There was a interesting article in the NY Times about the MTA abandoning all expansion plans in return for some funding for their capital program. They are making the right choice in fixing what they have, but it's something not all planners have figured out:
Budget Pressures Put New Subway at Risk, M.T.A. Leader Says
December 21, 2004
By SEWELL CHAN
The chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority
said today that he would be willing to jettison ambitious
expansion projects, like the Second Avenue subway, if it
were necessary to save the agency's five-year, $17.2
billion core capital program for maintaining the existing
The chairman, Peter S. Kalikow, said he hoped that state
legislators and Gov. George E. Pataki would realize the
need to maintain the current system as well as pay for
expansion projects, including the new subway line and a
link between the Long Island Rail Road and Grand Central
Terminal, but acknowledged that that might be impossible.
In an interview with reporters at the authority's Midtown
headquarters, Mr. Kalikow made clear that his top priority
would be to keep the city's subways, buses and commuter
rails in good condition - particularly if state leaders
refuse to raise taxes and fees to support the authority.
"I'm O.K. with that, $17 billion for the state of good
repair," Mr. Kalikow said. "I'll accept that. I think
they're wrong. I think it's foolhardy and shortsighted, but
I would accept that."
The comments by Mr. Kalikow, who has been chairman since
2001, were a striking acknowledgment of the political
realities facing the authority, which is asking Albany for
new revenue to fill a $16 billion gap in the authority's
next capital plan. And it also reflected a new level of
brinkmanship between the M.T.A. chairman, who has been
pressing for more state help for the system, and the
governor, who controls the M.T.A. and who appointed Mr.
Mr. Pataki has declared his support for various capital
plans, including a rail link that would connect Kennedy
International Airport with Lower Manhattan, but neither the
governor nor the leaders of the Legislature have gone along
with a package of tax increases that Mr. Kalikow proposed.
Paying for capital projects like the Second Avenue subway,
an airport rail link and the Grand Central Terminal
connection to Long Island would add nearly $11 billion to
the capital plan.
Mr. Kalikow's comments were the latest twist in the
tortured history of the Second Avenue subway, a dream of
urban planners since the same avenue's elevated line was
demolished in 1942. Construction on the line was abandoned
during the city's fiscal crisis of the mid-1970's.
To pay for the authority's capital needs, Mr. Kalikow has
proposed tax increases that would provide the authority
with about $850 million a year, enough to pay annual debt
service on new bonds that would be issued to fill the
capital financing gap. But the state would have to
authorize those tax increases.
The authority's current five-year capital plan expires next
week, on Dec. 31. The proposed plan for 2005 to 2009,
totaling $27.7 billion, is now before the Capital Program
Review Board, a panel that includes representatives of the
governor, the heads of the two chambers of the Legislature
and the mayor of New York City.
Mr. Kalikow has warned that the next year may be similar to
1975, when a fiscal crisis forced the authority to halt
spending on basic maintenance. The system hit its nadir
years later, in the winter of 1980-81, when service was
delayed or eliminated altogether because of widespread
"If we don't have the full $17 billion core program, you
can write down: 2005 is the day the system reached its
zenith, and is now starting its descent," Mr. Kalikow said.
The person given the most credit for the system's recovery
is Richard Ravitch, the authority's charismatic chairman
from 1979 to 1983, who persuaded Gov. Hugh L. Carey and
state lawmakers to pay for a general revitalization of the
"Everybody in government in the early 80's had lived
through the 70's and knew how really bad it was," recalled
Mr. Kalikow, who is 62. "Our problem is that there's a
whole generation of New Yorkers that has now grown up and
used the system that don't remember when it was horrible."
He said that raising taxes, as the state faces major
increases in education and health care spending, would
require political will.
"We need to remember that the leaders we have today are no
less able, are no less bright, are no less visionary," Mr.
Kalikow said. "We need to get them to say, Not only do we
think it needs to be done, but if there's political capital
to be expended, we're willing to expend it."
Mr. Kalikow suggested that he was frustrated when Mr.
Pataki and the Senate majority leader, Joseph L. Bruno,
said they were unwilling to raise taxes to pay for the
authority's capital program.
"I was disappointed but not surprised," Mr. Kalikow said,
"because I know the governor pretty well and I know his
abhorrence of taxes."
Mr. Kalikow said he and the authority's executive director,
Katherine N. Lapp, have been meeting with business leaders
to explain the importance of the transit network to the
"The system is very delicate and if we don't support it
with these capital plans it will deteriorate, and it will
deteriorate very quickly," he said. "A result of
deterioration is rider falloff, and rider falloff in a city
of this economic vibrancy will cause havoc on the streets."
Robert D. Yaro, the president of the Regional Plan
Association, an urban planning group that supports
expansion of the region's transportation infrastructure,
said he was struck by the forcefulness of Mr. Kalikow's
remarks about the capital program's needs.
"This is a cri de coeur from Peter," Mr. Yaro said. "He
came forward with a very bold financing strategy and he
hasn't heard a response from Albany, which isn't atypical.
Peter has done the bold thing in making it very clear that
this has to be a front-burner issue."
Governor Pataki is on vacation and not available for
comment, but a spokeswoman repeated his opposition to
raising taxes. "The governor is an ardent opponent of tax
increases and would like to explore other ways of meeting
the M.T.A.'s capital needs," the spokeswoman, Lynn Rasic,
said in declining to discuss what those other ways might