Trains chugging out of New York's Rockland and Orange counties could disappear completely if the MTA doesn't get a $12 billion bailout from the federal government — a loss that has angered officials and would leave many commuters without options.
The transit agency painted a doomsday scenario Wednesday, in which it detailed how some branches would have to be eliminated as part of the drastic and draconian cuts to service. Among the things on the chopping block, according to the MTA, would be all Metro-North service west of the Hudson River, which includes the lines that run in those two counties.
While those lines are owned by Metro-North, they are operated by NJ Transit under a contract between the agencies. The routes — which include stops at Pearl River, Nanuet and Spring Valley in Rockland County, and at Suffern, Sloatsburg, Tuxedo, Harriman, Salisbury Mills-Cornwall, Campbell Hall, Middletown/Walkill, Otisville and Port Jervis in Orange county — relatively recently were upgraded to feature better, more frequent service. Those changes would go by the wayside if the MTA doesn't get the funding it needs, the agency says.
Other changes include increased wait times on most MTA services, and laying off thousands of workers due to the financial impact COVID-19 has had on the agency. With less people going to work in NYC and overall, ridership remains desperately low, though some have said it is beginning to make a small rebound.
Still, local officials said the proposed cuts in service to an entire section of the state are going too far.
"That is uncalled for. It is unacceptable," said Rockland County Executive Ed Day. "This is just an absolute insult to the people west of the Hudson, not just Rockland but Orange too."
Day said eliminating the service does not make dollars or sense: The move would save the MTA $25 million — but that's a drop in the bucket compared to the billions in funding they said they need.
"To turn around and eliminate the entirety of part of your region's transportation is absolute madness," Day said.
Riders also fear what will happen if they were to go ahead with the proposed possible cuts.
"Cutting commuting more, it's going to be devastating," said Julio Gallego, catching a train at the Nanuet station. "They can't do it. They'll drive a lot of people out of businesses, out of work, into bankruptcy. It's going to affect a lot of people."
While it's possible the proposal is a bluff by the MTA, done to get the money they are demanding, Day said the county isn't waiting to find out.
"At the end of the day, we have transportation people looking for alternatives right now," Day said. "I'm calling the MTA out now. If you are going to have that kind of elimination from service, I want to be released from any connection to the MTA. We will contract for our own service here in Rockland County. Period. And we will keep our own money."
Both Rockland and Orange counties pay money to the MTA to provide the train service, money Day says his county would stop giving if the cuts are made.