Paul Bubnyis editor of RealEstate New York

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NEW YORK CITY-The Metropolitan Transportation Authority intendsto become "best in class" among large older transit systemsworldwide even as it focuses on accommodating population growth inNew York City and the metro area. Elliot Sander, MTA executivedirector, detailed a seven-pronged program for realizing this goalat a luncheon today sponsored by the Associated Builders and Ownersof Greater New York. Sander also told the ABO audience that theauthority would soon unveil a long-term vision for meetingincreased demand over the next 25 to 40 years, thus helping toretain major employers in the city.

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MTA's efforts to surpass the transit agencies of London, Parisor Toronto will focus on work force development, institutionaltransformation, customer service, finance, safety and security,sustainability and projects and programs, Sander said. He notedthat the authority has successfully resolved would-be labordisputes over the past several months, and just received a reportfrom a blue ribbon panel chaired by Richard Ravitch, former MTAchairman, with 61 recommendations on developing its 67,457-employeework force. Sander urged ABO members to read the report, which isavailable on MTA's website.

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"A flatter, leaner, more integrated MTA" is the bottom line ofthe institutional transformation initiative, Sander said. Since itscreation in 1968, he said, MTA's organizational structure has been"frozen in ice," but efforts to change this are under way, such asthe recently announced consolidation of some back officefunctions.

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A forthcoming series of webinars, informative electronic signageat the MTA's subway stop in Penn Station and the establishment of asingle telephone number to contact MTA's various transit operationsare among the customer service initiatives the authority hasundertaken since Sander took office in January 2007.

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In the area of finance, MTA's goal is to save 1.5% per year onits budget, for a 6% savings at the end of four years. Along withbolstering its detection system to improve rider security, MTA hasalso taken steps to improve its employees' safety. In December, MTANew York City Transit released a study identifying areas in whichtrack safety could be improved.

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A blue-ribbon panel's report on sustainability is scheduled forrelease on April 14, just before Earth Day, Sander said. Theauthority intends to take a leadership role in greening itsoperations.

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Sander predicted "a very intense four to eight weeks" leading upto March 31, when the federal government's commitment of $354million to implement congestion pricing in the city will sunset. Hestressed the importance of getting a congestion pricing planapproved in Albany before then. Sander acknowledged that whilecongestion pricing does not resolve the question of paying for theMTA's large-scale expansion projects, it will create a revenuestream that would support the issuance of bonds.

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As for those projects, Sander told the audience that he and Gov.Eliot Spitzer have identified the Second Avenue Subway and the LongIsland Rail Road's "East Side Access" to Grand Central Terminal asthe most important. The extension of the No. 7 subway line to theFar West Side would follow, along with creating a one-seat ride toand from JFK Airport. The Regional Plan Association has said thatif these projects are completed, the region's population growth canbe accommodated without further congestion on the highways, Sandersaid. He added, however, that if he had to delay or curtail theseprojects to allow sufficient funds for maintaining the MTA systemin a state of good repair, he would.

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Paul Bubny

Paul Bubny is managing editor of Real Estate Forum and GlobeSt.com. He has been reporting on business since 1988 and on commercial real estate since 2007. He is based at ALM Real Estate Media Group's offices in New York City.