Virtual Testimony: MTA Needs Billions from Congress


Virtual Testimony of Rachael Fauss, Reinvent Albany to MTA Board

Re: MTA Needs Billions in Federal Rescue Aid for Region to Recover

April 20, 2020

Good morning, I am Rachael Fauss, Senior Research Analyst for Reinvent Albany. We advocate for more transparent and accountable state government — including for state authorities like the MTA.

First, we would like to acknowledge and express our appreciation for the essential work being undertaken by MTA workers. We honor those transit workers who have lost their lives and offer our condolences to their family, friends and colleagues.

The COVID-19 emergency has been challenging in many ways. We thank the MTA for continuing to solicit virtual public comment to try to uphold the spirit of past public comment portions of Board meetings.

Reinvent Albany and many other advocacy groups join the MTA in your call for an additional $3.9B in emergency rescue funds from the federal government. This is necessary because the CARES Act passed by Congress in March badly shortchanged MTA passengers who represent 40 percent of national transit ridership, but received only 15% of the $25B made available for transit systems nationally.

The MTA’s needs are massive, and New York’s transit system needs billions more in unrestricted emergency aid from Congress. A recent TransitCenter analysis found the MTA’s continuing shortfall may run to $8 billion, even considering the $3.8B from the CARES Act. The effects of the pandemic on the region’s economy are unprecedented; COVID-19 has caused a dual public health and economic crisis which will ravage the MTA’s finances for months to come, through severely depressed ridership, large hits to its dedicated taxes, and unplanned cleaning and overtime costs.

Recovery of the region is dependent on billions in federal aid coming to the MTA, as the state and city will not be able to save the MTA. The emergency measures passed in the state budget for the MTA such as borrowing $10B operating funds should be an absolute last resort, as this would negatively affect the MTA’s bond ratings, which saw yet another downgrade from Moody’s last week. This in turn would hamper the region’s recovery, which is dependent on a fully functional mass transit system like no other part of the country.

This is why Reinvent Albany and our colleagues will do whatever we can to ensure Congress delivers billions of dollars of emergency aid for transit riders. We stand ready to work with you toward this goal. Thank you.