The leaders of 14 US transport agencies request emergency federal aid for transit systems which are facing huge loses due to coronavirus pandemic.
The agencies have sent a joint letter sent to the federal authorities asking for urgent assistance in providing additional aid for public transit agencies.
Although the full impact of the coronavirus pandemic is not yet fully known, the San Francisco Bay Area expects to have USD 1.3 billion in lost revenues through 2021 not covered by the CARES Act, NY MTA forecasts an additional USD 8.9 billion, and Sound Transit projects an additional USD 628.6 million for the same period.
According to MTA’s own estimation, the US transit agencies will need an additional USD 32 billion to address the crisis for the rest of 2020 and through 2021.
The federal funding will support agencies to maintain their transit networks and keeping projects’ implementation, which will help ensure continued strength of the sizable public transport-dependent workforce both during and after this national public health emergency.
“Importantly, your swift action will shore up investor confidence so we can borrow at reasonable rates and maintain affordable transit services. We want to continue to rely on self-help, but we need additional federal support as a bridge so we have continued market access at affordable rates,” the agencies highlight.
Just as appropriations after natural disasters like earthquakes, hurricanes and fires are allocated based on need, funds to address this crisis should be distributed based on the loss of non-federal revenues. The funds should be unrestricted and available for any eligible activity authorised with a 100% support in federal funding, the letter explains.
“We urge you to provide state and local stabilization funds to support the communities we serve,” the 14 US transport agencies together ask in the joint letter.
During the last month, the public health crisis has worsened dramatically across the US and the full impact on the nation’s economy remains unknown. For public transportation agencies, a fuller picture has now emerged of the depth and breadth of coronavirus-fueled revenue losses from dedicated transportation revenue streams, such as farebox, sales taxes, motor fuel taxes, tolls, mortgage-related taxes and other user fees.
“Our systems will not be able to support the regions we serve without replenishing those losses. Our regions cannot recover without public transport, and the nation cannot recover without resurgent economies in our regions,” the letter states.
Revenue replenishment is agencies’ most immediate need in combination with substantial investment in transport infrastructure to facilitate community recovery while maintaining employment. “Revenues that support the operations as well as critical recapitalization and expansion have been decimated by this pandemic, and replacing them with federal funds will allow us to meet our near-term obligations while maintaining critical construction activity through 2021 that will sustain hundreds of thousands of jobs in this period of unprecedented unemployment.”
The 14 public transport agencies are serving communities who generate 35% of the country’s GDP and are moving over 20 million Americans every day.
In April, ten US transit agencies asked federal aid for transit systems to ensure their activities as they were devastated by the coronavirus pandemic. Following the request, the US Congress has provided USD 25 billion funding for transit systems across the country.