November 25, 2019

MTA Chairman Foye’s Opening Remarks at City Council Transportation Hearing

AS DELIVERED ON NOVEMBER 25, 2019 

Speaker, I second that motion and I also abhor the recent increase on attacks on transit workers, both physical assaults and sexual assaults. I'll note that state law provides that attacking a transit worker is a Class D felony with serious penalties. And I’d urge prosecutors and law enforcement to look to that option more frequently going forward. 

Good morning, and thank you for inviting us here today, particular thanks to Speaker Johnson and Chair Rodriguez. I’m Patrick Foye, Chairman and CEO of the MTA. I’m joined by my colleagues New York City Transit President Andy Byford, MTA Chief Financial Officer Bob Foran, and Janno Lieber, who leads Construction and Development. 

Speaker and Chairman, I want to thank you for your focus on subways buses and paratransit.  I thank you both particularly for your leadership on Subway Action Plan funding, and Fair Fares, an important program with much to be done.  We at the MTA would welcome an even more engaged Mayor on transit issues, even more engaged City Council, and obviously you have both increased substantially the focus and engagement of City Council on transit issues.  The 2020-2024 Capital Plan our Board approved in September is exactly what elected officials, city council members, I believe advocates and most importantly customers have long demanded.    

We are in the midst of exciting and challenging times at the MTA. We remain laser focused on delivering safe and reliable service for the 7.6 million customers who use the subways and buses every day. As we embark on a historic Capital Program and Transformation, our core mission remains the same: to keep this city and region moving. 

All our agency presidents – Andy Byford, Craig Cipriano, Phil Eng, Cathy Rinaldi and Danny DeCrescenzo – are working hard to improve the experience for our customers day-to-day. But we also have our eyes on the future. New Yorkers deserve a modern 21st century transportation network, and that’s what we plan to deliver with our ambitious and historic proposed 2020-2024 Capital Plan. It calls for unprecedented levels of investment across the system, amounting to $51.5 billion dollars over the next five years, with an additional $3.3 billion for MTA Bridges and Tunnels. 

This proposed Capital Program is the key to growing and maintaining the capacity of our system, which is a driving force of the state economy. The plan is forecasted to generate 350,000 jobs statewide, 75% of which would be in the City of New York. And we expect that fully 89% of the Capital Plan investment will be spent within New York State. 

It’s important to note service is improving across the system.  I want to highlight how we got to where we are today. After a state of emergency for the transit system was declared in the summer of 2017, the State and the City with Speaker, and Chair, your leadership, equally contributed over $800 million dollars for the Subway Action Plan. This infusion of funds allowed us to dramatically expedite essential maintenance work, helping to right the wrongs of decades of underinvestment and neglect. It was a critical step to getting our core infrastructure back on track, so we could begin providing improved levels of service. 

This incredible effort has led to steady sustained gains in on-time performance across the system. In October, weekday OTP reached 81.5%. That’s an improvement of nearly 16% from the year before. October was also the fifth straight month with subway OTP above 80%. For these improvements, I want to thank Andy Byford, Sally Libera and the entire Subways team, including our colleagues at the Transit Workers, especially our partners in labor.  These hardworking men and women are on the front lines every day, delivering operational excellence. 

The improvement in performance hasn’t been lost on our customers. We’re seeing increases in ridership across all agencies. In September, the average weekday ridership on the subway climbed to 5.77 million people. Compare that to 2018 – where that number was around 5.43 million. To put that in perspective, the subway system is carrying nearly 250,000 more trips each weekday than it was a year earlier. And buses are carrying nearly 34,000 more trips per weekday. The increase shows we’re steadily rebuilding the public’s trust. 

We’re also focused on improving the bus and paratransit network.  The focus on operations isn’t limited to just daily service or to the subways – we’re also thinking big and ambitious on buses and paratransit. We know that buses are a lifeline for our customers outside Manhattan, serving more than 1.8 million customers a day. Craig Cipriano and the NYCT/MTA bus teams are pushing ahead with borough-by-borough Bus Network Redesigns. We’re taking a completely fresh and holistic look at service in each borough including focusing on outer borough needs, and transit desert needs.  Many bus routes across the city haven’t been changed in decades, putting them behind the times when it comes to new developments in housing or job centers. 

The redesigns are using qualitative and quantitative data to update these routes to better fit our customer needs. We’re also working closely with our partners at the NYC Department of Transportation, and as always, community input is important. We’ve recently released a final proposal for the Bus Bronx redesign, which includes the creation of three new routes. Frequency also will significantly increase on nine major corridors, which will be served by 10 routes. Thanks to Council Member Cohen for being a great collaborator during this process. 

Redesign work on the bus network is also well underway in Queens, and we just kicked off the process in Brooklyn. On Staten Island, express bus riders are already seeing 12% faster travel times after that redesign was completed last fall. 

The establishment of the 14th Street Busway, together with the use of Automated Bus Lane Enforcement, has all been recognized a great success. The prime example of coordination between the MTA and our partners at New York City Department of Transportation, particularly Commissioner Polly Trottenberg. Thanks also to Speaker Johnson and Chair Rodriguez for your support on the busway. 

There’s been a dramatic increase in bus speeds on the M14. It once took an average of 15 minutes to travel between Eighth and Third Avenues, it now takes just over 10. That’s an improvement of nearly 33%. Customers are noticing too – since the busway was launched in October, ridership is up 17% compared to the same time last year. Before the Busway opened, there was concern that traffic on the surrounding streets would become unbearable. But according to a study that was requested by New York City DOT, there’s been no significant impact on congestion on surrounding streets.

We’re also investing in and focused on the Access-A-Ride service. We’re expanding the popular e-hail pilot program, which offers on-demand service for Paratransit users -- doubling access to the program, from 1,200 to 2,400 Access-A-Ride customers.  For the core, ADA-required service we provide, we’re also making improvements – expanding the types of trips offered, leveraging more taxis and for-hire vehicles, and adding 700 new vehicles to our aging fleet. Thanks to improved GPS tracking, customers can now track their trips on an app and webpage. And in an effort to make the system more transparent, we regularly publish performance metrics on a public dashboard. 

The MTA is hopeful that Fair Fares will prove to be another fruitful partnership, and we thank you Speaker Johnson for your leadership on this issue. We strongly support this critical program, which is run by the City, to give low income New Yorkers access to the transit system. We support to a faster rollout of Fair Fares so this program can benefit more people. We’re ready to do our part to make that happen. 

Let’s talk for a few minutes about the proposed 2020-2024 Capital Program.  We aren’t just thinking about operating improvements, and the work certainly doesn’t stop there. The historic $51.5 billion proposed Capital Program. In this plan, we’ve laid out a bold vision for capital investment that will deliver the world-class transit network our riders deserve. The system has been neglected an under invested in for too long.  Just as we’ve seen a 50% increase in ridership system-wide in the last 20 years, we’ve also seen an 8% decline in the annualized rate of capital investment. Our teams deserve immense credit for getting the system to a more reliable place, but now is the time to take decisive action to ensure the future health of our transit system in New York City. 

The proposed Capital Plan is fully a 70% increase over the current 2015-2019 program. We worked with legislators, advocates the public and our customers to get their perspectives on what the system needs. 

New York City subways and buses will receive $40 billion in investment – I note that is more than the entire current Capital Plan. It encompasses all of Fast Forward’s priority projects and more. Our goal for these next 5 years is to build upon the success that we’re already delivering. For example, on the 7 and L lines, signal modernization investments have led to significant improvements in performance. Modernizing the signal system allowed us to increase the number of trains per hour on the 7 line to 29 during the morning and evening rushes, up from 25-27, while On-Time Performance on the 7 skyrocketed from 75% to over 90%. 

That is why the new Capital Plan includes $5.3 billion dollars for subway signal modernization on six more-line segments: the Lexington Avenue line, Fulton, Crosstown, 63rd Street, Astoria and Queens Boulevard lines. 33 interlockings will be modernized or modified, and we’re upgrading all our communications networks. The plan also calls for the purchase of 1,900 new subway cars. Together with signaling updates, this will deliver faster, more reliable and more frequent service. 

Accessibility is another cornerstone of this Capital Program. We plan to invest in 70 more accessible stations. That more than fulfills our commitment to ensure that no rider will be more than two stations away from an accessible station. We’re targeting these upgrades at stations that serve more than 60% of our ridership. 

Replacing 60 miles of track will also help us deliver better service. This program proposes to install 20 miles of Continuous Welded Rail, or CWR, across the network. Compared to Jointed Rail, CWR is more durable, with less than half the rate of rail breaks, and provides a quieter, smoother ride. Additionally, 175 stations would be renewed to address components in needs of critical repair – including the replacement of up to 65 escalators and up to 75 elevators that have reached the ends of their useful life. 

The Capital Plan also provides full funding for phase two of the Second Avenue Subway, allowing us to expand the network into a transit desert. This will add three new fully accessible stations, and a connection with Metro-North -- finally delivering on the decades-old promise to give residents of Harlem better access to our system. 

Beyond the subways, the Capital Plan also advances our commitment to a cleaner, greener bus fleet, which will help to create a more clean and green New York. We’re buying 2,400 new buses, 500 of which will be All Electric. Our goal is to transition to a zero-emission fleet throughout the network by 2040. After 2029, all bus purchases will be electric buses. A younger fleet of buses can run farther before breaking down – which means more reliability and better service for our customers. 

Funding for this program relies on a range of sources. Central Business District Tolling is a critical element, and expected to provide $15 billion dollars of capital. New revenue streams like the Progressive Mansion Tax and the elimination of the Internet Tax Advantage will add another $10 billion. We’re anticipating $10 billion dollars in federal funding. And the MTA is also contributing with another $9.8 billion dollars in MTA funds. 

But it’s crucial to note that this will not be enough to completely fund our bold vision. To fully execute the Capital Program, we require additional investment: including $3 billion dollars from the state, and $3 billion dollars from the City of New York. 

The City’s contribution would be used to fund accessibility upgrades on the subways. That money would be timed following the expenditure of the $25 billion dollars expected from Central Business District Tolling and other new tax revenues.  Without the $6 billion-dollar commitment from the city and state, ADA work would be delayed. We need to schedule the MTA’s contribution last in order to responsibly manage our debt service. 

And it’s important to note that capital funds are completely separate from our operating budget. The unfortunate reality is that the MTA has to reconcile our service improvements and customer improvements with the fact that our cost structure is not where it needs to be. Even as we pursue aggressive cost cutting measures to find nearly $3 billion dollars in annual recurring savings, we’re looking at major out-year deficits. It’s unfortunately the case that our operating budget is literally strained to the bone.    

But let me talk briefly about transformation.  The MTA is instituting meaningful change and reform to completely transform the way we do business as was required by state law in the last session.  As part of the legislation that enabled Central Business District Tolling, the MTA was required to develop a reorganization plan that will result in a more efficient and effective organization. The MTA Transformation Plan was developed and approved by our Board earlier this year, outlining what the future MTA could and should look like. That vision would see the MTA become a single unified capital group, with consolidated back office functions across all agencies. This way the operating agencies could focus on core delivery, service delivery and safety. 

We were pleased to announce the selection of Anthony McCord as the MTA’s Chief Transformation Officer, to lead this historic effort. Anthony will work closely with senior leaders across the organization to modernize the MTA, and deliver on the hard work of transformation itself – implementing the necessary changes to consolidate and streamline the agency, and ensure the new MTA is set up sustainably, for long-term success. 

Anthony is a senior executive with over 25 years of experience in industrial service and infrastructure roles around the world, focusing on transformation and change management. He is a proven, strategic leader with an impressive track record for teambuilding and effecting meaningful change that will drive direct customer benefits. We’re eager to have him join the MTA later this year. 

I’m also happy to share that we selected a future Chief Operating Officer, Mario Péloquin, last week. Mario is a senior executive with over 30 years of experience in the transit and rail industry, and his distinguished career is rooted with direct field experience in both safety and operations – including as a rail traffic controller and safety investigator in Canada. As COO, Mario will lead our team of exceptional agency presidents so that we continue to deliver gains in performance and maintain a laser-sharp focus on safety, reliability and customer experience. 

A critical element of transformation and a key part of how we will deliver on this historic, proposed Capital Program is through our new Construction and Development organization, led by Janno Lieber. This group will be the single, central point for capital project planning, development and delivery. We’re not waiting for the next Capital Program to start – some of these reforms are already well-underway. A great example is the L Train project – moving along ahead of schedule, thanks to innovative recommendations from world-class academic partners and under the leadership of Janno and his team. 

Ultimately, Transformation will help the agency to refocus on our core mission: dramatically improving service and giving customers the safe, modern and reliable system, they deserve. It will position us to most effectively and efficiently deliver on the proposed Capital Program, to put in much-needed reinvestment in our infrastructure that truly powers this region and keeps it moving. 

Again, thank you for your support, thank you for the invitation to be here and we’re happy to take your questions.

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