The recently adopted New York state budget includes reforms to the MTA that will impact riders in the Hudson Valley. A few area lawmakers are speaking to this as well as to congestion pricing.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo says the budget provides reforms and funding for the MTA. It requires the agency to develop a reorganization plan by June, modifies MTA Board appointments and more. Democratic state Senator James Skoufis calls the reforms a first-time win for the Hudson Valley region serviced by the MTA/Metro-North.
“For the first time in my lifetime, we are now holding the MTA accountable,” Skoufis says. “Something that I felt very strongly about that made it into the final budget was a forensic audit of the MTA, which has never in the MTA’s history been done before. This, I believe, will be an effective tool to root out a lot of the waste and corruption and, quite frankly, possible criminality that has been taking place in the MTA.”
Skoufis, represents the 39th District and is a member of the Senate Transportation Committee.
“The northern suburbs will, by statute, by law, be getting 10 percent of the five-year capital investments coming out of the MTA. That is up from the historic 8 percent that we have always gotten,” Skoufis says. “And so now, we are getting a fairer share in Orange, Rockland and across the river, the Hudson Valley counties in the MTA region. That is a tremendous step forward.”
Another change is the definition of “on-time.” The MTA will term a train as on-time when it is within two minutes of its scheduled arrival, rather than six minutes. Meantime, Skoufis was the principal negotiator with the MTA on west of Hudson issues.
“We were talking about specific items that will be in the next capital program to come out later this year,” Skoufis says. “It’s premature for me to announce what those specific projects are but, I can tell you, there are going to be significant, never-before-seen levels of investment west of Hudson in Orange and Rockland Counties.”
Republican Assemblyman Colin Schmitt represents the 99th District, which includes parts of Orange County and a town in Rockland.
“Any positive that is trying to be spun out of what we got for MTA, Metro-North out of congestion pricing is still unacceptable,” says Schmitt. “At the end of the day, a majority of residents of the Hudson Valley in my area will have more detriment than benefit that might have been negotiated for a quick press release win for some members so that they could vote yes on something that they should have never supported in the first place.”
He refers to a Central Business District Tolling program, known as congestion pricing, as one of the MTA’s funding streams. Cuomo says District is defined as streets south of 60th in Manhattan. A six-member Traffic Mobility Review Board will be established to advise on tolls, exemptions and credits. Skoufis says the northern suburbs will be represented. Again, Schmitt:
“On the congestion pricing piece it really is unacceptable," Schmitt says. "And the commission that was created to basically punt the hard decisions away from the governor and the legislature is something that really just doesn’t make any sense. They’re trying to put this past the next election cycles which, in the end, is really going to impact Hudson Valley commuters and residents.”
“I’ve always stated that New York City can do whatever it wants with congestion pricing so long as there’s not double-tolling,” Skoufis says. “And we live to fight another day on this issue.”
MTA Chairman and CEO Patrick Foye:
“Central Business District Tolling is a transformative initiative that will support critical investments in our transit system; reduce pollution and emissions while improving air quality; increase mobility and create safer streets for cyclists and pedestrians; bolster New York state’s economy — I recognize that the partnership in New York City estimated the cost of congestion $20 billion a year — and simply improve the lives of all New Yorkers,” Foye says.
In addition, the enacted budget requires any MTA capital project over $25 million to employ the design-build procurement method, which was used for the Governor Mario M. Cuomo Bridge.