MTA approves reorganization plan, task force to address delays

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The Long Island Rail Road will be part of the MTA's reorganization to reduce headcounts and deficits, as well as a new program to address train delays. Long Island EMD DM30AC No. 522 is shown at Port Jefferson, N.Y.
Ralph Spielman

NEW YORK — The Metropolitan Transportation Authority overwhelming approved the reorganization plan of consultant AlixPartners at its Wednesday board meeting, setting in motion the process of restructuring the transit agency.

Suggestions in the 37-page plan released to the public included consolidation of a number of areas that currently operate separately for each of the MTA’s seven departments, such as human resources, into a single unit. [See “First details released on New York MTA reorganization,” Trains News Wire, July 15, 2019.] Operating components would focus exclusively on service delivery, safety, day-to-day operations and maintenance, not general support functions. The agencies will report to a Chief Operating Officer, currently a vacant position. The COO would oversee the subway, commuter rail, bus, and bridge/tunnel agency management, with a new level of accountability across the MTA.

Also, capital-related functions and major construction projects will be merged into a central engineering group reporting to a chief engineering officer, to provide consistent standards and specifications and eliminate unnecessary complexity and duplication. The report also recommend elimination of 1,900 to 2,700 positions, which the MTA management says will mostly be accomplished through retirements or not filling vacancies. The agency, which is facing a potential deficit of $800 million by 2021, says the headcount reduction could save $530 million. It will be overseen by a new chief transformation officer.

The consultants’ report grew out of a request from Gov. Andrew Cuomo to better control costs following recent issues with employee overtime and the L Train construction project. As mandated by the state legislature, the MTA approved the $3.75 million contract in April, asking the consulting firm to submit a report that flagged “fraud, waste, abuse or conflicts of interest” within the MTA and review its 5-year, $26.6 billion capital program.

“It’s a new day at the MTA,” MTA Chairman and CEO Patrick J. Foye said. “Our customers have demanded change, and we’re going to deliver it for the first time in nearly 50 years.”

The MTA mandated a 6-month implementation timeline establishing certain priorities, beginning with the Agu. 1 establishment of a Fare Evasion and Worker Safety Task Force. It will contain 200 additional police officers from the New York Police Department, reassignment of existing MTA Police officers, and retraining of Bridge and Tunnels Officers to be deployed for fare evasion and worker safety protection. Estimate are that some 20% of the subway and bus system’s 8 million daily riders engage in fare evasion.

Also on Wednesday, the MTA also announced a task force to address longstanding and unnecessary train slowdowns across the system. The task force will be chaired by former FAA Administrator Jane Garvey. It will review civil speed restrictions, improperly calibrated signal timers, and overall operations to ensure trains do not operate slower than safety and best practice dictates. The Train Speed and Safety Task Force will examine the problem of train slowdowns and coordinate with unions, the Subway’s Save Safe Seconds Transit effort, and PTC installation on Metro-North and the Long Island Rail Road. Governor Cuomo, after discussions with labor union leaders, suggested the MTA convene the task force and address these speed-related problems immediately.

More details on the reorganization plan are available at the MTA’s website.

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