Mobile ticketing, nicer stations, connectivity

No pun intended: MTA chief Thomas Predergast said his agency would meet the governor's challenge "head on."

Mobile ticketing may soon make travel on the Long Island Rail Road a little easier.

Included in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposed $8 billion MTA makeover – the eighth proposal in his statewide, $50 billion-plus Christmas in January tour – is quicker incorporation of mobile ticketing payment methods across the MTA system, including the LIRR.

Cuomo’s plan: Introduce mobile ticketing to LIRR passengers within six months, with the railroad fully mobilized by the end of 2016.

The governor’s proposal to modernize the MTA is focused mainly on New York City’s subway system. Topping his wish list is the “rapid redesign” – all work completed by 2020, and the lion’s share by 2018 – of 30 subway stations, making them brighter and easier to navigate.

Other proposals include expanding WiFi and cellular service to all 227 underground subway stations (140 have them now), installing countdown clocks and status boards in all 469 underground and above-ground stations, streaming real-time train data through the MTA’s SubwayTime app (coming soon) and fitting subway cars and MTA buses with digital information screens, WiFi hotspots and USB charging ports.

Charging ports will be installed on 200 subway cars in 2016 and 400 in 2017, according to the governor, and some 1,500 buses will have ports and WiFi hotspots by 2018.

Also in 2016, the MTA will more than double the number of On The Go Travel Stations available to passengers. The digital touchscreen kiosks provide real-time service information, maps, elevator and escalator status for individual subway stations and other travel-planning information. There are 169 kiosks in use now at 31 subway stations, and Cuomo plans to install another 190 in 20 additional stations by the end of the year.

The MTA will also be installing more surveillance cameras throughout its bus and train fleet, to “help ensure a safe environment for MTA customers, deter inappropriate behavior (and) help prosecute criminals,” according to the governor’s office.

Cuomo’s package includes similar improvements for the Staten Island Railway and the Metro North Railroad.

Calling the MTA “absolutely vital to the daily functioning of New York City,” Cuomo said the $8 billion facelift was necessary for an MTA that “has failed to meet the region’s growing size and strength.”

“This is about doing more than just repair and maintain,” Cuomo said in his announcement. “This is building the 21st century transit system New Yorkers deserve.”

The mobile-ticketing proposal is the second from Cuomo’s ambitious 2016 agenda to directly affect the LIRR. On Tuesday, Cuomo unveiled a billion-dollar plan to update Long Island’s infrastructure, including a detailed strategy to significantly improve traffic along a 9.8-mile stretch of the LIRR between Floral Park and Hicksville.

The long-debated “third track” would clear a bottleneck that makes eastbound commuting a nightmare and hamstrings Island industry’s ability to attract talented NYC workers.

How Cuomo will pay for his grandiose statewide improvements – the list grew over the weekend, with new proposals staking $200 million in a business-plan contest focused on upstate airports and millions more for anti-poverty and criminal-justice-reform initiatives – remains to be seen.

But each proposal certainly has it supporters. In the case of the transit makeover, it’s MTA Chairman and CEO Thomas Prendergast, who said his authority is “committed to meeting Gov. Cuomo’s challenge head-on.”

The MTA would eliminate “every possible inefficiency” to complete the improvements faster and cheaper, Prendergast noted. One example: Each of those 30 subway stations would be closed during its renovation, giving contractors unfettered ability to get in, do the job and get out.

The transit system would also follow Cuomo’s suggestions on using “alternate delivery methods,” Prendergast added, such as design-build – wherein design and construction services are contracted by a single entity – and streamlined procurement processes.

Also applauding Cuomo’s MTA proposals was John Samuelsen, president of Transport Workers Union Local 100.

“These projects will greatly improve the commutes for scores of riders,” Samuelsen said in a statement. “We’re proud to be doing our part.”