In an effort to go green and get more riders, public transportation in the U.S. is getting a boost worth $3.7 billion. This money will be used for public transit systems to stay afloat and invest in new fleets of electric buses.
At a Glance
- $2.2 billion will go to 35 transit agencies in 18 states.
- The other $1.5 billion will be available in grants, under President Biden’s infrastructure law.
- These investments will go towards new buses, bus stations, and training for staff.
- Fewer people are using public transit compared to pre-pandemic.
- The Biden Administration is hoping to get those numbers back up by providing better service.
Money For Public Transportation Systems Will Be Divided Up
According to the Biden administration, the $3.7 billion will be divvied up in two major ways. First, the majority of the money will go to 35 transit agencies that are struggling financially. This money will be used to prop up day-to-day operations. That includes staffing, payroll, cleaning, and sanitization to limit the spread of illness in public transit. In fact, there’s even a federal mask mandate is in place for public transit until at least March 18.
The rest of the money is grant-based. Public transportation systems will have until May to apply for these infrastructure grants. The grants will be paid out in the fall. At least 5% of that money must be used for workforce training to help transit workers prepare for change. The rest of the money will go towards buying low or no-emission buses. Over five years, a total of $7.5 billion will be available this way.
Many transit systems in the U.S. are already moving towards electric buses. For example, CA has committed to having an all-electric bus fleet by 2040. New York City and Boston have also committed. Washington, D.C. plans to make theirs electric by 2045.
There’s also a federal plan in place to move towards electric or low-emission vehicles across the board.
Transit Systems Have Been Facing Challenges
This financial boost comes during a rough time for most public transportation systems. As we know, work from home became increasingly popular due to the pandemic. Now, it’s harder to get people on public transit. In fact, only about 55% of transit riders nationwide have returned, according to the American Public Transportation Association.
Many big-city transit systems have been hit the hardest due to fewer riders, according to AP News. Thus, they’ve been included in the $3.7 billion worth of relief funds. New York City’s transit system, which is the largest in the country, received $769 million in COVID relief funds to help steady operations. San Francisco’s Bay Area Rapid Transit got $270 million to help provide better service and safety protocols.
Other systems that got relief funds include the Washington, D.C. metro system, which got $120 million. This comes as federal employees prepare to go back to the office. Houston’s public transit system got $137 million, as they work towards adding more rapid transit bus lines.