Facing an $8.5 billion loss, MTA seeks help from New York’s congressional delegation

Legislative Gazette file photo

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority is facing the worst financial crisis of its history, expecting to lose up to $8.5 billion this year because of the  coronavirus, MTA Chairman and CEO Patrick Foye said.

The MTA has received nearly $4 billion from the federal coronavirus relief bill, also known as the CARES Act. Now the MTA has issued a letter to the New York state congressional delegation immediately requesting $3.9 billion in federal funding as Congress considers its next COVID-19 relief package.

“Our system is the lifeblood of the regional economy and the national economy by extension,” Foye said. “The nation needs a strong New York to lead the recovery from this pandemic.”

Since the beginning of March, ridership has declined 93 percent on subways, 95 percent on Metro-North and 97 percent on the Long Island Railroad with bridge and tunnel crossings declining 62 percent.

A third-party economic analysis by McKinsey & Company looked at the expected impact of the COVID-19 crisis on the MTA’s operating budget. According to the study, the full impact of the pandemic could reach up to $8.5 billion in 2020. 

The analysis examines how ridership will be impacted this year when the system begins to rebound, and projects a massive drop in toll and farebox revenue between $4.7-$5.9 billion, a significant decline in dedicated state and local tax revenues between $1.6-$1.8 billion, and a huge growth in costs associated with customer and employee safety of up to $800 million.

The MTA has suspended its $54 billion Capital Program, which includes investing in new trains and buses, upgrading the stations and signal modernization, but the budget of the on-going capital operation is “previously committed,” according to Robert Foran, MTA Chief Financial Officer. 

Foye said there is no plan to raise the current fares when the state reopens and ridership returns, and raising the fare will not accomplish anything during the pandemic, Foran added. 

“That brings us to our partners at the federal level, who should appreciate the agency’s value to the national economy,” Foran said on Thursday.

The cost of disinfecting the trains and cleaning the stations is “millions of dollars of unanticipated expenses.” Foye said that these costs are and will be the “first-order priority” for MTA customers and employees. 

The MTA is not only in a financial shortfall amid the pandemic, it is also in a shortage of employees — 68 MTA employees died from COVID-19, more than 2,400 employees tested positive in the New York City transit, and 4,400 of them are in quarantine, according to Foye. 

“This is not something we can wait for,” Foye said. “We need immediate action.”