US APTA and industry leaders address urgent need for COVID-19 relief funding

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The American Public Transportation Association (APTA) has hosted a virtual press conference addressing the US public transportation industry’s urgent and dire need for additional emergency funding. As in the UK, US public transport systems are facing extraordinary direct costs and revenue losses as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. APTA has urged Congress to invest at least $32 billion in additional emergency funding to keep systems running safely and to protect the jobs of more than 435,000 workers emplyed in the sector. APTA is a non-profit international association of 1,500 public and private sector organizations across all modes of transport including bus, rail, and rapid transit in North America.

“As Congress begins the negotiations on the next emergency funding bill, we implore legislators to include public transit funding so that we can continue to be a lifeline for our essential workers and help our communities rebuild their economies in the wake of the pandemic,” said APTA President and CEO Paul P. Skoutelas. “It is imperative that agencies receive federal support so that they can survive and help our nation recover from the economic fallout of the coronavirus crisis.”

“The transit industry has worked extremely hard to show customers that we are safe, clean and dedicated to our collective mission to provide mobility solutions for all, along with the goal of restoring confidence in public transit. The very confidence we are trying to strengthen will be completely undermined if the federal government does not prioritize the funding that is necessary to keep transit running safely now and during the recovery phase of this pandemic,” said Nuria I. Fernandez, APTA Chair, and General Manager and CEO of Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority. “This funding is not a ‘nice to have’ – it is fundamental to our survival.”

Paul and Nuria were joined at the virtual event by a panel of transit industry leaders, representing hard hit communities of all sizes across the country:

Dorval R. Carter, Jr., President of Chicago Transit Authority, said: “There is no question that public transit has been and will continue to be an essential service, but it’s also a cornerstone of a city’s and region’s ability to pursue a strong economic recovery. As customers return to transit, our goal is to provide a level of continuity and predictability to support our City’s recovery, and federal funding is absolutely essential to reaching that goal.”

Tom Lambert, President and CEO of Houston METRO, added: “Houston is home to the world’s largest medical centre and METRO provides transit to one-third of those employees, as well as many other essential workers in our region. Clearly, public transit is vital. Most of our funding comes through sales tax revenue, which is extremely important. We’re anticipating a significant decrease in that cash flow because of COVID-19 as well as the oil and gas downturn right now. Without additional support from the federal government, the outcome could be sobering in terms of how we can support our operations and our community today and in the future.”

Andrew Aiello, General Manager of the Transit Authority of Northern Kentucky highlighted: “Even during this economic slowdown, a small transit system like ours is still carrying thousands of passengers every day.  The Transit Authority of Northern Kentucky is connecting people to essential jobs that are critical for our local and national economy – jobs in logistics, healthcare, food processing and other key industries.  The federal support provided in the CARES Act allowed us to continue to operate and to maintain those critical connections between employers and employees. Additional federal support will allow small transit systems throughout the country to sustain these services for the months ahead as our local and state economies recover.”