'There is going to be a terrible impact': Foye warns MTA cuts will be devastating to regional economy

NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — Without billions of dollars in aid from the federal government, the future of public transit in our region remains in peril.

The MTA Board on Wednesday was presented with a series of “doomsday” options to help New York City’s mass transit network recover, but none of the options are good.

MTA Chairman and CEO Pat Foye on Thursday spoke with WCBS 880 anchor Steve Scott about the MTA’s next moves.

Q: You've been running the numbers for months now. Let's start with service cuts, what are you looking at?

A: The grim reality, as a result of the pandemic, the effect it's had on our ridership revenues and other revenues are worse than the Great Depression. And the terrible reluctance or unwillingness of the Senate Republicans in Washington to fund the MTA and mass transit has left us in a grim situation, the worst financial situation the MTA has ever faced.

Our board did not make any decisions yesterday, but we presented the board with a financial plan for 2021 on going forward and possible increases in fares and tolls, and again no decision was made.

The deficit that the MTA faces as a result of the pandemic and the Senate Republicans in Washington's unwillingness to fund the MTA has left us with no choice but to consider, and I emphasize consider, service cuts on subways and buses up to 40% and up to 50% on a Metro-North and Long Island Rail Road. That could involve a work force reduction, layoffs of up to 9,300 of our colleagues, who've been acting heroically throughout this entire pandemic and this is clearly the worst financial crisis that the MTA has ever faced.

Q: I've seen some projections that say there's a chance that entire subway lines and bus routes might go away, is that true? And if so which ones?

A: Well, we haven't made any decision. What we're trying to do is to balance the deficits that we face with minimizing the impact on our customers. And I want to be clear, if we have to proceed with service cuts up to 40% on subways and buses, and up to 50% on commuter rails, there is going to be a terrible impact, not only on our customers, but on the regional economy. It could cost the regional economy up to 450,000 jobs in the region, about 400,000 of those in New York City, and destroy about $65 billion of gross domestic product in the region – that's the situation we face.

We have not made any decision with respect to any line or branch or bus route and that is work that is still under way and we're trying to balance our grave fiscal situation as a result of the pandemic and the decline in ridership revenues with minimizing impact on customers. But, to be clear, there will be significant impact on customers and employees if our hand is forced and the federal government doesn't fund us and we have to make these cuts.

Q: Is the possible elimination of overnight subway service on the table as one of those potential cuts?

A: Well as you know Steve, we are right now closed from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. on the subways to allow every station and subway car to be disinfected – that will continue during the pandemic. There will be late night service, other than the 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. closure, but we're continuing to work.
Our subway and bus and commuter rail teams are continuing to work to see what cuts need to be made to make the financial target, to ensure the financial viability of the MTA in these horrible times, with balancing that impact on customers and employees.

Q: Let me asset in a different way than: Do you see the possibility that the 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. shutdowns might become permanent?

A: Look, everything has to be on the table, that's what we've said from the beginning. We did not like making the decision on May 6 to close from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. because it had an impact on our customers, although we have increased bus service in that in that time period – but it was necessary in light of the circumstances of the pandemic to disinfect every station and every subway car. Everything has to be on the table and we’ll be reporting to the public, our customers and our employees going forward.

Stay informed, stay connected — follow WCBS 880 on Facebook and Twitter. Download the RADIO.COM app + favorite WCBS 880 for breaking news, traffic and weather alerts.