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De Blasio, City Council speaker call for more transparency in subway action plan

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The MTA has expressed confusion over the letter saying their demands were already outlined in the state budget

Via William Perugini/Shutterstock

Mayor Bill de Blasio and City Council Speaker Corey Johnson are calling on the MTA to be more transparent about the progress it has made in regards to the subway action plan. After months spent bickering over whether the city would contribute to this emergency fund to fix the subway, the city finally committed to spending $418 million toward the plan—this came with a “lock box” provision that ensures that these funds will only be used for subway repairs and nothing else.

Now the city is calling for more transparency and reviews from the MTA to ensure that the work is moving forward as planned.

“It is important that the MTA provide detailed information about each of the plan elements, including the scope of work being performed, how success is defined, and how progress is measured,” de Blasio and Johnson write in the letter addressed directly to MTA Chair Joseph Lhota.

Before diving into the specifics of their requests, the Mayor and the Speaker highlighted some of the MTA’s most recent failures as yet another reason for greater accountability. They pointed to the East Side Access project which had an initial budget of $4.3 billion, and an estimated completion in 2009; the project now requires an additional billion dollars, and has a new completion date in 2022, they say.

They also pointed to the Enhanced Station Initiative, which initially promised renovate 33 subway stations at a cost of $936 million; The MTA has since suspended that program due to cost overruns.

In regards to the Mayor and Speaker’s specific requests, they are asking that the MTA provide a monthly update on the Subway Action Plan. “These briefings should include updates on hiring, spending by plan category, and progress by plan initiative,” they write.

They are also asking for an overall review nine months into the program; the redeployment of staff and resources from projects like station painting and retiling to signal repair and track inspection; better ways to report causes for subway delays; and a comprehensive plan for the future that details how work from the Subway Action Plan will be carried forward over the coming years.

The MTA expressed confusion over the Mayor and Speaker’s letter and said their demands were already outlined in the state budget that passed earlier this year.

“We are completely focused on implementing the fully transparent Subway Action Plan that is delivering measurable results for riders under the leadership of Chairman Lhota and President Byford,” said MTA communications director Jon Weinstein, in a statement. “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. 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.”