MTA board should vote down hasty reorganization plan, advocates say

A coalition of advocacy groups is urging the MTA's board to strike down the "Transformation Plan" when it comes up for a vote on Wednesday. Photo Credit: Craig Ruttle

The plan could have significant implications for the 70,000-employee MTA, according to advocates.

A coalition of advocacy groups is urging the MTA's board to strike down the "Transformation Plan" when it comes up for a vote on Wednesday.
A coalition of advocacy groups is urging the MTA’s board to strike down the "Transformation Plan" when it comes up for a vote on Wednesday. Photo Credit: Kendall Rodriguez

Pressure is mounting for the MTA’s board to vote down a hastily prepared reorganization plan crafted for the plagued transportation authority.

A coalition of advocacy groups is urging the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s board, the MTA’s governing body, to strike down the “Transformation Plan” when it comes up for a vote on Wednesday, arguing that the plan was rushed; developed largely in secret, and will only do more to fracture operations and jumble accountability.

The reorganization plan — the details of which are largely unknown to the riding public — could have significant implications for the 70,000-employee MTA, according to advocates who are not comfortable with the three-month window within which it was created.

“If the governor and legislature were mandating a reorganization of the SUNY system, or the education system, there would be so much outcry if this were the process that were being followed,” said Rachael Fauss, senior research analyst at Reinvent Albany, one of the groups pushing against the plan. “This is not something that’s a radical call — for them to take a step back and vote no.”

Advocates are not comfortable with the three-month window within which the dramatic plan was created.
Advocates are not comfortable with the three-month window within which the dramatic plan was created. Photo Credit: Debbie Egan-Chin

The reorganization plan would call for the consolidation of 40 groups spread across various agencies into six departments as part of an overhaul that aims to cut costs and improve efficiencies. That strategy would eliminate up to 2,700 jobs, primarily from back-end, white-collar positions — but also create several new chief executive titles with unusual reporting duties.

A new “chief operating officer” and “chief transformation officer” would report to the MTA’s board, instead of the authority’s CEO, as other executives currently do.

That blurs the line of accountability, according to Reinvent Albany, which joined advocates at Riders Alliance, the Tri-State Transportation Campaign and Transit Center on Sunday in pushing a news release urging the board to put a stop to the plan.

The groups also outlined other concerns: the plan would move subway engineering experts from the Department of Transit, where they oversee day-to-day operations and report to the head of the subways division, and place them under the purview of a new “chief engineering officer.” That would further “fragment expertise,” the groups argued.

The MTA spent $4.1 million on the management consulting firm Alix Partners to craft the plan, which was mandated in the 2019 state budget alongside a host of new revenue sources for the MTA, including congestion pricing. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and the State Legislature required in budget language that the plan be drafted by the summer — a tight deadline that had always unsettled advocates.

Opponents of the "Transformation Plan" also say the plan would further "fragment expertise" within the authority.
Opponents of the "Transformation Plan" also say the plan would further "fragment expertise" within the authority. Photo Credit: Craig Ruttle

If the board approves the plan, the MTA will hold an online comment period before a final report is published by the end of October.

Maxwell Young, an MTA spokesman, said in a statement that the plan was the “result of rigorous analysis” and feedback from employees and others.

“This transformation will allow us to provide better service to customers, while addressing our fiscal crisis, as we become a more effective and efficient organization — a goal everyone should share,” Young said.

Vincent Barone