Survey of smaller transit operators reveals need for additional COVID relief

Small-urban and rural transit systems face major service cuts as CARES Act funding dwindles

January 25, 2021 / 2 minute read
Small-urban and rural transit systems COVID-19 relief funding

A recent survey from the Community Transportation Association of America (CTAA) of its rural and small-urban transit system members reveals a need for additional COVID-19 funding aid for public transportation systems.

CTAA says without additional federal funding support, many small-urban and rural transit systems face major service cuts and the inability to continue providing the essential services they do everyday as CARES Act funding dwindles.

“Public transit is a national program,” CTAA Executive Director Scott Bogren said in a statement. “CTAA and its members strongly urge the Biden Administration and Congress, in any COVID-19 stimulus package, to utilize the standard formulas for rural, urban, and specialized transit to ensure that all transit agencies receive vitally needed funding to continue providing essential trips all across the nation.”

The survey revealed CTAA’s rural and small-urban members have tended to spend down CARES Act funding more slowly than the nation’s largest metropolitan transit properties, but are starting to run out of those funds. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, average rural transit system leadership expect at least 19 more months of economic hardship at the local level, but expect to have CARES Act allocations last another 9.6 months. Small-urban transit responders expect their current CARES Act allocations to last another 13.1 months.

CTAA’s rural and small-urban transit system members report numerous service cuts in the past 10 months during the COVID-19 pandemic yet have lost “only” around half of their normal ridership. More than two-thirds (68%) of rural system responders reported cutting service in the past 10 months. Interestingly, 25% of rural system responders reported adding service during the pandemic to assist with food, meal, and prescription delivery. Seventy (70%) percent of small-urban transit system responders reported service cuts in the past 10 months.

Only 39 of the nation’s 320 small-urbanized areas (population between 50,000-200,000) received Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act (CRRSAA) funding. Twenty-eight (28) state DOTs received no rural transit funding assistance through CRRSAA. For the vast majority of rural and small-urban transit systems and passengers, CRRSAA provides no benefit, CTAA says.

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SOURCE: Community Transportation Association of America

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