Governor Cuomo Signs Bill Requiring Advance Public Disclosure of the MTA’s Capital Plan

Governor Andrew Cuomo has signed Assemblyman David Buchwald’s bill to require the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) to release its proposed capital plans to the public before the MTA Board votes on it.

In past years, the MTA Board has approved billions of dollars in capital spending without disclosing the details to the public in advance. No state law required the MTA to make its proposed capital plans public until after the board had already voted on it. In 2015, the agency voted to spend $29 billion dollars on improvements and expansion based on a document that had not been shared with the public. Therefore, the public was unable to participate in any open comment period on the plan or to otherwise scrutinize what the spending was before it was approved. The MTA typically approves capital plans on a 5-year basis, but also relatively frequently amends those capital plans.

“Thanks to the Governor’s signing my bill into law, the MTA can no longer leave the public in the dark while making multi-billion dollar capital program spending decisions,” said Assemblyman David Buchwald (D-Westchester). “The MTA should be striving to be as transparent as possible, especially when it comes to the long-term health of our regional transportation system-commuters and taxpayers demand no less.”

“The process through which the MTA’s capital plan is approved should be open to the public,” said Jaqi Cohen, Campaign Coordinator for the Straphangers Campaign. “This act will improve the transparency and accountability of the MTA’s planning process by requiring the agency to allow public access of the proposed capital through the MTA’s website once it is released to the MTA board. This will empower riders, providing them with greater access to the decision making process.”

Nick Sifuentes, Executive Director of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign said, “To the average subway rider, guessing what the MTA's priorities are is a lot like waiting for a delayed train--you never know when what you need is going to show up. Now, thanks to the leadership of Assembly Member Buchwald and his colleagues, transit riders can read for themselves what the MTA plans to do to fix our system--and call for changes if they don't like what they see.”

John Raskin, Executive Director of the Riders Alliance, said, “MTA capital programs involve tens of billions of dollars in public spending and impact the lives of nine million people who use the subway, bus, commuter rail and bridges and tunnels every day. Transit riders, drivers, and taxpayers have a right to know how Governor Cuomo is spending their money and whether the MTA's plans reflect the best priorities for investment and spending. Plans will be better when the public has a chance to scrutinize them and weigh in. Thanks to Assembly Member Buchwald for his leadership in bringing transparency and principles of open government to the multi-billion dollar question of transit funding.”

To ensure public disclosure, and improve the transparency and accountability of the MTA, the new law (Chapter 452 of the Laws of 2017) requires the agency to publically post on its website a capital program plan proposal at the same time the committees of the MTA Board are presented those proposals. The bill that became the new law (A.1250/S.5159) was sponsored by Assemblyman David Buchwald and Senator Michael H. Razenhofer (R-Amherst).