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Thread: (New York, NY) Budget pressures put new subway at risk, M.T.A. leader says

  1. #1
    Cyburbian Dharmster's avatar
    Oct 2001
    Arlington, Virginia

    (New York, NY) Budget pressures put new subway at risk, M.T.A. leader says

    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

    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
    transit system.

    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
    equipment failures.

    "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
    regional economy.

    "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


  2. #2
          ablarc's avatar
    Nov 2003
    East Coast
    Report Sees Rail Expansion as Crucial for Manhattan


    Job growth in the New York metropolitan region will stagnate without a major expansion of commuter rail and subway access to Midtown and Lower Manhattan over the next 20 years, according to a report to be released by New York University today.

    The study calls for construction on a magnitude not seen in nearly a half-century. The rail and traffic configuration that links Manhattan with other boroughs and the suburbs has not changed substantially since the third tube of the Lincoln Tunnel opened in 1957.

    "Expanded transportation capacity is of vital importance to enable future economic and employment growth in the Manhattan central business district," according to the report, prepared by the university's Rudin Center for Transportation Policy and Management.

    The report argues that four rail projects could relieve the crowding that has already begun to discourage riders from using subways and commuter railroads.

    The Metropolitan Transportation Authority has announced its support for two of the projects: the development of a Second Avenue subway and a Long Island Rail Road connection to Grand Central Terminal. The authority's plans for expansion, however, have been greeted by silence in Albany.

    The report recommends that new rail tunnels be dug under the Hudson River to Pennsylvania Station and under the East River to Lower Manhattan. The total cost of the four projects could be as high as $32.6 billion, the report states.

    "We've gone through 40 years where we've really forgotten about the significance of building new capacity," said Rosemary Scanlon, an author of the report. (The Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, which connects Brooklyn and Staten Island, was completed in 1964.) "All of the major cities in the world seem able to grab hold of what they need to expand and grow. We seem to be myopic about it."

    Ms. Scanlon, a former state deputy comptroller for New York City and a former chief economist for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, said there had been not been major investment in the region's transportation infrastructure since Gov. Hugh L. Carey initiated financing for a general revitalization of the subway system. Since 1982, Mr. Carey's last year in office, the authority has spent $40 billion on restoration and maintenance of its transit network.

    The other author of the report, Edward S. Seeley Jr., said that New York has been unique among American cities in the resilience of its downtown core.

    "We've had suburbanization in the region, as in all regions, but during the same time, the relative strength of Manhattan as an employment center and as a generator of personal income has grown," said Mr. Seeley, who retired in 1997 after a career at the Port Authority and the city government. "It's become more dominant. This is not a centrifugal region like Los Angeles."

    Employment in the central business district, defined as all of Manhattan below 60th Street, is expected to increase an average of 0.8 percent a year, according to the New York Metropolitan Transportation Council, a government-sponsored planning forum that includes city and state agencies, along with officials from five suburban counties.

    Assuming growth of only 0.6 percent a year, Ms. Scanlon and Mr. Seeley found, the business district would have 2.3 million jobs in 2025, 285,000 more than it did last year. Those workers would make 560,000 rush-hour work trips a day, an increase of 69,000 from last year.

    The increase would amount to 51 additional subway trains - each with a full 1,400-passenger load - entering Manhattan each day.

    Because the report calls for increased rail access, and not vehicular traffic, its recommendations are unlikely to be controversial among neighborhood advocates and environmentalists concerned about preservation of public space. But its call for major public investment - at a time when the state faces rising education, health care and pension costs - may be unrealistic.

    "We have to ask ourselves what's the price if we don't do these projects," said Elliot G. Sander, the director of the Rudin Center and a former city transportation commissioner. "New York risks the possibility of having a real ceiling on the economic growth of the financial capital of the country."

    * * *

    Cirrus over at SSP has done the most amazing series of maps of U.S. metropolitan areas, showing built-up areas, heavy rail (dark blue), commuter rail (turquoise), interstate highways (dark grey), and light rail (medium blue):

    I know he hasn't highlighted parkways or other limited access highways that are not interstates, but it's still informative to note that the commuter rail routes compare in density to the highway network, especially in New Jersey and Long Island.


  3. #3
          ablarc's avatar
    Nov 2003
    East Coast
    New York's on-again, off-again rail projects, a half-century's worth of politics and waiting:

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