Reopen NYC: MTA in worse shape than during the Great Depression, officials say

ByEyewitness News WABC logo
Tuesday, August 25, 2020
MTA pleads for funding as ridership plummets
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Darla Miles reports on the impact the coronavirus has taken on the MTA.

NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- The New York State Legislature held a hearing on the impact of the coronavirus on the MTA on Tuesday.

So far, 4,224 MTA employees have tested positive for COVID-19. Of those, 131 have died for a total of 3% of those testing positive. There have been no deaths among MTA employees since June 2.

MTA Chairman and CEO Patrick Foye testifies before the legislature.

Fourteen families have received the MTA's coronavirus family death benefit so far.

At one point, 10,500 employees were out of work and/or quarantining, but have returned.

MTA leadership is blaming the federal government for its record low ridership and revenue.

As of Sunday, ridership is down more than 75% on subways, the LIRR and Metro North, and 40% on buses.

The MTA has already received $3.9 billion, nearly its full initial request, in federal CARES Act assistance. The Authority argues it needs at least an additional $3.9 billion of federal assistance to continue operating through the end of 2020.

Without that funding, the MTA announced it would have to take extraordinary actions that might include significant cost-cutting actions or raising fares and tolls.

"The effect of the pandemic and federal inaction has exacted a far greater toll on MTA subway ridership than the Great Depression," MTA Chairman and CEO Pat Foye testified. "We urgently need 12 billion dollars from the federal government to get us through the end of 2020 and through 2021."

Senator Thomas F. O'Mara thinks it's unrealistic to think the MTA is going to get that figure.

"The MTA needs another 12 billion dollars? The entire state of New York is facing a shortfall of 14 billion," O'Mara said. "The city of New York, depending on who you're asking and when you're asking ranges anywhere between three to $9 billion."

But Foye says the federal government is the only entity that can dole out this kind of cash. If not, the agency say it will have to implement wage freezes, fare hikes, service reduction and gutting capital improvement projects.

"We do not have unlimited reserves," MTA CFO Bob Foran said. "Can't continue to spend money unless we have assurance that we can receive this federal support, so that we don't run off a cliff come January."

Ridership continues to be at historic lows:

- 1.3M subways, down 75%

- 1.2M buses, down 83%

- 76% down LIRR ridership

- 83% down Metro-North

"New York has never, we have never, even in the Great Depression of the 1930s seen ridership and revenue drops like this," Foye said.

The purpose of the hearing was also to evaluate best practices for virus containment and emergency management that have emerged.

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