Almost every other week, former federal transportation bureaucrat Larry Penner writes another misleading op-ed criticizing the [Metropolitan Transportation Authority] and other local and state agencies. Meanwhile, as Mr. Penner pecks away on his laptop, transit workers are out there running trains to keep New York moving during a horrible crisis.
So why should we listen to anything Larry Penner publishes in the magazine?
Short answer - we shouldn’t. His latest claims about MTA procurements are flat out wrong.
First, our subway car, bus and commuter rail car procurements that rely on federal contributions are planned well in advance – ensuring suppliers know when they can expect new business opportunities and that the MTA only issues solicitations when local and federal funds are fully committed.
Second, in the current cash crunch, federal funds need to be directed to the priority state-of-good-repair projects, and others, like train cars, may be delayed as a result. To be clear, all future procurements are at risk without an infusion of federal dollars and as a responsible transit property it was necessary to notify our suppliers.
Third, Mr. Penner’s claim that “there is currently plenty of work already in place to keep the transit industry busy for years to come” is yet another falsehood. We know this because our suppliers have said it themselves--in response to our letter and at our most recent board meeting. If MTA contracts fall through, it will put 100,000 out-of-state jobs at risk and jeopardize nearly $50 billion in nationwide economic activity.
Mr. Penner would know all this if he paid half as much attention during his time at FTA as he always has to his various opinion pieces.
We find it especially prescient that Mr. Penner used the phrase “my way or the highway” to describe our push for federal funding. Because if Washington fails to deliver additional emergency aid, it will most certainly cement a car-driven recovery that cripples highway traffic, worsens congestion, slows buses, sets back climate goals and hinders both the regional and national economic recovery. At least he got that right.
MTA Chief Communications Officer