2020 has been a historic year—by many measures. Our nation has struggled, but communities have also pulled together to fight the COVID-19 pandemic and provide relief for the most vulnerable.
Our country has come together to battle the coronavirus pandemic. Many essential workers, including those working in hospitals, pharmacies, and grocery stores, have relied on public transit to get to the frontlines of the pandemic. Our nation’s transit systems have delivered and have provided an essential lifeline to help fight the pandemic. Unfortunately, many public transit systems have been forced to reduce services because of falling revenues and new safety costs.
Lawmakers and voters alike took action to support public transportation in 2020. Key milestones include:
- Funding for Public Transit in the CARES Act—On March 27, Congress passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which included $25 billion in emergency funding for public transportation. This made it possible to cover increased costs to protect the health and safety of riders and employees and help our essential workers reach their jobs on the frontlines of the pandemic.
- Reauthorization of the FAST Act—In September, Congress passed a one-year extension (H.R. 8337) of the 2015 Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act—our nation’s current long-term transportation bill. The extension authorized an investment of at least $12.6 billion in public transportation—and prevented a massive $6 billion cut to public transit systems.
- Key Victories at the Ballot Box—Voters across the country overwhelmingly supported public transportation at the ballot box this year, with more than 90% of transit measures passing. Blue and red states as well as urban areas and smaller communities voted for improved and expanded public transit. Notable victories include:
- Passage of Prop A in Austin, Texas, which will fund new light rail lines, subway lines, and expanded bus service.
- Passage of the Mountain Line Measure in Missoula, Montana, where voters supported funding for new all-electric buses and zero-fare access to public transportation.
- Congress has just passed COVID-19 emergency relief, which provides $14 billion of emergency funding for public transit. This $14 billion of emergency funding is desperately needed and is a critical step in supporting our country’s agencies so they can survive the pandemic and help our communities recover from the subsequent economic fallout. Voices for Public Transit will continue to advocate for additional funding in 2021, with at least $32 billion needed to keep our transit systems running.
No matter what challenges our nation faces, we need to move forward—and people need to get around. Mobility supports our economy and our quality of life. The majority of Americans support investing in public transportation—and 2020 milestones for public transit represent important progress. We’ll be building on this progress in 2021. Stay tuned for more updates from Voices for Public Transit in early 2021 as we continue to call on Congress to provide additional emergency funding for our country’s public transit systems.