The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) may discontinue entire subway lines because of drastic declines in funding and ridership, a new report from the Riders Alliance (RA) found, a nonprofit focused on transit. The RA estimates that without a $3.9 billion infusion from the federal government within the next few weeks, the MTA could be forced to institute budget cuts of up to 50%. These reductions could eliminate half of the subway lines in Manhattan.
Without the money to fill its budget gap from July to December, the MTA would face a $650 million monthly deficit, roughly 20 times the gap it faced in 2010.
The alliance developed three scenarios for the MTA if faced with the reality of no federal funding. The first one envisions the elimination of lines like the 1, 2, 3; B, D, F, M; G; J, Z; 7; and Times Square shuttle. The other two scenarios include local-only service with an across-the-board service cut of 50% and an elimination of all commuter rail and bus lines.
The Democrat-controlled House of Representative in May passed the Heroes Act, which would have allocated the necessary funds to the MTA, but the Republican-controlled Senate has shown no inclination to vote on the bill. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell previously suggested the Senate should not fund “blue state bailouts.”
It’s unclear if the MTA is considering cuts to staff or frontline workers to shore up its budget. The city’s Independent Budget Office offered dire fiscal projections for the MTA. A July 2020 report highlighted how a collapse in transit ridership has led to a collapse in fare revenue, and a decline in tax revenue from various arms of the economy has augmented this fiscal death spiral.
Tax revenue that under normal circumstances reliably fills the MTA’s coffers has been decimated during the pandemic. There have been declines in real estate, sales and corporate taxes, and overall economic activity. Between 2020 and 2022, the IBO projects, there will be a drop of $2.7 billion in tax revenue from what the MTA projected before the pandemic.
The recent budget report raised the specter of a transportation nightmare for New York City and a return to the “bad old days.” After the 2008 financial crisis, the MTA made $400 million in cuts across operational and capital budgets, which included eliminating the V and W subway lines and curtailing roughly 110 bus routes. If the federal funding doesn’t arrive, the city’s transportation industry could fall into disrepair not seen in decades.