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TRANSCRIPT: MTA Chair and CEO Lieber Appears on CBS-2's Exclamation Point with Marcia Kramer

Updated September 25, 2022 7:15 p.m.
Janno Lieber appears on WCBS-2's Exclamation Point
Janno Lieber appears on WCBS-2's Exclamation PointWCBS-2

MTA Chair and CEO Janno Lieber today appeared on CBS News New York’s Exclamation Point with Marcia Kramer to answer questions from riders.
A transcript of the interview appears below.
Marcia Kramer: We’re back with the head of the MTA, Janno Lieber, for Exclamation Point, a conversation only seen here on CBS News, New York. Now we're asking your questions. Here’s Selma from Brooklyn Heights:
Question: When will weekend service be as good as daily service? It's a little erratic, not on time. It's slowed down considerably.
Kramer: Weekend versus daily service.
Lieber: You know, I love the question. We just appointed a weekend service czar, a guy, Jose LaSalle, who’s a fantastic MTA guy, to focus on that because we want to make sure, weekends are when people are actually riding at higher levels relative to pre-COVID percentage wise. People are choosing to use mass transit when they have somewhere to go that they want to go whether it’s the theater, the ballgame, the beach. So, we get a lot of customers, we have to provide good service. Now at the same time, we're also trying to do a lot of construction work on the weekends. Got to balance those two and deliver what Selma wants which is more predictable, more frequent weekend service.
Kramer: Okay, next question, Keith, an MTA buff, wants to know about infrastructure.
Question: Would you use the current infrastructure to repair and make the MTA better?
There is a lot of infrastructure that we could use that is hidden, locked away: old exits, old stations that could easily be reopened if needed. But simple question is could you reopen a lot of those exits that are scattered all throughout the system that have been closed for decades?
Lieber: It's a good question. During the ’70s, in the bad years when there was a lot more crime there were a number of subway exits that got closed for safety reasons. We're looking at reopening some of those, especially where the neighborhood has attracted more people and folks are coming from different directions and so we need more access and exits to the subway. We have to do it in a way that’s safe. We have to do it in a way that we can manage it and keep it clean. And we have to be mindful of budget issues. But I think Keith’s point is a good one and we're actually looking at it all the time.
Kramer: So Keith makes some news here today.
Lieber: Keith is on the money.
Kramer: Next, we have Thomas from Harlem who wants to know about cops in the system.
Question: Is it possible to get more transit cops on platforms and subways instead of cameras?
Lieber: You know what? It's the first thing I asked for when Mayor Adams came into office which is: We want more cops, what we want them on platforms and on trains which is where our riders feel the most vulnerable. And they actually have responded. There are more cops. We see them more on platforms. We are actually, right now, asking cops to go to the conductor's position so that everybody who is on a train will know when there's a cop on the platform even if they don't see them. So, we do want more cops and we're getting them. The result is crime is down especially compared to ridership. Homelessness is down in the subway. Vandalism is down in the subway. We're headed in a good direction.
Kramer: Now we will hear from Cathy from Harlem, has this question.
Question: What are you doing about the people with the fare evasions? Every day I take the bus, I see people getting on the back door. I see people going past the bus driver. I know they're not supposed to confront the customers for their safety, but it's not fair to me. I pay all the time. It's not fair.
Lieber: I couldn't agree more with Cathy. It is one of the things I’ve said, we have to deal with fare evasion both because of the financial issues. It’s costing the MTA $500 million a year, but also the fairness aspect. People don't want to feel like suckers because they pay and they see somebody else walk through that the exit gate. So, I appointed a group of experts, both law enforcement people, and also folks who are dealt with criminal justice issues and social justice issues to come up with some new strategies. We want to change how the turnstiles are organized so they're harder to jump over and get around. We want to deal with that exit gate which is the highway of fare evasion. And we also want to educate young people so they don't get caught up in the criminal justice system if they do make a mistake and jump the turnstile or whatever. So, we want a fairer system. But ultimately, if they're people who are doing this all the time, or they're breaking the vending machines or holding the exit gate open, we do think it's time that we start to enforce a little bit more on that.
Kramer: Okay, do we have Joseph from Oradell, New Jersey. He has a question about subway cars.
Question: What is delaying you from putting new subway cars in service that are already being built? And you've been displaying on social media?
Lieber: Alright this gentleman obviously knows a lot about the MTA. We do have new cars, R211s, which are being manufactured that they've done by Kawasaki, some of that work happens in Nebraska, believe it or not. Some happens in Yonkers. And truthfully, because of supply chain is the euphemism for it, and issues with getting parts from around the world, a subway car includes thousands and thousands of parts. They are behind schedule. And he is right to ask that question. We are pushing Kawasaki to try to make up time and deliver more on schedule because our riders want new cars. They're entitled to it. By the way, those cars will have subway cameras built in, in addition to what we're doing for retrofit all the other cars with the cameras that’ll look inside.
Kramer: Any ETA, estimated time of arrival?
Lieber: We have some that are already being piloted. We're going to see them over the next three to four years. But they're going to come in slowly.
Kramer: And it's our final question from Prince from the Bronx. He wants to know about a problem that we all have at one time or another when out and about in the city.
Question: A big problem that I'm facing here, I always want to use the bathroom, like every five minutes, ten minutes. You know, that's my problem. But there's no bathrooms, nothing around. And then you try to sneak and you get arrested and get a ticket.
Kramer: Subway bathrooms?
Lieber: Listen, we can't be the bathroom for all of New York. That's one, sometimes when people talk about that, we have like 50, 60 bathrooms in the whole system. But the point that Prince is making is legitimate. The problem for us is during COVID, we lost a ton of cleaners, and we don't have enough people to clean the stations, let alone the bathrooms, which is not just a cleaning issue, but honestly a security issue. Because those cleaners are a little scared to go into those bathrooms sometimes. So, what we're doing, Rich Davey who runs New York City Transit is developing a plan both to hire cleaners but also figure out how to protect the workers when they go into a bathroom. Because we know that sometimes when that happens, you encounter crime or drug use or something. It's a little scary. So, we're trying to figure that out right now. We're going to get to it, Prince.
Kramer: Thanks for being such a good sport and answering all these questions from our riders. Thanks for sharing your point of view on CBS News New York.