One thought on “Max & Murphy: Leading Advocate for Transit Sizes Up MTA’s Progress

  1. MTA’s reorganization plan was prepared by the consulting firm Alix Partners for Governor Cuomo. Like all his previous special commissions and advisory committee reports, it is not be worth the paper it was printed on. Promised savings by consolidation of Civil Rights, Engineering, Human Resources, Legal, Procurement and other NYC Transit, Long Island and Metro North Rail Road departments have been discussed and promised for decades by every generation of MTA Chairman, Board Members, Executive Management and elected officials since the 1980’s. This never happens due to work rules, seniority and contracts between different labor unions at NYC Transit, LIRR and MNRR. The same applies to anticipated savings by contracting out work to the private sector. These savings are elusive due to union work rules, union contracts and safety concerns for non MTA employees performing construction on active track.

    It makes no sense for the MTA to reassign management of major NYC Transit, LIRR and MNRR capital projects to Office of Capital Construction. All three operating agencies already have their own experienced engineers, operations planning, procurement, force account, quality assurance and control employees. They have successfully managed numerous Super Storm Sandy along with other Federal Transit Administration and local funded capital projects. In many cases, they were completed on time, within budget, with few design or change orders. Check the Office of Capital Construction’s track record. If all goes well with the most recent recovery schedule, LIRR East Side Access to Grand Central Terminal will be completed by December 2022 (eleven years later than the original 2011 date) and $8 billion more than the original $3.5 billion budget. (Not counting $4 billion more in off line costs). Second Avenue Subway Phase One and Hudson Yards #7 subway extension both suffered from delays, budget, scope and change order issues. Capital Construction is preoccupied trying to complete East Side Access by December 2022 and begin Second Avenue Subway Phase 2. How would they be able to manage additional capital projects?

    At upcoming contract negotiations, the MTA must insist that future union contracts include more flexible work assignments. Salary increases should match the consumer price index. Employees need to increase contributions toward medical insurance and retirement pensions just as we do. Future pensions must be calculated based on the final year’s base salary and not inflated by overtime. Allow employees to remain part time while collecting a portion of their pension. This affords experienced employees time to train replacements and be available during emergencies. Allow unions to bid on projects like the private sector. Offer union employees bonuses like outside vendors when completing projects ahead of schedule or under budget. Share these cost savings with union employees.

    (Larry Penner is a transportation historian, writer and advocate who previously worked 31 years for the Federal Transit Administration Region 2 New York Office. This included the development, review, approval and oversight for billions in capital projects and programs for the MTA, NYC Transit, Long Island and Metro North Rail Roads, MTA Bus, NYC Department of Transportation along with 30 other transit agencies in NY & NJ).

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