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Mayor, City Council speaker seek accountability from MTA for Subway Action Plan funding

Mayor Bill de Blasio and Speaker Corey Johnson have written to the MTA to ask for a plan to prove that the $418 million funding from the city is put to the right work.
nyc subway, subway action plan, mta
Mayor de Blasio and Speaker Johnson want to ensure that the money form the city goes to the Subway Action Plan. Photo: Roman Kruglov/Flickr

Mayor Bill de Blasio and City Council Speaker Corey Johnson want to make sure that the money New York City is giving to the MTA for its Subway Action Plan isn’t spent on other efforts.

The officials sent a joint letter to MTA Chairman Joseph Lhota on Wednesday asking for accountability when it comes to the $418 million the city is contributing to the transportation authority.

The mayor agreed back in March that the city would pay for half of the Subway Action Plan, an initiative to fix the beleaguered, aging service — even though the MTA is a state agency.

“This funding is in addition to the substantial investment City government already makes to the MTA on an annual basis that is now $1.8 billion — six times the State’s direct annual contribution of $300 million,” the city officials write in the letter.

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“As elected leaders of the City of New York who are responsible for its fiscal health, we must ensure that precious taxpayer dollars are not diverted away from the subway crisis to other MTA priorities,” the letter continues.

The city has pushed for a “Lock Box” condition to the one-time large payment, requiring that the funds only be spent on the Subway Action Plan. That’s been clarified in state law, they write, and “must be put into practice by the MTA.”

The letter specifically asks for assurances on increased transparency, suggesting the MTA should provide a monthly update on the Subway Action Plan and regular briefings to representatives of de Blasio and Johnson, as well as website updates available to the public.

The MTA should also change how it measures progress and setbacks, focusing not on only on “Major Subway Incidents,” but on the day-to-day experience of the average straphanger, officials say.

“The MTA needs to measure progress through the reduction of time passengers spend waiting at stations or traveling on trains,” the letter reads. “The MTA also needs to do a much better job of earning the confidence of the riding public in the accuracy of these delay statistics.”

Finally, the mayor and speaker ask that the MTA plans for the future, to make sure that any improvements from the Subway Action Plan last long-term, through maintenance and inspections.

“Failure is not an option and we firmly believe that a more transparent process can lead to better, more effective implementation,” the letter reads. “We are eager for everyone to put politics aside and support the important work of improving the commutes of millions of New Yorkers.”

In an emailed statement to Metro, MTA Communications Director Jon Weinstein said that the transportation authority is already "completely focused on implementing the fully transparent Subway Action Plan." 

"We are puzzled by the letter received today as everything it outlined was mandated in the law passed by the legislature in this year's budget," he said. "After the city's almost year-long refusal to contribute funding was finally resolved by the state legislature's mandate earlier this month, we can now finally take all of the aggressive steps outlined."