APTA gathers public transportation leaders on need for COVID-19 relief funding

© Shutterstock

While the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted most sectors, the public transportation industry has taken a particularly heavy blow, and that fact spurred the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) to host a press conference this week to call for at least $32 billion in emergency funding.

A virus that can spread without symptoms makes the tight quarters of public transportation particularly worrisome to many, and higher unemployment rates have left others less in need of rides, but that system also provides essential service for many workers. Faced with reduced revenues, paused fare collection, reduced tax revenues, and increased operating costs, losses have mounted as a result, to the extent that APTA says additional emergency funding is necessary to maintain safe operations and keep the more than 435,000 industry workers employed.

“As Congress begins the negotiations on the next emergency funding bill, we implore legislators to include public transit funding so that we can continue to be a lifeline for our essential workers and help our communities rebuild their economies in the wake of the pandemic,” Paul Skoutelas, APTA president and CEO, said. “It is imperative that agencies receive federal support so that they can survive and help our nation recover from the economic fallout of the coronavirus crisis.”

According to APTA, so far nearly one-third of public transit agencies have been forced to furlough employees or are planning to do so, and more than that have had to delay capital projects. Despite this, the proposed Republican-proposed CARES Act — Coronavirus Response Additional Supplemental Appropriations Act — would shell out approximately $1 trillion in additional COVID-19 relief, but none of it would go to public transportation.

“The transit industry has worked extremely hard to show customers that we are safe, clean and dedicated to our collective mission to provide mobility solutions for all, along with the goal of restoring confidence in public transit,” Nuria Fernandez, APTA chair, and general manager and CEO of Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority, said. “The very confidence we are trying to strengthen will be completely undermined if the federal government does not prioritize the funding that is necessary to keep transit running safely now and during the recovery phase of this pandemic. This funding is not a ‘nice to have’ – it is fundamental to our survival.”

In its plea, APTA was joined by representatives of other public transportation agencies, including the Chicago Transit Authority, Indianapolis Public Transportation Corporation, Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, Houston METRO and others.