Advocates call for ‘reassurances’ of MTA improvements after Byford’s impending departure

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Councilman Ydanis Rodríguez with transit advocates at Bowling Green station Feb. 4. (Photo by Mark Hallum)

Transit advocates were knock-knock-knocking on the MTA’s door Tuesday morning urging the agency to release a transparent timeline for improvements in the 2020-2024 Capital Plan.

With New York City Transit President Andy Byford on his way out – along with his commitments, they fear – the activists went to the MTA’s home base in Bowling Green to make their demands known.

Not only does Councilman Ydanis Rodríguez demand transparency for subway accessibility and service improvement projects that have recently received $51 billion in funds, he also wants to make sure Byford’s successor does not similarly slip away.

“[Byford’s replacement] should be on a four-year contract,” Rodríguez said. “No one is above the need of the riders, so whoever comes, that person should come here with the same or more expertise. But I feel having all the capital that is there also is enough to make the argument – after the governor searched – that person should be on a four-year contract so we can see all projects delivered on time.”

The MTA has recently push ahead with $8.8 billion worth capital improvements from previous five-year plans and says the public will know about projects as they are underway. There is a timeline for those projects released last week by the MTA.

“The MTA has already done what’s being called for here and will continue to as the new MTA Construction & Development organization recently released detail about capital projects addressing both reliability and accessibility beginning in 2020 and 2021,” MTA spokesman Shams Tarek said. “Details about future projects will continue to be released as plans move forward.”

Danny Pearlstein, policy director from Riders Alliance – echoing activists from Tri-State Transportation Campaign, Permanent Citizens Advisory Committee to the MTA, Reinvent Albany and the TransitCenter – emphasized the sense of competence instilled in the public by Byford and that a timeline from the MTA was a simple request considering the stakes.

“Right now, we’re staring out into five years of unprecedented growth for the MTA’s capital projects without the reassurance that the MTA can get the work done. So what we need in these crucial next few months is a schedule, a timetable of when the MTA will make riders a priority and make improvements to the subway,” Pearlstein said. “We need that demonstration of progress because what we have right now is a subway that is doing admittedly better than a few years ago but is still not nearly fixed.”

Byford’s last day at the MTA will be Feb. 22, according to his resignation letter.

While Bus Company President Craig Cipriano has committed to the goals of the Fast Forward from Byford, the Tuesday’s rally was not the only group calling for a timeline.

Disability advocates have been calling for a similar schedule for Americans with Disability Act accessibility improvements to subway stations across the system and have taken the MTA to court.