent years, and look forward to partnering with everyone to create the more resilient, efficient, modern and customer-oriented system our city and region need.

Thank you.