NYLPI Supports Launch of New MTA-Focused “Build Trust” Campaign

September 9, 2019

Disability Justice, News

Photo of subway platform

NYLPI Senior Attorney for Disability Justice Christopher Schuyler was quoted by TransitCenter in support of its new “Build Trust” campaign focused on the MTA’s Capital Program, which was covered in the Daily News this morning.

“A lack of accessibility to mass transit is much more than inconvenience. It limits employment options. It creates safety hazards. Put simply, it leaves those with mobility impairments unable to join in all the city has to offer,” said Christopher Schuyler, Senior Staff Attorney, Disability Justice Program, New York Lawyers for the Public Interest. “Increasing the number of accessible subway stations also promises to improve the Access-A-Ride program. More accessible stations will alleviate the demand on AAR, reduce the long-term costs to run the program, and allow the MTA to focus on providing improved AAR service to those who need it most.”

The New York City subway system is at a turning point. Despite population and job growth, unreliable transit service is causing ridership to decline. The future of the subway is riding on the 2020-2024 MTA Capital Program, the agency’s forthcoming plan to maintain and upgrade assets like track, rolling stock, and stations.

Today TransitCenter, along with partner organizations, launched the Build Trust campaign:

The campaign calls on Governor Cuomo, MTA Chairman Pat Foye, and state lawmakers to prioritize the right projects, control costs, and increase transparency in the 2020-2024 MTA Capital Program. By adopting this framework, they can set the subway on a course of steady improvement.

The sorry state of the subway today reflects poor decisions in past MTA capital programs, where too many resources went toward gold-plated expansion mega-projects at the expense of the existing system that millions of people depend on. High construction costs and habitual project delays slowed progress and led New Yorkers to lose trust in the MTA’s stewardship of the system.

Governor Cuomo, who controls the agency, must not repeat those mistakes this time around.

Currently, however, transit riders are in the dark. Release of the capital program is behind schedule and the project list is currently being debated behind closed doors. The plan still has not been unveiled to the public or the MTA Board, even though the board is expected to vote on it two weeks from now.

New York can’t afford a secretive rush job on matters of such critical importance. The next capital program must deliver the repairs and upgrades necessary for the subway to function at the level that New York’s growing population demands. In addition to keeping existing infrastructure in a state of good repair, the capital program should include major investments in station accessibility, modern signaling, and new subway cars.

To deliver the improvements riders need, the Build Trust report lays out a four-point framework for the 2020-2024 MTA Capital Program:

(1) This fall, the governor and the MTA produce a capital program that addresses core maintenance priorities and invests in upgrades that yield better service for riders across the whole system, accompanied by a detailed 5-year implementation schedule;

(2) The MTA makes capital cost control a primary goal and sets benchmark unit costs for common subway upgrades;

(3) The MTA creates an accurate, up-to-date, user-friendly online project tracker for the capital program;

(4) State lawmakers hold robust oversight hearings on the capital plan beginning in fall 2019.

By prioritizing the right projects, setting high standards for project delivery, and committing to transparency measures that invite public accountability, Governor Cuomo, MTA leadership, and state lawmakers can fix and modernize the subway while building trust in the agency.

The full Build Trust report is available at buildtrust.nyc.

“The stakes couldn’t be higher for Governor Cuomo and the MTA –– to provide New Yorkers with a reliable, accessible transit system, they need to get the next capital program right,” said TransitCenter Senior Associate Colin Wright. “They have to invest in the projects that will improve service for the greatest number of people, and deliver those projects at costs that don’t break the bank. Transparent and accurate progress reports will hold the MTA accountable to riders as it implements the capital program, building trust in the agency.”


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