New York state’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), the largest public transit system in North America, says it needs a $12 billion bailout from the federal government in order to withstand the worst financial crisis in its history.
“The MTA simply cannot wait any longer for relief from Washington,” Patrick J. Foye, the MTA’s chairman and CEO, said Wednesday. “New York’s economic future, and the country’s, relies on a strong MTA powering progress. If the Senate fails to step up and deliver $12 billion, it would be a devastating blow to mass transit as we know it.”
Without help from the federal government, subway service could be cut by 40% and commuter rails service by 50%, officials said at a finance meeting.
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It’s not just New York that’s hurting, as public transit nationwide has been hit by a double whammy of decreased income and increased costs due to the coronavirus pandemic. Ridership is way down as the pandemic has kept many workers and students home. At the same time, costs associated with keeping trains and buses running have gone up due to new safety precautions, such as deep cleaning and decreased capacity.
Seattle has seen “an unprecedented loss in sales tax revenue and farebox collections totaling $280 million in 2020, and up to $615 million 2020-2022.” As a result, dozens of routes on the King County Metro are set to be suspended, reduced, or canceled starting next month.
Two-thirds of San Francisco’s bus lines could be permanently cut unless the city finds a new way to fund them, The San Francisco Chronicle reports.
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The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, which operates public transportation in Boston, said in a report this week that ridership was down as much as 90% from last year, and projects a $524 million fare revenue loss for fiscal year 2021.
The federal CARES Act, passed at the beginning of the pandemic, earmarked $25 billion for transit agencies around the country. But as those funds have dried up, public transit advocacy groups have started calling for a massive bailout from the federal government. Dozens of organizations and politicians gathered for a virtual Save Public Transit Rally this month, where they called for at least $32 billion in emergency funds.
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Congress is currently in a stalemate over additional stimulus though, and the bills that are being considered don’t cut it, according to advocacy group Transportation for America. The HEALS Act, which is being pushed by some Senate Republicans, doesn’t include any money specifically for public transit, and the HEROES Act passed by House Democrats provides less than half of the $32 billion that industry leaders say they need.