https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/17/nyre ... -aid-.html
M.T.A., Citing Huge Drop in Riders, Seeks $4 Billion Virus Bailout
Ridership has fallen 60 percent on the subways and as much as 90 percent on commuter railways.
By Christina Goldbaum
March 17, 2020 Updated 5:26 p.m. ET
New York City’s public transportation system, the largest in North America, is seeking a $4 billion federal bailout as the coronavirus pandemic has triggered an extraordinary free fall in ridership and left transit officials facing what is likely to be the worst economic crisis in decades.
In a letter on Tuesday to New York’s Congressional delegation, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority — which runs the subway, buses and two commuter rails — said ridership had plunged 60 percent on the subway and 49 percent on buses on Monday compared with the same day last year.
Similar steep drops have taken place on other parts of the system: 90 percent on Metro-North Railroad, which serves communities north of New York City; and 67 percent on the Long Island Rail Road during the Tuesday morning rush hour compared to the same day last year.
The plea from the public transit system, which is the lifeblood for the region’s economy, could forecast a coming crisis for public transportation agencies nationwide, many of which are also reeling from plummeting ridership and crippling finances just a few weeks into the outbreak in the United States.
“The stark reality is that as more people stay home following the advice of medical experts, the M.T.A. is now facing financial calamity,” Patrick J. Foye, chairman of the transit authority, said in the letter.
The authority projects revenue losses of roughly $3.7 billion if ridership trends continue for the next several months, and expects coronavirus-specific expenses, like disinfecting subway cars and stations, to reach around $300 million.
“The M.T.A. has already committed to finding $2.8 billion in savings over the next several years,” Mr. Foye said. “No agency of our size can find additional billions in savings equivalent to the damages we have and will sustain as a result of this pandemic.”
State and city officials have said they are not planning to reduce service on the region’s vast transit system, which typically serves around eight million passengers every weekday. They have emphasized that it is important to keep the system operating so health care workers can get to work.
But the M.T.A. is particularly vulnerable to the sudden and precipitous economic downturn since it relies on a mix of funding from federal, state and city government — all of which are grappling with their own challenges — to operate and maintain its system.
“They are a barometer of the regional economy, a much more immediate barometer for things to come,” said Nicole Gelinas, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, a conservative research group.
Revenues from fares and tolls, which contribute around half of the M.T.A.’s operating budget, and dedicated taxes, which provide another third of that budget, are already taking a hit as ridership falls and the pandemic sets off sweeping layoffs and business failures across the city.
Officials have urged those who can to avoid subways and buses and enacted sweeping regulations, like closing schools, Broadway theaters, museums, movie houses, bars and allowing restaurants to remain open only for take out and deliveries, that have all but shut down New York.
The draconian measures are meant to curb the spread of the virus in New York City, where the number of confirmed cases climbed to over 1,000 on Tuesday.
Still, the dual need to keep riders away from public transportation to protect the public health, while also keeping the system running to ensure essential workers can get to work has thrust transit agencies like the M.T.A. into a precarious position.........