Building a Better City: Transit
Hard Hit Transit System Saves New York City
Despite losing eleven downtown subway stations, and full use of at least four subway lines and the PATH train, New York City's transit system saved the city from economic collapse. A heroic effort by the Transit Authority kept trains running despite the extensive damage to the system caused by the collapse of the towers. One month after the WTC attack, the subways were back at capacity. Without the subways, NYC would have ground to a halt and suffered crippling economic damage from the paralyzed workforce. As it was, more than 300,000 transit riders had their subway stations destroyed. Especially hard hit were the #1 and #2 trains serving The Bronx and West Side of Manhattan.
In early October, Governor Pataki, Senators Schumer and Clinton, and the New York State congressional delegation joined to request $54 billion in emergency federal disaster aid. This includes $9 billion in transportation rebuilding and expansion projects and public transit operating costs. The Regional Plan Association and Empire State Transportation Alliance created the transportation requests at the governor's request. Given the emergency at hand, the proposals were assembled under a tight deadline and no doubt will be elaborated on over the coming months. The key question is how much congress is willing to provide for a roster of expensive new rail and subway projects, which were listed without price tags. New York's proposal for $5.4 billion would pay for transportation infrastructure and operating costs that break down as follows:
Because of reduced toll income on MTA bridges and tunnels and the temporary plunge in transit ridership, the MTA may finish the year $500 million in the red. The agency's total 2001 budget is $7.3 billion of which NYC Transit operating costs are $4.7 billion. Even before 9/11 it was thought the fare would rise by a quarter after next years gubernatorial election. Now the fare hike may be sooner and larger than predicted.
In another testament to the flexibility of public transit during a crisis, NJ Transit says the number of passengers it's carrying into Penn Station increased 44% since 9/11. Prior to the disaster, 34,000 riders took NJ Transit trains into Penn Station everyday. As of mid-October, that number soared to 49,000. The increase is due to the destruction of the WTC branch of the PATH train, closure of the Holland Tunnel and the car-pooling requirement at the Lincoln Tunnel. LIRR ridership has remained steady.