MTA leaders are clawing for another huge government bailout — and a group of Albany Democrats is urging Gov. Kathy Hochul to hand them one.
The 30 assembly members — led by Amy Paulin (D-Westchester) and Jessica Gonzalez-Rojas (D-Queens) — in a letter to Hochul Monday called for extra funs to avoid service cuts, and instead increase frequency of trains and buses to every six minutes.
“Without saving and stabilizing public transit, New York’s economy will crater, our communities become isolated, and our existential climate targets will be utterly beyond reach,” the letter obtained by The Post states.
“To meet the moment, we must not only save the public transit New York depends on, but also invest in its growth and leverage existing infrastructure to run buses and trains more frequently and reliably, cut long waits, shorten trip times, and attract more riders.”
The letter comes after state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli warned last week that the MTA may have to to enact severe service cuts and fare hikes to recoup pre-pandemic revenue levels.
The transit authority has long depended on fares to keep trains and buses running, but that funding model has become outmoded as fewer New Yorkers are opting to ride the subways.
Ridership levels dropped over 90% in the initial weeks of the pandemic and are expected to remain as low as just 73% of pre-pandemic levels come the middle of 2026, according to the projections by consultants at McKinsey & Company.
A $15 billion cumulative infusion of federal cash over 2020 and 2021 temporarily secured the MTA’s budget. The agency needs $600 million for 2023, plus over $1 billion for each of the subsequent three years, according to its most recent budget forecast.
As things stand, the MTA would still have to hike fares 11% by 2026 — to more than $3 a ride — if Hochul only closes those gaps but does not provide funds to fend off a price hike.
While the letter does not directly address fare hikes, Gonzales-Rojas told The Post that failure to stave off the increase or fund the MTA would be detrimental to the system and its riders.
“We really don’t want to see the fare increases that are being proposed, and we don’t want to see cuts in service,” she said.
“People aren’t going to get back into the offices if they’re going to have to pay more or get less service.”
Frequent service is also important for improving safety, said the assemblywoman.
“We really need to ensure that service continues to run in a reliable way,” she said. “When you’re standing on a dark corner waiting 20 minutes for the bus, that doesn’t feel safe.”
The pols — who all represent counties served by the MTA — also called for more frequent commuter rail service.
Speaking on WABC-TV on Sunday, MTA CEO Janno Lieber agreed that a “massive” fare hike would devastate riders.
“We don’t want a massive fare hike. It wouldn’t be fair to the people, most of them working and middle-class New Yorkers who have been riding through COVID,” he said. “I have called on Washington, Albany and City Hall who all have a role to play to come together and find a solution to this … budget deficit.”
Officials had planned to raise fares earlier this year, but Hochul provided state funding that allowed her appointed MTA leadership to delay such hikes “indefinitely.”
A 4% fare hike is currently scheduled for next year and again in 2025, according to the MTA’s most recent financial documents. Officials would have to raise fares 19% on top of that to match pre-COVID revenues, according to the comptroller’s office. The current subway and bus fare is $2.75; under the comptroller’s calculations, that price would rise to $3.54 by 2026.
Hochul on Nov. 22 said there are “multiple” possible sources for MTA rescue funding, and claimed she “has a lot of ideas” to address the issue.
“Governor Hochul took action last year to avoid a fare hike or service reductions, and she is committed to providing safe, quality, and reliable transit service to riders,” spokesman John Lindsay said in a statement. “We will continue working with federal partners and state legislators on how to best support public transit.”