The income that is coming into the MTA (Metropolitan Transportation Authority) by concept of payment of passages continue being scarce, due to the reduction of users in the metro and buses, after the COVID-19 pandemic. And if urgent action is not taken to close that gap, the millions of passengers who depend on the public transport system could soon suffer. “the green ones and the ripe ones”since the provision of a safe and reliable transport service would be at risk, as well as strong impacts on the pockets of passengers.
This was alerted this Thursday by the New York State Comptroller, Thomas P. DiNapoli, after presenting a report, in which he set off the alarms, warning that the future of a good service will depend directly on the income and costs that have the MTAand how that agency, managed by the State and not by the City, tries to close this budget gap.
“The possibility of service cuts, higher-than-planned rate increases, reductions in staff or maintenance, and reduced capital expenditures are on the horizon without additional contributions from the company’s financing partners. MTA or substantial increases in the number of passengers”, predicted the State Comptroller.
The report called for the MTA present options to make the curve to the difficult panorama that lies ahead and asked that all the alternatives be put on the table, publicly, so that all the affected and involved parties know them. He also stated that the MTA must prioritize its capital plan and determine which projects are most critical and increase budget flexibility.
The Comptroller’s office acknowledged that the number of passengers taking subways and buses in the Big Apple is not recovering as expected, something the transportation agency has already said, leaving revenue well below pre-pandemic levels in his x-ray, which is not surprising and will lead to the MTA closer to the edge of the financial abyss, a fact that they estimate will worsen as federal aid decreases.
“The MTA’s large budget gaps are becoming more apparent as ridership remains well below pre-pandemic levels and federal relief dries up,” the spokesperson said. Comptroller DiNapoli, reiterating the urgency of new support funds so that the transport service is not derailed. Otherwise, the horizon looks darker than a subway tunnel and the passengers will be the main ones affected.
“Unless there is an additional influx of municipal, state or federal aid, the MTA faces tough choices to close their budget gaps that will affect riders,” the official said, demanding that the MTA be clear on what it is planning to do to prevent the crisis from spiraling out of control.
“The MTA it needs to expose the stakes and explain to the public what options it is considering to close budget gaps and how it can adjust to continued low passenger levels and change service to meet changes in demand,” DiNapoli warned.
The report clarifies however that while ridership remains well below 2019 levels, “the MTA has restored subway and bus service to encourage ridership and economic recovery, but because revenues from the passenger fare box have not been recovered as well as the MTA had anticipatedthere are large budget gaps without the use of federal funds.”
With figures in hand, the report explained that in 2019, the money from fees that entered covered the 51.1% of the MTA’s overall operating costs and 52.8% for NYC Transit. But the accounts until May 2022 do not add up well, since the user’s tickets covered only the 31.9% of operating expenses, when the transport agency estimated that it would be enough for the 40%provided in your budget.
And the next few miles, barring no change, continue to look fraught with obstacles, as the report found that from 2025the MTA will face more budget gaps.
“That year the MTA plans to borrow to cover a planned deficit of $500 million in its operating costs. While the loan only covers one or two years of expenses, it will add to the MTA’s debt load and won’t be paid off until 2053.” the Comptroller’s Office. “If ridership doesn’t come back, that $500 million gap could grow and even double. And after 2025, federal funds will have dried up, resulting in a structural deficit of $2 billion or more.”
The report concluded by reiterating that any decision made to level the MTA’s revenues and costs will affect users of the subway, buses, the Metro-North line and the Long Island Railroad. fact that worries passengers who take the subway in the Big Apple every day, such as the Honduran Renato Mejorada.
The young man, who works in a Manhattan store, fears that the MTA will soon come out with a “new little surprise” that will impact the finances of the poorest.
“I am concerned that now they are going to raise the rates so that they can fill the money gap they have, which would make the working class even more strangled, who currently have more expensive food prices and rents that are going to rise” said the Central American. “What they should do once and for all is for the government to give that missing money to the MTA so that it balances it in its coffers, and thus the prices of the MetroCard do not rise. That’s right”.
Maria Pabon She was also very alarmed, as she confessed that her expenses at this time would not withstand a single penny increase in transportation, since her social security check is not enough.
“If they raise rates on the MetroCard, what they are going to do is that they have fewer passengers and we have no other option than to sneak in or stop going to important appointments. This can’t take it anymore, “said the Colombian grandmother, who revealed that she has a half-price metro card and even then one more hike would” drown her “.
Danny Pearlsteindirector of policy and communications for the organization Riders Alliancecalled on the Governor of the State of New York, which manages the MTA, to reach into his pocket and disburse more resources to prevent the subway and bus crisis from getting worse.
“Governor Hochul must make a new strategic investment in frequent service to prevent our public transportation system from collapsing. With ridership stuck at 60% of 2019 levels, public transportation must be better than it was before the pandemic to attract more New Yorkers and visitors.” board buses and trains,” said the activist.
Pearlstein also noted the urgency that Governor Hochul allocate state funds to operate buses and trains at least every six minutes, at all hours of the day, every day, to make public transportation more competitive with other modes of transportation and safer in the process.
“New York’s equitable recovery and climate resilience depend on reviving our transportation system; simply replacing dwindling federal aid with other revenue is not enough,” the passenger advocate insisted.
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) supported the findings presented in the report of the State Comptroller’s Office and the call for higher revenues, but stated that they are working on a plan that guarantees that they continue to provide good public service and improve their finances.
“The Comptroller’s report is consistent with what the MTA has said since the pandemic began: public transportation is an essential service for New Yorkers, and the MTA has begun working with decision makers to develop a plan to ensure the continuation of strong mass transit in the post-COVID pandemic period,” he said. John McCarthyhead of external relations for the MTA.
When asked if they are contemplating rate increases and reduction of services and cuts in the MTAthe official was blunt in warning that it is necessary to wait until next week, when the meetings of the committee and the MTA Board are held, which then could reveal more data in this regard.
“The MTA will have more to say about its finances when the preliminary 2023 budget and four-year financial plan are presented to the MTA Board at its July meetings,” said the MTA spokesperson. the MTA.
The Office of Governor Hochul He did not answer whether or not he is willing to inject more funds into the MTA to avoid a crash in the transportation system that would impact thousands of passengers with increases or cuts.
The MTA’s financial crisis in numbers according to the Comptroller’s report
- $500 million is the budget gap estimated for 2025
- $1,000 million could increase that gap, after reviewing current passenger projections
- $500 million more the MTA could lose per year
- $1 billion in projected annual congestion pricing funds also would not fully close operating budget gaps
- $2 billion or more in structural deficit is expected after 2025 when federal funds are no longer available.
- 40% of the nation’s public transportation trips account for New York’s public transportation system
- 3.8 billion trips provided by the MTA in 2019 via subways, buses, and commuter rail.
- $2.75 is the current price for each trip on the subway, but it is feared that it will have to be raised
- 51.1% of the MTA’s overall operating costs were covered by passenger fares in 2019
- 31.9% of operating expenses are being covered with tickets this 2022
- 40% of costs covered with tickets was what the MTA estimated it would reach for this year
- Almost 20% decrease in income that covers expenses is the negative balance in the MTA this 2022