New York City’s subway system may turn to the Federal Reserve for a loan

Caution tape is seen at a subway train on April 29, 2020 in New York City.

Angela Weiss | AFP | Getty Images

Squeezed by a lack of ridership, the authority that runs New York City’s subways and buses may go to the Federal Reserve for a loan.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority on Tuesday delayed a $900 million bond offering to next week, and it is holding an investor call on the offering Friday, according to a spokeswoman.

The market has been closely watching the offering as a critical test for a major issuer challenged by virus-related revenue declines. The MTA is one of the biggest issuers in the $3.8 trillion municipal bond market, a market typically seen as safe with the attraction of tax exempt yields.

The coronavirus-related shutdown cut the MTA’s subway ridership by 93% versus last year,  resulting in a sharp revenue decline in the face of rising costs. The MTA, in an unprecedented move this week, also said it would stop running 24 hours a day so it could disinfect subway cars between the hours of 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. 

The spokeswoman for the MTA said the authority’s CFO Robert Foran is having ongoing discussions with New York state about the possibility of borrowing from the Federal Reserve’s $500 billion Municipal Lending Facility.

The authority could not go directly to the Fed to borrow but could have the state make the request on its behalf. The Fed extended that program to smaller cities and counties, and other types of borrowers earlier this week.

The MTA bond offering, for $672 million in new bonds and a $250 million remarketing, is still on schedule for next week, the spokeswoman said.

Foran has said the bond deal was delayed to update disclosures after New York state said it would reduce previously budgeted aid.  The MTA has received $3.8 billion from the federal government under the CARES Act, but it says more money is needed to allow it to continue operating.

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