New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority announced Monday it would spend $18 million to restore and improve service on subways, buses and commuter trains that it cut sharply three years ago.
“We’re basing this on our full take of revenues and expenditures,” chairman and chief executive Thomas Prendergast told reporters at an early-morning press conference that preceded a lengthy day of board committee meetings at the authority’s Manhattan headquarters.
Prendergast said increased aid from New York State, which Gov. Andrew Cuomo included in his executive budget, provided authority officials the breathing room.
The new service initiatives are included in the MTA’s mid-year revision of its four-year financial plan, which reflects adjustments to its revenues and expenses. The agency expects to phase in nearly all the enhancements over 12 months. The MTA will introduce its budget for fiscal 2014 and four-year financial plan to the full board on Wednesday.
“This is the level we are able to do in a sustainable way. We don’t want to add or restore a service, then pull it back next year,” said Prendergast.
Prendergast gave little hint about Wednesday’s budget session. “We’re ahead on some revenue projections, below on others,” he said.
Highlighting the MTA’s restorations are more frequent service to the G subway line, also called the Brooklyn-Queens crosstown local; adding and restoring service to various branches of the Long Island Rail Road; and a detailed study of bus service in the Co-Op City area of the Bronx.
New York City Transit will spend nearly $8 million annually on the new service, plus almost $6 million on additional track cleaning, controllers to manage service on numbered lines, better turnstile layouts and more security cameras.
LIRR will invest $2.6 million in five new weekday trains, half-hourly weekend service to Ronkonkoma and Port Washington, and weekend service to Greenport for an additional 10 weeks. Metro-North will spend $1.7 annually to add real-time information displays at all of its stations in New York State by 2020.
The plan also includes an additional $11.5 million for New York City Transit and LIRR to adjust service, mostly on existing routes to meet agency service guidelines for customer loading and waiting.
“My hat is off to the MTA,” Gene Russianoff, the attorney and chief spokesman for the Straphangers Campaign subway ridership group, told the board. His organization “isn’t always here with praise, so enjoy it while it lasts,” Russianoff told the board.
The MTA, with about $32 billion of debt, is one of the largest issuers in the municipal marketplace. Moody’s Investors Service rates the MTA’s transportation revenue bonds A2, while Fitch Ratings and Standard & Poor’s assign A ratings.
The board’s finance committee approved an additional $5.8 billion to the capital plan for “mitigation work,” or maintenance to harden the system’s infrastructure from damage created by storms such as Hurricane Sandy. Prendergast last month launched a recovery and resiliency unit that will manage the rebuilding from Sandy.
MTA officials expect the federal government to reimburse up to 90% of the costs. It has in its capital plan $950 million of bonding already approved. The agency will also use some pay-as-you-go money for mitigation.
Also on Monday, the MTA, in a joint announcement with the New York City Economic Development Corp., said it would receive $25.8 million for its capital program for relinquishing control of the city-owned parking lot at E. Houston Street in SoHo.
New York real estate development company Madison Capital, selected through a competitive public process that attracted nine firms, will acquire the property.
The MTA will also get a relocation property in the Flatiron District.
The Houston Street lot is one of three the MTA is contracted to sell to raise capital funds. The others are the former New York City Transit headquarters at 370 Jay Street in downtown Brooklyn, which is expected to be transferred to New York University, and a deactivated electrical substation on E. 211th Street in the Bronx, which a local developer is expected to acquire.