July 25, 2017 / 11:24 PM / 3 years ago

New York subway chief unveils emergency plan for 'failing' system

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The head of New York City’s subway asked the city and state for $836 million on Tuesday to immediately stabilize the century-old underground transit system, plus another $8 billion for capital improvements.

FILE PHOTO: A performer sings and plays guitar on the subway in New York City, U.S., May 20, 2017. REUTERS/Joe Penney

The request followed Governor Andrew Cuomo’s declaration last month of a state of emergency to speed up repairs on the subway, which dates to 1904 and survives largely on World War Two-era signaling equipment. Only 63 percent of trains run on time, and the 6 million daily riders endure smelly stations and overcrowded platforms and trains.

Capital investments dwindled while ridership doubled over the past 10 years, according to Metropolitan Transportation Authority Chairman Joseph Lhota.

“There is no doubt we are failing our customers,” Lhota told a news conference.

Cuomo, who effectively oversees the transit authority known as the MTA, appointed Lhota to the job for the second time last month and immediately ordered him to conduct a 30-day audit.

Lhota responded with a two-step plan, first to stabilize the system over the next year for which he would ask the city and state to each contribute half the funds needed: $456 million for operating expenses and $380 million for capital improvements.

That would be followed by modernization plan requiring $8 billion in capital. The subway system is already in the middle of $15 billion capital expenditure plan from 2015 to 2019.

The MTA, which also includes buses and regional commuter railroads, is a state authority governed in conjunction with New York City and surrounding counties with a 2016 operating budget of $15.1 billion.

New York’s subway woes are emblematic of a national infrastructure deficit that led President Donald Trump to call for massive new investments during the 2016 campaign. Trump has yet to unveil an infrastructure plan in his first six months in office, and it was unclear whether the city and state were capable of meeting Lhota’s requests.New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who defeated Lhota in the 2013 election, recently told reporters the city would not spend any more money on the MTA.

Lhota ruled out fare increases for customers who pay $121 for a 30-day pass or $2.75 for a single ride and said he did not expect any federal funding.

He nonetheless called for hiring 2,700 more employees, updating signal equipment, installing new tracks and improving litter removal to cut down on track fires and drainage problems, which cause 20 percent of delays.

Reporting by Daniel Trotta and Taylor Harris; Editing by Tom Brown

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