Signs Executive Order Declaring State of Emergency to Expedite Subway Repairs and Replacements – Executive Order Here Challenges MTA to Prepare Reorganization Plan in 30 Days and Review Capital Plan For New Equipment and Maintenance in 60 Days Calls on Con Ed to Immediately Investigate Equipment, Transmission and Interlocks Throughout the Entire MTA System
Earlier today, at the MTA Genius Transit Challenge Conference, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced the State of New York will contribute an additional $1 billion to the MTA Capital Plan. The Governor also 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rules for the MTA, allowing the MTA to speed up repairs and the purchase of material and equipment to replace outdated infrastructure.
In addition, Governor Cuomo tasked Con Ed to commence an immediate investigation of their equipment, transmission and interlocks throughout the entire system. 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.
VIDEO of the remarks is available on YouTube here and in TV quality (h264 format) here.
AUDIO of the remarks 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. Good morning good morning.
Well this is an exciting day for us. And I wanted the opportunity to open up this conference because it has great promise for one of the most pressing challenges that we’re facing right now in the State of New York. And I want to welcome you all here today. I want to welcome the officials of the MTA, especially Joe Lhota and Ronnie Hakim, let’s give them a round of applause.
We have a number of state and local officials who are here today and I thank them for that. We have members of our Genius panel. You had to be a genius to be on the Genius panel, so they really are extraordinary and we have participants literally from around the world today. We have people who have traveled from transit systems in Paris, London, Istanbul, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Beijing, Singapore, Toronto, Zurich, and Copenhagen. So this is quite the international gathering, and we thank you very much for taking the time to be here and we think it’s going to be time well spent. But let’s give them a round of applause for coming from around the world.
New York State has a long tradition of pooling international ideas. In truth, that’s what makes New York State, New York State. It is our diversity, it is our openness, it is that we bring people, and we welcome people from all over the world. And that gives us a base of talent that no other place has. And now we’re reaching across the globe for the best strategies and technologies to use here in New York. We understand that there is a world of ideas out there when it comes to transit systems and these issues, and we want to hear them and we need to hear them. You have come to help New York with one of the biggest and most pressing challenges that we face - to rapidly and efficiently develop solutions for the problems now facing our transit system. The importance of the MTA, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, cannot be overstated. It is the system that undergirds the entire economy of the State of New York. It is the circulatory system to our state. It is what the arteries and veins are to the human body.
For those who are unfamiliar with it, the MTA serves New York City’s 5 boroughs, and the 7 surrounding suburban communities. Metro North, the nation’s third largest passenger railroad, serves commuters from the northern suburbs, Westchester, Rockland, Orange, Putnam and Duchess Counties. Roughly 305,000 people travel Metro North’s 775 miles into the Grand Central Terminal.
The Long Island Rail Road serves as the name suggests Long Island from points east. Over 700 miles of track, just the Long Island Rail Road. Extending from the East End of Long Island. The Long Island Rail Road carries 354,000 people, making it the busiest passenger rail line in the nation. The New York City subway system serves roughly 6 million riders every day. Altogether, the two commuter rail lines, the subway system, and the MTA buses, roughly 9 million people carried on a typical work day. That’s one-third of the nation’s entire mass transit capacity. The value of the MTA’s assets is $1 trillion. The operating budget is $15 billion a year.
The history is also telling. The first subway line opened in 1904 when the city’s population was 1.2 million people. As the subway lines fanned out across Manhattan and into the outer boroughs, the city’s population doubled to 2.4 million by 1930. When we built the subways out to the outer boroughs, we call them the outer boroughs, there are no inner boroughs, there are just outer boroughs, Queens, Brooklyn, Bronx, Staten Island, but when we built the subways out the Bronx, they were essentially rural areas. 25 years after the arrival of the subway, the population had skyrocketed in the Bronx form 200,000 to 1.2 million people.
Today New York is the capital of finance, business, the arts, fashion, entertainment and culture and it just could not happen without the MTA. But, we are now beginning to see what happens when mass transit systems break down. We have a painful precursor, with a series of breakdowns with Amtrak at Pennsylvania Station. Now, Pennsylvania Station, more than 600,000 people go through Pennsylvania Station every day. More people than the number of people who go through LaGuardia Airport, Kennedy Airport, and Newark Airport combined, go through Pennsylvania Station. We have chronic problems at Penn Station.
This morning, again, a train was stuck on an Amtrak track going into Penn Station because of a power failure. Amtrak now says they need eight weeks of emergency repairs at Penn Station when they literally have to close down the tracks. When you close down the tracks, there’s a series of dominos that fall that really puts the entire system near collapse. We’re preparing to offset the malaise from losing those eight tracks. We have ferries, we have express buses, and we’re running alternative trains to alternative locations. It’s going to be like that movie Plans, Trains and Automobiles and we’re preparing for what we call a Summer of Hell. But we understand when a system collapses and we want to make sure that nothing like what’s happening at Amtrak and Penn ever happens again and the transit experts in the room would say you know, the system was actually worse in the 70s and 80s. The system was worse in the 70s and the 80s. It was the symbol of urban decline. Graffiti on the trains. Crime in the subway system. That’s all true. But it’s also true that the current state of decline is wholly unacceptable. And we’re going to do something and we’re going to do something about it now.
We know the system is decaying and we know the system is decaying rapidly. 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.
Daily ridership has skyrocketed from 4 million in the 90s to about 6 million today. When the system first opened, it carried 137 million riders. Today, ridership is 1.7 billion annually. So, change and improvement must come and it must come now. New Yorkers are not by their nature, patient people. They shouldn’t be, especially when it comes to this. That’s why you are here. We need ideas outside the box because frankly, the box is broken. Standard practices have failed us. We need a new approach, a new culture, new methods to quickly and dramatically make progress.
You’ll hear about needs for progress in four 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.
The MTA’s new project capacity is frankly, deplorable. The MTA will tell you today it takes five years to get a new car. That is just ridiculous. I could build a car in five years. There’s no reason to spend more per new car than other transit systems around the world. We need new cars and we have months – not years to get them. If the MTA’s current vendors can’t provide them in the timeframe we need, then the MTA should find new vendors. It’s that simple. Our signal system must be replaced. Much of our signal system was installed prior to 1937. Roughly 30 percent was installed prior to 1965 and hasn’t been upgraded. Today, our transit system contains 80 year old equipment in places. The technology was first designed in the late 19th century. The MTA’s replacement timetable currently? Seven to 10 years per line. In total for the system, 40 to 50 years.
Forty to 50 years. You have countries that are building entire subway systems in a matter of years. It cannot take 40 years to put in a signal system. The lack of communication that riders deal with is infuriating. Riders tweet all day long, information about trains and delays, but the MTA can’t manage to communicate with the riders. They tweet nasty things about me all day, the riders. But, we can’t figure out a way to communicate with them. Virtually every area of life has been revolutionized by communication, except the MTA subway system. The MTA can no longer live in the past. As a matter of basic communication and customer convenience, we need a system with WiFi connectivity in the subways and we need it fast. The WiFi will not just be a customer convenience, it could also be the means for a new signal system.
Specifically from our side, we need to take three steps to make change a reality; the right leadership, the right plan, and the necessary resources. We recently named Joseph Lhota chairman of the MTA. Joe Lhota I’ve known for years. He’s worked in government before. He ran the MTA at some of its darkest days, which was right after Hurricane Sandy. I literally was ran into Joe in the middle of the night in the middle of the hurricane. We were the only two people left in downtown Manhattan and I ran into him at the foot of the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel as it was being filled by the floods of Hurricane Sandy. And he oversaw the reconstruction during that very rough time and he’s come back to oversee the transformation now. Let’s give him a round of applause, Joseph Lhota.
We have Ronnie Hakim who has come from New Jersey Transit and is a great asset to the MTA and we thank her and she’s with us today. Ronnie Hakim. We have Phil Eng, who came from the State Department of Transportation. Phil was in charge of all critical projects, bridges, airports, etc., and getting them done and getting them done quickly. All the tough projects we gave to Phil and he is now with the MTA. Let’s give him a round of applause. And in charge of new development we brought in Janno Lieber who is a government pro but also a private sector pro. He was most recently with Silverstein Properties and he knows how to get big jobs done quickly. Janno Lieber, welcome.
That’s the leadership. As far as the plan is concerned, that’s why you are here. Because we need new ideas and new approaches and new products, new technology, and we are open to it. In the meantime, today I am asking Joe Lhota to do a reorganization plan for the MTA in 30 days. Start with a blank piece of paper, there are no givens, there are no sacred cows. Design an organization that performs the function rather than the organization that exists today which is just a long-standing bureaucracy that has evolved over time. Literally, there are no sacred cows. I want Mr. Lhota just to design the best organization to get the job done. Period. Second we should have a review of the capital plan, the cars, the physical equipment. I would ask Mr. Lhota to get that done in 60 days. Very simple, what do we need? How do we get it? How much will it cost? And how do we expedite the entire process. Today to begin the expedition of the entire process, I am going to sign an executive order, declaring a state of emergency when it comes to the MTA, which will allow us to expedite many of the normal government processes. One of the processes we are going to expedite is the MTA procurement process.
I’ll ask the Comptroller and the Attorney General for a special team to expedite the process, but it will no longer be a tortured exercise to do business with the MTA. We want to do business, we need to do business, and we will do it quickly. It’s a little sad that that was an applause line but reality can hurt huh? The power failures that have been going on, that have been sporadic and unpredictable are becoming more and more frequent. Right now it’s a finger pointing game between Con Edison and the MTA. Con Edison brings in the power, the MTA distributes the power. And when there’s a power outage, both say it’s the problem of the other. Con Edison is regulated by the state, an organization called the Public Service Commission. I am going to charge today that the PSC has a joint review of the system by ConEd and MTA. Identify the equipment, identify the responsibility, identify the state of repair and get that done in 90 days. If there’s a power outage and if ConEd is responsible they are going to be fined heavily for the delays that they’ve been causing New Yorkers. And were going to do that immediately. In terms of resources, and it is about the resources. When they say it’s not about the money, that normally means it’s about the money. And there’s no doubt that to do what we need to do were going to need more resources.
Last year the state approved the largest capital plan in the history of the state of New York. The MTA capital plan approved by the state was four times larger than any plan approved in fifty years. So I believe the state has stepped up to the plate. But, it’s still not enough. And we still need a long term identifiable funding stream. I’ve asked local governments to step up and contribute more and thus far they have. The legislature has not identified a new funding stream, thus far, but we must. New York State, we will lead by example. There’s an old expression that the Brits actually take credit for. I think it was from another Queen. It was from Queens County.
“Put your money where your mouth is.” And today New York State is going to put its money where its mouth is and we’re going to commit to another one billion dollars in the capital plan so the MTA has the resources they need to get this done. It’s important to point out that were talking about the problems of the MTA, but let’s remember the context. The MTA everyday does a Herculean task of moving nine million people. 72,000 employees work day in and day out. Sometimes in inclement weather, dangerous conditions, to make this state move. And they do an extraordinary job - 6,000 trains, 5,700 buses. And the employees both management and labor of the MTA are as frustrated with these challenges as the riders are. So making these improvements will be good news for all.
Bottom line for you, we need new ideas. How do you build cars faster than five years? How do you overhaul cars? Refinish cars faster then what we’re doing and cheaper then what we’re doing? How do you wire the subway system? How do you get connectivity into the subway system? There have to be better ways to do this. It cannot be about five years and 10 years.
In an age where you’re building drones and autonomous vehicles, it can’t be 40 years to design and install a signal system for a subway system. All it means to me is the thinking and the creativity that is doing the new technology and the new apps and the new drones and the new autonomous vehicles is not being applied to the nation’s transportation system. We have to get that thinking and that creativity and apply it to this problem. That’s what this conference is. There’s an opportunity for you. This is New York – this is the world stage. We want to do this, we want to do this quickly. You have an idea, we employ it or deploy it in New York. It will be on display for the world. We want to do this. We need to do this. We will do this and we will get this done quickly. Remember who we are as New Yorkers and remember our DNA – we are all about building. We are all about construction. You look around you, this entire environment is a built environment. This is a very small island that is all built with the tallest buildings in the world with the most advanced, sophisticated underground construction in the world.
We have built this place, and we carry that tradition with us and we are expanding on that tradition. We started with building the Brooklyn Bridge, because they said they couldn’t do it, and when you tell us you can’t do it, it’s impossible. That just gets us interested. Our whole tradition has gone from there – George Washington Bridge, Verrazano Bridge, longest, deepest tunnels, tallest buildings, Empire State Building, World Trade Center, Freedom Tower. It’s what we’re doing today.
The largest infrastructure program in the United States of America, right here – $100 billion. New airport in Rochester, in Syracuse, in Plattsburgh, in Elmira. First brand new airport in the nation in 25 years at LaGuardia Airport. Largest infrastructure project in the United States of America, Tappan Zee Bridge, $5 billion being built right now. New Train Hall at Farley - $1.6 billion, closed last week and now underway. We are building a new New York. The MTA has to be an essential part of that. We want you to help us make that system the best system on the globe. That’s what we want here. That’s what we deserve here, and that is our standard. With everything else we’re doing, the new airports, the roads, the new bridges, we need that MTA system to be the best highest functioning in this country and on this globe. Come do something exciting with us – let’s build something that’s never been built before and let’s show the world what innovation can do when it’s brought to transportation, and there’s no better place to do it than in New York.
Thank you for being here and God bless you.