New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) faces financial disaster

jfollows

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Reported in today's Wall Street Journal, the MTA faces financial disaster unless it receives $3.9 billion in bailout funds, having now almost exhausted the $4 billion it received in May. Unsurprisingly, the Republican-controlled Senate has so far rejected the bill which provides the funding. The "two commuter railroads" which the MTA runs are, of course, the Long Island Railroad and the Metro-North Railroad which are both quite substantial and with which many people on this forum are familiar - I myself have used the Poughkeepsie line many times during my IBM career between about 1990 and 2010.

I don't think anything in this report will be a surprise, it's just interesting to see the status spelled out and the options currently under consideration discussed.

Transit System Faces Financial Disaster

‘None of the choices are good, which is why federal funding is essential.’


Without U.S. bailout, chairman says riders could see diminishing services for years

BY PAUL BERGER

The nation’s largest transit system teeters on the edge of a financial crisis as it emerges from the new coronavirus pandemic, leaving it with few options other than imposing major spending cuts and borrowing billions of dollars, officials say.

Patrick Foye, chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, said in a July 8 interview that the only way to stave off bleak measures is for the agency to secure $3.9 billion in federal coronavirus bailout funds in the coming weeks. Without the money, subway, bus and rail commuters could be consigned to diminishing services for years. “None of the choices are good, which is why the federal funding is essential,” he said. The state-controlled authority, which runs New York City’s subway and bus systems as well as two commuter railroads, has almost exhausted $4 billion it received as part of the first federal coronavirus bailout in May.

The Democratic-controlled U.S. House of Representatives included a further $3.9 billion for the MTA in a new $3.5 trillion relief package passed the same month. Mr. Foye said he remains cautiously optimistic about receiving the money soon, even though the bill has languished in the Republicancontrolled U.S. Senate.

Senate Republicans, who return from recess July 20, have rejected the bill and remain divided on how much to spend and what to spend it on. Standard & Poor’s on July 7 downgraded the MTA’s credit rating to BBB+ from A-. It said the first round of bailout funds will be exhausted by August and described the authority’s hopes of receiving a next round of federal funding as fading.

Even if the authority receives the money, it would last only through the end of this year.

The last time the MTA found itself in a dire situation, following the 2008 financial crisis, it instituted a series of fare and toll increases, cut two subway lines and eliminated or reduced dozens of bus routes. At the time, the MTA faced projected shortfalls of between $400 million and $1.2 billion.

Currently, the MTA projects a shortfall of more than $10 billion through the end of 2021.

The MTA spends about $17 billion annually running buses and trains. It relies for more than two-thirds of its revenue on fares, tolls and dedicated payroll and other taxes that have been decimated by the pandemic.

By April, mass transit ridership had fallen more than 90%. At its lowest point, weekday subway ridership fell to 400,000 riders from a prepandemic average of 5.5 million.

Today, as New York City reopens, bus ridership is down about 50% and subway ridership is down about 80% compared with usual levels. Yet the authority runs an almost full schedule of trains and buses to reduce crowding. It also expects to spend an additional $500 million this year on disinfecting trains, buses and stations.

In May, authority officials took the previously unthinkable step of beginning nightly shutdowns of the subway system to remove homeless people and clean trains.

State officials say that overnight service will return when the pandemic ends. Mr. Foye said current daytime schedules could be reduced in the long term, based on demand. But he added that service cuts as well as reductions in the MTA workforce will be among the last measures contemplated to save money.

The MTA faced a fiscal crisis even before the pandemic, planning to cut as many as 2,700 of 74,000 positions this year. Labor accounts for about two-thirds of the MTA’s running costs. Fitch Ratings said in a July 7 report that the authority has failed to achieve meaningful overhauls of its union contracts that would be needed to balance its budget. An MTA spokesman said the authority’s recent agreement with its largest union secured work and benefits savings that offset four-year, average annual pay increases of a little over 2%.

Betsy Plum, executive director of transit advocacy group Riders Alliance, said people have grown so used to the authority lurching between fiscal crises that they take for granted that the agency’s financial problems will work themselves out.

“We may truly be in a moment where it cannot work itself out without dramatic injury to the people who most rely on transit,” she said.

Since the pandemic began officials have frozen plans to spend tens of billions of dollars to install elevators and upgrade outdated signal systems across the subway.
 
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nlogax

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I don't think anything in this report will be a surprise, it's just interesting to see the status spelled out and the options currently under consideration discussed.

Andy Byford must be pretty relieved to have left when he did, though I fear that with his TfL move during the middle of pandemic it was 'out of the frying pan and into the fire'.
 

jfollows

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Today's Wall Street Journal (Thursday 23rd. July) continues the theme. Funding expected to run out at the end of July, meaning cost-cutting and revenue-raising measures will be necessary in the absence of further federal aid. Today New York City subway + bus have combined 2.2 million weekday riders, compared to a normal 7.5 million. $3.9 billion has been requested in the next bailout, unsurprisingly held up by the Republican-controlled US Senate. The MTA's chairman does not see that cuts alone will be a solution.

MTA Says It Faces a Fight for Survival

Authority to consider fare increases, service cuts if more federal aid doesn’t come

BY PAUL BERGER

Leaders of New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority warned Wednesday about potential service cuts and fare increases as the nation’s largest transit agency approaches a key deadline during a financial crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

The MTA, which has an operating budget of $17 billion, previously received almost $4 billion in a federal coronavirus bailout in March. But that funding is expected to run out at the end of the month.

Patrick Foye, the MTA’s chairman, said at a board meeting that many cost-cutting and revenue-raising measures would be considered if the agency doesn’t get additional federal aid. Cuts to subway, bus and rail service would be on the table, transit officials said.

The officials said they would also assess fare and toll increases in excess of expected 4% raises scheduled for 2021 and 2023.

Mr. Foye opened Wednesday’s meeting saying the MTA has pivoted from a prepandemic plan for growth and investment to a postpandemic fight for survival.

The state-controlled MTA, which runs New York City’s subways and buses as well as two commuter railroads, expects to lose 40% of its revenues in 2020 and 2021 because of the pandemic.

Mass-transit ridership has recovered slightly after falling more than 90% during the depths of the pandemic. Today, with New York City in the fourth and final phase of its reopening, subway and bus ridership is roughly 2.2 million weekday riders. Prepandemic, about 7.5 million riders used the subway and bus systems on a weekday.

Because of declines in fares and dedicated taxes, the authority faces revenue shortfalls of almost $10 billion over the next 18 months, officials say.

Authority officials have asked the federal government for $3.9 billion to be included in the next bailout package, which is stalled in the Republican-controlled U.S. Senate.

“If we don’t get the federal help, we are so screwed,” said Kevin Law, an MTA board member who represents Suffolk County.

The authority’s chief financial officer, Robert Foran, in a presentation to the board, listed other potential measures that could be considered such as freezing wages, laying off workers and selling bonds to cover operating expenses.

Some board members expressed frustration that they haven’t begun debating such steps that might need to be taken in the coming months if the federal funding doesn’t materialize.

“We don’t see a road map for survival,” said Robert Linn, an appointee of New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. “I think we need to discuss the tough options right now.”

Mr. Foye, speaking at a news conference after the meeting, said the authority’s immediate focus is on securing federal funding and on reducing hundreds of millions of dollars in costs by cutting overtime and canceling consulting contracts.

He added that the MTA can’t cut its way out of the crisis.

“I think we are approaching it prudently and candidly and will be discussing all of these issues here, internally and with the board, in the months ahead,” he said.
 

MotCO

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Andy Byford must be pretty relieved to have left when he did, though I fear that with his TfL move during the middle of pandemic it was 'out of the frying pan and into the fire'.

He resigned from the New York City Transit Authority after a clash with his bosses; he didn't resign because he had been appointed to a new job at TfL.
 

jfollows

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Update from today's Wall Street Journal (Friday August 21st.): around 25% of revenue is predicted to be needed to service the cost of debt (was "only" 16% of revenue in 2019), the debt currently standing at $45 billion and likely to grow to $50 billion by 2024. New York State will need to find more sources for funding the MTA (taxes & congestion charging, for example) in the future. MTA has borrowed $450 million from the Federal Reserve at 1.9% this week, but MTA's credit rating is relatively poor (single A) and therefore it has to pay ~1% more than other municipal borrowers with better ratings.

Rising Debt Threatens to Derail MTA
BY PAUL BERGER
New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority needs to control its rising debt or it risks a drastic deterioration of service, budget watchdogs say.
The nation’s largest transit agency already has a debt load surpassing $45 billion, mostly to pay for new buses, trains and infrastructure. But it is now considering borrowing billions of dollars just to keep its system—including New York City’s subway—running during the new coronavirus pandemic.
“A true red line has to be drawn on how much debt is too much debt for the MTA,” said Rachael Fauss, a senior research analyst at watchdog group Reinvent Albany.
In 2019, the state-controlled authority dedicated 16% of revenue—$2.6 billion—toward debt service, according to the New York State Comptroller’s Office. Next year, because of continued borrowing during a time of depressed ridership and reduced tax incomes, the comptroller’s office says debt repayments will consume 26% of revenue. Even by 2024, when the office expects many pandemic-related issues to have stabilized, debt is forecast to account for 23% of revenue.
An MTA spokesman said those figures will decrease by 1 percentage point if the authority implements scheduled fare and toll increases in 2021 and 2023. New York City caps its debt-service costs at 15% of revenue.
“We can’t borrow our way out of this problem without endangering the whole future of the institution,” said David Jones, an MTA board member who was appointed by Mayor Bill de Blasio.
The board is scheduled to hold a special meeting next week to discuss the MTA’s finances.
Mr. Jones, who has spent years warning board colleagues and MTA officials about the authority’s growing debt-service costs, said he fears that subwayand busservice frequency and reliability will deteriorate as a greater share of revenue is diverted to repay debt. The cuts will hit low-income families and people living in poverty the hardest because they rely most on the system, he said.
“This is not going to be some distant problem,” Mr. Jones said. “This is going to hit us right away.”
The pandemic has decimated MTA revenue from fares, tolls and dedicated taxes. The authority projects a $10 billion deficit through the end of 2021.
The MTA began borrowing to pay for train and bus improvements in the early 1980s to revive a system in decay. In 2000, its long-term debt stood at $11 billion. By 2024, longterm debt is expected to reach $50 billion.
Authority officials have said that any billions borrowed to cover operating costs—what is known as deficit financing— will have to be deducted from its $55 billion capital-spending plan to modernize and upgrade its system.
“Going forward we will not sell debt we can’t support, and that is why the capital program is on hold,” Robert Foran, the MTA’s chief financial officer, said in a statement. “In addition, we are continuing to reduce operating costs in every area possible to ensure we have funds left for essential service, and to cover any deficit financing necessary to bridge this pandemic.”
MTA officials are hoping for a $4 billion bailout as part of a coronavirus relief package, but congressional negotiations have stalled and signals from Washington aren’t promising. The officials are also considering a range of measures, including laying off some of the authority’s 70,000-plus workforce and cutting subway, bus and rail service. But that isn’t likely to be enough to balance the budget.
The state has given the MTA permission to borrow $10 billion to cover operating expenses during the crisis. Matt Fabian, a partner at research firm Municipal Market Analytics, said that with few other options to raise revenue, borrowing might be the best way to make it through the next year or so.
New York state lawmakers found new revenue streams for the MTA last year. They raised taxes on internet sales and luxury real estate and created a congestion-pricing system on vehicles entering Manhattan’s central business district, which has been delayed by the federal government. Once the pandemic is over and the region has stabilized, Mr. Fabian said, the state will need to find further sources of revenue for the transit agency. In the end, he said, it is a situation that the state will have to resolve.
For now, the MTA is leaning on the federal government for help. On Tuesday, the authority rejected offers to buy its bonds at yields of about 2.8%. Instead it turned to a new short-term lending program set up by the Federal Reserve, from whom it borrowed $450 million at a yield of 1.9%. The Fed set up the program in response to the pandemic, and the transit authority is the second borrower to utilize it after the state of Illinois.
The Fed’s various emergency responses also sparked a broad rally in bond markets that has boosted the MTA’s bond prices in recent months. Still, the cost of taking on new debt remains relatively high for the MTA compared with other municipal borrowers with the same credit rating because ridership in the region remains low.
The transportation authority, which is rated single-A by most credit-rating firms, must pay about 1 percentage point more to issue bonds than similarly rated entities, said Dan Solender, municipal-bond portfolio manager at Lord Abbett & Co

Further update today, Thursday 27th. August. A 40% cut in service (subway and bus) is being considered unless MTA gets $12 billion in relief [That's a lot more than the $3.9 billion in the first article, but appears to cover 2020 and 2021 now at least] from the US government. Other options under consideration - but none of the options have yet been voted on - include raising fares and tolls, cuts to commuter rail by 50% and increasing tolls at peak periods. The $12 billion figure is the forecast shortfall by the end of 2021, currently running at $200 million per week, which I calculate to total more like $14 billion over the 70 weeks between now and the end of 2021, but presumably some recovery has been factored in to the $12 billion lower figure, or could be from $1 billion savings each year from reduced overtime, contractor fees and modernisation projects.

MTA Is Considering a 40% Service Cut

The agency faces a $12 billion shortfall by the end of 2021 as the pandemic hits revenue

BY PAUL BERGER

The operator of the nation’s largest transit system could be forced to slash New York City’s subway and bus service by 40% if it doesn’t receive $12 billion in relief from the federal government through the end of 2021.

The service reductions were among many options presented Wednesday at an emergency board meeting of New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority held to discuss the authority’s perilous finances caused in large part by the pandemic.

None of the options was voted on by board members. But they illustrated the magnitude of the cost-cutting measures that officials expect to weigh as the state-controlled authority faces its biggest fiscal crisis.

In addition to New York City’s subway and bus systems, the MTA operates two commuter rail lines—the Long Island Rail Road and the Metro-North Railroad—and nine bridges and tunnels.

Other options presented Wednesday included raising fares and tolls above the biennial target of 4%, cutting commuter rail service by 50% and implementing peak-period pricing at crossings.

The MTA forecasts cash shortfalls of $12 billion through the end of 2021, mostly because of a precipitous decline in revenues from fares, tolls and dedicated taxes since the pandemic hit New York in March.

Weekday subway ridership is down 75% compared with pre-pandemic levels of about 5.5 million riders.

Authority officials estimate that they are losing about $200 million a week.

MTA Chairman and Chief Executive Patrick Foye told his colleagues Wednesday that state and city governments are unable to help the MTA because they faced multibilliondollar deficits of their own and that only the federal government could step in. “The survival of the MTA lies in the balance,” he said.

MTA officials project annual savings of more than $1 billion this year and next year by reducing overtime, cutting consultant contracts and scaling back or deferring projects to modernize trains, buses and stations. But that isn’t nearly enough to balance the budget of the authority, which is statutorily precluded from filing for bankruptcy.

Officials say they could save almost $900 million annually by reducing subway and bus service by 40%, but that would translate into up to eight minutes of additional wait time for subway riders and up to 15 minutes of additional wait time for bus passengers.

The MTA previously has said that it must run the fullest service possible to reduce the risk of crowding during the pandemic.

The MTA faced a fiscal crisis before the pandemic. At the start of this year, the authority expected to cut up to 2,700 of its 74,000 workforce as part of a streamlining effort.

On Wednesday, officials said subway and bus-service reductions alone could allow the authority to cut 7,200 jobs.

MTA board members representing labor unions threatened worker unrest if the MTA tried to lay off transit employees. John Samuelsen, international president of the Transport Workers Union of America, said that the fiscal crisis had been years in the making and that the cost wouldn’t be borne by MTA workers—131 of whom have died of Covid-19-related causes. “We’ve paid with blood,” Mr. Samuelsen said.

Some MTA board members suggested the MTA look beyond asking the federal government alone for help.

Neal Zuckerman, who was appointed to the MTA by the Putnam County executive, said businesses, unions and banks that have benefited from the transit system for decades should collaborate to save the MTA the way business leaders rescued New York City during its fiscal crisis in the 1970s.

Linda Lacewell, the superintendent of the New York State Department of Financial Services and a board member appointed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, said the federal government created the MTA’s crisis by mismanaging the pandemic and has a responsibility to bail out the authority.

The MTA has exhausted the nearly $4 billion it received in the spring as part of a $2 trillion federal coronavirus-relief package.

Officials have been hoping for an additional $3.9 billion as part of an aid package that was being negotiated earlier this year. That package has stalled in Congress.
 
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jfollows

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The Economist dated September 3rd. 2020 continues the theme.

$200m a week being lost in fare revenues, 25% patronage on 31st. August compared to a pre-pandemic typical weekday, $12bn in federal funding hoped for, without which 40% subway & bus service reductions and 50% reduction in suburban services. A 10% decrease in subway passengers means an increase of more than 30% in road traffic. Cuts likely to start in November and if Democrats win the presidential election they may get a little more money than otherwise.

Train wreck
America’s biggest transit system is in trouble
As the MTA flounders, so New York City will struggle to recover
United States
Sep 3rd 2020 edition


Sep 3rd 2020
NEW YORK
Before the pandemic, packed subway cars were signs of the vitality of New York City. Squeezing into a packed carriage just as the doors closed was the norm until mid-March. By the time a train reached Manhattan people would be wedged in, shoving past each other to leave. It is difficult to imagine anyone enduring that crush now. Yet it is also hard to see New York truly bouncing back without it. “The subway is the barometer of New York,” says Tom Wright, head of the Regional Plan Association. “If the transit system falls apart, New York will not recover.”

The system is on the verge of financial collapse. Pat Foye, chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (mta), the state entity in charge of the subway, buses and regional commuter lines as well as some bridges and tunnels, painted a bleak picture at a recent board meeting. The agency is losing $200m a week because fare revenues, tolls and subsidies are all down, while the mta is shouldering new pandemic-related expenses (mostly shutting down the normally 24-hour subway for nightly cleaning). Passenger numbers collapsed as covid-19 spread and have risen only modestly as New York City has reopened. On August 31st 1.4m straphangers rode the subway, but that was still 75% below a typical weekday in 2019. The pandemic has taken a greater toll even than the Great Depression; passenger numbers declined by only 12% in 1929-33.

The mta hopes for $12bn in federal funding to get through this year and next. Without help, Mr Foye will be obliged to take “draconian measures”, which will be felt across the city and the region for decades. He spoke of a 40% reduction in subway and bus journeys and a probable reduction of up to 50% in services to the suburbs. Long-promised capital projects will be delayed or suspended. Fares and tolls will go up and the agency will lay off 8,400 employees, who have already had a tough time. Thousands of mta workers were infected with covid-19, more than 130 died and many lost family members to the virus. Mr Foye repeatedly drew parallels with the 1970s, when New York City sought a federal bailout to avoid fiscal collapse and hundreds of thousands of residents fled.

When, and if, office workers will return to Manhattan is uncertain. Many have not swiped their MetroCard for six months. Most are afraid to use the subway, despite the transit authority’s aggressive disinfecting. Service cuts could deter them from commuting regularly. There is anecdotal evidence that those who fled from the city are not returning. Many may drive back in, increasing congestion. A decrease of 10% in subway passengers means an increase of more than 30% in road traffic, says Nicole Gelinas of the Manhattan Institute, a New York think-tank. “If you are not investing in your capital asset, if you are driving away ridership with service cuts, you are just accepting much, much lower revenues for a long time,” she adds. All that leaves people who depend on the transit system, such as shift workers and shop workers, to bear the brunt of higher fares.

The system has long had fiscal problems. Little more than a decade after it opened in 1915, it faced a crisis when inflation raised operating expenses for the private companies then running the subway. After the second world war, New Yorkers abandoned the subway for cars. During the 1960s and 1970s the system was not well maintained, which caused delays and disruption. Every surface was covered in graffiti. Crime was rife. Even before the pandemic the mta was paying nearly 20% of its operating budget on debt service and its infrastructure was crumbling, with some of its signal systems dating back to the 1930s.

In the past few months the mta has been downgraded by various credit agencies, which makes borrowing more expensive. The agency is not allowed to file for bankruptcy and is required by law to balance its books. In the past it has turned to the city and state for help, but they are cash-strapped, too. New York’s officials say Congress should help, since if New York does not recover, the whole country will suffer. Senate Republicans have not been sympathetic, however. Congress gave the beleaguered agency $4bn in May as part of the cares Act, but the mta had spent all that by July 24th.

It may start to make cuts in November. If Joe Biden wins, it may get a little more time. But delaying track upgrades and signal systems will cause problems fast, which will further hobble the city’s recovery. “New York without its subway system,” says Philip Plotch, author of “Last Subway” and a political scientist at Saint Peter’s University in Jersey City, “is like a skyscraper without an elevator.”
 
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yorksrob

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The 10% decrease in passengers leading to a 30% increase in traffic would be reason for the Gmt to write off the cost, I would have thought !
 

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Wall Street Journal Thursday September 24th.

MTA plans to borrow up to $2.9 billion from the Federal Reserve (basically, as much as it possibly can) at 1.8%. "This is the cheapest money the MTA will ever be able to get as a loan".

MTA Is Set to Tap Fed for Loan

BY PAUL BERGER


New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority plans to apply to the Federal Reserve to borrow as much as $2.9 billion from a short-term lending program, as it faces an unprecedented financial crisis.

Lawrence Schwartz, chairman of the MTA’s finance committee, told board members at a meeting Wednesday that in the absence of a new federal coronavirus bailout— which has stalled in Congress—the MTA should seek the maximum amount possible from the Fed program.

MTA officials estimate that they are losing $200 million a week because of a slump in fares, tolls and dedicated taxes caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

They have said they might have to slash subway and bus service in New York City by as much as 40% and lay off thousands of workers if they don’t receive federal aid soon.

The state-controlled authority, which received nearly $4 billion in a federal coronavirus bailout earlier this year, projects a deficit of about $12 billion through the end of 2021.

The MTA and the state of Illinois are the only two borrowers to have tapped the Fed’s municipal-lending program so far.

In August, the MTA sold $450 million in bonds to the Fed at a yield of 1.9%, rejecting offers from the private market at yields of about 2.8%.

Based on the Fed program criteria, the MTA could be eligible to borrow a total of almost $3.4 billion, transit officials said.

Mr. Schwartz told board members that he believes the MTA could borrow $2.9 billion at a rate of about 1.8%.

“That is the cheapest money the MTA will ever be able to get as a loan,” Mr. Schwartz said.

He asked the MTA’s chief financial officer, Robert Foran, to begin drawing up an application.

If the MTA’s application is approved, the authority would have until the end of the year to decide how much, if any, of the money to draw down.

Authority officials say they have enough liquidity to carry the agency through the first quarter of 2021, but the Fed program is scheduled to close on Dec. 31 this year.

Mr. Foran said the funds could act as a bridge loan and be repaid as early as next year if federal bailout money comes through by then.

Patrick McCoy, the MTA’s director of finance, said at a congressional hearing last week that the Fed should extend the borrowing deadline beyond the end of 2020 and increase the maximum maturity for facility debt beyond three years.

Budget watchdogs, and even some MTA board members, have raised concerns that the authority, which already owes more than $45 billion, shouldn’t take on more debt.

Rachael Fauss, a senior research analyst at fiscal watchdog group Reinvent Albany, said in an interview that a low-cost federal loan could make sense under certain conditions.
 

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Update today, Wednesday 14th. October, no more money means no significant new news other than that the MTA continues to warn of a large deficit and severe cuts to come. Shortfall of $10.3 billion in fares and tolls plus $5.5 billion in tax revenues gives a total projected deficit of $16 billion "through" 2023, even after accounting for $4 billion in the earlier federal "bailout".
Extract from today's Wall Street Journal
MTA Faces Dire Outlook, Report Warns

Without federal aid, agency will have to cut service, lay off workers, state comptroller says

BY PAUL BERGER

New York’s mass-transit system, facing the worst fiscal crisis in its history, could be forced to cut services and borrow billions of dollars if the federal government doesn’t approve a Covid-19 bailout package with transit funding, the state’s top fiscal watchdog says.

Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli warned in a report released Tuesday that the state’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority will be forced to slash service, lay off thousands of workers and delay long-needed improvements to buses, commuter rails and the subway system should federal funding fail to materialize. He also warned that the authority could be forced to borrow billions of dollars to maintain services, amassing debt that will take decades to repay.

“The MTA’s financial condition is dire,” Mr. DiNapoli said in a statement. “With ridership down and no additional help likely from New York state or New York City, the MTA desperately needs an influx of federal funds or unheard of service cuts and workforce reductions will happen.”

The MTA has spent the past several months making similar warnings about its precarious financial state. Patrick Foye, the MTA’s chairman and chief executive, said in a statement Tuesday that the authority faces fiscal calamity without $12 billion in federal aid.

“Continued inaction by Congress will not only hurt our customers and employees, but also the economic rebound of New York and the nation,” he said.

Negotiations between Democrats and Republicans over a federal bailout bill appear to have reached an impasse after dragging on for months.

The MTA runs New York City’s subway and bus systems, two commuter rail lines, the Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North Railroad, as well as several toll bridges and tunnels.

Mr. DiNapoli, a Democrat, warned that some of the authority’s financial projections, dire as they are, are based on risky assumptions that subway, bus and rail fare revenues will recover to pre-pandemic levels by 2023.

Mr. DiNapoli said Tuesday that such assumptions are modeled on recovery patterns from the 2008 financial crisis, which differed from the current crisis.

He said the manner in which the pandemic has altered conceptions of office work and work from home could change commuting behavior for years.

“There are a lot of unknowns about when ridership goes back to pre-pandemic levels,” Mr. DiNapoli said.

Weekday ridership on New York City’s subway is down 70% compared with pre-pandemic levels. Ridership on commuter rail lines is recovering even more slowly.

The MTA projects a deficit of about $16 billion through 2023, according to the comptroller’s report, even after receiving $4 billion in a federal coronavirus bailout earlier this year.

The deficits are driven mainly by forecast shortfalls in fares and tolls of $10.3 billion and shortfalls of $5.5 billion in dedicated tax revenues from sources such as real-estate transactions and payroll.

The MTA often projects budget gaps. But the report notes that the current projections are unprecedented. For 2021, the MTA projects a gap of $6.3 billion, or 53% of total revenues.

The authority was burdened by debt before the crisis. Earlier this year, the authority had more than $40 billion in debt outstanding and debt repayments that consumed almost 20% of its $17 billion operating budget, according to the report.

New York state has authorized the MTA to borrow up to $10 billion to cover operating costs. The comptroller’s report notes that if the authority is forced to borrow the full amount, debt service could rise to 27% of its operating costs by 2023.
 
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185

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I thought that with other revenue raising assets such as the two toll tunnels and seven toll bridges they would have needed less support but it seems there are other astronomical overheads, often nothing to do with running a transit network.
 

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The latest update in today's (Thursday 19 November, https://www.wsj.com/public/resources/documents/GqVvCpXOnn4wQ0lE4PMn-WSJNewsPaper-11-19-2020.pdf) Wall Street Journal reports that "steep" cuts in services have been outlined in order to save money. Weekend frequency of one train every 15 minutes - presumably per line/route although it doesn't say - and reductions in bus routes, and reductions in peak services on the Long Island Railroad and Metro North Railroad are envisaged.

The message is that these cuts could be avoided if there's a bailout in the coming months - that's something being considered by the Biden administration I believe, but presumably the runoff elections in Georgia on 5 January could also be critical to determining whether or not a bailout plan would pass the US Senate.

The proposed cuts would start to be implemented in May 2021, by which point the existence or otherwise of bailout funds will have become more clear.

The MTA is now forecasting long-term reduction in usage of between 8% and 20% because of changed habits even after successful implementation of a Covid-19 vaccine.

MTA Considering Steep Service Cuts

BY PAUL BERGER

Commuters could have to wait much longer for subways, buses and trains in 2021 as New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority on Wednesday outlined potential service cuts to plug a multibillion-dollar deficit caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

The MTA’s chief financial officer, Robert Foran, speaking at an authority board meeting, said officials drawing up the 2021 budget are considering reducing or suspending some weekday subway services and limiting weekend train frequency to every 15 minutes.

Some bus routes could reduce in frequency or be eliminated, while peak-hour service on the Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North Railroad could be scaled back to every 20 or 30 minutes, Mr. Foran said.

Such changes could result in job losses for more than 9,000 of the authority’s roughly 68,000 workforce.

MTA officials say many of the cuts could be avoided if the authority secures a federal bailout in the coming months.

The MTA received $4 billion as part of a federal coronavirus bailout in May. MTA Chairman Patrick Foye told board members he is cautiously hopeful that the recent election of Democrat Joe Biden as president-elect increases the authority’s chances of receiving more federal aid next year.

But Mr. Foye added that because the MTA can’t bank on such funds coming through, especially if Republicans maintain control of the Senate, the authority must start planning for cuts.

The cuts, which would be subject to public hearings and a board vote, could be put into place as early as May, Mr. Foran said.

Even with the proposed service cuts, the MTA faces projected deficits in each of the next four years averaging about $2.9 billion.

The deficits are forecast even after the authority has taken a series of cost-cutting measures, such as reducing overtime and contracts with consultants. The MTA’s proposed operating budget for 2021 of $16 billion is $1 billion lower than 2020.

The authority has also paused billions of dollars of capital spending. It expects to borrow $2.9 billion from the Federal Reserve by the end of the year to help cover operating costs.

Currently, weekday ridership on the subway is down about 70%, while ridership on commuter rail is down between 75% and 80%.

Earlier this year, transit officials were thinking ridership would return to pre-pandemic levels by the end of 2023. But Mr. Foran said Wednesday that the authority now expects that even after a Covid-19 vaccine has been widely distributed many people will continue to work from home and shop online more frequently. The MTA, he said, expects ridership to remain between 8% and 20% below pre-pandemic levels through the mid-2020s.

EDIT - other proposals include pricing changes: "Other proposals include keeping the base MetroCard fee to $2.75 but eliminating unlimited seven- and 30-day MetroCards and upping the fee for a new MetroCard from $1 to as high as $3. Single-ride tickets could rise by a dollar. Regional rail fares on the Long Island Rail Road and MetroNorth would be divided into three zones with flat pricing." (https://www.sfgate.com/news/article/Cash-strapped-MTA-details-service-cuts-fare-and-15737566.php)

and

"Service may be eliminated on one or more LIRR branches, and Metro-North-owned lines west of the Hudson River that serve Rockland and Orange counties in New York (which are serviced by NJ Transit) may be cut altogether as well. The MTA estimates it may have to eliminate nearly 850 commuter rail positions." (https://www.nbcnewyork.com/news/loc...ervice-cuts-layoffs-amid-12b-deficit/2585597/)

EDIT - Note also that Democrats need to win both polls for the two Senate seats being contested in Georgia on 5 January 2021, which is believed to be unlikely. If the Democrats with both seats they end up with 50 seats in the Senate, which makes a working majority along with the tie-breaking vote of the Vice President (Kamala Harris).
 
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matt_world2004

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The MTA faces exactly the same problem as TfL does . A huge drop in ridership caused by factors outside it's control being deliberately brought to near failure so a point can be scored against the political party that currently controls it

The initial bailout of the MTA was include in the wider package of coronavirus legislation that was passed by the American Congress /senate and it is likely that any further coronavirus stimulus will cause a further bailout of the MTA
 

jfollows

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Thursday December 17's paper (Wall Street Journal https://www.wsj.com/public/resources/documents/yTrhvQB1UKnsUNP3ciym-WSJNewsPaper-12-17-2020.pdf) reports that the MTA has passed a budget for 2021 which avoids the need for deep service cuts, or at least defers that decision to a later day, essentially because of optimism about $4.5 billion in aid money from the federal government.

MTA Passes Budget, Averts Sharp Cuts

BY PAUL BERGER


Deep cuts to New York’s subway, bus and commuter rail service were put on hold Wednesday as the state Metropolitan Transportation Authority board approved a 2021 budget.

MTA Chairman Patrick Foye warned that the cuts, as well as thousands of layoffs, could still be implemented if the federal government doesn’t come through soon with $4.5 billion in aid.

“This isn’t a bluff,” he said. “This is real.”

The MTA, which is required by law to balance its budget, has suffered stark reductions in ridership and losses of billions of dollars in fare and tax revenues because of the coronavirus pandemic.

MTA officials warned this year that without a federal bailout they would need to cut subway and bus service by up to 40% and commuter rail service by up to 50%.

Board members approved a budget that assumes a $4.5 billion bailout will materialize in 2021.

Even if the MTA receives a bailout, officials project deficits totaling a further $8 billion through 2024.

To balance this year’s budget, the authority relied on a $4 billion federal bailout in the spring and on borrowing about $3 billion from a short term-lending program created during the pandemic by the Federal Reserve.

MTA finance director Robert Foran said the authority hoped to avoid further borrowing to cover operating costs because debt repayments could drain the agency’s ability to provide service for decades. “It’s almost a last resort because of its lingering ongoing damage to the organization,” Mr. Foran said.

The authority could still be forced to slash its budget if a federal bailout fails.

The MTA’s 2021 budget of just over $17 billion is about the same as its 2020 budget.

Mr. Foye, speaking at a news conference after the meeting, said the authority had worked to reduce costs by controlling overtime, consulting and other expenses. “We’ve done our part,” he said. “And we’re not done.”

The MTA, which employs about 68,000 workers, runs two of the nation’s largest commuter rail systems, as well as New York City’s subway and bus systems. Before the pandemic, the authority carried about 8 million riders on an average weekday.

The authority has suspended subway service between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. for the first time in the agency’s history so that cars can be cleaned and disinfected. Other than that, it continues to run almost full mass-transit service, even though weekday bus ridership is down 50% and subway ridership is down 70%.

Commuter rail ridership is down more than 75%. Authority officials said Wednesday they planned to cut service on the Long Island Rail Road to about 75% of pre-pandemic levels in January because of low ridership. Metro-North Railroad, which is operating service at about 65% of prepandemic levels, won’t change.

MTA leaders had hoped a second federal bailout would come through in 2020, but negotiations stalled in Congress.

Federal lawmakers on Wednesday inched closer to a bailout that is likely to include money for transit agencies.

Several MTA board members expressed hope the incoming Biden administration would look more favorably on the MTA than the Trump administration.
 

67thave

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Some mixed messages on what the potential LIRR cuts might be. The Daily News claims that cuts similar to those in 2010, such as reducing weekend service to Port Washington from 2x/hour to 1x/hour, as well as the complete elimination of West Hempstead weekend service (1x/every 2 hours), are coming in late January. The latter is a bit irritating, being that West Hempstead happens to be my local train line, but it's understandable, being as the weekend schedule requires passengers to transfer twice to reach Manhattan, as well as the fact that weekend trains carry air (due to the third rail gaps at Valley Stream, West Hempstead consists must be at least six cars long, while an average weekend West Hempstead train may carry only 10 or 15 people - many of which only travel to the first stop, Westwood).

Newsday (which, unlike the Daily News, is a newspaper focused on Long Island rather than NYC affairs) states that weekend services are NOT on the chopping block, but midday weekday service reductions on Port Washington from 2x/hour to 1x/hour are.
 

Mojo

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The NY subway must be one of the few metro systems in the world that still retains conductors on its trains, as well as still having decentralised control with numerous interlocking towers and so on. Of course it's hard to make comparisons with other networks because whilst they have a large contingent of on-train staff they have very few station staff, but employ directly staff which in other urban transport networks would be contracted out or run by a separate organisation (bus drivers, etc.)
 

Gag Halfrunt

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The NY subway must be one of the few metro systems in the world that still retains conductors on its trains

Another is the Pyongyang Metro in North Korea. The guard rides in the front cab, steps out to watch the platform and then reaches inside the cab to press the door close button (video).
 

Mojo

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Another is the Pyongyang Metro in North Korea. The guard rides in the front cab, steps out to watch the platform and then reaches inside the cab to press the door close button (video).
Interesting. Perhaps more relevant to New York is Toronto (!)
 

jfollows

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Monday January 11th.'s Wall Street Journal (https://www.wsj.com/public/resources/documents/HAePIRQ47D8SCxlaYJoo-WSJNewsPaper-1-11-2021.pdf) reports that the MTA will vote on 21 January whether to raise fare and toll revenue by about 4%, as it has done every two years in the recent past, or delay the increase. Those advocating delay say that the extra money is insignificant compared to the anticipated billions of dollars of deficits, and propose delaying the increase until the middle of 2021 at the earliest, or agreeing a fare increase which won't actually come into effect until January 2022.

The MTA recently secured $4 billion in the latest coronavirus aid package.

Eliminating 7-day and 30-day unlimited MetroCards is seen as a route to stemming losses through fraudulent use of these cards. Seems like a shame that these are so open to fraud, could they not be changed in some way to enable them to continue? "Tampering" is stated as the method of the fraudulent use, it would be interesting to know more.

MTA Board Weighs Fare Increase

BY PAUL BERGER


Leaders of New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority are expected to decide this month whether to raise fares on New York City’s subway and bus systems and regional commuter rails at a time when the Covid-19 pandemic has taken a financial toll on many of its riders.

The MTA, the operator of the nation’s largest transit system, instituted a schedule a decade ago of raising fare and toll revenues by about 4% every two years to keep pace with inflation. The authority’s board members are slated to vote on increases to fares on Jan. 21 and on tolls next month.

Some board members want to delay the latest fare increases, which could take effect in the spring, because so many people are out of work. They also say the extra millions of dollars the increase could raise wouldn’t dent the authority’s expected deficits, which measure in the billions.

“This isn’t the time to do this,” said David Jones, one of four voting MTA board members who represent Mayor Bill de Blasio, a Democrat.

Mr. Jones said he is considering asking for the fare vote to be delayed until at least the middle of the year. By that time he hopes the authority will have a clearer view of its finances, the regional economy and employment levels.

Robert Linn, another of Mr. de Blasio’s appointees, said he favors imposing a fare increase that doesn’t take effect until January 2022. Mr. Linn noted that the MTA recently secured $4 billion in the latest coronavirus aid package, which should see the authority through 2021.

Mr. Linn added that with mass-transit ridership down between 50% or more, an increase this year wouldn’t generate much revenue. But it would hurt people like grocery-store and health-care workers who have continued to commute to work during the pandemic.

The state-controlled MTA is desperate for revenue. It balanced its 2020 budget using a $3.9 billion federal bailout and by borrowing more than $3 billion in short-term debt from the Federal Reserve’s emergency lending program.

The MTA board is dominated by six appointees of Gov. Andrew Cuomo who control a plurality of its 14 votes and who are often supported by members recommended by the executives of outlying counties.

Transit advocates say Mr. Cuomo should find alternative ways of raising revenue such as taxing wealth and income rather than raising prices for essential workers.

“The governor needs to find progressive revenue raisers,” said Danny Pearlstein, a spokesman for advocacy group Riders Alliance.

Representatives of Mr. Cuomo, a Democrat, declined to comment. Lawrence Schwartz, one of six voting board members appointed by Mr. Cuomo, said he didn’t want to take a public position before he had a chance to discuss options with board colleagues ahead of and during their Jan. 21 meeting. “I think there may be ways to generate the revenue the MTA needs without hurting people that rely on the system the most,” he said.

Mr. Schwartz repeated previous comments he has made that he would like to keep the base fare for a subway or bus ride at $2.75 or discount it further. He also noted that the MTA loses a significant amount of revenue to fraud associated with people tampering with seven-day and 30day unlimited MetroCards. Previously, he has suggested considering the elimination of some unlimited cards.

The authority held a series of public hearings at the end of last year to receive comments on a long list of fare and toll proposals that include eliminating seven-day and 30day unlimited MetroCards and raising the base subway and bus fare to $3. The proposals also include a flat fare for most commuter rail riders and varying tolls at bridges and tunnels based on time of day.

Abbey Collins: an MTA spokeswoman, said, “We recognize our customers are facing unprecedented hardship and the MTA Board will take all this into consideration as well as the thousands of public comments received after eight virtual hearings when making its decision.”

The MTA was in a fiscal crisis before the pandemic hit the New York metropolitan region in early 2020. Its precarious financial plan for the coming years, which assumed biennial fare and toll increases, included projected annual shortfalls of hundreds of millions of dollars.

The authority has reduced costs by freezing nonessential hiring and cutting contracts with consultants. Without federal aid, authority officials warn they may have to cut transit service by 40% or 50%.

“We feel that the right balance right now would be to continue fare and toll increases as scheduled because the fiscal situation is so dire,” said Andrew Rein, president of the nonpartisan fiscal watchdog Citizens Budget Commission.

During normal times, the MTA carries about eight million people each weekday on two commuter railroads and on New York City’s subway and bus systems. Its seven bridges and two tunnels earned revenue in 2019 of about $2 billion.

Although traffic at the authority’s tolled crossings has almost recovered since the region shut down earlier last year, the authority doesn’t expect mass-transit ridership to return to near pre-pandemic levels until 2024.
 

Mojo

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Eliminating 7-day and 30-day unlimited MetroCards is seen as a route to stemming losses through fraudulent use of these cards. Seems like a shame that these are so open to fraud, could they not be changed in some way to enable them to continue? "Tampering" is stated as the method of the fraudulent use, it would be interesting to know more.
I agree, are they talking about people cloning the cards or editing the data on the mag stripe? One thing I noticed was quite prevalent when I’ve been there is people begging exiting customers for Metrocard swipes so they can then enter the system.

I’m guessing with Omny the former problems can be eradicated but if they launch multi-ride tickets on Omny and people aren’t required to touch out of the system it would be difficult to prevent people giving others free rides.

Would be a shame to lose the multi ride ticket option; even if I’m only there for 3 or 4 days I’ve always bought a seven day pass as you only have to make 12 journeys before it pays for itself.
 

Shinkansenfan

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The magnetic stripe MetroCard has been resistant to cloning because each card has a serial number that enables a fradulent card to be locked out from use.

Here's a couple of articles that speak to the fraud issue raised by that MTA board member:
https://www.nydailynews.com/new-yor...0201118-4n7uuckhnvgr3ljp3s7jgabwoq-story.html

http://secondavenuesagas.com/2020/1...ng-eliminating-unlimited-ride-metrocards-why/ Be sure to also read the comments for additional insights.

For readers who are unaware, the NYCT fare tariff allows the holder of an unlimited 7 or 30 day pass to swipe in another passenger, just as long as the passholder does not collect a fare. Each unlimited card has an 18 minute lock out period to prevent the same card from being reused at the same station until 18 minutes has elapsed.

Once upon a time 1 day pass was offered but over time quietly dropped due to agency resistance.
 
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jfollows

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Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MetroCard) also reports misuse methods, including one in which a spent MetroCard is bent in a precise way to damage a field on the stripe which would indicate the card no longer has value, with a backup field indicating one remaining fare on the card and so causing the used card to be accepted again.
Unauthorized resale and scams

Main article: New York City transit fares § Fare evasion

The MetroCard system is susceptible to various types of unauthorized resale, colloquially known as “selling swipes”.

At times, this may involve individuals charging to swipe another commuter into the subway system at a discount below the official fare, either by using an "unlimited ride" MetroCard, or by manipulating a spent MetroCard to obtain an extra, unpaid ride. A 2004 press release from New York State Senator Martin J. Golden claims these behaviors cost the MTA $260,000 a year.[142]

So-called 'swipers' reportedly may secure customers by vandalizing the coin and bill acceptor mechanisms of metrocard vending machines [143] Nearly half of broken vending machines were in Manhattan, and the MTA spent $26.5 million on MVM repairs as of 2017.[144] An 18-minute delay between uses of an "unlimited ride" MetroCard at any given station, and the expense of unlimited ride MetroCards, have historically limited their use for selling swipes.

More commonly, "swipers" use a technique which involves bending a spent MetroCard in a precise way that then allows a further use of that MetroCard when swiped and unkinked according to a specific procedure at a turnstile.[48] Swipers employ this procedure to sell discount entry to the subway; some riders simply use the technique to garner free subway entry themselves. The bend purportedly damages a magnetic field on the MetroCard which indicates it no longer has value, prompting the turnstile reader to defer to a back-up field which indicates that the metrocard has one remaining fare.[145] When the technique was discovered, it could be performed an unlimited number of times with the same MetroCard.[146] However, a software correction soon limited the technique to just once per used MetroCard, in which a turnstile computer which had deferred to that "backup" field would require the MetroCard be swiped additional times through the reader/writer before granting entry so any lingering indication of value could be deleted from the card, making it impossible to manipulate a given MetroCard in the same way once again.[48]

Criminal charges leveled agaisnt those using this bent-MetroCard technique have included petit larceny and, in a state law introduced specifically to target swipers in the year 2006, with “unauthorized sale of transportation services.” As early as 2001, however, police and prosecutors began to charge people bending MetroCards to seek free rides (either to sell, or for personal use) with various forms of forgery. [147] [144]

While misdemeanor forgery charges have been used in a number of jurisdictions, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office championed felony forgery charges for those in possession of manipulated metrocards, including “criminal possession of a “forged instrument” in the 2nd Degree, a felony. [148] A representative of that office successfully defended the charge to the state’s highest court, the Court of Appeals, in a case decided in 2009.[145] Critics have argued, however, that the court’s decision is based on an incomplete -- and possibly incorrect -- understanding of MetroCard technology, calling to question the status of a bent metrocard as a “forged instrument”. The MetroCard technology has no public documentation, and has never been made available to criminal defendants who might dispute claims that a simple bend to a MetroCard alters its data as read by a turnstile computer in the way claimed by Manhattan prosecutors. It is unclear, for example, why a bent MetroCard cannot be used to obtain an unpaid ride on a New York City bus if simply bending a MetroCard can actually alter how it is read by a subway turnstile computer as prosecutors claim.[48] One researcher has argued that a bent MetroCard must be subject to further procedures in order to be seen by the turnstile computer as legitimate, which requires both concealing data from the turnstile computer with a bend, as well as having fresh data written to the MetroCard by the turnstile computer itself. Because a bent MetroCard will not actually appear legitimate to a turnstile computer without further steps to allow the turnstile computer to write that fresh data, this casts doubt on the claim that a bent MetroCard - often cited as evidence in the prosecutions of swipers - actually constitutes a "forged instrument" as defined in New York State law.[148] [149]

A $1 fee on new MetroCards imposed in 2013 significantly curtailed the bent-MetroCard form of selling swipes. The fee incentivized riders to keep and refill their existing MetroCards, undermining the vast supply of discarded spent MetroCards from which swipers previously drew as their stock-in-trade.[48] Nonetheless, people continue to sell swipes of bent MetroCards which have been discarded.[144] Swipers continue to be prosecuted under forgery laws, according to research published in 2019.[150]



The MetroCard has resisted digital duplication through software. The MetroCard has a magnetic stripe, but both the track offsets and the encoding differ from standard Magstripe cards. It is a proprietary format developed by the contractor Cubic. Off-the-shelf reader/writers for the standard cards are useless to read from or write to MetroCards without mechanical modification and custom software. Self-identified hackers have had success decoding MetroCard data by treating Metrocard contents as sound, and converting its contents to binary using a computer sound card, inferring the role of data fields by comparing MetroCards with known properties, and developing custom Linux software to decode MetroCard data. [151] Moreover, MetroCard data has been duplicated to other media, also by treating it as sound, using an eight-track tape player. While duplicates may be useable to enter the subway in the short term, they are likely to be invalidated after the AFC database discovers imbalance between fares purchased for a MetroCard with a certain serial number, and fares used from one or more MetroCards bearing that serial number. [148]


===horrible auto-merge of posts===

Today's (19 January) Wall Street Journal (https://www.wsj.com/public/resources/documents/0zZt5mzKftav9koc2j0h-WSJNewsPaper-1-19-2021.pdf) reports more thoughts about replacing weekly and monthly season tickets with newer ticket types which reflect the new reality of commuting and other public transport usage patterns.

This seems very much in line with the UK experience, especially in London, in which a clear and inexorable trend away from purchase and use of season tickets, which had caused a lot of noise but little action from ticket providers, has been turned into a cataclysmic change by Covid-19.

As the quoted article says, "declining popularity of weekly and monthly tickets predates the pandemic". It quotes figures from Metra, Chicago, of a 6% decline in monthly tickets to 59% alongside a 3% increase in the use of "10-ride" tickets to 25% - all before 2020.

I think, as in London, this has been a long time in coming and it's a shame that it's nonetheless causing a relatively panicked response to something that was inevitable anyway, only hastened by Covid-19 in 2020.

Agencies Rethink Transit Passes

BY PAUL BERGER

Hanan Kolko traveled by train or bus to New York City from his home in Montclair, N.J., for almost 25 years until the coronavirus pandemic forced him to work from home.

The 60-year-old labor lawyer can’t wait until he receives a Covid-19 vaccine and returns to his commute. But his days of working from an office five days a week are over. So too is his need for a $167 monthly bus pass.

“All sorts of things I thought I had to be in the city for, I don’t,” said Mr. Kolko, who noted that the pandemic has shown how much of his work, such as writing briefs and conducting legal research, can be done remotely.

Time-based passes such as weekly and monthly tickets were good value for people like Mr. Kolko who travel about 15 or more days a month. Now those discounted tickets don’t make economic sense.

Rail and bus agencies are discussing how to lure back riders as the nation emerges from the coronavirus pandemic by devising new incentives and ticket types for workers who may wish to work from home more often.

Officials at NJ Transit, New Jersey’s statewide rail and bus system, say they hope to launch pilot programs in the coming months that could include rewards programs for regular riders or discounts for bulk purchases of tickets that don’t expire. Other agencies have already launched new oneor three-day unlimited passes that better suit people’s current commuting needs.

Some transit officials say the declining popularity of weekly and monthly tickets predates the pandemic as more workers gravitated toward working a four-day week or at least one day a week from home.

Between 2014 and 2019 the share of riders using monthly passes on Metra, Chicago’s commuter-rail system, fell 6 percentage points to 59%, according to agency data. During the same period, the share of riders using 10-ride tickets grew 3 percentage points to 25%.

Michael Gillis, an agency spokesman, said it is hard to ascribe the decline to a single factor. “We believe at least some of that shift is due to the rise of telecommuting,” he said.

The share of sales of some weekly and monthly tickets have plummeted during the pandemic. Sales of 30-day unlimited MetroCards, used for travel on New York City’s subway and bus systems, fell to 15% of ticket revenues in October, compared with 23% of revenues during the same month in 2019, according to the state-controlled Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

MTA board members will meet this week to consider possibly eliminating some time-based passes as part of an effort to raise revenue.

Some board members are concerned the authority loses millions of dollars because of fraudulent use of such cards.

Transit advocates are concerned because they see the passes as essential for low-income riders. A recent survey by the MTA found riders with a household income of less than $50,000 accounted for 71% of seven-day unlimited and 47% of 30-day unlimited MetroCard sales.

“Time-based passes are like the key to the city,” said Danny Pearlstein, a spokesman for advocacy group Riders Alliance. “They represent unparalleled access for basic needs to New Yorkers who have no other way of getting around.”

Commuter-rail passes are usually bought by more affluent riders, many of them white-collar workers. The MTA runs two of the nation’s busiest commuter-rail lines, Long Island Rail Road and MetroNorth Railroad, serving suburbs in New York and Connecticut. In recent years, monthly and weekly ticket sales accounted for almost half of fare revenues on both lines, according to agency figures.

Rich Andreski, Connecticut’s bureau chief for public transportation, said the popularity of time-based passes is likely to decline after the pandemic when, as his department understands, many companies will allow workers to continue to telework at least a few days a week. A recent nationwide survey conducted by Pew Research Center found more than half of white-collar workers who can work from home would like to do so most or all of the time in the future.

Mr. Andreski said working from home even for a few days would be a welcome option for many Connecticut commuters, some of whom travel up to two hours to Manhattan.

“I don’t know how an individual goes back to doing that five days a week,” he said.

He said he would like Metro-North to reconsider how its existing 10-trip tickets are discounted and marketed.

A spokesman for the MTA said the agency is considering new rail and MetroCard ticket types to match the new demands prompted by the pandemic, including multi-trip tickets that could help entice readers back to its systems.
 
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jfollows

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The subway will recommence 24-hour operation from May 17th. according to today's (Tuesday 4th. May) Wall Street Journal:
Subway to Return to 24-Hour Service

BY PAUL BERGER

New York City’s subway will return to 24-hour service on May 17 after a year of nightly shutdowns to clean stations and trains during the pandemic, said Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

The shutdowns, between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. beginning last May, were needed to deep-clean trains and to direct people who are homeless to social services, state transit officials said. At the time, average weekday ridership had declined by more than 90% to fewer than 500,000 passengers.

In February this year, as weekday ridership reached about 1.8 million, transportation officials reduced the closures to between 2 a.m. and 4 a.m.

Since then, millions of people have been vaccinated, Covid-19 positivity rates have fallen substantially and leaders in the region have begun relaxing pandemic restrictions.

Mr. Cuomo speaking at a news conference Monday, said 24-hour service would be needed beginning May 17 to coincide with the state lifting a 12 a.m. curfew on outdoor drink- ing and dining in New York City.

Gains in standards of cleanliness in the subway, as well as a reduction in people who are homeless seeking shelter in the system, must be maintained when 24-hour service is restored, the governor said.

Change will coincide with May 17 lifting of 12 a.m. curfew on outdoor businesses.

“We can’t go backwards on the quality of service,” he added. The move was hailed Monday by transit advocates who have been calling for a return to round-the-clock service.

MTA officials have for weeks said the subway is crucial to restarting the region’s economy, but they have warned that rider concerns about crime and harassment are keeping some people from returning. MTA officials say rates of certain crimes on the subway haven’t fallen in relation to the decline in ridership during the pandemic.

On Monday, Mr. Cuomo said fear of subway crime is indicative of rates of some crimes increasing across New York City. The governor said it is up to the New York Police Department to ensure that homeless people are referred to social services and that the subway isn’t used as a shelter.

Mitch Schwartz, a spokesman for Mayor Bill de Blasio, said: “We’re more interested in the data, which shows decreased crime in the subway system across nearly every major category, than we are in the governor’s personal feelings.”

Mr. de Blasio said the city’s homeless outreach efforts on the subway are working, and that the city is getting more people into the shelter system.
 

nlogax

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The subway will recommence 24-hour operation from May 17th. according to today's (Tuesday 4th. May) Wall Street Journal:

Great news. Now we just need a UK-US travel corridor to open and things will look peachy for a few days away.
 

Shinkansenfan

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Technically, the subway never stopped 24 hour operations. Even during the public closures from 01:00 to 5:00 (then revised to 02:00 to 04:00), the trains ran according to the same timetable as pre-pandemic--just not open to the public. Staff and police only.
 

matt_world2004

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Technically, the subway never stopped 24 hour operations. Even during the public closures from 01:00 to 5:00 (then revised to 02:00 to 04:00), the trains ran according to the same timetable as pre-pandemic--just not open to the public. Staff and police only.
I thought the trains were not running to allow deep cleaning. There may have been some early morning and late evening staff only trains running .given how dependent on overtime the new York subway is to run a fully timetabled service I suspect that they wouldn't have run all night.
 

Shinkansenfan

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I thought the trains were not running to allow deep cleaning. There may have been some early morning and late evening staff only trains running .given how dependent on overtime the new York subway is to run a fully timetabled service I suspect that they wouldn't have run all night.

Not so. Deep cleaning could readily be undertaken on the majority of the trainsets sleeping overnight in the storage yards.

The subway system was not designed to close and to accommodate all trainsets in yards overnight. Not enough space. Some percentage of the fleet have always run overnight and continue to run on the same timetabled service as before the nightly closures. Subway and bus staff rely upon the employee/police only overnight service to access job sites and reporting locations.

This article confirms: https://www.cityandstateny.com/arti...y-are-nyc-subways-still-closed-overnight.html

Excerpt 1:

To boot, the closures don’t save the MTA any money, as officials acknowledged at a joint legislative hearing on Tuesday. “That was not done as a cost-saving effort,” MTA Chief Financial Officer Robert Foran said of the closures. “We are still running trains. They are to get our workforce back and forth.”

Excerpt 2:

While the subways are closed from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m., trains are still running and are only open to transit workers and police. The MTA may be getting its own workforce back and forth, but a city full of essential workers who require late-night transit are forced to make an extra effort to get around overnight. The MTA has ramped up its bus service because of the subway closures, but some essential workers find that to be an inadequate substitute.
 

Mojo

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If it wasn't done to save money, why was it done?
The NY subway is full of vagrants and other unpleasant characters acting in a criminal and downright scary manner. It really is like a mobile freak show; so wouldn’t surprise me if the opportunity was taken to remove some of those people from the system.
 

67thave

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The NY subway is full of vagrants and other unpleasant characters acting in a criminal and downright scary manner. It really is like a mobile freak show; so wouldn’t surprise me if the opportunity was taken to remove some of those people from the system.
Yep, this is pretty much the actual reason for the overnight closure.
I actually used the subway for the first time in over a year on Wednesday, and never before was I prematurely nervous to use the network. While I felt safer than expected once I actually got on the train, it's still a bit nerve-wracking as to the scale of the problem, particularly on certain lines (most notably the E).
 

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