MTA Chair: Agency Not Expecting Boost In Ridership Until After Labor Day

WCBS 880 Newsroom
July 20, 2020 - 5:59 pm

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    NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — New York City entered Phase 4 of its reopening on Monday, meaning more people will be returning to the city’s transportation network, but the MTA says that's not the case this time around.

    MTA Chairman and CEO Pat Foye spoke with WCBS 880’s Steve Scott on Monday morning, saying while the city continues to progress through reopening phases, there hasn’t been a huge jump in ridership.

    “Subways and buses are running at full service. I can give you Friday’s report on subways and buses: We carried almost two and a half million total riders that was roughly evenly split between subways and buses,” Foye said. “That would represent approximately 23% of normal pre-pandemic subway ridership, and something close to 60% for buses.”

    He stresses that the MTA has not been expecting a significant surge in riders during Phase 4 as Gov. Andrew Cuomo has modified the phase for New York City.

    Movie theaters, malls, indoor dining and many other industries remain closed in New York City, meaning many people are still staying home. 

    “We think there will be continued upticks in ridership on subways and buses and the commuter rails. We don’t think that the first days of Phase 4 will drive ridership up significantly,” Foye said.

    He noted that the next significant increase in ridership will most likely occur after Labor Day. 

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    Since the beginning of the pandemic, ridership on the subways and buses has dropped significantly. Something that’s even more troubling as the agency faces its greatest financial struggle in history.

    While the MTA received $3.9 billion in federal funding under the CARES Act, at the beginning of the pandemic, the agency is on track to use up the emergency funding by the end of July.

    Two weeks ago, the Riders Alliance published a report showing without more funding, service on the rails could be dramatically cut

    The Riders Alliance said daily service could become similar to overnight service and entire lines may have to be cut. It could also lead to the economy coming to a grinding halt in New York City.

    Foye, who has described the situation as a “financial 4-alarm fire,” did not say if the report was accurate, but did reiterate the MTA is facing “the greatest financial challenge” in its history.

    “It is really essential that public transit agencies around the country but specifically the MTA. The MTA needs $3.9 billion dollars to get us through the rest of the year as a result of the revenue declines, because ridership declined to such a level during the depths of a pandemic,” Foye said. “And we are also seeing declines in a package of dedicated taxes and subsidies that the state legislatures put in place over a period of decades. So, $3.9 billion is the number that we need.”

    Foye said everything is on the table when it comes to cost-cutting and they are looking at doing away with overtime first. 

    “If we don't get that funding, everything has to be on the table, which would include service reductions and reductions in force,” the chairman said.

    Meanwhile, the overnight shutdown of the subways will continue for as long as the pandemic progresses. 

    Subways will be shut from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. daily so that all subway trains, stations and buses can be properly sanitized. 

    Foye notes that that shut down will continue until Gov. Cuomo notifies the agency that it is safe to resume 24-hour service. 

    “Since it is tied to the continuation of the pandemic, that’s a determination that Governor Cuomo will make,” the MTA CEO said.

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