Testimony to MTA: Thank you for Hybrid Meetings, and Please Publish Updated Ridership Projections


Testimony to MTA Board
January 24, 2022
Re: Thank You for Holding Hybrid Public Meetings,
Please Publish Multiple Ridership Scenarios in Feb 2022 Financial Plan

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

We appreciate that beginning with today’s committee meetings, the MTA is allowing the public to provide live public comment both remotely and in person. We thank the MTA for making hybrid meetings a reality and urge other state agencies to follow the MTA’s lead in 2022. The MTA is showing that it doesn’t have to be an either/or: Our public agencies can make both in-person and remote meetings happen.

As I am speaking before the Finance Committee, I’d also like to take this time to comment on the MTA’s finances. It is good news for riders that the $6.6B in state aid from Governor Hochul’s Executive Budget will cover the remaining deficit in this year’s budget, and that fare hikes will not be needed in 2022. However, the future is still uncertain for the MTA given its continued depressed ridership, with only 2.5 million riders or about 48% of 2019 weekday levels last week on the subways. Pre-Omicron, subway ridership reached a peak of 3.4 million or just shy of 60% for weekdays. The current subway numbers are trending below McKinsey’s mid-point projections for ridership, which expected ridership to be around 60% at the beginning of this year, climbing up to 85% by the end of 2022. The McKinsey report is dated from December 2020 and predicted the “epidemiological end of the pandemic” in the first quarter of 2022, according to reporting by David Meyer in the NY Post.

The different waves of the COVID-19 epidemic have dramatically changed the MTA’s world. We have looked at the numbers and they clearly show the MTA will face a financial cliff when federal aid runs out. The MTA should provide detailed analyses including updated worst-, mid- and best- case scenarios for ridership in its updated February 2022 financial plan. Updated projections are essential for our state leaders and will show the urgent need for large, new dedicated revenue sources.

It would be far better for the Governor and our state legislators to begin planning now for new, lockboxed MTA revenue so the MTA can plan ahead, both in terms of its workforce and service levels. Making investments in these areas takes time, and the MTA, Governor and State Legislature should begin working together now to plan for the MTA’s future.

Thank you for your consideration.