The MTA has invited public comment on its $25.5 billion, five-year plan that includes everything from replacing MetroCards with smart cards to the Second Avenue subway and East Side Access.
The plan also includes a study of subway renovations and improvements along the Queens Boulevard Corridor — E and F trains — in preparation for vastly higher numbers of riders expected in coming decades. High-speed Bus Rapid Transit buses on Queens Boulevard would also be part of this analysis.
“The MTA’s capital program is critical to maintaining the system that supports our economy and we’re pleased to be able to release the plan early to promote transparency and public input,” said Helena Williams, the MTA interim executive director, Monday. “We are ready to manage this capital program budget with new controls in place to mitigate risk, control costs and operate with full accountability.”
What the Metropolitan Transportation Authority wants to do is to get the opinions of straphangers and transit advocates, which would be included in the plan before it goes before to the state Legislature in the fall.
The MTA said it had spent more than $75 billion since 1982 in six successive capital programs that “have restored the legacy of a system once on the brink of collapse.”
As a result, the MTA said, ridership is the highest since the 1950s and “our infrastructure is more reliable than ever — the distance between breakdowns has increased 1,800 percent for subway cars and 670 percent for buses and more than 500 percent for commuter railroad cars.”
What the plan did not say was that the agency is barely scraping by financially right now, with interest coming due shortly on $23 billion borrowed in the past 10 years.
The MTA is particularly short of money because in coming up with a bailout this past spring, the Legislature provided funding for only two years of the five-year Capital Plan.
By inviting comments and suggestions, the MTA is continuing its campaign to assure the transit-riding public that its operation is transparent and not a cabal of the privileged who operate in secrecy while bypassing subways and buses for limousines as more than one elected officials has proclaimed.
The MTA said it needs to buy more than 500 new subway cars, 2,800 new buses and 410 commuter railroad cars; improve subway and commuter railroad signal systems; renovate stations; and improve access for the disabled, including installing audio-visual screens, low floor buses, elevators, paratransit vehicles and stations that comply with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act.
The MTA said plans include using new smart card fare payment to more fully integrate region-wide travel, real-time transit rider information, BRT systems using low-floor buses, pre-boarding bus fare collection, dedicated bus lanes and sensors that prolong traffic lights to speed up bus trips.
The agency said it expected completion of the Second Avenue subway’s first phase as well as the East Side Access to save an estimated 76,000 daily commuters up to 40 minutes a day by bringing the Long Island Rail Road into Grand Central Terminal. It also hopes for completion of the No. 7 subway extension to Manhattan’s far West Side and envisions a study of the Queens Boulevard Corridor to evaluate solutions for rising subway ridership.
The MTA said the $25.5 billion plan as of now includes assumptions that it will get money from local, state and federal agencies but, in any case, the program will still require another $10 billion to be implemented in its current form because of the shortfall from legislators.
A revised plan would be presented to the MTA board in September before submission for final approval by the Legislature in October.
The effective date of the five-year plan is Jan. 1, 2010.
Those who want to respond and get more information about the MTA plan should visit mta.info.
Reach contributing writer Philip Newman by e-mail at timesledge
©2009 Community News Group
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