The simmering friction between New York City and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority -- as subway logjams and breakdowns mount -- resurfaced at a City Council budget meeting Wednesday, with some council members calling the MTA executive who testified unprepared.

"The answers you are giving us are not even close to what we're getting from your caliber of an agency," council finance committee Chairwoman Julissa Ferreras-Copeland told MTA budget director Douglas Johnson.

During five minutes of questioning from transportation committee Chairman Ydanis Rodriguez, notably about the authority's plans to budget in so-called transportation deserts, Johnson repeatedly said the MTA would get back to the council with answers.

"Another 'get back,' " said Rodriguez, increasingly angry during the joint meeting of the finance and transportation committees.

Transportation deserts, said Rodriguez, include parts of outer boroughs Queens, the Bronx and Staten Island, where commuting to Manhattan often involves several legs of transit and sometimes walks of up to 15 blocks.

"Parts of this city are begging for service," said Rodriguez, who represents parts of northern Manhattan.

The city contributed an unprecedented $2.5 billion to the MTA's $29 billion capital plan for 2015 to 2019. The MTA's calendar 2017 operating budget is roughly $15.6 billion, including about $1 billion in city funds.

After the city ramped up its contribution, Mayor Bill de Blasio and the council have been more vocal about MTA operations. The city and MTA are both large municipal issuers with roughly $38 billion and $36.5 billion of debt, respectively.

The authority on Monday announced a six-point plan to improve operations.

"It's not going to solve every problem, but it shows they have a good awareness that they need to step up," said Polly Trottenberg, the city's transportation commissioner and an MTA board member.

De Blasio's $84.9 billion executive budget, which the council is considering, did not budget for reduced fares for lower-income persons, arguing that the state-run MTA is responsible. The estimated cost is about $200 million annually.

Some council members have proposed a $50 million pilot program.

"I'm very understanding of the council's desires," Trottenberg said earlier in the hearing. "The mayor feels like he has done a lot in affordable housing, pre-K, health care, you name it.

"He's not ready to commit on [the $200 million,] but I'm sure we'll have an ongoing dialogue."

Ferreras-Copeland called the city Department of Transportation's bus rapid transit buildout inadequate.

"This is an important priority for people who experience burdensome daily commutes," said Ferreras-Copeland, whose East Elmhurst neighborhood has been engulfed in the chaos related to the LaGuardia Airport reconstruction.

The city's proposed $95.5 billion capital plan for fiscal 2017 to 2027 includes $17.8 billion for city DOT, up $606 million from de Blasio's preliminary budget.

Trottenberg said the capital plan increases bridge reconstruction spending by 91%, to $9.3 billion. It includes fixes to East River bridges and nearly 800 other crossings.

Priorities include hiring risk analysis to better estimate bridge-fix costs and hiring more engineers with project delivery experience, she told council members.

The plan nearly doubles spending on street reconstruction, to $3.3 billion.

Later Wednesday, de Blasio announced the next resdesign phase for Queens Boulevard under his Vision Zero pedestrian safety initiative. Queens Boulevard, a major thoroughfare in that borough, has been nicknamed the "boulevard of death" because of its pedestrian peril.

DOT’s changes to the boulevard will cost about $4 million, said de Blasio. Starting next year, major capital work will begin, for which the administration has committed $255 million. Work will include widening medians and adding trees, landscaping and benches.

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Paul Burton

Paul Burton

Paul Burton is the Northeast Regional Editor for The Bond Buyer and the author of the book "Tales from the Newsrooms." He is a sought-after public speaker and has appeared on radio and TV shows, including former CBS News White House correspondent Sharyl Attkisson’s public-affairs program, “Full Measure.”