MTA officials said last week that they won’t vote on fare hikes for several months, but by that time, the agency’s ever-plummeting debt may leave them no choice but to finally raise fares.
Last week the MTA, which faces a $500 million deficit in 2021 and billions more in the future due COVID losses, recently decided that times were too tough for New Yorkers right now to weather a 4% fare increase, but officials are now warning state legislators that the agency is losing $5 million each month that price hikes are delayed.
“We’ve had to rely on the federal government to stay afloat, since the state and city are facing the same dire financial crisis as the MTA,” MTA Chairman Pat Foye said on a ZOOM meeting on Tuesday. “While we believe [delaying fare increases] is the right thing to do, delaying [the extra income] has an impact on an overall already extremely fragile budget.”
In addition to opposing fare increases, Foye also defended the $300 million the MTA has been spending on cleaning and disinfecting the subways every night from 1 to 5am.
When Assemblywoman Emily Gallagher (D-Brooklyn) argued that the lack of overnight subway service “comes at great personal cost to my constituents who are missing, work and caregiving needs overnight,” Foye responded that the majority of subway riders appreciate the through nightly cleanings.
Not backing down, Assemblywoman Gallagher then challenged Foye to explain the scientific justification for the additional expense of cleaning the subway trains, when the virus supposedly is more likely to travel through air than on surfaces.
Foye responded that, “A survey of our customers indicated that 75 percent of approved of the disinfecting regime, and it was important to them in their decision to ride on transit.”
Gov. Andrew Cuomo has said that even if closing the subway to clean it doesn’t make a difference in terms of whether people get sick, it’s worth it as reassurance.