In early August, the New York City disability community came together to highlight the multilayer problems with the largest public transportation system in the country. The pressing issue that triggered the demonstration and press conference was the 12 billion dollar MTA (Metropolitan Transportation Authority) budget deficit caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The MTA was already in serious debt caused by cost overruns on capital projects, mismanagement, and alleged corruption. But the MTA deficit went through the roof when Mayor de Blasio felt obliged to keep the buses and subways running, virtually full time for essential workers as the city closed down during the pandemic.
DIA board member Robert Acevedo attended the demonstration on August 6th in front of the newly constructed elevator at the 14th Street subway station on the “L” line. According to Acevedo, “These times have made things more difficult for the MTA; this will in turn adversely affect the disABLED community who rely on MTA transportation to travel and get to work.”
This New York City action was part of a nationwide call for Congress to pass a 32 billion dollar funding package for public transportation. New York Senator Chuck Schumer is a sponsor of this funding bill and said “As a New Yorker, the transit system is the blood, arteries and veins of our system.” He went on to say “investing in mass transit now will ensure that hard working families can keep relying on the train, the bus, the subway, to earn a living.”
While the economic effects of the pandemic on state and local government services are still quite profound, it is clear that the federal government will not offer any help before the election in November. Cities like New York will feel the greatest pain from this legislative inaction.