Testimony at New York City Council Oversight Hearing on Subways

This testimony was presented by RPA Vice President of State Programs and Advocacy Kate Slevin to the New York City Council Oversight Hearing on Subways on August 8, 2017. 

Our region’s transportation crisis is years in the making. For years the MTA has not had enough funding and it has been forced to defer maintenance and delay vital projects. Skyrocketing ridership has put additional pressure on the system, resulting in severe delays, overcrowding, and unreliable service. These problems affect the economy, environment, and health of our region’s residents, and absolutely must be addressed.

We have many ideas about how to improve the system, which we will release in a broader proposal as part of our Fourth Regional Plan this fall. I summarize four points below in the interest of time:

  1. The MTA needs more dedicated revenue, but it also needs to improve efficiency. RPA has long supported congestion pricing and other proposals to bring new resources to crumbling transit system. However, new revenue should include reforms at the MTA so the public’s money goes farther and riders see improvements quicker. It costs more to build new rail infrastructure in New York that virtually every other major city in the world, and everything should be on the table—from procurement practices to construction management to work rules. 
  2. Targeted subway shutdowns need to be part of the solution.  It’s more efficient and easier to make certain subways improvements with portions of lines shutdown. Shutdowns are more difficult on riders in the short term, but so are delays that make them consistently late for work and child care pickups. Shutdowns will require relying more heavily on our bus and bike system, so we must move quickly to improve on street design and bus service improvements that prioritize buses over private vehicles.
  3. The MTA must build credibility with riders, and start with the L train closure. The 15 months L train closure in 2019 is the best opportunity the MTA has to build a truly modern subway line with ADA accessible stations and frequent and reliable service. Such an approach would build support for targeted shutdowns on other lines. But this requires a bigger capital project than the agency has now, and a recognition of why this one project could have lasting implications for the rest of the system.
  4. Faster implementation of communications based train control is a crucial part of the solution as well, and I urge you to watch our video online (https://vimeo.com/93485551) to understand how this works and why a modern train control system is so important to the system.
  5. Make fare more affordable for those who need it – RPA supports discounted fares for lower income New Yorkers to improve mobility and opportunity.

Many of these ideas, plus others, will be compiled in a larger proposal, called our Fourth Regional Plan, which will be released in November. We thank the City Council for the opportunity to testify today and look forward to your continued voice on these issues.