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PCAC Statement – June 20, 2011 – Federal Funding of Capital Projects

Statement of the Permanent Citizens Advisory Committee to the MTA on Proposals for Federal Funding of Capital Projects developed by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority for Federal Fiscal Year 2012


June 20, 2011


The Permanent Citizens Advisory Committee (PCAC) to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) PCAC is established in State law as the coordinating body for three legislatively mandated commuter councils:  the Long Island Rail Road Commuters Council, the Metro-North Railroad Commuter Council and the New York City Transit Riders Council.  The Councils’ volunteer members, who are likewise members of the PCAC, are appointed by the Governor upon the recommendation of local elected officials to represent the interests of the MTA’s transit and commuter rail customers.

The Councils of the PCAC were formed when the system of five year MTA Capital Programs was established, and our members have always taken a keen interest in the MTA’s capital expenditures.  That interest continues to the present, and earlier this year we released a research report, Minutes Matter, which recommended that measurements of performance be modified to better reflect passengers‘ experiences and that capital improvements be tied to plans to improve operating performance.

In short, we believe that the bottom line  of capital expenditures is providing better service to the riders whom we represent.  As regular users of the MTA’s transportation systems, our members are very concerned that capital expenditures made by the MTA continue to support the maintenance of facilities and equipment in a state of good repair.  The normal replacement of elements of the system at the end of their useful lives is essential to preserve the quality of service for riders who depend upon MTA services every day.

We are pleased to see a number of necessary rehabilitation, renewal, replacement and modernization projects included within the proposed program of projects that is the subject of this hearing.  Many of these projects deal with the systems “hidden infrastructure,” which riders do not notice unless it fails.   We continue to be concerned that inspection intervals for some elements such as track and structures have been extended and do not want this practice to  compromise safety or reliability.   Although the completion of these projects may not be occasions for ribbon cuttings and grand openings, they are nonetheless critical to maintaining and improving the quality of service on which riders depend.

As critical as federal funding is to the maintenance and improvement of the MTA system, it cannot do the job alone.  Substantial contributions at the State and local level are needed, and at present, this funding for 2012 remains in doubt.  We are all aware of the funding gap facing the final three years of the current Capital Program, and it is critical that it be filled.  In addition, there is uncertainty surrounding even federal funding, as the federal transportation program has not been reauthorized and there have been calls for 30 percent cuts in funding.

Our federal, State, and local elected officials must be told and told again of the importance of the MTA system to the State and region and the impacts that a lack of capital funding could have for the future.  Deferred maintenance nearly caused the downfall of the commuter rail, subway, and bus systems that are now within the MTA family, and this must not be allowed to happen again.  While we support the use of federal funding to improve the system, we call upon the MTA Board to join with us to ensure that our elected officials understand what is at stake is sufficient capital funding is not provided.