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Coronavirus update: Transit coalition requests $25B in federal aid

Ridership drops, falling revenue and increased cleaning costs have resulted in funding gaps at U.S. passenger-rail agencies.
Photo – CDC


A coalition of U.S. transit agencies on Monday sent a letter to congressional leaders requesting that the federal relief package intended to provide aid to businesses impacted by the coronavirus pandemic include at least $25 billion of dedicated support for public transportation agencies. 

While agencies continue to provide essential travel for emergency personnel, overall ridership on the systems has plummeted, dropping as much as 90 percent in some cases, the coalition wrote.

"Combined with falling tax revenues and dramatically increased cleaning costs, this collapse of revenue has resulted in immediate and enormous funding gaps. The collective losses, which early projections show are expected to be in the tens of billions of dollars, can never be recouped and have a compounding impact on our ability to borrow,” they said.

The transportation systems in the coalition serve regions that, combined, make up 32 percent of the national gross domestic product, according to the letter.

The coalition members are the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, Chicago Transit Authority, Dallas Area Rapid Transit, Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority, New Jersey Transit, Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART), San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA), Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) and Kings County Metro.

Earlier this week, San Francisco Bay Area transit agencies announced they'll together monitor ridership to ensure essential transit service continues in the region.

“It is our shared goal to ensure that the Bay Area’s large population of vulnerable and transit dependent persons have their needs met during this crisis,” the agencies said in a joint press release.

The transit-rail agencies involved include BART, Caltrain, SFMTA and the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority.

Several U.S. and Canada passenger-rail agencies have announced service adjustments and other changes in response to the pandemic. Following are the latest announcements:
American Public Transportation Association (APTA) published a survey to its business members to gather input on how COVID-19 has affected operations. APTA business member should respond to the survey by March 27.
WMATA tomorrow will close 17 additional rail stations and select station entrances. In total, 19 WMATA stations are closed until further notice.
TransLink in British Columbia reduced train frequency on the Expo and Millennium SkyTrain lines.
Regional Transportation District of Denver on April 19 will reduce the agency’s light-rail service by 40 percent.
Port Authority of Allegheny County in Pittsburgh today reduced light-rail and bus service by 25 percent. Ridership has dropped more than 50 percent in the past two weeks.
• Milwaukee’s streetcar, The Hop, tomorrow will begin operating on a reduced schedule.
Altamont Corridor Express commuter-rail service in California and GO Transit in Toronto suspended some in-person ticket sales to limit the spread of the virus at ticket counters.
Metra in Chicago announced that medical personnel will be able to ride trains free during Illinois’ “stay-at-home” order.
• The Hawaii Department of Transportation has extended lane closure hours for Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation’s rail-related construction work along portions of highway.