New York Assembly Members Urge the MTA to Add Critical Project for the Metro-North Railroad in the 2020-2024 Capital Plan

A bipartisan letter signed by 26 Members of the Assembly representing Bronx, Dutchess, Orange, Putnam, Rockland and Westchester Counties calls on MTA Chairman Foye to add critically needed projects currently left out of the $51.5 billion MTA Capital Plan
March 3, 2020

Tarrytown, NY – The members of the New York State Assembly representing the communities that rely the most upon the Metro-North Railroad sent a public letter to MTA Chair Pat Foye and held a press conference near the Tarrytown Metro-North station to highlight the many critically needed projects that are not funded in the current version of the MTA Capital Plan for 2020-2024.

The letter was signed by 26 members of the Assembly, all representing districts that Metro-North trains run through, from the Bronx to Dutchess County. Of the $51.5 billion total spending approved by the MTA Board for the five-year Capital Plan, Metro-North Railroad would receive $4.7 billion. Although the legislators acknowledged that this amount is greater than the amounts provided over the last few capital plans, there are still many projects left out of the plan whose absence would dramatically impede the commuter railroad’s ability to maintain a state of good repair, to ensure system reliability, and to make all stations fully ADA accessible – particularly many stations that serve as a primary means of transportation for low-income communities and seniors.

“Given that the implementation of capital plans often has room for flexibility, we encourage you and the MTA Board to actively seek ways that these projects can be added to the capital construction plans within the 2020-2024 timeframe,” the letter concludes. “Our residents and your customers deserve no less.”

The letter enumerates a number of projects conspicuous by their absence, including:

  • Replacing all 200 M3 cars that reached the end of their useful life in 2018.
  • Building all needed power substations to support the planned third track on the Harlem line.
  • Making all stations ADA accessible. Approximately 22% of stations would not be accessible at the conclusion of the five-year plan as approved.
  • Providing safety improvements at stations, including security cameras to monitor for criminal activity and potential suicides.
  • Sufficiently funding work to begin a Westside Access option to Penn Station on the Hudson Line and a one-seat ride from Rockland County into Manhattan.
  • Funding for planning studies for many identified planning projects and parking considerations.

“If more investment isn’t made in this capital plan, Metro-North may be the next transit crisis,” said Assemblymember Amy Paulin (D-Scarsdale), Chair of the Committee on Corporations, Authorities, and Commissions which is the main committee in the Assembly for issues relating to the MTA. “Although this capital plan is leaps and bounds better than prior plans, in which Metro-North was an afterthought, we see many other areas, including replacing train cars that have outlived their useful life and ADA accessibility, where progress still falls short. My district alone contains multiple stations that would continue to be inaccessible for those with disabilities, including stations heavily used by middle and low-income commuters.”

“While it is encouraging to see that the upcoming MTA capital plan includes a significant increase in investment for our Metro-North riders who rely on that service, there must also be commitments to correct many previous years of underinvestment,” said Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz (D - Bronx). “It is imperative that we work towards full ADA compliance in the Metro-North system, including hard-to-reach stations such as Spuyten Duyvil, as well as laying groundwork for West Side Access on the Hudson Line. The best way to get people not to drive is by making mass transit the clearly superior option, and this is our opportunity to make significant strides towards that goal.”

“Rockland commuters deserve better; plain and simple,” said Assemblyman Ken Zebrowski (D-Rockland County). “Manhattan is a mere 30 miles from Rockland and we still don’t have a one-seat ride into the city. To add insult to injury, my residents have suffered through countless delays and cancellations with zero indication of when vital express trains will be restored. There must be a better option for West-of-Hudson commuters, and we won’t stop until there is some equity on this side of the river.”

“I am pleased that the MTA has responded to the coalition of Assembly members and has withdrawn its proposed parking fee increases,” said Assemblymember Jonathan Jacobson (D-Newburgh). “Our coalition is unified to make sure that the next step is for the MTA to amend its capital plan to include new trains and more parking for those of us in the Hudson Valley.”

“Bronx residents are extremely excited about plans for expanded Metro-North service and new stations in our borough, but we cannot lose sight of the existing service needs and the historical imbalance that prior capital plans have placed on these vital transportation corridors,” said Assemblyman Marcos A. Crespo (D-Bronx). “It is crucial for Bronx residents as well as our neighbors in surrounding counties that we invest more aggressively in Metro-North infrastructure such as rolling stock and ADA accessibility in all stations. Only this way can we assure the most reliable service to improve both the quality of life and employment opportunities of our constituents.”

“The Metro-North Railroad needs adequate funding to improve services for our constituents as well as everyone that utilizes it,” said Assemblyman Gary Pretlow (D-Mount Vernon). “Underfunding should no longer be tolerated, and we must fight to improve all services to maximize safety and comfort.”

“Looking back at the history of the railroads in the Metro-North region, it will remind us of the disaster that can happen if we allow rolling stock to age and function poorly, leaving commuters with a deteriorated rail system,” said Assemblywoman Sandy Galef (D-Ossining). “The full complement of 200 railcars must be funded in the 2020-24 Capital Plan. These improvements, as well as others we recommend in the next Capital Plan, are paramount to my constituents who rely on Metro-North service.”

“We in the Bronx are looking forward to finally getting our much-anticipated Metro-North stations,” said Assemblyman Michael Benedetto (D-Bronx). “We want our service to be properly funded, and we are urging the MTA to do right by the Bronx.”

“While I am grateful for the 4.7 billion dollars allocated for Metro-North projects in the 2020-2024 capital plan, portions of this funding should be earmarked to improve the Pascack Valley and Port Jervis lines,” said Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffee (D-Suffern), Chair of the Committee on Children and Families. “Many Rockland residents use the Pascack valley and Port Jervis lines to commute to work. The needs of these riders must also be considered in the MTA’s improvement plan. I urge the MTA Board to fund upgrades to these lines in order to better serve our commuters.”

“The proposed MTA Capital Plan does not meet the transportation needs of the Lower Hudson Valley, especially given the historic underinvestment in this part of the MTA,” said Assemblyman David Buchwald (D-Westchester) a former Chairman of the Metro-North Railroad Commuter Council. “Without significant improvements to the proposed 5-year capital plan, an economic lifeline to the northern suburbs of New York will be at risk, both as to current service as well as capacity to address our society’s growing need for reliable mass transit options.”

“Riders pay more than their fair share of the costs of a Metro North ride,” said Assemblyman Tom Abinanti (D-Greenburgh/Mt. Pleasant). “The new MTA capital plan again shortchanges Metro-North – a billion dollars – and again fails to fund needed promised Metro-North improvements. The MTA capital plan needs to be amended before it is finalized.”

“Public transportation has long been a cost-effective and energy-efficient way for New Yorkers to get around,” said Assemblymember Didi Barrett (D-Dutchess). “Services like Metro-North have helped bring my constituents downstate for work and pleasure, and new visitors upstate to enjoy the great beauty of the Hudson Valley. However, a system like this is only effective when it works for the people. In recent years, dealing with public transit has often become more headache than help due to overcrowding, incessant delays, and skyrocketing fares. Whether it's providing ample parking at Metro-North stations for visitors and commuters, or ensuring trains are reliable and on-time, our public transit system needs repair so New Yorkers can keep moving forward, safely and efficiently.”

“It is important that we work with MTA to make sure that existing and future overcrowding on Metro-North is addressed with increased seat capacity, additional cars and the financial commitment to keep pace with growing ridership,” said Assemblyman Steve Otis (D-Westchester) and a member of the Assembly Corporations, Authorities, and Commissions Committee. “We look forward to working with MTA on these goals which they share.”

“The Metro-North is a vital resource that allows Bronxites to have access to new job opportunities in upper New York and Connecticut,” said Assemblymember Victor M. Pichardo (D-Bronx). “We NEED more funding for this service in the Capital Plan to ensure that this line is more accessible, frequent, and safe for all riders. I am glad to join my colleagues in demanding this increased funding. We MUST ensure that our community members can rely on a functional transportation system to get to their work, whether it be our subway, buses, or the Metro-North line.”

“This investment is vital to commuters throughout my district. Ensuring the Metro-North provides ADA accessibility and safety improvements for riders is a top priority,” said Assemblymember Latoya Joyner (D-Bronx).

“While the 2020-24 Capital Plan had allocated much needed funds for the improvement of our transit system, there is still much more that needs to be done to ensure that all New Yorkers are privy to good, reliable service in their daily commute,” said Assemblywoman Nathalia Fernandez (D-Bronx). “By making the proper investments, we can ensure the Metro-North stays reliable, accessible, and in good condition, and our constituents deserve nothing less than that.”

“Metro-North is a vital connector that serves as an artery for people commuting to and from our region,” said Assemblyman Nader Sayegh (D-Yonkers). “Today, customers are making use of aging infrastructure which is years beyond its useful life. This is unacceptable. New Yorkers cannot afford to wait for these much-needed enhancements to accessibility, reliability, and safety to be addressed. I’m proud to stand alongside my colleagues in urging for these concerns to be taken into consideration in the 2020-2024 Capital Plan, as originally intended.”

“I’m proud to join my colleagues from across the region to bring greater attention to the needs of the Metro-North region in the MTA Capital Plan,” said Assemblyman Kevin Byrne (R,C,Ref-Mahopac). “While commuters and users of Metro-North may not be residents of New York City, they remain a key part of what keeps the economic engine in the city working. We must continue to work together to make sure their capital needs are thoughtfully considered and met.”

“I am proud to join my Assembly colleagues to demand increased funding from the MTA,” said Assemblyman Colin Schmitt (R,C,I-New Windsor). “Far too often, the priorities and needs of the west of Hudson commuters who utilize Metro-North every single day get ignored. Orange and Rockland counties receive only 70 cents of service for every dollar sent to the MTA, and our commuters are forced to deal with a public transportation system that is unaffordable, unreliable, and unsafe. This is completely unacceptable, and it is time that our commuters stop getting a raw deal from the MTA. West of Hudson commuters deserve better. It is of critical importance that we have adequate investment in this upcoming MTA Capital Plan to ensure safety, reliability and quality for west of Hudson commuters. I will continue to stand with every commuter and advocate during this continued battle with MTA for fair treatment and funding.”

“The best public transit system is one that works for everyone,” said Lauren Bailey, Director of Climate Policy for Tri-State Transportation Campaign. “The proven way to reduce congestion and improve air quality is to encourage people to take transit, and the current Metro-North system is falling short of many people’s needs. The MTA’s 2020-24 Capital Plan is a historic investment in the entire greater New York system, but Metro-North still needs improvements in safety, accessibility, and infrastructure if we want to see a reduction in personal vehicle usage. With congestion pricing coming into effect, we look forward to major system improvements to reduce – and even eliminate – commuters’ reliance on their cars.”

“Improved reliability, better access, and expansion of Metro-North's network are all crucial aspects of keeping our region's rail transit an effective option for commuters and travelers,” said Brian Fritsch, Manager, Advocacy Campaigns for Regional Plan Association. “In order to have an environmentally sound and sustainable network that works for all of us, it is crucial that we continue to make investments in our mass transit infrastructure. Today's announcement is essential for making our system work for everyone.”