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The MTA’s ATM: With the dollars for improved transit service, time to put the brakes on runaway costs


The folks who run the MTA said that they could fix the sputtering subway if they had the money. Gov. Cuomo got them $800 million for a Subway Action Plan, and Pat Foye and Andy Byford delivered markedly improved service. It was worth the joint state-city investment.

Now the challenge is to make the gains permanent. The five-year capital plan they’ve mapped out is very big on the money ($37.3 billion just for the subways) and, if possible, bigger on the promises.

As they move to install modern signals — the biggest single item at $7.1 billion — and new rolling stock and new track and new station elevators to improve accessibility, they must, must, must control costs. Did we mention that they must control costs?

Foye and Byford and the rest swear that the old ways are in the past, that the lessons of new thinking like the L train shutdown that wasn’t will be factored into everything.

While the efficiency pledges are welcome, billions more for another 30 blocks of the Second Ave. subway uptown aren’t. Why is tunneling here sooo much pricier than anywhere else on the planet? Why have major capital projects consistently run billions over budget and years behind schedule?

From here on out, nobody can fairly blame a cash shortfall; the system is about to have ample. Congestion pricing, long advocated in these pages, is happening thanks to a strong push by Cuomo and is projected to yield $15 billion. There’s another $10 billion in dedicated new revenue approved by Albany. The state-city 50-50 split of $6 billion in direct cash follows the logic of the Subway Action Plan. A fine starting point for negotiations.

Cuomo and the MTA won the fight for funds. Now they must make every single dollar count.