NEW YORK — The MTA on Wednesday warned of potentially severe service cuts and fare increases should they not receive much-needed federal aid amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“The survival of the MTA and the existence of millions of jobs in this region and across the country lies squarely in the hands of the federal government,” MTA Chairman and CEO Patrick Foye said at the start of the meeting.
According to Foye and MTA Chief Financial Officer Robert Foran, if the agency doesn’t receive $12 billion in additional federal aid, they will likely be forced to take drastic measures that would greatly effect New Yorkers.
Foran laid out many grim scenarios, including reducing service on subways, buses and the Staten Island Railroad by up to 40%.
This could save the MTA nearly $880 million annually and result in the permanent loss of over 7,200 jobs. Also, time between subways, buses and trains would increase, resulting in longer wait times and more crowded vehicles.
Additionally, the Long Island Railroad and Metro-North could be forced to reduce service up to 50%, Foran warned.
This would save the agency nearly $160 million annually but would result in the permanent reduction of 850 positions.
For riders, this would mean reduced service frequencies up to 60 minutes on lines with heavier ridership and up to 120 minutes for lines with lower ridership.
It could also mean the elimination of service on one or more LIRR branches completely, according to Foran.
Additionally, already-planned fare and toll increases set for 2021 and 2023 could be inflated even higher to help with revenue, the MTA officials said.
Other side effects of budget cuts include the pausing of major MTA construction projects planned through 2024, such as phase two of the Second Avenue subway line, train signal modernization plans, purchasing of new buses and subway trains, station upgrades for customers with disabilities and more.
According to Foye, the MTA is currently losing about $200 million per week in revenues from losses in fares, tolls and pandemic-related expenses.
The MTA exhausted relief funds from the March CARES Act in late July, Foye said.
He further broke down the different scenarios and cost-cutting measures the agency is taking during an interview with the PIX11 Morning News.
While more people are commuting again, ridership is still extremely lower than pre-pandemic levels.
New York City subway ridership is up a bit from the peak of the coronavirus crisis but is still down about 75% overall, Foy said. Meanwhile NYC bus ridership is down 45%, Long Island Railroad ridership is down about 75% and Metro-North ridership is down 83%.
“Continued indifference and inertia on a COVID-19 relief bill will exact a horrific toll on the MTA, our heroic workforce and millions of hardworking New Yorkers who are our customers,” Foye warned.
Making the dire circumstances clear, the MTA chief compared the impacts of the pandemic and the Great Depression on New York’s public transportation.
“This is by far the most difficult challenge the MTA has ever faced,” Foye said.