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APTA increases federal aid request to offset coronavirus costs

APTA's increased request is based on an internal survey of 163 public transit agencies and revised estimates of costs and losses.
Photo – CDC


The American Public Transportation Association (APTA) is requesting $16 billion in emergency funding from Congress for public transit agencies and passenger railroads to offset the costs and revenue losses related to the COVID-19 pandemic, association officials announced yesterday. 

APTA on Wednesday originally requested $12.9 million in funding. The increased request is based on an internal survey of 163 public transit agencies and revised estimates of costs and losses.

The $16 billion would help offset $1.75 billion in direct costs, $7.65 billion in farebox revenue loss, $6.25 billion in sales tax revenue loss and $350 million in restart costs.

Public transit agencies are seeing dramatic reductions in ridership due to workplace restrictions, with an estimated $14 billion in losses expected in both fare and sales tax revenue. In addition, $2 billion is needed for direct costs including upgraded cleaning, APTA officials said in a press release.

Collectively, Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) and Virginia Railway Express commuter-rail ridership has declined between 80 percent and 90 percent. The agencies estimated at least $55 million in revenue loss each, according to the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission.

New Jersey Transit recorded a 88 percent ridership drop since March 9, reported.

In Denver, Regional Transportation District ridership dropped 60 percent from an average of 347,800 trips each weekday in 2019 to about 139,000 trips, agency officials reported.

Meanwhile, California Gov. Gavin Newsom yesterday ordered California’s 40 million residents to stay at home indefinitely with exceptions only for essential travel. Similar restrictions were issued earlier this week by several counties in the San Francisco Bay Area. 

In response to the stay-at-home orders and a 90 percent ridership drop, Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) on March 23 will reduce nightly rail service. Ridership after 9 p.m. represents just 3 percent of total daily ridership, BART officials said in a press release.

The immediate loss of fare revenue has a “devastating impact” on BART’s operating budget, as 60 percent of the budget is from fare dollars, agency officials said.

The North County Transit District (NCTD) also has logged a drop in ridership. As a result, the agency will reduce weekday and suspend weekend Coaster commuter-rail service starting on March 23.

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, ridership has declined by 79 percent on an average weekday, NCTD officials said in a press release.

Across the country, several other passenger-rail agencies have announced service adjustments due to lower ridership numbers. The following is a summary by railroad or agency:
• WMATA yesterday closed its Smithsonian and Arlington Cemetery stations to discourage use of the Metrorail for nonessential travel.
Sound Transit on March 23 will reduce light- and commuter-rail service in Seattle.
Metra in Chicago on March 23 will operate an alternate weekday schedule, reducing commuter-rail service levels by about half of normal weekday service.
Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) on March 22 will reduce train service on the Market-Frankford, Broad Street and Norristown High Speed lines, as well as on trolleys. SEPTA today closed outlying ticket windows and waiting rooms at regional rail stations.
Metropolitan Council in Minneapolis suspended Metro Transit light-rail service between 11 p.m. and 4:30 a.m.
Trinity Railway Express commuter-rail in Texas will run a modified weekday schedule starting March 23.
Denton County Transportation Authority in Texas yesterday closed the Downtown Denton Transit Center.
Kansas City Streetcar Authority reduced its service schedule to correspond with lower downtown activity levels and to allow crews more time to clean the rail cars.


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