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NYS Comptroller

THOMAS P. DiNAPOLI

Press Releases

April 1, 2016, Contact: Press Office (518) 474-4015

Audit Recommends Improvements to NFTA Capital Planning

Most Pressing Needs May Not Be Addressed

Almost 20 percent of the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority’s (NFTA) assets are not in a state of good repair and it is unclear how the authority prioritizes capital improvements, according to an audit released today by New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli.

“NFTA has many capital needs, some of which are not being met,” DiNapoli said. “In light of NFTA’s limited resources, it is critical that the authority prioritize its most pressing needs to ensure it will be able to meet the growing demand for public transportation across the region.”

NFTA is responsible for air and public transportation in Erie and Niagara counties. It oversees a bus, light rail, and paratransit system as well as two international airports. NFTA maintains a fleet of 307 buses, five trolleys, seven transit centers, 14 light rail stations, three bus garages, a heavy maintenance facility for buses, a rail maintenance facility and nine bus loops.

While DiNapoli’s auditors found NFTA complied with state capital planning requirements, 685, or 19 percent, of its 3,701 capital assets with an original value of $184 million, were rated in marginal or poor repair. These assets include buses and light rail cars; light rail stations and bus shelters; radio and train control systems; rail station escalators; and the light rail’s catenary system, which provides power for the trains through overhead wires. If unaddressed, the unmet capital needs could result in higher operation and maintenance costs and reduced system reliability.

DiNapoli’s review of NFTA’s capital assets found management has not established a consistent documented system for ranking its capital assets by importance, nor a schedule of replacement based on condition. Therefore, the most essential project items on the inventory list could not readily be distinguished from less essential items – even with a detailed analysis of various NFTA records.

During the preparation of NFTA’s most recent Five-Year Capital Plan for 2016-20, management requested divisions scrutinize their current capital plans for potential savings and prioritize new projects based on strategic goals and objectives, costs and benefits, and availability of funding.

When examining the capital plan projects for FY 2016, however, auditors found that the divisions only prioritized about 33 percent of the capital plan projects (132 of 405), increasing the chances that projects of less importance will be completed before the authority’s most pressing needs are met.

Additionally, auditors found management does not maintain documentation to support their determination of projects selected for improvement, those that are deferred, and those that are denied. Specifically, there were no supporting documents to indicate how projects met strategic goals and objectives. Also, a cost-benefit analysis is not done for every project, even those over $100,000, as required by NFTA guidelines.

DiNapoli recommended NFTA:

  • Consistently prioritize projects submitted for the capital plan, per established NFTA guidance;
  • Maintain documentation supporting the decisions submitted in the capital plan; and
  • Complete the Transit Asset Management Plan that is currently in progress, keeping in mind likely future regulatory changes.

NFTA officials generally concurred with the recommendations and indicated that certain actions have been and will be taken to address them. The authority’s response is included in the full audit.

Read the report Capital Planning: Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority, or go to:
http://www.osc.state.ny.us/audits/allaudits/093016/15s37.pdf

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