A new proposal from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to deal with its massive, pandemic-caused budget deficit could see half of all Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North trains cancelled.
The move, along with a 40 percent cut to New York City subway and bus service, would save the agency $1.3 billion.
“No one at the MTA wants to undertake these horrific cuts but with federal relief nowhere in sight there is no other option,” MTA Chairman and CEO Patrick Foye said in a statement. “As I have said, we cannot cut our way out of this crisis – we are facing a blow to our ridership greater than that experienced during the Great Depression. We are once again urging Washington to take immediate action and provide the full $12 billion to the MTA.”
The MTA is facing deficits of $15.9 billion through 2024 thanks to a collapse in ridership as Manhattan office tenants sent their employees home to work remotely and public health measures have decimated employment in parts of the service sector. The agency’s one hope – a federal rescue package – is being stalled due to continued Congressional inaction on a new round of stimulus funding.
The agency estimates it needs $12 billion in federal aid to avoid the cuts and plans to borrow the maximum allowable amount of $2.9 billion from the Federal Reserve’s Municipal Lending Facility to help prevent ever further cuts.
As part of its cuts, which include suspending its capital improvement program, freezing hiring, reducing overtime and massive cuts to subway and bus service, the MTA proposes to reduce commuter railroad service by 50 percent. Peak period train frequencies would drop to every 20 to 30 minutes along busier line segments, or hourly at less busy line segments. Off-peak and weekend service may be hourly, the agency said. In total, these commuter rail service reductions would see 900 workers laid off on top of the 5,900 bus workers and 2,400 subway workers who will be let go under the plan.
“The numbers speak for themselves, we are approaching a point where these draconian options will have to be implemented to ensure our survival,” MTA CFO Bob Foran said in a statement. “Not receiving the billions we desperately need to survive would stunt the tangible progress we have made in service quality and infrastructure improvements. We can’t afford to let that happen.”
Speedy, frequent Metro-North service to New York City has been a critical component of the success of Stamford’s residential real estate market and a crucial part of many commercial landlords’ pitches to tenants they’re hoping to poach from Manhattan.