Sunday, July 3

The MTA’s finances are in free-fall — even if Uncle Sam helps out

Even if the MTA gets the new federal bailout it’s hoping for, it’s going to have to seriously retrench, warn the fiscal watchdogs of the Citizens Budget Commission.

That means revamping its $55 billion modernization plan as well as hikes to fares and tolls.

The agency wants another $4 billion from Congress, but its projected revenue shortfalls are now $8.4 billion to $12.6 billion through the end of 2021. And it also clearly won’t be collecting congestion-pricing fees this year, as once planned. Yet it faces new expenses for amped-up cleaning, as well as retrofitting of buses to protect drivers.

So the MTA faces some very tough decisions — as does its workforce.

It’s already got a hefty debt load, so fresh borrowing must be a last resort, the CBC warns. Fare and toll hikes will be needed, and the modernization plan scaled back.

The CBC lists five ideas: Get concessions to reduce overtime and fringe-benefit costs while boosting productivity. Put off longer-term capital projects. Boost tolls more than fares, to counteract the likely increase in traffic as virus-spooked commuters avoid mass transit. But still raise fares to cover half of costs, up from about a third now.

The MTA probably needs to do all of the above to avoid major service disruptions that would mean trouble for the whole city.