M.T.A. board members slowly begin taking control of agency reform efforts

At Wednesday’s M.T.A. board meeting, the authority’s board members continued the new trend of taking more responsibility for reforming the hobbled agency, without necessarily having the air cover of the politicians that appointed them.

The role of the board has long been debated, since the Governor appoints a plurality of its members, and also approves all major leadership positions. Last June, board member Veronica Vanterpool said that the board had been “neutered from making decisions on behalf of the public.”

However, board members have started taking to the press to voice their opinions on how to solve the region’s many transit crises — an editorial from members Scott Rechler and Carl Weisbrod appeared in Wednesday’s Daily News advocating for the adoption of congestion pricing to supply additional revenue to the agency.

Several members have also called for the full board to pass a resolution approving of the strategy, bucking the trend of the agency being agnostic about its funding sources.

The members have also pushed M.T.A. Chairman Joe Lhota, both publicly and privately, for the creation of so-called board “working groups,” to examine key business areas that need improvements, such as capital construction and procurements, paratransit, and accessibility.

The fruits of these labors have started to show with the updates presented at Wednesday’s meeting.

Scott Rechler, the CEO of RXR Realty and the leader of the capital construction working group, said that the current process for managing megaprojects is “more than broken… it really means ripping up what we had and starting over again.”

Charles Moerdler followed with a report on his procurement working group, and said that the lengthy and convoluted procurement process at New York City Transit could be “shortened by two-thirds.” He added that the process should take advantage of modern technology, giving an example where just getting approval signatures on a finalized procurement previously took forty days, and was now cut down to only six.

Veronica Vanterpool, the head of the paratransit group, noted initial strides made, such as the introduction of a new Bill of Rights for customers and new vehicle location technology. However, she said that like the other operating agencies part of the M.T.A., “paratransit needs a strategic plan.”

Ira Greenberg wrapped up with a presentation on accessibility, saying that the group was focusing on reviewing existing programs underway, and examining the criteria for which stations are chosen for new elevator installations.

“I think we have an opportunity as a board to work together, a lot better than we have,” Lhota said.

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