NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — Transit union officials are vowing a fight as the MTA explores "doomsday" service cuts and layoffs amid a financial crisis that advocates warn could be the beginning of the end for public transportation in New York City.
The MTA is looking to begin making unprecedented cuts and layoffs, including a 40% reduction in weekday subway service, the elimination of whole subway and bus lines, and nearly 10,000 layoffs — most of them subway and bus operators.
Fare and toll increases are also on the table, as are layoffs of about 12% for the LIRR and Metro-North workforce.
“We are taking the approach of planning for the worst, but leaving room to adjust for the best, should that happen,” said MTA CEO and Chairman Pat Foye.
The plan, introduced Wednesday, is one the MTA says it has no choice but to explore, with no sign of help coming from Washington.
"Without the certainty of substantial federal dollars there is no recourse," Foye said.
MTA Chief Financial Officer Bob Foran says the changes would not go into effect until May 2021, after conducting public outreach.
"This is just ugly and this is, though, something that we must consider if we're going to survive," Foran said.
A fare increase was already scheduled for next year, but some board members want to think about reducing fares to try to win riders back.
Meanwhile, MTA employees are saying they will not go down quietly.
Among those looking to fight it is Transport Workers Union head John Samuelsen, who says the union “will fight like hell to defend our members” and that workers won’t be going down quietly.
“We’ve sacrificed too much already. There’s no way we’re opening up our contract. It’s not going to happen. We choose to fight. That’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to fight,” Samuelsen said.
The MTA’s longstanding ask of $12 billion in federal aid doesn’t look like it’s getting any closer, especially with control of the U.S. Senate still up in the air.
Even with all of the proposed cuts, the MTA doesn’t come close to filling its budget gap. The agency is required by law to have a balance budget, but Samuelsen says no one is going to throw MTA leadership in jail if they ignore that law this year.
“The truth of the matter is the MTA has the ability to borrow to get through 2021. Hopefully then the pandemic passes us, a federal bailout will come through and they wont have to put their riders through the wringer,” Samuelsen said.