The M.T.A.’s Doomsday Budget Plan


Weather: There will be some sun, but thunderstorms could hit at any time today, becoming severe in the afternoon, with strong gusts, heavy rain and hail. High around 90.

Alternate-side parking: In effect until Sept. 7 (Labor Day). Read about the amended regulations here.

Just as some New Yorkers were quelling their fears of returning to the subway, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority unveiled a plan that would lead to longer wait times and more packed subway cars.

On Wednesday, officials from the M.T.A. announced they were prepared to take “draconian measures” unless Washington agreed to provide $12 billion in aid. If not, the M.T.A. said, New Yorkers could expect reduced service and delayed renovations as the agency tried to alleviate a $16.2 billion deficit.

“The future of the M.T.A. and the future of the New York region lies squarely in the hands of the federal government,” said the authority’s chairman, Patrick J. Foye.

[The M.T.A. faces a staggering deficit after the pandemic wiped out revenue.]

Here’s what you need to know:

Under the doomsday plan, subway and bus service would be slashed by 40 percent. Subway riders would see wait times bumped up by eight minutes. For bus riders, it would be 15 minutes. And Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North trains would run at 60- or 120-minute intervals.

Longer wait times could mean more packed trains, heightening the risk of the virus’s spread and deterring ridership.

The budget cuts would also affect long-awaited improvements. Projects to extend the Second Avenue Subway into Harlem and connect commuter trains to Manhattan’s West Side at Pennsylvania Station would be paused indefinitely. Upgrades to a faulty subway signal system would be scrapped. And the purchase of a new fleet of electric buses and subway cars would be delayed.

Virtually overnight, the M.T.A. saw its operating revenue — which largely comes from ridership — disappear. In April, ridership on the subway dropped by 90 percent. At the time, the M.T.A. asked the federal government for only $3.9 billion in aid.

But months later, despite more and more New Yorkers returning to work, ridership has reached only a quarter of usual levels. As a result, the agency is facing a $16.2 billion deficit through 2024. This month, the agency borrowed over $450 million from the Federal Reserve and decided to suspend all new capital projects. Still, the M.T.A. said it needs at least $12 billion from the federal authorities to cover its deficit through the end of next year.

Across the country, transit agencies are hurting. Already, many of them have decided to reduce service and downsize their work forces to address their deficits.

The M.T.A. has been able to dig its way out of previous fiscal crises with the help of the city and state — which are now dealing with their own financial emergencies.

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Since the beginning of the summer, hundreds of surfers have dipped into the water at Rockaway Beach to protest police brutality. Last Saturday marked the final “paddle out” before beaches closed for the season.

[Read more about why Black surfers paddled out 13 blocks into the sea.]

About 200 people came to the shore in tribute to Breonna Taylor, the 26-year-old emergency room technician who was killed by the police in March. As surfers paddled out into the ocean, onlookers watched with raised fists and signs.

“We’re doing this just to shine light and keep awareness of what’s going on in this country,” said Lou Harris, 48, who helped organize the paddle out. “I just want to keep the story alive.”

My colleague Sandra E. Garcia went to see the tribute last weekend and joined the group in the water. “The participation of young Black kids was especially powerful: historically, Black people have lacked access to bodies of water for leisure,” she wrote.

Mr. Harris is the East Coast founder of the Black Surf Association. He joined in 2016 and began offering free surf lessons to children in the Rockaway neighborhood.

“Surfers like Mr. Harris are carving out a space for themselves in the Rockaways, and are challenging the notion that surfing belongs to white men,” the Times’s Michael Adno wrote back in 2018.

After paddling 13 blocks, Marquez, a 15-year-old participant, said, “Out there today I feel like I made a change.”

It’s Thursday — surf’s up.


Dear Diary:

One night I took a cab home from work. As I opened the door to get out, I heard a man scream, “Hey!” directly into my ear. He was on a bike trying to force his way through the narrow space between the cab and a parked car.

I pointed toward the other side of the street.

“Hey!” I yelled back. “Do you think you should be in the bike lane?”

“You’re supposed to look!” he screamed again, and then shot off.

I jumped out of the cab and shot off after him. For someone who was exhausted, I was running at a pretty good pace.

I was pleased and surprised when I caught up to him at an intersection where he had been forced to stop. I was ready to really dress him down about his complete lack of attention to New York City bike protocol.

I got right up next to him.

“Hey!” I screamed.

He looked startled.

“Yeah?” he replied.

“Are you all right?” I said. “You’re right. I should’ve looked.”

“No,” he said. “You’re right. I should’ve been in the bike lane.” Then, he motioned for me to come close.

“C’mere,” he said.

We hugged.

“I’m sorry,” he said. “I’m having a really bad day.”

“I’m sorry you’re having a bad day,” I said. “I hope it gets better.”

“Thanks,” he said. “I hope you have a nice day, too.”

And then he rode off into the splash of car lights that swirl through the streets on a Manhattan night.

— Gail Dennison


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