NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- Senator Charles Schumer announced Wednesday that the MTA would be receiving a $6 billion lump sum grant for the subway system, the largest ever awarded in the Federal Transit Administration's history.
Schumer said the money -- the exact amount being $6,192,134,734 -- will save the subway system from what he called its once COVID-catalyzed brink of death.
In total, the MTA has been more than $14 billion in support during the pandemic, as plummeting ridership numbers decimated the agency's revenues.
"We are grateful to Senate Majority Leader Schumer, the New York delegation and Governor Hochul for their consistent support of mass transit," MTA Acting Chair and CEO Janno Lieber said. "Our subways, buses and railroads are the secret sauce that keeps the region moving, helping to rebuild New York's dynamic economy while battling climate change. This funding helps the MTA continue to provide top-tier service and in the near term avoid fare increases."
Lieber says service cuts would be unthinkable, especially now.
"We're going to run on-time, reliable and a ton of service so that New York can get back to normal," he said. "Obviously, we've had a dip in revenues as ridership fell off from the beginning of the pandemic. This money is enabling us to continue running that caliber and frequency of service. And it also has enabled us to put off fare increases for a little while, which is a good thing as we're trying to bring back customers."
Schumer, who was instrumental in securing the funding, detailed what these dollars support and just how critical they are to keeping the overall transit ecosystem in New York alive.
"What the money did is it staved off any fare hikes for the next few years, it prevented cuts in service during the height of COVID when we needed our healthcare workers and others to get to work, it prevented layoffs," Schumer said. "And this money now allows the MTA to continue on their capital plan, which means money for signals so desperately needed to make the trains run on time, continuation of the Second Avenue subway, and many other issues. So this is really, really good news."
Aside from supporting riders and the economy, Schumer said the federal transit relief will help prevent the furloughing of MTA employees, potentially thousands.
In addition, the federal relief will help planned capital spending needed to improve the system continue.
Still, the MTA has projected it will have a $1.4 billion operating deficit by 2025, the residual effect of losing more than 90% of ridership on subways, trains and buses at the pandemic's height.
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Subway ridership still lags pre-pandemic levels by about 40%, but those who do ride think the infusion of federal cash is a good thing.
"I think it's a great idea," rider Zane Joneson said. "It definitely needs the money for the infrastructure and stuff like that to keep things running smoothly."
They agree sometimes a bailout is necessary.
"I work for an airline, and we took money from the government, as well," straphanger T. J. Joneson said. "You have to keep things moving, and sometimes they need a little bit of help."
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