By Mark Hallum
The MTA is heading a coalition of transit agencies across the U.S. to demand $36 billion in support from the federal government as COVID-19 continues to infect their finances. Without that funding, they claim, the consequences could be catastrophic.
For New Yorkers, further inaction from the U.S. Senate could mean service cut, according to MTA Chair Pat Foye who said in a virtual rally with other transit leaders that it could be on the table alongside the cancellation of consulting contracts, reductions in overtime and layoffs outlined in their June meeting.
“Everything’s got to be on the table. Sadly, that includes the possibility of service reductions, which is absolutely the last thing that we want to do,” Foye said. “The latter two alternatives [service cuts and layoffs] are not something that we want to pursue, but this is the greatest financial challenge and the greatest financial deficit that the MTA has ever faced.”
With the MTA losing up to $700 million a month and the $3.8 billion in CARES Act funds about to be fully exhausted by the agency’s massive operations overhead, Foye added that knowing when or how the service cuts would be realized is not clear.
“I don’t want to speculate as to timing or talk about a hypothetical because our first objective is to get the funding,” Foye said.
While the MTA faces a $10 billion deficit, it is relatively not far off from other networks such as the BART in San Francisco which is on track for a $1 billion shortfall.
“Congress needs to act to stop service cuts and fare hikes that would end New York’s recovery and destroy millions of livelihoods around the country,” Danny Pearlstein, policy director with Riders Alliance, told amNewYork Metro. “It would be utterly devastating… The COVID crisis is far from over, even here.”
The coalition of transit agencies issued a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Charles Schumer asking once again for a stimulus with federal funds to keep the trains and buses moving for Americans.
“Together, our regions account for 44% of the metropolitan gross domestic product, and we move almost 20 million Americans daily. The mobility we provide is crucial to the function of our nation’s economy,” the letter stated. “As state and local tax revenues that many agencies rely on continue to fall, some transit systems may be forced to lay off the workers who have operated the systems through the pandemic. Others are considering cutting or even curtailing service just when the public needs transit to get back to work and school.”
Not only do the agencies believe layoffs in their organizations will make national unemployment due to the coronavirus even worse, but they see stalled capital projects that would provide jobs.
A national coalition of agencies made a similar call for funding at the beginning of the crisis and was rewarded with allocations from the CARES Act.
The MTA has lobbied the New York Congressional Democratic Delegation and has repeated their call to McConnell several times since March.