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Photograph: Courtesy Creative Commons/Flickr/MTA

The MTA Capital Program means more countdown clocks and fewer delays (hopefully)

By Dana Varinsky
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Last week, after months of negotiations, Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio announced they’d come to an agreement on funding the MTA Capital Program. Wondering what it means for you? We've done a bunch of research so you don't have to. 

What is the Capital Program exactly?
Every five years, the MTA does some self-reflection about how to improve its systems and what that might cost. For 2015 to 2019, that total comes to a whopping $29 billion, the biggest in the agency’s history.

Damn! What will it fund?
The MTA wants to replace old trains and tracks, add countdown clocks, connect Metro-North to Penn Station, expand bus service and lots more. Oh, yeah, and work on that Second Avenue subway line.

Will fares stop going up?
Unfortunately not. City and state funds don’t cover the whole plan; the MTA relies on other sources (like the federal government, private developers and ticket revenue) to make up the difference. So increases will probably continue every two years as planned. You might be able to swipe via credit card or smartphone within the next five years, though.

Will trains have fewer delays?
That’s the hope! The plan calls for replacing our signal system (which is from the 1930s!) with new controls that would allow trains to run more frequently and reliably.

Oh, cool. Hey, what was the beef between De Blasio and Cuomo about all this?
The MTA is run by the state, but the majority of its costs are in NYC, so they were arguing about how much funding each should give. Plus, De Blasio was pissed because Cuomo has diverted MTA money to other projects in the past.

And they worked that out?
Yup. New York State will give $8.3 billion, and New York City will give $2.5 billion—the most it has ever contributed. And Cuomo has to use the city’s money on the MTA’s plan.

Sounds promising. So will the Second Avenue line finally open?
Kind of! The first phase of construction will extend the Q train up the East Side to 96th Street and is expected to be complete in 2016 (that’s been underway for a long time). The second phase will extend it to 125th St, so the Capital Plan allocates funds to begin that construction. But the line was first conceived in the ’20s, so let’s not get our hopes too high.

Below, see photos of the new East Side tunnels that will increase LIRR access to Grand Central (eventually leading to a new underground terminal), and the progress of the Second Avenue subway line:

Courtesy Creative Commons/Flickr/MTA

Courtesy Creative Commons/Flickr/MTA

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