Schumer, Gillibrand deliver $5.6B in funding for transit in New York City region

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Photo by Mark Hallum

The New York City metro region’s transit agencies will be getting $5.6 billion from the federal government with a new federal relief bill approved by the U.S. Senate with about $4 billion in that stimulus funding going to the MTA.

Part of a bipartisan appropriations package, the $14 billion total for transit agencies across the nation could shape the future of commutes in the city, imperiled by the COVID-19 pandemic that forced the MTA into consideration of major service cuts, a fare hike and layoffs; all of which may have been averted.

“I’ve said it before and I will say it again: mass transit is the lifeblood of New York and New York is the beating heart of the American economy,” Senator Charles Schumer said. “The MTA, for example, will need even more dollars to keep the system flowing, workers working, riders riding and the economy running. Without more funds into the Biden administration for NYC, LI, Westchester and upstate, New York will face an even harder recovery—and really—so will the nation. We’ll fight for those dollars just like we did these.”

During the December board meeting of the MTA, officials discussed the possibilities of a $1.8 billion surplus carrying them through 2021 as long as the federal government provides $4 billion in relief. On the table before that were 40% service cuts on buses and subways, a 4% fare hike and cutting 9,000 workers loose as a $16 billion deficit loomed in 2024.

“Public transit is the lifeblood of New York’s economy, and for months, I fought to make sure our frontline health workers, first responders, child care providers, and all essential workers would have a safe and healthy public transit system to get them where they need to go,” Senator Kirsten Gillibrand said.

The root cause of the MTA financial setback in 2020?

In March, at the onset of the pandemic, a mass exodus of subway and bus riders, as well as fewer vehicle miles driven, meant fare and toll revenue hit rock bottom by about 90%. The slow rebound has been in progress since New York City began its first phase of reopening in June, but remains less than 40% of pre-pandemic levels.

“We’re grateful to Senators Schumer and Gillibrand, as well as Speaker Pelosi and the rest of the New York Congressional delegation, for securing this critical funding which staves off major cuts and layoffs this year, and for their ongoing support as we continue to face major deficits caused by COVID in 2022 and beyond,” MTA spokesman Shams Tarek said.

As an additional measure, the MTA acquired a $2.9 billion loan from the Federal Reserve to stave off further cuts.

Correction note: an earlier version of this story stated that the $5.6 billion for the New York City metro area would come on top of $4 billion from the MTA. In fact, the $4 billion for the MTA is built into the $5.6 billion being delivered to the region as a whole. We regret the error.