NEW YORK -- According to a new report by the New York state comptroller, the MTA is short a lot of money.
CBS2's Natalie Duddridge spoke to the transit system's top official on Tuesday about how could it affect riders.
"What we don't need is massive fare hikes and service cuts. We need a new financial model," MTA Chairman Janno Lieber said.
In between transit committee meetings at 2 Broadway, CBS2 stopped Lieber to ask about the state comptroller's report, which shows the transit system will be short more than $2.5 billion per year once federal pandemic relief runs out in 2025.
"The comptroller's report validates what I've been saying for a year, which is the MTA has a serious financial crisis coming, because of what we all know, which is a loss of about a third of a ridership," Lieber said.
The MTA's overall operating budget for 2022 is about $20 billion. About one-third third comes from fares and tolls.
But since COVID, ridership has only returned to 60 percent of pre-pandemic levels. The MTA says it can reduce the budget gaps by paying down debt, and has found $100 million in unspecified savings.
"By restructuring our debt, by doing efficiencies on our own end, without cutting jobs," Lieber said.
However, the comptroller says efficiencies alone can't fix shortfalls of this size.
The MTA has already said decreasing transit service is not part of its economic recovery plan. Neither is fare hikes, which would cost riders an extra 79 cents per ride for the transit system to break even.
The largest share of MTA revenue, $7.2 billion, comes from state tax funds, which the transit agency could ask the state Legislature to hike.
Duddridge asked riders what they think would be the least painful solution -- cutting service, raising fares, or increasing taxes.
"Not any of them, but I guess I'd take the fare increase," one person said.
"That's a really difficult question. We need more service, but by raising fares you're disadvantaging other people," a woman named Amanda said.
"Raise fares. That's eventually what's going to happen anyway. But don't tax me," Samantha Small added.
Lieber said all branches of government need to come together to find a new funding model. The transit system will adopt a new budget in the next few weeks.
You may be wondering about congestion pricing. When it's implemented, that money will only used for capital improvements, like building projects. Revenue will not go towards the MTA's operating budget.
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