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Editorial: Downstate work, upstate benefit

Upstate and Western New York businesses would do well to take the Metropolitan Transit Authority’s advice and bid for any part of the $51.5 billion to modernize New York City’s buses, trains and subways.

After all, regional taxpayer money and tolls already subsidize the city’s transit system. It is a statement of fact that cannot be overly emphasized and, as Patrick Foye, the MTA’s chairman and CEO said, “It’s only fair and appropriate that we do everything we can to return as much in terms of investment, spending and employment to the state.”

Hearing that is music to anyone’s ears, especially sometimes beleaguered upstate taxpayers who see this massive overhaul and are understandably envious.

To be fair, the City of Buffalo is no New York City. This area does not have the overwhelming capacity problems found in major metropolitan areas – and no city in this country is larger than New York – nor does it have the history of egregious problems, subway breakdowns and failures that have been widely documented in the media in recent years.

New York City and its masses of people require transportation efficiency. Without it, the city’s economy would freeze. What is more, upstate is a net beneficiary of the New York City economy; we rely on the tax revenues churned up there, especially on Wall Street. The multiple billion-dollar overhaul is long overdue. The good news here is that there is opportunity for the local economy to benefit.

Foye and Andy Byford, president of MTA New York City Transit, recently visited Buffalo to attend a luncheon with about 75 local businesses. Their presence here was thanks to the role of State Sen. Tim Kennedy, D-Buffalo, whose influence as the chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee is already paying dividends.

Kennedy’s comment about “building a bridge” from the MTA to Buffalo and Western New York businesses should encourage companies here to start lining up. The capital spending plan is the largest in the MTA’s history. From 2020 through 2024 the agency will buy new rail cars and buses, improve subway service and upgrade bridges and tunnels.

The MTA expects to start issuing requests for proposals for the work early next year. It expects to start spending money in the second and third quarters of 2020.

Given the MTA estimates that the capital spending plan will generate $75 billion in statewide economic activity over five years and create 350,000 jobs, this region can benefit directly by winning a share of those bids. The agency expects at least 89% of the capital investments to be “sourced or performed in New York.”

Local businesses already working with the MTA include Rigidized Metals in Buffalo and Curbell Plastics in Orchard Park. California-based Cubic even opened a customer call center in Amherst. The company is installing a new fare payment system for the New York City subway system.

Local companies should take this opportunity to be a part of New York City’s large-scale transit system overhaul, benefiting from a system that already gets regional taxpayer money and tolls.

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