Looming fiscal cliff ‘will destroy MTA’, Watchdog warns

The loss of fare revenue due to lower ridership “will destroy the MTA” unless the state steps in to provide funds for the ailing transit system, a government watchdog said Wednesday.

The warning, included in a new report by good government group Reinvent Albany, came after traffic officials also sounded the alarm about the agency’s $18 billion annual budget.

“We believe that the drop in fare revenue coupled with an end to federal COVID operating aid and historically high levels of debt will destroy MTA and transit service unless the state allocates the MTA billions in new earmarked operating funds,” it said in the report.

Rider numbers fell by over 90% in the first few weeks of the pandemic and are expected to be down to just 73% of pre-pandemic levels by mid-202 — costing the MTA $200 million each month, the report said.

A cumulative infusion of federal funds of $15 billion over 2020 and 2021 temporarily secured the MTA’s budget – but only until 2024. The MTA’s budget is further hampered by over $40 billion in debt, partially funded with fare monies, the report said.

“It’s no secret that the MTA’s debt burden is unsustainable,” Rachael Fauss, an analyst at Reinvent Albany, told The Post. “Federal funding has kind of masked how bad it is.”

Commuters wear face masks while riding the subway in New York, June 6, 2021
The number of subway riders has been decimated by COVID and has not fully recovered.
AP

Transit leaders have warned about the MTA’s finances since the beginning of COVID, saying without additional funding they will have to make devastating service and job cuts.

MTA CEO Lieber met with lawmakers about the looming “fiscal cliff” during the Somos conference in Puerto Rico last week, nonprofit news outlet The City reported Friday. He also spoke to city council members, the report said.

“We agree that the MTA needs new earmarked funding and the fiscal cliff is real, and appreciate Reinvent Albany’s passionate advocacy for investments in transit,” MTA spokesman Aaron Donovan said in a statement.

MTA Managing Director Janno Lieber
MTA Chief Executive Janno Lieber has already begun speaking to state and city legislators about MTA’s finances.
Lev Radin/Sipa USA

According to an insider, Albany and City Hall may be Lieber’s only option to save the MTA as Republicans take control of the House of Representatives.

“The next two years in Washington will be deadlocked,” the source said. “With the new Republican House, there will be no operating subsidies.”

https://nypost.com/2022/11/16/looming-fiscal-cliff-will-destroy-the-mta-watchdog-warns/ Looming fiscal cliff ‘will destroy MTA’, Watchdog warns

JACLYN DIAZ

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