MTA ‘reinvention commission’ comes together quietly

mta-reinvention-commission-comes-together-quietly
New York City subway. (AEMoreira042281 via Wikicommons)
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On Wednesday, seven weeks after Governor Andrew Cuomo recommended the M.T.A. create a “reinvention commission” to tackle the challenges of “a changing world,” and to do so by September, that panel will meet for the first time.

It’s not clear who, precisely, will take part in the all-day meeting at the M.T.A.'s offices at 2 Broadway, though Cuomo, in his May 7 request to the authority he controls, specified he wanted “international transportation experts" on the panel.

As of Monday evening, the M.T.A. had denied two requests from Capital for a list of participants.

Gene Russianoff, the Straphangers Campaign's staff attorney, confirmed to Capital that he’s on the commission. Sources also confirmed the participation of Regional Plan Association president Bob Yaro and Tri-State Transportation Campaign executive director Veronica Vanterpool. Enrique Peñalosa, the former mayor of Bogotá, Colombia, and bus rapid transit evangelist, disclosed his participation on Twitter.

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The commission has been charged with a weighty brief.

"We have been operating the same subway system for the last 100 years," Cuomo's letter to M.T.A. chairman Tom Prendergast reads. "The next 100 years, however, look radically different for New York. The clear evidence of a changing climate in our nation makes more major storms like Superstorm Sandy a real and present threat. Increasing population, demographic shifts and record ridership pose new challenges to operating and maintaining our existing mass transit network. ... This commission needs to fundamentally reexamine our subway system to meet these needs and expectations."

In fact, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority has had a difficult few years.

Hurricane Sandy caused widespread, serious damage to the subway system, in part by swamping the tubes running beneath the East River. A Metro-North train derailed near the Spuyten Duyvil station in the Bronx, killing four passengers. An F train derailed in Woodside, Queens, trapping hundreds of passengers underground.

So far, the commission's organizers have sent Russianoff, and presumably other participants, information about subway resiliency and the system's capital needs.

"Time will tell whether this is a valuable exercise for modernizing transit or just an election-year step," Russianoff said.