ALBANY – State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli issued a dire warning regarding the Metropolitan Transit Authority finances this week. The MTA just released their budget and financial plan, which prompted DiNapoli to respond. “Washington needs to act now to support mass transit, the lifeblood of metropolitan economies,” he said.
“Our regional transit system is on the edge of a precipice. Without a significant infusion of federal funds, the region faces service cuts in 2021 that would change public transit as we know it.” The comptroller said that the MTA needs $12.7 billion in federal assistance over the next three years or the shortfall will be shouldered by toll payers, passengers, the workforce, and the taxpayers.
When federal COVID-19 assistance funding did not arrive in time, the MTA was forced to borrow nearly $3 billion to continue operations through the remainder of 2020. The borrowing, DiNapoli said, will change the way MTA provides services and will saddle the agency with debt for several years.
The MTA has pushed back its expectation for ridership returning to close to pre-pandemic levels until after 2024, but these cuts could further delay riders’ return to the system.
DiNapoli’ also indicated that the agency will be forced to make hard decisions without federal aid. “The MTA and its riders are at a dangerous crossroads. Ever higher fare and tolls, layoffs and more borrowing for operating purposes are all bad choices that the MTA will be forced to consider if sufficient federal funding is not received as soon as possible.”