The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) is a public benefit corporation responsible for public transportation in the U.S. state of New York, serving 12 counties in Downstate New York, along with two counties in southwestern Connecticut under contract to the Connecticut Department of Transportation, carrying over 11 million passengers on an average weekday systemwide, and over 850,000 vehicles on its seven toll bridges and two tunnels per weekday. MTA is the largest public transit authority in the United States.
In February 1965, New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller suggested that the New York State Legislature create an authority to purchase, operate, and modernize the bankrupt Long Island Rail Road (LIRR), which was being operated by the Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR) at the time. The proposed authority would also have the power to make contracts or arrangements with other commuter-railroad operators in the New York City area. On May 21, 1965, the legislature chartered the Metropolitan Commuter Transportation Authority (MCTA) to take over the operations of the LIRR. Governor Rockefeller appointed his top aide, Dr. William J. Ronan, as chairman and chief executive officer of the MCTA. In June 1965, the state finalized an agreement to buy the LIRR from the PRR for $65 million. The MCTA made a down payment of $10 million for the LIRR in December 1965, and it had completed the rest of the payment by the next month.
In February 1965, Rockefeller and Connecticut Governor John N. Dempsey jointly suggested that operations of the New Haven Line, the New Haven Railroad's struggling commuter rail operation, be transferred to the New York Central Railroad as part of a plan to prevent the New Haven Railroad from going bankrupt. If the operational merger occurred, the proposed MCTA and the existing Connecticut Transportation Authority would contract with New York Central to operate the New Haven Line to Grand Central Terminal. A joint report from both agencies, released in September of that year, recommended that the line be leased to New York Central for 99 years, with the MCTA and CTA acting as agents for both states. In October, the MCTA found that the New Haven Line's stations and infrastructure were even more decrepit than those of the LIRR. The New Haven Railroad's trustees initially opposed New York Central's takeover of the New Haven Line, as they felt that the $140 million offer for the New Haven Line was too low. After some discussion, the trustees decided to continue operating the New Haven Line, but only until June 1967.
In January 1966, New York City Mayor John Lindsay proposed merging the New York City Transit Authority (NYCTA), which operated buses and subways in New York City, and the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority (TBTA), which operated toll bridges and tunnels within the city. Rockefeller offered his "complete support" for Lindsay's proposed unified transit agency, while longtime city planner and TBTA chair Robert Moses called the proposed merger "absurd" and "grotesque" for its unwieldiness. In June 1966, Rockefeller announced his plans to expand the MCTA's scope to create a new regional transit authority. The new authority would encompass the existing MCTA, as well as the NYCTA and TBTA. Lindsay disagreed, saying that the state and city should have operationally separate transit authorities that worked in tandem.
On May 3, 1967, Rockefeller signed a bill that allowed the MCTA to oversee the mass transit policies of New York City-area transit systems. The unification agreement would take place the following March, upon which the MCTA would take over the operations of the LIRR, NYCTA, TBTA, New Haven commuter services, New York Central commuter services, and the Staten Island Railway. Initially, the TBTA was resistant to the MCTA's efforts to acquire it. Moses was afraid that the enlarged MCTA would "undermine, destroy or tarnish" the integrity of the TBTA, One source of contention was Rockefeller's proposal to use TBTA tolls in order to subsidize the cheap fares of the NYCTA, since Moses strongly opposed any use of TBTA tolls for use by outside agencies. In February 1968, Moses finally acquiesced to the MCTA's merger proposal. New York Central and the PRR also merged in February 1968, forming the Penn Central Transportation Company.
On February 29, 1968, the MCTA published a 56-page report for Governor Rockefeller, and in it, proposed several subway and railroad improvements under the name "Metropolitan Transportation, a Program for Action" (alternatively called the "Grand Design"). The city had already intended to build subway extensions in all four boroughs so that most riders would need at most one transfer to get to their destination. The Program for Action also called for upgrades to the Penn Central railroads as well as to area airports. The Program for Action was put forward simultaneously with other development and transportation plans under the administration of Mayor Lindsay. This included Lindsay's Linear City plan for housing and educational facilities, and the projected construction of several Interstate Highways, many of which were originally proposed by Robert Moses.
On March 1, 1968, the day after the release of the Program for Action, the MCTA dropped the word "Commuter" from its name and became the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA). The MTA took over the operations of the other New York City-area transit systems. Moses was let go from his job as chairman of the TBTA, although he was retained as a consultant. The construction of two proposed bridges over the Long Island Sound was put under the jurisdiction of the MTA. Moses stated that TBTA construction projects would reduce the MTA's budget surplus through 1970. Chairman Ronan pushed for the MTA to pursue the Program for Action, saying, "We're making up for 30 years of do-nothingism".
Ronan also proposed that the MTA take over the Staten Island Railway from the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad and commence a $25 million modernization project on the railway, The city's Board of Estimate approved this purchase in December 1969. The MTA did not actually take ownership of the Staten Island Railway until January 1971.
The agency entered into a long-term lease of the Penn Central Transportation's Hudson, Harlem, and New Haven Lines. The MTA contracted their subsidized operation to Penn Central. In April 1970, Rockefeller proposed that the state take over the Hudson and Harlem Lines, and the next month, he signed a bond issue that provided $44.4 million in funding to these lines. Penn Central's operations were folded into Conrail in 1976. The MTA took over full operations in 1983, as the Metro-North Commuter Railroad.
The MTA has the responsibility for developing and implementing a unified mass transportation policy for the New York metropolitan area, including all five boroughs of New York City and the suburban counties of Dutchess, Nassau, Orange, Putnam, Rockland, Suffolk and Westchester. This twelve-county area make up the "Metropolitan Commuter Transportation District" (MCTD), within which the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance levies a "metropolitan commuter transportation mobility tax". Veronique Hakim is currently the managing director of the MTA.
The MTA's immediate past chairpersons were. William J. Ronan (1965–1974), David Yunich (1974–1975), Harold L. Fisher (1975–1979), Richard Ravitch (1979–1983), Robert Kiley (1983–1991), Peter Stangl (1991–1995), Virgil Conway (1995–2001), Peter S. Kalikow (2001–2007), H. Dale Hemmerdinger (2007–2009), Jay Walder (2009–2011), Joseph Lhota (2012), and Thomas F. Prendergast (2013–2017). Lhota was re-appointed in 2017 and is the current chairman of the MTA.
The MTA considers itself to be the largest regional public transportation provider in the Western Hemisphere. As of 2018[update], its agencies serve a region of approximately 15.3 million people spread over 5,000 square miles (13,000 km2) in 12 counties in New York and two in Connecticut. MTA agencies now move about 8.6 million customers per day (translating to 2.65 billion rail and bus customers a year) and employ approximately 73,348 workers. The MTA's systems carry over 11 million passengers on an average weekday systemwide, and over 850,000 vehicles on its seven toll bridges and two tunnels per weekday.
MTA carries out these planning and other responsibilities both directly and through its subsidiaries and affiliates, and provides oversight to these subordinate agencies, known collectively as "The Related Entities". The Related Entities represent a number of previously existing agencies which have come under the MTA umbrella. In turn, these previously existing agencies were (with the exception of MTA Bridges and Tunnels and MTA Capital Construction) successors to the property of private companies that provided substantially the same services.
In 1994, the MTA spent $3 million rebranding its five subsidiaries with simpler names to convey that the different agencies were part of one agency. Surveys found that a majority of riders did not know that the MTA owned the Long Island Rail Road or the Metro-North Railroad. As part of the changes, the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority was renamed MTA Bridges and Tunnels; Staten Island Rapid Transit was renamed MTA Staten Island Railway; Metropolitan Suburban Bus Authority was renamed MTA Long Island Bus. In addition, New York City Transit Authority was renamed MTA New York City Transit to seem less authoritarian, Metro–North Commuter Railroad was renamed MTA Metro-North Railroad to recognize the increase in non-commuter ridership. The MTA logo was changed from a two-toned "M" logo to a blue circle with the MTA initials written in perspective like they were rushing by like a train. The large "M" logos on trains and buses were replaced with decals that state MTA New York City Bus, MTA New York City Subway or MTA Staten Island Railway, eliminating inconsistencies in signage. Today, the older "M" logos survive on existing cube-shaped lamps on station lampposts dating to the 1980s, though such lamps have been updated with more modern spherical lamps over time.
Today, each of these Related Entities has a popular name and in some cases, a former legal name. Since 1994, the legal name has only been used for legal documents, such as contracts, and have not been used publicly. However, since the mid-2000s, the popular name has also been used for legal documents related to contract procurements where the legal name was used heretofore. Both are listed below.
The MTA is governed by a 17-member board representing the 5 boroughs of New York City and each of the counties in its New York State service area. Of these, there are 14 voting "members", because four of the board members cast a single vote. The chairman position was split off of the existing CEO position in 2017.
Four members as well as the chairman and the CEO are directly nominated by the Governor of New York, while four are recommended by New York City’s mayor. The county executives of Nassau, Suffolk and Westchester counties nominate one member each. Each of these members has one vote. The county executives of Dutchess, Orange, Rockland, and Putnam counties also nominate one member each, but these members cast one collective vote. The Board also has six rotating nonvoting seats held by representatives of MTA employee organized labor and the Permanent Citizens Advisory Committee, which represent customers of MTA transit and commuter facilities. Board members are confirmed by the New York State Senate.
The MTA has developed three official web and mobile apps for its subway and bus services, and also provides data to private app developers to create their own unofficial MTA apps. In 2012, the MTA officially released the Subway Time app, which uses subway countdown clock data to determine the next-train arrival times on seven services. Real-time station information for the "mainline" A Division (numbered routes), comprising all numbered services except the 7 train, was made available to third party developers via an API. This was achieved through both the Subway Time mobile app and as open data. In early 2014, data for the L train were also given to developers. When Bluetooth-enabled countdown clocks were installed in the B Division (lettered services) in 2016 and 2017, they were also configured to feed data to the Subway Time app as well as in an open-data format.
MTA's Bus Time app originated as a pilot program to install bus countdown clocks along the M16 and M34 routes in August 2009. At the same time, many new buses were retrofitted with GPS-enabled automatic vehicle location systems. In October 2010, the developers of the buses' GPS devices implemented the MTA system's first bus-tracking app, which monitored buses along the M16 and M34 routes. This evolved into the current web app, which originally tracked buses along the B63 route in Brooklyn when it started in February 2011. By January 2012, every local and express bus in Staten Island was equipped with the system. The M34 corridor began using the system on April 6, 2012 with nearly every Bronx bus route using the system by the end of 2012. All five boroughs of the city used the system by March 2014, and a mobile app was released in 2015.
In 2011, the MTA began to look at ways of displaying service disruptions due to weekend engineering works in a visual format. On September 16, 2011, the MTA introduced a Vignelli-style interactive subway map, "The Weekender", to its website. The web app provided a way for riders to get information about any planned work, from late Friday night to early Monday morning, that is going on either on a service(s) or station(s) of the subway during the weekends. On June 11, 2012, the MTA duplicated "The Weekender" site as a free mobile app download for iOS. On November 29, 2012, an Android version of the app was released.
The MTA announced plans to integrate all three apps in 2017. The combined app, scheduled for release in 2018, would include countdown clock information for all subway and bus routes, as well as weekend service changes and travel planners.
The budget deficit of the MTA is a growing crisis for the organization as well as for New York City and State residents and governments. The MTA held $31 billion in debt in 2010 and it also suffered from a $900 million gap in its operating budget for 2011. The capital budget, which covers repairs, technological upgrades, new trains, and expansions, is currently $15 billion short of what the MTA states it needs. If this is not funded, the MTA will fund the repairs with debt and raise fares to cover repayments.
The MTA has consistently run on a deficit, but increased spending in 2000–04 coupled with the economic downturn led to a severe increase in the financial burden that the MTA bore. The budget problems stem from multiple sources. The MTA cannot be supported solely by rider fares and road tolls. In the preliminary 2011 budget, MTA forecasted operating revenue totaled at $6.5 billion, amount to only 50% of the $13 billion operating expenses. Therefore, the MTA must rely on other sources of funding to remain operational. Revenue collected from real estate taxes for transportation purposes helped to contain the deficit. However, due to the weak economy and unstable real estate market, money from these taxes severely decreased; in 2010, tax revenue fell at least 20% short of the projected value. Beyond this, steadily reducing support from city and state governments led to borrowing money by issuing bonds, which contributed heavily to the debt.
This budget deficit has resulted in various problems, mainly concentrated in New York City. New York City Subway fares have been increased four times since 2008, with the most recent occurring March 22, 2015, raising single-ride fares from $2.50 to $2.75, express service from $6 to $6.50 and the monthly MetroCard fare from $112 to $116. Each fare raise was met with increasing resistance by MTA customers, and many are beginning to find the fare increases prohibitive. 2010 also saw heavy service cuts for many MTA subsidiaries. Fewer trains spaced farther between resulted in heavy overcrowding beyond normal rush hours, leading to frustration for many subway and bus riders. In 2013, the subway had the highest ridership since 1947. MTA employees also suffered due to the budget issues. By mid-July 2010, MTA layoffs had reached over 1,000, and many of those affected were low-level employees who made less than $55,000 annually.
As of 2015[update], the MTA was running a $15 billion deficit in its $32 billion 2015–2019 Capital Plan. Without extra funding, many necessary construction and renovation projects would not be performed. In October 2015, the MTA passed the $29 billion 2015–2019 Capital Plan, the largest capital plan in MTA's history; it will be funded by federal, state and city government as well as riders' fares and tolls. Three months later, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and MTA chairman Thomas Prendergast unveiled their plan to spend $26 billion to modernize the subway network, which includes adding Wi-Fi and cellphone services throughout all 278 underground stations by the end of 2016. Other plans call for making extensive renovations to 30 subway stations, allowing mobile ticketing by cellphone or bank cards, and adding security cameras on buses, charging stations for electronics, and more countdown clocks. Roughly $3 billion will be spent to improve bridges and tunnels.
On November 18, 2017, The New York Times published an investigation into the problems underlying the MTA. It found that politicians from both the Democratic and Republican parties, at the mayoral and gubernatorial levels, had gradually removed $1.5 billion of MTA funding. Other actions by city and state politicians, according to the Times, included overspending; overpaying unions and interest groups; advertising superficial improvement projects while ignoring more important infrastructure; and agreeing to high-interest loans that would have been unnecessary without their other interventions. The Times stressed that no single event directly caused the crisis; rather, it was an accumulation of small cutbacks and maintenance deferments. The MTA funds were described as a "piggy bank" for the state, with the issuance of MTA bonds benefiting the state at the MTA's expense. By 2017, a sixth of the MTA's budget was allocated to paying off debt, a threefold increase from the proportion in 1997. The city's $250 million annual contribution to the MTA budget in 2017 was a quarter of the contribution in 1990. David L. Gunn, who helped end a transit crisis when he led the NYCTA in the mid-1980s, described the 2017 crisis as "heartbreaking".
In December of the same year, the Times reported that the $12 billion East Side Access project, which would extend the LIRR to Grand Central Terminal upon its completion, was the most expensive of its kind in the world, with a projected price of $3.5 billion per mile of track. Over the years, the projected cost of East Side Access had risen by billions of dollars due to unnecessary expenses. In addition to overpaying workers and overspending, politicians and trade unions had forced the MTA to hire more workers than was needed. In 2010, an accountant found that the project was hiring 200 extra workers, at a cost of $1,000 per worker per day, for no apparent reason. The bidding process for MTA construction contracts also raised costs because, in some cases, only one or two contractors would bid on a project. Similar construction projects in New York City, such as the Second Avenue Subway and 7 Subway Extension, had been more expensive than comparable projects elsewhere for the same reasons, even though other cities' transit systems faced similar, or greater, problems compared to the MTA. In March 2018, the federal Government Accountability Office ordered an audit of the United States' transit costs, which were generally higher than in any other developed country in the world. The GAO planned to devote special attention to the MTA's transit costs.
The MTA collected $138 million from advertising on its trains and buses in 2014. In June 1992, the MTA banned tobacco advertising on subways, buses and commuter rail, costing the agency $4.5 million in annual advertising revenue. The tobacco advertisements were removed once the advertising contracts expired. They were removed from subways, buses, and bus shelters by the start of 1993, from the commuter rail lines by the start of 1994, and from Long Island Bus vehicles by the start of 1997.
The MTA refused to display an ad in the New York City Subway system in 2012, which read: "In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man. Support Israel. Defeat Jihad." The authority's decision was overturned in July 2012 when Judge Paul A. Engelmayer of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York ruled that the ad of the American Freedom Defense Initiative is protected speech under the First Amendment, and that the MTA's actions were unconstitutional. The judge held in a 35-page opinion that the rejected ad was "not only protected speech — it is core political speech ... [which as such] is afforded the highest level of protection under the First Amendment." The MTA had received $116.4 million in revenue in 2011 from advertising sold throughout its subway, commuter rail, and bus systems.
In April 2015, another ad became the subject of controversy when the MTA refused to display it, the refusal was again challenged in court, and the MTA again lost in court and was ordered by a federal judge to display the ad. The ad, paid for by the American Freedom Defense Initiative, showed a man with a scarf covering his face, with the caption "Killing Jews is Worship that draws us close to Allah", which was attributed to "Hamas MTV," and then stated: "That's His Jihad. What's yours?" The ad included a disclaimer that the display of the ad did not reflect the opinion of the MTA. U.S. District Judge John Koeltl of the US District Court for the Southern District of New York in Manhattan said the ad was protected speech under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, and rejected the MTA's argument that the ad might endorse terrorism or violence. Pamela Geller, president of the group that sued the MTA in order to run the ads, lauded the decision, and a lawyer for the organization said the same decision had been made in Washington and Philadelphia.
A week afterward, the MTA's board in a 9–2 vote banned all political, religious, and opinion advertisements on subways and buses, limiting any ads to commercial ones. Specifically, it banned advertisements that "prominently or predominately advocate or express a political message" about "disputed economic, political, moral, religious or social issues," and any ad that "promotes or opposes" a political party, ballot referendum, and "the election of any candidate". The board estimated that the ads that the board was banning made up less than $1 million of the MTA's annual (as of 2014) $138 million advertising revenue. Nevertheless, lawyers for the American Freedom Defense Initiative called the MTA's action a "disingenuous attempt to circumvent" the judge's order.
In 2002, following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the MTA introduced the slogan "If you see something, say something." The campaign, which was based from a theme created by Korey Kay & Partners, consisted of public safety announcements, posted on advertisement boards in stations, subway, buses, and trains, urging people to report suspicious activity. Allen Kay, CEO of Korey Kay and Partners, stated in 2007 that the company had to do a lot of research to ensure that consumers understood the message correctly. Since 2002 the campaign has evolved from simple print ads to television spots, and reports of suspicious packages in the system rose over 40-fold, from 814 in 2002 to over 37,000 in 2003.
The MTA moved to trademark the slogan in 2005. The slogan was used by more than 30 other "transport and governmental" organizations by 2007. That year, the MTA spent $3 million to run 4,000 television ads and 84 newspaper ads in 11 total papers, over a span of more than four months. The idea gained traction, and in 2010, the domestic-security branch of the United States federal government, the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS), started its own "see something, say something" campaign. Kevin Ortiz, a spokesman for the MTA, described the slogan as having "engaged the public in serving as the eyes and ears of our system." Meanwhile, the DHS's campaign had attracted at least 215 partners in the private, public, and nonprofit sectors by 2014, which one writer called "a true smart practice." However, the MTA program has not been universally well-received; in 2012, a sociologist at New York University noted that the campaign had not netted any thwarted terrorist plots, and that the sheer volume of calls to the MTA hotline resulted in MTA workers possibly not being able to identify genuine threats.
In 2016, MTA updated the campaign, renaming it "New Yorkers Keep New York Safe." As before, the campaign features public service announcements in advertisement spaces. However, this new campaign now features the pictures, names, and quotes of New Yorkers who called to report suspicious people or things on the MTA's system. The rebooted campaign also shows 15- to 30-second videos of these New Yorkers who speak about their experiences. The two-year "New Yorkers Keep New York Safe" campaign received $2 million of funding from the DHS. The MTA still owns the trademark for "If you see something, say something."
In MTA buses, there are stickers plastered on the frontmost seats. The front seats are priority searing, and the stickers state "Won't you please give up your seat to the disabled or elderly" with the "o" in "Won't" replaced with a heart symbol. In 2009, it was codified into an enforceable policy that could be punished with a fine.
Since 2014, the MTA has had a "Courtesy Counts" campaign consisting of posters that show colored stick figures having either correct or incorrect etiquette. Green stick figures show what riders should do, such as taking off their backpacks, while red stick figures show what riders should not do, such as manspreading. All of the posters have the tagline “Courtesy Counts: Manners Make a Better Ride.” Starting in January 2015, these posters were installed in subway cars, with the posters coming to commuter rail and buses the following month.
In May 2017, the MTA started a three-month pilot program to encourage riders to give up their seats for the pregnant, disabled, or elderly. It created a website where pregnant women, the disabled, and the elderly could request specialized buttons. There are two designs: a "Baby on Board" button for pregnant mothers and a more generic "Please offer me a seat" button. This idea stemmed from the "Baby on Board" buttons that were given out across the London Underground in 2013 after the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton, wore such a button there.
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