July 16, 2019
Albany, NY

Governor Cuomo Issues Letter to MTA Board of Directors to Mandate Accountability Through Performance Measures in Reorganization Plan

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Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today issued a letter to the MTA Board of Directors urging them to include task completion dates and performance measures in their Reorganization Plan.

 

The full text of the letter is available below:

 

To: MTA Board of Directors

 

I have been briefed on your preliminary Reorganization Plan.  I have already commented that it is essential that the final Reorganization Plan address a major outstanding issue for the MTA; namely, the increase in the number of homeless in the system.

 

There is also a serious omission in the preliminary Reorganization Plan in that it has no task completion dates or performance measures. The suggestion that the plan could take two years to implement is only acceptable if it relates to total plan completion. However, it is essential that significant progress be accomplished immediately.

 

The Reorganization Plan includes the adoption and institutionalization of the lessons, means and methods already underway and proven effective during the past two years in the Subway Action Plan. The MTA's function is to continue the progress already accomplished and adopt the systems proven to work. The Subway Action Plan bypassed the MTA bureaucracy with centralized top down management, direct assistance from state officials, and the extensive use of outside contractors. While some additional financial resources will continue and state officials will still be assisting, the MTA management must now be completely engaged. The burden now shifts to the MTA to actually institute effective management systems and perform the tasks that they have previously failed to execute.

 

In addition to institutionalizing the ongoing Subway Action Plan methods, the MTA must immediately implement the legal reforms enacted earlier this year. The MTA Board must enact these reforms or they will be in violation of the law. There are also major initiatives and reforms that have been announced or are already in progress that must be advanced.

  • The Fare Evasion and Worker Safety Taskforce has been announced and was to be fully operational in several weeks.
  • The Train Speed and Safety Taskforce was also announced with work to be completed in several months.
  • The station and car cleaning outside vendor operations were to be completed by the end of the year.
  • The installation of biometric devices to remedy the failed "time and attendance" system was to be completed in three months.
  • A Cornell Technion conference to attract new vendors and new technology for the train navigation system was to be completed by September.
  • The forensic audit and Capital Plan Review Board were mandated by law and should be underway by now. There can be no new Capital Plan prepared until these items are completed.
  • Likewise "bad contractor" debarment procedures were mandated by law and if they are not already implemented, the MTA is in violation of that law.
  • The TWU union contract has expired and Chairman Foye is to be directly responsible for the negotiation to execute a new contract. An essential component of the new contract negotiation will be the determination as to whether the union will adopt the means, methods, procedures and equipment usage of the successful independent contractor actions.
  • The MTA has an extraordinarily poor record in hiring new talent. It is essential to any organization that "new blood" and state of the art knowledge be introduced. The plan calls for a Chief Transformation Officer, Chief Operating Officer, Head of Support Services, Directors of Quality Assurance, Research and Development, Procurement, Human Resources, a Disability Advisor, and Information Technology Director. These new positions are essential to commence progress and I understand the plan is to have them on board within three months.

 

In addition, as discussed, the homeless crisis must be immediately addressed in the final plan.

 

On all of these issues, the Board Members not only have a legal, fiduciary duty, but they also have specific expertise to guide the MTA. The MTA will not reform itself. The dysfunctional culture is long embedded. Bureaucracies resist change and seek to preserve the status quo. Reform only comes from an external source. That is why the law specifically charged the Board with responsibility for the Reorganization Plan. This Board function also extends to the execution of the Reorganization Plan. The Subway Action Plan is a success which overcame the MTA management and bureaucracy. Similarly, the reorganization and transformation will only be accomplished over the resistance of the bureaucracy.

 

I am sure you will agree the most challenging tasks of the MTA for the reorganization are presented by the capital projects. In my opinion, the highest degree of difficulty is presented by: East Side Access, 2nd Avenue subway extension, the four new Bronx stations, the Belmont station, LIRR second and third tracks, L Train tunnel, etc. These projects will be handled separately so as not to overwhelm the capacity of the organization. I will have state officials working to supplement the MTA capacity on these capital projects. Obviously, the Board should oversee these projects as well. The main focus of the Reorganization Plan is on basic operational management systems. This is not rocket science, but rather basic execution and implementation. However, the MTA's chronic failure is its inability to manage and execute effectively.

 

The final Reorganization Plan must have specific benchmarks, dates, measurable performance indicators and timelines.

 

I am sure AlixPartners, or any credible management consultant, would agree that a transformation plan without specific benchmarks and an organizational performance plan without specific indicators is illusory at best. The final plan should include completion dates for the matters discussed herein, as well as the items specified in the reorganization.

 

In sum, the extraordinary interventions of the Subway Action Plan are not sustainable, but nor should they have ever been necessary. If the MTA had done its basic job, the 2017 crisis would never have occurred.

 

New Yorkers have invested billions in the system with higher fares, tolls and inconvenience. New Yorkers have been more than patient. The MTA must continue the progress of the Subway Action Plan forthwith. I suggest you do specific, detailed updates on the plan's implementation at your monthly meetings monitoring timelines, due dates, and completion rates. If the implementation is faltering or behind schedule, the public has the right to know sooner rather than later.

 

I will ask for a full evaluation of the MTA's progress to be done in six months to inform future policy and program decisions.

 

There are no more excuses, politics, drama, scapegoats or tolerance for nonperformance. Either the management completes its tasks or it will have failed its public duty.

 

Sincerely,

  

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo

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