ALBANY, N.Y. — Fare hikes, cuts in service and staff and “long-lasting damage” would be coming to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority without a federal bailout, state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said in a report Tuesday.

The MTA, the largest transit system in the nation, is facing the greatest crisis in its long history if the feds do not come to the rescue amid the COVID-19 pandemic, DiNapoli said. The New York State Team, which is a part of the USA TODAY Network, reported this story.

The New York City metropolitan-area system, which includes Metro-North Railroad through the Hudson Valley, has been seeking a $12 billion aid package from Congress, which has stalled on a new national stimulus package.

“The MTA’s financial condition is dire,” DiNapoli said in a statement.

“With ridership down, debt burden rising and no additional help likely from New York state or New York City, the MTA desperately needs an influx of federal funds or unheard of service cuts and workforce reductions will happen.”

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The COVID-19 pandemic came as the MTA was already in difficult financial straits, DiNapoli said.

Now the system faces record deficits. A $6.3 billion projected gap next year is more than half of the MTA’s annual projected revenue — a hole that could not be closed without an infusion in aid.

Overall, the MTA faces a $12 billion deficit over the next four years.

The MTA did receive $4 billion from the federal CARES Act earlier this year to help stem the initial ridership downturn, but it is far from enough to address the long-term deficits, DiNapoli wrote.

MTA faces a perilous future

A MTA/Metro-North Railroad engineer drives a commuter train in to the White Plains Metro-North Train Station on Monday, March 11, 2019.

When the pandemic struck in March, MTA ridership grounded to a halt — both because the system went to limited service and also because all non-essential businesses were shuttered for months.

It meant few commuters to the city and few within the city.

The MTA provides 38% of all public transit trips in the country, and more than 50% of city workers use the system during their commutes.

But weekday subway and bus ridership hit their lowest points in April: declining by 92% and 78%, respectively, compared to the same period in 2019.

Ridership has picked up since the state’s final reopening phase July 20 with weekday subway and bus ridership at 76% and 42% lower than the same period last year.

Also, MTA bridge and tunnel crossings were 62% lower in April when compared to April 2019, but was almost back to normal traffic by August.

For the commuter rail lines from the Hudson Valley and Long Island, ridership was still down over the summer by as much as 80% compared to last year.

That comes after record commuter ridership in 2019: the Long Island Rail Road reached 91 million riders last year, and Metro-North hit 86.6 million.

Now, the ridership drop means fare and toll revenues for 2020 through 2023 are projected to be $10 billion lower than expected before COVID struck, DiNapoli, a Democrat, said.

As a result, the MTA is warning it may have to cut subway and bus service by 40% and commuter railroad service by 50%.

Fares and toll increases, which are already set to rise 4% in March 2021 and March 2023, might have to go higher, the system has warned.

Leaders urge for federal help

An MTA Police Officer at Grand Central Station April 27, 2020 in Manhattan.
An MTA Police Officer at Grand Central Station April 27, 2020 in Manhattan.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the MTA are urging for a bailout for the state, the system and local governments and schools.

Democrats who control the U.S. House have passed proposals that include state and local aid, but Senate Republicans have yet to agreed to a deal.

The state faces its own $50 billion deficit over the next four years, Cuomo has warned, and he has been resigned to saying any bailout might only come if Democrats control Congress and Joe Biden is elected president next month.

Without federal aid, “You can’t close $50 billion without tax increases, millionaire’s tax, billionaire’s tax, wealth tax, cutting expenses dramatically and borrowing,” Cuomo said Sept. 29.

“If we did that, you’re looking at a bad spell for New York City and New York State, and I’m not going there.”

Joseph Spector is the New York state editor for the USA TODAY Network. He can be reached at JSPECTOR@Gannett.com or followed on Twitter: @GannettAlbany

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This article originally appeared on New York State Team: New York MTA warns of price hikes and subway, bus service cuts



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