Blumenthal: COVID-19 Has Been More Devastating to Metro-North Than Great Depression

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U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal says Metro-North faces an existential crisis amid the COVID-19 pandemic, called it a “fiscal tsunami” and is urging Congress to provide for relief for the Metropolitan Transit Authority.

The Metropolitan Transit Authority said it is considering laying off thousands of employees and making deep reductions to subway service and a news conference was held in West Haven this morning to call on Congress to provide relief to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

“The simple fact is that Metro-North faces an existential crisis. It’s been building. Ridership has been dropping – 80 percent less than last year at this time and money has been hemorrhaging -- even with the best management cost-cutting is insufficient to save service on this railroad,” Blumenthal said.   

He said service will need to be cut 50 percent without federal assistance.

"The impact on revenue and ridership of this pandemic has been more devastating even than the Great Depression. It is a fiscal tsunami of unprecedented proportions on this commuter railroad that is essential that to our economy throughout the state of Connecticut," Blumenthal said.

The budget the MTA released earlier this month that says it is considering laying off more than 9,000 employees amid a $12 billion deficit and a budget crisis generated by the COVID-19 pandemic and the MTA Board will vote on the plan in mid-December.  

Blumenthal said he will be telling Congress that rail service up and down the East Coast will be crippled without a mass transit funding package.

Blumenthal said 900 of the 9,000 jobs would be on this railroad.

NBC New York reports that the plans include a 40 percent reduction across all subways and a 50 percent cut in service along Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North — which could leave passengers waiting between 20 and 30 minutes for a train during peak service times.

"As we are required to enact a balanced budget and the feds have yet to act on another COVID-19 relief package that would help mass transit, we are moving ahead hoping for the best but preparing for the worst," MTA Spokesman Ken Lovett said. "If the federal aid comes through in that amount, we will adjust our spending plan accordingly."

Blumenthal held a news conference outside the Metro-North Station in West Haven with MTA Metro-North Railroad President Catherine Rinaldi and union representatives to call on Congress to provide relief to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

Rinaldi said the MTA does not want to cut service and called on Congress for funding.

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