A consumer watchdog group is urging the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) to consider using a public-private partnership to repair and maintain New York City’s deteriorating subway stations.
The MTA’s assessment of the city’s 467 subway stations reveals that even after repair projects in the Authority’s 2010-2014 capital plan have been completed, more than 20 percent of all stations’ structural components (such as ventilators, platform edges and staircases) still will require repairs that affect operations and safety, reported the nonprofit Citizens Budget Commission (CBC).
Only 76 of the system’s stations are in a state of good repair and more than half of the structural components in 33 stations that are in the worst condition need to be fixed. However, at the current pace of work, making all necessary repairs to the system will take more than 50 years.
In addition to diverting funds from expansion projects to repair work and improving project management, MTA could “assign to a private firm or consortium responsibility for financing and implementing capital work and maintaining those stations over their expected useful life,” the group said. In return, the firm could pursue revenue from station concessions and advertising but the MTA may have to offer performance-based availability payments to the developer as well, advised CBC.
“The cost of private capital would be higher than interest on capital raised directly by the MTA through tax-exempt borrowing; however, these costs may be more than offset by private firms’ more efficient construction, reduced upkeep costs of better-designed stations, more diligent maintenance cycles, and more aggressive and imaginative pursuit of revenue opportunities at stations,” the group said in its report.
New York City has already seen a creative solution to making improvements at one subway station. To win access to airspace to build an office tower in Manhattan, SL Green Realty agreed to spend more than $200 million for improvements to the nearby Grand Central subway station.
Adding a successful subway station P3 could spur the development of more projects that would help MTA upgrade and maintain its vital but struggling transportation network, CBC suggested. “… [A] well-designed experiment at subway stations could lead to a model that allows an increased pace of investment as well as a higher standard of maintenance than has been achieved by the MTA in recent years.”