NEW YORK--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Fitch Ratings has assigned an 'A' rating to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) New York's approximately $500 million transportation revenue bonds series 2016A (Climate Bond Certified) and 'F1' to the MTA's approximately $700 million transportation revenue bond anticipation notes (BANs), series 2016A.
The Rating Outlook is Stable on the transportation revenue bonds. There is a no Rating Outlook on the transportation revenue BANs.
KEY RATING DRIVERS
The 'A' rating reflects the gross lien on a diverse stream of pledged revenues, the essentiality of the MTA's transit network to the economy of the New York region, and the demonstrated ability of the MTA to produce near-term solutions for its operating and capital needs. The rating also reflects the need to generate sufficient cash to adequately cover operations of the system despite high debt service coverage ratios (DSCRs).
Strategic Importance: The MTA transportation network is essential to the economy of the New York region, with New York City Transit carrying an average of 8.14 million daily subway and bus riders and Metro-North Railroad and Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) carrying another 588,000 daily commuter rail passengers. While an independent authority, the MTA has received significant support from the state of New York in the form of additional tax sources aimed at closing projected operating budget gaps and addressing capital needs.
Highly Constrained Financial Operations: Despite high DSCRs from gross pledged revenues, the MTA's financial position is constrained given its extremely large operating profile and high fixed costs, including significant retiree pension benefits. In addition, some of the MTA's operating subsidies are vulnerable to economic conditions. While the MTA is required to provide a balanced current year budget, some tools available to meet a balanced budget such as service reductions and fare increases are politically unpopular.
Solid Security Pledge: The bonds are secured by a gross lien on a diverse stream of pledged operating revenues consisting of transit and commuter fares and excess bridge tolls and non-operating revenues consisting of various regional taxes.
Extremely Large Capital Needs: The MTA's 2015 - 2019 $26.1 billion capital program (Transit and Commuter Programs) ($29 billion including MTA Bridges and Tunnels) was approved on October 28 by the MTA board and is still subject to the Capital Program Review Board's (CPRB) approval. The MTA expects to submit the capital program to the CPRB in 2016. Under a recent agreement between the MTA, the State of New York and New York City, the state and the city committed funds to close the projected capital program funding gap. New York State has committed to provide $8.3 billion, and New York City has committed to provide $2.5 billion in addition to $11.8 billion in MTA funds and $6.4 billion in federal funds.
Growing Annual Debt Burden: The MTA's capacity to continue to leverage resources to fund expansion projects while meeting renewal and replacement needs may be limited in the future if projected financial performance or additional operating subsidies do not come to fruition.
Peer Comparison: Given the size and breadth of the MTA's network of transportation assets, there is no direct comparison for the entity.
--Inability to achieve future projected operating efficiencies and implement other key elements of the cost reduction initiatives and/or maintain an ongoing state of good repair and other elements of the capital program;
--Significant cost overruns or delays in the capital program's mega-projects that lead to additional borrowing or deferral of core capital projects;
--Receipts in dedicated tax subsidies that are measurably below forecast levels could which could pressure the MTA's financial flexibility.
--Given small near-term operating surpluses but medium-term projected deficits, positive rating movement is unlikely in the near term.
SUMMARY OF CREDIT
The MTA expects to issue $500 million series 2016A transportation revenue bonds to retire the transportation revenue BANS, series 2015A, which were issued by the MTA to provide interim financing of transit and commuter facilities. Additionally, in March, the MTA expects to issue $700 million transportation revenue BANS series 2016A to finance existing approved transit and commuter projects.
For additional information on the MTA see Fitch's press release 'Fitch Rates Metropolitan Trans Auth (NY) Transportation Rev BANs 'F1' dated Nov. 23, 2015' available at www.fitchratings.com.
Date of Relevant Rating Committee: June 9, 2015.
Additional information is available on www.fitchratings.com.
Exposure Draft: U.S. Tax-Supported Rating Criteria (pub. 10 Sep 2015)
Rating Criteria for Infrastructure and Project Finance (pub. 28 Sep 2015)
Tax-Supported Rating Criteria (pub. 14 Aug 2012)