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Watchdog criticizes MTA reorganization plan for lack of customer input

Long Island Rail Road commuters stand by as

Long Island Rail Road commuters stand by as a train pulls up to a platform Penn Station on June 28.  Photo Credit: Craig Ruttle

The MTA’s commuter watchdog group is criticizing the transportation agency for expanding its reorganization plan without input from riders.

The MTA’s Permanent Citizens Advisory Committee, or PCAC, on Friday released a statement blasting the Metropolitan Transportation Authority for quietly releasing an updated version of its “MTA Transformation Plan,” which includes more detail than the version approved by the agency’s board of directors last month but still excludes customer input.

The plan, developed for the MTA by management consulting firm AlixPartners for $3.75 million, makes several recommendations on how to cut costs, consolidate departments, improve management controls, and better focus on the agency’s core mission of delivering safe and reliable service. The MTA has said the plan could save the agency up to $530 million annually, including by eliminating up to 2,700 jobs.

But “the words 'rider' and 'commuter' don’t appear at all” in the newly revised 158-page document — more than four times as large as the original 37-page plan released last month, according to the PCAC.

“Shouldn’t riders have a chance to weigh in on such a monumental change?” said the committee, which includes the Long Island Rail Road Commuter Council. “The report recommends meeting with stakeholders and collecting additional input. We can't think of anyone with a bigger stake in the future of the MTA than its riders.”

The PCAC is calling for a 45-day public comment period for the plan that would include public forums and question-and-answer sessions throughout the region.

In response to the group’s criticism, MTA spokesman Tim Minton said that, in putting the plan together, officials met with transportation experts and advocates, as well as MTA employees and labor groups. He also noted that customers have been weighing in through an email address set up to gather feedback — transformation@mtahq.org — and by speaking at regular MTA Board meetings.

“The bottom line is that the transformation plan will make the agency more effective and efficient, allowing us to conserve taxpayer dollars while improving service — and that’s what we’re focused on,” Minton said.

The expanded plan includes several new details, including a review of the MTA’s $33 billion capital program, which funds major infrastructure projects from 2015 to 2019; an assessment of a draft of the agency’s next five-year capital program, which is yet to be publicly released, and a review of “fraud, waste, abuse or conflicts of interest.”

The latter section delves into instances of fraudulent time reporting by workers, and makes recommendations on how to address them, including by empowering managers to “push back to the maximum extent of relevant work rules.”

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