Climate Change Is a Key Obstacle for New York City’s Transit System


New York City’s century-old mass transit system is in dire need of wear-and-tear upgrades while it also contends with a climate crisis that it was not built to withstand.

The M.T.A.’s report is meant to help the authority and the lawmakers who allocate much of its $19 billion annual operating budget to determine where to concentrate funding.

It has been released as the state prepares to start a first-in-the-nation congestion pricing program, designed to collect billions of dollars to fund mass transit while discouraging drivers from piling into Midtown Manhattan. The congestion pricing program will help fund the authority’s current capital expansion plan.

The assessment was also released just days after New York was hit with a storm that shut down half the subway system and brought much of the city to a standstill. The rain’s devastating impact highlighted the growing influence of man-made climate change on a rapidly warming planet.

To address climate change, the M.T.A. said its goals include electrifying nearly 6,000 buses and installing more energy-saving technology in its facilities. The report identified 550 locations that are vulnerable to flooding, including the Hudson line on the Metro-North Railroad, at risk of being flooded by the Hudson River.

The transit system famously never stops running and moves millions of people every day. It requires a huge amount of resources.

The M.T.A.’s current $54.8 billion capital plan runs from 2020 through next year, and some of the work that the newly released assessment mentions has already begun.

Some of those projects include a plan to build the Second Avenue subway line into East Harlem and to upgrade Penn Station as well as making the system more accessible for people with disabilities by building more elevators and ramps.

The report has been released just as the M.T.A. has averted a fiscal crisis and achieved solvency for the first time in recent memory. Before this year’s budget was passed, the transit system had faced a funding disaster brought on by the pandemic. But lawmakers approved an increase in the payroll tax, which is expected to generate about $1.1 billion for the authority.

The authority will use the findings of the report to build out future plans to expand and update the transit network.

Some of the needs detailed include replacing about 5,500 rail cars, roughly 6,000 buses and all of its 493 elevators.

Transit officials said they hope the report will tell lawmakers and the public alike where the city’s mass transit needs investment.


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