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Preliminary report suggests MTA merge 40 groups into six departments

A consulting firm has recommended the MTA, which

A consulting firm has recommended the MTA, which includes the Long Island Rail Road, consolidate back-office operations and merge more than 40 groups to save money. Photo Credit: Charles Eckert

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority should consolidate back-office operations and merge more than 40 groups spread across various agencies into six departments as part of an overhaul to cut costs, according to a preliminary report released Friday.

The proposal calls for the agencies that operate subways, buses and commuter rail to focus on their core duties: safety, day-to-day operations and maintenance.

Those and other recommended changes to the largest public transit authority in the country came from AlixPartners, a Manhattan-based management consultant firm the MTA hired in April and paid $3.75 million to come up with two reports, including the reorganization plan.

“The core strategy behind [the] MTA’s transformation is to centralize and simplify the organization with the goal that transit service and system expansion can be greatly improved at a lower total cost,” the report said. “To do this requires fundamentally changing the MTA’s legacy structure into an organization that is more nimble, efficient and cost-effective.”

The consultant also suggested the MTA hire three new bosses — chief operating officer, chief transformation officer and accessibility officer — to help implement the changes at the authority with an $18 billion budget.

The MTA's 17-member board, which was briefed on the initial report Friday, is expected to vote on the final plan at its July 24 meeting in Manhattan.

“Today is the beginning of a new, modern MTA — one that delivers better service, completes projects on time and on budget, and uses its resources effectively and efficiently,” MTA chairman Pat Foye said in a statement. “Make no mistake about it, this transformation will allow us to finally give our customers the system they deserve, and prepares us to execute on what is likely to be the biggest capital plan in MTA history.”

Efforts to reach other board members Friday were unsuccessful.

State Sen. Todd Kaminsky (D-Long Beach) said he spoke to “several” MTA Board members after the briefing and said they like what they heard.

“A shake-up is healthy,” Kaminsky said.

The report did not mention whether the reorganization plan would result in layoffs, but a spokesman for the MTA said if it comes to that, “Layoffs would be the last resort.”

“If there is evidence that there is too much fat and it needs to be trimmed, that is something we need to look at it,” Kaminsky said. “I think everything needs to be examined.”

The consultant said the firm has identified “hundreds of millions of dollars in potential cost-savings across support function and agencies” but did not provide details where those savings would come from.

To bring the MTA into the modern era, the report noted that it needs to update union contract and work rules and make changes to state civil service requirements.

“Furthermore, rigidity of Civil Service laws limits the ability of the MTA to attract, retain, develop and manage talent in the current job market,” according to the report.

The consultant noted the firm also has been hired, under a different contract, to help the MTA control overtime abuses with the rollout of biometric-enabled timeclocks.

This week, the MTA said a now-retired LIRR foreman, Raymond A. Murphy, Jr., was found by agency investigators to have cheated on overtime earnings by claiming he was at work when he was seen at or near his East Northport home.

“The MTA should standardize time and attendance procedures, regulations, and attendance verification system across the agencies,” the report said.

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