It’s official — the New York City subway, aka Metro Transit Authority, is no longer just delayed, a nuisance, in need of maintenance, a disaster film set piece, entrance to the mole kingdom, or the site of existential dread. It’s now an official emergency, as per Governor Andrew Cuomo after two subway cars derailed in Harlem on June 27th. Unfortunately, that’s what it took for Cuomo to acknowledge that MTA performance has become unacceptable and that chairman Joseph J. Lhota needs to “design an organization that performs a function.” That sounds like the bare minimum for an outfit that coordinates the transportation for one of the largest cities in the United States, but there you go.
Lhota has been tasked with going over the MTA capital plan within two months, and Cuomo is funneling $1 billion to spruce up the beleaguered network. That was a surprise even to Mr. Lhota himself, though it isn’t clear where exactly the money is going to come from. Critics have also pointed out that the influx of cash will be added to a pot already fed by fare hikes in recent years.
Cuomo is also looking for help from entrepreneurs to bring the subway system into the 21st century. The signal system, for example, is not only not digital, it isn’t even analog. Lhota acknowledged to the New York Times the system is mechanical, about as rudimentary as you can get. Fortunately, the governor is hosting a problem solving competition focused on innovating solutions for MTA’s faults. He explained, “We need new ideas, delivered faster.”
That’s a tall order considering that MTA’s problems aren’t limited to just the subway system. Recently, there was a runaway bus in Brooklyn that could be taken as a sign that even the MTA’s own vehicles are fed up with the whole mess.