MetroFocus partner City & State spoke with leaders who are shaping transportation in our region, including Charles Fuschillo Jr., Joseph Lhota, James Vacca and Janette Sadik-Khan.
CHARLES FUSCHILLO JR.
Chairman, Senate Transportation Committee
Q: What was the biggest success in terms of transportation legislation this session?
CF: The state budget. We approved a $4.5 billion capital plan to help fund desperately needed infrastructure-improvement projects, with an agreement to do a two-year DOT capital plan next year, augmented by a $100 million increase in both years over current funding levels. We also created the New York Works program, which will supplement the capital plan by $1.6 billion and expedite critical projects throughout the state.
Q: Did any key pieces of transportation legislation fail to pass?
CF: The legislation to strengthen Leandra’s Law and prevent drunk drivers from getting around the law’s mandatory ignition-interlock requirement. Ignition interlocks have been proven to save lives, which is why we included them under the law. However, only 30 percent of the convicted drunk drivers who were ordered to install them actually did so. The Senate passed the legislation, but the Assembly held the bill in committee.
Q: What is the status of your public-private partnership legislation?
CF: We approved design-build legislation last December, and we are already seeing positive results in terms of how quickly many of the New York Works projects are moving forward. The legislation I’m sponsoring would build on that success and give the state greater flexibility to enter into P3 agreements. We’re continuing to have conversations with the Assembly and the governor, and I’m hopeful this legislation will get passed and signed into law as soon as possible.
Q: How much does adequately financing transportation depend on a strong economic recovery?
CF: Every $1 billion spent on infrastructure projects creates approximately 25,000 jobs. Even in challenging financial times, we still need to find ways to fund critical projects to keep our infrastructure safe, functional and reliable… We need to keep exploring new and innovative ways to generate economic development, reduce risk and financial burden to the state, and stretch current funding farther to get more projects off the ground.
Chairman and CEO, Metropolitan Transportation Authority
Q: How will the MTA close its budget gap in coming years?
JL: We’re in the process of updating our financial plan for the coming years. We are confident that a combination of aggressive cost-cutting, a labor agreement with three years of net-zero wage increases and small but regular fare and toll increases will allow us to keep our budget balanced. However, that balance is fragile, and even as our discretionary costs have increased by only six-tenths of 1 percent, our nondiscretionary costs are projected to grow much higher than the rate of inflation.
Q: Will the subway countdown clocks be expanded?
JL: Our customers love the countdown clocks, which were possible after a decade of work to improve the signaling system on all the numbered lines. Changing the signals on the lettered lines will take even longer, so we’re looking at a variety of technologies to speed up that process and deliver countdown clocks faster. We want all stations to have them as soon as possible.
Q: What else does the MTA have up its sleeve?
JL: The subway countdown data will get pushed out to apps and computers within the next couple of months, so you can check their progress from your phone or computer. And just like the countdown clocks on subways, Bus Time has been tremendously popular on bus lines, so instead of waiting for the bus you can meet it. It’s available for all buses on Staten Island now, on the M34 in Manhattan and the B63 in Brooklyn, on every bus in the Bronx by the end of the year, and on every bus in the city by the end of next year.
Q: When you came on, a top priority was improving the MTA’s reputation.
JL: We’re starting to change some impressions about the MTA, but we have a long way to go. We need to keep finding more efficiencies in how we operate to minimize the need for future fare increases. We need to keep our major capital projects like East Side Access and the Second Avenue Subway on time and on budget. And we need to identify new sources of funding to pay for the next capital plan starting in 2015.
“MetroFocus: Transforming Transportation” premieres on Tuesday, July 24 at 10:30 p.m. on WLIW21; Wednesday, July 25 at 10:30 p.m. on NJTV; and Thursday, July 26 at 8:30 p.m. on THIRTEEN.