Washington, DC — Unions representing frontline public transportation workers joined forces with transit agencies and rider advocates today to deliver a stark warning to lawmakers: without at least $32 billion in emergency funding, transit systems in both urban and rural areas face irreversible harm.
In a letter to Congressional leadership, 36 organizations explained that physical distancing measures, including stay-at-home orders, have taken a serious toll on demand for public transportation services. This, in turn, has placed a major strain on funding sources public transportation agencies traditionally rely on, including farebox revenue and sales tax receipts.
As a result, “some public transit systems are in danger of heading into a ‘transit death spiral’ where evaporating revenues lead to cuts in services, which in turn cause riders to find alternative means of transportation, further incapacitating transit systems to the point where they become insolvent and inoperable,” the letter states.
Despite lost revenue and decreased demand, millions of Americans continue to depend on public transportation services to see themselves and their communities through the pandemic.
“Millions of essential workers bravely fighting on the front lines of this pandemic have no other means of transportation if these vital services come to a halt. Healthcare, grocery, and other workers will be put at risk of losing their jobs and livelihoods. And families who rely on transit for transportation to pick up food, get to work, and meet their health care needs will be left stranded,” the group says.
“Allowing vital transportation services to lapse in the middle of a global pandemic will guarantee more harm to our communities and place the economic well-being of the American public in jeopardy. Our communities across the country are depending on you to act swiftly and decisively to save public transit.”
The TTD unions that signed the letter — including the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU), American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen (BRS), International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM), International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), National Conference of Firemen & Oilers, SEIU (NCFO), Transport Workers Union (TWU), Transportation Communications Union/IAM (TCU), International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers – Transportation Division (SMART-TD) — collectively represent hundreds of thousands of transit workers, including stations agents, bus and train operators, mechanics, cleaners, and more.