2015-05-13 / Editorials

Studies Cost Millions


To The Editor:

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) has both Five-Year and Twenty-Year Long Range Capital Plans, which are periodically updated. Both documents clearly outline what capital funding is needed to maintain both a State of Good Repair for existing equipment, facilities and services along with safety, security and any future system expansion projects and programs. Specific costs and individual MTA operating agencies are also identified for both projects and programs.

The New York State Department of Transportation maintains the Statewide Transportation Improvement Program (STIP). Each Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) for every urbanized area which is affiliated with NYSDOT maintains a local Transportation Improvement Program (TIP). Both the STIP and TIP documents contain a complete inventory of potential transportation improvement projects, respective sponsoring agency and estimated cost. Both the MPO and NYSDOT maintain five-year short range and 20-year long-range lists of potential capital transportation improvement projects by recipient and operating agency.

Every year, millions of dollars are spent for planning studies to research the potential for new transportation capital investments and system expansion. This includes Governor Andrew Cuomo's own NYS Department of Transportation, state sponsored Metropolitan Planning Organizations in every major urbanized area including the New York Metropolitan Transportation Council (NYMTC) which serves New York City, Long Island and the lower Hudson Valley (Westchester, Putnam and Dutchess counties); the MTA along with each operating agency including NYC Transit, Long Island Rail Road, Metro North Rail Road and MTA Bus; Mayor Bill de Blasio's own NYC Department of Transportation, NYC Department of City Planning and NYC Economic Development Corporation and Regional Planning Association. Virtually every other city, town, county and authority which runs a transportation system periodically conducts transportation planning feasibility studies. Collectively, every decade a complete inventory of all these agencies would reveal dozens and dozens of transportation studies worth close to $100 million in costs have been completed. Funding for these studies comes from a variety of sources including local, city, state and federal.

Has anyone ever taken a complete inventory of all these studies? Have they checked out the recommendations, estimated project costs, time line for implementation and identification of potential funding sources for going forward? Who checks to see that one study is not just a duplication of a previous study for the same issue?

Too many transportation studies championed by numerous elected officials are nothing more than placebos designed to placate demagogues, who are not regular users of the numerous public transportation alternatives that have been available for decades.

The real problem is finding money to make things happen. All too often funding for many studies would have been better spent on real capital and operating service improvements instead of just lining the pockets of consultants. How many studies end up on the shelf of planners just collecting dust? How many times do we end up with a series of press conferences and news releases designed to provide free publicity for elected officials to assist them in greasing the wheels of future elections? These same elected officials promise a bright future, but leave riders holding an empty bag.

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