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EDITORIAL: A useful MTA report, but changes are always the hard part

Metropolitan Transportation Authority chief Jay Walder's recognition of his agency's problems is as welcome as an on-time train. At 100 days on the job, he has diagnosed bloat, waste and a customer-comes-second attitude that many have sensed for years. Now comes the hard part - delivering the needed changes.

In a report that Walder is making public today, he notes that, while the MTA was cobbled together from seven separate operating entities, duplication was never eliminated. That would have been Mergers 101 to a private business. As a result, the MTA employs 5,000 people in administrative functions. There are 92 different customer information phone numbers. Nearly 100 storerooms around the region hold spare parts.

Walder is promising to streamline. He will likely face opposition from unions and entrenched interests. At the same time, he vows to protect customer service. Clean stations, one of the usual casualties of tight budgets, will be a priority. Overall, saving money is vital. State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli says the MTA lost $100 million last year through decreased ridership. It can't keep raising fares and tolls.

One Walder idea that falls flat is reducing the MTA capital plan, which covers maintenance and growth, to two years from five. The idea may be politically expedient, but five years provides a better planning horizon.

Next task, Mr. Walder: Show us some results. hN