off track

The MTA’s Running a Year Late on Its Next 20-Year To-Do List

Photo: Ben Fractenberg/THE CITY

It’s not just the subways that can run into delays.

The MTA’s wishlist for the next two decades — covering everything from new subway cars to eventual subway expansion — likely won’t be made public until the end of the year, officials said Thursday. That would make it more than a year late.

Transit advocates note it will be practically the new year before the so-called 20-Year Needs Assessment, covering 2020 to 2039, is revealed. They also griped that the document won’t come out until months after the more set-in-stone five-year capital plan — reversing the usual order of the reports’ releases.

“The 20-Year Needs Assessment should inform the capital program, not the other way around,” said Lisa Daglian, executive director of the Permanent Citizens Advisory Committee to the MTA. “It should be the blueprint for the capital plan, because it spells out what the system is going to need.”

The 20-Year Needs Assessment is supposed to come out every five years. But by the time the next one arrives, it will have been more than six years since the last report, covering 2015 to 2034. That report called more than $100 billion of investment in the ailing transit system.

‘A More Strategic Document’

MTA Chairman Patrick Foye said the new document is “being actively worked on.”

Meanwhile, the MTA’s next five-year projection is expected to be presented in September. The plan, which includes miles of track and upgrading signal systems, is expected to run about $40 billion.

Maxwell Young, an MTA spokesperson, said the agency is trying to shape “a more strategic document” that better lays out how capital projects are prioritized over the next two decades.

The MTA is not under a legal obligation to release a 20-year wishlist, though that will change in 2023, thanks to new legislation that passed this year.

The next list is taking shape amid a reorganization of the MTA, which Governor Andrew Cuomo has repeatedly criticized for waste and mismanagement.

The MTA also is subject to an ongoing financial audit. Young said the 20-year plan would include some of the audit’s findings.

No Day at the Beach

But some advocates called for more transparency.

“The question is, why isn’t this being made public?” said Rachael Fauss, a senior analyst with the watchdog group Reinvent Albany. “Is there a really big, scary number that’s bigger than the $40 billion?

“This is a prelude to a very secretive and not very honest discussion of what the MTA needs.”

MTA board members told THE CITY they’ve heard little about the next 20-Year Needs Assessment, beyond a briefing for some members of the Metro-North Railroad committee.

Queens state Sen. Leroy Comrie, whose committee oversees the MTA, told THE CITY through a spokesperson that he “hasn’t heard anything one way or the other” about the 20-year plan.

“He is concerned about it not being made available in a timely manner and consequently not being considered as part of the capital planning process,” said Andrew Taranto, a spokesperson for Comrie. “He hopes we can see the needs assessment soon so that appropriate planning for system maintenance and upgrades can be done.”

Foye, who joked last month that an upcoming MTA reorganization plan would make “great beach reading,” said the same applies for the needs assessment and the capital program.

“The 20-Year Needs Assessment, it may be a little cold to be on the beach when that comes out later in the year,” he said. “These are important documents.”

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