Amidst massive ridership declines, MTA seeks $4B+ in federal aid

Posted On Wed, March 18, 2020 By

Posted On Wed, March 18, 2020 By In Policy, Transportation

Photo credit: Billie Grace Ward via Flickr

Facing a 60 percent decline in subway ridership and a 90 percent decline on commuter rails, the already-cash-strapped MTA is seeking more than $4 billion in federal aid, according to a letter the agency sent yesterday to the New York Congressional Delegation. “Assuming ridership trends this week continue for six months,” they wrote, the anticipated revenue losses to the MTA are $3.7 billion, along with $300 million in annualized COVID-19 expenses.

Comparing these figures to those of this past Friday–a 20 percent decline on the subways and 48 percent on Metro-North–show just how quickly things have escalated for the MTA. At that time, agency heads continued to assure New Yorkers that they’d be running regular service. And though they still have not made any suggestions about service cuts, the MTA’s chairman and CEO Patrick J. Foye, “We project the full impact will be over $4 billion by the end of 2020 – even without accounting for the expected collapse of the more than $6 billion in state and local taxes dedicated to the MTA.”

Nicole Gelinas, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, told the New York Times that the MTA is “in a very unique situation in that they cannot and should not cut back in service in response to the shock, so they are stuck with a huge financial burden.” As has been echoed by city and state government, the trains need to run so that critical workers like hospital staff, nurses and doctors, and first responders can get to their shifts.

However, some reports are saying that the MTA is gearing up to impose a mandatory curfew, as per a draft letter that got leaked and posted to Facebook and was later confirmed by the MTA. Yesterday morning, MTA spokesman Tim Minton told The Post that the letter was “part of contingency planning for all foreseeable occurrences” and that the MTA was “aware of no imminent curfew.”

“Flexing federal funds currently allocated for capital projects cannot be the solution,” Foye wrote in the letter, referring to the Federal Transit Administration’s announcement on Friday that transit agencies in states including New York could reallocate federal funds earmarked for infrastructure projects and put them towards coronavirus-related expenses.

Further complicating matters is the fact that, on Tuesday evening, the MTA confirmed that an employee who works at a rail crew office in Queens tested positive for COVID-19, forcing 30 more employees to enter self-quarantine.

“Time and again, New Yorkers have supported disaster relief for other states and Puerto Rico when they were devastated by natural disasters and other Acts of God. Now we are asking Congress to step up again and deliver for the system that is the lifeblood of New York City and the engine of the region’s economic future,” Foye concluded.

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