On Tuesday night, the New York City Transit Authority held its first of several scheduled town hall meetings, where agency president Andy Byford presented his 10-year Fast Forward plan to vitalize the city’s subway, bus, and accessibility services. The estimated $38 billion plan was laid out to the public, where they were then given an opportunity to have questions and concerns addressed by Byford himself.
“The stark reality is that this great city somehow finds itself in a state-of-emergency,” said Byford. “It is shocking for me to see that the transit system in this world city has somehow found itself being put into a state of emergency.” Byford highlighted the epic subway meltdown of 2017 where several high-profile incidents resulted in mass service disruptions, increased unreliability, and plenty of frustrated commuters.
While the plan—which calls for signal improvements among multiple subway lines, a new payment system to replace the MetroCard, new subway cars, new buses, station upgrades, and improved accessibility—looks and sounds good, the big question that was repeated multiple times during the Q&A portion of the town hall was “how will all of this be funded.”
Byford admitted that there isn’t a set plan in place yet to get the project funded, but it will require a mixture of sources including federal, state, and city funding to get it off the ground. “Fare bucks absolutely cannot fund this plan,” said Byford. Now that the Fast Forward plan is in place, Byford says his next job is to make a compelling argument that will convince officials to fund it. But given the transit system’s track record for seeing projects and plans through, many folks weren’t convinced. “It sounds good, but I don’t see all of this happening,” said one Queens resident.
Many attendees of the town hall, held at York College, came with questions specific to Queens that varied from issues like the lack of A trains that run to the Rockaways instead of Lefferts Boulevard, to the poor bus service in many of the borough’s transit deserts. Several people suggested Byford look into revitalizing disused rail lines and perhaps work with NYPD to crack down on commuter vans that block bus lanes, causing bottlenecks and delayed service. Byford noted that while the Fast Forward is his main priority at the moment, New York City Transit is looking for ways to improve the transit system that will be “quick wins.” “Some stuff we can and should get on with now, he stated.
A second town hall meeting will be scheduled to take place in Queens after many people expressed frustration over the last minute announcement for Tuesday night’s meeting (it was announced on Sunday). Other town halls will make their way to each of the boroughs over the next few weeks.