Subway Realities

Old Zwei has been warning about the costs associated with subways and now New York’s MTA says it needs $32 billion over the next five years to repair decaying subway infrastructure! We also have a familiar name, Tom Prendergast, warning that the subway system needs expensive upgrading done.

Prendergast also warned TransLink about the high cost SkyTrain and light metro planning and operation and for his efforts he was shunned and was eased out ofAi?? TransLink. “Sent to Coventry” in layman’s parlance.

Is it not strange that those wanting a SkyTrain subway under Broadway never talk about massive future maintenance costs needed or how funding for such maintenance will erode service on the rest of the public transit system.

NEW YORK Daily News in a Sunday editorial says the city’s rapid transit system operated by New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority [MTA] is crumbling and something must be done:
New York’s leaders dawdle as the subways crumble


Sunday, June 7, 2015

With subway delays creeping ever upward and packed trains creeping ever slower, New Yorkers are getting a grim preview of where things are headed if Albany keeps starving the Metropolitan Transportation Authority for cash:

Destination, commuter hell.

The MTA says it needs to invest $32 billion over the next five years to shore up decaying infrastructure, modernize aging equipment and accommodate record-high ridership. It has just $18 billion in capital funding available ai??i?? leaving a whopping $14 billion gap.

And what are Gov. Cuomo and the Legislature doing to address this crisis for the mass transit system thatai??i??s critical to the regionai??i??s economy?

Nothing ai??i?? apart from punting the hard but unavoidable choices to an indefinite future.

Even by the standards of New York State government, the dereliction is appalling.

MTA chief Tom Prendergast made the consequences of inaction painfully clear in testimony to the City Council.

Without more money, the MTA canai??i??t afford basic things like replacing signal systems that date back to the 1930s ai??i?? let alone major expansions and upgrades. Without more money, trains will get even more crowded and steamy stations will get even more dingy and nightmare breakdowns will get even more commonplace.

ai???In short, without a healthy capital program, the MTA is in deep trouble,ai??? Prendergast warned. ai???And that means deep trouble for New York City, too, and the millions who depend on the system to get to work, to school, to the doctor ai??i?? everywhere they need to

The MTA takes money wherever it can find it ai??i?? including Washington and City Hall ai??i?? but responsibility for properly financing it ultimately goes to Albany, and to Cuomoai??i??s desk.

But his main contribution so far was to pronounce the MTAai??i??s five-year capital plan, first presented in October, as ai???bloatedai??? ai??i?? without specifying where it should be trimmed.

Although he started the year with a $5 billion surplus from legal settlements ai??i?? which ought to have gone exclusively to infrastructure ai??i?? he designated almost none of it for the MTA even as he blew big bucks on pet projects, such as universal broadband.

Last week, with the legislative session ticking down to its June 17 end, the only sign of urgency from the Legislature was a letter circulated by Brooklyn Assemblyman James Brennan that declares: ai???Viable funding options exist to support (mass transit), and the time is now to take

He did not mention the single most viable funding option ai??i?? the Move NY plan from transit expert Sam Schwartz. It calls for equitably tolling drivers crossing the East River bridges and heading south of 60th St. in Manhattan, while actually lowering tolls on other major crossings.

That would generate $1.5 billion a year, which Schwartz would split between transit and much-needed repair of decaying road and bridges.

City pols who lack the vision and courage to back that sensible plan ai??i?? from Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio on down ai??i?? have a duty to offer a viable alternative, and now.

The MTA and the millions of New Yorkers who depend on it each day cannot afford to wait.


2 Responses to “Subway Realities”
  1. Norm Farrell says:

    To gain perspective on the numbers, keep in mind that metropolitan New York has a population about ten times the size of Vancouver and an economy worth infinitely more.

    New York intends to spend $35 billion. Vancouver intends to spend $8 billion. Are we winners, or losers in that comparison?

    Zwei replies: The $35 billion is just to provide essential maintenance for the metro/subway system over five years! As per discussion in this blog, the Expo Line needs about $2 billion to $3 billion in essential maintenance in the near future, with the Millennium Line needing $1 billion to $2 billion in essential maintenance costs a decade later. The Canada line will need essential maintenance in about 25 years from now.

    Total up to $5 billion in essential maintenance costs within the next twenty five years just for the three lines. I would wager the Canada line P-3 will be in dreadful shape when the P-3 contract ends as monies earmarked for maintenance will instead add to SNC Lavalin’ profit margins.

    TransLink has not budgeted for this maintenance and the $8 billion is for a now $3 billion SkyTrain (Millennium Line) to Arbutus; three LRT lines in Surrey and several (up to 8) B-Line style express bus routes. TransLink has not factored operating costs nor maintenance costs of the proposed ‘rail’ projects, nor the B-Line/BRT lines.

    Until TransLink is forthcoming with the costs associated with our light-metro network, we will not know if we are winners or losers.

    What was intended to show is that building subways cost a lot of money up front to build and a whole lot more money to maintain, something that Translink and the politicans supporting subway construction tend to ignore.

  2. Haveacow says:

    Actually Zwei to be fair, many of those essential maintenance items in New York MTA budget request would be called upgrades elsewhere. The problem with New York’s Subway system is chronic underinvestment. The system is really bursting at the seems and its been a tradition of sorts that various MTA Chairperson’s have used the term “emergency maintenance” in situations where they don’t see any significant capital funding on the horizon as a kind of “hello state and federal governments, we need money” reminder. David Gunn did this frequently. Do they need much more capital funding? Yes, but it has been this way for over 70 years since the city took over New York’s 3 separate private subway systems and tried to tie them together as one system. The State government of New York has always had the same problem, any dollar spent in Manhattan is seen as a betrayal of the rest of the state and since so much of the state representatives do not represent New York City or Manhattan for that matter, the city gets ignored until a crisis has set in. It doesn’t matter that the city represents the lion’s share of the entire state’s economy. As always its politics!

    Zwei replies: All major subway system in the world need vast amount of money for essential maintenance, this is why subways need an extremely large revenue pool (translation; customers) to provide the revenue to fund maintenance. Today, the bare minimum traffic flows needed to maintain a subway is 15,000 pphpd. In metro friendly Europe, transit authorities peg the bare minimum for subways at 20,000 pphpd, that is until the politicians get involved, that many an affordable transit plan becomes an extremely expensive amd unaffordable subway vanity project!

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