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MTA Chairman Unveils $800 Million Rescue Plan: Standing-Only Subway Cars, Littering Crackdown, Clearer Communication

[UPDATE BELOW] MTA Chairman Joe Lhota called on the city and state to split the additional costs needed to "stabilize the subway" during a presentation Tuesday outlining his short term plan to provide relief to frustrated passengers.

The plan would require about $800 million in additional funding to address the main causes of delays, which Lhota identifies as aging infrastructure, a record volume of customers, and a lack of capital investment. The request for more money would not result in higher fares, Lhota promised, regardless of whether or not the city contributed money to the plan.

"Given the nature and severity of the crisis, the most viable and fair alternative is for the city and state to split the costs," Lhota said, reading from a PowerPoint presentation that members of the governor's office helped him create.

The hour-long presentation also covered over 30 new actions (watch here) that riders can expect to see over the next year, including:


  • The launch of a pilot program to bring some standing-only cars to the L train and Times Square shuttle

  • The creation of a public dashboard "just like CompStat" to measure performance and repair progress

  • An end to prerecorded "train traffic ahead" announcements, to be replaced with "clearer and more timely" explanations for delays

  • An increased police presence in stations and additional enforcement of quality of life offenses such as littering

  • The addition of 20 prepositioned emergency subway car response teams at 12 locations throughout the system to address repairs immediately

  • An increase in the frequency of station cleanings to every four weeks, up from every six weeks

  • The placement of EMTs near stations that host lines that frequently deal with sick passengers

  • The deployment of 2,700 additional personnel dedicated to fulfilling Lhota's short term plan

In the longer view, Lhota expects that the capital plan will require an additional investment of $8 billion—a number that "scares him." He did not offer many details on what this second phase would involve, but said we'll know more following the results of the Genius Contest.

The presentation received positive reviews from transit advocates, though the matter of funding remains unresolved.

"The outstanding question is: will Governor Cuomo come up with a fair and sustainable funding source to ensure that the MTA can actually follow through on these plans?" the Rider's Alliance said in a statement. "A truly transformative plan to fix the subway will require a transformative revenue plan to make it possible. The greatest act of leadership that riders need from the governor is to set up a source of revenue that will stand the test of time."

Lhota's request for more money came one day after Mayor Bill de Blasio said that he would not be willing to contribute further funding to the MTA, and instead urged the public authority to be smarter about the way it currently uses its operating budget. "Let's see the MTA come forward with a plan, let's see the MTA use the money it has, let's see the state of New York restore the half billion they took out of the MTA budget," the mayor said while riding the F train on Sunday.

The mayor's office did not immdiately respond to an inquiry about the plan, but de Blasio is giving a subway-related press conference at 5:30 today.

UPDATE: At a press conference held Tuesday evening on the platform of the City Hall subway train, Mayor de Blasio reiterated that he would not give Lhota the money he’s requested from the city. “The state has the money it needs right now,” the mayor shouted over rush hour subway noise. “It’s a stunning coincidence that the request is $456 million in operating funds—the exact amount the state has diverted from the MTA since 2011.” He added that he was heartened to see Lhota step up and take responsibility for the MTA, and urged the governor to do the same, before stepping on a downtown-bound R train.

With Ben Fractenberg

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