Ameraissance of Transportation Finance

South Ferry Plaza

South Ferry Plaza Joint Development Opportunities for NYC DOT


“New York never stops. From morning-rush commuters to late-night club-goers, from school children on subways to seniors on buses, millions of people rely on the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) to get them through their daily lives. Without a robust and well-maintained network of railroads, subways, bus routes, bridges, and tunnels, New York as we know it could not function.” – Thomas F. Prendergast, MTA Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) is constantly running trains, but it is also constantly running a deficit. Unlike profitable transportation companies, such as the Hong Kong MTR, the MTA has few valuable real estate assets which could be adequately transformed into transit-oriented joint development hubs. Akin to other U.S. public transportation agencies, space for pragmatic and profitable commercial activities – including shops and offices operating on agency-owned land – is limited to a few select stations, yards, concourses, and passageways.

However, while the MTA’s ability to remain revenue-positive or self-sufficient through real estate development is impossible, the MTA could nevertheless capitalize upon its few existing assets for additional revenue. The MTA could also work with the City of New York to develop a value capture mechanism in mixed-use commercial districts accessible by subway and bus routes. Moreover, the MTA can contextually transport value capture and joint development practices from abroad and overcome organizational barriers in order to ‘transport’ the MTA’s limited portfolio of assets into ‘transformation hubs’. While there is ‘room’ for improvement, institutional barriers ranging from cultural inertia to an unhealthy relationship between the City, State, and MTA would need to be transcended through coordinated reformation efforts.

Limited assets for joint development, and bureaucratic (dis)incentives — coupled with a lack of coordination between various agencies — have created a lethargic atmosphere for American transportation finance. There are few formal PPP development processes, formal value capture mechanisms, or coordinated T.O.D. zoning regulations. Entire swaths of New York have recently been up-zoned, allowing for an increased supply of housing, but the MTA is left playing catch-up with increasingly crowded, congested, and delayed trains. Meanwhile, New York’s supposedly progressive Mayor Bill de Blasio, refuses to provide increased funding for the MTA or support congestion pricing. He currently provides a meager $100 million; the MTA needs to fill a $14 billion gap for its 2015-2019 Capital Program.

“I do believe it’s important that we get a menu of different funding sources up there that are sustainable. Sustainable in terms of the revenue they bring, and sustainable in terms of their long-term. In the sine-wave cycle that some of these revenue sources have, you hopefully have ones that are in a peak while others are in a valley. Value capture on real estate… the idea of Seven West funding, where New York City is giving us [money] to fund the 7 Line is an example of that. There are cases… where someone bought a piece of property directly adjacent to the… Second Avenue Subway, and they’re selling that property at increased value… It’s reasonable to expect that some of those profits should be shared by the people who actually made the improvements to the infrastructure and replow those revenues to further increases in the infrastructure network. The other one is cap and trade.” – Thomas F. Prendergast, MTA Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

While most public transportation agencies in the United States cannot be profitable, some public transportation corporations can be quite successful due to real estate assets. In fact, American railroads of the early 20th century maintained a profit partly due to the transportation hubs that they developed, owned, leased, or maintained vis-à-vis value capture and joint development. They did not yet have to compete with cars, trucks, planes, and the vehicular suburbanization of the latter 20th century. With less dependency came more capacity-building creativity and an incentive to actually be efficient.

Once (auto)mobility took over socially, economically, politically, and physically, these railroads could no longer compete. Government and market forces combined to suburbanize white people, divest from public transit, and build highways. Public transportation authorities were designed to operate transit, but not to own the assets that had been developed by prior companies. For American public transportation agencies today, value capture and joint development space for pragmatic and profitable commercial activities – including shops and offices operating on agency-owned land – is limited to a few select stations, yards, concourses, and passageways. The majority of profitable assets that had been owned by private railroads had long been sold before remaining infrastructure was annexed by the public sector.






Undercover Map (1972) Courtesy of John Tauranac



Advertisement at Ozone Park – Lefferts Boulevard Terminal (A Train) (Google Earth)

Advertising on the MBTA Red Line in Boston (Riel, 2015)

Potential Value Capture District on MBTA Green Line? (Riel, 2015)

MBTA Orange Line Opportunities? (Riel, 2012)

MBTA Back Bay Opportunities? (Riel, 2012)

Placemaking Opportunities? (Riel, 2012)

Private railroads built many of America’s beautiful structures. Pennsylvania Railroad built Hotel Pennsylvania across from their iconic station in the Big Apple. Meanwhile, New York Central Railroad built the Helmsley Building at Grand Central Terminal, whilst developing an entire neighborhood, known as Terminal City, atop its rail yards. Even the former Hudson and Manhattan Railroad, which built the network that the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey’s PATH subway operates today, developed the predecessor of the World Trade Center, Hudson Terminal, atop its hub in Lower Manhattan. Private railroads were profitable even in Los Angeles, where the Pacific Electric Railway system, owned by Henry Huntington, was built because “Huntington believed he could increase his fortune by coupling streetcar expansion with real estate investment – namely, purchasing inexpensive land on the metropolitan fringe and increasing its value through the provision of rail transit services” (Bernick 20, 1997).


NYC Grand Central Terminal Joint Development: Terminal City

Times Square, NYC (Riel, 2015)

Air Rights Development Atop Union Station Yards in Chicago (Riel, 2015)

…Yet, Ample Light at Chicago Union Station (Riel, 2015)

Office Space Atop Union Station in Chicago (Riel, 2015)

Retail in Chicago Union Station (Riel, 2015)


Vukan Vuchic, transportation expert, writes that since the 1980s, public agencies have been adopting “some forms and practices of private companies for greater operational efficiency” (Vuchic 299, 1999), and to reduce “political pressures and achieve competitive pricing, public agencies contract some sections of transit services to private operators” while retaining control “to ensure that public interest is not subjugated to short-term economic efficiency” (Vuchic 299, 1999). As such, public transportation agencies have begun practicing joint development, which is when they develop their assets, typically in a public-private partnership (P3).

Public transportation agencies across the United States and the world are developing land atop their stations. The 7 Line Extension to the Hudson Yards in New York has been funded entirely by 28 million square feet of value capture in Manhattan’s newest neighborhood (Rubinstein, 2014). This project did not require any funds from New York State in order to complete.

Yet no other MTA asset will reach the grandeur of Grand Central Terminal. The Beaux-Arts terminal, which only earned the MTA $7 million prior to a 1994 renovation, earned the MTA $27 million in 2011. Former MTA Chairman Joseph J. Lhota stated, “Grand Central will always be the greatest train station in the United States and the crown jewel of the MTA’s transportation network”, as it is a “focal point for the economic and social life of the region and a superb setting for the daily business of moving people” as the second most-visited place in New York City with 750,000 visitors a day. This additional real estate revenue will be used towards funding for the Second Avenue Subway, East Side Access, and the Fulton Center. The MTA may eventually buy GCT from Andrew Penson, the current owner, once his air rights have been sold as part of the East Midtown Rezoning. Alternatively, SL Green will contribute funds to the MTA for Grand Central Tower, bypassing Andrew Penson.



Future LIRR East Side Access Retail Concourse in GCT, NYC (Riel, 2015)


According to the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, the MTA provides service for one-third of the transit riders in America, employs over 67,000 workers, covers an area of approximately 5,000 square miles, and moves 8.7 million customers a day. This system spends approximately 11 billion dollars on operational costs each year, with an additional 5 billion dollars spent on maintenance and improvement. The Port Authority, meanwhile, subsidizes PATH and other development projects with tolls and fees from bridges, tunnels, and airports. 

The MTA owns and operates many rail yards, but most of them are in far-flung locations. According to Robert Paley, Director of Transit-Oriented Development at the MTA Real Estate Department, developing atop of them would require interrupting service because the tracks, unlike at the Hudson Yards in Midtown Manhattan, were not designed with adequate space for future support infrastructure (Paley, 2015). The Hudson Yards were reconfigured in the 1980s for the MTA from a freight yard for the railroad that was operating the tracks that became today’s High Line Park. The MTA’s other yards, which are not in prime locations, were not designed for future joint development, so implementing a project on these properties would be too expensive. Work would need to be completed during the night (requiring exponentially increased salaries), service would need to be disrupted, and countless engineering challenges – ranging from track ventilation to fire insulation – would need to be addressed. According to Robert Paley, due to these costs, most examples of development occurring atop rail yards are due to the yards being demolished or replaced. Brooklyn’s Atlantic Yards was moved and the Upper West Side’s Penn Yards were scrapped for Donald Trump’s Riverside South. The success of value capture at the Hudson Yards will be difficult to replicate elsewhere due to the MTA’s limited assets, and due to the difficulty in measuring increased value due to transportation.





Trump Yards, Today (Riel, 2015)


New York’s joint development concerns are shared by other American cities, which are also exploring real estate opportunities. According to the Wall Street Journal, the “nation’s transit agencies, long tasked with helping people get around, are putting more effort into giving them a place to live, work and play”. Phoenix, Arizona, and Salt Lake City, Utah, have been developing light rail, even though they are red states, because voters understand the benefits to businesses and to traffic alleviation. Phoenix, despite being in a desert where the temperatures routinely exceed 120 F in the summer, is one of the largest in the United States, and the largest in the Southwest, as well as one of the fastest growing U.S. cities due to its cheap (and sprawling) Sun Belt housing developments. With the economy recovering and with aquifers drying up, farmland is being bought for suburban housing within the blink of an eye. The city is expanding its highways and growing outward until reaching Native American land. Yet in order to keep up with growth, the city is also actively seeking to densify itself with the development of the Valley Light Rail, a clean, fast, efficient, but limited service in the region. Furthermore, the trained eye can see solar panels popping up on many rooftops.

The value capture and joint development policies that will work in New York will not necessarily work in Phoenix, or most of the rest of the country, where the cultural context (and demographics) are starkly different, leading to a different socio-spatial dynamic. After all, this is a city where it is strange to walk to destinations, where downtown consists of parking lots and empties out at night, and where public transit is only seen as a welfare service. Yet it is one of the fastest growing (and most affordable) cities in the country. The entire city is designed as a suburb bordering deserts, mountains, farms, and Native American reservations/casinos…

Light Rail Value Capture Opportunity in Phoenix, Arizona (Riel, 2015)

Phoenix Light Rail in Downtown (Riel, 2015)

Phoenix Light Rail and Bike Path (Riel, 2015)

Phoenix Light Rail Expansion (Riel, 2015)


Opportunity in Salt Lake City, Utah (Riel, 2015)

Salt Lake City Light Rail (Riel, 2015)

Salt Lake City Light Rail and Bike Infrastructure (Riel, 2015)


Moreover, the Los Angeles Metro has 80 stations, 47 of which have had land leased for development since 1999. The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority has received $20 million a year from leasing properties, including Southern California’s transportation hub: Union Station. Yet this historical terminal’s improved public spaces and new restaurants are only part of Metro’s developments; in fact, Metro is one of the largest “public real-estate developers in Los Angeles County, with thousands of residential units – many designated as affordable – on properties the agency owns and leases to developers” (Dulaney, 2014). For instance, on Hollywood Boulevard, luxury condominiums and a W Hotel above a Metro station provide $750,000 annually due to the prime T.O.D. location.

Opportunity Site for Joint Development in L.A. Metro Parking Lot (Riel, 2015)

Los Angeles Union Station Retail; Joint Development at Hollywood/Vine Station (Riel, 2015)

Los Angeles Metro Joint Development Atop Entrances on Hollywood Boulevard (Riel, 2015)


Additionally, Atlanta’s MARTA will be developing 1,400 residential units on parking lots and 50,000 square feet of retail space on property near a dozen of its 38 stations. In Washington D.C., the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, which has “one of the oldest and most established” real estate teams, “sells and leases excess land around its 91 stations”.  The revenue from these leases is transferred into a unique fund used to invest in infrastructure renewal and station accessibility. 32 leases thus far have brought in more than $140 million since 1997. These practices are being explored by the MTA as well, which faces a $15 billion gap for its capital program. According to the Wall Street Journal:

“For decades, city and county transit agencies have leased out kiosks or small storefronts in their rail stations to businesses such as newspaper stands and coffee shops. Now, agencies are far more ambitious, developing large-scale, rent-producing developments, including hotels, apartment buildings and shopping malls, around their rail hubs. Transit officials expect real estate to become an increasingly important revenue source, amid stagnant federal funding and rising costs of upkeep for aging systems. According to APTA data, public transit ridership grew 13% in the U.S. from 2000 to 2013, with commuter-rail ridership climbing 62% in the period. But riders’ fares don’t nearly cover agencies’ operating costs, at a time when their worker-related expenses such as health-care and pension costs are also rising. New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the nation’s largest transit agency, expects to pay out about $1.3 billion in pension costs this year, compared with $480 million a decade earlier”. 


Georgia Avenue-Petworth D.C. Metro Station; Retail and Housing Atop Entrance (Riel, 2015)


Union Station, D.C. (Riel, 2015); Burnham Place Air Rights Joint Development Design (Courtesy of NYT)


In Boston, New Balance is building its own commuter rail station, and other P3s are underway in the CBD. Boston’s South Station used to have plenty of commercial space, but most of it has been destroyed. North Station and South Station do not connect, and neither do the MBTA’s Red and Blue Lines. The 2024 Olympics proposal may provide an incentive for the state to fund transit improvements, even if most proposals are never built, as has been the case with Big Dig mitigation efforts. (Besides the Greenway, which cannot support development, the Big Dig has created some new real estate in ventilation structures). But the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) and MassDOT have been working on the South Station Expansion Project, a public-private partnership that would remove a “major corridor chokepoint and unlock greater growth for both intercity and commuter rail” (Fichter, 2013). The expansion plan would allow for properly-ventilated joint development atop the MBTA-owned station platforms and on adjacent properties, while expanding the number of platforms in order to increase capacity, connectivity, and growth.


Boston South Station Joint Development Proposal (Top: Riel, 2015)

This Aug.27, 2009, photo released by the Boston Red Sox shows an aerial view of Fenway Park and the skyline of Boston. The Red Sox will host the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in Game 3 of the American League Division Series at Fenway Park on Sunday, Oct. 11, 2009. (AP Photo/Boston Red Sox, Michael Ivins) **NO SALES**

Back Bay Landfill, Boston’s 19th Century ‘Big Dig’ (Source: AP Photo/Red Sox, Michael Ivins)


Back Bay Alleys (Riel, 2012)


Zakim Bridge from North End, Boston


Chicago, which is arguably the only other American city that even comes close to New York’s dense, skyscraper grandeur, complete with extensive and intensive public transit infrastructure, has similar transit woes. Danielle Dai, while a student at the University of Chicago, wrote about the CTA’s joint development practices

The success of the CTA and Apple public-private partnership for the refurbishment of the North and Clybourn Red Line station demonstrates the potential of planning and implementing joint development projects in Chicago. From my findings, I make five recommendations to make joint development a more attractive and viable option in Chicago: 1) adopt formal, yet flexible, joint development guidelines or policies; 2) support private sector participation through workshops; 3) explore opportunities within the zoning ordinance to encourage more investment in transit; 4) encourage the new transportation authorization bill to incorporate policies for joint development, value capture, public-private partnerships in transit, and transit-oriented development; and 5) open public forums to foster communication about joint development deals. (Dai)


CTA North and Clybourn Red Line Station & Apple Store in Chicago (Riel, 2015)


CTA North and Clybourn Red Line Station & Starbucks in Chicago (Riel, 2015)


Chicago’s CBD would not be nearly as dense without the Loop, yet the CTA rarely receives funding from nearby businesses for station improvements.


Chicago Loop Repairs Needed, Surrounded by TOD Wealth… (Riel, 2015)


In Hong Kong, joint development and value capture allow for the MTR Corporation, a privatized company with a majority of shareholdings owned by the government, to be a profitable public transportation company. In Hong Kong, the government is relatively centralized and land ownership laws are not as individually-oriented as in the United States. Hong Kong’s model also works because Hong Kong is one of the densest cities on the planet, and the MTR feeds people into its transit-oriented malls, apartments, and offices. According to Dorothy Chan, a Senior MTR Manager, and Sai-Ping Chin, an AECOM Executive Director, the MTR’s sustainable financial model integrates living, working, and playing into interconnected T.O.D. neighborhoods. The MTR typically owns property below ground, including countless retail outlets, and it will work with developers to sell, lease, or manage property atop its stations, including the tallest buildings of Hong Kong. According to Vukan Vuchic:

“Many extensive rail and bus transit systems in Hong Kong and Japan operate successfully under private ownership. Population densities are extremely high in Hong Kong and Japanese cities such as Tokyo and Osaka. Use of automobiles in these cities is not only limited by space, but it is more expensive than in the U.S. and most European cities. Car travel is less subsidized by direct and indirect measures, such as tax exemptions for many trip categories, company car ownership, cheap or free parking. Land uses, including major activity centers, are planned with rail transit lines and located around their stations. In Japan, many regional rail companies own housing complexes, department stores, shopping centers, amusement parks, and other commercial developments whose income is used for partial support of transit operations. Although privately owned, many transit companies have various arrangements for cooperation, financial support or guarantees by the government in such aspects as infrastructure investments and social fares”. (Vuchic 435, 2005)

By building offices, apartments, and stores directly above stations, the MTR is able to use value capture mechanisms in order to actually be profitable (Loo, 2010). Due to Hong Kong’s density, the percentage of residents who ride mass transportation is the highest in the world (Suzuki, 2013). This equitable, sustainable, and feasible efficiency (Zhao, 2011) is coupled by the fact that the government technically owns all land and leases it only for certain periods of time, it is relatively easy for the MTR to acquire parcels for transit-oriented joint development atop station entrances, and then sell or lease these properties to developers. Furthermore, unlike American public transportation authorities, the MTR is privatized and operates on commercial principles, whilst being controlled by the public vis-à-vis majority shareholdings by the local government. Public-private partnerships (P3s) require immense resources which are difficult to synergize (Enoch, 2002). Often, the public sector does not know how to regulate the private partner, and the private partner cannot think in political terms (Davis, 1986).

“Mass transit’s falling fortunes – eroding ridership, ballooning deficits, second-class image – are often explained as unavoidable consequences of the automobile’s ever-growing popularity. While true to a degree, we believe another factor, often overlooked, is that America’s cityscape has increasingly turned its back on new mass transportation investments. Too many recently built light rail, heavy rail, and commuter rail systems in the United States feature stations enveloped by parking lots, vacant parcels, open fields, warehousing, and marginal activities. This stands in marked contrast to the colorful streetcar suburbs that sprung up along trolley lines around a century ago, or to much of urban Europe where apartments, shops, cinemas, and offices continue to cluster around rail transit stops”. (Bernick XI, 1997)

In Hong Kong and Japan, railroads are profitable primarily due to mixed-use T.O.D. densities that support farebox revenues, because development nearby stations increases demand on the trains. More people live, work, and play in those areas, especially with joint development practiced on railroad property, thereby further increasing revenue and creating a positive feedback loop. Moreover, Hong Kong and Japanese cities are much denser than most American cities, for various reasons. All of this density allows for railroads to be profitable, so they are also privatized, incentivizing less bureaucratic mismanagement and less wasteful spending.

In America, Amtrak cannot be profitable, unlike Japanese railroads, which operate in a relatively small and dense country interconnected by efficient high-speed rail. The United States used to have profitable railroads, but it has since sprawled away from T.O.D. and has depended on highways. The country is also a lot bigger than Japan, and high-speed rail could make sense in only a few corridors, where it could potentially be better than flying, such as the Northeast Corridor (NEC). Along the NEC, Amtrak actually is revenue-positive, but because all of its other routes lose money, and because it has to maintain infrastructure, it requires subsidies.

This does not mean that the government should stop funding Amtrak. Highways also require subsidies, especially in rural areas, and the government is not threatening to end the Interstate Highway System. It’s a myth that the gas tax is a user fee, and that it pays for highways entirely. Indeed, the gas tax is not a user fee because drivers pay for gas even when they’re not on highways, and it also rarely covers maintenance costs for our roads by itself.

In New York, which has areas that are as dense – if not denser – than Hong Kong and Tokyo, there are areas served by subways that could be up-zoned further. However, NIMBYism tends to counter up-zoning near stations, thereby leaving stretches of the subway running below capacity. Yet where zoning has been up-zoned, trains are becoming more and more crowded, and revenue is increasing, but so are delays.

Alon Levy, who is, in my opinion, one of the best writers on transit in the world, agrees with me that T.O.D. is always good, generating demand for the MTA, especially where service capacity can be increased. Yet he is not keen on value capture for two reasons, writing:

First, it’s a tax on TOD. Do they tax new subdivisions as a way of funding roads? No, they don’t. And second, because it’s an opaque source of funding – unlike either profits from the farebox or income and sales taxes – it can be levied without either economic input from riders or political input from voters. The result is that it’s easier to waste the money.

In the end, with or without value capture mechanisms, TOD will increase ridership on the MTA. Alon Levy recommends safe and secure biking facilities at major transfer points, “especially end-of-line stations like Flushing, Jamaica Center, and Brooklyn College” and in buildings. These facilities could be part of future P3 joint development buildings atop stations. Perhaps public-private developments can halt the soaring costs of public capital construction projects in New York, which tend to be 6-7 times higher than Paris.


Flushing, Queens, NYC Business Improvement District (Riel, 2015)


So, how can we bridge the gap and invest in neighborhoods akin to those in Baltimore? Partly, with better transportation accessibility and mobility! Transportation hubs with additional ‘creative’ space don’t just increase revenue for transportation agencies. If there’s office space, retail space, and housing there as well, then it also impacts other social, economic, and political indicators. How about a rooftop farm, solar panels, community space for meetings, and local artwork to help with place-making efforts? These hubs can help to bridge the gap between communities by offering enhanced physical mobility, but also enhanced socioeconomic mobility as centers of transit-oriented employment and housing. Yet transportation cannot be ‘transported’; context is extremely important in the transformation process. Transportation infrastructure is planned in accordance with many contextual powers, identities, and ideologies. We must think beyond borders and buildings.

Transportation hub infrastructure can be transformation hub infrastructure, as it is in Hong Kong and Tokyo. But for value capture and joint development to improve in New York, the Port Authority, New Jersey Transit, Amtrak, and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority need to cooperate on regional housing and transportation planning amongst themselves and amongst respective municipalities. The bureaucratic underpinnings of these authorities do not provide incentives for collaboration, and politicians are pressured by developers to keep real estate in private hands, whilst not providing much funding for public transportation to operate and improve (Musluoglu, 2015).

From the Fulton Center and Grand Central Terminal to the Atlantic Yards and Hudson Yards, organizational barriers ranging from bureaucratic regulations and powerful public unions to a lack of public-private partnerships and collaborative efforts, coupled with a lack of opportunity sites and market potential, are stifling growth in New York City and beyond. The city will not be able to handle continued population growth without a coordinated value capture zoning mechanism for T.O.D. housing and transportation planning. Albany will remain unresponsive as long as the Governor remains unpressured to change policies, and as long as most people remain clueless about New York’s real troubles beyond the day-to-day headlines. Additional funding from the City of New York and New York State is necessary. Political resolve and inspired leadership are necessary in order to transform New York’s transit into the 21st century. Joint development will increase transit usage and revenues and catalyze transit-oriented development. But first, New Yorkers need to demand collaborative, contextual, connected change.

So do people elsewhere…

Opportunity in Vancouver, B.C. (Riel, 2013)

Opportunity in Toronto, Ontario (Riel, 2012)

Value Capture Opportunity in Toronto, Ontario (Riel, 2012)

Joint Development Opportunity in Toronto, Ontario (Riel, 2012)

Opportunity at Station Entrance in Montreal, Quebec (Riel, 2014)

Rubber-Tyred Montreal Metro (Riel, 2014)

Joint Development Opportunity in Mexico City? (Riel, 2014)

Joint Development Opportunity in Mexico City? (Riel, 2014)

Commuter Rail from Indiana to Chicago (Riel, 2015)

Seattle Union Station Above Transit Tunnel (Riel, 2013)

EV Charging Station in Brooklyn, NY (Riel, 2014)


In order to densify…

Gated Suburbia in Phoenix, AZ (Riel, 2015)

Depleting Aquifers and Suburban Encroachment in Phoenix, AZ (Riel, 2015)

Sprawl in Phoenix, AZ (Riel, 2015)

Phoenix, AZ (Riel, 2015)

Ecosystem of Highways in Los Angeles, CA (Riel, 2015)

Car-Accessible Employment Opportunities in Columbus, OH (Riel, 2015)

Dead Mall in Dayton, OH (Riel, 2015)

Lifeless CBD in Dallas (Riel, 2015)


In the end, America’s infrastructure is crumbling because a GOP Congress does not want to raise the gas tax or invest in public transit. The country is falling behind, spending approximately one billion to subsidize Amtrak, while China spends $128 billion per year on rail transport. In New York, the Mayor and Governor can’t seem to find the money for the MTA’s Capital Program, even though the city has a budget surplus, and has a record number of private jobs, with more people moving to New York than to Boston, San Francisco, Seattle, and D.C. combined.


Crumbling Bridge in Dayton, OH (Riel, 2015)


For better or worse, America’s car-centric, Manifest Destiny culture of individualism, complete with a lack of cultural homogeneity and a lack of trust in government, have created a toxic atmosphere for public transit. Unlike European countries, public transit in America is generally considered a service to the poor, and is feared as a sign of an encroaching strong, centralized federal government. Apparently, Americans would rather have crumbling infrastructure in order to pay less in the short-term, and suffer the consequences later.

As such, we need to prioritize P3 transportation finance, capitalizing upon agency-owned real estate in order to bridge the gap and build interconnected, healthy communities for the 21st century. Cities need to formalize value capture mechanisms and streamline joint development processes. From solar bike paths to mixed-use transportation hubs, cities need new, creative tools and techniques for the 21st century renaissance of American transportation networks.


Marina City in Chicago: Mixed-Use Intermodal Hub, Revitalizing Downtown… (Riel, 2015)


Bridging the Gap (Rainbow Bridge at Niagara Falls) (Riel, 2012)

Born and bred in Brooklyn, my name is Rayn Riel, and I’m an urban planning graduate student at Tufts University. I’ve designed Tufts’ only undergraduate urban planning degree in International Urban Development, I’ve founded Tufts only undergraduate urban planning student organization, and I’ve also been working as a GIS Lab Assistant. I have been interning at the NYC Department of City Planning for the past two summers, and this summer, I’ll be interning at the MTA. I will graduate with a B.A. and M.A. in Urban Policy and Planning in May 2016.

This post is part of a series of posts related to the MTA’s value capture and joint development practices, a subject I’m researching for my IRB certified Honors Thesis. After speaking with Jay Walder and other MTA and MTR officials, politicians, developers, and scholars, I’ve realized that the MTA cannot replicate the MTR’s successes. The MTA’s limited assets and bureaucratic (dis)incentives, coupled with a lack of zoning coordination between the City, State, and MTA, as well as the lack of formal value capture and joint development mechanisms, creates serious organizational barriers. Moreover, as a public authority, the MTA’s ‘independence’ from Governor Cuomo allows the City and State to divert blame to MTA leadership, yet at the same time, elected officials are responsible for nominating members of the Board, and they are beholden to powerful developers, too. How can the MTA be truly ‘reformed’ if the entire system is broken? How can we create better hubs and improve the MTA with stable sources of P3 revenue? How can we do this contextually, instead of simply ‘transporting‘ models from elsewhere, with entirely different powers, identities, and ideologies

Many thanks to my New York and Hong Kong interviewees thus far for sharing their time and expertise, including Aaron Donovan, Deputy Director for External Communications at the Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North Railroad for the MTA; Andrew Bata, Chief of Global Best Practices at MTA New York City Transit; Daniel Peterson, former Senior Transportation Engineer for Arup; Dorothy Chan, a Senior MTR Manager in Hong Kong; Ellyn Shannon, Associate Director of the Permanent Citizens Advisory Committee to the MTA; Jason Fane, a prominent real estate developer in Manhattan, Ithaca, and Toronto; Jay Walder, former Managing Director for Finance and Planning at Transport for London, former Chairman/CEO of the MTA, former CEO of the MTR, and current CEO of Motivate; Jenna Hornstock, Deputy Executive Director at Countywide Planning at Los Angeles County Metro; John Tauranac, a world-renowned New York historian, who has designed ample city maps and transit maps for the MTA; Robert Paaswell, a Distinguished City College of New York (CCNY) Transportation Professor, former Director for the CUNY Institute for Urban Systems, and former Interim President of CCNY; Robert Paley, Director of the T.O.D. Group at the MTA Real Estate Department; Sai-Ping Chin, an AECOM Executive Director in Hong Kong; Subutay Musluoglu, prominent cartographer and historian; and an anonymous high-level city official under former Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Having been to 30+ countries on five continents and 25+ U.S. states in the Northeast, South, Midwest, and West, I express additional gratitude to the Undergraduate Research Fund and Tufts University for assisting with research expenses. All contemporary photographs, unless otherwise cited, are taken by Rayn Riel

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Keefer, L. E. “Joint Development at Transit Stations in the United States.” Transportation 12.4 (1985): 333-42. Print.

Loo, Becky P. Y., Cynthia Chen, and Eric T. H. Chan. “Rail-Based Transit-Oriented Development: Lessons from New York City and Hong Kong.” Landscape and Urban Planning 97.3 (2010): 202-12. ScienceDirect. Web. 5 Nov. 2014.

MTA Capital Program 2015-2019. New York: Metropolitan Transportation Authority, 2014. Print.

Suzuki, Hiroaki, Robert Cervero, and Kanako Iuchi. Transforming Cities with Transit: Transit and Land-use Integration for Sustainable Urban Development. Washington, D.C: World Bank, 2013. Web.

Vuchic, Vukan R. Transportation for Livable Cities. New Brunswick, N.J: Center for Urban Policy Research, 1999. Print.

Vuchic, Vukan R Urban Transit: Operations, Planning and Economics. Hoboken, N.J: J. Wiley & Sons, 2005. Print.

Zhao, Z. J., and K. Larson. “Special Assessments as a Value Capture Strategy for Public Transit Finance.” Public Works Management and Policy 16.4 (2011): 320-40. ProQuest. Web. 7 Nov. 14.

East Side Access

MTA LIRR East Side Access Tour, 2015


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35 Comments on “Ameraissance of Transportation Finance”

  1. Rayn Riel May 20, 2015 at 11:02 pm #

    In my opinion, it all boils down to reforming zoning in NYC, so that it is ‘streamlined’ with the MTA’s joint development practices. The city can up-zone areas around all subway stations, the MTA can buy the land, and then build green, sleek, mixed-use, mixed-income towers for retail, housing, offices. It can’t *all* be affordable housing, because it needs to be profitable for the MTA’s coffers, and T.O.D. value capture can’t work with only affordable housing…

    But I definitely think the MTA needs to become actively involved in the real estate market, rather than trying to dispose of its remaining assets, so they have more funding to improve our city. Akin to the profitable MTR in Hong Kong.

    This system works in Hong Kong because the government is relatively centralized and land ownership laws are not as individually-oriented as in the United States. It also works because Hong Kong is one of the densest cities on the planet, and the MTR feeds people into its transit-oriented malls, apartments, and offices. The leaders of New York’s former IRT, BMT, and IND simply didn’t think of building our subways this way, and today’s leaders still tend to shy away from real estate development.

    For instance, in the future, if the MTA uses eminent domain for a new hub (as it did for the Fulton Center), they must develop a tall building! The main problem is that people do not think about this as an idea, and the second problem is that there are powerful real estate interests in NYC. The MTA doesn’t necessarily want to be in that business. After all, the MTA did not want to build a tower right next to the WTC site. The Fulton Center was planned after 9/11, and no one even knew if Lower Manhattan would bounce back. Since it has, the MTA will be selling air rights…

    The Port Authority built the WTC atop a PATH hub, but it did not do this for profit; the WTC struggled financially for decades. The PA is supposed to be independent of the whims of politicians, but they tend to use the authority for their legacy projects.

    Can we create a property division of the MTA that is incentivized to act as a real estate developer? They could essentially be a for-profit, joint development section of the authority? Yet how could they be independent of the whims of politicians and NIMBYism? Do they need a power broker in charge that cannot be stopped? But this time, a Robert Moses that cares about public transportation?

    Since this is unlikely to happen, how can the MTA have a stable source of revenue? It’s a shame that the greatest city in the richest country in the world can’t find the money…

    What can be done about bureaucratic regulations and contracts, public unions, disincentives, a lack of opportunity sites and market potential for mixed-use revenue-generation, and a lack of collaboration with the City of New York and New York State? How can the MTA traverse barriers towards joint development and value capture mechanisms?

    As I mentioned, they can begin by selling air rights at the Fulton Center and exploring retail opportunities in their stations (and at the Low Line). Long-term changes could involve institutional changes at the MTA and in Albany, as well as the development of a value capture zoning district mechanism.

    A renewed MTA would be a model for other American networks, from the Boston MBTA (Beacon Park Yard and South Station) to the Transbay Center in San Francisco. It would also be a renewed New York, able to compete in the 21st century. It may never be profitable like the MTR or Tokyo’s private subways, but it should nevertheless maximize revenue at existing assets.


    • Tommy May 21, 2015 at 1:20 pm #

      Rayn , great ideas !

      Liked by 1 person

    • Rayn Riel May 28, 2015 at 2:38 pm #

      One day, I hope to be able to improve the MTA vis-a-vis reforming value capture and joint development practices. I am interested in the organizational barriers preventing the MTA from capturing revenue from real estate assets, and in how these barriers could be overcome in order to develop a value capture mechanism with NYC, and/or in order to promote more efficient joint developments and P3s at MTA hubs, such as the Fulton Center.

      Perhaps I could start an advocacy movement, similar to Sam Schwartz’s movement, but for streamlining up-zoning and joint development practices atop MTA stations. I think the MTA should become more actively involved in the real estate market, so that they have more funding to improve our city. How can we bridge the gap and build a 21st century movement to stabilize transportation finance in New York? How can we reform incentives and streamline PPP joint development zoning? Who could we reach out to in for support? Politicians? Developers? MTA officials? Transportation experts?


  2. Stu Septoff May 21, 2015 at 9:41 am #

    Sounds like you have your act together with this area of expertise, Rayn. You have made many inroads with the right people and I can only say that I feel you will go far. I am proud of you as I am of any of my friends’ sons and daughters who are doing well, as well as former scouts of mine. You are obviously intelligent and have what it takes to make a difference. I salute you, young man! Keep up the good work. I know your dad is super proud of you, as we all are. All my best.


    Liked by 1 person

    • Rayn Riel May 21, 2015 at 4:50 pm #

      Thank you so much! Truly appreciated! Congrats to Mike on EMT of the Year!


  3. Rayn Riel June 1, 2015 at 6:16 pm #

    New thoughts…

    How do we get the politicians and developers on board? Elected officials may not support up-zoning atop subway entrances due to NIMBYism, and developers may not want the MTA to become actively involved in real estate development. How could we build support? A popular movement?

    … Yet as pointed out by Aaron Donovan, Deputy Director for External Communications at the MTA, and Robert Paley, Director of the T.O.D. Group at the MTA Real Estate Department, many people will oppose increasing density, even near subway corridors. Meanwhile, the MTA does not have the money to buy land, which is a timely process, coming lot, by lot, by lot. Plus, if land is up-zoned, then it is more expensive, making it even more costly for the MTA. How would the media, the public, and the politicians be convinced that this will not be wasteful? It will take years to pay off, which is difficult for politicians to accept, since they want to be re-elected in the short-term. In short, the MTA’s Real Estate Department is already incentivized to maximize the value of the authority’s assets, but there aren’t many of them…


  4. Rayn Riel October 11, 2015 at 1:14 pm #

    Finally! Glad the City is paying more. Historically, it paid less because it was broke and the MTA was arguably formed as a state authority in order to pay for NYCT. No longer the case…


    • Rayn Riel December 6, 2015 at 2:43 pm #

      “President Obama signed into a law a five-year, $305 billion highway bill on Friday, with just hours to spare before the scheduled expiration of the nation’s road and transit spending.

      Funding had been set to expire at midnight.

      The new law, paid for with gas tax revenue and a package of $70 billion in offsets from other areas of the federal budget, calls for spending approximately $205 billion on highways and $48 billion on transit projects over the next five years. It also reauthorizes the controversial Export-Import Bank’s expired charter until 2019.

      The measure is the first long-term national transportation spending package in a decade. It follows a string of temporary patches that began before Obama entered office”


    • Rayn Riel December 28, 2015 at 1:55 pm #

      “Fixing America’s decrepit infrastructure shouldn’t be controversial—it enhances competitiveness, creates jobs, and helps the environment. And of course, it protects the public. Repairing unsafe conditions is a critical priority: More than half of fatal vehicle accidents in the United States are due in part to poor road conditions.

      After years of dithering, Washington is finally showing a little life for the task. Congress recently passed a $305 billion highway bill to fund basic maintenance for five years. But the highway bill is pretty anemic—it barely covers road-repair costs and does nothing to modernize other infrastructure. The total investment needed through the end of this decade is actually $1.7 trillion, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers. Further, the highway bill does nothing to remove the bureaucratic jungle that makes these projects so slow and costly.

      But these two failures—meager funding and endless process—may actually point the way to a potential grand bargain that could transform the U.S. economy: In exchange for Democrats getting rid of nearly endless red tape, Republicans would agree to raise taxes to modernize America’s infrastructure”


  5. RR January 20, 2016 at 11:42 pm #

    Transit-Adjacent Development or Transit-Oriented Development?

    LA Metro & Highway…
    RR 2015


  6. Rayn Riel January 27, 2016 at 7:37 pm #

    The MTA is not a non-profit corporation, and the Internal Revenue Code would not allow for it to become a 501(c)(3) tax deductible organization. But like these tax-exempt corporations, the MTA could be fundraising constantly, accepting donations vis-à-vis the Transit Museum for infrastructure projects. It would be marginal, but perhaps it could happen?

    People could donate to transit just as they donate to school districts, environmental organizations, and other community groups that own real property. Billionaires build their philanthropic empires through donations. Why don’t they donate to infrastructure? After all, transit creates meaningful communities, and connects friends, families, and employees.


    • Rayn Riel February 2, 2016 at 11:47 pm #

      Finding the revenues, expenses, assets, liabilities, equity, net assets…
      Debits and credits…


    • Rayn Riel February 10, 2016 at 10:35 pm #

      The MTA is offering its first-ever “Green Bonds” to the public in a two-day order period starting next Wednesday, February 17. The bonds are certified by the Climate Bonds Initiative, an international not-for-profit organization that supports financing for projects around the world that help reduce the impacts of climate change. The bonds’ proceeds of $500 million will pay for continuing work on infrastructure renewal and upgrade projects on New York City Transit, Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North Railroad that were begun during the MTA’s 2010-2014 Capital Program.

      “Eight and a half million people travel on MTA trains and buses every day,” said MTA Chairman and CEO Thomas F. Prendergast. “By leaving their cars at home and embracing mass transit, New Yorkers play a dramatic role in reducing carbon emissions. These bonds recognize the ways in which mass transit and commuters work together to keep carbon out of the atmosphere, and that makes them the perfect choice for people who want to invest in the renewal and modernization of the greatest transportation system in the world, while at the same time helping New York to be greener, and healthier.”

      The MTA tomorrow will launch a targeted marketing campaign aimed to encourage New Yorkers to consider purchasing the bonds. Ads will appear online on the websites of media outlets that cover the New York region and over the air on New York-area radio stations.

      “Supporting public transportation is a powerful action that you can take to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” the radio ad says. “You have an opportunity to not only sustain the transportation network that is essential to the New York metro region, but also to help combat climate change and reduce our region’s carbon footprint.”
      Green Bonds, also known as Climate Bonds, were popularized in 2010 as a method for raising capital for climate-friendly projects across the globe. In 2015, $41.8 billion in Green Bonds were issued, according to the Climate Bonds Initiative (CBI) an international nongovernmental, nonprofit organization dedicated to stimulating investment in projects and assets emphasizing environmental sustainability. MTA’s Transportation Revenue Green Bonds, Series 2016A (Climate Bond Certified) is the first bond issuance to be certified in the U.S. under CBI’s Low Carbon Transport Standard.

      “This bond is a statement of international leadership by the MTA,” said Sean Kidney, CEO of the Climate Bonds Initiative. “Significant investment in low carbon mass transport is needed in existing and emerging urban conurbations. This MTA bond issuance is a milestone in the inclusion of rail transport in the burgeoning green bond market.”

      To be certified as a Climate Bond, a bond offering needs to meet rigorous criteria relating to reporting and transparency and the green characteristics of the underlying assets. Eligible projects funded with the bonds need to be clearly identified; internal processes and controls to ensure tracking of proceeds have to be set up; and reporting regarding assets involved is required. The bond needs to be verified by an independent external verifier approved by the CBI Board. Lastly, the issuer of a green bond has to commit to ongoing annual reporting of the assets funded with the green bond proceeds. This is to satisfy investors that the projects remain in service as initially described.

      The process is supervised by the Climate Bond Standards Board with representatives from INCR /CERES, CalSTRS, California State Treasurer, CDP (formerly the Carbon Disclosure Project), Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change (IIGCC), The International Cooperative and Mutual Insurance Federation (ICMIF), Investor Group on Climate Change and The Natural Resources Defense Council.

      The bonds are being issued under the MTA’s Transportation Revenue Bond credit, which is backed by MTA’s operating revenues and State subsidies dedicated to the MTA. A unique strength of the credit is that investors benefit from a “gross pledge” of all pledged revenues to fund debt service requirements before being available to pay for operations. The credit is rated AA+/AA-/A1/A by Kroll, Standard & Poor’s, Moody’s and Fitch respectively.

      The bonds’ financial characteristics are typical for bonds backed by the Transportation Revenue Bond credit. It will pay interest at a fixed rate, with interest payments made every May 15 and November 15. The interest rate and final maturity date will be set in the coming week. Interest on the bonds is exempt from Federal, New York State and New York City personal income taxes.

      The bonds are being offered by Ramirez & Co., a member of MTA’s existing approved pool of book running senior managers and a New York State certified minority-owned business. Drexel Hamilton, LLC., a New York State certified service disabled veteran owned business, and Stern Brothers & Co., a New York State certified women-owned business, are serving as special co-senior managers. The MTA syndicate of Board-approved managers will also serve on the transaction.


  7. John May 17, 2016 at 12:48 am #

    The St. George bus terminal in Staten Island is decked over the SIRR. And there is parking…

    Maybe the bus terminal should have had housing decked over it too.

    They are bringing the NY Wheel now to SI…

    And, yes. The MetroCard got ridership to boom — free transfers, unlimited passes — but now it is clearly outdated. They need to at least clean the vending machines so that credit cards can be read well. Future machines should be tap-based, connected to all operators, used to purchase items in station retail stores or parking passes, maybe even to pay for Uber POOL.

    The subway is a lot safer and cleaner now, for sure. More inspections, more advanced technology… CWR (which isn’t used on the els due to weather changes) makes rides smoother, tracks more resilient with fewer joints… but there’re still many problems. Seniors have mobility issues, there aren’t bus benches everywhere or signage at all bus stations…

    They’re fixin’ some stations though:

    Out with the old…
    • In the old days the MTA would fix things a little bit at a time, repairing a stairway here, a column there….
    • Stations were never truly upgraded to modern standards.
    • And construction took way too long, with intermittent work on nights and weekends (slow; inefficient; costly)
    • Stations never made real progress….
    • We say ENOUGH of that.
    … and in with the new
    • TEMPORARY COMPLETE STATION CLOSURE so work gets done as quickly as possible.
    o Contractors get in, get done, get out.

    • EXTENSIVE RENOVATION: better, brighter, new art, updated technology, security cameras.
    Improved Station Entrance
    • New protective canopies
    • Customer information screens
    • Safety and security improvements
    Mezzanine Level
    • Easier way-finding
    • Reconfigured turnstiles area
    • Clear sight lines and new signs

    Platform Level
    • • Customer information dashboards
    • • Brighter energy efficient lighting
    • • Wi-Fi and cellular connectivity


  8. John June 14, 2016 at 11:21 pm #

    flushing, queens is one of new york’s original dutch towns
    in your picture, can see clearly an old historic dutch church

    How much does the MTA spend every year?
    About $11 billion to operate the system and about $5 billion to maintain and improve it.
    That’s a lot of money. Why does it cost so much to run and maintain the MTA system?
    The MTA system is huge, and provides service for one-third of the transit riders in America. The system employs over 67,000 workers and covers an area of over 5,000 square miles. If all the track in the New York City subway network were laid end to end, it would run from NYC to Chicago.
    The MTA system is old, in many cases over 100 years old, and it’s expensive to maintain. New subway cars, station rehabilitations, and big projects like the Second Avenue Subway require intense amounts of labor and engineering.
    Does the MTA make a profit?
    No, like virtually all public transit and most road systems in the country, the MTA system does not make a profit. Fares cover less than half of the cost of running the subways, buses, and commuter railroads.
    The MTA does not make a profit by design, for at least two reasons:
    The transit system creates huge benefits for many who do not use it. New York City could not exist in its current form without a healthy mass transit system, which supports the density and urban life that attract global businesses and a skilled workforce. Suburban homeowners and businesses benefit from easy access to the city. Drivers benefit too, because many of the roughly 11 million people who ride MTA services daily would choose to drive and further congest the road network if they did not have a transit option. This is why businesses and drivers help fund the MTA (see below).
    The transit network makes car ownership and all its associated costs a choice, not a necessity. The MTA network provides access for New Yorkers who do not have alternatives, such as students, the elderly, and the disabled. For example, a bus that connects a poor neighborhood with jobs and senior centers elsewhere in the city may lose money for the MTA. But because it brings people to jobs and essential services, the bus route is likely a net benefit to society (and the city economy and budget, too, if it allows many people to stay out of the government support system).


  9. Al July 17, 2016 at 3:56 pm #

    Uber and Lyft are transforming the industry. Informal transit is formalizing with GPS and smart phones, while formal transit is becoming more flexible. Now the city council has participatory budgeting and each councilmember’s budget gets decided by the people… An exciting time, folks.


  10. Gabe July 22, 2016 at 9:46 am #

    Best transport finance trick:


  11. Bigg August 23, 2016 at 3:06 pm #

    The transit museum also makes some $

    They should sell tickets for the train of many colors, and holiday train, usually stored at the 207 yard…


  12. Taxometry September 13, 2016 at 8:34 pm #

    there are so many types of taxes… can’t they figure this out?


  13. Wixx September 18, 2016 at 12:27 pm #

    The Port Authority is self-sufficient, and as a public authority, independent from state budgets. So of course it operates infrastructure and can finance projects.

    In 1942, Austin J. Tobin became the Executive Director of the Port Authority. In the post-World War II period, the Port Authority expanded its operations to include airports, and marine terminals, with projects including Newark Liberty International Airport and Port Newark-Elizabeth Marine Terminals. Meanwhile, the city-owned La Guardia Field was nearing capacity in 1939, and needed expensive upgrades and expansion. At the time, airports were operated as loss leaders, and the city was having difficulties maintaining the status quo, losing money and unable to undertake needed expansions.[14] The city was looking to hand the airports over to a public authority, possibly to Robert Moses’ Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority. After long negotiations with the City of New York, a 50-year lease, commencing on May 31, 1947, went to the Port Authority of New York to rehabilitate, develop, and operate La Guardia Airport (La Guardia Field), John F. Kennedy International Airport (Idlewild Airport), and Floyd Bennett Field.[9][15] The Port Authority transformed the airports into fee-generating facilities, adding stores and restaurants.[14]

    (so now they are city owned but PA leased)

    Although LaGuardia was a large airport for the era in which it was built, it soon became too small. Starting in 1968 general aviation aircraft were charged heavy fees to operate from LaGuardia during peak hours, driving many GA operators to airports such as Teterboro Airport in Teterboro, New Jersey. The increase in traffic at LaGuardia and safety concerns prompted the closure of nearby Flushing Airport in 1984. Also in 1984, to further combat overcrowding at LGA, the Port Authority instituted a Sunday-thru-Friday “perimeter rule” banning nonstop flights from LaGuardia to cities more than 1,500 miles (2,400 km) away; at the time, Denver was the only such city with nonstop flights, and it became the only exception to the rule. (In 1986 Western Airlines hoped to fly 737-300s nonstop to Salt Lake City and unsuccessfully challenged the rule in federal court). Later, the Port Authority also moved to connect JFK and Newark Airport to regional rail networks with the AirTrain Newark and AirTrain JFK, in an attempt to make these more distant airports competitive with LaGuardia.[22] In addition to these local regulations, the FAA also limited the number of flights and types of aircraft that could operate at LaGuardia.

    LaGuardia’s traffic continued to grow. By 2000, the airport routinely experienced overcrowding delays, many more than an hour long. That year, Congress passed legislation to revoke the federal traffic limits on LaGuardia by 2007. The reduced demand for air travel following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on New York City quickly slowed LaGuardia’s traffic growth, helping to mitigate the airport’s delays. Ongoing Port Authority investments to renovate the Central Terminal Building and improve the airfield layout have also made the airport’s operations more efficient in recent years.


  14. Mark September 18, 2016 at 9:59 pm #

    Don’t forget besides transit improvements, there can be park improvements, schools, libraries, fire houses, etc for more FAR! Endless possibilities.

    Fares pay for less than half the budget? How does the MTA pay its bills?
    Like road and other public goods, our transit network relies on subsidies, toll revenue, and portions of a variety of taxes to make up the difference. A small portion of the sales tax, petroleum business tax, certain NYC real estate transfer taxes, and a newly enacted payroll tax all go to the MTA. The state and City also provide direct aid but their collective contribution has remained stagnant for years.
    MTA OPERATING REVENUE: Where the Money Comes From
    Why do my fares keep going up while my service is cut? Why does the MTA always seem to have a deficit?
    The short answer is funding. Elected officials have underfunded the MTA for years, and transit riders are left paying the additional cost.
    The long answer is more complicated and requires understanding the agency’s two budgets—the operating and capital budgets.
    The operating budget is the day-to-day costs of running the system — worker pay and benefits, fuel, etc. The capital budget pays for maintenance and improvements to the system. This includes the new subway cars and buses, station rehabilitations, and big projects like the Second Avenue Subway. The two are related because the operating budget pays for the service you get, while the capital budget dictates the quality of that service.
    Costs in the operating budget, including health care, insurance, and fuel, have increased in recent years, meaning it costs the agency more to provide the same service.
    Shortfalls in the capital budget put additional pressure on the operating budget. When the MTA began to seriously rebuild its system in the 1980s, the state, city, and federal government covered large portions of the cost of capital construction. But state and city support has been cut back. For example, the State contributed 19% of the cost of the MTA’s first two 5-year construction programs, but less than 8% of the cost of the 2005-09 program.
    When the agency doesn’t have enough funding to pay for construction projects, it borrows money to pay for projects. Payments on this borrowed money are made through the operating budget (and are called “debt service”). The larger the MTA’s outstanding debt, the more of its operating budget goes to debt service, and the less goes to train and bus service.
    So, when you pay more for your ride, you are paying for increased costs to run the system, and you are paying off the agency’s debt.
    In addition, the taxes that support the MTA fluctuate with the economy — some wildly so. So when the real estate market crashes, for example, so does the MTA’s budget. On the other hand, when the economy is doing well, some of these taxes are high. This is the reason the MTA had a large surplus in 2007 and a deficit in 2008. In 2007, the agency received unusually high real estate transfer tax revenue that masked the underlying budget problem of too-high debt service. When the economy crashed in 2008, revenue from this and other taxes plummeted.
    MTA OPERATING EXPENSES: Where the Money Goes
    (Source: MTA – 2010)
    Why you should care about the MTA’s debt.
    Because the agency has to rely so heavily on debt, payments on this debt are consuming a growing share of the MTA’s annual operating budget. This means that fare increases are more likely, and the agency has a harder and harder time paying for subways and bus service. By 2030, debt will consume a whopping $3.5 billion a year. In other words, the next generation will be paying for the transit projects that we are building now. Fair? Not really.
    Blame elected officials, not the MTA
    While the MTA is certainly not perfect, state and city elected officials are the ones to blame for fare increase and service cuts. That’s because city and state officials control how much the MTA receives in subsidies, and when they don’t adequately fund the system, riders pay more.
    Just as importantly, it is elected officials who ultimately control the MTA. Of the 17 voting members of the MTA board:
    The Governor recommends six board members, including the Board Chair,
    New York City’s Mayor recommends another four members,
    The county executives of Nassau, Suffolk, and Westchester Counties recommend one board member each,
    And the county executives of Orange, Putnam, Rockland, and Dutchess Counties recommend one board member each (those four board members cast one collective vote).
    Can’t the MTA be run more efficiently?
    Like many large organizations, both public and private, the MTA often fails to spend money as effectively as it can. For example, in 2010 MTA Chairman Jay Walder announced that he had found $60 million in annual savings by instituting tighter overtime controls, and $40 million in savings by renegotiating contracts with vendors.
    But the big problems have to do with debt and politics. That $100 million in savings was less than 1% of the MTA’s total budget. In that same year, the state cut aid to the MTA by $143 million and the MTA paid $1.7 billion in debt service. The MTA is regularly audited by the state and city comptrollers and its own inspector general, and now posts nearly all of its financial information online.
    How much are MTA employees and board members paid?
    The Chairman and CEO of the MTA, Tom Prendergast was paid $359,877 in 2013. While this is certainly a lot of money, it is actually less than he would make in the private sector.
    The MTA Board is not paid, though members are allowed to take free rides on MTA subways, commuter trains and buses; and drive for free through MTA bridges and tunnels if they are traveling on official business.
    The average MTA employee made $71,237 in 2010.
    How can I stop service cuts and fare hikes from happening?
    The MTA desperately needs additional sources of revenue or else transit fares will skyrocket, service will be slashed, safety will be compromised, and train delays and breakdowns will increase. Remember that our elected officials (in particular our city and state officials) are the only ones with the power to prevent future fare hikes and service cuts.
    Below are some things you can do to advocate for more transit funding:
    Urge Governor Cuomo and the State Legislature to keep their hands off of dedicated transit funds. In recent years, New York politicians have diverted over $100 million from taxes supposedly dedicated to the MTA to the general fund.
    Urge Mayor de Blasio and the City Council to contribute their fair share. New York City’s contribution to the MTA’s capital plan has not kept pace with inflation. If it had, the City would have contributed $363 million in 2014. Instead, it has contributed an average amount of only $100 million each year since 2000. New York City must establish funding formulas for transit aid that account for inflation and escalating costs of running the transit system.
    New York City and State need to create new sources of revenue for transit. Options include:
    Traffic pricing. This includes options like congestion pricing or charging drivers to drive into the busiest parts of Manhattan during the busiest times of day or East River Bridge tolls, which would charge drivers when they drive over free East River Bridges (Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Queensboro)
    Higher gas taxes or payroll taxes. The gas tax is a prime source of transportation funding in the state, and the payroll tax (.033 for every $100 in wages paid) is another source of revenue.
    More money from the federal government. Transit gets shortchanged by the federal government even though better transit aligns with national goals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and reliance on foreign oil.


  15. Iona September 20, 2016 at 6:58 pm #

    The New York Transit Museum is a self-supporting division of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. Friends of the New York Transit Museum, a 501c3 not-for-profit organization, was established in 1995 to promote and raise funds for the Museum’s operations and programs.


    • Fin September 21, 2016 at 7:24 pm #

      they need ads! on walls, ceilings, floors, trains, turnstiles, columns, vending machines, metrocards… everywhere!

      The turnstiles need to be fixed. The high entrance/exit ones reduce flow, take up space… and people just sneak in through emergency doors anyways or try and get a free swipe, depriving MTA of revenue. Get rid of them! Or don’t mix and match. Makes little sense. Here they are moving the fare zone in, to increase capacity and get rid of crowding issues:


  16. Taurine October 2, 2016 at 8:18 pm #

    Our subway network needs to be repaired, not just our tubes from Sandy, or the M viaduct, originally built in the 1800s and then reinforced for subway train weights… updated power systems (third rail on different side, etc). But, amazingly, it is all in pretty good shape considering it is 100 years old. They did a good job keeping the water out, for the most part. But they need to plug in leaks when they see them! Water, and the steel immediately begins to rust. Trash on the tracks gets wet, making it more expensive to clean up. Third rails can arc, causing fires. Stations can be “clean”, but the condition of them is bad – leaking tiles, chipped paint – and that needs to be improved.

    The first subway was built with bathrooms, with so much redundancy, solid engineering. Beautiful tiles. A lot has changed since then – newer turnstiles, booths… So much though, has not changed. Costs are too high. So much that people don’t see. If only politicians saw all of the behind-the-scenes piping, power wires, they’d see how much is needed.


  17. Greenih October 11, 2016 at 6:00 pm #

    The bar car is coming back on MetroNorth!–20160913-story,amp.html


  18. Eugenie October 18, 2016 at 4:01 pm #

    Because American polarization is often split between liberal urban and conservative suburban interests, with race and racism playing a role, funding public transportation in the United States is often a partisan issue that is largely irrelevant in other countries. Even in liberal Massachusetts, the MBTA is woefully underfunded, partly also because citizens recall the waste, fraud and abuse of the Big Dig, creating distrust in the government to handle their money.

    And, the Orange Line El was torn down — els were seen as a blight on real estate and too noisy and dirty — and brought into its new ROW:

    Construction of Interstate 95 into downtown Boston was cancelled in 1972 after local protest over the necessary demolition. However, land for I-95’s Southwest Corridor through Roxbury had already been cleared of buildings; moreover, the state had already committed to using this vacant land for transportation purposes.[4] As a result, instead of an 8-lane Interstate highway with a relocated Orange Line running in its median (in a manner similar to the Chicago Transit Authority’s Dan Ryan and Congress and Jefferson Park lines), the space would be occupied by the realigned Orange Line, a reconstructed three-track mainline for Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor and MBTA Commuter Rail trains, and a linear park. After this re-routing was accomplished in 1987, the Washington Street Elevated was torn down, the last major segment of the original elevated line to be demolished.

    Between April 30 and May 3, 1987, the Washington Street Elevated south of the Chinatown station was closed to allow the Orange Line to be tied into the new Southwest Corridor. On May 4, 1987, the Orange Line was rerouted from the southern end of the Washington Street Tunnel onto the new Southwest Corridor. Instead of rising up to elevated tracks, it now veered west at the Massachusetts Turnpike and followed the Pike and the old Boston and Albany Railroad right-of-way to the existing MBTA Commuter Rail stop at Back Bay. It then continued along new tracks, partially covered and partially open but depressed, to Forest Hills. This MBTA right-of-way is also shared by Amtrak as part of the national Northeast Corridor intercity passenger rail service.

    While ending more or less at the same terminus (Forest Hills), the new routing bypassed significantly to the west of its previous route on Washington Street; local residents were promised replacement service. Originally, plans provided for light rail vehicles street running in mixed traffic, from Washington Street to Dudley Square, then diverting southeastward on Warren Street towards Dorchester. In 2002, Phase 1 of the Silver Line bus rapid transit was added to connect Washington Street to the downtown subways, attempting to address this service need. This replacement service was controversial, as many residents preferred the return of rail transportation

    During the unusually brutal winter of 2014-2015, the entire MBTA system was shut down on several occasions by heavy snowfalls. The aboveground sections of the Orange and Red lines were particularly vulnerable due to their exposed third rail, which iced over during storms. When a single train stopped due to power loss, other trains soon stopped as well; without continually running trains pushing snow off the rails, the lines were quickly covered in snow. (Because the Blue Line was built with overhead lines on its surface section due to its proximity to corrosive salt air, it was not subject to icing issues.)

    During 2015, the MBTA is implementing its $83.7 million Winter Resiliency Program, much of which focused on preventing similar issues with the Orange and Red lines. The Southwest Corridor section of the Orange Line is located in a trench and is protected from the worst weather, but the 1970s-built Haymarket North Extension had older infrastructure and was in worse shape. From Sullivan Square north, it is exposed to the weather and largely built on an embankment, rendering it more vulnerable. That section is receiving new heated third rail, switch heaters, and snow fences to reduce the impacts of inclement weather.[9][10] The work requires bustitution of the line from Sullivan Square to Oak Grove on many weeknights


  19. Jupiter October 25, 2016 at 5:22 pm #

    The Port Authority took over control of NYC airports because it was a public authority capable of handling long-term debt and removing financing from city elections. Just like how the NYCTA was formed from BoT, and later made part of the state MTA so TBTA could send their revenue to subsidize the subways.

    But our airports could be improved. They are basically one big airport due to flight paths. Runways are not at capacity because they depend on runways at the other airports. And Stewart Airport could easily have a link to the Port Jervis MNR line, but that’s not being built.



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