MTA Board Member on Cuomo’s L-Train Bombshell: It’s Been a ‘Wild’ Ride

This is what happens when transit is bad. Photo: Lorraine Cink/Twitter
This is what happens when transit is bad. Photo: Lorraine Cink/Twitter
David Jones
MTA Board member David Jones. Photo: Gersh Kuntzman

The last thing you want when you’re running a railroad is a “wild” ride.

But that’s exactly what MTA board members got on Thursday when Gov. Cuomo torpedoed a complete 15-month shutdown of the L train tunnel for urgent repairs in favor of a less-intensive, less-comprehensive, untested approach — a move Cuomo made after a brief personal “inspection” of the tunnel and without consulting the board that he claims runs the city’s subway and bus system.

“We didn’t have any warning,” board member David Jones told Streetsblog on Friday. “Suddenly it comes down: there’s a publicity trip to the tunnel and suddenly we’re confronted with a whole new reality. It’s wild.”

“Wild” is not a word Jones said he wanted to ever become affixed to the $477-million L-train shutdown, which has been in the planning process for three years.

“No,” said Jones, an appointee of Mayor de Blasio. “You’re talking about huge amounts of money, more than whole nation’s spend. It’s not inconsequential.”

Jones said he and other board members were “agitated” to be blindsided by the governor, especially with a proposed fix that would not be a complete one.

“I’m not sure if this is a tried-and-true technology,” he said. “The question is: how long is the fix? Are we going to put millions or billions into a fix that will only last a couple of years and leave it to another governor or mayor to rebuild? … I’m concerned. We just have to ask serious questions. We are going to demand [answers]. … It’s not just the mayor’s appointees. Other members of the board are just as agitated. … We’re all sort of shocked.”

MTA Board member Veronica Vanterpool.
MTA Board member Veronica Vanterpool.

Jones’s fellow de Blasio appointee on the board, Veronica Vanterpool, told Streetsblog that she’s more than shocked.

“I’m angered every single day by the quasi-process” she said. “We have a process, but we don’t have meaningful board input and our process is often superseded and circumvented. I always try to balance my anger and frustration with the merits of something. So if they can convince me this is a better alternative, then I want to be supportive of it.”

Jones said he and his fellow board members were never presented with the partial-repair option that Cuomo announced on Thursday.

“We were given just two choices: a total shutdown or one tube while they repair the other,” he said. “We have to know: if this is legitimate, why weren’t we presented with it?”

With David Meyer


Transit Riders: The MTA Can’t Run on Cuomo’s IOUs

Straphangers can’t pay the MTA with an IOU, so why should Governor Andrew Cuomo get away with it? That’s the message Riders Alliance members brought to the MTA board meeting this morning. After trying and failing to swipe into the Bowling Green subway station with a giant “IOU” Metrocard, the group proceeded to MTA headquarters. In October, […]

MTA Blame Game: Lowlights From Queens

The MTA roadshow is in full swing, with raucous public hearings on service cuts drawing hundreds in Queens and Staten Island last night. Some press outlets are questioning whether the hearings actually get anything accomplished. It’s a good question to chew on, since the MTA Board’s options are limited by the agency’s massive budget gap. […]

MTA Finds Replacement for Flashing Lights on Select Bus Service

When Select Bus Service launched in 2008, the front of each bus featured two flashing blue lights to help passengers distinguish between SBS and local buses. Years after Staten Island lawmakers exploited a legal technicality, forcing the MTA to shut the lights off, the agency has figured out a solution. The lights are important because they help people determine whether […]

MTA Maps a Five-Borough Network for Select Bus Service

At a press event yesterday to announce service restorations and upgrades, the MTA also went public with a citywide plan to expand Select Bus Service. With tunnel-boring mega-projects consuming billions of capital dollars apiece, the agency is featuring low-cost bus improvements more prominently in its strategy to increase transit capacity. Stephen Smith at the Observer reports: […]