NYC Council Speaker Johnson calls for city control of MTA during speech

NEW YORK — The transit system connects the city and the region. That’s a statement on which most everyone can agree.

Who should be in charge? What's the best way to operate it? That has been a point of discussion for years and this year, it's intensifying.

“Mobility is opportunity,” said NYC Council Speaker Corey Johnson.

In his first state of the city speech, NYC Council Speaker Johnson dedicated the entire talk to transit and transportation. It's called Let's Go: A Case for Municipal Control and a Comprehensive Transportation Vision for the Five Boroughs.

“The City’s subway and buses are in a state of crisis. Service interruptions are common and delays are frequent,” says the 104-page report prepared by Council Speaker Johnson and staff.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority was created by an act of the state legislature in the late 1960s for financial and political reasons. Prior to that, New York City Transit Authority operated the system.

Under the terms of the agreement, the city owns the transit system and it is leased to the state.

Johnson is calling for municipal control of the transit system. It would include bridges and tunnels in the city that are currently within the MTA agency. He says congestion pricing is a required-funding stream and he supports it.

Municipal control would have to address MTA debt, procurement, labor costs, and support for the railroads.

Currently, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo appoints the chairperson and commissioners to a governing board. Those representatives are approved by the State Senate after being recommended by the NY Governor, the NYC Mayor, and City and County Executives in the region.

Many of the ideas would require the cooperation and action of the Legislature, the Mayor and the Governor.

It includes some of the ideas that have been talked about in the past year, including congestion pricing.

Some suburban lawmakers and drivers say it would be an unfair cost to their commute.

Eric Phillips, who is the press secretary for Mayor de Blasio, said the Mayor appreciates the Speaker’s transit vision and contribution. He acknowledged the system is in a crisis.

"A City takeover of the subways is a worthy discussion that in a best-case scenario would take years to achieve,” Phillips said in a statement. “the Mayor is focused on immediate actions to fix the broken subway system. We have four weeks to deliver sustainable revenue sources capable of turning this crisis around."

Last week, the Governor and Mayor unveiled a 10-point plan to reform the bureaucracy. It included support for congestion pricing dedicated to transit funding in the outer boroughs.

“The MTA’s new leadership team has been working hard to deliver significant service improvement, cost reduction, and general modernization on all fronts” says Max Young with the MTA.

“As we continue our serious drive to embrace innovation and contain costs, and numerous other initiatives to reform our business practices, we are laser-focused on the passage of congestion pricing and obtaining the funding we need to deliver the transit system that New Yorkers deserve,” Young said in the statement.

Statistics show subway performance is at four-year highs. More than $800 million was provided through the Subway Action Plan for repair and maintenance in the previous budget.

The next state budget is due on April 1, 2019.

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