Transit advocates demand Cuomo, MTA increase transportation spending transparency

Public transportation watchdogs launched a campaign Monday calling on Gov. Cuomo and the MTA to prioritize several transit projects and do more to control capital spending.

The Build Trust Campaign — which is being backed by TransitCenter, the Riders Alliance and the Tri-State Transportation Campaign — comes eight months after the state began charging for-hire drivers a surcharge to travel in Midtown, a move projected to raise $15 billion in bonds over the next five years.

“The stakes couldn’t be higher for Governor Cuomo and the MTA –– to provide New Yorkers with a reliable, accessible transit system, they need to get the next capital program right,” TransitCenter Senior Associate Colin Wright said. “They have to invest in the projects that will improve service for the greatest number of people and deliver those projects at costs that don’t break the bank.”

The watchdogs want to see that money, as well as the entirety of funding set aside for construction projects, spent more efficiently. In their report unveiled Monday, they say core maintenance needs, handicapped accessibility and subway fleet modernization must be given top priority.

“Leading up to the landmark congestion pricing vote, opponents attacked the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s track record of high capital costs. They asked how the agency could be trusted with a new source of public funds,” the group’s Build Trust report states. “Their critique was grounded in truth.”

The report argues that “the MTA must deliver those projects at the right price” and that the MTA and state-level elected officials “must set up accountability and oversight mechanisms.”

The advocates praise New York City Transit for devising a “bold” plan for modernization the subway system, but complain that it does not include “specific timelines, benchmarks and costs.”

They also urge that upcoming capital projects align with the interest of city straphangers, noting that from 2015 to 2019, only 76% of $22.4 billion in maintenance and improvement money went to subways and buses.

“New York can’t afford for the next capital program to shortchange subway and bus riders,” it notes.

( Michael Gartland, Daily News)

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