MTA, TWU and others want DC to fund mass transit in relief package

Stephon Johnson | 5/21/2020, midnight
Transit agencies around the country, along with several unions, hope new transit funding lessens their burden during the COVID-19 pandemic.
MTA//subway Photo by Suzanne Emily O’Connor on Unsplash

Transit agencies around the country, along with several unions, hope new transit funding lessens their burden during the COVID-19 pandemic.

President Donald Trump will distribute money to transit agencies as part of a $2 trillion package mirroring the funding in the initial Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) act.

“I am proud to announce the first $500M of $3.9B in CARES Act transit funding headed to the NY Metropolitan Transportation Authority,” said Trump on Twitter. “Important funding to keep transit systems clean and operating to get people back to work! Spend it wisely! @NYGovCuomo @NYCMayor.”

As for N.J. Transit, Trump will distribute $1.4 billion to the agencies to help offset any revenue lost during the pandemic.

“I am proud to announce that @NJTransit will receive $1.4B in CARES Act funding to assist in their continued operations and to keep people moving in the NY/NJ area!” the president stated in another tweet. “The LARGEST single Federal transit grant to New Jersey Transit ever. Together, we will prevail!”

Last week, the MTA, NJ Transit, the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA), the San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART), and Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA), along with the transportation unions the Transport Workers Union (TWU), Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) and the Transportation Trades Department (TTD) of the AFL-CIO, rallied and called for the federal government to include aid for them in the next coronavirus relief package.

Locally, the MTA alone asked for $3.9 billion in extra federal aid to address the decline in revenue and the local, state and regional taxes that support them.

According to a McKinsey & Company report, the MTA is expecting a projected $3.9 to $4.9 billion gross loss of revenue fares to the MTA roughly reducing revenue fares by 60 to 75%. McKinsey & Company’s report also predicted $1.6 or $1.8 billion in state and local taxes in 2020. McKinsey & Company is an advisor and counselor to some of the world’s most influential businesses and organizations.

“The federal government must recognize the ongoing emergency and the vital role of transit and infrastructures as economic drivers, but also as agencies that transport first responders and essential workers during the pandemic,” said MTA Chairman and CEP Patrick Foye during a news conference. “I want to be clear, this is a national disaster that requires a continued national response.”
Foye said that the ongoing aspects of the COVD-19 pandemic are outpacing the levels of support included previously in the CARES Act.

“We need additional, all of us, all of our agencies, need additional funding streams distributed not by the same old formulas, but based on needs stemming from this unprecedented health crisis,” Foye said.

John Samuelsen, president of Transport Workers Union International, agreed. He said that the money that the unions and agencies asked for isn’t too much.

“…$32 billion is not a significant ask,” said Samuelsen. “It seems like a significant number but it's certainly not a significant ask to bail out public transit systems across the country, to stand up for the blue-collar Americans that use this system to get to work every day, and to stand up for the blue-collar heroes that are the transit workers city by city, across this country.”

Recently, the MTA introduced a new policy closing the subways overnight in order to work on disinfecting stations. It’s the first time in 115 years that the subways won’t operate for 24 hours. The agency doled out more than 1 million masks and 4 million pairs of gloves to ensure safety. They’ve also taken temperatures of employees regularly and offer COVID-19 antibody testing for employees.

“Certainly, the U.S. government has bailed out Wall Street in the midst of many crises—they bailed out major corporations, profiteering corporations, in the midst of many crises, and they can step up right now in bailing out public transit and recognize it for the nationally important role that we play every day in both…,” said Samuelsen.