BART seeks emergency funds in response to COVID-19


BART seeks 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.

View our latest COVID-19 Financial Impacts Fact Sheet updated Augusted 2020. 

8/4/20 Update

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 


7/28/20 Update

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). 

7/14/20 Update

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:

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). 

7/8/20 Update

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.

5/12/20 Update

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

Powers' statement begins at 13:24 mark. He also answers questions from Bay Area and national media later in the call.

5/7/20 Update

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." 

4/22/20 Update

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.”

4/21/20 Update

BART General Manager Bob Powers sent this letter to the MTC in support of the proposed Federal Cares Act funding allocation.

4/17/20 Update:

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  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.

3/26/20 Update:

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.

3/25/20 Update:

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.”

Federal funds

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.

State funds

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.

Local Funds:

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