NEW Metropolitan Trans portation Authority chief Jay Walder wants to focus the MTAs infrastructure-investment program on getting some stuff done that people can see -- and soon.
Good. But Walder must make sure that Albany doesnt use his plans as an excuse to slash spending on the harder, long-term projects, many of which shouldve been done years ago.
Walder said yesterday that while New Yorkers want “more from our system,” we need to “plan on what we should accomplish.” He added that “this is not a time for grand plans.”
It seems that hell emphasize straightforward, cheaper stuff -- relatively speaking -- above such “megaprojects” as the Second Avenue subway. He wants to work with the city and Albany to strictly enforce bus lanes, for example, and to implement tap-card technology for faster boarding, like they have in London and Boston.
These are sound ideas -- and Walder notes that one way for the MTA to win the publics trust is to show results. But New York needs immediate results and complex megaprojects, too. Much of the tens of billions of dollars worth of spending weve done in the last 25 years hasnt been investment in new subway capacity or routes; its just getting back to where we were 40 years ago, when we stopped keeping up the subways and buses.
Now that weve done much -- though not all -- of that work, we need to pick up where we left off. The downturn is no excuse; successful companies keep investing through any downturn.
Weve got to finish the first phase of the Second Avenue subway, for example, but thats not sufficient. Phase One is only three stations, and we wont get a return on our investment until we complete it Downtown. We should take advantage of the downturn to finish the extension of the No. 7 train westward, creating an environment for more private-sector investment on the far West Side and easing the ferry commute to New Jersey.
Weve already lost ground with some pound-foolish cutbacks. As the Citizens Budget Commission notes in a new report, design costs on the No. 7 extension have doubled because the city and state decided to drop one station -- a short-term decision well pay for later. Cutting a track out of the 72nd Street station for the Second Avenue subway added delay, too.
Surely, we can set better priorities. The CBC notes that eight years after 9/11, Albany and the MTA still have no idea what the building at the Fulton Street Transit Center will look like. The MTA should scale back there in favor of underground work elsewhere.
And we can save money.
The MTA says it will soon let the public track construction projects from start to finish online. It should make sure to include the names and bids of every contractor who bids on a project and their key employees, plus those of any subcontractors. The MTA should also report its project communications with elected officials, so the public can learn how much its succumbing to pressure to fund pols pet projects.
Plus, theres labor savings. Walder said yesterday that the MTA has to implement “modern work practices.” The most important thing hes done so far for the capital budget is pursue the MTAs lawsuit to overturn $300 million raises for the Transport Workers Union. That money can go toward capital spending.
Still, Walder should speak up clearly about finishing the important megaprojects weve started. Just how “grand,” really, is the Second Avenue Subway? We built dozens starting a century ago.
Otherwise, New Yorks transit infrastructure could fall victim to Albanys other priorities. The draft capital plan for the next five years -- prepared before Walder arrived -- calls for $28 billion in commitments, but its already facing a $10 billion deficit. New York will spend more than this on Medicaid in a single year -- and it would certainly like more for the health-care lobby. The pols have always been willing to take away money from complex infrastructure, where no one sees results for years, to feed the louder special interests.
While London-style bus service would be great, its not a replacement for 21st-century subways, even if they take longer.
Original Source: http://www.nypost.com/p/news/opinion/opedcolumnists/the_subway_future_nTrQBjDwdyjZXONuQRyOiJ