Fixing the subway will cost billions, but MTA head says no new fare increases now

Posted at 5:43 PM, Jul 25, 2017
and last updated 2017-07-25 16:37:15-04

MANHATTAN — The head of the MTA on Tuesday revealed a plan to fix the city's subway system that includes thousands of new workers, added cars on certain trains and testing whether ripping out seats can help ease overcrowding.

MTA Chairman Joe Lhota announced that the emergency fixes for the subway is estimated to cost $836 million in its initial stage. The second phase for long-term fixes is expected to cost an additional $8 billion.

There are no planned fare increases to pay for these system upgrades, Lhota said. Instead, he suggested that New York City and New York State should split the cost — an option that Mayor Bill de Blasio has previously fought against.

After the MTA Chairman's presentation, Mayor de Blasio called on the MTA to spend the money it has in an efficient manner. The city of New York has contributed $2.5 billion to the most recent capital plan.

This multi-faceted approach to addressing short-term issues involves adding 2,700 new workers, positioning emergency response crews for medical problems, and increasing police presence to enforce littering laws. Mayor de Blasio said the city would participate in the partnership that includes NYPD and FDNY.

The MTA plans to add cars to the C train and there is a pilot program that would remove seats on the L line and the Times Square-to-Grand Central shuttle to make room for more riders. Cars in some trains in other international cities do not have seats.

The system has been plagued by derailments, unreliable service and increasing delays.

The MTA is working on a full review of the system and has established a board of experts to advise on how to proceed with solutions to the subway’s problems. Lhota cited the record volume of customers, aging infrastructure and the lack of capital investment for the current subway situation.

"Hold me accountable," Lhota said. "I want it cleaner. I want it faster. I want it moving in the right direction."

The MTA’s short-term plan is to stabilize the current system through track safety and maintenance, updating the subway cars, station cleanliness, improving communications and creating new management plans.

The first phase will work on the reasons behind 79 percent of the major subway delays. More than half of delays are caused by problems with the signals, tracks and power, Lhota said. Other causes are medical, fire, car, station, and water-related.

Dubbing water “the greatest enemy of the subway,” Lhota said the MTA is also launching an emergency water management initiative to seal leaks, clean street grates and get rid of debris clogging drains. The plan is to clean the entire underground subway system.

Lhota said that MTA staff will be given training to provide clearer and more timely information to customers during delays, and they plan to launch a public dashboard of subway data to “monitor our progress and hold us accountable.”

The MTA will also launch awareness campaigns to explain how littering, leaning on doors and holding doors open can contribute to delays on the commute.

The long-term goal to “get this system out of late 18th century and into 21st century” is expected to cost around $8 billion, Lhota said. The plan will include a new signal system, subway cars and updated communications.

"This plan will bring the first breath of relief for beleaguered transit riders, if the money is actually there to make it happen," John Raskin, executive director of the Riders Alliance, said in a statement. "The MTA has come up with smart measures that can reduce delays and improve the riding experience in the near term. Now Governor Cuomo needs to match this near-term effort with a credible long-term plan and a reliable revenue source for public transit, or we'll be right back in emergency mode next year."