The spread of COVID-19 has sent shockwaves through transit agencies across the country. As states and localities implement necessary social distancing measures urging people to stay home, transit ridership - and revenue - has decreased precipitously.
And yet, despite the grave financial scenario these agencies are facing, transit will continue to play a crucial role during and after the crisis. Why is this the case, you may ask?
An estimated 2.8 million essential workers in the United States commute to work on transit. These include the hospital staff saving lives, grocery store workers keeping food on the shelves, and pharmacists providing medicine, among others.
In Miami, essential workers make up approximately 36% of all transit commuters on an average day, according to TransitCenter.
COVID-19 presents a unique challenge to transit agencies: to continue providing reliable, frequent service in spite of record-low ridership and financial losses. Without this protocol, essential workers and individuals who depend on transit may be shut out of work, disconnected from accessing medical treatment, and unable to reach a grocery store.
In times of crises - especially those borne out of pandemics, natural disasters, and recessions - transit is not just a critical lifeline but an essential component of the nation’s emergency response plan. For this reason, transit agencies should be included - and rightly prioritized - in the federal government’s economic stimulus plan.
Tuesday night, the White House and Congress agreed on a stimulus package that dedicates $25 billion for transit agencies across the United States. For Miami specifically, this could mean approximately $430 million for the losses suffered during this crisis. This is tremendous news for transit systems across the country that have worked tirelessly to provide a crucial public service. While this projected funding is a necessary first step in alleviating the burden caused by COVID-19, experts project that this preliminary funding would only cover about 8-12 months of expenditures, and perhaps even less in areas that have been disproportionately affected.
As the country waits for Congress to vote on the stimulus package, transit departments should continue planning for the long-term effects this crisis will have on our communities. For Miami-Dade specifically, Transit Alliance has urged the department to consider these necessary measures.
Our transit system will have to be prepared to withstand the ridership rebound that will come after this crisis. The immense economic distress created by this crisis means more people than ever will be turning to transit to get to work and live their lives.
The road to full recovery will be a long one and, at Transit Alliance, we remain fully committed and prepared to help our community bounce back from this crisis.