July 29, 2015

Dept. of Irony: Ex-TransLink chief fights a familiar battle in New York

Tom Prendergast was CEO of TransLink between 2008 and 2009.  He left for New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority, reputed to have been frustrated with the dispersed governance structure and fed up with the lack of support for TL funding from the Province.  Well, guess what.

Chief of Transportation Authority Must Wage a Political Battle for Funding


After months of uncertainty, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo last week threw his support behind the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s proposal to maintain and improve the region’s transit infrastructure.

For the authority’s chairman, Thomas F. Prendergast, the governor’s announcement was a welcome, if belated, breakthrough. It came weeks after the end of a legislative session during which Mr. Prendergast tried, unsuccessfully, to line up lawmakers in Albany behind his $32 billion capital plan.

But Mr. Cuomo’s public commitment to a slimmed-down version of the plan — and to an $8 billion state contribution to close a funding gap — is only the beginning of what promises to be a battle over how to finance the state-run authority’s capital plan and how much New York City should pay toward it.

Mr. Prendergast, appointed by Mr. Cuomo two years ago and confirmed last month to a full six-year term as chairman, will be right in the middle of the fight, with the knowledge that his agenda for maintaining and modernizing the authority depends on making the plan a reality.

It is not an easy spot. …

Mr. Cuomo did not say where the state’s contribution would come from, offering only that he would work it out with state legislators when they returned for the next session in January.

How successful Mr. Prendergast is in securing funding for his wide-ranging plan is likely to define the region’s infrastructure for decades and determine whether mass transit service turns around or continues to deteriorate. …

All along, he has been adamant that the largest piece of the capital plan, $20 billion for “state of good repair,” is essential because it is for maintenance to keep the system safe and reliable. …

David Gunn, who was Mr. Prendergast’s boss as president of the New York City Transit Authority in the ’80s, said funding would determine whether the system fell back into disrepair.

“It’s a life-or-death issue to have adequate funding for state of good repair,” Mr. Gunn said from his home in Nova Scotia, where he is retired. “He knows what happens when you don’t. He’s lived it.”

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