Commentary

Coronavirus Relief Package Includes $1 Billion for Amtrak, $25 Billion for Transit Agencies

In late March 2020, RailPAC was one of over 240 signers from across the country (including elected officials, cities and organizations) on a letter written by Transportation for America (T4America) and the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS).  The letter urged Congress to provide $13 billion in emergency funding for public transportation and passenger rail service.

Due to critical social distancing practices required to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, public transit and passenger rail agencies are experiencing significant decreases in ridership and farebox revenue while simultaneously incurring increased costs for additional cleaning.

The full letter is available to view here.  , and click here for more information on T4America’s admirable efforts to help secure this funding.  

Thankfully, the emergency funding which has since been awarded by Congress for transit and passenger rail meets or exceeds the amounts requested by both the national Rail Passenger Association and the American Public Transit Association.  It also includes help for states to offset lost ticket revenue from their state-supported passenger rail services.

Below is a good summary of the CARES act, quoted from the Rail Passengers Association’s March 27th weekly news:

Coronavirus Relief Package Includes $1 Billion for Amtrak, $25 Billion for Transit Agencies

The U.S. House voted to send the CARES Act to the president’s desk this afternoon, enacting a $2 trillion coronavirus relief package into law and providing critically needed financial assistance to rail and transit operators across the country. The bill (H.R. 748) provides Amtrak over $1 billion in aid to weather the precipitous drop in ridership, and directs $25 billion to the nation’s struggling transit providers—the largest single-year transit appropriation in U.S. history.

“I want to thank the members of Congress who supported this aid package for rail transportation on behalf of the more than 40 million passengers in the U.S. who depend on passenger rail to work and travel—whether it’s intercity, commuter, or transit,” said Rail Passengers President & CEO Jim Mathews. “While addressing the health crisis will always be the most important part of our response, it’s important that we all understand the gravity of the current moment for our nation’s infrastructure. If we want these services to be there when we start traveling and commuting normally, then the time to act is now.”

The funding directed by Congress to intercity rail operators and transit agencies in Phase 3 legislation meets or exceeds the levels outlined in the Rail Passengers’ COVID19 request. This financial aid includes:

Amtrak Grants – $1.018 billion

Northeast Corridor – $492 million;

National Network – $526 million;

State Supported Corridors: $239 million

Mass Transit Grants – $25 billion

Urban Area – 13.9 billion

Rural Area – $1.8 billion

State of Good Repair – $7.6 billion

Fast-Growth & High-Density State – $1.7 billion

We’re actively tracking any additional needs at RailPassengers.org/COVID19 , and will continue to work with Congress to ensure that these systems are able to return to full service once travel restrictions are eventually eased.

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