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Facing Unprecedented Fiscal Crisis, Long Island Rail Road Eyes Stimulus Funding, Congestion Pricing Revenue

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- The pandemic dealt the MTA an unprecedented fiscal crisis, and now a new report suggests more workers are telecommuting permanently.

This could mean the Long Island Rail Road would have to bank on stimulus funding and congestion pricing revenue to keep it rolling.

Conor Hampel commutes from Long Island to his insurance job in the city.

"I don't think the five-day work week is ever coming back, so it's disappointing to hear those statistics," he told CBS2's Jennifer McLogan.

It's projected the MTA will lose half a billion dollars next year if workers telecommute three or four days per week.

"My commute is almost two hours because of the way the times fall, so that would be really tough if it went under," LIRR commuter Patricia Sun said.

Going under isn't in the cards, but the financial future is perilous if commuters' needs of safe, clean reliable service aren't met.

State comptroller Thomas DiNapoli wrote the report.

"A vicious cycle of less revenue coming in and potentially even more limited service, and it just becomes a spiral going in the wrong direction," he said.

Until the pandemic eases, the rail road must do all it can lure discretionary riders.

"To see shows, to see sporting events, to visit friends. I think future generations on Long Island actually are embracing mass transportation and not the car ownership," LIRR President Phillip Eng said.

The rail road is now banking on stimulus aid from Washington, D.C.

"We got money from the federal government, which should get us through the next couple of years, but when we get down, like, to 2024, all that subsidy's going to be gone," said Gerard Bringmann, with the LIRR Commuter Council.

Meanwhile, MTA public hearings are underway on finances and, the bugaboo, congestion pricing.

"Yeah, I would definitely not be interested to go into Manhattan if I had to pay $35," Floral Park resident Gregory Roachford said.

Long island motorists could pay as much as $35 to drive into Manhattan, depending on the time of day. With E-ZPass, it would be as little as $9.

The citizens advisory committee to the MTA says drivers should keep in mind what congestion pricing is for -- reduced gridlock in Manhattan and improved public transportation for those who opt to take the train instead.

"We definitely need to do something about the congestion in the city and, frankly, I'm for congestion pricing," Queens resident Michael Herzfeld said.

Congestion pricing could begin in 2023.

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