‘I’m excited to get on the train,’ said Mr. Hand. ‘But as I always say, it was proposed 50 years ago and 50 years late.’
East Side Access is the authority’s largest project—one of several ongoing expansion efforts contributing to rising construction costs even as the MTA faces a nearly $3 billion budget gap by 2025, due in part to declining fare fund revenue. To offset the loss of passengers, the authority is considering increasing the current $2.75 base fare to $2.90 by this year and to $3.02 in 2025, though any fare changes would be preceded by public hearings and a board vote.
The fare increase won’t erase the Authority’s debt burden, it will only reduce it to $600 million this year, and transit leaders want the city, state or federal government to bridge that shortfall. Their request has received a tepid response from Governor Hochul, who effectively controls the MTA. Although it has pledged to help the authority tackle the problem, it has not committed any amount publicly. The state will unveil its state budget proposal on February 1st.
Grand Central’s new service will increase peak hour capacity at a time when many commuters who work white-collar jobs work from home at least part of the week. Subway ridership on weekdays is hovering at about 65 percent of pre-pandemic levels, and forecasters predict they will only reach 80 percent of pre-pandemic levels by 2026.
These changing mobility patterns have posed a crisis for transportation systems around the world. Transportation officials and supporters fear that shrinking passenger and fare revenues could lead to a reduction in service, making transit less convenient for the public and, in turn, further declining ridership.
Although falling ridership contributed to the authority’s financial crisis, it was already heavily indebted before the pandemic. The system was saved from dissolution in the early 1980s when lawmakers allowed it to issue bonds. However, the authority’s debt burden rose.
Expenses exceeded income, and the authority borrowed heavily to keep up. The volume of outstanding long-term debt issued by the authority increased by 55 percent between 2010 and 2021, to $40.1 billion from $25.8 billion.
James Barron Contribute to the preparation of reports.
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