BY PATRICK J. FOYE
With Secretary Pete Buttigieg now confirmed by the Senate to lead the U.S. Department of Transportation, the MTA is ready to work with the new secretary and his team to revive mass transit and support economic recovery from this unprecedented crisis.
Secretary Buttigieg is a smart leader with an ambitious agenda; we’re confident we can find common ground to start delivering improvements for New Yorkers right away.
During his confirmation hearings, Secretary Buttigieg rightly recognized that we have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to create new jobs, fight economic inequality and advance climate goals by investing in mass transit. These efforts must start with the inclusion of $39.3 billion to address devastating financial shortfalls of public transit agencies nationwide in the next federal COVID-19 relief package.
Last week, my fellow industry leaders and I sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and Minority Leaders Mitch McConnell and Kevin McCarthy to again make the case for significant additional emergency aid.
The $4 billion Senator Schumer helped secure for the MTA in December’s federal COVID-19 relief bill will get us through 2021 without the draconian service cuts that had previously been on the table, but we continue to face significant shortfalls in 2022-2024.
We thank Senator Schumer for continuing his fight for mass transit in New York, and the MTA in particular. But without additional funding to fill those budget gaps, the hands of the MTA and other agencies could still be forced to implement drastic cuts to service, make unthinkable layoffs and/or delay or cancel critical capital projects starting in 2022.
Now that COVID-19 vaccines are here, we need a strong public transportation network more than ever to power New York’s recovery. Our services are an indispensable lifeline for health professionals, first responders, food service and other essential workers on the front lines of the pandemic. Federal investment will not only keep buses and trains running, it will help strengthen critical infrastructure for decades to come.
We do have reason for hope as recent reports indicate that Senator Schumer expects the next COVID relief package will include emergency aid for mass transit nationally, and we look forward to working with him, Secretary Buttigieg and the Biden administration to make it happen at the levels we so urgently need.
Together we can invest in new transit capital projects like Second Avenue Subway Phase 2, make 70 subway stations accessible, improve access to transit for customers of all abilities and incomes, and accelerate federal reviews of key projects.
The next four years have the potential to be truly transformative. We have in President Biden the nation’s most famous advocate of mass transit; Senator Schumer is the first Senate Majority Leader from New York, the first who can understand our needs on a personal level; and now Secretary Buttigieg is leading USDOT, supported by former NYC Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg as Deputy Secretary. All the pieces are in place, we can’t let this opportunity pass us by.
Finally, I want to conclude with some much-deserved recognition for thousands of dedicated MTA workers and managers who helped guide our system through last week’s massive snow storm. In what has been the toughest year in our history, they once again stepped up to prove why they are truly essential workers and why the federal government needs to come through for them.
Patrick J. Foye is MTA chair and CEO.
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