by PATRICK J. FOYE
With the end of 2020 finally in sight, we’re all looking back on a year unlike any other – one filled with unprecedented challenges and heartbreaking loss. A new year is a time for renewal, and there’s finally some reason for hope in 2021.
January will bring the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden, hopefully positioning our agency one step closer to receiving $12 billion in desperately needed federal aid. Congress must move forward with additional relief for public transit, and we continue to advocate with our industry peers for at least $32 billion for mass transit. Together, we urge swift passage of a bill that would deliver desperately needed aid to systems across the country.
Mass transit carried New York through this horrific and unprecedented public health crisis, and we will carry it out of this, too. But the personal and fiscal impact has taken a heavy toll on our agency, as we mourn the 130 of our heroic colleagues whom we’ve lost, and thank all of our hardworking employees who continue to show up each day to help make sure doctors, nurses, pharmacists, grocers, food delivery workers, and other New Yorkers get to their jobs during the pandemic.
For months, we have said that the fiscal impact of the COVID-19 crisis has been worse on New York’s transit system than even that of the Great Depression and that we need significant support from the federal government. That need hasn’t lessened over time.
To be clear, we need $12 billion in federal relief or we’ll be forced to undertake draconian cuts in service, lay off thousands of our colleagues, pursue additional fare and toll increases beyond what was already planned, and continue the freeze on our historic $51.5 billion capital plan. This is not a bluff. We’re already doing everything we can to keep the metropolitan region moving.
But even in the face of once-in-a-hundred-year challenges this year, there have still been bright spots. In addition to providing critical service, our dedicated workforce advanced major projects this year that will strengthen our system and improve our customer service experience for decades to come, like the rollout of the OMNY contactless fare payment system, installation of new elevators to improve subway accessibility, completion of the L Train Tunnel Project, and completing positive train control on the railroads by the federal deadline, just to name a few.
And with vaccines on the way, we’re optimistic about their ability to not only protect our employees but also encourage New Yorkers to return to their jobs by mass transit. We don’t expect to immediately return to our historic, pre-pandemic levels of ridership. But whatever happens, we remain committed to our core mission: making sure our
customers have the safe, reliable service they need to get to work or school or, when they reopen, Broadway shows, concerts, sporting events, and everything else that makes New York City so vibrant and unique.
So, while we reflect on this difficult and unusual year, we also remember there’s still much to be thankful for this holiday season, like the incredible essential workers – including the brave women and men of the MTA– who have kept our city functioning.
We can all take pride in being New York tough, and in taking care of each other through this difficult time. The upcoming year won’t be an easy one, but here’s to a safer and better 2021.
Patrick J. Foye is the chairman of the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA).