Digest: New York MTA budget cuts call for 50% reduction in commuter rail, 40% decrease in subway service

News Wire Digest fourth section for Nov. 18: Cuyahoga Valley Scenic cancels remaining Polar Express runs; Maryland plans to seek new partner for Purple Line
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A Metro-North train heads north through Westport, Conn. MTA commuter rail service could be cut by 50% under a budget presented to the agency's board on Wednesday.
TRAINS: David Lassen

Wednesday midday rail news:

MTA budget calls for 50% cut in commuter rail service, 40% cut for subways

Massive service cuts, layoffs, and a $1 fare increase are all part of a Metropolitan Transportation Authority budget presented at an MTA board meeting on Wednesday as the agency faces its need to address the revenue loss brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. AmNY.com reports the plan would include 40% cuts to subway and bus service; a 50% reduction in commuter rail service; and $2.9 billion in borrowing from the Federal Reserve. Even so, the MTA would face a $7 billion deficit by 2024, according to Robert Foran, the agency’s chief financial officer. Cuts would also include a 35% reduction in the subway fleet. The MTA is required by law to adopt a balanced budget; the board will vote on the proposal at its December meeting. The New York Post reports the cuts would be effective in May 2021, and could still be avoided if the agency receives the $12 billion in federal aid it has sought.

Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad cancels remaining Polar Express trips
The Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad has cancelled the remaining runs of its Polar Express holiday excursions because of an increase of COVID-19 cases in Northeast Ohio. The Akron Beacon Journal reports ticket holders have the option of a refund, a gift card for a future ride, or donating the cost of the ticket to the railroad. Polar Express operations began Nov. 6 and were scheduled to run through Dec. 20. The cancellation represents a “notable” financial loss, the railroad said, and is seeking donations. More information is available at the railroad website.

Maryland says it will seek new partner if original Purple Line deal can't be revived
The Maryland Transit Administration will seek another public-private partnership to complete construction of its troubled Purple Line light rail project if it is unable to negotiate an agreement with the original consortium over cost overruns, according to a state official. The Washington Post reports that Matthew Pollack, the MTA executive director for project delivery, said the state would seek the partnership because private companies could help finance the remaining $1 billion of construction, and then operate the 16-mile line. The original private company involved, Purple Line Transit Partners, withdraw from the project in September over a reported $800 million in cost overruns resulting from 2½ years of construction delays. The MTA and Purple Line Transit Partners are still negotiating over those overruns and to see if the original agreement can be revived.

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