BOSTON (AP) — The chief of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority said Monday he won’t rule out service cuts, fare hikes, or layoffs as the Boston-area transit agency tries to recover from a steep drop in revenue caused by a massive reduction in ridership during the coronavirus pandemic.
The agency is looking for ways of saving money and boosting revenue, MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak told the T’s governing board, according to The Boston Globe. “I think, at this point, everything is on the table,” he said.
The agency is not projecting riders to return at pre-pandemic levels before the summer of 2022, resulting in a budget gap for the fiscal year that starts next July that could range from $308 million to more than $575 million. The T’s annual operating budget is about $2.3 billion.
Federal stimulus funding has helped in the short term, but the agency will need to take even more significant actions to ward off the deficit the following year.
Ridership is around 20% compared to pre-pandemics levels on most subway lines and close to 40% on buses.
The MBTA will consider the operating budgets for this year and next as one big budget and stockpile any savings in either year to address the deficit, Poftak said. The agency hopes to find $400 million in that period.
The T has already identified two major sources that could help meet about 70% of the goal. One is to borrow money to pay salaries of workers who work on long-term capital projects. That money would have to be paid back, but could help save $120 million in the short term.
Another plan is to use federal funds that are usually dedicated to those capital projects but are allowed to be put toward maintenance work in the T’s operating budget. That would help recover about $160 million.
There is also the possibility that the federal government will send another aid package to public transit systems, T officials said.
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