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TRANSCRIPT: MTA Chair and CEO Lieber Appears Live on WNYC Radio’s The Brian Lehrer Show

Updated Oct 11, 2023 5:00 p.m.

Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) Chair and CEO Janno Lieber appeared live today on WNYC Radio’s The Brian Lehrer Show with Brian Lehrer to discuss flood mitigation, congestion pricing, and other transportation-related topics.

A transcript of the interview appears below.

Brian Lehrer:  We start today with the Chair of the MTA Janno Lieber with some major local transit developments in the news right now, plus now transit security in the city that has at times of course been a terror target of its own. That plus congestion pricing details coming closer to being finalized, including all those applications for exemptions, and a new 20-year MTA plan just released. That deal that deals with issues like accessibility and climate change resiliency, which of course is even more relevant than it was after the recent flooding that crippled much of the system a couple of Fridays ago. Janno Lieber we always appreciate that you come on and take questions from me and our listeners. Welcome back to WNYC.

Janno Lieber: Good to be with you Brian.

Lehrer:  And listeners your question for MTA Chair, Janno Lieber are welcome on any of those things. Bus and subway riders, Metro-North and LIRR riders, MTA workers and drivers, too, with congestion pricing, and the MTA Bridges and Tunnels in their purview as well. 212-433-9692 (WNYC). Call or you can text your questions to that number, too. Chairman Lieber, anything to say about security at this time? Obviously, it’s been a concern since 9-11. Anything new related to the Middle East right now?

Lieber: No. Brian I don't have anything new, but I have to say my kids grew up with Israeli volunteers who work in our schools and our synagogues, living in our home. And those [Israeli] kids are now being called back to service. So, in addition to the horrors that New Yorkers are seeing on the coverage, our hearts go out to all of those people young and old, who are now, many of whom have moved on from their military service -- who are going back into a war mode, and everybody in New York is thinking about it.

Lehrer: Indeed. But nothing new on security? Nothing new that would need to be done because of what's going on? There's ever vigilance, but anything to say?

Lieber: We're not ready to talk about specifics, but obviously our relationship with the NYPD is completely and totally close, shoulder to shoulder every day. So, you know, we have talked to them about how they're increasing patrols. As it happens, our MTA Police Chief of the MTA Police, which is about a 2,000-person force, was in Israel at the time of the attack. And so he is, now that he is actually back, we are in close dialogue with the NYPD about how we manage our subways, how we manage our commuter railroads, and especially how we manage our terminals. It's part of New York, we're generally part of our open society, but there's going to be increased vigilance. 

Now I have to say, you know, part of what has made the subways and all the systems safer is our investment, the presence of NYPD officers, you're very conscious of it, you covered it. We surged officers into the system a year ago, that's going to continue. And there's specific actions being taken in response to the conditions.  

Now we've also added a huge number of cameras. So, this is a system where we are able to monitor what is going on. And you know, the speed with which, you know, bad guys are being apprehended has given everybody, I think, an increased level of confidence that we are protecting this system very aggressively.

Lehrer: The rains on the last Friday in September that crippled much of the system. Some lines more than others. Did it reveal anything new to you about the subways’ or commuter rails’ infrastructure? 

Lieber: Well, I think two things. One is, it's revealed to us that the preparations that we have been making have been working. You know, we had impacts to the system from the torrential rains and localized flash flooding. But what you didn't see is the conditions that Sandy revealed which is vulnerability at the coast where, if you let in saltwater the system, it literally destroys electronics and steel and so on. Those areas were not affected because we made a ton of investments in coastal resiliency. The more localized flooding that you're seeing, we are addressing it with some success since two years ago we had hurricane Ida, by looking at what is letting water into individual stations. 

But the big issue, which we're contending with, is the capacity of the New York City storm sewer system which can process about an inch and three quarters in an hour. But we are increasingly getting these torrential rains that are putting, you know, two and a half plus inches an hour into the system. That's what happened last Friday. But Brian, don't forget we were back within 10 hours. We cleared close to 20 million gallons of water through our amazing subway drainage system. The areas where it got backed up were just because of that temporary storm sewer capacity in the city sewer system. So, we're optimistic. 

We, as I said, we got back full service, we had impacts to service for about 10 hours, partial suspensions and so on. We got the whole system back in 10 hours, and that was, you know, by seven o'clock on Friday. That was -- that was a plus.

Lehrer: I happen to ride both Metro-North and the LIRR the very next day for a family related commute I needed to take, and it was as if it never happened. From a scheduling and this one rider’s experience perspective. But are there some longer-term effects on some of the lines that were damaged that day? 

Lieber: Listen, you're right to ask that. So, one of the things that we're doing is you mentioned before this 20-year needs assessment. We are looking at the investments, we are prioritizing climate and climate change-oriented resiliency investments looking forward. So that, as I said, it involves increasing storm sewer capacity, but we have to do more of, we've lifted almost all of our pumping infrastructure out of harm's way, but we have to complete that process. In some cases, like on the Metro-North area in the South Bronx, which is where the problems happened that Friday, we're actually going to have to, you know, look at, you know, the topography of those areas because they have chronically flooded, whether you add drainage or you actually lift it up or move up the power systems that were compromised on Friday. 

So, we're going to continue to invest in all of these resiliency investments. The governor has, you know, literally the first week she was in office, she and I got to know each other over Hurricane Ida. And she's been pushing us and also very supportive of prioritizing for our capital program, those climate change-oriented investments, and I'm talking about in general terms. 

Lehrer: Right. And about the sewage system. I mean, that's not under the purview of the MTA, so who do you have to lobby to make sure that they make the improvements that will help avoid problems in mass transit in future storms? 

Lieber: Yeah. I mean, listen, this is the city system. They've got a great DEP Commissioner at the city level who was the leader in the Bloomberg administration of PlaNYC. The mayor has been supportive of this, but now we need to really make, the city needs to make, those investments to make sure -- and you don't have to change necessarily the entire sewer system. What you need to do is to make sure the areas where you have chronic problems, because you have old fashioned gravity-oriented sewer engineering that you have the ability to push water out of the system, when things start to fill up, and we hope we'll keep talking, that the city will make those investments.

Lehrer: Listeners your calls for Chairman Janno Lieber. 212-433-9692 (WNYC). You can also text the question, we'll get to your calls and texts as we go. I guess it's a coincidence that your once per decade long term needs assessment did come out just a few days after the storm, what you call a 20-year needs assessment, and climate change was one of the central drivers of those needs. What few things would you put at the top of the list with respect to climate-driven rain or other extreme weather event? Resiliency needs other than what you were just describing about the sewers? Things that the MTA itself needs to look to?

Lieber: Well, I think what the MTA is trying to figure out is not how to stop water entirely. We have to do basic stuff. Together with the City, we have to look at areas where, for example, there’s been asphalt piled on a roadway, so the curb has disappeared, and then water gets over the curb, and goes to the lowest place, which is into the subway system. So, you have to do station by station analysis and investment. But as I said, the key is, we have to make sure we have, one, enough pumping infrastructure to move water out of the system very quickly. We do ten million gallons of pumping a day on a dry day in New York because of all the underground water in our old subway system. We have to move vulnerable infrastructure out of harm’s way. We have to especially invest in the shops and yards. 

Brian, what happens frequently is, it’s not just in the subway system where trains are operating that water starts to screw things up, but when the yards get flooded we can’t even move trains in and out to serve people. And those are, I think, areas where the public doesn’t see. It’s part of our broader idea of this 20-year needs [assessment.] What we are saying to the public is we have an amazing asset that is worth $1.5 trillion, that is trillion with a “T”, we have to start investing in this thing, or it’s going to fall apart. It is 100 years old; it wants to fall apart. 

So, the highlight of this 20-year needs assessment is for all of us to focus on what is getting old. We looked at literally six million components and different assets in the subway system, and our whole system, and said what condition are they in, how vulnerable are they, and how quickly do they need to be renovated. Anyone with a home knows that you need to fix what you have before you do an expansion, and that’s what we are saying in this 20-year needs assessment. Resiliency is part of that. 

Lehrer: By the way, when we talk about the subways and we talk about the sewage system, we of course, think about the underground lines. What about the above ground trains that were suspended like the  and the  in Brooklyn. Will that become common now with these storms? Anything to help with that? 

Lieber: I think that where those lines got hit was not necessarily the above ground areas, but in the, in the below ground areas, because the  and the  have certain areas where they are, you know, old fashioned New York underground subway. The whole system got there. But let me talk about the  and the . I am passionate about making service better. We now have the best subway service that there's been in ten years. We're actually adding additional frequency on 12 lines this year. That has been made possible by the Governor's budget deal this year, which has made the MTA the envy of every transit operator in the nation. 

I went and talked at the national transit conference this week, and they portrayed it as New York’s success story. Because every other transit agency is finding out when that federal money from COVID relief runs out, they have budget deficits of 20-plus percent. In New York, we solved it. Governor Hochul got it done in the budget, and now we're actually adding service rather than cutting service and laying people off. So, we're, we're in a strong position from where we were when you and I started talking to each other a year or so ago. 

Lehrer: Let's take a phone call. Ricardo in Forest Hills, you're on WNYC with MTA Chair Janno Lieber. Hey Ricardo. 

Ricardo/Caller: Oh, hello, Brian. Hi, good morning, Chairman. I have a question. I'm very interested in human rights. I feel even bad about asking this because a lot of people in difficult situations. But there's an issue that has bothered me a lot lately, which is child labor on the subways. Subway trains, on the stations, everywhere you go. You see like, little babies are strapped on lady’s backs, I even have a picture of one sleeping on a soda can. And even like children alone. Last week, I saw boy who must have been 12 [years old] max, with another little boy, I suppose younger. So, I called the cops standing on the platform. I've called 911, I called staff of the MTA. Everybody just tells me I feel their pain but there's nothing we can do about it. 

Lehrer: Ricardo when you say child labor, you're talking about kids selling things?  

Ricardo/Caller: Selling things, yes, that's labor. And even saw this last week, I saw them alone. A boy around 12 years old, you know, they're usually with their parents, but, you know, last week I saw a kid who must have been around 12 with a younger brother. And the subway stations are extremely hot, sometimes the little ones are there all day. So, what is the MTA doing about this?

Lieber: Yeah, Ricardo. First of all, Ricardo, thank you for the question. I agree with you, that is always heart-rending. A lot of this is, we believe, is from the surge of migrants into New York. And those are, we need, I think the mayor is doing a lot, the governor is doing a ton, we need to get these people into housing. One step, positive step, has been that they are now, many of them, are now allowed to work. We don't, you know, it technically, it's against the rules to be selling stuff in the subway system, but we're not huge on cracking down on those people. But your point is those people need to get into housing, they need to get into more sustainable circumstances. And part of that is making sure that the adults can work so the kids don't have to, and I very much appreciate your question. 

So, what our MTAPD cops do when the in the terminals, you know, Grand Central, Penn [Station] and so on, that they cover is they contact, they contact the social service agencies. We actually run an operation at the end of the line, right through the night, to try to get people who are riding around on the trains, if God forbid, they're sheltering on the system, to get them out of the subways and into shelter. And right now, last night, like 13, 1400 people who we brought into shelter actually slept in a bed instead of on the subway, and we're going to keep doing it. Not all of them staying in shelters, as you know. There are challenges with that, some of the population, but we are committed to get making the subway, the best version of New York in terms of how we care for people that are, unfortunately, in difficult circumstances. So, I appreciate, Ricardo, what you're raising, and we'll continue to try to work with social service agencies to address the needs of that population. 

Lehrer: Has the child labor, as Ricardo calls it, been increasing with the influx of asylum seekers by noticeable amounts? 

Lieber: There definitely is a noticeable increase in the phenomenon that Ricardo is describing, like the candy seller, the kid candy sellers on the subway, since the migrant issue has arisen. But, you know, again, we're hopeful that the fact that the parents in many cases now can work thanks to the Biden Administration ruling that Governor Hochul pressed for is that we hope that that'll diminish that. And we're going to certainly try to, you know, the subway is no place for children to be working or living. They should be in school and in a home, and we want to support the social service agencies that are dealing with that. 

Lehrer: Another question from a listener this one via text message. Listener writes, I'm curious about whether there are any plans for Wi-Fi on subway cars as an emergency preparedness measure. Having been stuck on underground trains with no cell or Wi-Fi service, it feels like Wi-Fi in the tunnels or cars could be useful in an emergency or during a regular subway delay. 

Lieber: Good question. Yeah, we have actually, you know, as New Yorkers know, when you're in the station, there is cell connectivity, and we are installing it in all the tunnels. Every time we go in to do work in a tunnel, we are getting the, there's a private sector wireless outfit called Transit Wireless, who wired the stations, and they're now wiring the tunnels. It's going to take a little while, because we have to obviously shut down the tunnels to do that work. So, it only happens nights and weekends when we are working in the tunnels, but we are actually shooting for full connectivity in the subway tunnels as well as the stations. 

Lehrer: Another question. Let's see, by the way, somebody adds on child labor issue a two-word text that says: toddlers, too. Looking for this text that, sorry, I had one and then it disappeared because so many texts are coming in. Well, here's one that reflects what a few listeners are writing and calling about. Listener writes, the smoking on the train is unacceptable. And a few people are writing in to say there doesn't seem to be as much enforcement of the no smoking policy on the trains as there was in the past. 

Lieber: Well, all I can tell you is the stats of quality-of-life enforcement by the NYPD in the system have gone up. And you know, we're 9% down, we have 9% like less actual subway crime that we did before COVID. People don't generally look at that. But we are actually, versus the last year, we have 61% more summonses for quality-of-life events. These are not the subway crimes that, you know, like assaults, but for the quality-of-life violations we’re up 61%, and fare evasion enforcement is up 50%. So, we're trying to deal with quality-of-life issues. There is no question that we lost ground on people's public behavior and respect for each other in public spaces during COVID. All New Yorkers know that, and they experience it. 

The subway is the one place that is most intense. So, we're trying to push that back. And you saw that we had a courtesy campaign, people kind of dismissive, because they say, oh, you’re trying to be courteous, but it's the basics of how do we treat each other in the public space. So, we're, we're doing advertising and that, but I encourage people to keep reporting stuff to 311, to our WhatsApp, our other social media, the MTA social media identity, on WhatsApp, on Twitter, on all of the things, and we're also doing a public service information campaign to try to discourage this kind of behavior. 

But I'm very sympathetic, I push on it myself. I go up to people and say, listen, I know you're a New Yorker, you'll get it, you can't vape on the subway. Even if it looks like people aren't noticing, it sends a message that this is a disorderly place. It makes people uncomfortable. 

Lehrer: And this is related, I think, due to the increase in ridership recently closer to pre-pandemic levels. It seems like as that is happening, there's a sense that people forgot how to behave on the subways. Is that the case? 

Lieber: Absolutely. There's no question. We, like people, got out of the habit of like how to share public space. In New York, we're all about density, right? So, we're the biggest challenge coming out of COVID. People have been alone, are a lot less together. Now they're coming together, and they're in crowded spaces. The subway is the ultimate of that experience. Like how do we make sure that we all get along? I always say, the New York City subway is the world's greatest experiment in tolerance and diversity every day. 

Even if we just sit there next to each other quietly working our phones, or eve -- I'm still one of the old guys who reads the newspaper – we’re, that is a, you know, proof of our ability to kind of create this diverse community where things work. And when people start having conflict over small stuff, not a good thing. We want to encourage behavior like take off your backpack, don't block the door, basic stuff that New Yorkers used to know, and some of us forgot during COVID. 

Lehrer: We will continue in a minute with MTA Chair Janno Lieber. We’ll get into the congestion pricing details and still debates as they are closer to being finalized now and more of your calls and texts. 212-433-WNYC. Stay with us. 

[Commercial break]

Lehrer: On WNYC with MTA Chair Janno Lieber. I see your panel called the Traffic Mobility Board is holding meetings to work up congestion pricing details. It's been years already since the state legislature passed the law authorizing, really mandating, congestion pricing. When will you have the final plan, and who gets the final say on the prices and exemptions?

Lieber:  Well, thanks, Brian. You're right, it has taken a couple of years, you know, the Trump administration wouldn't actually work with the state and the MTA on the environmental review, so we lost all that time. We've completed the federal environmental review, we got an approval from the federal government to do this, and now we're in this phase where this advisory group, the so called TMRB, Traffic Mobility Review Board, is looking at what the toll should be mostly focusing on, what discounts and exemptions to grant. As you pointed out, there are over 120 different groups that said, give me a discount, I should be exempt for whatever reason. They've had three public meetings, what they're doing is they're trying to minimize discounts and exemptions because it drives up the toll for everybody else, because there has to be a certain amount of revenue generated as part of the law that the state passed back in 2019. 

What there seems like they're headed towards is a very deep discount overnight. So, the whole thing is focused on dealing with congestion. Remember, congestion is making it so bad that our ambulances can't get to hospitals, and police can't get to crimes, and fire trucks can't get to fires. So, it's about dealing with congestion, so they have an overnight discount which is very deep, a deep discount for low-income commuters. And it looks like they're dealing with giving a partial credit for people who are coming through other tolled entries to the business districts after 60th Street. And finally, the other big issue is taxis and how to charge taxis and for hire vehicles. The Ubers and the Lyfts now constitute something like 40 to 45% of our central business district traffic so you need a strategy for dealing with that.

And the taxis are a little bit different because they are limited. They can only pick up on the street and also because we all know the history of how the taxi businesses has had real problems. There are some public policy issues there. So, they're looking at how to deal appropriately with the taxis and the FHV’s in a way to discourage congestion in the central business district. But also recognizing that there are some populations there that have special income or other constraints that we need to be respectful of. You know, the big problem for us is we're ready to go. We've already installed like 40 plus percent of all the infrastructure. If you go to 60th Street, Manhattan, you'll see all these cameras and so on that have been installed to implement the system. 

The big challenge is that there are lawsuits from the state of New Jersey. And I'll just say this: that 80% of New Jersey commuters actually take mass transit; they're just like New Yorkers. And so, there's been this disproportionate focus on the 30,000 or so New Jersey residents, most of them affluent, because it costs a ton to park in Manhattan, who are complaining about having congestion pricing. It is not directed at any one group. It's really about reducing traffic, cleaning the air, funding transit, and protecting against the upsurge in pedestrian traffic accidents. Pedestrians and bicyclists are getting hit much more frequently in this traffic rage environment that we've created. And I don't really care whether team Menendez is going to yell at us and sue us or not. We have to protect New Yorkers. Air quality, we got to make sure the New York economy works, and because we do need fire trucks to be able to get to fires, and frankly, trucks that need to be there for business to do their business. And we're going to keep moving, and it's going to be implemented. All things, other things being equal in the spring, late spring, or early summer.

Lehrer:  Is team Menendez kind of a low blow against people from New Jersey you coulda said team Phil Murphy.

Lieber: You're right. But there were 2 Menendezes who were, who were railing against us at their rally against congestion pricing. The state of New Jersey has sued us, but there are a lot of politicians who seem to have made a lot of hay about it. 

Lehrer: Congestion pricing question from the listener via text. The question reads, can the toll for entering the congestion zone be based on time spent in the zone -- a sliding scale similar to tolls on a turnpike? Says many people have to enter Lower Manhattan to leave the city without spending a lot of time in the zone itself. I don't think it's fair to charge full price for folks just passing through. 

Lieber: It's a very thoughtful question. The way that the legislature wrote the law actually provides for people who stay on the FDR or the FDR Drive on the east side or the West Side Highway where we sometimes called West Street on the west side, who don't actually enter the congestion zone by getting off those roads to not be charged. So, there was a provision made for the, I think, the issue that your caller, questioner has raised. As far as charging people for how long they’re in, and I think that everybody's decided the simplest, I mean, not everybody but the TMRB and others seem to be saying, the simplest system is one where we just, you know, we're all familiar with tolls to enter areas that have special conditions, and we're just going to charge people to enter -- we're not charging them to leave. That was a discussion that was afoot at one point, Brian, the idea of charging people for how long they stayed in the zone. The idea is, it's a simple charge on entry, and that's it. 

Lehrer: Would you remind people what congestion pricing is actually for? Is it for the climate? And if you know to the degree that it is, do you know the percentage that once this is fully implemented, climate emissions from cars in the business district will be reduced? And how much is it for funding the needs of mass transit by making it harder on drivers to get them onto mass transit?

Lieber:  Number one, two, and three is to deal with congestion. That is the point of this, first and foremost, and I talked a little bit about the conditions that are necessitating us. We cannot do nothing. We're the most congested city in America, and in fact, New Jersey is the most congested state in America. Sometimes I don't get why they're arguing with us, but it is about dealing with congestion. Congestion is a huge tax on our economy. All the trucks that have to be, that can't take mass transit, are stuck in traffic. It's far more expensive to build because concrete trucks can't get in and out of the city, and we talked about the safety issue. So first and foremost is congestion. But there are other benefits that are focused on in this 2019 state law.

One is funding for mass transit; we want a better mass transit system as an alternative for single occupancy vehicles to drive into Manhattan. Also, cleaner air. And your question about how much cleaner the air will be. I don't have that answer at hand, but we have a 4000-page federal environmental review that actually answers that question. We're expecting that about 20% fewer people will drive into that area of Manhattan on a on a conventional weekday rush hour.

And finally, it's also about reducing traffic violence because when you have super congestion and they’re bikes and pedestrians, they don't mix so well. We all have seen in the last year or two a surge as traffic has come back. Traffic is worse than it was before COVID. People don't get this, but there's also been a surge in pedestrian and bicyclist injuries and deaths, and that is one of the ancillary benefits of congestion pricing as well. And finally, truthfully, everybody -- [caller interrupting: Oh God] -- driving is gonna have a better experience because there'll be less congestion. They will save time, but I think you have a caller who's going to agree with me 100%.

Lehrer:  Obviously. Stan in Forest Hills is that caller. You're on WNYC. Hello.

Caller: This is an -- this is a disaster for New York. And I know it, and you know it. What is he going to do if this doesn't work?

Lehrer:  What he told our screener is that a lot of people are not going to pay for the new congestion pricing. And what are you going to do? Put millions of New Yorkers in jail? So, I guess the legit question in there is, what's the enforcement mechanism?

Lieber:  It's the same as an E-ZPass, right, and I'll tell you what we've been doing with people who don't pay their E-ZPass bills. We get them. We've incredibly increased enforcement of unpaid tolls. So, on Randalls Island and other facilities that the MTA operates through its Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority, we have parking lots filled. Mercedes and Bugattis of people who didn't pay their tolls. So, we're going to do more and more of that. I think that is a slap in the face to hard working New Yorkers who are struggling to pay for transit, when people run up 20 and $30,000 bills at the public expense. So, we're going to do more of that. And the caller I think has a legitimate question. How do we know people will pay? Because if they don't, we're going to enforce on them, and that will lead to the confiscation of their automobile and the loss of the registration.

Lehrer: I want to ask about a potential conflict of interest of yours that's been raised in the press. The Daily News reported that you have a 3% stake in the land where your former employer, the real estate developer Silverstein, is helping to win a bid to build a casino in Midtown. I see you’ve recused yourself from any involvement with Silverstein and this deal, but as I understand it, you could profit from a casino, and the MTA stands to benefit financially from any casino deal. So, do you have a stake in a business that is heavily reliant on government approval, and you as chair of the MTA very much have the ear of the governor and rely on her for MTA funding? Is there a conflict of interest there? 

Lieber: I thank you for asking. Listen, I think that what this episode shows is the ethics systems is working. One, the only reason that you, Brian, know about this is because I put it on my financial disclosure forms every year since I've been at the MTA. Number two is, when I came to the MTA, I said I'm completely recused from dealing with Silverstein properties. I worked there for years on the rebuilding of the World Trade Center, which was a great honor and a great project, but it was private sector, and I moved to the public sector. I said I'm not having anything to do with that company or its projects. 

So, in addition to that, I have nothing to do with the selection of the casino, the casino licenses going forward, and I never will, and so just for the avoidance of any concern, I'm going to specifically recuse myself from, if Silverstein proposes that land as a potential casino site, and I have no control over -- never talked to him about it. I will additionally recuse myself from dealing with any issue that could conceivably have any bearing on where a casino goes or whether it's a good or a bad site. So, I'm gonna go out of my way to make sure that the ethics rules which have done a pretty good job of making sure everybody is on the level about this stuff are working. 

Lehrer: Another congestion pricing question. Listener writes, some low-income neighborhoods are being unfairly hit by this, like the Lower East Side. And what about pollution in the Bronx?

Lieber:  Super good question. You know, whenever you're doing anything with traffic, their movements, which is why we studied it umpteen times in this 4,000-page environmental review, which studies the potential traffic impacts. Again, and again, and again. We did find that there was a potential for trucks who were trying to avoid the toll to go into certain areas of the Bronx. So, we actually provided for and this is what got us the federal approval for what they call mitigation. Investments in the Bronx that will reduce pollution and offset any potential impact. 

We don't know exactly how the trucks will operate. But that was what the model told us. So, for example, we're going to eliminate a huge number of these dirty diesel-powered refrigeration vehicles that are in the Hunts Point Market. Eliminating 100 of those will offset much more than the entire impact of congestion pricing in the Bronx. So, we've specifically provided for mitigations, and even though this is all prospective, and based on modeling and so on, but we’re specifically going to invest in mitigations to make sure that nobody ends up worse off as a result of this. And, by the way, no environmental air quality standards, none of the federal air quality standards; we didn't hit that level in any place, which is why in the end, they gave us a finding of no significant impact. 

We're getting serious about climate, we have to do something, that this congestion pricing is part of Governor Hochul’s overall strategy on climate. 

Lehrer: We're in our last minute, we've been talking about so many problems that people have to deal with as commuters of whatever kind, and that you have to deal with, with respect to the system. I want to end with one kind of pie in the sky vision of positive possibilities that I see was in your 20-year needs assessment, and it's a crosstown line for 125th Street, an east west line there like the L train is on 14th Street. Why is that a priority? And I know it's unfunded as of this time. How can it happen? 

Lieber: So, you know what we did in this is we studied all, there a lot of ideas out there about new lines everybody understandably, since we built the Second Avenue Subway, people said -- hey, if you're building new lines, I got a lot of ideas. So, we studied all of them, and we studied them for what kind of benefits they would have in terms of equity and affordability. And especially efficiency. How much time people would save, how would it improve people's commutes. We did not expect it, but along with Governor Hochul’s Interborough Express which runs from the Brooklyn waterfront up to Jackson Heights, one of the highest rated ideas when you analytically studied it, was this idea of extending the new Second Avenue Extension which is going to go to 125th and Park Avenue, all the way up from 96th, up Second Avenue, and then west on 125th Street all the way over to where Metro-North lets out at 125th and Park or Lex. But continuing it west all the way to Broadway to make, in effect, the Second Avenue Subway function like the shuttle does between Grand Central and Times Square. And it turned out that had great time savings and equity and affordability benefits for lots of New Yorkers including folks in the Bronx and Harlem. And, you know, that’s great. It connects to the , the . It would connect people to the IRT, to the whole system. So, that was a discovery from this analysis. But as you said, Brian, we have to get money so we're first prioritizing fixing what we have. We cannot let this unbelievable legacy of our forebears fall apart. You know, Dick Ravitch started the MTA capital program in the 80s. But stuff that was middle aged in his time or is now decrepit and old. We got to fix it. That's the precondition before we start building new lines. 

Lehrer: MTA Chair Janno Lieber thank you very, very much. 

Lieber: You bet. 

Lehrer: Brian Lehrer on WNYC. Much more to come.