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TRANSCRIPT: MTA Chair and CEO Lieber Appears on The Brian Lehrer Show

Updated Feb 22, 2023 1:15 p.m.

Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) Chair and CEO Janno Lieber appeared live on WNYC Radio’s The Brian Lehrer Show to discuss MTA finances, ridership, customer satisfaction, subway safety and other transit-related topics. 

A transcript of the interview appears below

Brian Lehrer: Chairman Lieber, we always appreciate that you come on and talk to our listeners. Welcome back to WNYC. 

Janno Lieber: Good to be with you, Brian. 

Lehrer: And listeners your questions welcome about mass transit, the lifeblood of our region, 212-433-WNYC 212-433-9692, or tweet @BrianLehrer. Can we start with the plea to the social media companies? What happened? And what are you asking them to do? 

Lieber: Listen, everybody knows that glorifying something like what these kids are doing is increasing the problem. We've seen the number of subway--of these videos go up over time, and it's had an impact on the frequency with which people riding outside of trains in general and this particular form of behavior. And all I'm saying is I'm not an expert in constitutional law, and I know that this is being debated in the Supreme Court about whether social media companies can be constrained, but the right thing to do is not to put up these videos which obviously have negative consequences. If they were running videos of people playing Russian roulette with live bullets, they would understand the consequences, and this is the equivalent for kids who are encouraged to do this by the glorification video. 

Lehrer: How possible is it even for corporate headquarters of TikTok or wherever to find subway surfing videos when people post them? Is it a needle in a haystack? Is there an algorithm that can spot them? Do you know? 

Lieber: Listen, you and I and your listeners know that the social media companies figured out a way to micro target all of us. I have no concern that if they were focused on this, they wouldn't be able to find those types of videos. I mean, we're able to find them just by doing a couple Google searches, and we find most of them using those key terms. So, I'm not worried about that. It's really a question of will and intention, and a sense of doing the right thing. I'm not interested in having a constitutional law debate. I am interested in protecting New York City kids who for whatever reason, are encouraged, incentivized to do crazy stuff. 

Lehrer: Let’s talk about the state budget and potential for a fare hike, and the longer-term challenge of lower ridership. The Governor is asking Mayor Adams for another $500 million every year from the City. He says no, the MTA is a state function, and the City can't afford that much contribution. I saw you quoted saying another $350 million from somewhere. So, a little less than what the State is asking for from the City would avoid a fare increase. What's the status of that as you see it? 

Lieber: Listen, everybody knows why the MTA is in this position. Our riders are telling us they're happy with service. There's much more comfort, higher comfort level with subway safety than there was even a couple months ago. We're down, literally yesterday, the NYPD announced that we're down 30% in just in year-to-date in subway crime versus the year before. So, the issue is work from home. That's the thing that has driven the MTA budget down and created this deficit. And what Governor Hochul has done, she has put on the table a very balanced plan that says the MTA first has to tighten its belt, find $400 million with the savings on our own. And we're asking companies in the entire MTA region, most of whom are in New York City, to help us a little bit fill the impact of the fact that they want subway service and mass transit service to be first class five days a week, but they're letting people come in one, two, three days a week. So, we need to fill that deficit. And the third piece is obviously straightening out long standing inequities in our relationship with the City. The City owns the subway system. Long time ago, the State said we will run it for you, we will subsidize it with bridge and toll revenues, but the fact that the City is disproportionately getting money from the MTA for school transportation, unlike other areas, and the fact that we, the MTA, is paying 60-plus percent of the paratransit costs. That's not consistent with everything in the rest of the state. So, we're saying on those couple of things, let's straighten out our arrangement with the City to make it a little more like the rest of the state. The goal—but Mayor Adams is our friend and partner. He's been great in pushing back on the subway crime issue, and we've had huge success in moving the dial on that. This is the kind of stuff that goes on in Albany every year, the State and the City have to work stuff out at the table. And the main thing is that Governor Hochul stepped up for the riders, she put on the table a balanced plan that solves the whole MTA deficit, avoids, you know, huge cuts in, in ridership, in service and layoffs, God forbid. She put it on the table, now let's work it out in Albany. 

Lehrer: So, fare hike? Yes, or no? What do you see? 

Lieber: Well, listen, I am in the affordability business for mass transit. Mass transit is one of the very few things that makes New York City affordable, and I'm passionate about that. We are, you guys know about, everybody knows about Lucky 13, our discounts for regular riders. We have a program just for low-income people who can get half fare – we have a million people in New York who already get reduced fare, they pay $1.35 to ride mass transit, it's a great deal. We are one of the most affordable systems in the world, however, having small incremental fare increases over the last ten years has preserved the MTA viability before COVID. And all the Governor is saying is let's go back to that system, where there was a couple of points every year just to make sure that you could maintain viability as costs inevitably go up. I think that's responsible, and she's putting most of the, the problem solving, the cost of solving this problem on, you know, the MTA by tightening belt, businesses to help us make sure that we can provide five-days-a-week service and settling up those inconsistencies with the City. I think it's a great thing. The other thing she put on the table, that mass transit would be a priority for the use of casino revenue. That is a long-term plus, for securing the viability of mass transit in our city. Because we know that's going to be, when those casinos come online, it's going to be a significant new revenue source, and I love it that she is prioritizing mass transit to make sure that we can protect the riders. 

Lehrer: We’ll get to new kinds of service, we'll get to subway crime. Staying on the finances for the moment, a few more things, here's a tweet from a listener that says: wondering if OMNY and the automatic weekly rate automatic switch has impacted revenue when compared to ridership in the past? I guess when compared to the MetroCard. 

Lieber: Listen, you know, I think the good thing about OMNY is it's for most people, it is eliminating wasted investment, potential wasted investments. There were a lot of people that were buying weekly’s, were buying monthly's and weren't getting the full value out of it. What OMNY does is it changes the dynamics, so you automatically get the best fare. So, you might pay $2.75 for your first dozen rides in a week, and then boom, OMNY gives you a free ride the rest of the week. And we're pretty soon going to be able, because the software is being developed, so you can whatever day of the week you start your week, if you start riding on Tuesday, it will then give you the first 12 rides after that. So, the idea is that OMNY becomes a benefit to the rider. Not it's actually-probably in that small way cuts away revenue to the MTA because it it takes away the inefficiency of people buying monthly’s and they don't get their money's worth out of it. 

Lehrer: How much is congestion pricing to drive into Manhattan below 60th Street and the money that the MTA would get from that for year-to-year operating expenses, like we've been discussing so far, and how much is it for longer term work? 

Lieber: Thanks for asking Brian, that's an important point that sometimes gets missed. Congestion pricing is all for capital. We have a 50-plus billion-dollar five-year capital program, and that is essential because 80% of that money is for what we call state of good repair, normal replacement. We have 100-plus-year-old subway system that wants to fall apart, and you got to invest in it. So, the congestion pricing revenue is going to go to the capital program, not to the operating budget. The analogy that I sometimes use is when you have schools you got to pay for the school, the physical school, but you also have to pay the teachers and the custodians and the professionals who work in it. Physical school is the capital budget, paying for teachers and custodians is the operating budget, and the congestion pricing is for capital, make sure the system stays in a state of good repair. 

Lehrer: We have a couple of fare beating questions, which I know you've been talking about, you've been talking about on this show and elsewhere, as tearing out the social fabric of the city as well as the dollars and cents cost to the system. So, let's launch this part of the conversation with Neil in Brooklyn. Neil, you're on WNYC with the Chair of the MTA, Janno Lieber. Hi, Neil. 

Neil/Caller: Okay. Hi, Janno. This is not really my questions, this is the same question everyone has that why not have or is it possible to have some type of security if not a police officer, then somebody at popular subway stations like the ones at Times Square on 42nd Street and Seventh Avenue. So, because it's become, there's been a change in the mentality, the normalization, of just jumping the turnstile or people holding open the exit door and letting everyone in. And there's, I hardly ever— I don't take the subway that often I usually bike, but when I do I see so much fare beating with the normalization of fare beating that anyone who pays the fares, swipes is almost like a fool. And that's terrible. 

Lieber: Neil. Neil, thank you. And your assessment is right on the money. Fare beating, fare evasion, call which you will, has gone up significantly since the onset of COVID. It used to be a $200 million a year problem for the MTA, it's now roughly $600 million a year problem. So, it's a real issue. What are we doing about it? Number one, we have there is more police enforcement in the system. It's been first and foremost focused on subway safety, but there has been an increase in fare evasion enforcement. It's not criminalization, its giving people summonses. It's like a, you know, a parking ticket is 100 bucks. There's—so there's more of that than there was a year ago, a lot like 100% more, but even more important, I think that we've got to change, do a couple of big things. One is to change the physical fare array, the turnstile. That exit gate that is required by our state code authorities, allegedly for fire safety reasons has become the superhighway of fare evasion. We got to do something to change the physical fare array, because not only half of the people are going through the exit gate, and they're not jumping the turnstile or back cocking, or otherwise. The other thing we got to do is educate young people about what it means to be a New Yorker. This is an issue of citizenship, and we also have to make sure that more people who are really, at the very low-income end of the spectrum are aware of the fact that there is a subsidy program, we call it Fair Fares, that they're entitled to a half fare. I don't want fare evasion ever to be a crime of poverty. So, the first thing is, I love that New York's subway system is so affordable, it is. But we need to, with a combination of changing the physical fare array, doing more education, and having targeted enforcement. Especially people who break the machines and do, you know, fare evasion scams where they take money and hold the door open. All that stuff we need to focus on, and we have actually a group of 20 really distinguished New Yorkers, social justice people as well as law enforcement, and education people, actually doing a report on all the things we need to do to crack down or to turn back fare evasion. It’s not just cracking down, but it’s just to turn it back over time. I got to say one thing, we always talk about how, where did the 65% of pre-COVID, we’re roughly down a third of our riders, and if you take account of the growth in fare evasion, we're closer to 73-74%. So, fare evasion is having a real impact on this budget deficit that has grown up since the onset of COVID. 

Lehrer: On the decline of ridership, causing the decline of revenue, and tying it to how much working from home there is now as you did before, listener has a strong reaction to that on Twitter. Right. So, the MTA wants to make our jobs force us back into offices five days a week, and pay more yet again, for our fares? Screw our work life balance and our COVID-safe homes. What do you say to that tweeter?  

Lieber: Your Twitter friend has misunderstood. I'm saying don't—we have to accept that there is hybrid work for white collar workers. We're just asking the businesses, only the largest 5% of businesses, these are the really big rich companies, to pay a little more so that there is, you know, frequent, reliable, safe, top-tier, five-day-a-week service whenever they require their employees to come in. So that's the point. It's not that we're trying to force anyone back to work. I'm the one that goes around saying the MTA shouldn't fear hybrid work. New Yorkers, New York is going to survive and prosper because we're still attracting the smartest, most ambitious people, but we got to pay for the subway system to support a dynamic New York. Otherwise, we can't survive at our density without first-class mass transit. That's the issue. 

Lehrer: On fare beating, listener tweets why not just install floor-to-ceiling turnstiles? 

Lieber: Well, we're actually looking at versions of that, Brian. You know, without getting too technical, we're going to have the report come out in a month and we're actually going to have I think, hopefully at the event where we roll out the report, we'll have some examples of the new 21st century turnstiles that we're going to have to get, take a look at seriously. But I'm focused, among other things, on getting, you know, dealing with that exit gate, which has become a crazy accelerator of fare evasion. I want to deal with that first and foremost, and also fix the turnstiles as well. 

Lehrer: More good questions coming in on Twitter. Here are two questions related to each other on the same topic. They're slightly different, so I'm going to read both of them. One of them says, speaking of fare evasion, can you ask Lieber about people who rob the MTA of even more money per instance on MTA bridges and tunnels by defacing or covering their license plates? And a caller wants to know, if the State is losing money on Open Road Tolling in general? I guess they're getting at the fact that, you know, if you don't have E-ZPass, then you have to send people a bill, and are you losing money on people not paying compared to if they had to stop and pay a toll collector? 

Lieber: So, great question. Absolutely the right question, which is we have to do fare evasion enforcement in effect on the roads as well, because that toll evasion issue is very real. We are the ones who have been leading the effort to sensitize people to the fact that a lot of folks are scamming by covering their license plate, by having these James Bond devices that cover their license plate as they go in. By turning, you know, by putting these plastic covers on. It's a $50 million year problem for the MTA. We started this mega enforcement effort on those scammers who are doing that. Last week we impounded 32 cars who owed more than like a million dollars together in one day. In one day, we impounded 32 cars because we have people who are on the lookout for specific scammers, the guys who have been doing this routinely and frequently for quite some time. So, we're all over that issue and your, whoever wrote to you is right to say that is as important from an equity standpoint, as you know, improving our fare evasion situation on subways and buses. By the way, I didn't mention on fare evasion, bus fare evasion has really soared, and we have to figure out how to deal with that. Because when I was a kid, if you, if you shorted the box a nickel, the driver would pull you in and push you out of the front door. That doesn't happen anymore because our drivers are rightfully concerned about safety. And the result is we’re seeing fare evasion go up dramatically on the buses. Not a good thing. We have to figure out how to deal with that. I would like to do it with unarmed fare evasion— I mean fare enforcement professionals rather than having an armed enforcement. Do something more like we have in Europe. 

Lehrer: They can't ride every bus, though, right? And there's an opposite proposal to just make the buses free. And that's what serves the lowest income transit users in general anyway. Is there a possibility of that? 

Lieber: Yeah. Listen, my, I said to you before, my focus is affordability. And as I ticked off before, I think that we have by far the least expensive system compared to other major cities. It's a single fare, so that people who live far away – which is a lot of low-income New Yorkers – get the best value. Making buses free, I'm a little concerned about unintended consequences. I think it would hit the MTA bottom-line by like a billion dollars. Not just because you wouldn't be collecting fares on buses, but also because you would have a significant shift from subway to bus, because it was free. And you would have to buy more buses, hire more bus drivers, yada, yada, yada. I'm concerned about unintended consequences. I'm always willing to study stuff, but I don't want to do that kind of stuff on a dime. And you know, Albany. There's a lot of good conversations going on in Albany between the Governor and folks in the legislature. I welcome all of it. But the first thing we got to do is what the Governor did, which is make sure the MTA deficit is dealt with. That's number one. Then we can talk about lots of other good stuff for transit. 

Lehrer: You talked about the problem of fare beating and the exit gates. I saw that the MTA’s Chief Accessibility Officer announced just yesterday that the agency will pilot what you're calling wide aisle fare gates for wheelchair users who can't pass through turnstiles like other users can. Can you tell us more about the rollout plan and where listeners can expect to see these new fare gates? And also, those, while benefiting wheelchair users, also offer new fare evasion risks? 

Lieber: So, it's, you know, just like subway elevators is a benefit not only to our disabled neighbors, but also to people with strollers and luggage, and so, you know, we've all seen people struggling through the, you know, the existing turnstiles, and it's crazy right? So, we have to deal with that. The wide aisle gates are going to be piloted at Atlantic Ave-Barclays Center and at Sutphin-Archer, which is the stop on the   and the   that connects to the AirTrain, to JFK, because obviously you have a lot of people with luggage there as well. So, we're going to pilot it, we're going to see if, as you say, there is any additional fare evasion risk. We're already looking at different versions of the wide aisle gate, the same width, but different dimensions to make sure it does not become a facilitator of additional fare evasion. But as I said, the exit gate is more than 50% of where fare evasion is happening. So that's the number one priority. 

Lehrer: Christina in Manhattan you're on WNYC with the CEO at the MTA, Janno Lieber. Hi, Christina. 

Christina/Caller: Good morning, Brian. Good morning Mr. Lieber. Thanks for taking my call. It's good to hear that you're also a lifelong New Yorker. You mentioned being a kid going through this. I wanted to ask you, and, first of all, thank you. I think you're remarkably competent, and it's a really thankless job you have. So first of all, thanks a lot for that. We know what's going on and you know, not all that gets by you. But I am concerned, I am a frequent listener to Brian's show and I hear a lot of mentions of corruption in the MTA and sweetheart deals for construction contracts and things like that. And I wonder if you have considered letting a full audit in to have a real hard look at this so you can start getting the support you need without the shroud of, you know, negativity around it. 

Lehrer: And let me, let me give an example actually of that shroud of negativity. I don't know if you were listening Chairman Lieber, when we had the segment recently with two members of Congress from the suburbs, Democrat Josh Gottheimer from New Jersey and Republican Mike Lawler from Rockland (County). And I played for them a few clips of you here on the show last year on congestion pricing, and they were pretty rough on you, especially Gottheimer. But here's what he said about what Christina is raising. 

Congressman Josh Gottheimer Audio Recording: When they get their operation under control, and they fix their books and start running a better operation, maybe we can have a conversation about going forward together here but, for right now, I would hope they back off this. 

Lehrer: Alright, so obviously, we were talking over each other there a little bit, but what do you say to Christina and to Congressman Gottheimer? 

Lieber: So, you know, obviously, Gottheimer is in the insinuation business rather than the fact business. So, when he says, well where did the money from Congress go? You know where it went? The COVID bailout money for the MTA? It went to pay the workers so we could run service even though virtually nobody was riding. It's not that complicated. I'm happy to have, you know, we actually have to account to the federal government for where, how we spent the money. So, you know, insinuations I understand it's fun politics, but it's meaningless. The, there's no... 

Lehrer: But you acknowledged waste a few minutes ago, right? And let me throw another one at you. In the (NY) Post – and I know it's the Post – but they ran a series about allegedly $400 million of waste in the Long Island Rail Road alone. It cited, quote, extraordinary costs the LIRR puts on the system by having almost twice the number of conductors it needs, and far more than Metro-North would need to operate the same service. So, is that true about different staffing rules on the two commuter rails? And in general cleaning up the house? 

Lieber: Listen, so number one, before I moved upstairs to be the chair, I was the guy in construction. So let me tell you we have turned around the way that MTA does major capital projects. Everybody likes to talk about Second Avenue Subway, which was, and East Side Access, which was started under Governor Pataki, like a million years ago in five or six governors ago. But the projects that we are running are coming in on time and under budget. Major projects, like the redo of the Long Island Rail Road concourse at Penn, the Third Track project in Long Island, we’re talking about the L train redo, $100 million under budget. So, we are having real success driving what has historically been an area where the MTA, I would say leaked money because of project management issues and other stuff. I think we're making significant progress. Do we have on our operating side, a ways to go to make sure that maybe antiquated rules, work rules and ways of working do not cause the MTA to spend more money than the first-class modern transit systems we, we look at as our peers? Sure, we have a ways to go. A lot of that stuff is at the collective bargaining table, though. So, you can't just change overnight, the number of people that are assigned to a particular task, even if those assignment patterns date from, you know, 50,60, 100 years ago, and which some of them do, but we have to win those changes at the bargaining table with our union, and those discussions are going to go, going to be underway. So, it's a legitimate point. I just want to thank Christina for her question because anytime there's insinuations of impropriety at the MTA, I want to get right on that. That I don't think is the big issue. It is, there are some of these residual inefficiencies, and we get audited again and again and again, and again, it's fine. But I don't want anyone to come away with the impression that we don't take that stuff seriously, because we do. 

Lehrer: Well, one other thing on the suburban congestion pricing pushback. One of the things that Congressman (Mike) Lawler said, and I don't have the clip, but he was a little more measured in general in his tone than Congressman Gottheimer. But he said for Rockland County commuters especially – that's his district – we don't have a one-seat ride. We don't have significant express rail service options. We don't have busing options like other parts of the MTA regions, so we are forced to drive. About half of the commuters into New York City from Rockland County do drive, that's a quote from Congressman Lawler. So, my question is, if you accept this premise, can mass transit options for our Rockland County listeners be improved significantly to blunt that opposition? 

Lieber: You know, that is absolutely a fair question. The guy who has now stepped up in the assembly to be the chairman of the committee that oversees the MTA, is an assemblyman from Rockland County has pressed me on this and I have said, listen, I want to work with, you know, on the West of Hudson, the rail lines are operated by New Jersey Transit. They wind through New Jersey, which has, tell Congressman Gottheimer by the way, that anything he's saying about the MTA is much more of a problem in New Jersey, which has a much bigger deficit coming out of COVID, then on a percentage basis, than the MTA. But back to the point about Rockland, they're legitimately concerned about the service that goes through New Jersey that they have. I want to work with the Rockland team and the Rockland legislators to make it faster and easier and more attractive for people to get across the Hudson and take the very frequent Metro-North service. It's on the Hudson Line, it's just the other side of the river. So, more bus service is one option, more opportunities for people to drive across and park at a Metro-North station on the east side of the Hudson. There's a lot of great service on the Metro-North Hudson Line, and you don't have to rely on New Jersey Transit like the lines that run from Pascack Valley and the Port Jervis Line. So those are options that are available. 

Lehrer: So just get across the Tappan Mario Bridge, or whatever they're going to call it. We're going to take a break for one minute and continue with MTA Chair Janno Lieber. We’ll still get to subway crime, looks like that's an improving situation. We'll still get to a new generation of trains coming in, and some more of your calls if we have time. Stay with us. 

Lehrer: Brian Lehrer on WNYC with the Chairman and CEO of the MTA, Janno Lieber. Let's talk about subway crime. Looks like you have a second month in a row of good news, yes?  

Lieber: Yeah, I mean, in January subway crime was down 29% from the prior year. For the first part of ‘22 it was going up over prior years, and it was a concerning pattern. And the Governor and the Mayor came together and pushed a plan which not only increased the presence of police officers in the system, which everybody saw, but also cameras, and importantly, more care and more strategies and more outreach workers to deal with the presence of people who are struggling with mental illness in the public space, which is, you know, a challenge for New York, generally, above and below grade, and the Governor and the Mayor stepped up on all those fronts. The result is 29% down in January. The four months, Brian, that we've just completed, have been the safest four months on record in our subway system, except for 15 minutes at the height of COVID when no one was riding. 

Lehrer: Let me pin you a little bit on what that stat means. Because if you have fewer riders and fewer incidents of crime that doesn't tell us about the rate, like I think you measure it, when you really measure it, you measure it in number of major crimes per million rides, right? 

Lieber: Yeah, and you're right Brian. We're, we're approaching, we're getting pretty close to where we were pre-COVID, which is pretty good. So, we were at 1.7 crimes per million riders the last few months, and pre-COVID we were at 1.5. So, it used to be that we were way worse than we were pre-COVID. Now we're getting pretty close to the pre- COVID level. Look, listen, we got to keep going. I'm passionate about this issue, not because, you know, I like to crack down on anything, but I feel like the experience of the subways for a lot of people defines their sense of this community in this experiment that is New York. That you can share public space, and you can get along with all different kinds of people in this enclosed environment, makes you feel good about New York, makes you feel confident in our, you know, our spirit and community, and it's not just a raw safety issue, although that's first, second and third. It's really about the sense of community and safety in this amazing place. 

Lehrer: Also, compared to the risks we face in life. Like your risk of driving, risks from COVID, where you know, a dozen or more people are dying in the city still every day from COVID. And if you ask people, what's your actual risk of being a crime victim on the subway, I wonder how many people would know those stats as you just cited them. Before COVID, it was 1.5 crimes, major crimes in the subways, per million rides. So, literally one in a million. Now it's 1.7, which is basically the same thing. Perception outstrips reality. 

Lieber: Yeah, but because everybody uses the public transit system in New York. Because as we, I always say, it's like air and water for New Yorkers, we wouldn't survive with that. Everybody puts themselves in the situation that is, you know, described on the media where someone got mugged or attacked, God forbid. So, it's very personal. People see themselves in those experiences that they read about and hear about. 

Lehrer: And you have the influx of police officers, along with Mayor Adams in the last quarter of last year, right. 

Lieber: Yeah. And you know what I love is that the police are also, it's not just that they're there, but they're, they're identifying themselves to the conductors. So, when a train pulls into the station, the conductor makes an announcement to let people know they're cops on the platform. So, it's not just that they're discouraging crime, when in those rare instances where there is crime, people are being apprehended almost immediately. I get the dailies, every one of these major crimes every day, and notably, it's not only suppression of crime and discouragement of crime, it's also immediate apprehension that's taking place in the system. That's a benefit as well. 

Lehrer: I want to play a clip for you, though, as the President of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund Janai Nelson, on this show, last month. The topic was policing in general, and I asked her about the connection that you and Mayor Adams have made between adding more officers to the underground last fall and the decline in crime. And she was skeptical and said this: 

NAACP Legal Defense Fund President Janai Nelson Audio Recording:  In terms of the police presence being a factor in crime reduction, I think we need to ask ourselves, whether that is one in fact, true. And two, is that the only way to reduce crime? And what is a more durable way of ensuring that crime does not occur in this city? Is it more police officers? Is it funding people who will arrest people who don't have sufficient funds to pay the train fare? Or is it investing in communities, building economic opportunities, so that people can pay the train fares, so that they have the social and mental health services that they need, so that they are not using the subway system as a place of shelter and housing and refuge. There are many investments that we can make, that would have a much more lasting impact, that would have a compounded positive effect on our city. If we made those types of investments instead of investing in more police who simply regulate jail, enforce laws that perpetuate the harms, that come back to our communities ultimately. 

Lehrer: Your reaction to the president of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund? 

Lieber: Yeah, I agree on a lot of the stuff she says about investing in, you know, the conditions that ail us socially and economically. But listen, the Governor and the Mayor's plan was not exclusively cops. It also had cameras and care for the homeless, in particular, especially the mentally ill homeless. Number one. Number two, I don't know what, whether she meant it, but she made it sound like we are arresting fare evaders. Not so, they get tickets – except for the people who are like breaking the machines and running fare scams. We're not arresting the homeless, we're trying to give them care. What having cops in the system has done, it's made the riders feel a lot more safe. We went from 40% of our riders saying they felt safe or very safe in the system before the Governor and the Mayor took action, to 60% in a matter of months. And honestly, most of our riders are still asking in all our customer surveys for more police presence in the system. And you know, wherever they fall on the economic spectrum, and wherever they are demographically, they want to see uniformed officers in the system. I respect my riders, I got to listen to them. 

Lehrer: We have two minutes left. One more question. New cars, new generation of subway trains come in? Do I understand correctly, the   and the   lines are going to get them first? There's going to be disruption on those lines as you install them, but it's a new kind of car? 

Lieber: Yeah, I mean, the car is not totally unfamiliar to New Yorkers. But what it does is, the design of the car is widening the doors and creating much more room around the doors. So, we all know as subway riders, that there tends to be crowding around the doorway, people can't get in and out. So, it's addressing that issue. And then there are some of the cars that we got in what they called the open gangway format, where you have the connection between the cars is not just that door, but actually an accordion, like open doorway, so you can move from car to car, and we're testing those out. The   and   lines are getting them, and we've ordered like 1200 of these so it's going to start to be visible in the system in the next couple of years and we may order more depending on how well they test out. But the   and   line are a priority for me. I was on your show, I think it was nine months ago Brian, you had a caller who was a justifiably kvetching about   train service from East New York, central Brooklyn, you know, long ride, you know, low-income community. And I said to him, you're right. And it is a priority of mine to make sure that what we call the B division or what I call the IND, the  ,  ,  ,  ,  ,  , get better service and you know what? They are. You have on-time performance, the best in 10 years in January, those trains in particular are getting better. And every time I see Demetrius Critchlow who runs the subway system for New York City Transit, I say to him  , because I want those trains to get a heck of a lot better. They serve really important, and you know, demographically disadvantaged populations. 

Lehrer: Just real quick. Open gangway wider doors, all that, does that mean more standing and fewer seats? 

Lieber: I don't have the exact numbers, but it may have a couple fewer seats but that it's the bench seating which is what, the way we've been doing everything though. As much as some people love the, you know, the sideways seating. It takes up a lot of room and prevents capacity from being maximized. So, the point is to make it just an easier car for people to move in and out of and around. I think we're going to get there. 

Lehrer: CEO and Chair of the MTA, Janno Lieber. We really appreciate it, and I know our listeners really appreciate that you come on here and take questions from them and from me, thank you for today.  

Lieber: You bet.