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3/18/2020



Rail News: Passenger Rail

APTA: Transit agencies, railroads need $12.9 billion in federal help to offset coronavirus costs


MTA Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Patrick Foye said the agency is facing a "financial calamity," as recent reports indicate daily ridership has fallen 60 percent on subways, 49 percent on buses, 90 percent on MTA Metro-North Railroad and 67 percent on MTA Long Island Rail Road.
Photo – MTA-Long Island Rail Road

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As Congress works on coronavirus response legislation, the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) is requesting $12.9 billion for public transit agencies and passenger railroads to offset their direct costs and revenue losses related to the outbreak.

"Public transportation organizations are taking extraordinary efforts to protect the health and safety of riders and employees while working tirelessly to maintain essential services. We want to ensure that the federal government includes aid to public transportation agencies to help offset the additional costs and lost revenue related to COVID-19," APTA officials said yesterday in a legislative alert to member agencies.

The federal funds are necessary for transit agencies to maintain essential services, they said. The $12.9 billion would help offset the following:
• $1.75 billion in direct costs. Based on preliminary results of an APTA survey, 98 percent of agencies have increased direct costs, such as for cleaning facilities and vehicles;
• $6 billion in lost farebox revenue. APTA anticipates agencies will face a 75 percent loss of such revenue over the remaining six months of FY2020;
• $4.9 billion in dedicated sales tax revenue loss anticipated over the next six months;
• $250 million in restart costs.

"These funds are necessary to maintain essential services, including providing public transportation to health care workers, Medicaid recipients who receive non-emergency medical transportation, and law enforcement personnel. Without these emergency funds, public transit agencies may be required to suspend services," APTA officials said.

Meanwhile, Amtrak and transit agencies have begun to assess their potential costs related to COVID-19 outbreak.

Amtrak officials said the intercity passenger railroad and its state partners will need $1 billion in government assistance because of a dramatic decline in ridership. Last week, Amtrak said bookings had tumbled 50 percent since the COVID-19 outbreak. As a result, the railroad forecasts it will lose hundreds of millions of dollars, Reuters reported.

In New York, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) is asking for more $4 billion in federal aid as it continues to respond to the pandemic. In a letter to New York's congressional delegation, MTA Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Patrick Foye said the agency is facing a "financial calamity," as recent reports indicate daily ridership has fallen 60 percent on subways, 49 percent on buses, 90 percent on MTA Metro-North Railroad and 67 percent on MTA Long Island Rail Road.

"As a result, MTA revenue has plummeted as we provide these essential services. We project the full impact will be over $4 billion by the end of 2020 – even without accounting for the expected collapse of the more than $6 billion in state and local taxes dedicated to the MTA," Foye's letter stated.

In San Francisco, Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) leaders are seeking emergency stimulus funding from local, state and federal sources as a result of declining ridership.

Data shows BART lost 70 percent of its riders on March 16 and initial data for yesterday's ridership showed an 85 percent decline, agency officials said.

"That level of decline will cost BART a loss of approximately $37 million per month in fare and parking revenue," they said in a press release. "A sustained ridership loss of 85 percent and a 50 percent reduction of economic activity impacting other revenue sources could reduce BART's monthly revenues by $55 million."

In Virginia, the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission (NVTC) announced it is seeking additional federal assistance is necessary to supplement additional state funds it will receive to support northern Virginia public transit operators, including the Virginia Railway Express.

Yesterday, Virginia's Commonwealth Transportation Board and the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation agreed to provide $11 million in additional operating funding. The amount equals one month of statewide operating revenue currently allocated to the Commonwealth Mass Transit Fund. The extra dollars will be allocated to public transit agencies by formula, starting in early April, NVTC officials said in a press release.



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