Congress agreed to a federal stimulus package in December that will spare the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) from catastrophic cuts – for the immediate future, anyway. The $908 billion agreement includes more than $4 billion for the MTA, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer announced.
MTA Chairman Pat Foye called the deal a “promising first step,” that would allow the agency to balance its 2021 budget while dodging mass layoffs or dramatic reductions in service until at least next year. The agency had asked for $12 billion in federal aid and now faces an $8 billion budget shortfall in the coming years.
Lisa Daglian, head of the Permanent Citizens Advisory Committee to the MTA, said the federal aid should be seen as a “down payment” ahead of additional relief that could be forthcoming under Joe Biden’s administration.
Transit officials don’t expect ridership to rebound to pre-pandemic levels until 2024, under a “best-case scenario.” Meanwhile, the MTA was forced to borrow more than $3 billion from the federal reserve to meet its 2020 budget – money that will begin accumulating interest in 2023.
According to a breakdown published by the Washington Post, the deal is expected to include a total of $45 billion toward transportation nationwide – of which $14 billion will go to public transit, $16 billion to airlines, $10 billion to state highways, $2 billion to buses, $2 billion to airports and $1 billion to Amtrak.
Transit advocates have said the $4 billion in MTA relief should be seen as welcome news, not just for subway and bus riders, but for New York City as a whole. Without the federal aid, the drastic cuts to mass transit would have further crippled the region’s economy, erasing over $65 billion in economic output and costing 450,000 jobs by 2022, according to an analysis by the NYU Rudin Center.