Good morning and welcome.
I would first like to thank John Jay College of Criminal Justice and President Jeremy Travis for hosting us.
I would also like to thank the many co-sponsors, speakers and panelists who have joined us.
We have a great group of business, labor and community leaders in this room—all of whom care about New York deeply and want to help shape the future of our city.
It breaks my heart to mention one amazing woman who's not with us—Pat Dolan, a tireless and passionate advocate for her home borough of Queens.
We tragically lost her this week, and I dedicate this conference to her.
If we come away from this conference with some practical ways to make New York better, we will have served Pat's memory well.
Transportation is one of the fundamental keys to making New York better—to making our city a destination for people and businesses from all over the world.
No other region has such a wealth of options. We have commuter trains, subways, buses, ferries, bike lanes and even an aerial tram.
And no other system is so critical to the everyday lives of residents. New Yorkers account for almost a third of all public-transit commuters in the entire country.
But we have literally and figuratively come to a standstill.
Last year, congestion robbed the region of almost $10 billion in lost productivity and excess fuel consumption.
And despite three rounds of fare hikes and service cuts, the MTA's capital budget is still deep in the red.
This fiscal crisis will saddle the MTA and New York taxpayers with as much as $6.9 billion in new debt in the coming years.
Let's speak frankly: no one is blameless for the MTA's financial woes—not the state, not the city, not the MTA.
We have to do more than figure out how to squeeze even more money out of a tax base still reeling from the Great Recession. We need to make every dollar count.
To do this, we need to get to the bottom of why the price tags for MTA projects are so astronomical compared to projects in other developed nations.
The first phase of the Second Avenue Subway is costing $2.7 billion per mile of new tunnel.
And the extension of the 7 Flushing Line from Times Square to the Javits Center comes in at $2.1 billion per mile.
In comparison, London built the Jubilee subway line—a 9.9-mile route that crosses the Thames River four times—at a cost of $700 million per mile.
Similar projects in Paris, Berlin and Tokyo cost between $370 million to $450 million per mile.
We cannot build a 21st century system that can compete globally if we continue to spend five, six, even seven times as much on construction as our competitors.
It would be easy to point the finger at organized labor. But unions are not the problem.
London, Berlin and Paris all have unionized workforces with generous benefits for workers.
The reality is, there are many reasons for the outsize costs of construction in New York and all must be addressed.
We must scrutinize work rules for waste and abuse.
We must take on the high cost of regulation, which has been cited by Buzz Paaswell, Director of City College's Transportation Center, as a major factor for cost overruns.
And we must do more to get a clear picture of what lies under our city's streets.
Last year, I asked the MTA Inspector General to investigate cost overruns on the Second Avenue Subway.
And here is one of the things they found: Not knowing the locations of public utility lines has driven up costs by more than $80 million and will delay the line's completion by at least six months.
The technology that could help us conduct a census of the tangled web of pipes, transmission wires and cables under our streets already exists.
Con Ed piloted this around the World Trade Center site and along 149th Street and Southern Boulevard in the Bronx, where old trolley tracks run right next to high-voltage transmission lines.
Now, Con Ed knows exactly where those tracks are—and that saves time and money.
In Delhi, the Indian government will deploy geo-spatial technologies to map all of that city's underground utilities.
New York City must make the most of these new developments to maintain its global competitiveness.
That is why today I am calling on the city and state to convene a panel of experts to study how we can conduct a complete census of sub-surface utilities.
We have no other choice. We can't afford to continue jumping into projects blind.
With more information—the right information—infrastructure works can finish on time and on budget.
I also urge the new MTA chairman, my friend, Joseph Lhota, to take a hard look at MTA capital construction and make recommendations to drive down costs.
Two years ago, Jay Walder described an “MTA premium”—the gap between the cost of doing business in New York and doing business abroad.
Walder identified the problem. Now it is up to Joe to find the solution.
The MTA premium is not fair. It is not right. It is hurting New York. And it must end—now.
Despite these problems, there is no doubt we are blessed with an extraordinary subway system.
It includes 468 stations and more than 200 miles of track, carrying over 1.6 billion riders a year.
However, even this grand system does not serve all boroughs and communities equally.
Too many areas are shut off from the subway and lack frequent or reliable access to the bus network.
Let me explain what I mean:
- In City Island in the Bronx, the average commute exceeds 60 minutes and many residents depend on an express bus that takes 75 minutes to reach Midtown.
- In Beechhurst and College Point in Queens, commute times are just as long. These neighborhoods are far from the subway system and have many elderly residents who depend on reliable, accessible transportation.
- The story is the same in Mill Basin in Brooklyn, a neighborhood that is served by an express bus that takes over an hour to reach Midtown at more than twice the cost of a subway fare.
- And on the North Shore of Staten Island, commuters must endure a painfully slow bus ride to connect to the ferry at St. George—while the North Shore Rail Line goes unused. Light rail or bus rapid transit could speed up travel in the area by more than 70 percent.
These are just a few of the communities in our city that must be brought into a true five-borough blueprint.
We face many challenges—some huge—but I am still optimistic about New York's continued dominance on the global stage.
We must not forget that our city's unique position is due in large part to the investments our predecessors made a century ago, when they designed and constructed our then state-of-the-art transportation system, the likes of which the world had never seen.
Our job is to ensure that we make a similar commitment to investing in transit for the next generation of New Yorkers.
Whether our city falls behind or races ahead tomorrow may very well depend on the choices we make today.
Office of Manhattan Borough President Scott M. Stringer • 212.669.8300
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The Manhattan Borough Presidentís Office is an Equal Opportunity Employer.