Last week, MTA officials warned of “draconian” cuts to service, including a 40 percent reduction in subway and bus service, if Washington doesn’t come to the rescue in the form of another stimulus package.
According to reports, the changes could mean much longer wait times for subway and bus riders, as well as Long Island Rail Road and Metro North commuters. Bridge tolls could increase, and major infrastructure projects could be stalled indefinitely.
In late July, the MTA exhausted the last of the $3.9 billion in aid from the federal CARES Act, which was passed in March. The largest public transportation network in North America needs $12 billion to get the agency through the end of 2021. By 2024, the MTA could see a deficit as high as $16 billion.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, ridership has plummeted, resulting in massive losses from decreased fare revenue. The MTA said in July that it may not reach pre-pandemic levels of ridership until 2022.
New Yorkers cannot accept such a drastic cut in service. Most residents rely on the subways and buses to get to and from work, school, medical appointments and more. Even if there is lingering fear about public transportation due to the pandemic, eventually, most New Yorkers will return to the transit system.
As MTA officials noted in their board meeting last week, the solution is left in the hands of federal lawmakers. They need to pass another round of stimulus funding that will help city and state governments, transit agencies, small businesses and everyday residents survive this pandemic.
Without help from Washington, the MTA will be forced to make these appalling cuts, and we will all suffer from the consequences.