Facebook Instagram Twitter YouTube

MTA Plans Service Cuts and Fare Hikes, Keeps Its Cops

New York City’s MTA is facing massive cuts and fare hikes as a result of a budget crisis. These proposals will hit the working class hardest.

Otto Fors

November 24, 2020
Facebook Twitter Share
Older man sitting on the NYC Subway.
Photo: Alexander Rentsch

On Wednesday, officials at New York City’s Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) announced the details of proposed cuts due to a $12 billion budget shortfall. Among the proposals are a 40 percent service reduction across subways, a 50 percent reduction to the Metro North and Long Island Railroad commuter lines, and the elimination of certain bus routes. Up to 9,400 MTA jobs would also be slashed, and fares would increase. 

The coronavirus has slammed the MTA and public transit workers. By some estimates, nearly one in four MTA workers has been infected with the virus, and over 130 workers have died. Compared to pre-pandemic levels, subway and commuter line ridership has declined by 70 percent, and bus ridership by over 50 percent. These drops in public transit riders have led to a commensurate plunge in revenue: the MTA is losing an average of $20 million per day, straining an already distressed system. With schools closing again and many offices and businesses remaining shut for the foreseeable future, these massive budget holes will only deepen. 

The coronavirus pandemic may have hastened the MTA’s deterioration, but it by no means started it. Although New York City is one of the wealthiest cities in the world, its public transit system has infamously been neglected and underfunded for decades under both Democratic and Republican leadership. Much of the subway switching and signalling infrastructure is over 100 years old, service is increasingly unreliable, and the vast majority of stations are in need of repairs. Trains and stations are notoriously cramped and poorly ventilated, and Governor Andrew Cuomo even declared a state of emergency in 2017 after a series of malfunctions and a derailment. 

The reasons for this neglect are clear: the MTA primarily serves working-class New Yorkers, especially as they get pushed further out of the city due to gentrification. People of color make up two-thirds of subway riders — and an even higher proportion of bus riders — and 70 percent of the MTA workforce. By contrast, the wealthy can find ways around public transit, particularly because city planners have long prioritized drivers and the car industry. Politicians and the capitalists they serve are happy to cut services like public transit which harm the working class. 

You might be interested in: Cuomo Would Rather Squeeze the Working Class than Tax the Rich

The enormous impact of these cuts and fare increases cannot be overstated. The cost of a trip would jump from $2.75 to $3.75 — a staggering 36 percent increase. (Previously, the MTA only increased fares by around three to four percent every two years.) Officials are also considering scrapping the 7- and 30-day unlimited MetroCards, a huge blow to commuters. These fare hikes come even as New York faces an affordability crisis: The cost of living increased at twice the rate of incomes between 2005 and 2017, and a growing number of New Yorkers struggle to make ends meet. 

Capitalists need workers to get to work, but they do not care about their quality of life or the financial pressures that commuting imposes. Cuts to public transit will mean more time spent on subways and buses, and more time spent calculating and switching to faster and cheaper routes. As long as workers can arrive on time at the workplace, capitalists do not care that it requires  a 20-minute walk to the station, taking three different crowded modes of transit with significant delays, and spending a quarter of their hourly wages. 

The coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated these stark inequalities, and will amplify the consequences of the proposals. Those who have lost their income as a result of business closures will face further financial hardship as a result of the steep fare hikes. Additionally, working-class Black and Brown people make up an overwhelming majority of jobs deemed “essential” during the pandemic such as MTA workers, home health aides, janitors, delivery workers, and grocery store workers. These workers, unable to work from home or socially distance like the wealthy, find themselves packed onto crowded trains, particularly as the MTA has reduced services on some lines. These conditions are a tinderbox for infection, and further cuts will only increase these dangerous levels of crowding. 

New York politicians have deliberately and systematically underfunded the MTA. While public transit crumbles, they prioritize projects which benefit the wealthy, such as the Second Avenue Q subway line which serves one of the city’s wealthiest neighborhoods. They were also happy to spend $25 billion on Hudson Yards, the “billionaire’s playground” office, shopping, and apartment complex on Manhattan’s West side. 

When politicians like Governor Cuomo or Mayor Bill de Blasio do take interest in the subway, it is primarily to add police officers to criminalize the poor and people of color. Last year, the MTA added 200 police officers and 300 of its own officers to patrol subways and buses, and approved adding a further 500 cops. Over 2,500 NYPD officers now patrol the subways, brutalizing turnstile hoppers and the unhoused. This rise in patrolling comes amid constant increases to the police headcount — this summer, Mayor de Blasio approved hiring 900 new officers, bringing the total to over 34,000. There is endless money for the police, the armed wing of the capital, but no money for the working class and the public transit they rely on. 

You might be interested in: Defund the Police (to Zero!)

Public transit should be free, accessible, safe, and reliable. New York is one of the wealthiest cities in the world with one of the highest concentrations of millionaires and billionaires — a safe, well-functioning transit system could be easily paid for, but politicians like Cuomo and de Blasio will do everything in their power to avoid taxing the rich. While overall ridership is down and the wealthy work from home or find alternatives, public transit is still essential to New York City. The proposed cuts would devastate the city, and the chaos caused by the 2005 MTA strike is testament to the power of these workers. The Transit Workers Union has the capacity to wield this enormous power on the behalf of not only transit workers, but the entire working class of New York City. Workers and unions need to take up the fight against these cuts, and make sure that working class New Yorkers don’t pay the price while politicians govern in the service of capital. 

Facebook Twitter Share

Otto Fors

Otto is a college professor in the New York area.

United States

Three activists stand together while one activist holds up an "uncommitted" sign with the word "vote" written on it many times. In the left side of the picture another activist holds a sign that says "abandon Genocide Joe"

Don’t Vote Uncommitted — Commit to Breaking with the Democrats

Tapping into deep anger with President Biden, the left wing of the Democratic Party is urging Michigan voters to vote “uncommitted” in the primary election. But this strategy funnels progressives’ energy back into the Democratic party when we need political independence from the parties supporting the genocide in Gaza.

Brian H. Silverstein

February 27, 2024

The Organic Crisis in 2024: This Year’s Election Is a Battle for the Hearts and Minds of U.S. Workers

The battle between Trump and Biden is being shaped by a crisis of the political regime, requiring the intervention of both the judiciary and the union bureaucracy. The battle for the presidency is a battle for the working class and a battle over which approach to imperialism is best for competing with China and reestablishing US hegemony. As usual, the Democrats are taking up the cudgel of democratic rights in order to rally disaffected voters.

Sybil Davis

February 23, 2024
A NYPD officer arrests a masked pro-Palestine protestors wearing a kaffiyeh while other cops and masked protesters look on.

Attacks on the Pro-Palestine Movement Are Attacks on the Right to Protest

As the movement for Palestine against Israel’s brutal military invasion of Gaza and attacks on the West Bank continues at a lower intensity than last fall, the State is cracking down on the leaderships of the movement and rolling back gains made by the Black Lives Matter uprising of 2020. The movement must grow in order to fight back against repression and protect our democratic right to protest.

Carmin Maffea

February 10, 2024

When Columbia Students Are Under Attack, We Must Stand Up, Fight Back!

On January 19, two Columbia University students who are former Israeli Defense Forces soldiers attacked students with a chemical-based weapon called “skunk,” at a campus protest against the genocide of Palestinians. Students must unite with workers to defend our movement; from Palestine to Low, the attacks have got to go!

K.S. Mehta

February 2, 2024

MOST RECENT

Protesters at an evening protest in NY carry a sign that reads "from ferguson to palestine occupation is a crime"

This Black History Month, Let’s Fight for Palestinian Liberation

Black liberation struggles have always expressed solidarity with the struggle against the Zionist occupation of Palestine. This Black History Month, as Israel continues its genocide in Gaza, this tradition takes on a special importance.

Carmin Maffea

February 26, 2024
All That's Left, the podcast from Left Voice.

#AllThatsLeftPod: Two Years of War in Ukraine

On this episode of the podcast, we discuss the war in Ukraine after two years, and the continued need for an independent, working-class solution.

Left Voice

February 24, 2024

The Tide Is Turning: New Yorkers Are Speaking Out for Palestinian Liberation

New York's anti-zionist movement is is rising up and speaking out for Palestinian liberation.

Ana Orozco

February 23, 2024

The United States Is Trapped in the Middle East

As a result of Israel’s offensive on Gaza, the United States is again becoming deeply entrenched in the Middle East. This is a humiliating blow to President Biden, who promised to reassert U.S. imperialism by moving away from direct involvement in the region.

Samuel Karlin

February 22, 2024