New York City's subway ridership fell 60% because of the coronavirus. Now the agency in charge of the trains says it needs a $4 billion bailout.

Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty ImagesA man wears a face mask and surgical gloves to prevent COVID-19 spread, at the New York City subway train in New York, United States on March 11, 2020.
  • Ridership on New York City public transit systems has fallen dramatically as the coronavirus forced businesses, schools, and restaurants to shutter.
  • Facing a steep revenue cliff, the agency that runs subways, trains, and buses is asking for $US4 billion in federal funding.
  • The subway has finally found steady improvement after decades of neglect, all of which could soon be lost, leaders warned.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

New York City’s public transportation system has seen decimated ridership as businesses shutter and schools close to stop the spread of the coronavirus, leading officials to request nearly $US4 billion in assistance from the federal government.

The Metropolitan Transportation Agency – a state office which runs trains and buses and controls some bridges and tunnels – said in a plea to federal officials that subway ridership has sank 60% from usual ridership levels, while passenger counts on its two commuter railroads are down 90% and 60%. On city buses, ridership is down 49%, the MTA said.

“As a result, MTA revenue has plummeted as we provide these essential services,” Patrick Foye, the agency’s chairman and CEO, said in the letter. “We project the full impact will be over $US4 billion by the end of 2020 – even without accounting for the expected collapse of the more than $US6 billion in state and local taxes dedicated to the MTA.”

The agency’s plea comes as other transportation industries, from airlines to airports and more, are left reeling from shelter-in-place orders and a near shutdown of travel. Even before the dropoff in revenue, the crumbling subway was suffering from years of neglect and underinvestment. And earlier in 2020, the internationally renowned expert hired to help reinvigorate the system departed his post after spats with Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

“Such a huge blow would come at a time when we have achieved tremendous progress across out system – subways, buses, and commuter railroads alike – on-time performance has achieved sustained improvement and ridership was steadily growing, defying national trends,” Foye said.

Sen. Chuck Schumer, a Democrat from New York and Senate minority leader, said he would fight for the funding.

“New York’s subways, trains, and buses are our very lifeblood,” he told The New York Times. “Senate Democrats are leading the charge to include substantial support for the whole system in any package Congress will next consider to keep our vital public institutions stable and operating.”

New York City has not yet issued a shelter-in-place order like San Francisco, though the mayor on Tuesday warned that such a declaration could come by Thursday. Schools, bars, restaurants, gyms, and more remained closed. As of Wednesday afternoon, the novel coronavirus had sickened more than 7,000 in the United States, with 2,800 of those in the New York City region.

Read Foye’s full letter below:

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.