New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer called on Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the state legislature to put before voters a $3.5 billion bond to fund mass transit improvements in the metropolitan region.

“It’s time to step up and have a transportation bond act. We’ve done this before in this state. Let the people decide, let the people vote,” Stringer told reporters Sunday at the 72nd Street and Broadway subway station.

"It’s time to step up and have a transportation bond act," said New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer.

He is the latest to call for an overhaul of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which oversees New York City’s subways and buses, two commuter rail lines and several bridges and tunnels. The MTA is one of the largest municipal issuers with roughly $38 billion in debt.

MTA officials, already beset with ongoing breakdowns and delays, has developed contingency plans for the so-called summer of hell around Penn Station, with Amtrak-related emergency work to reduce track capacity for the Long Island Rail Road – which the MTA operates – and New Jersey Transit.

Stringer released a citywide survey of subway riders, highlighting the effects of subway delays on people’s lives and livelihoods – and the region’s economy -- and illustrating widespread dissatisfaction with service.

He said the results – based on more than 1,200 in-person surveys, gathered at 143 stations touching 150 zip codes across all five boroughs – found that 74% of respondents were late for a work meeting; 22% were late for a job interview; 18% got reprimands from supervisors; 13% lost wages; and 2% were fired from a job.

“It starts to have a real impact on our economy when people can’t get to work on time or when people can’t get to a job interview,” said Stringer. “It creates a sense that the city is not working.”

According to Stringer, 14% of respondents graded subway service an F, while 24% graded it a D and 35% graded it a C.

As a result of subway delays, said Stringer, many straphangers said they were forced to resort to some form of alternative transportation over the last three months. About 50% said they had to take a taxi or other for-hire vehicle to work, while 42% walked to work, 40% took a bus, 10% drove and 6% biked.

With voter approval, said Stringer – possibly as soon as 2018 -- bond revenue would fund signal repair and other infrastructure work that remains behind schedule.

“There’s a long process that has to go on to do that,” MTA chairman Joseph Lhota told reporters Sunday during a briefing on summer contingency plans at the LIRR Jamaica Station in Queens. “My job is to figure out what I need to do to make the place better. Once in the process of doing that we’ll figure what our fiscal needs will be.”

Lhota returned two weeks ago to a job he left at the end of 2120 to run for New York mayor.

Cuomo has ordered him to craft a reorganization plan for the MTA within 30 days, a review of the authority’s capital program within 60 days and a report on Consolidated Edison’s role in subway power outages within 90 days.

The governor also added $1 billion to the capital program.

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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.”