Governor Cuomo: "When this nation was at its best, when we were developing world class projects, the government was not only partnering with new technology companies, but the government was actually creating new technology ... Our success was not by circumstance or chance. We led on the merits. We succeeded because we were the most innovative, we were the first, we were the smartest, we were the best... The current technological developments already exceed what the MTA is using and what they need. The provocation today, the goal today, is to adapt what has already been developed to the MTA's application."
Earlier today, Governor Cuomo delivered remarks at the Cornell Tech Conference in New York City. The Conference brings together private and public partners to spur future collaboration and innovation in the transportation sector in New York.
AUDIO of the event is available here.
PHOTOS of the event will be available on the Governor's Flickr page.
A rush transcript of the Governor's remarks is available below:
Thank you. Thank you very much. Wow, I think that video really frames the day. Let me first acknowledge the organizers of today. A lot of work went into it. It is a little different than what is normally done. But I want to thank first Cornell-Tech and the Dean and Provost Greg Morrisett who is here with us today. Let's give him a round of applause and thank him very much. We have Pat Foye and the whole MTA team. Thank you for everything that you have done. Let's give them a round of applause. And Eric Gertler and his team at Empire State Development. Thank you very much. Thank you Eric.
Most of all let me thank all of you for being here today. Many of you have come from a great distance. So, thank you. I think it is going be worth your time and welcome to the great state of New York. Thank you for taking the time and making the effort to be here. My role and the purpose of this conference in many ways is to provoke your thinking and to open up new business opportunities for you. Our goal is to forge new partnerships that allow government to provide better service and innovations, and allow you to grow your business at the same time.
Now to begin with, I think that there is a growing societal disconnect between emerging technologies and government projects. And I believe it is hurting this state and this country. Just think about it for a moment. When this nation was at its best, when we were developing world class projects, the government was not only partnering with new technology companies, but the government was actually creating new technology. Public projects drove technological development. Take New York as an example. The George Washington Bridge built in 1931. The Williamsburg Bridge built in 1903. They drove the development of better steel, new engineering techniques and advances electric power. The Holland Tunnel built in 1927. You couldn't build a tunnel that long because you couldn't ventilate it. The construction of that tunnel forced the development of better ventilation systems. The New York City subway system. It drove the development of new electric systems, new navigation systems, even elevator technology because the elevators could not go down that deep at that time.
Somewhere along the way technological development became divorced by public projects. To the extent that now not only do public projects no longer drive technological advancements, but public projects lag behind even utilizing current technological advancements. So, what happens?
The result is twofold. First, it limits the potential of our public works and, second, it has reduced your business potential. In New York, and what the conference is about, is we are trying to reestablish the new technology and public project collaborative. We are trying to make that marriage. In New Yok, we understand that government must go first to repair the relationships and that government must do things differently - and we are. Many of you may have landed at LaGuardia Airport. We are building a new LaGuardia Airport. The first new airport in the United States of America in 25 years, believe it or not. And we are building a new airport while we are operating the current airport. And it happens to be one of smallest sites of any airports in the country and one of the busiest. That's why it hadn't been done before because it couldn't be done, but we're doing it. It is a total venture between the public sector and the private sector - virtually everything is new and different and state-of-the-art. We just completed the largest infrastructure project in the United States of America: A new bridge. We did it on time; we did it on budget; it goes across the Hudson - it's called the Mario M. Cuomo Bridge. How did we do it? By using new manufacturing techniques and the largest floating lifting system in the world - that they had to bring from the other side of the globe. We just saved two years in construction at the MTA when engineers designed a new carbon fire wrapping system to support the inside of a train tunnel, so you didn't have to rebuild the whole tunnel. You're sitting in the Jacob Javits Convention Center, which after 40 years of stagnation is adding 1.5 million square-feet, newly designed, multi-use space, newest technology, newest materials, newest architecture, and we're getting it done faster than ever before, and it is going to be the convention center that rivals every other one in the nation. So that is the New York way. We always push the edge of the envelope.
In 1817, DeWitt Clinton, no relationship to Bill Clinton, although Bill tries to take credit but that's a different story, DeWitt Clinton proposed building the Erie Canal. The Erie Canal was to link the Hudson River to the Great Lakes and open up what was at that time the far west of the nation. It was the innovation of the age. A 363 mile engineering feat in 1817. President Thomas Jefferson said at the time it was a fool's errand, because the technology did not exist, and Jefferson was right - the technology did not exist - but they went ahead with the project anyway, and the technology development actually caught up to the project.
So, am I challenging you today to develop new technology? No, I'm not that ambitious actually. It's easier than that, because the current technological developments already exceed what the MTA is using and what they need. The provocation today, the goal today, is to adapt what has already been developed to the MTA's application. Functionally what does the MTA do? At the end of the day the simple analysis is the MTA runs trains on tracks and buses on preassigned routes. That's it, and it does it for 8 million riders per day. The technology capacity that exists today far exceeds what the MTA is using. You have already developed mapping software, traffic software, navigational software, directional software, communications technology, construction design technology that is years ahead of what the MTA now uses. We just need the adaptation of that technology to the MTA application. For example, one of the main challenges for the MTA is a new signal system. The signal system operates the trains within the system. The original MTA system was designed and installed in the 20th century. Some of it still dates back to the 1930's and operates on mechanical devices triggered by the wheels of the train that are then wired to red and green lights. New federal standards require what's called positive train control, PTC. Because when you speak to government everything has to be an acronym or Communication Based Train Control - what they call CBTC. It's a signal system that communicates train position to a central command center other trains - it controls the speed of the train and can stop the train. Now the system that we are deploying is based on 1980s technology development. Look at the other technological advancements in the same space. Look at the technological advancements in AVS - Automated Vehicle Software. Look how advanced that is compared to what we're doing at the MTA. It's far ahead of what we are currently installing. And it is far more complex. Automated vehicles - you have to be able to sense pedestrians, you have to be able to sense blocked intersections, vehicles going through red lights - there's a whole host of variables. A train runs on a track, the routes are set, the destinations are pre-determined, the speed limit it set. The system is already wired. The designated stations don't change. The track configuration doesn't change. It is a simpler system to design for what you are already undertaking.
I've spoken to numerous people in the industry and I don't believe there's any reason why the technology that already developed can't be applied to a simpler application, which is a train track. And this is true for all sorts of applications in the MTA. Eight million riders, roughly half the population of the State of New York rides the MTA. Think about it. Half the population of the State of New York. And everybody wants to know the same basic things: the schedules, the delays, the alternative routes. They want to be able to communicate quickly with police, they want to be able to report dangerous situations and pinpoint the location. They want to receive news and entertainment content. Why aren't more tech companies exploring this market? Why did we have to have this conference today to jumpstart this relationship?
I've asked everyone. I've heard two possible rationales, let me address them both. First, people have questioned the economics. Is there enough economic potential to be worth the investment of the businesses time? Fair question. I believe the public transit market offers tremendous economic opportunities. Look at the numbers. The MTA is a 70,000 person organization with an annual budget of $17 billion and a capital budget of over $50 billion. We're talking about the signal system. The MTA has currently budgeted $12 billion to install new signals. Twelve billion dollars to install new signals. The MTA has budgeted $3 billion to put new signals on what's called the Lexington Line. Why do they call it the Lexington Line? Because it runs on Lexington. Sometimes it's simple. The Lexington Line is approximately 12 miles. Three billion dollars for a signal system on 12 miles. Three billion dollars for a signal system on 12 miles.
If you people do not seize the business opportunity I am going to leave the Governorship and start a software company. It is that obvious. And by the way, this is just the MTA. You develop that product, you develop that system, you can market it to every city in the country. You can market it all across the globe. Because this is a chronic problem.
The second obstacle, I have heard, is that well you know, government is difficult to deal with and the MTA, we've heard stories about them, they are notoriously difficult. I will resist the temptation to get defensive at that accusation, especially since it's true. For the MTA, I will say yes, the MTA has been difficult in the past. But, there is a new board of directors at the MTA with a totally different mindset. The door is open, the MTA wants new ideas, they want new companies, they are willing to throw out the old rulebook. You're going to hear today from Ronnie Hakim and Janno Lieber and Andy Byford - they're a new breed and they are a new mindset. Ronnie is ready, willing and able to hear new ideas and embrace new partners. Janno came out of the private sector, he's doing great work, but he knows that he desperately needs innovation. Andy Byford has a different accent, but we both speak the Queen's English. We are different Queens, his Queen's English is from a country, mine is from a county. But, Andy has the New York mojo and he has the New York aggressiveness and he is a "get-it-done" guy. The MTA is also setting up a new liaison organization - the IT Transit Partnership headed by Rachel Haot. She is from the tech world and that organization's purpose is going to be the liaison between tech companies and the MTA to make that interchange and interface work. We also have a new board that is highly engaged. And the new board, you can email directly if you believe you are getting hamstrung by the bureaucracy. So, the MTA is ready, it's willing, it's able and it has new entry points so that you can compete. Because they are truly desperate for new partners.
The last point is this - this is not just an MTA issue. This is a nationwide issue. It's not just the MTA that no longer is working with technology companies. What has really happened is that when the private sector companies stopped working with government projects, a cottage industry developed, which specialized in providing technology to government agencies. And the cottage industry learned the ins and outs of dealing with government contracts and they learned the language and they learned the acronyms. And over the decades the cottage industry, in effect, developed a monopoly where a few companies did billions of dollars in business. The cottage industry, by the way, now all live in mansions. More problematic, the lack of competition in this space led to a lack of creativity and innovation. The technology design simply stagnated and did not keep up with the times. Why? Because competition drives companies. It drives companies to invest in R&D and innovate and improve. And if they don't have competition, if they don't have competition that can overtake them, they stagnate. There is no iPhone 11 or iPhone 10 or iPhone 9 unless the competition drove them to make that investment and to improve. There are no cell phone cameras with three lenses unless Samsung was biting at their heels and that competition forced the innovation and forced the dynamic improvement. That is not working in the transit or the government space. There is no competition, there is no innovation. So today is about opening up that industry and restoring competition and restoring innovation. I know what you're thinking, are they really serious about doing this? Is this just one of those conferences where people come and talk and then it goes away? I am as serious as a heart attack because the stark reality is we cannot succeed long term without new technology and new companies entering the field, period. That is the truth. On this track, pardon the pun, we don't get to the goal.
The MTA cannot take another fifteen to twenty years, spend $20 billion, to install a signal system based on 1980s technology design. That just does not work. And it's not just the MTA, it's nationwide. Our infrastructure, our transportation system in this country, is no longer the best on the globe. It pains me to say it, but that is the truth. You fly around the world, you fly into the United States, our airports pale in comparison to those around the world. We have virtually no high-speed rail. Our urban mass transit systems lag behind many international systems. Our transportation complex no longer expedites commerce, more it inhibits commerce and economic growth. Our success was not by circumstance or chance. We led on the merits. We succeeded because we were the most innovative, we were the first, we were the smartest, we were the best. No one else did what we did or no one else did it as well as we did it. We were simply better. And that's why we succeeded. And we must regain that status because that is the formula that made New York, New York. The greatest state in the nation. That is also the formula that made America, America. The greatest nation on the globe. And that, my friends, is our challenge. That's the New York challenge. That is this country's challenge, to regain that innovation, to regain that excellence, to regain that edge. To lead and lead the world. That is what we are here to do that. And that is the New York challenge; that New York will lead the way forward. Because that is the New York and that is what we do here in the great state of New York. And that's why I am grateful that you are here today. Thank you.