Letter: A decade or more before ridership returns to pre-COVID-19 levels

Photo Pablo D. Castillo Jr.
To the Editor,
“It could take nearly a decade for public transit to return to pre-pandemic levels” by Marco Quiroz-Guitierre appeared in Fortune Daily, Nov. 2, 2021. This is must reading to understand the long-term ridership impacts in our post COVID-19 era over the next 10 years. Here is the link: https://fortune.com/2021/11/02/covid-public-transportation-pre-pandemic-levels/
 
In our new COVID-19 world, the MTA, NYC Transit, Long Island and Metro-North railroads along with New Jersey Transit have to reevaluate anticipated future ridership growth projections. Anticipated ridership figures for the $11.2 billion East Side Access to Grand Central Terminal, $6.9 billion Second Avenue Subway Phase 2 and $1.5 billion Metro-North Bronx East Penn Station Access all need to be updated.
 
More people will continue telecommuting from home on a part time or permanent basis. There will be fewer face to face meetings and conferences, with increased use of Zoom and other technologies.
 
Why initiate any new system expansion projects that cost billions until each operating agency, NYC Transit bus and subway, MTA bus, Long Island Railroad and Metro-North have reached a state of good repair for existing fleet, stations, elevators, escalators, signals, interlockings, track, power, tunnel lighting, pumps, yards and shops. This should also include insuring a majority of subway and commuter rail stations are in compliance with the Americans With Disabilities (ADA) Act. Ensure that maintenance programs for all operating agencies assets are fully funded and completed on time to ensure riders safe uninterrupted reliable service.
 
There is insufficient funding to support all of the above state of good repair projects in the $51 billion MTA Five Year 2020-2024 Capital Plan. It is a down payment which will require funding several more five-year capital plans before each operating agency can reach a state of good repair for all asset categories.
 
Larry Penner

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