The MTA reported losses of $200 million per week at the height of the city’s outbreak, seeing ridership plummet by 92 percent on the subways alone (81 percent for buses).
As New York City begins the process of recovery, the transit agency is expecting ridership to steadily increase, but that won’t be enough to offset the loss in revenue caused by COVID-19.
Notwithstanding an initial victory of nearly $4 billion awarded to the MTA as part of the first CARES Act in March, grassroots organizations warn that without billions more in federal aid, the agency’s burden would most likely fall on those New Yorkers most dependent on public transit.
Under the proposed HEROES Act, the fed’s latest step toward financial relief, the city’s mass transit network would see an additional $3.9 billion in funding, a sum Senator Charles Schumer says MTA officials have cited as necessary in order to avoid fare hikes, service cuts and employee layoffs.
“You have my total commitment,” Schumer assured advocates during a virtual roundtable hosted by Riders Alliance. “[Transit funding] was one of my top priorities in the last bill, and it continues to be my top priority now.”
Those who tuned into Thursday night’s webinar spotlighted the importance of the MTA in the city’s ability to rebound from its ongoing crisis.
From students to essential workers, millions of New Yorkers rely on public transportation. With the tristate area representing 10 percent of the U.S. economy, advocates assert that transit aid will be critical to national recovery as well.
The HEROES Act was passed by the House of Representatives, but its fate relies on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who is currently considering whether to introduce the bill to the floor.
Schumer told viewers they can expect Senate Democrats to hold the line on mass transit funding, but at the same time he urged Americans to put the “heat” on Republican senators toward moving forward with the legislative process.
Research from the Regional Plan Association predicts that without supplementary financial support to the MTA, riders could see base fares skyrocket to $9 a ride for subways and buses.
While the agency denies plans to increase fares at this point, its 2020-2014 capital plan indicates a fare hike once every two years.
Also included in the MTA’s capital plan is the installation of elevators in 70 subway stations across the city in an effort to improve the network’s standing accessibility rating of just 25 percent.
“We have a transformational opportunity ahead of us to build together, but we also have a tremendous amount of work,” explained Riders Alliance executive director Betsy Plum.
She reiterated that the conversation is “as much about how we fight to ensure that New York’s transit system does more than just survive this crisis, but truly thrives and carries us more equitably, sustainably and safely into the future.
“If we don’t see that $3.9 billion investment that we’ve been discussing,” added Plum, “we lose our route to that better future.”