The MTA this week told us that subway service has stabilized, but there’s still a long way to go before the average New Yorker stops leaving home 30 minutes early just in case.
RPA testified at the MTA Board meeting today about Fast Forward. The plan that is our ticket out of the transit mess. RPA believes Fast Forward is credible and doable. It is the comprehensive plan we need to transform our transit network. We also testified that riders can’t expect real, tangible change until Fast Forward is actually implemented.
While the media was critical this week of Andy Byford and his team for not making improvements fast enough, it’s worth noting that agency has not been sitting on its hands. It has hired more staff for maintenance and repair, hired a chief customer officer and new station agents. Employees have welded 30 miles of new track, fixed 600 miles of signals, and reduced emergency response times by 20%. The MTA has also done more than they said publicly this week. They have clearer signage for planned service diversions, they are review of internal processes used to provide advance messaging and in-person customer service for planned service diversions and additional dedicated announcers to provide real-time location-specific service information. They have installed more public address systems at stations that don’t currently have implemented new training for subways staff to improve announcement clarity and quality.
But as RPA’s chairman Scott Rechler said on Monday, and as RPA testified today, the MTA needs to go beyond playing catch up and implement proactive measures, like the ones called for in Fast Forward, to make the transformative changes needed to create a transit system we need to support a growing economy and population.
“Our subway system is in cardiac arrest and you’re doing everything you can to stabilize it, but the reality is we need a heart transplant,” said Scott Rechler at the MTA Committee meeting on Monday.
Fast Forward will cost in the tens of billions of dollars. It cannot be implemented without new, sustainable revenues. RPA and dozens of other advocates and elected officials believe congestion pricing is the fairest and most effective way to bring the benefits Fast Forward promises, like more elevators, more subway service, transformed bus service, and accountability to customers.
Today we called on the MTA board to help build support for Fast Forward and understand and communicate its benefits. We called on elected officials to work together to approve congestion pricing, which will help raise the revenues we need.
Without bold action over the next six months, from the MTA, New York’s city and state elected officials, riders and everyone else who depends on the transit system will be increasingly left at the station, possibly with rain pouring on our heads.