Good morning. It is Wednesday. We’ll look at what the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s looming budget deficit could mean for drivers — and drivers. And with a view to next week’s primary, we’ll recap an important congressional race in Manhattan.
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority faces a budget deficit of $2.5 billion by 2025, 12 percent of its operating budget. That has worried New Yorkers remembering past financial emergencies about cuts to services. I asked Ana Ley, a Metro reporter who covers transit in New York, for an explanation.
The chairman of the MTA told you that transit in New York City is “like air and water — we can’t live without it.” But the MTA cannot exist without revenue. Is that one of the reasons the authority is talking about charging drivers as much as $23 to drive into Midtown Manhattan under a congestion pricing program?
How bad is the financial picture of the MTA?
It’s been bad for a long time. The pandemic has made things much worse very quickly.
The state allowed the MTA to issue bonds in the early 1980s to protect it from economic downturn at the time, and the authority’s debt burden rose. Since then, expenses have outpaced revenues and the government has borrowed a lot to keep up.
More worryingly, the MTA relies more on fares than most other transit systems in the nation, and has lost a significant number of riders to the pandemic. The federal government offered a one-time bailout of more than $14 billion to keep it afloat, but that money will run out in two years. That is why transit leaders are looking for a solution.
How far from prepandemic ridership is the MTA now? What about previous predictions that said the MTA would carry 86 percent of the passengers it had before Covid hit next year?
Ridership is struggling to recover and hovering at about 60 percent of prepandemic levels. Forecasters predict they will reach just 80 percent of prepandemic levels by 2026, which is much lower than previous expectations of 86 percent next year. As a result of that decline, the latest projections from the authority’s advisor, McKinsey & Company, estimate that the MTA will bring in $7.9 billion in revenue by 2026, significantly less than a previous estimate of $8.4 billion. Before the pandemic, it expected to make $9.6 billion that year.
Those early pandemic estimates now seem too rosy, because at the time McKinsey made them, she didn’t expect the coronavirus to evolve that much and stifle the city’s recovery. We also didn’t know that remote working would become so popular, or that passengers would avoid transport after several high-profile violent incidents reinforced the perception that the system has become more dangerous.
So what can the MTA do?
Without help from the state, not much that would make riders or transit workers happy.
It could reduce service, raise rates or lay off employees. But the potential budget gap is huge, and those things alone probably wouldn’t solve it.
Cuts would be especially devastating, as they could plunge the system into a so-called transit death spiral, where reduced service and delayed upgrades make public transit a less convenient option, which would reduce passenger numbers and further reduce revenue until the network shuts down. collapsed. The MTA caught a glimpse of that in 2010, when transit leaders pushed their way out of a fiscal crisis triggered by the Great Recession, hindering 15 percent of transit drivers and driving some away altogether.
Today, new service cuts could increase the risk of further widening the labor inequalities exposed by the pandemic. White-collar workers have had the option of staying at home, but many low-paid workers, who are usually people of color with longer commutes, still have to travel to work.
Expect a chance of a shower in the morning. The rest of the day is mostly sunny, with temperatures around 80 degrees. At night temperatures drop to around 60 degrees.
Valid until September 5 (Labor Day).
In Manhattan, convention chairs
With the Democratic primary in six days, it’s time to recap an important race.
It is unusual for two incumbents to compete in a primary for the same seat. But that’s what’s going on in Manhattan, where for the first time since pre-World War II, a realignment plan merged the East and West Sides above 14th Street into one district.
Representative Jerrold Nadler, of the West Side, and Representative Carolyn Maloney, of the East Side, are the players in this game of congressional seats. The music will stop when the votes are counted next week.
Both have served in Congress since the 1990s. Both have accumulated enough seniority to be committee chairmen, he from the Judiciary, she from Oversight. Also in the running is Suraj Patel, a 38-year-old lawyer who says it’s time for a generational change.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer backs Nadler. Many politicians and political agents had expected him to sit out of the primaries, as almost every other New York House Democrat has done. So is Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. Unsurprisingly, there is a history between them all: Maloney supported Gillibrand’s 2020 campaign for president. The first time Schumer ran for the Senate, in 1998, Nadler supported him.
For Maloney and her allies, the race is increasingly focused on women. As the Supreme Court and Republican-led states roll back reproductive rights, her supporters see this as a time to rally behind a woman in Congress. Maloney spent a significant portion of the $900,000 she lent to the campaign to reinforce the message, “You can’t send a man to do a woman’s job.”
My colleague Nicholas Fandos writes that few women have ever had more influence in Washington or used it with such intense focus — pushing for the amendment for equal rights, paid family leave, protections against gender-based violence, and a national museum of women’s history. Maloney has support from feminist Gloria Steinem, who called her “the most needed, the most trusted and the most experienced.”
The primary battle is increasingly vicious. Nadler has established himself as the progressive and has emphasized his status as the city’s last Jewish congressman. Maloney bluntly told Nicholas Fandos that Nadler didn’t work as hard as she did, especially on local issues.
She also said residents of one of the wealthiest and most liberal districts in the country needed her, not Nadler or Patel. But Nadler’s team assembled a Nadler women’s group led by two former Manhattan borough presidents, Gale Brewer and Ruth Messinger. Senator Elizabeth Warren appears in a Nadler TV commercial, and he also has the backing of actor Cynthia Nixon, who ran for governor of New York four years ago.
(Central Park, 9:00 AM)
I hadn’t breathed
of my tendons
an old man-
and a melody
— Rolli Anderson