The effects of a global pandemic on American shores are beginning to emerge for public transit systems. The consequences of a drop in transit ridership could extend beyond the end of the pandemic.
On March 9, Toronto Public Health officials released an announcement assuring residents that was safe to use public transit amidst the coronavirus scare, reports Ben Spurr. The announcement responded to a far less assuring announcement, made the day before by Governor Andre Cuomo and Mayor Bill De Blasio, suggesting residents of New York City should avoid public transit to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
Last week, expectations about how coronavirus would impact public transit relied on experience from Asian countries, but following the announcement about Cotton and the statements of New York's political leadership, U.S. transit systems began to feel the effects. Transit ridership dropped by 170,000 passengers—8 percent—on BART between the last week of February and the first week of March, according to an article by Rachel Swan. [Update: Reports now reveal ridership on the New York MTA system dropped 18.5% on Wednesday, March 11 relative to the comparable day in 2019—a total of 996,000 riders.]
As pointed out in an article by Aaron Gordon, decreased transit ridership could have a long-term impact of transit funding, and not just because of a reduced amount of fares being paid by riders as they work from home and avoid public gatherings that tend to drive transit ridership (as driving is additionally incentivized by plummeting oil prices).
On average, 56 percent of a transit agency’s budget comes from state or local subsidies, according to that same Department of Transportation report—the rest comes from the federal government or is directly generated by the agency through advertising or other initiatives—and a big part of convincing politicians those subsidies are worthwhile is by demonstrating people use the system with, you guessed it, ridership figures.
So, if ridership plummets, that argument becomes harder, especially if government budgets become stressed bailing out all the other at-risk businesses and populations that need more money. When it comes to governments at all levels, transit has a long history of taking the back seat during crunch time. And if people abandon it in droves due to coronavirus, history may repeat itself once again.
Norman, Oklahoma Eliminates Parking Mandates
The city made a subtle, one-word change that frees up developers to build parking based on actual need and eliminates costly unnecessary parking.
Boston Transit Riders Report Safety Concerns
Almost three-quarters of current and former riders report feeling unsafe while using MBTA services.
Boston to Begin Zoning Code Update, Mayor Announces
It’s been nearly 60 years, but the city of Boston is finally ready to do a comprehensive rewrite of its zoning code.
California Air Regulators to Crack Down on Warehouses
Truck traffic to and from Southern California warehouses accounts for as much pollution as refineries, power plants, and other industrial polluters combined.
FEMA Climate Resilience Loans Target Small Communities
A new loan program reduces the bureaucratic hurdles to implementing small-scale climate adaptation projects.
D.C. Delays Bus Lane Enforcement
The program using cameras to ticket drivers who block bus lanes was scheduled to begin this week.
City of Stonecrest
City of Grand Junction Police Department
HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research
Mpact: Mobility, Community, Possibility
National Capital Planning Commission
City of Culver City
Salt Lake City Corporation
This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.