New York Daily News: MANHATTAN, NY – A 40 percent cut in weekday subway service and layoffs of more than 9,000 transit workers are on the table as MTA honchos battle a COVID-19 financial catastrophe, the Daily News has learned.
“This would absolutely be an end to the New York way of life,” said Andrew Albert, the non-voting rider advocate on the MTA board.
“People expect to leave their home or office and get a train or bus within a very reasonable wait of time,” Albert said. “Cuts of this magnitude mean virtually no social distancing. It’s just a nonstarter to me.”
The transit austerity plan — parts of which were obtained by The News — could be staved off if Congress approves more COVID-19 aid to the agency.
Transit officials have asked for $12 billion in federal aid by the end of 2021 to stay afloat.
Some weekend subway service would be suspended entirely, while weekday train schedules would be pared by 40 percent, according to the MTA plan.
The plan would shut down bus routes across the city, but would ensure bus riders aren’t left more than a half-mile away from another bus route or subway line. The remaining bus service would be cut by a third, the plan states.
Even then, the cuts — along with the re-deployment of $1.5 billion in construction money toward daily operating expenses through 2023 — won’t cover the MTA’s deficit through next year, officials admit.
MTA chairman Pat Foye said at a press conference Tuesday that no one at the agency wants to cut service or jobs.
“Our hand may be forced if the federal government doesn’t come through with the funding,” he said.
“We are moving ahead hoping for the best but preparing for the worst,” MTA spokesman Ken Lovett said Tuesday night, noting that the agency still hopes for $12 billion in federal help.
“If the federal aid comes through in that amount, we will adjust our spending plan accordingly,” Lovett said.
MTA board members are to be briefed on the financial plan on Wednesday. The plan could be changed before it gets a final vote in December.
John Samuelsen, president of the Transport Workers Union, which represents most of of the MTA’s workforce, said that before layoffs are considered, the state should seek other sources of MTA funding, such as taxes on gasoline or stock transfers.
“The cuts disproportionately target New York City and in doing so they’re definitely going to disproportionately impact communities of color and essentially the working poor,” said Samuelsen.
“The MTA has sat around waiting for a federal bailout instead of looking for additional sources of revenue.”
Samuelsen said he’s urged Foye to seek an exemption to the state law requiring a balanced budget, or to just ignore the rule entirely.
“What are they going to do? Lock up Foye?” he asked.
TWU Local 100 president Tony Utano said the MTA should “go back to the drawing board” before the budget is finalized in December.
“The MTA’s budget proposal is an outrageous and cowardly surrender to the coronavirus, and a slap in the face of every transit workers,” said Utano. “Tossing thousands of workers onto the street and leaving entire neighborhoods without service are not answers.”