More Transit Agencies Propose Cuts; Congress Finally Takes Notice

The stakes in the economic stimulus package under consideration on Capitol Hill this week are incredibly high.

December 3, 2020, 5:00 AM PST

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell

Capitol Hill

Julie Clopper / Shutterstock

New York MTA chief executive Patrick J. Foye lays out the stakes of the effects of the pandemic on the fiscal health of transit agencies around the country in an article by Justin George, Lori Aratani, and Meagan Flynn.

“This is a once-in-100-years fiscal tsunami that the MTA and our counterpart transit agencies across the country, including in Washington, D.C., are facing,” MTA chief executive Patrick J. Foye said. “This is not a negotiating tactic. It’s not a stunt. It is kind of grim reality.”

According to the article, transit agencies "have been warning for months about enormous deficits, but as they begin announcing proposed cuts, transit leaders say, people are realizing how intertwined public transportation is with their local economies and lives."

The article offers the most comprehensive collection of bad news regarding budget deficits and reduced operation to date. For a sample of the carnage, the article lists the Chicago Transit Authority's (CTA) budget deficit is listed as $375 million. The Bay Area Rapid Transit System (BART) faces a $200 million shortfall through July 2022. For the Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority (Metro) it's a $500 million gap in next year's operating budget.

According to the article, recently announced plans for massive service reductions and layoffs all over the country, including New York City and Washington, D.C., have motivated some members of Congress to put together a stimulus package that includes $45 billion for transportation (of which, only $15 billion is set aside for transit agencies).

"It would be stupidity on steroids if Congress left for Christmas without doing an interim package as a bridge," is the soundbite in the article from Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.).

To further drove the point home of how much harm these proposed cuts to transit operations could do, the article includes statistics and anecdotes—the former reveal the tremendous damage that reductions like those proposed in D.C. and New York would do to the regional and national economies; the latter include a lot of elected officials in different positions expressing dismay at the prospects facing the country's transit systems. 

Still, it's unclear if this mountain of evidence will be enough to sway Congress and the trump administration to action.

Paul P. Skoutelas, president of the American Public Transportation Association, is cited in the article calling for more than double the proposed spending levels in the current version of the stimulus package. Congressional aides are cited in the article saying the details of the package are fluid, and the bill "received a cool reception Tuesday from the White House…"

Tuesday, December 1, 2020 in The Washington Post

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