Recent headlines paint a precarious picture of the MTA and Long Island Rail Road, portraying it as an agency struggling to avoid a fiscal cliff while facing criticism determined to block a nation’s first congestion pricing program that is the cornerstone of our historic $55 billion capital program. However, that doesn’t tell the whole story.
As we tackle these very real challenges, we are doing an enormous amount of important work for New Yorkers in the meantime.
On the side of the capital first. We’re racing to the finish line for one of our flagship megaprojects, Long Island Rail Road Third Track – on schedule and $100 million under budget. The first segment of the new track just opened last week and we expect to complete the rest by October. When completed – combined with the benefits of East Side Access, which is also expected to be completed later this year – Third Track will allow LIRR to offer many, many more services and give Long Islanders the ability to drive directly to Grand Central, which will save up to 40 minutes per day of travel time for many of our customers.
The increase in capacity is reflected in the new draft timetables, which are currently being finalized. With the changes, service across the railway would increase by 41%. This is a game-changer for the Long Islanders.
We are constantly looking for opportunities to innovate and improve the customer experience. Take the new TrainTime app which launched last week. For years, the two MTA railroads had to use separate apps for trip planning and mobile ticketing, but not anymore. The new version merges these functions while preserving the features customers know and love, like car capacity tracking, and adding new features, like real-time train movement data, so you don’t never be stuck wondering where your train is.
We are also finally catching up with the installation of Wi-Fi throughout the system. We have just completed the cellular service upgrade at the LIRR Jamaica station.
Then the subway tunnels. The MTA Board of Directors has just approved a new contract to extend connectivity to all tunnels and aboveground stations at no cost to the MTA. In the future, “I’m going into a tunnel” will no longer be an excuse to hang up.
These are the kinds of amenities that cyclists expect and deserve in 2022 and they are amenities that we are happy to provide. We want public transit to be the first choice for commuting, whether it’s commuting to work and school or to the US Open and Subway Series.
If the Mets and Yankees can top the standings in their divisions, so can the MTA.
Janno Lieber is President and CEO of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.