U.S mass transit agencies seek $25 billion

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A coalition of U.S. transit agencies including New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority have written congressional leaders requesting a relief package that includes at least $25 billion of COVID-19 related support.

“Federal aid, utilizing federal formulas, must be directed to areas of the country that have had significant financial impacts and where essential workers rely most heavily on public transit,” the letter said.

New York MTA worker disinfects handrail at 86th Street station on the Second Avenue line.

Other signatories were the Chicago Transit Authority; Dallas Area Rapid Transit; Kings County Metro in Seattle; Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority; Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority; New Jersey Transit; San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit; San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency; and Washington Metropolitan Area Transit in the nation’s capital.

“This pandemic does not discriminate between Republicans and Democrats,” the letter said. “No industry, company or organization is being spared from the devastating public health and economic consequences of this crisis.”

Advisories and orders to stay home have hammered transit revenue nationwide, with an immediate impact on systems with high reliance on farebox revenue. Reported drops have reached about 90% in some systems.

New York MTA last week asked the federal government for a $4 billion rescue package and on Friday, drew upon $1 billion of its credit line.

Moody’s Investors Service, also on Friday, said it would place its A1 rating of the MTA’s primary transportation revenue bond credit and its MIG1 rating of transportation revenue bond revenue notes under review for possible downgrade. Moody's also changed its outlook on the long-term rating to rating under review from negative.

New Jersey Transit is seeking $1.25 billion from the feds. Systemwide revenue is down 88% since March 9, the agency said Thursday. San Francisco BART reported that passenger numbers Wednesday were 88% below normal.

“The looming financial catastrophe is clear. While emergency personnel need our infrastructure to do their jobs, overall ridership on our systems has plummeted every day,” the coalition's letter said. “Combined with falling tax revenues and dramatically increased cleaning costs, this collapse of revenue has resulted in immediate and enormous funding gaps.”

The American Public Transportation Association on Thursday pegged the need at $16 billion to cover revenue losses from coronavirus. APTA expected a $14 billion loss in fare and sales-tax revenue, plus $2 billion for direct costs that include upgraded cleaning.

In New York, 11 transit advocacy groups are asking the MTA board, which will meet Wednesday, to ensure MTA management publicly release “complete and timely” information about the MTA’s ridership and finances.

Those groups include the Permanent Citizens Advisory Committee to the MTA; Regional Plan Association; Reinvent Albany; and Tri-State Transportation Campaign.

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