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Transportation chief says aid needed by November to avoid big NYC subway and bus cuts

Sept 3 (Reuters) - New York’s coronavirus-hit Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) will have to start implementing a dramatic job and service reduction plan in November if it does not receive billions of dollars in federal aid, the agency’s chairman said on Thursday.

Speaking in a virtual Reuters Newsmaker event, Patrick Foye said the MTA’s upcoming board meeting in November was the cutoff date for pulling the trigger on a plan to lay off 8,400 workers and cut city subway and bus service by up to 40 percent.

“That is the point at which we would have to begin implementing the service reductions and layoffs,” Foye said.

Foye and John Samuelsen, international president of the Transport Workers Union of America, warned in an opinion article this week in the New York Times that the MTA faced a “five-alarm fire” and called on the U.S. Senate to approve an infusion of federal funds to save it.

In July, the MTA unveiled a four-year financial plan that estimated a $16.2 billion deficit by 2024, with more than a third of those losses coming next year, a signal that it does not see ridership, hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic, rebounding significantly anytime soon.

The agency, which runs New York City buses and subways and two commuter railroads that connect the city with suburbs, is losing $200 million in revenue a week and estimates it needs another $3.9 billion in federal aid to get through the end of this year and a total of $10.3 billion through 2021.

In addition to the plunge in revenue, the MTA has had to spend more to clean subway cars, stations and buses to curb the spread of the coronavirus. Subway service, which formerly ran for 24 hours, was closed down from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. to make that cleaning possible, another hit to ridership.

Even with congressional negotiations on further federal assistance at a standstill, Foye said he still held out hope that the Republican-controlled Senate would approve additional funding for the MTA before the Nov. 3 national election.

“If reason prevails and the national interest is pursued by the Senate, the Republican leadership in the Senate and Washington, the MTA will be financed,” Foye said. (Reporting by Axel Threlfall, Nathan Layne, and Tina Bellon; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

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