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MTA board approves contested reorganization plan

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The $4 million undertaking seeks to streamline operations and cut costs

A Midtown entrance to the MTA’s subway system.
Max Touhey

The MTA board has approved a sweeping reorganization of the embattled transit agency despite calls from advocates and pols to reject the hastily prepared proposal.

In a Wednesday vote, the board approved the controversial “Transformation Plan” that consultant AlixPartners crafted to reduce bureaucracy and improve service at the authority.

The dramatic restructuring, which was developed over three months, calls for the consolidation of 40 groups spread across several agencies into six departments to slash costs and streamline operations.

“These recommendations will allow us to do just that, reduce operating costs and free up our staff to focus on this core mission: Delivering a strong customer experience across all of the MTA,” MTA chairman Patrick Foye said during the board’s monthly meeting. “There’s a vast amount of work remaining; we’ve only begun the process.”

The plan is projected to save the cash-strapped authority up to $530 million annually over the next three years, but comes at the cost of eliminating 1,900 to 2,700 jobs. Transit advocates and watchdogs have raised red flags over the undertaking and fear that it could muddle accountability and compromise successful programs.

“Much of this plan is rearranging for the sake of rearrangement, consolidating for the sake of consolidation,” said Ben Fried with transportation think tank TransitCenter. “The haste to enact a reorganization plan actually risks delaying the critical work of modernizing the transit system that is now underway.”

The MTA is amid a financial crisis and projects deficits through 2022 to rise by $447 million. Without the consolidation, the authority anticipates a whopping $971 million deficit by 2023. The plan’s recommendations would sheer that figure to $433 million.

In a landslide vote, the board passed the effort 10-1 with one abstention. Veronica Vanterpool, the sole board member to vote against the restructuring, questioned the lack of detail on the repercussions of consolidating certain agencies.

“My concern remains with not having all of the information to fully understand whether this transformation plan in its entirety ... are all the right components,” said Vanterpool. She also raised concerns about limited efforts to engage the public, noting that “we’ve not had a public engagement process at all.”

Foye, who says he expects the plan will be discussed at every public board meeting over the next year, stressed that the reorganization is a “blueprint” that going forward could be shaped by commuter and advocate feedback.

“This is a blueprint, which means there’s going to be lot of opportunity for commenting,” said Foye. “I think there will be a full discussion in public as to the progress and challenges and changes of the reform plan.”