June 17, 2024

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The MTA says New York’s mass transit urgently needs to improve climate resilience

The MTA says New York’s mass transit urgently needs to improve climate resilience

About 400 miles of subway lines, half of Metro-North’s Hudson Line and several Long Island Rail Road stations are in urgent need of upgrades to stave off flooding and other extreme weather made worse by climate change, the MTA wrote in a report published Wednesday.

The report, called the 20-Year Needs Assessment, details the agency’s $1.5 trillion transportation infrastructure, details that planners believe urgently needs to be fixed over the next two decades.

“If we ignore these threats, we risk the survival of the regime itself — and New York,” the assessment said.

More than 350 of the MTA’s 493 elevators in subway and rail stations will need to be replaced by 2043, the report finds.

The MTA also needs to replace 6,300 of its 8,700 rail cars and its entire fleet of 6,000 buses by then, according to the report.

A price for the series of improvements was not specified in the report, but MTA officials said the work should be completed regardless of the cost.

“This is not a completely ominous plan,” Jaime Torres-Springer, president of MTA Construction and Development, said at a news conference Tuesday. “We are trying to draw attention to the dire need for investment. But it is also a vision, a positive vision for the future.

State legislation requires the RTA to publish a 20-year needs assessment this year, before forming a five-year construction plan scheduled to begin in 2025. The report issues scores for individual projects to help prioritize which projects to complete first.

The agency did not publish a 20-year needs assessment before forming the current $52 billion construction plan, which runs through the end of next year.

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“This is the first time the agency has done something like this level of detailed analysis,” MTA President Jano Lieber said at a news conference Tuesday.

One page of the report shows contrasting illustrations of a polluted New York City filled with congested traffic and dirty subway stations—not much different from today—and another depicts blue skies and a clean, modern subway.

Springer said a more positive outlook would only be possible through investment in the MTA, saying the comparison is like “Biff Tannen, Marty McFly, Contrasting Futures,” a reference to the 1989 film “Back to the Future II” — which in itself A rip-off of the 1946 film “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

Public transit advocates said the lack of a price tag attached to the improvements, which the MTA says are critically needed, is cause for concern.

“Although the MTA’s needs assessment is comprehensive and shows that our transit system is in dire need of investment, it lacks dollar figures that show exactly how much money will be needed to fix the subways, buses, and commuter rail lines,” the transit organization’s Rachel Vos wrote. Good Government Group Reinvent Albany said in an email. “The needs of everyday commuters must come first. In an environment of limited resources, it is imperative that we prioritize capital projects based on objective measures of need, not politics, to fix subways, buses, and commuter rail and ensure they continue to best serve New Yorkers in this era of climate change.

The report provided some cost estimates, but only for potential expansion projects that could take decades to complete. The long-planned expansion of the Second Avenue subway to Houston Street, for example, would cost $13.5 billion, according to the report.

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The report indicates that the potential expansion of the W Line through New York Harbor from Lower Manhattan to Red Hook would require $11.2 billion to build.

Extending the subway from Utica Avenue in Brooklyn to Kings Plaza — a project promised by MTA officials when the agency was formed in 1968 — would cost $15.9 billion.

Construction chief Springer has tempered expectations that it will ever be built.

“The priority over 20 years is to address those assets that are in poor and marginal condition,” Springer said on Tuesday. “Expansion projects will only really make sense if we get the resources we need to address the state of the current system, which we always refer to as a state of good repair.”

Spending watchdogs, including the Manhattan Institute’s Nicole Gelinas, praised the report but said it was strikingly similar to the Fast Forward plan developed by Andy Byford in 2018 during his two-year stint as head of NYC Transit.

“Since these needs far exceed the MTA’s ability to generate revenues to pay for them, it will still be up to the political class — e.g., the governor, the Legislature, and the mayor — to know which projects to prioritize, expansion projects, in particular,” Gelinas wrote. To Gothamist: “It is unlikely that we will be able to undertake more than one or two of these expansion projects over the next 20 years.”

This story has been updated with the correct estimated value of all MTA infrastructure: $1.5 trillion.