The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ) Board of Commissioners approves $8.3 billion 2023 budget. Also, Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) recognizes the second Transit Worker Assault Awareness Day; and Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) employees donate and assemble more than 600 food boxes in 2022 for local families.
Following a month-long comment period, the PANYNJ Board of Commissioners on Dec. 15 approved the agency’s $8.3 billion capital and operating budget for 2023, which consists of $3.7 billion for operating expenses, $2.9 billion for annual capital spending, including Port Authority TransHudson (PATH) and AirTrain projects, and $1.7 billion for debt service and deferred expenses.
Following a $3 billion revenue loss during COVID, the bistate agency’s 2023 budget “ensures that PANYNJ remains committed to enhanced standards for safety, security, cleanliness and customer service, while improving or rebuilding its legacy infrastructure to improve customer experience, accommodate the region’s future growth and invest in the economic development of the region.”
The 2023 budget invests $2.9 billion in capital spending to modernize existing facilities or build new, state-of-the-art facilities, including:
- Implement a new 21st century fare collection system for PATH and AirTrain.
- Expand capacity on the PATH commuter railroad.
In addition to the capital spending needed to rebuild the region’s aging infrastructure with 21st century facilities, the approved budget also will:
- “Fund the largest security budget in agency’s history–nearly $1 billion–including funds to continue to strengthen the agency’s cyber security posture.
- “Provide nearly $2 billion for operations and maintenance of the agency’s assets as post-pandemic volumes increase across facilities.
- “Dedicate more than $17 million for new technology, customer experience, and employer-of-choice initiatives.”
The approved budget also will invest more than $55 million to advance the agency’s net zero-emissions future and climate resiliency goals, PANYNJ says.
“The commissioners’ approval today of the 2023 budget reflects the importance of the agency’s investments in building new world-class facilities and modernizing our legacy infrastructure into 21st century facilities so that we can continue to operate at the highest level,” said PANYNJ Chairman Kevin O’Toole. “We remain laser-focused on building a future that benefits all users of our facilities and supports the region’s economy.”
DOWNLOAD THE 2023 BUDGET BELOW:
TTC and the City of Toronto on Dec. 17 recognized the second Transit Worker Assault Awareness Day to “bring attention to the abuse and assault transit workers, including TTC employees, face every day on the job.” The day was first declared by Mayor John Tory in 2021.
“Transit workers are incredibly important frontline workers in our city, and they absolutely deserve to be treated with dignity and respect,” said Mayor Tory. “They keep our city moving each day and night, and millions of people rely on them. I am keenly and squarely focused on working with the TTC and our union partners to support workers, to help keep them safe, and to address any threats they face to their mental and physical health and safety at work.”
“Everyone deserves to feel safe at work. This past year, the TTC has taken numerous actions to help support our frontline workers and bring awareness to the violence and challenges that our employees often face,” said TTC Chair Jon Burnside. “However, we recognize that there is still work to be done and we continue to look at solutions to help support our employees.”
Last year, in response to an increased number of reported attacks on employees, the TTC developed an action plan to further protect frontline workers. Under the action plan, there have been several steps taken, including:
- Conducting more than 6,000 face-to-face safety talks with frontline employees across the organization.
- Expanding the partnership between Streets to Homes and the TTC to five days a week this past October, covering morning and afternoons. Since then, services have been offered 322 times and accepted 77 times.
- Holding more than 20 operator engagement sessions at divisions to better educate frontline workers on services and supports available.
- Providing conflict avoidance and de-escalation training for employees.
In October 2022, according to TTC, the number of reported offenses against employees was 6.12 per 100 employees, which is 10% lower than the number recorded in October 2021.
The action plan, TTC says, is built on previously established safety programs at the agency, such as video surveillance on all vehicles and in stations, supporting criminal prosecution against those charged with criminal acts against employees through the Court Advocacy Program, and sharing video and photos of attackers with police. The TTC also provides trauma supports to staff through the Employee and Family Assistance Program.
The TTC says it takes “all instances of physical abuse, harassment and threats seriously and continues to work with police to prosecute to the full extent of the law,” and adds that it works closely with Toronto Police Services on any violent incident that occurs on the transit system, including those against customers.
“The safety of our employees and our customers is paramount to all that we do,” said TTC CEO Rick Leary. “Every day our employees show tremendous dedication and skill to keep Toronto moving–and they deserve to feel safe while doing so. We all know that violence can quickly lead to devastating consequences. Assaults on our employees are unacceptable, and we will continue to work with all our partners to bring an end to these terrible incidents.”
Last week, CTA employees took part in the agency’s decades-long tradition known as the Holiday Food Train Program, an employee-led initiative that has provided thousands of seasonal food boxes to Chicago families since 1992, and ensured that more than 600 families will be able to enjoy home-cooked holiday meals.
The Holiday Food Train, which eventually led to the launch of the CTA Holiday Train, began when CTA employees assigned to the O’Hare Branch Terminal on the Blue Line “recognized the need for food donations in their service area during the holiday season.” At the time, CTA says, employees generously donated their own money and time for the assembly of several dozen food baskets, which contained all the trimmings for a complete holiday meal. The employees decorated an out of service train with a “Season’s Greetings from the CTA” sign and then used it to deliver the food baskets to local charities and organizations.
As the Holiday Food Train and spreading cheer from the rails became part of the culture at CTA, the program expanded and so did the decorations, the agency said. A flatcar was added to the train for Santa and his reindeer, along with more lights and an updated sign. Over the years, more decorations and lights were added, and the “Food Train” quickly became known as the “Holiday Train” and was added as part of scheduled service traveling along all eight rail lines.
More than 30 years later, personnel from across the CTA continue to donate their time and money to support the Holiday Food Train Program, which to-date has delivered more than 10,000 food baskets to Chicago families, according to the agency. Since the onset of the pandemic, however, the food boxes are temporarily being delivered directly to the organizations and not via the out-of-service Holiday Train.
“The CTA is an organization that truly embodies the spirit of public service, which is why I often refer to our agency collectively as ‘the CTA family’,” said CTA President Dorval R. Carter, Jr. “The Holiday Food Train is a tradition that truly reflects the heart and soul of so many CTA employees and is just one of many initiatives where our employees give back to the communities we serve.”
“Here at CTA, we know that the money we raise and hours we volunteer make all the difference!” said Jeannine Messina, Senior Manager, Infrastructure and Project Lead for the CTA Holiday/Food Train. “The past couple of years have been tough for everyone, especially food banks, so we are hoping that the hundreds of baskets we prepare will guarantee that all will have a warm meal and can enjoy the holidays with their families and loved ones.”