Public Transit in Crisis: Low-Income Riders Have the Most to Lose From Service Cuts

Riders who rely most on public transit are suffering the worst consequences of the cuts to service during the fiscal belt tightening of the coronavirus pandemic.

2 minute read

August 19, 2020, 5:00 AM PDT

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell


Lake Oswego Transit Center

Tada Images / Shutterstock

Pranshu Verma reports on the state of public transit service around the country as the fiscal and ridership fallout from the pandemic deepens: 

Public transit leaders across the country have issued dire warnings to Congress, saying that the first $25 billion in aid they received in March is quickly drying up, and they need more — otherwise their systems will go into a “death spiral.”

As public transit agencies feel the pain of declining revenues from fare payments as well as the other sources of funding, like sales taxes, for example, it's the most vulnerable users who are suffering the most, according to Verma.

But as service cuts to the United States’ bus, rail and subway systems start to happen, experts say it is the nation’s low-income residents, people of color and essential workers bearing the brunt. Many of them feel the congressional gridlock is completely ignoring their plight.

The article includes anecdotes from New Orleans about the plight of residents who depend on public transit to access essential services like grocery stores and medical care, but residents of cities all over the country are experiencing similar consequences. 

Meanwhile, according to Verma, the U.S. Senate seems intent not to pass a stimulus package that would provide further funding to transit agencies around the country. The U.S. House of Representatives approved the HEROES Act in May, although transit advocates have criticized that bill, as well as the predecessor CARES Act, for spending too much on car-centric projects and reinforcing the funding status quo.

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