MTA budget includes layoffs, fare hikes, staggering potential deficits

NEW YORK CITY -- The MTA unveiled its final proposed 2020 budget and four-year financial plan Thursday, which includes laying off 2,700 people with administrative jobs and raising fares about 4% twice in the next four years.

The agency faces staggering deficits even with the advent of congestion pricing, and riders are left scratching their heads.

"It never ends, the cycle never ends," one straphanger said. "We never truly know where the money goes."

Commuters have been promised spotless stations, gleaming new subway cars, and a state-of-the-art signal system to move trains faster with fewer delays, all of it paid for with $50 billion in revenue from congestion pricing.

"And I have to say that significant deficits still remain," MTA Chief Financial Officer Robert Foran said.

Foran said the new money is solely for modernizing the system, not for running it.

"We're running the risk of having a system which is pristine, beautiful, new equipment in place and not having any operating money to maintain it," Transit Workers Union International President John Samuelsen said.

The agency is proposing a "Transformation Plan," a series of proposals to help make up the difference. And it includes 4% increases in fares and tolls in 2021 and 2023 and the elimination of 2,700 jobs, mostly administrative positions, and mostly through attrition.

They are changes implemented by Anthony McCord, the agency's new "transformation officer."

"The transformation plan implementation is critical," Foran said. "Otherwise we're going to have unmanageable deficits in the future."

Longtime MTA board member Andrew Albert said time will tell how it plays out.

"There's unknowns in the picture, quite a few unknowns," he said. "And we'll just have to see how they turn out."

Albert says he's optimistic, but he admits that all of the dominoes have to fall the right way -- which almost never happens at the MTA.

Officials say the implementation of the Transformation Plan, the agency's first reorganization in half a century, is projected to deliver $1.6 billion in savings over the course of the financial plan -- including $253 million in higher fare revenue than previously projected due to increased ridership across the system.

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