BART advocates for emergency funds in response to COVID-19
BART advocates for emergency funds in response to COVID-19
This news article is being updated with the latest news, fact sheets, and letters about emergency funds provided to BART in response to COVID-19.
On March 24, 2021 the MTC approved the allocation of $802 million to Bay Area transit operators as part of a second round of federal Coronavirus Response and Relief Appropriations Act (CRRSAA) funding to help transit agencies battered from revenue losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Under the action taken Wednesday, MTC allocated $274 million to BART.
When approving the final distribution of CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act funding in July 2020, the MTC commissioners directed staff to apply a “true-up” of funding to any future allocation of federal dollars for pandemic relief, compensating operators that received less CARES Act funding than they should have due to inaccurate revenue loss forecasts.
BART received $103.7 million from the first round of CRRSA funding in late January 2021. In 2020, BART received $377 million in CARES Act funding.
The House of Representatives today passed the $1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief American Rescue Plan Act which includes $30.5 billion in emergency funding for transit. This follows Senate approval last Saturday and will provide the Bay Area with approximately $1.7 billion in formula funding, a portion of which is expected to flow to every urbanized area in the region. We don’t yet know how much of that amount BART will get but we will work with the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) on the funding allocation. BART is grateful that Congress continues to prioritize transit. This new relief helps us balance our budget without layoffs and drastic service cuts. It means we can remain nimble and responsive to changing travel patterns.
Meanwhile, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission continues their work to allocate emergency funds made available through the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act (CRRSAA) of 2021 approved earlier this year by the Trump administration.
Distribution of $802 million in Phase 2 CRRSAA funding among the region’s 27 transit operators is based on revenue losses through the fiscal year and recognizes that many operators received significantly more funding through the CARES Act than their actual revenue losses. The MTC allocation will also prioritize the needs of the most transit dependent, with special attention to the pattern of ridership that has returned to different agencies to date and how relief funding affects agencies’ ability to respond to those demands.
The MTC’s Programming and Allocations Committee is recommending BART receive $274 million in Phase 2 CRRSAA funding. The full commission will take this up for approval on March 24th.
The first tranche of CRRSSA funding helped BART close the current year budget gap and will be used to help balance the FY21 budget.
On February 3, 2021 BART General Manager Bob Powers, along with transit leaders from across the country sent a letter to congressional leaders requesting $39.3 billion in emergency aid for public transit agencies nationwide in the next coronavirus relief bill. "Given the unprecedented ridership declines, revenue losses and additional costs caused by the pandemic, a new independent economic analysis shows that $39.3 billion in additional investment is needed to maintain operations today and to get through the years ahead.....Without additional federal resources, our agencies could be forced to implement drastic cuts to service, make unthinkable layoffs and/or delay or cancel critical capital projects. Such draconian actions would decimate transit service and impact all those who rely on it. Our industry directly employs more than 400,000 workers and supports millions of private sector jobs across the country."
First batch of new federal emergency relief allocated to BART
Today the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) is allocating the first batch of funds from the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2021(CRRSAA), which included $14B for public transit. This first tranche of funds is being distributed to Bay Area transit operators that received insufficient shares of CARES Act funding due to inaccurate revenue loss forecasts. Of the $180 million in funds allocated to a number of Bay Area transit systems, BART will receive $103.7 million.
“We are grateful for the MTC moving quickly to distribute this first batch of funds to help offset more of the revenue losses incurred over the last year,” said BART General Manager Bob Powers. “These funds provide short-term relief, preventing lay-offs and providing funds to keep our current service levels for our current ridership which is heavily transit dependent.” BART will still need to move forward with the March 22, 2021 schedule change which makes only slight adjustments to current service but includes running 3 route service on Saturdays.
BART will use $55 million of these funds to close the current year (FY21) deficit and the rest will help reduce the FY22 deficit. Prior to considering new federal assistance, BART anticipated a deficit of approximately $500M through the end of FY23. These new funds will reduce the forecasted deficit but an appropriate allocation of remaining CRRSAA funds will be needed to prevent further service cuts and layoffs in FY22.
“We look forward to working with the MTC on the second round of funding distribution and we will continue to advocate for additional emergency relief. The Biden Administration has proposed the American Rescue Plan with funds included to preserve public transit and prevent layoffs. While we continue to advocate for these funds, we also must continue to right size our workforce and budget through retirement incentives, shifting operating workers to capital projects, and significantly reducing non-essential overtime and other costs,” Powers said.
The Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2021(CRRSAA) allocates $14B for public transit. According to the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC), the three Bay Area Urbanized Areas will receive a total of $982M: San Francisco/Oakland ($822M); San Jose ($144M); SantaRosa ($15M). On Wednesday, January 27, 2021, the MTC will vote to allocate the first batch of funds (approximately $180 million) to Bay Area transit operators that received insufficient shares of CARES Act funding due to inaccurate revenue loss forecasts.
MTC staff is proposing to allocate $103.7 million to BART.
The remaining funds will be allocated at a later meeting. MTC staff will develop a proposed allocation formula that takes into account anticipated revenue losses resulting from the pandemic, operator budgetary expenses, and service needs of transit dependent riders.
Potential Future Federal Assistance:
- Biden Administration has proposed a $1.9T ‘American Rescue Plan’, which includes $20B to preserve public transit service and prevent job losses
- Administration also intends to propose a separate major infrastructure funding package
On January 14, 2021 the BART Board of Directors were given a budget update including new deficit numbers and new anticipated federal funds. Highlights include:
- Anticipated new federal funds will provide short-term relief; will close remaining FY21 deficit, which was previously identified as $33 million, and significantly reduce FY22 deficit, but they will not solve near- and long-term fiscal challenges
- BART must continue to work to right size workforce and budget through retirement incentives, load shedding, suppression of non-essential overtime, and other costs
- Through the end of FY23, BART anticipates a deficit of approximately $500M before federal assistance is considered
- Additional cost cutting will be necessary
The Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) has advised BART that the combined $2.3 trillion COVID relief package approved by Congress includes $14 billion for public transit, resulting in $978 million to the Bay Area to assist transit agencies. BART will now work with the MTC and the Blue Ribbon Transit Recovery Task Force on funding allocations. We don’t yet know what amount BART will get but will provide details here once finalized.
Congress reached a deal on a relief bill last night. We are hearing the bill will contain $14 billion for transit, a portion of which will flow to Bay Area systems to be divided by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission. We don’t yet know what amount BART will get. We are grateful for the short term relief. Once the legislative bill text is available we will provide more details.
On December 11, 2020, BART Board President Lateefah Simon and General Manager Bob Powers penned letters to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. Simon and Powers urge Congressional leaders to take "swift action in passing a COVID-19 emergency relief bill before the end of the lame duck session."
On December 9, 2020 BART General Manager Bob Powers joined a national coalition of the country’s leading public transportation agencies to call for significant and immediate emergency federal relief in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Watch the video of his statment: https://youtu.be/-ahJM2U4Sm4
Powers issued this statement:
"Since the arrival of this pandemic in the United States, the Bay Area has been at the forefront in the effort to save lives. Our region has some of the longest-lasting and most restrictive shelter-in-place orders in the country. Ridership is still down 87%. 50 thousand people are riding, instead of 410 thousand. On Monday, new shelter-in-place orders went into effect with 33 million Californians impacted by the lockdown.
At BART, we have seen a dramatic shift of who is riding and who isn’t. 75% are minority riders. 51% are from a household with income of less than $50 thousand dollars. Some of the stations in our system that used to be our busiest have seen some of the steepest declines in usage. Meanwhile, Fruitvale Station in the heart of Oakland has seen a surge in ridership to become our fifth-busiest stop.
We were among the first transit agencies in America to act in the face of this pandemic. In mid-March BART enacted a hiring freeze and implemented service cuts. We worked with our unions, standing shoulder to shoulder on our response efforts and to identify costs savings that have so far helped us to avoid layoffs. Our latest initiative is offering voluntary retirement incentives to 40% of our workforce. Perhaps most importantly BART recently agreed to a new three-year labor contract with our three largest unions to bolster our financial stability and predictability.
We used CARES ACT funding to save our operating budget and to keep the trains running and we can’t thank Congress enough for the funding. BART is now facing a $210 million in budget deficit in the current fiscal year and next.
I want to make this clear….as we ask for emergency aid from the federal government, we are committed to doing our part to be fiscally responsible.
Service level planning for next year is well underway. At BART, we are proud to continue to offer service seven days a week, although our trains are less frequent than before the pandemic. We have also been forced to close the system earlier at night. We cannot continue at our current pace without help.
The prospect of deeper cuts and gutting service is unconscionable. We can’t turn our backs on essential workers. Scaled down transit does not build resilient cities and will not help with economic recovery. Five years from now when we look back at this time, will it be the moment we widened the mobility divide, or will it be the moment we thrived in the face of challenges?
The federal government needs to answer the call."
On December 3, 2020, BART Board and Management sent letters to President-Elect Joe Biden and Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris congratulating them for their victory in the 2020 Presidential Election and urging swift actions to help Bay Area transit agencies through emergency operation funding to keep service and support low-income, transit-dependent riders.
On November 20, 2020 BART’s General Manager Bob Powers joined other General Managers of Bay Area transit agencies in penning a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to emergency funding to support transit in the Bay Area as agencies face a financial cliff. The letter warned "without additional funding from Congress, the deeper service cuts and layoffs that were avoided by the CARES Act will be inevitable and risk long-term damage to our region’s ability to meet our mobility, social equity and climate goals."
View our latest COVID-19 Financial Impacts Fact Sheet updated August 2020.
BART General Manager to Speak at Save Public Transit Rally On Wednesday
With Congress negotiating COVID-19 relief legislation, public transit agencies, advocacy organizations, and unions from cities across the country will hold a rally this Wednesday to strongly urge Congress to provide at least $32 billion in emergency operating aid for transit. Massive reductions in transit revenue—a result of plummeting ridership and reduced tax receipts from COVID-19 shutdowns—is threatening the viability of public transit systems, putting millions of Americans’ access to jobs, healthcare, grocery stores, and other services essential to surviving the pandemic at risk.
BART General Manager Bob Powers will speak at the virtual Save Public Transit Rally. Event organizers have also identified a local Bay Area transit rider who will speak during the event. BART is encouraging the public to register and join the effort to #SaveTransit
WHEN: Wednesday August 5, 11:00 AM PDT
BART staff reviewed the Senate Republicans' HEALS Act proposal and it does not include funding for public transit agencies. Transit systems across the United States continue to run service for essential workers, transit dependent riders, and those avoiding car traffic. Earlier in July, we joined a national coalition of transit leaders requesting $32-36 billion in add'l funding be included in next COVID-19 relief bill for public transportation industry to help cover COVID-related costs and revenue losses through 2021. Emergency funding will help prevent devastating permanent cuts nationwide and disproportionate economic and social impacts for many underserved communities. For BART, as example, ridership during SIP has been largely those lacking a car, people of color and making less $50K/year. At BART, we project the pandemic and resulting economic recession will cut our revenue by $975 Million in the next 3 years (through FY22).
Today, General Manager Bob Powers participated in a national media event with a coalition of National Transportation Agencies to advocate for additional funding.
Watch the press conference: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NGXIXptWiGg&feature=youtu.be
This letter was also sent to Senate Leadership requesting $32-36 billion in additional funding for the public transportation industry to cover COVID-related costs and revenue losses through 2021.
Statewide, the California Transit Association says local public transit agencies need $3.1 Billion in emergency funding to prevent devastating permanent cuts that would cause many underserved communities to suffer disproportionate economic and social impacts. At BART, we project the pandemic and resulting economic recession will cut our revenue by $975 Million in the next 3 years (through FY22).
The Metropolitan Transportation Commission today approved providing BART with $125.4 million in federal CARES Act FTA funding. This second allocation comes after the MTC in April provided BART with a first installment of $251.6 million. This latest action brings BART’s total share of CARES Act support to just over $377 million. The federal recovery bill dedicates $1.3 billion in funding for all Bay Area transit operators in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We are grateful to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and our Bay Area congressional delegation for prioritizing transit and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission for their leadership,” said BART General Manager Bob Powers. “This federal support is vital as BART continues to keep service running for essential workers and a growing number of riders who are returning to their jobs. It’s critical that BART remain poised to ramp up service as ridership gradually increases so we can support the Bay Area’s economic recovery.”
After falling to as low as 6% of regular ridership in April, the number of people taking BART has started to rise. Weekday ridership in July has hovered at about 11% of typical train loads for this month.
This morning, BART General Manager Bob Powers joined a press conference with a national coalition of a number of the country’s largest public transportation agencies along with national transportation labor leaders to ask Congress to include at least $32 billion in transit funding in its next COVID-19 response package. BART is facing about $600 million in budget deficit when combining this current fiscal year and next fiscal year. Powers noted:
"For the economy to recover, BART and public transit in general must be there. We can’t afford to be reactive. We must be up and fully functioning to deliver. We must keep employees healthy and safe, operate a thoroughly clean and disinfected system and put out frequent service. BART and public transportation must be the first choice to avoid gridlock that would slow economic recovery. We’ve made great strides to get folks out of cars and into transit. We can’t trigger deep cuts to unravel our ability to move people."
Watch the press conference at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WmgAff1S5Ps&feature=youtu.be
Powers' statement begins at 13:24 mark. He also answers questions from Bay Area and national media later in the call.
BART General Manager Bob Powers joined transit systems across the country and sent a letter to Congressional leaders yesterday requesting urgent assistance in providing aid to public transportation agencies in the next COVID-19 relief bill.
The letter reads in part:
"And though the full impact of the coronavirus pandemic is not yet fully known, the San Francisco Bay Area expects to have $1.3 billion in lost revenues through 2021 not covered by the CARES Act, NY MTA forecasts an additional $8.9 billion, and Sound Transit projects an additional $628.6 million for the same period....
For public transportation agencies, a fuller picture has now emerged of the depth and breadth of COVID-19-fueled revenue losses from dedicated transportation revenue streams, such as farebox, sales taxes, motor fuel taxes, tolls, mortgage-related taxes and other user fees. All funding sources, including those from our supporting localities, that our systems rely upon are taking massive hits as a result of COVID-19, shelter-in-place orders, and the general economic downturn. Our systems will not be able to support the regions we serve without replenishing those losses. Our regions cannot recover without public transportation, and the nation cannot recover without resurgent economies in our regions.
Revenue replenishment is our most immediate need in combination with substantial investment in transportation infrastructure to facilitate community recovery while maintaining employment."
Today the Metropolitan Transportation Commission approved providing BART with $251.6 million in federal CARES Act FTA funding. The allocation is the first installment of the $1.3 billion in funding provided to Bay Area transit operators in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
BART is currently serving 6% of its regular ridership. Despite the steep ridership decline, BART continues to move thousands of healthcare workers, airport workers, law enforcement and other essential workers across the Bay Area daily.
“These emergency lifeline funds will be used to stabilize our budget and to continue to provide BART service running for essential workers,” said BART General Manager Bob Powers. “I want to thank Speaker Pelosi and our Bay Area congressional delegation for prioritizing transit and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission for their leadership and quickly developing the initial distribution formula and balancing the needs of Bay Area transit operators big and small. This money, coupled with cost cutting measures we immediately took, will help bridge our multi-million funding gap that was brought on in a matter of weeks by the pandemic. The money will also support BART labor forces, keeping employees safe, healthy, and employed. There is much work left to be done and future installments of the CARES Act will be needed in the short term to address the new reality of low ridership and the costs associated with responding to the pandemic.”
BART will work closely with the MTC on future installments of the funds while continuing to advocate for additional state and federal funds. When shelter-in-place orders are lifted, the Bay Area’s economic recovery will be tied in part to BART’s ability to carry workers from their homes to their jobs.
“We must approach our service and budget planning in a way that allows us to easily scale up when demand begins to grow,” Powers said. “We also can’t lose sight of our clean air goals and transit’s role in providing reliable transportation for our transit dependent riders, seniors, workers with long commutes and lower-income communities.”
BART General Manager Bob Powers sent this letter to the MTC in support of the proposed Federal Cares Act funding allocation.
The MTC will consider initial distribution to Bay Area transit operators of CARES Act funding next Wednesday, April 22. The complete agenda and packet materials for the Commission meeting are now posted on the MTC website at www.mtc.ca.gov. The proposed initial allocation for BART is $251.6 million.
On Thursday, April 16, the Legislature began its formal process of considering how to budget for and respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, with a hearing of the Senate’s Special Budget and Fiscal Review Subcommittee on COVID-19 Response. BART General Manager Bob Powers submitted this letter to the subcommittee outling COVID-19 impacts to BART.
BART budget staff is waiting to find out how much money BART will receive from the federal stimulus package to help support our operating budget and running service. There will be approximately $1.3B provided to the MTC to divide up among Bay Area transit operators.
Statement from BART General Manager Bob Powers on $25 billion in transit funding included in Senate bill:
"BART has confirmed the coronavirus stimulus package to be voted on includes $25 billion in critical lifeline funds for transit systems across the country. The package needs to be approved by Congress and signed by the President.
For BART, these emergency funds can be the difference between needing to shut down when our reserves run out and maintaining service to keep the San Francisco Bay Area moving. 60% of our operating budget is funded by fare revenue and we’ve sustained a 90% drop in ridership during this crisis. I want to thank everyone who has advocated for transit and BART specifically during these unprecedented times. There is more work to do and this is only one step towards keeping the trains running, but it is a significant down payment for the essential workers in the region and commuters when they return."
3/23/20 Update: Today BART General Manager Bob Powers joined other transit leaders across the nation in sending a letter to Senate and House leadership requesting that any federal relief package include at least $25 billion of dedicated support for public transportation agencies.
Read BART's latest Fact Sheet outlining the financial impact of COVID-19.
BART’s Board President Lateefah Simon and General Manager Bob Powers sent letters on March 12 to local, state and federal officials and have been making calls this week asking for emergency stimulus funding.
This article was originally posted on March 17 as: BART sustains service but future financial stability requires emergency funds
BART is experiencing significant declines in ridership with immediate loss of fare and parking revenues as the result of the COVID-19 pandemic and current Shelter in Place Orders throughout the BART service area.
BART’s Board President Lateefah Simon and General Manager Bob Powers sent letters last week to local, state and federal officials and have been making calls this week asking for emergency stimulus funding. Ridership data shows BART lost 70% of its riders on Monday and initial data for Tuesday’s commute shows an 85% decline.
That level of decline will cost BART a loss of approximately $37M per month in fare and parking revenue. A sustained ridership loss of 85% and a 50% reduction of economic activity impacting other revenue sources could reduce BART's monthly revenues by $55M.
(Friday March 20 Update: A sustained ridership loss of 90% and a 50% reduction of economic activity impacting other revenue sources could reduce BART's monthly revenues by $57M.)
BART staff has provided a Fact Sheet outlining the COVID-19 impacts. (This fact sheet was updated to include the current ridership loss figures).
“This is a financial crisis for BART,” said Board President Lateefah Simon. “This level of catastrophic revenue loss is not sustainable and threatens future service. We need reassurance from all levels of government that transit will not be left out.”
At the federal level, BART is requesting that transit be specifically included in future stimulus bills.
Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act provides a total of $8.3 billion to support response efforts to the virus with $950 million set aside for state and local efforts; including infection control at the local level to prevent additional cases. Approximately $37M will be sent to California. To date, neither the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention nor the State of California has issued guidance on whether a local special district, such as BART, could directly apply for funding.
BART will be applying for a grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) under their program to support operational expenses in response to COVID-19.
The Governor signed emergency legislation today with $500M for COVID-19 response funding. As a special district, BART should be directly eligible for this emergency funding under the authority of the California Disaster Assistance Act and plans to pursue funds through the Office of the Governor, California Office of Emergency Services, and the California State Transportation Agency. BART is asking how the $500M appropriation will be allocated and is requesting a direct allocation of $55M to offset our loss in revenue due.
BART is requesting an immediate operating subsidy from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC).
“BART is currently providing lifeline train service to workers who are keeping the region functioning during this pandemic,” said BART General Manager Bob Powers. “As the backbone of transportation in the Bay Area, we will also play an essential role during the economic recovery process. Access to emergency funding is needed to keep the Bay Area moving once the region begins to recover.”
This article was originally posted on March 17, 2020