Release: Over 200 transit agencies, cities, and organizations urge Congress to pass emergency funding for transit

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Over 220 elected officials, transit agencies, and organizations urge Congress to provide $13 billion in emergency funding for public transportation to stave off service cuts and job layoffs, and preserve service for the future

WASHINGTON, DC: With only 24 hours’ notice, over 220 elected officials, cities and organizations signed a letter written by Transportation for America (T4America) and the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) urging Congress to provide transit agencies with nearly $13 billion in emergency funding and take other steps to ensure that transit agencies survive the COVID-19 pandemic and continue to provide safe and reliable access to jobs, schools, and services for millions of Americans. 

Due to critical social distancing practices required to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, public transit agencies are experiencing significant decreases in ridership and farebox revenue while simultaneously incurring increased costs for additional cleaning. Without federal financial assistance, many transit agencies and paratransit service providers will be forced to dramatically reduce or eliminate critical service. 

The 222 signers include elected officials, local governments, transit agencies, businesses and organizations engaged in advocacy regarding climate, road safety, accessibility and other critical issues. Many cities have signed the letter, including Philadelphia, San Jose, Boise, as well as transit agencies that include IndyGo, SFMTA, VIA (San Antonio), Charlotte Area Transit System , Utah Transit Authority, and the Virginia Railway Express, to name a few 

“As the spread of COVID-19 continues to radically alter Americans’ daily lives and futures, guaranteeing that transit will be running through the crisis to connect people with food and health care is critical,” said Beth Osborne, the director of Transportation for America. “We also need transit to operate at full strength when this pandemic ends to support our economic recovery. Failing to support public transportation during the Great Recession left millions of Americans stranded for years afterward when people needed reliable, safe, and convenient access to jobs and services the most. It will happen again if Congress doesn’t step up to protect and preserve our country’s basic transportation infrastructure that millions depend on each day.”

The letter asks for direct financial assistance carefully targeted to the agencies impacted the most—rather than more funding funneled through the existing federal transportation program and formulas which are poorly suited to provide the kind of targeted, flexible assistance that agencies need.

The letter also asks Congress to waive the restriction barring agencies from using their capital funds on operations, so that transit agencies can fill gaps today and avoid future service cuts. But if they do this without also providing direct financial assistance, Congress will only solve one problem today while creating enormous problems tomorrow: reducing the capital funds that agencies need to keep up with mounting repair backlogs, basic maintenance, and the need to continue modernizing their fleets.

The signatories also request that FTA not use this current year’s plummeting ridership figures to determine next year’s transit funding amounts awarded through federal formulas.

The full letter is available to view here.

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