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MTA needs $9B to replace and update its aging subway fleet

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The agency has committed $1.8 billion toward new and retrofitted subway cars, but it’s not enough


A new report released by nonprofit watchdog group Citizens Budget Commission found that it would take a staggering $9 billion to update the MTA’s aging subway fleet. At that price, the agency would be able to purchase 3,650 new subway cars and retrofit an additional 1,200 existing cars, reports the Wall Street Journal. This assumes that car conversions could be achieved at the same price as the New York City Transit’s previous conversion, which would go for around $710 million.

The report notes that subway cars have been breaking down more frequently and it’s taking the MTA longer to get them repaired. “Subway car reliability declined from 2011 to 2016 as [the mean distance between car component failures] declined 35 percent and regressed to levels below the desired standard of 150,000 miles, notes the report. Additionally, the lack of normal replacement and delays in car delivery have aged the fleet, increasing the average age from from 17.9 years to 22.5 years.

The Citizens Budget Commission suggests that the MTA allocate $8.3 billion for purchasing new subway cars and another $710 million to retrofit existing cars over the next decade, but it seems highly unlikely that the cash-strapped agency will do so. During the unveiling of the MTA’s action plan last summer, MTA chairman Joe Lhota said that short-term fixes like regular cleanings and repairs would cost roughly $836 million to implement. Phase 2—which is slated to be part of the next MTA Capital Plan—would cost around $8 billion and would include new subway cars and signal systems.

In its current capital budget, set to expire in 2019, the MTA has allocated $1.4 billion toward new and retrofitted cars and the 2020 budget has been revealed yet.