NYU Wagner’s Rudin Center for Transportation Policy & Management explores system’s transformation from 1982-2004

It was only 25 years ago that New York City’s public transportation system was nearing total collapse. Graffiti-covered subway cars became the symbol for the state of decay into which New York City had fallen.

But thanks to a capital program that included the investment of $68 billion (in 2004 dollars) since 1982, the system has seen a remarkable turnaround: travel times have dropped for thousands of commuters, customer satisfaction has steadily improved, subway, bus, and Metro-North ridership soared to levels not seen in decades (or ever, in the latter case), and, amazingly, subway car graffiti has by and large been eradicated.

In December 2004, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) proposed a plan for the next five years of its capital program, and, concurrently, the Rudin Center for Transportation Policy & Management at NYU’s Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service undertook a review of the program’s achievements. A new report, From Rescue to Renaissance: The Achievements of the MTA Capital Program 1982-2004 (available online at http://wagner.nyu.edu/news/rescue.pdf), reviews the investments made under the capital program, the accompanying performance improvements, and the resulting economic payoff. These achievements are placed in the context of the evolving goals, funding sources, and leadership of the capital program.

The report also suggests that the ability of the MTA to continue making progress towards the goals identified in the capital program depends on the availability of funding. Moreover, the report finds that continued support from government will be essential to maintaining the system and preventing a return to the crisis conditions of the 1970s and early 1980s.

With a new Bond Act on the ballot for the November 2005 election, this report helps highlight the importance of investing in our transportation system.

Established in 1938, the Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service offers advanced programs leading to the professional degrees of Master of Public Administration, Master of Urban Planning, Master of Science in Management, and Doctor of Philosophy. Through these rigorous programs, NYU Wagner educates the future leaders of public, nonprofit, and health institutions as well as private organizations serving the public sector. http://wagner.nyu.edu.

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