Metropolitan Transportation Authority

20-Year Needs Assessment | Next Steps

Next steps

The 20-Year Needs Assessment underscores the urgency of investing in our region's transportation network,

especially our core infrastructure, and outlines what capital investments are needed over the next 20 years to keep New York moving.

A new perspective

This 20-Year Needs Assessment differs from previous reports in fundamental ways.

First, unlike previous plans that were constrained by anticipated budget allocations, we have used the data to generate a comprehensive and transparent analysis of need. This unconstrained assessment provides a more robust and clear-eyed outlook on the vulnerabilities our system will face over the next 20 years, including the dire state of some of its most essential infrastructure—as well as the opportunities ahead.

This is also the first 20-Year Needs Assessment conducted by MTA's newly formed centralized capital planning department, which examines all agency needs from a holistic perspective.

Unlike previous iterations of these plans, this report is intended to communicate more directly with the people who have the most at stake—the riders of our system. As a result, it connects our asset needs to the performance of our system and level of service for our riders. It lays out the broader implications of investment—and disinvestment—in the system and describes what it will take to meet performance goals for riders regarding reliability, speed, accessibility, safety, and other priorities. It underscores what's at stake—and what is possible to achieve.

A data-driven approach

Hundreds of expert staff from across every MTA agency have spent the past two years examining every element of the MTA's $1.5 trillion worth of assets, using a robust combination of new groundbreaking tools, agency data, customer surveys, and long-established inspection protocols, to provide unprecedented insight into the state of our system. Highlights of our sources of data include:

  • Our agencies perform regular and comprehensive inspections of the conditions of the assets. These inspections and engineering insights underpin all our findings. Without these, it would be impossible to know the condition of the system.
  • Our Enterprise Asset Management (EAM) system provides us with the capability to track the performance of each individual system part. For example, systems like EAM help us to gain insight on where some assets have a pattern of many corrective work hours.
  • Our customer surveys help us to understand what customers care about most, particularly reliability, safety, and on-time performance.
  • Our comprehensive analysis of regional trends and emerging travel demand helps us to anticipate where new pressures will be made on the system.
  • Our new climate planning division used geospatial analysis to identify emerging threats.
  • Our first-ever Comparative Evaluation systematically compares the costs and benefits of every potential system expansion project, to help us identify the wisest investments, with the greatest impacts.

This 20-Year Needs Assessment is ...

Workers in a tunnel


We are providing an unfiltered view of our needs, unconstrained by budget. While prior iterations of 20-year needs assessments have outlined a circumscribed set of needs constrained by anticipated funding, this 20-Year Needs Assessment offers a comprehensive examination of all asset needs across the system.


An important first step in planning is to understand the condition of our assets; that's why we have focused on making the 'state of our system' easier to understand. As a second step, we need to plan for how we will get it done with the resources that are allocated. That second step is the five-year capital plan.

Transit riders waiting in a train station.
Bus driving in snow.


Budgets over a 20-year period are difficult to create with any level of precision. Rather than give a false impression of precision, this document recognizes that:

  • Costs and timeframes for specific investments will—and should—be shaped by our approach to planning and executing the projects. This involves numerous defining decisions about how projects are bundled, sequenced, designed, value-engineered, and delivered. Projecting these costs and schedules without further project development would be premature and misleading.
  • Many factors that influence cost are simply beyond the control of the MTA—and not just at the margins. Especially when planning for a 20-year outlook, this often leads to projections that can be vastly different than actual costs, as recently observed with the tremendous unanticipated fluctuations in inflation.

Our next step is the five-year capital plan

Over the next year, we will be refining, prioritizing, and packaging these needs into a five-year capital plan. This allows us to group needs based on anticipated schedules and resources—and to bundle projects strategically to minimize impacts to riders. The five-year horizon provides a more informed and reasonable time period for projecting budget requirements.

The 2025-2029 Capital Plan will be released in fall 2024.

A new capital agency is ready to deliver

In 2019, the MTA created Construction & Development (MTA C&D) as a single, unified agency to oversee its capital program. Whereas historically, MTA's capital program was drafted on an agency-by-agency basis. MTA C&D's integrated approach has allowed innovations and best practices to be used across the program.

Since its creation, MTA C&D has ramped up the pace of capital investment. The 2020-2024 Capital Program is the most ambitious in MTA history, and MTA C&D is delivering results. In 2022, MTA C&D committed a historic $11.4 billion in new projects, with projects coming in $345 million under estimate. That year, the agency completed $6.2 billion of projects, including bolstering the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge, upgrading accessibility at multiple stations, opening a storm-resilient Clifton Car Maintenance Shop, and much more vital state-of-good-repair work across the system. MTA C&D is currently executing a record-setting number of accessibility projects at 76 stations, advancing an unprecedented level of signal modernization (182 miles), and delivering on the generations-long promise to bring the Second Avenue Subway to East Harlem.

As a new agency, MTA C&D is taking a new approach to capital delivery to ensure projects are planned and constructed better, faster, and cheaper. In recent years, MTA C&D has implemented major improvements in project design and delivery, including implementing recommendations from the 2019 Crowe Forensic Audit as well as initiatives in the agency's inaugural Strategic Plan. These efforts have already brought significant improvements, from bringing costs of state-of-good-repair projects in line with peer agencies despite New York's high construction costs, to completing major improvements like LIRR's Third Track and the repair of the L Train Tube on schedule and under budget. Additional efforts include advancing significant regional improvements like creating four new Metro-North stations in the East Bronx.

Audit of MTA Capital Planning

Audit recommendations

In 2019, Crowe conducted and published the "Forensic Performance Audit of Metropolitan Transportation Authority's Capital Planning Process" as required by the Public Authorities Law. The audit assessed the performance of the MTA's capital program development processes, specifically evaluating the project selection for the five-year capital plan. The audit provided nine recommendations for improvement in the MTA's capital planning processes:

Cost estimates

  1. MTA can improve cost estimates with more formal, standardized, and consistently applied cost estimating procedures and agency documentation requirements.
  2. MTA's budgeted costs exceed comparative benchmarks for various reasons and the MTA should consider a range of alternative management approaches to control future costs.

Asset inventories and conditions

  1. MTA can enhance linkages between capital projects included in the 2020-2024 Five-Year Capital Plan and assets targeted for repair/replacement within agency asset inventories.
  2. MTA has comprehensive asset condition databases which reflect existing conditions; however, MTA should supplement its asset condition database contents to better support asset condition determinations.

Capital planning processes

  1. MTA has yet to realize significant MTA level capital planning benefits from EAM.
  2. MTA's largely manual 20-year needs assessment and five-year plan processes and disparate data platforms make it difficult for the MTA and agencies to assess priorities, backlogs, and alternative scenarios.
  3. The MTA can improve the transparency of performance measures and dashboarding to more closely monitor five-year plan and project outcomes.
  4. There are some limitations in the MTA's capital planning review and approval processes.
  5. MTA and agencies do not have comprehensive and fully documented capital planning policies and procedures.

MTA response to 2019 audit

Cost estimates

Accounting for—and ultimately reducing—the cost of capital projects is a high priority for MTA. MTA's core infrastructure projects, which make up over 80% of the 2020-2024 Capital Program, are cost-competitive with similar projects in peer agencies like Barcelona, Boston, Philadelphia, and Chicago. While expansion projects are expensive in the New York Region, recent projects—such as Second Avenue Subway—have significantly lower costs per rider compared to peer agencies in the U.S. and internationally.

Cost drivers unique to the New York region do have inflationary impacts on our capital projects. To reduce these drivers, we have undertaken a breadth of cost containment measures, including implementing innovative contracting strategies and incentives, bundling projects to take advantage of economies of scale, reducing customization and simplifying specifications, and aggressive project management.

The MTA is also focused on improving and standardizing cost estimation. As standard practice, we use Federal Transit Administration's estimating guidelines and develops cost estimates based on historical data from past projects of comparable scale, inflation adjustments, prevailing labor wage rates, and standard contingency based on the stage of design development. Estimates are prepared utilizing industry best practices and standard templates. In addition, C&D is undertaking a systematic review and improvement of our cost controls process, including developing a new cost estimating procedure and engaging an external expert cost and controls team to advise and train MTA C&D staff.

Asset inventories and conditions

To better inform investments in the next capital plan, we have undertaken a thorough effort to modernize and standardize its asset inventories. The planning process for the 20-Year Needs Assessment has involved extensive work and cooperation in establishing detailed inventories of all MTA capital assets, including asset age and surveyed condition. As part of the assessment, we incorporated additional essential metrics including performance, criticality, parts obsolescence, and compatibility with modern systems. Using this more complete understanding of asset condition and future needs allows us to target investment priorities that more strategically address capital needs and deliver improvements to service reliability and overall passenger experience.

Capital planning processes

We made significant changes to the capital planning process since the recommendations from the Crowe Audit. In 2019, we formed C&D with the express purpose of creating an integrated, streamlined capital planning, development, and delivery arm. Historically, our capital program was delivered on an agency-by-agency basis, with each wing of the MTA running its own capital division. The unified approach, bringing together NYCT, Bus Company, LIRR, Metro-North, and B&T, provides efficiencies in management and allows innovations and best practices throughout the system.

As a newly unified agency, MTA C&D is working to implement comprehensive procedures that address all aspects of project planning and delivery. C&D is in the process of adopting a new baseline procedure that standardizes the methodologies by which all projects will be executed to increase accuracy in cost estimations, establish risk profiles and mitigation strategies, and develop project performance estimates. In addition, C&D is incorporating other procedures, such as change order management procedures, to establish common processes for all agency projects.

The MTA has been implementing an EAM program since 2018 to create a comprehensive, unified, and transparent information technology strategy and database for managing and maintaining each of the operating agencies' assets. An EAM program will enable the MTA to optimize resources and lower operational costs, while enhancing the safety, reliability, and customer satisfaction of the system. To institutionalize the use of EAM, the MTA established a program management office to set strategic directions and support operating agencies' digitization efforts.

The MTA is committed to public engagement and transparency throughout the planning, development, design, and delivery of capital projects. To allow public input in long-term MTA planning, each 20-year needs assessment is submitted to the New York State Capital Program Review Board (NYS CPRB) which includes representatives of the governor, senate, assembly, and mayor. The 20-Year needs assessment then informs the five-year capital plans, which also are submitted to the NYS CPRB for review and approval the following year. The MTA also maintains and publishes a capital program dashboard, which tracks progress on the MTA's five-year capital plans. The dashboard is a public tool intended to increase transparency and awareness of the MTA's capital process and project outcomes. To engage community members, the MTA dedicates outreach personnel to serve as day-to-day points of contact for projects, and hosts meetings and workshops to solicit input from elected officials, stakeholders, and the general public on priorities throughout the system and their neighborhood.

Keys to success

Over the course of the next year, in collaboration with our regional partners, we will take this 20-Year Needs Assessment and use it to guide the creation of a five-year capital plan. In order to begin translating these needs and opportunities into an initial set of concrete projects, we will consider the system's needs holistically and identify opportunities to bundle projects together to create the most efficient and cost-effective approach. The five-year capital plan will be presented on Oct. 1, 2024.

Success will depend on resources

Our ability to address the needs identified in the 20-Year Needs Assessment will depend on the resources we have available. These include:

Sufficient funding

The vision that we establish for our system relies on adequate—and timely—funding. Without this support from our critical partners in the city, state, and federal government, we will not be able to meet the ambitious goals we have set for ourselves.

Different funding scenarios will yield different results. Our top priority must be rebuilding the critical aging infrastructure at risk for catastrophic breakdown without intervention.

A low funding scenario would require us to spend the vast majority of our resources on these urgent projects, with far less funding available for improving and expanding the system.

Public Engagement and Support

Our work is done to benefit the public—so that the trains, buses, bridges, and tunnels the public relies on continue to be there for them. That construction work, though, can be disruptive, especially in old and constrained spaces. We need the public to be patient as we get past short-term disruptions in order to generate long-term benefits.

But it's not enough to simply expect that of riders. We will continue to do our part, communicating directly and honestly with customers about impacts, and, just as crucially, helping them understand the reasons we're doing the work in the first place. This partnership—between us and our riders—is absolutely essential to delivering on the promise of this plan. Our partners in the advocacy community, at organizations both large and small, will be essential in forging this link.

Over the next 20 years, we will deliver the modern, reliable system riders deserve.

If given the resources, we can transform our vital but aging system into a modern transportation network that positions the region for the next 100 years.

To learn more about what we need to get it done, read our appendices, which outline our needs in greater detail.