The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), which operates Metro-North Railroad, the Long Island Rail Road, New York City’s subways and buses and seven bridges and two tunnels, said it “is now facing financial calamity.”
Fares and tolls bring in about half of the MTA’s annual $8 billion budget and they have virtually evaporated in the wake of the COVID-19 economic shutdown. The MTA also anticipates it will not have most of the more than $6 billion in state and local taxes it normally receives each year.
With Metro-North ridership down 94%, Long Island Rail Road ridership down 78%, subways down 87%, buses down 60% and even Paratransit service for people with disabilities down by 71%, the agency has been pressing for federal aid.
In a letter to the New York congressional delegation last week, Patrick J. Foye, chairman and CEO of the MTA, wrote: “The MTA is now facing financial calamity. I am urgently requesting substantial federal aid at the level of MTA revenue losses ($3.7 billion assuming ridership trends this week continue for six months) and COVID-19 expenses (approximately $300 million annualized) as we continue to respond to the coronavirus pandemic.”
The relief package just passed by the U.S. Senate does provide $25 billion for transportation services nationwide and just under $4 billion for New York’s MTA.
The MTA has drastically cut back the number of trains and buses it is running, adopting what it calls the “NY Essential Service Plan.” The MTA said it must continue to provide public service for essential workers.
Metro-North normally runs 713 trains on weekdays. That number is being slashed to 424 trains. It plans to provide hourly service on the Harlem, Hudson and New Haven lines. The shuttle service between Wassaic and Southeast on the Upper Harlem line is being suspended beginning April 4.
All of Metro-North’s ticket offices are closed and the railroad is not accepting cash payments for tickets. Revised schedules are available online through a new interactive MTA website being beta-tested, new.mta.info.
“Health care workers and other first responders continue to ride our trains every day,” Metro-North President Catherine Rinaldi said. “While some reduction in service makes sense right now, we will continue to run a safe and reliable service to get these critical employees to their places of employment every day.”
The MTA said that it continues to use “aggressive disinfecting procedures” at all stations on its lines twice a day. Sanitizing of the railroad and subway cars and buses is on-going with each train car and bus being disinfected every 72 hours. It said with ridership down, riders are able to stay the recommended six feet or more away from each other.
“The decision to reduce service is not one we take lightly, but feel at this time is in the best interest of our workers, customers and the system as a whole,” said Mario Peloquin, the MTA’s COO, said. “Our goal has been and continues to be to move New Yorkers where they need to go. That’s never been as important as right now.”