Progress in Penn Station bodes well for commuters on the Long Island Rail Road with overhauls on infrastructure exceeding the halfway mark, according to a new report from Amtrak, with 12 of 20 items on a task list marked as complete.
Meanwhile, the MTA has announced it reduced ad hoc ferry service between Manhattan and Long Island City, implemented in response to the Penn Station repair work, due to lack of ridership with commuters being routed to the No. 7 train for alternative transportation, effective Wednesday.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo referred to the repairs scheduled between July 10 to Sept. 1 in which about 20 percent of the 21 tracks in Penn Station will be out of commission as the “Summer of Hell” in a letter to President Donald Trump, but the negative effects of the partial shutdown have been less heavily felt than initially feared.
The LIRR reported a relatively minor dip in ridership in the first two weeks of the “Summer of Hell,” according to transit officials at a July 26 MTA board meeting. LIRR President Patrick Nowakowski presented figures, which showed a drop of about 11,000 riders through Penn Station, compared to the baseline of 86,000 during the morning peak hour on Week Two. Evening peak hour through the transit hub only saw a decline of about 4,000 commuters.
The “Summer of Hell” has coincided with a state of emergency, declared by Cuomo due to the dire straits of the city’s subway system.
MTA Chairman Joseph Lhota recently unveiled his short-term plan to repair the city’s failing subway system and restore riders’ confidence in public transit, a proposal which includes transforming how the transit system operates in the immediate future. It will target problem infrastructure and garbage, and increase staff and customer communication.
The announcement sparked intense debate between Lhota, Mayor Bill de Blasio and Cuomo as to how much the city should contribute for the short-term plan, which is projected to set the MTA back by about $456 million in operating costs and $380 million in capital investment.
Lhota and Cuomo were of the opinion that the state and city government should split the cost 50/50 while de Blasio thought it was not in the city’s best interest to hand $400 million to an agency he has criticized for the way it operates financially.
De Blasio specifically referred to the way funds have allegedly been taken from the MTA in the past to fund other projects, such as the new Kosciuszko Bridge: “$456 million taken away from the MTA, given to the state budget during this governor’s term, syphoned off literally from taxes earmarked for revenue for the MTA.
During his weekly WNYC appearance, the mayor continued: “Simple, give that money back to the MTA. It never should have been taken away from the MTA to begin with. The city didn’t do that, the state did that. So that’s literally what covered the entire price tag of this short-term plan. That’s what they should do as an immediate action. They should also obviously cancel this plan for the light show on the Kosciuszko Bridge; give that money to the MTA.”
City Comptroller Scott Stringer recently expressed his support for the city to pay half the tab to stabilize the subway system fraught with delays and breakdowns.
Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhall