With the “summer of hell” living up to its moniker, Gov. Andrew Cuomo today declared a state of emergency for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
The announcement was made Thursday morning at the MTA Genius Transit Challenge, an international competition with a goal of improving the reliability of the MTA in three areas — subway signaling, car modernization, and communications infrastructure.
Gov. Cuomo’s declaration of a state of emergency grants new MTA Chair Joe Lhota expedited procurement, as well as granting an extra $1 billion to the MTA Capital Plan to aid in the redesign of the nation’s busiest transit system.
This announcement comes as tensions between strap-hangers and city and state officials are peaking. Repairs have diverted and delayed trains on the Long Island Railroad and a derailment this week that injured several passengers has prompted a quick response from the governor to address what he described as “the summer of hell” for commuters.
“New Yorkers are not, by their nature, a patient people,” Cuomo said. “It cannot be 5 years or 10 years, it must be now.”
Along with the funding increase Gov. Cuomo called for a 60-day review of the entire subway system to be carried out by Lhota. “There are no sacred cows, I want Mr. Lhota to design the best organization to get the job done,” said Gov. Cuomo.
The governor also ordered a 90-day joint review by Con Edison and MTA to get to the bottom of why the power grid, on which the subway system relies, continues to fail.
“Right now it’s a finger pointing game between Con Ed and the MTA,” Cuomo said. “If there is a power outage and if Con Ed is responsible, they are going to be fined heavily for the delays that they’ve been causing New Yorkers.”
The governor posed this challenge to a global audience of vendors and mass transit experts. A panel will judge proposals and the best from each category — signaling, car modernization and communication — will receive a $1 million prize.
“We need ideas from outside the box because, frankly, the box is broken,” Cuomo said. “This is the world stage, you have an idea and we deploy it in New York, it will be on display for the world.”