New York MTA facing severe service cuts without federal funding

The biggest transport authority in the U.S. is facing wide-ranging service cuts and industrial action according to some news outlets, as it continues to lose money hand over fist in 2020.

MTA announces major improvements to passenger accessibility

New York’s Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) has seen its ridership plummet throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, with the authority now planning for a doomsday budget which could see 40 per cent of subway services cut to bridge the funding gap.

Earlier in the year, the MTA told companies across the U.S. that contracts may not be fulfilled unless the MTA received $12 billion in federal funding. It is estimated that the country’s biggest transport authority is losing $200 million a week – an eye-watering figure which has led to drastic proposals being drawn up ahead of the 2021 budget.

Why is the MTA losing money? 

The main cause of such a shortfall is plain and simple – fewer people are using MTA’s services. Just last week, the authority published statistics that showed subway ridership down 70.8 per cent than on the equivalent day in 2019.

The MTA is proposing that it eliminates bus routes with the lowest ridership, as well as halting weekend services on some subway lines – with 15-minute waits for trains in the ones that survive. This will of course mean thousands of job losses, but many are also predicting a long-lasting effect on the New York economy.

A recent report from Mitchell L. Moss, Director at New York University’s Rudin Center for Transportation, and Hugh O’Neill, President of Appleseed, Inc., suggests the cuts MTA coud be forced to make might cost the region $50 billion by 2022, with 450,00 jobs lost.

A reduced service is not a particularly enticing prospect for riders looking to return next year when vaccines begin to be rolled out. This could be exacerbated by a potential fare hike of 4 per cent, which some New York media outlets are reporting might come into effect in an attempt to claw back some of the millions lost during 2020.

Industrial disputes?

According to the New York Times, there are already murmurs of industrial unrest should these proposed cuts become reality. John Samuelsen, the international president of the Transit Workers Union, told the New York Times: “The New York City Transit workforce will correctly view this as the greatest betrayal of their careers.

“There will be a rank-and-file rebellion, which will lead to chaos. It will lead to a disruption in service.”

“MTA workers control production maintenance and on-time performance on buses and the subway,” he added. “They don’t need to strike to make their voices heard.”

Robert Foran, who is Chief Financial Officer at the MTA, told the New York Times of the necessity of the proposed cuts, should the cavalry in the form of federal funding not emerge from over the hill. “We’re going to have to match our service structure and service schedules to equal rider demand,”

“This is just ugly. This though is something we have to consider, you know, if we’re going to survive.”