March 4, 2021
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The Federal Transit Administration is disbursing $14 billion in federal funding allocations to continue supporting public transportation systems during the COVID-19 pandemic – money provided via $900 billion in COVID-19 emergency relief aid included in a year-end legislative package signed into law December 27. State departments of transportation received $10 billion in aid via that same measure.

[Above photo by the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority.]

FTA said it is allocating $14 billion to recipients of urbanized area and rural area formula funds, with $13.27 billion allocated to large and small urban areas, $678.2 million for rural areas and tribes, and $50 million to help enhance mobility for seniors and individuals with disabilities.

Similar to the $25 billion public transit agencies received in March 2020 via the $2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security or CARES Act, the FTA said this new $14 billion infusion of supplemental funding will be provided at 100-percent federal share, with no local match required.

FTA’s K. Jane Williams

“We know that many of our nation’s public transportation systems continue to face challenges due to COVID-19, and these supplemental funds will help ensure that safe transit services remain available for riders traveling to jobs, health care and other essential services in communities across America,” noted K. Jane Williams, FTA’s deputy administrator, in a statement.

FTA noted that transit agencies receiving funds from this round of COVID-19 relief aid are to prioritize payroll and operational needs. The agency added that it is providing guidance on other COVID-19 emergency funding topics via a Frequently Asked Questions web page.

FTA and the U.S. Department of Transportation as a whole also continue to work closely with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other organizations to provide broader guidance to the public transportation industry regarding the COVID-19 virus.

Photo by NJTRANSIT

In related news, a recent literature study published in December 2020 found that the evidence remains “mixed” about whether public transit is any more dangerous for exposure to COVID-19 and other influenza viruses compared to interactions in schools, workplaces, businesses, religious gatherings, sporting events, and neighborhoods.

“While transportation of any type is clearly associated with the spread of disease from one geographic area to another, the role that public transportation plays in the transmission of disease within a local area is complex and difficult to study,” that study noted.

A separate study compiled by the Sam Schwartz transportation-engineering firm in October 2020 on behalf of the American Public Transportation Association indicated that there is “no direct correlation” between use of urban public transit and transmission of the COVID-19 virus.

The 35-page report – entitled Public Transit and COVID-19 Pandemic: Global Research and Best Practices – analyzed the latest scientific evidence on how the COVID-19 virus spreads compared to ridership and infection rates in multiple U.S. cities, as well as the impact of various mitigation measures for controlling viral spread. Its analysis found no direct links between transit and infection rates.

editor@aashto.org

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