State comptroller says MTA revenue could be $ 500 million lower than forecast

The MTA’s already perilous financial future could take another half a billion dollars annually if inactive commuters continue to work from home for most of the week, according to a new report.

New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli’s annual outlook on the finances of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, released on Tuesday, estimates the agency’s projected fare revenue for 2022 could be $ 500 million lower than forecast if workers telework on average three to four days a week.

On the flip side, fare revenue could be $ 300 million higher than expected if commuters work from home just 1.5 days a week, according to the report.

Long Island Rail Road ridership remains at about 50% of pre-COVID-19 pandemic levels. The MTA has predicted that 80% to 90% of runners could return by 2025.

“Even if the economy improves as quickly as the MTA predicts, there is a risk that ridership will not return to expected levels,” the report said. “If more employees than expected change their behavior regarding working from home or other commuting choices, or if the COVID-19 variants continue to affect behavior, service use may rebound more slowly.”

In a statement, MTA spokesman Aaron Donovan said that “predicting the pace of the recovery in post-pandemic ridership is difficult” and that “all stakeholders” will need to think about how to bridge the gap. future deficits.

“For its part, the MTA will continue to identify savings while aligning the service to meet the needs of the public,” said Donovan.

The pandemic has inflicted an unprecedented fiscal crisis on the MTA. Ridership and other income have plummeted, leading the agency to forecast annual budget deficits of several billion dollars until at least 2024. The MTA expects to be able to balance its books over the next several years using $ 14.5 billion in federal stimulus assistance.

Federal aid is expected to run out by 2025, leaving the MTA to turn to “the dangerous practice of long-term borrowing to pay for short-term needs like cleaning and maintenance,” according to the report.

DiNapoli said the MTA could get help from a federal infrastructure bill that could include additional funding for transit agencies, and the agency’s planned congestion pricing plan, which could encourage more people to take the train rather than paying new tolls to drive in Manhattan.

Lisa Daglian, executive director of the MTA’s Standing Citizen Advisory Committee, which includes the LIRR Commuter Council, said the DiNapoli report “underscores how hard the pandemic has hit the MTA.”

“Its fiscal future remains uncertain, and how the new normal appearance will have a direct effect on the future and fortunes of the MTA, which in turn will have a direct effect on the riders,” said Daglian.

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