To the Editor:
Re: “Bill de Blasio Needs to Get to Work” ( New York Times editorial, Oct. 7):
It is hard to disagree with the call for the mayor to refocus on local problems after his withdrawal from the presidential race. But the editorial board’s agenda for the balance of the mayor’s term is pretty one-sided.
You urge expanded investment in affordable housing, public hospitals, safer streets and other worthy causes. But what about fiscal challenges, unfunded pension and health care benefits due public employees, and mounting debt?
“The MTA Board’s unanimous approval of a $51.5 billion, five year capital plan signals consensus on a program that, when successfully implemented, will dramatically improve our regional transit system. We congratulate the MTA leadership and Governor Cuomo for laying out clear priorities and the funding commitments required to achieve them. Through the Transit Innovation Partnership, the business community is working closely with the Governor and the MTA to ensure that New York becomes the global leader in public transportation. Nothing is more important to New York’s economic well-being,” said Kathryn Wylde, President and CEO of the Partnership for New York City.
“Today, the MTA has laid out a clear agenda for capital investment over the next five years that is required to achieve a world class transit system. The business community is heartened by what is clearly an acceleration in upgrades of services, equipment and accessibility and will put its expertise and resources to work in support of this plan,” said Kathryn Wylde, President and CEO of the Partnership for New York City.
The Partnership for New York City submitted the following comments to the MTA in response to far-reaching proposed regulations on the debarment of contractors.
The Partnership for New York City is compelled to comment on proposed regulations promulgated pursuant to Section 1279-h of the Public Authorities Law, enacted as part of the 2020 budget. Typically, we would defer to industry experts to argue the details of regulations, but this is a case where poorly conceived regulations will almost certainly present a significant obstacle to necessary improvements in our regional transportation infrastructure and, consequently, result in a negative impact on the economy of the city and state.
In short, the regulations make the risk associated with winning an MTA contract so extreme that responsible contractors are highly unlikely to bid. The unilateral risks imposed on contractors by these draft regulations are both substantive and political. The substantive risks relate to the fact that the MTA both defines the terms of contracts and change orders and is the sole arbiter in the event of disputes. The political risk is that the MTA is effectively controlled by the Governor and other elected officials who appoint its board and control its funding. For a contractor bidding on a large MTA procurement, these combined risk factors, under the terms of the proposed regulations, are impossible to effectively manage. As a result, responsible contractors are unlikely to participate in MTA procurement and the result will be the inability of the MTA to complete essential transportation infrastructure projects.
It is clear that some action was required to ensure that the MTA and its projects are not held captive by relatively few large vendors and contractors who are willing and able to do business with the authority. The threat of debarment for verified poor performance is a reasonable condition of procurement contracts. But the proposed regulations impose conditions that are impossible for responsible vendors and contractors to fulfill since a failure on the part of the MTA to perform its side of the contractual obligations is not accounted for. Unfortunately, it is the experience of virtually all MTA contractors that the authority is likely to be the primary source of time delays and cost overruns on major projects.
The transformation process being undertaken by the MTA, pursuant to the state budget, promises to result in more predictable costs and improved project management. This should result in more competition for MTA procurements and better performance by both the agency and its vendors. Unfortunately, as written, the proposed regulations on debarment threaten the progress toward a more efficient and predictable procurement process and better cost controls.
The Partnership urges the MTA Board to work with industry and business experts to adjust the proposed regulations on debarment to standards that improve performance without jeopardizing the authority’s ability to secure solid and competitive contracts. The Partnership would be willing to identify experts to help in this process and to develop regulations that protect the public interest while encouraging participation by top-quality contractors and vendors.
Four Companies Chosen for MTA Pilot Projects through the Transit Tech Lab
Press Conference Streamed Live at youtube.com/MTAinfo
At a press conference today, leadership from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) and the Partnership for New York City jointly announced the successful completion of the Transit Tech Lab, an accelerator program that enables tech companies to test and introduce new products designed to improve transit services. Starting today, four of the six companies graduating from the accelerator will begin pilots with the MTA to implement products that address key subway and bus challenges.
“As the MTA experiences a period of historic reform, transformation, and innovation, we’re leveraging this new model for evaluating and introducing technologies that address some of our most critical challenges. The result is an inaugural Transit Tech Lab that far surpassed our expectations,” said Patrick Foye, Chairman & CEO of the MTA. “We are eager to develop these mobility technologies over the next year to improve subway and bus service for riders across New York City.”
“Thanks to the leadership of the MTA and the ingenuity of Transit Tech Lab finalists, New York City’s transit riders will benefit from mobility technologies designed to improve operations and customer service,” said Natalia Quintero, Director of the Transit Tech Lab.
Following a global competition last Fall, in which nearly 100 companies participated, six finalists were selected for the inaugural class of the Transit Tech Lab. Over eight weeks, the companies worked closely with New York City Transit and MTA personnel to test how their products could improve service and customer communications.
Two companies will advance to the pilot phase for the subway challenge:
- Axon Vibe provides smartphone app technology that enables public transport operators to deliver personalized communications based on users’ commuting behavior. If service is changed, MTA can proactively notify the impacted users (taking into consideration their location and context) and provide alternative transportation suggestions based on rider’s anticipated destination and commuting preferences.
- Veovo instantly measures the number of passengers moving through a subway station to identify crowding and make service more efficient. The MTA can use this information to improve the deployment of staff to stations, change train distribution and plan more efficient station design.
Two companies will advance to the pilot phase for the bus challenge:
- Preteckt studies vehicle data from buses to predict system failures at least 48 hours before the Check Engine light is activated and the bus must be removed from service. Preteckt’s insights have the potential to reduce time spent on maintenance, prevent service disruptions and reduce fleet costs.
- Remix provides software for designing transit systems that enables MTA planners to more quickly and efficiently produce the bus network redesign outlined in the Fast Forward NYC Plan. To ensure equitable access and support public engagement, Remix’s technology uses public demographic data and generates easy-to-understand transit maps for community feedback.
The Transit Tech Lab is managed by the nonprofit Transit Innovation Partnership, led by Rachel Haot, previously the first Chief Digital Officer for New York City and the first Chief Digital Officer for New York State, and the Partnership Fund for New York City, led by Maria Gotsch. It is modeled after the highly successful FinTech Innovation Lab that the Partnership Fund has run for the past nine years and played a critical role in establishing New York City as a hub for the global financial technology industry. The goal of the Transit Tech Lab is to establish New York as the center of innovation for mobility, particularly as it relates to public transit.
Today, the Partnership for New York City submitted testimony to the Taxi and Limousine Commission Hearing on High-Volume For-Hire Service Provider Congestion Rules
Thank you Chair Heinzen and members of the Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) for the opportunity to submit written comments on the proposed high-volume for-hire service provider (HVFHSP) rules. The Partnership for New York City represents the city’s business leaders and largest private sector employers. We work together with government, labor and the nonprofit sector to maintain the city’s position as a global center for commerce and innovation.
We urge the TLC to hold off on adopting proposed regulations that would prevent the issuance of new for-hire vehicle (FHV) licenses and limit FHV travel without passengers in Manhattan below 96th street. In the past year, the FHV industry has had to absorb many new rules and charges including the congestion surcharge and new formulas for paying drivers. The TLC should allow time to assess the impact of these rules on the industry, its customers and mobility throughout the city before taking further action.
For-hire vehicles have become a significant and valued part of transportation services in New York. As this industry matures, we should be seeking to ensure that it is competitive and responsive to needs of our very diverse communities. Over-regulation at this early stage in development of the industry risks market distortion and inadvertent bias for or against a business model or company.
FHVs are particularly important in transit deserts that are not well-served by public transit, where FHVs may be the only good option. To ensure adequate service to these areas, it is important that companies can license sufficient cars and drivers. The proposed cap on new licenses and driver pay rules may not support that objective. It is important to study how these rules affect citywide services before further regulating the industry.
Furthermore, high-occupancy FHVs should not be subject to the license cap or per capita charges that discourage shared rides. The TLC should exempt these vehicles in order to reduce congestion and advance environmental goals. The Partnership was an early supporter of congestion pricing and we are inaugural members of the OneNYC Advisory Board which has assisted in developing city initiatives that promote reduction in carbon emissions. Encouraging more shared rides in multi-passenger vehicles is part of these goals.
Op-Ed for the New York Daily News
The MTA bureaucracy has a history of paying consultants to tell them what they want to hear. In that sense, the report on MTA reorganization that was issued on Friday is a breakthrough.
AlixPartners, a consulting firm that specializes in restructuring troubled organizations, has put out an initial report that does not gloss over the serious problems confronting the MTA. It is honest about the current dysfunction of the regional transit system and presents some pretty bold ideas for how to fix it. Their straightforward approach was possible because the client for this report was not the MTA, but the governor and state Legislature, who ordered the preparation of a reorganization plan as part of this year’s state budget.
If successfully implemented, the recommendations outlined promise fundamental improvement in how the $18-billion-a-year MTA behemoth carries out its critical mission.
“The New York-New Jersey metropolitan region, with $1.8 trillion in economic output, is one of the largest regional economies in the world. To adequately service the employers and workers who generate this economic activity requires continuous investment in modernization and expansion of airports, rail and other transportation infrastructure. The business community fully backs the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey’s proposal to increase tolls and fares in order to fund the transportation projects outlined in the authority’s Capital Plan,” said Kathryn Wylde, President and CEO of the Partnership for New York City.
Today, the Partnership for New York City submitted testimony to the City Council in support of a plan for non-exclusive commercial waste zones, which will deliver environmental and safety improvements while ensuring good customer service and competitive pricing.
Thank you Chair Reynoso and members of the committee for the opportunity to testify on Int. 1574 concerning the establishment of commercial waste zones. The Partnership for New York City represents the city’s business leaders and largest private sector employers. We work together with government, labor and the nonprofit sector to enhance the economy of the five boroughs of New York City.
The Partnership has been a strong advocate of efforts to improve air quality and reduce traffic. We are inaugural members of the OneNYC Advisory Board which has assisted in developing city initiatives that promote reduction in carbon emissions and improved resiliency and public health. Commercial waste zones are one mechanism for advancing all these goals.
For more than two years, we participated in the Commercial Waste Zones Advisory Board convened by the Department of Sanitation (DSNY) and the Business Integrity Commission (BIC). The purpose was to gather input to inform the zone plan for commercial waste. The most important issue for the business community in these conversations is whether the zones would be exclusive (i.e., only one carter in each zone) or non-exclusive (i.e., multiple carters in each zone). It became clear to us and many members of the Advisory Board that the zone plan must not involve an exclusive franchise, or we will have a monopoly situation that works for no one, with the likelihood of reverting to the type of corruption that existing before BIC was put in place. We contend that non-exclusive zones can achieve environmental and safety objectives while still ensuring good customer service and competitive pricing.
Int. 1574 ignores the recommendations of the Advisory Board for non-exclusive zones for reasons that we do not understand. The Draft Generic Environmental Impact Statement (DGEIS) prepared by DSNY concluded that the lack of competition inherent in exclusive zones is likely to cause increased prices and a deterioration of customer service. Few carters have the capacity to exclusively service an entire zone, suggesting that this policy would result in most of the city’s commercial carters going out of business and creating a monopoly within zones. Customers would lose all bargaining power and incentives to provide good service would disappear.
The Partnership enthusiastically supports the DSNY/BIC plan for non-exclusive commercial waste zones, which is the product of extensive discussions with stakeholders and a recognition of the drawbacks to exclusive zones. The DGEIS found no significant differences in the reduction of vehicle miles traveled (a key measure related to truck traffic and emissions) between exclusive and non-exclusive zone plans.
We also urge that large commercial customers from whom waste is picked up and directly transported to a transfer station be exempt from zone requirements, since there would be no benefit of forcing them to use the zone hauler.
“The state legislature has come out with a reform package on rent regulations that protects tenants at the expense of preserving their homes. The city’s older, regulated apartment buildings require constant upgrading and modernization. The proposed reforms substantially eliminate the tools that owners, investors and lenders have relied upon for funding building improvements and provide no replacement. Absent provisions to encourage private investment in rental housing through tax incentives or other means, this rent reform package will inevitably lead to the same loss of decent, middle class housing that we experienced in the 1970’s and 1980’s. It is not enough to maintain affordability if it means tenants are living in terrible conditions, as we have seen with the deterioration of the NYCHA public housing stock. The proposed legislation sets up the city’s regulated rental housing to experience the same disinvestment as NYCHA, which ignores a lesson that we should have learned by now,” said Kathryn S. Wylde, President and CEO of the Partnership for New York City.