Despite a strong first quarter, Port Authority is on track to lose $3 billion in revenue
Port Authority officials had good news to report on the bi-state authority’s financial performance in the first quarter of 2022 – revenue was higher than expected and many facilities saw utilization rebound to levels almost pre-pandemic this month.
But that won’t be enough to offset the larger $3 billion revenue loss suffered since the coronavirus pandemic began in the spring of 2020, officials said.
In two cases, the ports of New Jersey and New York continued to break records, moving 150% more cargo than in the first quarter of 2019. Bridges and tunnels traffic approached levels of 2019 to the first quarter of 2022 and in one instance exceeded this traffic volume.
Air travel was just 6% off 2019 figures after seeing high passenger volumes over the Easter/Passover weekend and the normally busy spring break period, officials said.
Only ridership on the PATH rail system was at 34% of pre-pandemic levels, which officials attributed to the slow return of workers to offices and the continuation of hybrid work schedules.
But that won’t be enough to avoid the looming fiscal iceberg in the water of a total revenue loss of $3 billion during the entire coronavirus pandemic.
“We are unfortunately on track to incur the loss of $3 billion that we had anticipated,” said Rick Cotton, executive director of the Port Authority. “At the end of last year, we identified $2.7 billion in lost revenue and the budget (2022) took that into account.”
Chief Financial Officer Elizabeth McCarthy said gross operating revenue was $179 million, or 16%, higher year-over-year and was in line with the 2022 financial plan, despite the effects of the omicron variant of the coronavirus during the first two months of the year.
“Omicron affected the pace of recovery on PATH and aviation facilities, and to a lesser extent, bridges and tunnels in the first two months of this year,” McCarthy said.
Higher-than-expected revenue from parking and rentals saved the quarter and offset lower revenue from tolls, fares and aviation fees, she said. Cotton also credited Port Authority employees with keeping spending at $826 million, lower than the $844 million budgeted for operations in the first quarter.
“Even in the face of omicron, the staff showed determination,” Cotton said. “They maintained the expense line so that the results were better than expected.”
Cargo handled at the port continued to provide the best financial news, beating April 2019 volumes by 150% and setting a new record, Cotton said. The news gave retired ports manager Sam Ruda a little victory lap at his last meeting, doing just that and avoiding the delays ships had had to unload at west coast ports.
“A shining star was the port during COVID, exceeding numbers and expectations,” said Kevin O’Toole, chairman of the board.
But authority officials aim to increase volumes at airports, bridges and tunnels as the spring travel season begins.
During the week of April 18 to April 24, airports reached 88% of pre-COVID travel volume, which peaked at 93% during Easter/Passover week, Cotton said. Bridges and tunnels traffic volumes reached 102% of their 2019 figures that week, part of which was due to increased truck traffic volumes.
Similar to other transit systems, PATH’s recovery has been slow, reaching 50% of pre-COVID ridership, which is due to a slower-than-expected return of workers to Manhattan workplaces. , did he declare.
About a third of Port Authority employees who were working remotely have returned to agency offices, O’Toole said.
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Larry Higgs can be reached at [email protected].