Emergency stimulus bill provides $1.3 billion to rescue Bay Area transit

Late last week, the trillion dollar stimulus bill passed by Congress and signed by the president included $25 Billion for public transportation for the US, including $1.3 billion for the San Francisco Bay Area. Thanks to everyone who called your representatives in Congress and signed the petition to save public transportation while it carries many future people for essential needs.

As people shelter in place and refrain from all but essential trips, ridership has cratered. Caltrain and BART are reporting ridership down nearly 90% and SamTrans is reporting ridership down nearly 70%. 

The emergency funds can be used  “to prevent, prepare for and respond to coronavirus.” including backup operating funding to replace ridership losses during the pandemic.  

Informed sources tell us that the $1.3Billion is expected to compensate for a scenario where ridership remains severely low through June, and starts to recovers to about half typical levels in the summer, while sales taxes could be depressed by 75% by the forced shutdown of much of the economy.  

The funding will be distributed by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission. In a Zoom call on Saturday night, BART directors Janice Li, Bevan Dufty, and Lateefah Simon asked transit supporters to keep an eye out to make sure the money is spent in a way that keeps agencies running emergency service now and able to restart service when needed.

When the emergency recedes, more steps will be needed to restart an economy stalled by the pandemic. There could be opportunities to rebuild public transportation ridership by providing service that is faster, more reliable, and easier to use than before, in a way that helps with the climate crisis that will still be present when the epidemic fades.

Stay tuned for more actions you can take to help.