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TRANSCRIPT: MTA Acting Chair and CEO Lieber Appears on NY1 Mornings on 1

Updated December 15, 2021 8:45 a.m.

MTA Acting Chair and CEO Janno Lieber appeared on NY1’s Mornings on 1 with Pat Kiernan to discuss a range of topics.

A transcript of the interview appears below.

Pat Kiernan: A very busy week for the MTA. At a meeting today, the board will review a proposal for a fare capping program that would start in March. If they implement this pilot program, it will establish a maximum transit fare per week. So, if you spend at least $33 on a dozen rides over a seven-day period, everything after that charge to the same card would be free. There was some other big news this week. The MTA is getting about $500 million in funding from the federal infrastructure money that will connect Metro-North trains serving Connecticut and Westchester, not from Grand Central, but from Penn Station.  And then we would finally get those stops in the Bronx we've been talking about for a while. The MTA also expected to receive some $432 million to put toward fixing the Amtrak tunnels under the East River. Those tunnels damaged in Hurricane Sandy, also, of course used by the Long Island Rail Road.  So, they are an important part of the transportation infrastructure here. Acting CEO and Chairman of the MTA Janno Lieber is with me here now. Thank you for being here this morning.

Janno Lieber: Good to be here.

Kiernan: That's just a tiny bit of what you've been going on from you.

Lieber: A lot going on.

Kiernan: You are relatively new to this job. A lot of experience with the major infrastructure projects at the MTA has overtaken, over the past many years. Let's talk about this fair capping program because if you immediately when you hear that you might get a chance at some free rides. It sounds like a good opportunity for people. This is essentially to replace the weekly unlimited MetroCard.

Lieber: Yeah, the idea is why should people have to make that decision when they walk up to the subway for the first time on Monday. How many rides am I going to take this week? Instead – if you use tap and go -- if you use the new OMNY tap and go system, the system will automatically give you free rides after you hit the amount of money that you would have spent on a weekly.

Kiernan: You know that in New York City, everybody will try to figure out how they can game that system. Can I swipe in my wife and then come back later and swipe myself in? What financial impact will that have? Or is that the reason that you're doing a pilot program?

Lieber: We have some of those issues already in the current MetroCard system, and our planning’s accounted for some of the risk. But the main thing is equity. If there's somebody who doesn't want to outlay the 33 bucks at the beginning of the week -- for some people that's an issue.  They can just tap and go and when they hit 12 rides, they'll start to get free rides. It's simple, takes advantage of the new technology. It's great for everybody.

Kiernan: You've been trying to get riders back onto the system, that is critical to be able to run the system at the frequency that we all hope to have the subways coming by. A lot of people have said they don't feel safe on the subways, either because of COVID protocols or because of their physical safety because of crime underground. We have a new police commissioner coming in. What will your communication to her be about the relationship between Transit Police and the MTA?

Lieber:  First of all, we totally value our relationship with the NYPD, which is the finest police force in the United States by a lot. But the issue now is just what you said which is, you know, broadly speaking, major felony crimes are down over the year -- we're actually at the low point. But riders don't feel safe, and they don't feel safe because they're hearing about high profile incidents of subway pushing where people end up on the tracks, which is very scary. And they're seeing lots of disorder in the system.  Some of that is just smoking and non-mask compliance and issues like that. Some of it is the presence of people who are experiencing mental health issues in the system. And we have said, I've said it to City Hall, and I said to the NYPD, and I'm going to speak to the new commissioner when she gets in office. We really need the police more visible in the system. There are plenty of police, but they need to be on the platforms, they need to be on the trains, so riders feel safe.

Kiernan: I mentioned the infrastructure funding that has come through as a result of what's passed in Congress. We also have East Side Access very close. I mean, that's a major milestone. You were involved directly in a lot of these projects. It's exciting to see them coming online. You know how difficult it is to keep them on time and on budget. When will we see results on things like those additional Metro-North stations in the Bronx.

Lieber: This is a four-year project. Part of the constraint is we're going to continue to run the Amtrak trains while the construction is going on. But this is a win-win for New York. We are not only getting four new stations in Co-Op City, Parkchester, Morris Park, and in Hunts Point -- communities that were transit deserts up until now.  So, people now can get to the city and to jobs in Westchester and Connecticut much, much faster. We're also reusing an existing rail line to get a lot more service out of it. That's great for the environment, and really, New York gets an enormous amount of resources out of this new project.

Kiernan: I introduced you as Acting CEO. Is that changing anytime? Is that out of your hands?

Lieber: Wellit is out of my hands. The governor has to nominate me, and the legislature has to confirm me. But the MTA is going 100 miles an hour right now. We are having the busiest end of year.  At today's board meeting, you're going to see so many different actions. Ridership is coming back quite, quite solidly. We're about 60% -- double where we were a year ago. And we're actually focused on the fact that we need to be ready to support New York revival’s. That's a key for us.

Kiernan: Good to have you here this morning.

Lieber: Good to be here.