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Proposed cuts to New York City subway could make life worse for many

Kristin Schwab Aug 31, 2020
Heard on: Marketplace
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In Manhattan, the subway serves fewer riders than before the pandemic, and the transit authority is suffering financially. Spencer Platt/Getty Images
COVID-19

Proposed cuts to New York City subway could make life worse for many

Kristin Schwab Aug 31, 2020
In Manhattan, the subway serves fewer riders than before the pandemic, and the transit authority is suffering financially. Spencer Platt/Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
COPY

The New York City transit system is the lifeblood that, before the pandemic, carried roughly 10% of the country’s GDP to and from work every day.

Now it’s facing huge budget problems.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the entity that oversees the city’s subway, buses and commuter rail, is asking for a $12 billion federal bailout. Without it, there will be major and immediate cuts, slashing service by 40%.

Ridership has plummeted during the pandemic, down to a quarter of what it used to be. Still, that’s more than a million people on the train every day. Most of them are essential workers. Service cuts would force people to wait longer for trains.

“They have long, punishing commutes already,” said Danny Pearlstein of the Riders Alliance, a transit riders advocacy group. “The idea of making their commutes much longer is devastating.” He said ridership has actually gone up in boroughs outside Manhattan, where many essential workers live.

Cutting service could also increase their chances of catching the virus because fewer trains and buses could mean more crowding and less social distancing.

And all of this changes what the subway represents: a sort of urban equalizer. Because in the “before times,” stockbrokers, teachers and line cooks crammed into the same space for $2.75 a ride. Now the subway could become something that makes life harder for people who can’t afford alternatives.

“So that means picking your child up later from day care or cutting into your exercise time or preparing a healthy dinner,” said Sarah Kaufman at New York University’s Rudin Center for Transportation.

The MTA is also looking at increasing tolls for bridges and tunnels, upping fares and reducing disability ride services.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

What are the details of President Joe Biden’s coronavirus relief plan?

The $1.9 trillion plan would aim to speed up the vaccine rollout and provide financial help to individuals, states and local governments and businesses. Called the “American Rescue Plan,” the legislative proposal would meet Biden’s goal of administering 100 million vaccines by the 100th day of his administration, while advancing his objective of reopening most schools by the spring. It would also include $1,400 checks for most Americans. Get the rest of the specifics here.

What kind of help can small businesses get right now?

A new round of Paycheck Protection Program loans recently became available for pandemic-ravaged businesses. These loans don’t have to be paid back if rules are met. Right now, loans are open for first-time applicants. And the application has to go through community banking organizations — no big banks, for now, at least. This rollout is designed to help business owners who couldn’t get a PPP loan before.

What does the hiring situation in the U.S. look like as we enter the new year?

New data on job openings and postings provide a glimpse of what to expect in the job market in the coming weeks and months. This time of year typically sees a spike in hiring and job-search activity, says Jill Chapman with Insperity, a recruiting services firm. But that kind of optimistic planning for the future isn’t really the vibe these days. Job postings have been lagging on the job search site Indeed. Listings were down about 11% in December compared to a year earlier.

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