Coalition calls for $32B in transit funding in next COVID stimulus package

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A lack of federal funding could put the brakes on public transportation, a coalition of 24 Senators said in a letter to Senate leaders Wednesday.

Led by Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ), the partisan coalition urged Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Senate Minority Leaders Chuck Schumer (D-NY) to provide $32 billion emergency supplemental funding for public transit agencies in the next COVID-19 stimulus package.

Since March, transit agencies have seen a decline in ridership thanks mostly to stay-at-home orders and other responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. The result has been a reduction in revenues needed to keep buses and trains maintained and operating.

“Through the depths of the current crisis, public transportation agencies have continued operating to ensure that essential workers and others can do their jobs and get back to their families at the end of each shift,” the letter said. “These operations have enabled our economy to stay alive, but they have come with massive increases in costs while revenues have fallen.”

Previously, in the Coronavirus Aid, Recovery and Economic Security (CARES) Act, Menendez was instrumental in securing $24 billion for transit agencies.

However, the senators warned, without additional funding, transit agencies are facing drastic shortfalls.

“Now, as the public health crisis has necessitated the continuation of stay-at-home orders for months in states across the country, we must recognize the true costs of the coronavirus on our transit systems,” the letter continued. “Decreased farebox revenue has continued longer than we anticipated two months ago, and the reduction in other revenue sources such as local sales taxes are deeper than anyone predicted. Many transit agencies, particularly those hardest hit by the pandemic, will exhaust their CARES Act funds before the end of the year.”