MTA Unveils $54B Plan to Upgrade NYC Transit


The Metropolitan Transit Authority released its five-year capital plan to improve the city’s decaying transit system. The plan carries a $54 billion price tag, the largest in the city’s history. 

The majority of the funds would go towards the subways, modernizing the signal system in order to increase frequency, adding close to 2,000 subway cars, and upgrading stations to make them more accessible. 

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The plan, which covers the period from 2020 to 2024, would be financed by a mix of revenue, bonds, and federal, state and local funding. Close to half of the funding, a projected $25 billion, would come from new revenue streams — a combination of congestion pricing in Manhattan, the mansion tax on home sales over $2 million, and a sales tax intercept that diverts some sales tax income to the MTA. 

Some of the specifics upgrades include re-signaling the subway system ($7.1 billion) which would allow trains to run more frequently and with fewer delays; making 70 stations accessible ($4.3 billion); extending the Second Avenue line into Harlem; and adding 1,900 subway cars ($6.3 billion), 2,200 buses ($2.3 billion), and 500 electric buses ($1.1 billion). 

Many of the plan’s components came from MTA head Andy Byford’s Fast Forward plan, an attempt to address the transit crisis that peaked in the summer of 2017 released last year. “I’m ecstatically happy,” Byford told reporters Monday at a news conference, according to The New York Times. “This couldn’t be better, this plan exceeds my wildest expectations.” 

While the plan still has to pass several stages of approval, and the authority has to convince local, state and federal agencies to go along with it, initial reactions have been positive. 

Gary LaBarbara, president of the Building & Construction Trades Council said the capital plan would go down in history as one of the “most important investments” ever made into the New York transit system. “The investment will create thousands of high-quality, good-paying, middle-class union jobs with benefits,” he said. 

So far President Donald Trump has tweeted his support of the plan in general, but has not commented on the $10 billion in federal funds expected to pay for it. Governor Andrew Cuomo has agreed to contribute $3 billion pending approval by the state legislature, according to the MTA, and Mayor Bill de Blasio has been asked to match that but has not yet weighed in.  

But it’ll be tough for the numbers to pencil out. Cuomo and de Blasio have a long-running feud over who is responsible for the city’s underinvested transit system, and neither has forked over the funds promised in the last five-year plan, $8.3 billion from the state and $2.5 billion from the city, as of March 2019, according to the Gotham Gazette. The plan would also put the MTA further in debt, currently projected to reach $42 billion by 2022, according to a report from the State Comptroller earlier this month.