The head of the Metropolitan Transportation ity said the agency is considering possible service reductions to New York City’s subway and bus system this fall to help alleviate a budget deficit.
MTA Chairman and CEO Patrick Foye said during a board meeting Friday that there could be “guideline service reductions” targeting some of the less burdened parts of the city’s transit system come September but didn’t provide further details on what that would mean.
“That is painful for all of us, but that is a reality,” Foye said. “The magnitude of our deficit is so substantial that we can’t take anything off the table.”
The MTA board usually doesn’t meet in August but held the meeting to discuss the authority’s reorganization, cost-cutting measures and a report on how to rein in rampant overtime by employees who work for the subway and bus system, as well as workers for its commuter rails.
The MTA—which runs the city’s subway and bus systems as well as the Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North Railroad—currently faces a $ million deficit that could swell to nearly $ billion by without a reorganization of the authority, Foye said.
The reorganization plan aims to improve service and reduce costs by streamlining the MTA’s six agencies, refocusing on safety and maintenance and centralizing some administrative operations. A timeline to implement the plan—prepared by consulting firm Alix Partners after state lawmakers mandated a reorganization by the end of June—is expected by Oct. , according to MTA officials.
The MTA board would do everything it can to “minimize the impact on subway and bus customers,” Foye said at a press conference after the meeting. He didn’t indicate which transit lines would be most affected but said the adjustments would be focused on areas that aren’t especially crowded.
“I don’t think Q train riders have much to worry about,” he said.
The potential guideline adjustments represent the authority’s routine efforts to improve efficiency, Foye said, adding that the MTA’s income has fallen in recent years, and a future recession could worsen the situation.
“An economic downturn could undermine revenues,” said Foye, whom Gov. Andrew Cuomo appointed the board’s chairman earlier this year. “As part of the efforts to meet cost-cutting targets, agencies continue to review our service guidelines.”
Just two years ago, an $ million subway action plan was implemented after Cuomo declared of a state of emergency at the authority to address disruptions and other inefficiencies in the system.
At the meeting Friday, the board also discussed a report of findings and recommendations for the MTA’s overtime policies. Law firm Morrison & Foerster LLP prepared the report, which faults what it describes as a “culture of acceptance among MTA managers” failing to prevent employees from working “routine, and often unnecessary, overtime” hours. Bridges and Tunnels is the only agency—the authority’s smallest—that has consistently kept overtime expenses under budget, according to the report.
The report’s findings indicate the MTA is “extremely vulnerable to fraud, waste and abuse,” Carrie Cohen, partner at Morrison & Foerster, said. “The MTA’s controls and time-keeping metrics are weak and thus the MTA is not able to determine why overtime payments have increased so rapidly.”
According to the report, MTA agencies don’t follow consistent overtime policies, and timekeeping largely relies on paper forms and manual process that leave the authority with little real-time data on employee attendance, assignments and overtime usage.
Tony Utano, president of Transport Workers Union Local said after the meeting that transit workers should be fairly compensated for overtime.
“The work rules for bus and subway workers cited in this report are not unreasonable or outrageous,” Utano said. “In many cases, they benefit both management and workers. Eliminating them wouldn’t even cover the cost the MTA paid the consultant to put this report together.”
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