Congress is reportedly working on passing a new coronavirus relief bill that would help public transit agencies across the country. The COVID-19 Emergency Relief Act of 2020 would grant $15 billion to mass transportation agencies to be distributed on the basis of Federal Transit Administration formulas.
To make sure that the funds don’t only go to major cities, the feds have restricted each urbanized area to no more than $4 billion in total relief between the new bill and the money granted to agencies through the last relief bill, the CARES Act, which was released in late March. No large city can receive more than 75% of its 2018 operating budget from the grants, plus experts don’t expect there to be much left over after every small agency gets its initial cut.
Industry advocates who have been pushing hard for at least $32 billion in relief for transit nationwide were disappointed to learn that the senators had essentially halved their request. The American Public Transportation Association reportedly called the $15 billion included in the proposal “a starting point for negotiations.”
However, the aforementioned advocates are optimistic that it will at least get most agencies over the hump while vaccines are distributed. Jeff Davis of the Eno Center for Transportation reportedly said: “The money in this bill should still be enough to get everyone through March 31, which is the stated goal of the bill.
A far bigger winner in the bill is the private transit industry: motorcoach operators would receive $8 billion in relief. Intercity bus lines like Greyhound and Megabus would also benefit from the bill. And though the relief would take the form of grants and loans, it was still met with optimism by the school bus industry, which remains among the largest mass transportation operators in the U.S.
Amtrak will also receive $1 billion, while airlines and airports will collect a whopping $21 billion, despite, what StreetsBlog USA notes, the fact that they transport less than a third of the passengers than the MTA alone delivers every (non-pandemic) day. Amtrak’s funding would be divided between $580 million in Northeast Corridor Grants and $420 million for National Network Grants.
What the $15 billion for transit includes:
- $13.27 billion for urbanized area formula funds;
- $1 billion for rural area formula funds;
- $100 million for enhanced mobility for seniors and people with disabilities formula funds; and
- $628.43 million in emergency relief grants.