Photo Courtesy of MTA/Patrick Cashin
Cuomo signed an executive order declaring a state of emergency to suspend procurement rules for the MTA, allowing the MTA to speed up repairs and the purchase of material and equipment to replace outdated infrastructure.
By Michael V. Cusenza
Prompted by one of the worst performance periods in recent agency history – including three subway derailments in a four-month span – Gov. Andrew Cuomo last Thursday signed an executive order declaring a state of emergency to suspend procurement rules for the beleaguered Metropolitan Transportation Authority, allowing the organization to speed up repairs and the purchase of material and equipment to replace outdated infrastructure.
Executive Order No. 168 cites the “increasingly constant and continuing failures of the tracks, signals, switches and other transportation infrastructure throughout the system…that have resulted in various subway derailments, extensive track outages, and substantial service disruptions impacting the health and safety of hundreds of thousands of riders.”
Speaking at the MTA Genius Transit Challenge Conference, Cuomo also announced that the State will contribute an additional $1 billion to the MTA Capital Plan.
Additionally, Cuomo tasked Con Ed to commence an immediate investigation of their equipment, transmission, and interlocks throughout the entire subway system. The governor said that Con Ed will work with MTA to within 90 days to complete inspections of their equipment at all remaining subway stations and repair any problems found; replace vulnerable cable servicing subway stations as prioritized by MTA by end of year; add redundancy to subway stations without redundancy by end of yearwhere feasible; and by end of year begin deploying remote monitoring equipment to speed up communications during crises.
“We know the system is decaying and we know the system is decaying rapidly,” Cuomo said at last Thursday’s conference. “I think of it as a heart attack – it happens all of a sudden and the temptation is to say, well something must have just caused it. No, a lifetime caused it. Bad habits caused it. Lack of exercise caused it. Smoking caused it. Cholesterol caused it. This has been caused over decades, we understand that. But, the delays are maddening New Yorkers. They’re infuriated by a lack of communication, unreliability, and now accidents. Just three days ago we literally had a train come off the tracks. It’s the perfect metaphor for the dysfunction of the entire system. The derailment of the A train injured 12 people, thankfully none of them seriously. The New York City subway system is the most problematic component of the MTA system. We know the underlying causes of the problem. We know that decades of underinvestment, deferred maintenance and deferred modernization have caused the problem. We know this has now compounded from a surging ridership. More volume than the system was ever designed to hold.”
The governor said the MTA needs “a new approach, a new culture, new methods to quickly and dramatically make progress” in four key areas:
“Number one: an updated fleet of new subway cars and a better system to overhaul and fix and maintain the existing cars. Number two: we have a signal system that is in desperate need of upgrade and replacement. Number three: we have an outdated communications system to inform riders of operating conditions. Number four: we have a power grid that fails all too often. Our fleet of 6,400 cars reflects the historic and lack of investment in the subway system. Subway cars are designed to be on the track for 40 years. Today, we have more than 700 cars that have passed their expiration date. The oldest subway cars are 52 years old. They literally should be in a museum.”