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MTA chairman announces $836M plan to fix subway amidst uproar over service

After a recent series of finger-pointing between Governor Cuomo, Mayor Bill de Blasio, and MTA chairman Joe Lhota over the deteriorating and problem-plagued subway system, Lhota announced yesterday a $836 million plan to fix the system.

In a press conference Tuesday afternoon, Lhota addressed the decline in quality and recent derailments and delays the subway system has experienced over the last several months. A recent report by Comptroller Scott Stringer’s office showed that the overall on-time performance rate in the subway system dropped from 84 percent in 2012 to 63 percent in 2017.

Last week, both Lhota and Gov. Cuomo publicly criticized Mayor De Blasio, saying that the city is solely responsible for funding the subway system and has been irresponsible in the last several years.

“They own it, they lease it, it’s their responsibility to fund it,” Lhota said at a press conference, just hours after Gov. Cuomo criticized the city for not stepping up with more funding.

Gov. Cuomo declared a state of emergency regarding the subway system on June 29, and ordered Lhota to draft a “reorganization plan” for the agency within 30 days.The MTA announced that it would release its plan a day after Mayor de Blasio presented his own recommendations on Monday.

“I think we all know why we’re here today,” began Lhota at the press conference Tuesday afternoon. “We’re here today because of the deterioration of the quality of service and the performance of the New York City subway system, and trying to put together a plan that will help stabilize and improve the system.”

In a presentation that stretched to over an hour long, Lhota talked about the history of the subway system and pointed out that New York City’s system – which has the highest number of stations in the world – has gotten safer over the years.

In 1981 alone, the subway system reported 5,747 track fires, 21 collisions, and 4,977 robberies. Today, those numbers are down 90 percent, said Lhota. However, there are still many problems plaguing the system.

“The New York City subway system no doubt is in distress,” said Lhota. “We’re here and we’re looking for solutions.”

Lhota attributed the delays, derailments, track fires, and rising fares to three factors; a record number of customers, aging infrastructure, and a lack of capital investment.

“There is no doubt we are failing our customers,” he said.

Lhota announced a 30-piece plan that includes repairing antiquated signals and overhauling deteriorating trains, and calls for removing seats from some subway cars to make more room for passengers, a plan that the city of Boston has tried with its subway system.

Broken down, the plan would entail $450 million in operating costs and a $380 million capital investment. Lhota suggested the state and New York City split the costs of the plan.

On Monday, City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez, and the City Council announced the Council’s Committee on Transportation will convene an oversight hearing on August 8th to examine the state of the subway system.

The announcement said the Council will “explore and examine” solutions to help address safety and efficiency issues that have affected subway riders in recent months. The Council will also review and conduct oversight of the 30-day MTA reorganizational report later this week.

“Millions of New Yorkers rely on the subway each and every day to go about their everyday lives,” said Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito in the announcement. “The countless delays, unreliable service and numerous safety issues that  have cropped up in recent months has made clear our subway system cannot remain the status quo. The MTA must do right by New Yorkers – and that means committing to funding much-needed improvements to its nearly century-old infrastructure and working with all levels of government to put an end to these issues.”


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