Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Gov. Cuomo aims to give state majority control of MTA Board

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New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo rides an MTA subway train in 2014 during a tour of the Montague Tunnel. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo rides an MTA subway train in 2014 during a tour of the Montague Tunnel. Office of Governor Andrew Cuomo

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo advanced legislation that would give the state majority control of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), citing the transit agency's "state of crisis."

New York state has six seats on the MTA Board, New York City has four and Nassau, Suffolk, Westchester, Dutchess, Orange, Rockland and Putnam compromise the balance of the board's 14 total voting seats with no voting majority.

The legislation would add two additional state seats to the MTA Board appointed by the governor and an additional vote for the board chairman. Of the new board's total voting members, it would now give the state eight appointees and nine votes.

"The MTA Board structure assumed regional participation in the metropolitan area's transportation systems, but left no one in charge. While New York State has six of the 14 voting seats – that is not control. There is no transformative plan that will require major change and possibly more investment that will be agreed upon by the various separate political bodies with competing needs. Complex projects don't get effectively managed by unanimous agreement of large political bureaucracies. We don't have 10 years to do this. The state will dedicate itself to the task and assume responsibility, but the state needs the authority," said Gov. Cuomo.

The MTA's organizational structure was originally created in 1965. While the board included all governments in the MTA region, it also divided responsibility among the authority's various political leaders. The governor says this created a board without accountability, which requires constant coalition building on the board to effect action.

"The MTA is in a state of crisis. Historic underfunding leaves it with obsolete equipment going back to the 1940s. The bureaucracy is dysfunctional. The recent Penn [Station] emergency track closures on July 8 will be the proverbial straw that breaks the camel's back. The July 8 [Long Island Rail Road] and New Jersey Transit cancellations will drive more people into the subway system, in the middle of the summer. There is no quick or small fix for the MTA. We are advancing $32 billion for the MTA capital plan – an historic amount – but it must be implemented: new cars purchased, new signals installed, new equipment acquired and new personnel hired," said Gov. Cuomo.

He pointed to the example of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey for which the state has taken a similar approach. He also offered the recently opened Second Avenue Subway as an example of when state leadership propelled a project to completion.

"In sum, let's fix the fundamental and initial mistake – 'put someone in charge.' The state is the obvious entity to manage a regional network, and the state contributes a multiple of any other jurisdiction's funding. The simple fact is if no one has the responsibility and the authority, fundamental, rapid change of any culture or system is impossible," said Gov. Cuomo.

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