PCAC Testimony – July 22, 2019 – MTA Transformation Plan: Headcount and Productivity

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Full testimony:7.22.19 BB Headcount and Productivity

Good afternoon board members, I am Bradley Brashears, Planning Manager at the Permanent Citizens Advisory Committee to the MTA (PCAC). Today, I am here to speak about the MTA’s Transformation Plan as it relates to staff retention, and productivity.

Staff retention at the MTA is already a problem, and will be made worse by the headcount reduction proposed in the reorganization plan – which may or may not already have been included in the numbers being bandied about. We have seen over the last few years how the loss of key staff is playing out and it’s not pretty.  Too often, it’s the best people in critical positions who leave. As more senior staff are retiring, and younger staff are leaving for greener pastures after just a few years, there is and will be a negative impact on riders.

The 2010 cuts, followed by the constant whiplash from leadership change, has made staff retention that much harder. When Governor Cuomo hired three extremely strong agency leaders, and the visioning plans set out by all three were in place, there was hope that the whiplash would stop… but here we are!! The infrastructure and operation of our vast system REQUIRES informed and knowledgeable staff. Attrition has severe and unintended consequences: needed positions do not get filled; institutional knowledge gets lost; and important positions focusing on accountability are no longer to be found.

A full and transparent understanding of the hiring freeze, attrition, and retirements by departments and management levels should be fully understood and done quickly to help determine whether cutting your way out of the growing deficit is the best way to go. It is possible that with the dream team the Governor brought on – Cathy Rinaldi, Andy Byford, Phil Eng, Janno Lieber and Pat Foye – there is another way to go… a thoughtful restructuring that will reduce the MTA’s deficit through improved reliability, ridership growth, more fare flexibility, congestion pricing, value capture, and more. The AlixPartners’ plan is unfortunately a rushed response to institutional problems that have taken years to develop. A strong commitment to retaining and developing talent is crucial to maintaining productivity, which has direct impacts on the riders our organization represents.

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