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Secret MTA Reorganization Plan is Actually Quite Public, MTA Chair Says

Pat Foye address the media on Thursday morning. Photo: Dave Colon

What secret MTA reorganization plan?

The chairman of the MTA Board denied repeated claims by activists that the agency is conducting a sham public process regarding its soon-to-be-revealed internal shakeup, saying rather that the MTA has crafted a public, collaborative process that will include "public input" to make the MTA into a sleeker and better-functioning organization.

"It's not being done in secret," Chairman Pat Foye said at a MTA briefing Thursday when asked about a consultant's ongoing reorganization effort that critics have panned as happening behind closed doors. "The plan will be publicly available before the board votes on it. The board's consideration at the July meeting is the first step. There'll be an additional report that [consultant] AlixPartners will issue around the end of August and then the final report, which will incorporate public comments from advocates and riders, is due by the end of October. This is the first step in a process that will play out in public."

Foye also said he had ordered AlixPartners to meet with the very transit advocates who have been complaining about the process. That meeting did happen, but multiple attendees told Streetsblog that they aren't convinced that their concerns were taken seriously.

And that behind-closed-door meeting revealed the need for more public input, advocates said.

"I don’t consider the outreach so far to be responsive to our coalition’s request for transparency and consultation," said Ben Fried of TransitCenter, adding that he would prefer real public process in the form of, say, a hearing, before the board votes in July. "There’s still time for the MTA to get this right, and that starts with publicly releasing the AlixPartners recommendations ASAP."

The saga began earlier this year, when Gov. Cuomo demanded a reorganization plan for the MTA — an indication that he had, at least, accepted his control over the multi-county transit octopus. No one besides MTA insiders like Foye have seen the preliminary report, but Cuomo's need for control could have collateral damage: there are rumors that he will sideline New York City Transit President Andy Byford by cutting his division into two parts: subways and buses. There's also talk that Byford's NYC Transit will lose the power to oversee major subway construction projects, such as his ambitious Fast Forward plan, in a shift to the MTA's Capital Construction division.

Transparency hawks are on guard.

"[What matters] is to what extent have decisions already been made in the MTA board adopting the 'draft' plan at their meeting in July," Reinvent Albany Senior Analyst Rachael Fauss told Streetsblog. "The law says they have to adopt the transformation plan by the end of July, and then they have to amend it" after the public has had some input.

As Fauss pointed out, though, the amendment process could very well come down to just tinkering around the edges of rumored major changes, such as separating NYCT into two systems or changing the capital construction financing oversight.

"Even if [the plan] will be amended, what's adopted first is going to be the baseline," Fauss said.

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