NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York officials said on Friday that subway riders will not get baked in the Big Apple this summer now that a transit repair program to fix faulty air conditioners and other train systems has been kick-started with full funding.
The program will pay for a surge of workers to repair the air conditioning in time for summer on the fleet of roughly 6,000 subway cars rolling through New York City, said Joseph Lhota, chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA).
The plan is for systemwide repairs of signals and tracks, as well as the cars themselves at two huge repair shops in Manhattan and Brooklyn, which will operate around the clock. The MTA will increase the number of unionized workers at the shops to 1,400 from 900, Lhota said.
Last year’s “summer of hell,” as New York Governor Andrew Cuomo dubbed it, was caused by track repairs on commuter rail lines at New York’s Pennsylvania Station, which is owned by Amtrak. Subway delays - and some sweltering cars - contributed to outrage among riders about the region’s complex, clogged and crumbling transportation network.
In July, Lhota and Cuomo devised an $836 million short-term “action plan” to fix the city’s subway system, with the state and city each to pay half. But the city initially did not pay so the plan was not fully implemented until now, Lhota and Cuomo said during a tour of the MTA’s 207th Street Overhaul Shop on Manhattan’s northern tip.
“You’re going to see this all through the system now that we have the funding,” Cuomo said above a din of mechanical whirring and metallic clanking as men and women worked.
The state budget for fiscal 2019, which went into effect April 1, allowed the state to redirect aid meant for the city to the MTA instead if the city refused to pay its share of the action plan.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has said he wanted to ensure the funds actually went to the MTA, but he agreed to pay the city’s share after the state budget passed.
Cuomo and de Blasio, both Democrats, have passed responsibility for fixing the deteriorating system back and forth in their ongoing political grudge match.
Funding the MTA - the state agency that operates two commuter rail lines, buses, bridges, tunnels and the city’s subways - has always been a challenge. Fare revenues are not enough to pay for the subway system, so the state and city also contribute.
Reporting by Hilary Russ; Editing by Will Dunham