Digest: MTA outlines potential subway, commuter cuts because of deficit

News Wire Digest for Aug. 27: Brightline parent files brief urging Supreme Court not to take bond case; California High-Speed Rail seeks comments on plans for LA-Anaheim segment
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A joint NJ Transit/Metro-North West-of-Hudson commuter train, with a cab car ahead of the locomotive for PTC reasons, arrives at Secaucus, N.J., in Aug. 14, 2019. West-of-Hudson service could be a target of service cuts, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority said Wednesday.
TRAINS: David Lassen

Thursday morning rail news:

MTA warns of major service cuts without federal aid

New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority says it may have to cut subway and bus service by 40% and reduce Metro-North and Long Island Rail Road service to 60- or 120-minute intervals to address a budget deficit that could reach $16.2 billion by 2024. The New York Times reports the agency has sought $12 billion in federal aid to address coronavirus-related losses, but federal support is stalled after negotiations over a stimulus package broke down earlier this month. The House of Representatives has passed a $3.4 trillion aid package including $15.75 billion for transit, while Senate Republicans have proposed a $1 trillion package with no transit money. Other cuts could include elimination of Metro-North’s West-of-Hudson services, operated in concert with NJ Transit lines, LoHud.com reports. The plans were outlined during a special MTA board meeting held Wednesday; the agency said they would not take effect before next year. As part of a campaign to gain federal funding, the MTA also announced a “Save Transit” digital ad campaign; the first ad is available here.

Brightline parent, federal agencies file brief asking Supreme Court not to take bond case
Brightline’s parent company, the U.S. Department of Transportation, and the Federal Railroad Administration have filed a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court, urging the court not to take up a case brought by Indian River County, Fla., over the use of private activity bonds to fund Brightline’s expansion to Orlando. Bisnow South Florida reports (registration required) the filing by the government agencies and AAF Holdings argues the $2.1 billion in bonds were properly issued. Indian River County, as part of a long-running effort to block Brightline’s expansion, has argued the rail project was not eligible for the bonds because of language in federal law allowing the issuance of bonds to finance “qualified highway or surface freight transfer facilities,” while the DOT has allowed any project which benefits from highway funds can qualify. The Brightline project includes grade-crossing improvements which fit that description.

High speed rail project releases LA-Anaheim documents, seeks comments
The California High-Speed Rail Authority has released environmental documents for the planned Los Angeles to Anaheim segment of the project, beginning the 30-day comment period on facilities in Colton and Barstow that are part of the project. The LA-Anaheim segment will follow BNSF Railway’s route between LA and Fullerton requiring BNSF facilities to be relocated. Plans are for an intermodal facility in Colton and staging tracks in Lenwood, an unincorporated near Barstow. Details on commenting opportunities, including two online meetings, are available here. Details on LA-Anaheim segment, including the environmental documents, are here.

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