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Ex-MTA chiefs rally for $32B transit improvement plan

Former Metropolitan Transportation Authority chiefs are advocating for

Former Metropolitan Transportation Authority chiefs are advocating for keeping transit improvements on track. Elliot Sander speaks at a news conference on Jan. 13, 2015 in Grand Central Terminal with Jay Walder, center. Credit: Charles Eckert

The former chiefs of the MTA made a rare joint appearance at Grand Central Terminal Tuesday to implore state and city leaders to ensure there's funding to keep the transit system growing and to avoid sliding back to the bad old days.

The MTA this year will be in negotiations with Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Mayor Bill de Blasio and the state legislature to finance a five-year, $32 billion plan to fix and expand the transit system. About $17 billion has been identified, leaving a $15 billion gap.

The former transit bosses -- Elliot Sander, Peter Stangl and Jay Walder -- said the MTA's capital plan balances the need to keep trains moving smoothly and renovate stations by adding new technology like countdown clocks on the lettered trains as well as megaprojects such as the Second Avenue subway.

"The vision that's on the table and what the MTA is putting forth is the vision of a transit system that has to continue to evolve," Walder said.

"The problem with that is, when you add all of that up, it's $32 billion."

There are a host of options for officials to consider, such as more city and state funds for the MTA; increases to taxes; taking advantage of real estate development; and creating new streams of revenue like tolls on the East River bridges.

MTA chief spokesman Adam Lisberg said the transit system is becoming a victim of its own success as ridership grows to record levels.

"It's not an exaggeration to say part of the reason New York is booming is because you can safely ride a reliable transit system at three in the morning," he said.

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