Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, fewer than 50% of riders have returned to the New York City transit system and fewer than 45% have returned to the commuter rail lines, the Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North.
Transit officials have steadily increased service in recent months running a full schedule on most routes.
At the MTA's monthly board meeting Wednesday, the agency's outgoing chairman acknowledged that service cuts may be needed to manage enormous projected deficits.
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"The service changes that were on the sheet are there in 2023 and 2024. That's a long way away, A. B, it's not actions that we want to take," MTA Chairman Patrick Foye said.
Consultants estimate that as many as 20% of pre-pandemic riders will never return, leaving MTA planners with a dramatic revenue shortfall, as much as $650 million by 2025.
The agency survived the pandemic with roughly $15 billion in federal relief, but a post-pandemic transit system could look different.
MTA board member Andrew Albert says service cuts should be unthinkable, especially now.
"I got the distinct impression from my fellow board members that nobody wants, nobody wants to see service cuts-that we will find ways, an alternate means of funding," Albert said.
The agency recently raised tolls on its bridges and tunnels and fare increases have been ruled out for this year.
There has to be a way out of this. Whether it's looking at increasing the gas tax. How are we going to fund this system so that, going forward, we don't have to look at putting expenses on the backs of riders,"MTA Permanent Citizens Advisory Committee member Lisa Daglian said.
Congestion pricing is expected to be a big part of the answer, but implementation is complicated and the red tape is thicker, and there's apparently a lot more of it, than the MTA had bargained for.
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