‘This is a five-alarm fire, a 100-year fiscal tsunami’

As the fall lands on their virus-weary city, there are some new reasons for optimism in New York.

More people are out on the sidewalks. The gyms are open again. Although Broadway’s still dark and Manhattan CEOs are grumbling about “widespread concern”, many offices are not as empty as they were before Labor Day. Meanwhile, both Indoor Dining and Classroom Learning are set to return with restrictions by the end of the month.

But there is still a large missing piece in the complex puzzle of New York’s slow resurgence, and transit officials are strongly struggling to fit it back. The metro is still a relative ghost town.

Patrick Foe, chairman and CEO of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, was speaking after one or two hours after the government said that Andrew Cuomo on Thursday imposed a new fine of $ 50 to anyone on the train or at the station without putting on a face mask.

Is the metro safe?

“Absolutely,” Foye said.

With fewer riders, tidy trains, overnight shutdowns and wearing masks, which are already 90% north, the MTA president seems to have science on his side. But he still needs to gain the trust of reluctant Republicans in Washington, as well as the millions of his former riders, who have retarded to step in with the financial bailout.

“It’s a five-year fire, a 100-year fiscal tsunami,” said Foe, a veteran of the Empire State Development Corporation and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. “We get half of our revenue on a ridership basis, and we get a package of subsidies from the state legislature,” shares of the mortgage-recording tax, payroll-mobility tax, and other revenue streams were also wiped out by the coronovirus epidemic. is . “New York State and New York City are in equally dangerous waters,” said Foe. “It is only the federal government that has the resources and capacity.”

The stakes are hardly high for New York’s economy as the city moves back to life. Those 36 lines, 472 stations and 691 miles of track are not the only means of transportation. They are the irrigation system that nurtures all those gleaming Manhattan skyscrapers and has been lukewarming the city’s economy for the last 116 years. No one will be found anywhere on the roads with a million additional cars.

Subway riders have been coming back since the depths of spring, when fare card swipes and taps were down 95% from last year. Now, passenger numbers are off by 73%, leaving for around 1.6 million passengers a day. This is a good sign, but still less than the 5 million who rode on a normal weekday last year.

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The MTA figures tell an interesting story about the uneven recovery of the metropolitan area.

City bus riders are now about half. And traffic on the MTA’s bridges and tunnels — Triboro Bridge, Queens-Midtown Tunnel, Verrazano-Nars Bridge, Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel and five other crossings – is down only 10%, suggesting that these people are still more in their cars. Are comfortable. . On Wednesday, 833,000 cars and trucks paid the MTA toll. Meanwhile, the agency’s two commuter lines — the Long Island Railroad and the Metro-North Railroad — are faster than the metro.

What does it give there?

Part of this may be that suburban commuters are more likely to have their own cars. But a greater interpretation, Foye said, is that many white-collar professionals in the suburbs are still working from home or from satellite offices outside the city. “If you’re a construction worker or a waiter or you work in a pharmacy, that’s not possible,” he said. “You don’t have the option to do remote work.”

The MTA president said that the pattern in New York — after cars first cross the city, to suburban rail — is already a repeat of what has already happened in large European cities. So now a big part of the focus is building confidence in the home.

Foye cited a recent study by the American Public Transportation Association, stating that transit riders have not been a vector for spreading the virus. And MTA officials are working with researchers at Columbia University who believe that ultraviolet light can help disinfect a transit system. The metro’s overnight finale has helped staff and teams from the city’s Homeless Services Department find shelter for the homeless – or at least kick them out of the system. And Cuomo, Foye, and other New York officials remain attracted to Washington, trying to ease local concerns.

“The New Yorker’s behavior is not in Washington’s hands,” Foe insisted. “This lot is up to us.” Obviously, there is still a way.

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At an MTA board meeting in August, budget officials warned that if Washington did not step in, the only option would be a 40% cut in bus and metro service and a 50% cut on the Metro-North and Long Island Railroad, plus Sorting 8,500.

Foy said: “The Great Depression was not nearly as bad.”