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Photo by Mark Hallum
Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney in Long Island City on April 5, 2019.

Since the coronavirus outbreak placed the MTA in the position of providing essential service to New Yorkers and losing billions to ridership loss from self-quarantine measures, members of New York’s Congressional delegation is backing the authority’s $4 billion request for federal funds.

Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney issued a letter to House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi with several other representatives signed on that gave a hat-tip to transit workers and the importance of the MTA not only as an essential service, but one that transports essential service workers to their posts fighting the COVID-19 outbreak.

MTA Chair and CEO Pat Foye appealed to congress on March 19 saying that subway ridership was down by a dismal 60%, while the Metro-North Railroad was most affected, with a 90% drop. The agency calculated they would need at least $3.7 billion if this trend continued over the course of six months.

“As you know, New York State is experiencing the largest coronavirus outbreak of any state in the country,” the letter to Pelosi stated. “In the face of this challenging crisis, MTA has stepped up its sanitation protocols and continues to operate in order to ensure that essential staff – including medical professionals, first responders, essential government employees, and childcare workers – can get to where they need to be.”

In Foye’s letter to the New York Delegation on March 18, he argues that as the state produces up to 10% of the nation’s GPD it would behoove federal government to invest in the MTA if not to keep the region running during the crisis but to fuel a seamless recovery once the outbreak subsides.

The effort to sanitize stations and workspaces twice a day and rolling stock every 72 hours will cost the MTA up $300 million by the agency’s estimates.

“We continue to operate our subways, railroads, buses, and Access-A-Ride services around the clock, helping to get essential employees… where they need to be,” Foye said. “But the stark reality is that as more people stay home following the advice of medical experts, the MTA is now facing financial calamity.”

New York state sends $35 billion more to Washington D.C. than it receives from the federal government in funding, according to Foye, and Maloney’s letter says the MTA’s services account for about 38% of transit trips in America.

“Reliable mass transit is vital to the New York region’s efforts to combat this pandemic; without a fully functioning MTA, our national response to this pandemic will be incapacitated, and recovery will be impossible. Yet MTA cannot continue without federal assistance,” Maloney’s letter concluded before issuing financial support for all transit agencies.

And how much could transit agencies need as the crisis, over 10,000 cases in New York state alone, continues?

According to the American Public Transit Association, transportation agencies across the country could need a bailout of up to $12 billion.

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