MTA bands with other transit systems in U.S. seeking billions from Congress in aid

traffic safety
A conductor on board a Q train at the 96th Street station in Manhattan on May 3, 2020. (Photo by Todd Maisel)

Facing massive ridership loss and billions of dollars in debt for operating essential service, the MTA is again appealing for aid from Washington, DC — along with other transit systems across the country.

MTA Chair and CEO Pat Foye and the leaders of 14 public transit agencies sent a joint letter to Congressional leaders Friday urging them to provide billions of dollars in additional relief to keep trains and buses running.

Through the CARES Act passed back in March, the MTA received an additional $3.9 billion in federal relief through the end of this calendar year, but the authority says it needs much more help. Also on Friday, President Trump approved an additional $3.9 billion grant to the MTA through the CARES Act.

The MTA indicated it stands to lose $8.9 billion in revenue through 2021 as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Other transit systems — which received portions of $25 billion in funds allocated through the CARES Act — will also need additional fusions of cash to make up for pandemic losses. The MTA estimates they require an additional $32 billion in relief.

It’s not just the loss of ridership revenue from fares and tolls that’s endangering transit agencies across the country, the letter noted. The economic downturn and expenses related to responding to the COVID-19 crisis are costing states billions of dollars, and depriving transit authorities of revenue collected through taxes and other fees.

“Transit agencies often rely upon a variety of non-farebox revenue sources from our taxpayers and our state and local partners to support our day-to-day operations; many of our agencies are working to assess the impacts of revenue losses not covered by the CARES Act,” according to the joint letter. “Just as appropriations after natural disasters like earthquakes, hurricanes and fires are allocated based on need, funds to address this crisis should be distributed based on the loss of non-federal revenues.”

The letter was sent to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. It was signed by Foye and the following transit agency leaders:

  • Jim Harnett, General Manager/CEO, Calrain/San Mateo Transit District, San Mateo, CA.
  • Dorval R. Carter Jr., President, Chicago Transit Authority.
  • India Birdsong, General Manager/CEO, Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority, Cleveland, Ohio.
  • Rob Gannon, General Manager, King County Metro, Seattle.
  • Phillip A. Washington, CEO, Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro).
  • Jeffrey A. Parker, General Manager/CEO, MARTA, Atlanta.
  • Alice N. Bravo, director, Department of Transportation, Miami-Dade County, FL.
  • Kevin S. Corbett, President & CEO, NJ Transit.
  • Robert M. Powers, General Manager, San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART), Oakland.
  • Jeffrey Tumlin, Director of Transportation, SFMTA, San Francisco.
  • Peter M. Rogoff, Chief Executive Officer, Sound Transit, Seattle.
  • Leslie S. Richards, General Manager, Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA), Philadelphia.
  • Darryl Haley, CEO and General Manager, Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority, Cincinnati.
  • Paul J. Wiedefeld, CEO and GM, WMATA, Washington, DC.