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Deserted, New York subway threatens drastic cut in services

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Aug 27, 2020 - 06:54 AM

NEW YORK — New York’s transport authority warned Wednesday it will have to cut services significantly if it does not receive $12 billion in federal aid to compensate for a sharp drop in ridership due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The US financial capital has managed to keep the pandemic under control for several weeks, but many New Yorkers continue to work from home and avoid trains and buses from the outer boroughs, pushing the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) to consider reducing services by 40 percent.

“The MTA has never, even in the Great Depression, seen ridership declines as severe and sustained as we are experiencing right now,” MTA chairman Patrick Foye said during a board meeting, a video of which was shared online.

The numbers are staggering: despite major daily disinfections, the mandatory wearing of masks and the closure of some 420 different stations from 1:00 am to 5:00 am since May — a first since 1904 — subway ridership has plunged 75 percent compared to pre-pandemic levels.

The MTA’s two main lines, which primarily serve the Long Island borough and upstate New York, have seen a similar drop.

Buses, often considered safer during the pandemic, are faring better, with only a 35 percent drop in ridership.

In total, the MTA, which is legally obligated to balance its budget and cannot declare bankruptcy, is losing about $200 million per week, or about 40 percent of its revenues, according to chief financial officer Robert Foran.

However, no measures to reduce services have been taken for the time being, Foye stressed.

The idea is to sound the alarm and convince the federal government to inject some $12 billion into a network that he called “essential” to the economic recovery of New York and the US in general.

The call for aid is part of wider efforts by New York’s Democratic leadership to obtain federal aid in dealing with the expenses and tax shortfall generated by the pandemic.

In May, the Democratic-majority House of Representatives passed a $3 trillion aid package for state and local governments that the Republican-held Senate did not vote on.

Recent negotiations between the two parties to reach a compromise also failed.

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