- Transit agencies are calling for $32 billion in federal relief funding to mitigate unprecedented losses suffered amid the COVID-19 pandemic. If Congress cannot meet this demand, transit agencies could face service cuts of up to 40%, which would have a "deep and profound" impact on transit access, according to a new TransitCenter study.
- The nonprofit used the AllTransit tool to model how a 50% cut to peak service and 30% cut to off-peak service would impact transit access in nine major U.S. cities. The study found more than 2.1 million individuals would lose access to frequent, full-day transit in these cities, with 1.3 million of those riders identifying as Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC). The complete findings for lost access to full-day transit are as follows:
|City||Total to lose access||BIPOC to lose access (% of total)||Jobs impacted|
|New York||555,121||361,778 (65%)||184,911|
- The report also highlighted the number of commuters that would lose access to 24-hour transit in applicable cities. Nearly 67,000 commuters would lose access in Chicago, while more than 30,000 commuters and 25,000 commuters would lose access in Philadelphia and New York, respectively.
House Democrats unveiled this week an updated version of a $2.2 trillion stimulus bill, dubbed the Heroes Act, to include the $32 billion in transit emergency funding requested by agencies — more than double what was originally detailed in the last version of the bill. The public transit sector has not received federal relief funding since the coronavirus relief bill was passed in March.
If passed, the $32 billion in funding would be distributed across the transit sector to provide $18.5 billion in grants to urbanized areas; $10 billion in Emergency Relief grants for agencies that require additional assistance; $2.5 billion for Capital Investment Grants to assist project sponsors; $750 million in grants to rural areas; and $250 in grants for seniors and persons with disabilities.
American Public Transportation Association (APTA) CEO Paul Skoutelas expressed "deep appreciation" to the House Democrats in response to their updated bill, noting that enacting this legislation is crucial "to enable the industry's very survival during this unparalleled pandemic."
Yet, if this funding does not come through, riders across America's most transit-dependent cities — particularly non-White riders — will suffer.
"Public transportation is a public good that millions of Americans — including many essential workers — rely on every day to get to work ... Yet Congress is letting this public good crumble," said Transportation for America Director Beth Osborne in a statement. "If we want the economy to recover then we need people who can work be able to get to work."
TransitCenter found Black and Hispanic residents would be hardest hit by service cuts, while many front-line workers would lose an affordable transportation option. These impacts on BIPOC riders would be particularly dire in Chicago and Miami, where 75% of the riders projected to lose full-day transit access are non-White.
Tom Hagglund, a 66-year-old Chicago resident who performs essential support work for nearby universities, told TransitCenter that the costs of alternative transit options, like taxi rides, are a significant use of his daily budget. "I'm very concerned, especially for people who are sick, or older, or can't afford to get around the city on anything other than transit," he said.
Steven Higashide, director of research at Transit Center, said there is "no way" to cut transit services by up to 40% "without seriously affecting people's lives." If transit agencies do face service cuts, they should prioritize the services most heavily used by essential workers, low-income riders and people with disabilities, Higashide said.
"Agencies in Boston and San Francisco have taken this approach since the beginning of the pandemic, and others should follow their lead," Higashide said.