Hard-Hit Transit Asks Congress for $12.9B in Emergency Funds

The coronavirus is expected to cost public transit around $6 billion in lost revenue in the coming months. As communities across the country opt to limit public exposure, transit agencies will struggle to make ends meet.

by / March 17, 2020
Bay Area Regional Transit (BART) reported ridership Sunday, March 15, down 61 percent from a typical Sunday. By Monday, ridership had fallen to 70 percent. Monday afternoon, the six-county San Francisco region announced a “shelter in place” directive to last through April 7. Shutterstock

The American Public Transportation Association (APTA) is asking Congress for nearly $12.9 billion in aid, as transit agencies nationwide face down deep cuts in farebox revenue resulting from the coronavirus crisis.

Ridership declines related to the virus impact on public transit will correspond to $6 billion in lost fares, down 75 percent for the next six months, according to the associaton.

"These funds are necessary to maintain essential services, including providing public transportation to health-care workers, Medicaid recipients who receive non-emergency medical transportation, and law enforcement personnel. Without these emergency funds, public transit agencies may be required to suspend services,” reads a statement from APTA.

Transit agencies receive funding from a range of sources, including sales taxes, which is estimated to fall around 75 percent, resulting in nearly $4.9 billion in lost revenues across the country.

Meanwhile, the American Bus Association, representing the U.S. motorcoach industry, is expected to lose nearly $8 billion within the next five months.

The average passenger fare across U.S. transit systems was $1.56 in 2017, according to (APTA). Fares made up 36 percent of operating funding, for transit systems nationwide, followed by local sources (32 percent), state sources (23 percent) and other sources (9 percent). Transit agencies also receive federal and other funding, often earmarked for capital projects.

A number of transit agencies are reporting significant drops in the use of public transit as commuting and other travel grind to a halt as communities vastly curtail public activity.

In Sacramento, Calif., ridership across the region's light-rail and bus routes fell 40 to 50 percent Monday as employers and schools closed or canceled classes, said Jessica Gonzalez, a spokeswoman for Sacramento Regional Transit (SacRT). Farebox revenue makes up about 20 percent of SacRT’s funding.

Bay Area Regional Transit (BART) reported ridership Sunday, March 15, down 61 percent from a typical Sunday. By Monday, ridership had fallen to 70 percent.

Monday afternoon, the six-county San Francisco region announced a “shelter in place” directive to last through April 7.

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