The Metropolitan Transportation Authority is a transit agency with an annual budget of $17 billion and a staff of more than 50,000 people. But in just 11 weeks, the consulting firm AlixPartners came up with a plan to restructure the MTA.

The reorganization plan, which contains seven main recommendations and was mandated as part of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s congestion pricing legislation passed earlier this year, is just the first of two coming from AlixPartners.

The firm is also tasked with coming up with a financial plan for the agency to help stave off an impending $1 billion budget deficit by 2021. Both of the reports will cost a total of $3.75 million to draw up.

Significant recommendations includes incorporating 40 separate groups at the MTA into one of the six main departments. For example, each railroad and bus division has its own legal department, its own procurement division. Under the new plan they would be consolidated.

“We need to make sure our colleagues in every role remember why we're here, to serve our customers. We need to make sure this organization is shaped best to support that,” MTA Chairman Pat Foye told reporters on a conference call Friday to discuss the report, adding that the MTA “hasn't changed much since its creation over 50 years ago.”

The plan has been delivered to the MTA board ahead of the July board meeting and is expected to come up for a vote before the suggestions are put into action.

However, transit advocates and MTA watchdogs are wary.

"Reorganizing a $17 billion agency requires a deliberative and public process,” Rachael Fauss with the government watchdog group Reinvent Albany wrote in a statement. “We still do not know WHAT form the reorganization will take, as the AlixPartners recommendations may or MAY NOT be voted on by the MTA Board at its July meeting. Riders deserve to know what exactly the MTA Board will vote on as soon as possible so they can weigh in, ideally in a public hearing."

One thing the plan doesn’t address: Governor Cuomo micromanaging everything at the agency, from daily operations, to the L train project.

Asked how the MTA could insulate itself from political interference, Chairman Foye responded, “The MTA can be more effective in delivering customer service and I think the goal is to take that to the next level and to institutionalize it. That’s what this report is about and then assuming the board approves it, the next step would be to implement this and to operationalize it.”

At an unrelated event in July, Governor Cuomo pledged he would stop micromanaging the MTA.

“I'm not going into any more tunnels, I'm not going into any more depots to make sure people show up for work, I'm not going into any more depots to make sure they're actually cleaning cars or not. I'm not going to spend any more time with independent contractors on how to fix signals and why they didn't fix signals the MTA has to get its act together,” Cuomo said. “The MTA has to perform or we need a different answer than that bureaucracy."

MTA officials say layoffs aren’t expected, rather positions will be eliminated through attrition, and workers will be put in other departments, when possible.

Another big question hanging over all of this is what the future holds for Transit President Andy Byford. AlixPartners’ report calls for consolidating the three bus operations (NYCT bus, MTA Bus, and MABSTOA).

Byford is in charge of subways and buses, and has come up with the $4 billion MTA modernization plan known as Fast Forward. There was concern that the reorganization report would seek to strip Byford of much of his authority and responsibilities.

Foye insisted on Friday that was not the case and that Byford will still be in charge of buses.

“We are not near a point of making a decision separating buses and subways,” Foye said. And Fast Forward, which Foye credited with getting subway performance to a six-year high this month, will continue to proceed under Byford.

“A result of Andy and his management team and union forces working with them and that will continue and the implementation of Fast Forward will be driven by Andy and in some cases together with Janno Lieber and other colleagues.”

Fast Forward, Foye said, contains elements of capital and operating departments.
As part of that, Byford is redesigning the bus system with the DOT, and is expected to continue with that.

“Andy Byford will be implementing the Fast Forward plan and he’ll be working as he is today, for instance on the L train project with Janno Lieber (head of Capital Construction) and other colleagues across the agency.”

Before the plan is implemented, the MTA plans to hire a Chief Transformation Officer, and officials say the MTA board will get a final vote on whether the plan is implemented. (Does that sound familiar?)

Nick Sifuentes, Executive Director of Tri-State Transportation Campaign, said that this rushed report is not the answer to reforming the MTA.

“This brief report would be laughable if it wasn’t so serious for the millions of New Yorkers who rely on subways, buses, and commuter rail every single day,” Sifuentes said in a statement. “Especially with service improving, the governor should commit to an actual democratic process for MTA reform, not something done in, basically, the dead of night.”

MTA officials say there is plenty of time for the public to review the plan, and in fact it’s soliciting opinions from the public about the plan, which can be emailed to: transformation@mtahq.org

Stephen Nessen is the transportation reporter for WNYC. You can follow him on Twitter @s_nessen.