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Principles for New Round of Transit Aid Earn Key Committee Approval

Karl Nielsen

MTC’s Programming and Allocations Committee today approved a three-point set of principles to guide the distribution to Bay Area transit agencies in the coming months of nearly $1.7 billion in federal transit money the Bay Area will receive through the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021:

  • Stabilize and Sustain Transit — ARP funds should be used to ensure the financial stability of the Bay Area’s transit agencies;
  • Restore and Reimagine Service — Distribution of ARP funds should be conditioned on transit agencies taking measures to restore service to at least match current demand, and to plan for deploying additional service in a way that advances equity, and supports the increased local and regional demand expected by September 2021; and
  • Improve Customer Experience — ARP funds should be used to promote and sustain transit use in the Bay Area; to better compete with other modes of transportation, public transit must be safe, reliable, affordable and easy for riders to use.

Signed into law by President Biden in March 2021, the American Rescue Plan marks the third wave of emergency federal support for public transit since the March 2020 onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Bay Area transit agencies already have received more than $2.3 billion in federal relief cash through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES )Act passed by Congress in April 2020 and the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act enacted in December 2020. Described by MTC Executive Director Therese McMillan as “a bridge over an economic chasm,” these funds are expected to help Bay Area transit agencies cover their operating expenses through at least the first quarter of the 2021-22 fiscal year that begins July 1.

Developed jointly by MTC and transit agency staff, the proposed principles for distribution of ARP transit funds prompted lively discussion among members of the Programming and Allocations Committee at today’s virtual meeting as well as diverse and spirited comments from more than two dozen members of the public.  The principles, which will next be considered by the full Commission at its May 26 meeting, may be revised to respond to evolving conditions and continued uncertainty about the economic, financial and mobility impacts of COVID-19.

MTC’s Programming and Allocations Committee on June 9 will host a special workshop for Commissioners to hear directly from Bay Area transit agencies about the challenges the COVID-19 pandemic has created for their operations, and to learn about transit agencies’ outlooks for service delivery and financial sustainability in the coming fiscal year and beyond. The Commission may approve the first distribution of ARP funds to Bay Area transit agencies as early as July 2021.

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