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OpinionColumnistsRandi F. Marshall

Marshall: A sneak peak at the MTA's plans

Afternoon commute at the LIRR's Jamaica station, Monday

Afternoon commute at the LIRR's Jamaica station, Monday April 1, 2019. Credit: Newsday/Alejandra Villa Loarca

Talk about fast-forward.

In the past, it was typical for the MTA board to release materials for a Monday committee meeting on the Friday before.

And Friday afternoon marked yet another document release for the MTA, as the authority briefed its board and released a preliminary version of its reorganization and transformation plan. But this time, the authority is working more than a week ahead of time. Its committee meetings are scheduled for July 22, and the full board is expected to meet two days later.

That gives everyone a bit of time to digest and discuss the plan, which was developed by Alix Partners, a consulting firm that was paid $3.75 million to develop two MTA reports, including this one.

But a first read of the preliminary restructuring report shows that it might not take much time to read and analyze its findings. 

There are a couple of interesting nuggets -- like the addition of an executive to head the authority’s efforts to make its trains and buses more accessible. Otherwise, however, the themes laid out in the report are awfully familiar -- consolidation of back-office operations like human resources, procurement and legal, bringing more capital work under the capital construction division, and standardizing time and attendance procedures, a particularly timely subject given the extensive reporting on overtime abuses at the Long Island Rail Road. All told, 40 groups within the various agencies could be streamlined into six departments, according to the report.

Even though it may seem like more of the same, since the MTA has been talking about streamlining its bureaucracy for decades, the report will generate debate at the board meeting later this month. The MTA also is welcoming public comment via email to

But perhaps the bigger and tougher question the MTA leadership will have to answer is: When will this plan morph from just another round of paperwork into implemented strategy that fundamentally transforms the MTA?