Statement of City Council Member Brad Lander on NYCT President Andy Byford’s “Fast Forward” Plan Presented to MTA Board Wednesday Morning

Statement of City Council Member Brad Lander on NYCT President Andy Byford’s “Fast Forward” Plan Presented to MTA Board Wednesday Morning

May 23, 2018
Council Member Brad Lander issued the following statement on New York City Transit President Andy Byford’s “Fast Forward” plan presented to the MTA Board this morning:
 
“Props to NYCT Transit President Andy Byford on the ‘Fast Forward’ plan he presented to the MTA Board this morning. It’s a serious and comprehensive overhaul plan -- which we’ve been seeking for more than a year.
 
There’s a lot to like about this plan. It has a clear focus on the signal system, with aggressive action over the next 5 and 10 years (instead of the next 50, as has been the plan so far). As the New York Times, the Regional Plan Association, and the website my office launched, SignalFail.com, have been saying for many months, this is the most critical priority. It’s great to see it made top priority, and with a concrete plan and timelines.
 
It includes plans to increase the number of accessible stations (it’s appalling how long it has taken to do the first 100 stations). The year 2034 is a long time to wait for “maximum accessibility,” but this is the first time the MTA has given any date at all.
 
The plan includes a significant number of new subway cars and buses, and along with a real plan for the subway, it includes a Bus Action Plan. It would have been easy for Byford to focus only on the subway, given the visibility of the crisis. He deserves real kudos for committing to a turnaround for the bus system, too.
 
Lastly, it includes plans for an organizational overhaul to increase the chances the MTA can actually deliver on this plan.
 
But there are significant things I am worried about.
 
First and foremost: funding, funding, funding (and the lack of political will to deliver it). This plan will require $1Billion+ in new revenue dedicated to transit every year. At SignalFail.com, we proposed 4 options (congestion pricing, millionaires’ tax, commuter tax, or closing the carried interest loophole). But there’s just no sign the governor and legislature are willing to do what’s necessary on any of these. Without sufficient funding, this plan will mean nothing.
 
There is an absence of upgrades to significant parts of the F train: Byford’s plan to modernize the signal system for the next 5 and 10 years does not appear to include the F train from Jay Street to Church Avenue -- the section which has been the site of catastrophic problems documented recently in the New York Times & the Village Voice. This is a colossal oversight.
 
There is a serious disconnect about the signals: Byford is clear that we should move forward now with CBTC (communications-based train control), the only proven technology at this time. But Governor Cuomo’s office keeps throwing cold water on CBTC, in favor of some non-existent magic future technology. What gives? This feels like a setup to kick the can down the road and do nothing.
 
Lastly, though the Bronx is a good place to start with bus route redesign under the Bus Action Plan, we need action locally in Brooklyn as well. NYC Transit must consider our proposal to bring back the B71 (Union Street corridor), with a new connection to Lower Manhattan.
 
I’m really hoping Byford can make the changes he is proposing, because we really, really need them. But it’s hard to be confident when the Governor plays so coy (about the funding & about the signals, the two things that matter most), and when Chairman Joe Lhota remains entangled in so many conflicts-of-interest. As Nicole Gelinas notes, nearly a year into the “emergency plan” that Lhota announced last summer, we have just not seen any discernible improvements.
 
At the end of the day, we’ve been organizing for more than a year, and finally we have some signs of progress. I’m going to keep up the pressure to make sure this train really moves down the track.”

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