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LA Metro Joins Public Transit Coalition Asking Congress For Up To $36 Billion More In Relief Funding

TAP entry at the Pershing Square Metro Station in downtown Los Angeles on March 23, 2020. (Chava Sanchez/ LAist)
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Earlier this year, Congress passed and President Trump signed the nearly $2 trillion CARES Act to provide economic relief in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The stimulus bill allotted $25 billion in aid for public transit agencies, which experienced plummeting ridership and sales tax revenue amid stay-at-home orders.

Now a national coalition of public transit agencies say they need more money — up to $36 billion in additional federal funding — to stay afloat as coronavirus cases surge both locally and nationally.

The Senate is expected to start debating another pandemic stimulus bill next week, and leaders from both parties have expressed a desire to get it done before Congress recesses next month.

Back in April, L.A. County was allocated more than $1 billion in CARES Act funds to help keep regional public transit moving. That money is being distributed to the L.A. County Metropolitan Transportation Authority and other transit agencies that operate in the county — including LADOT, Foothill Transit, Access Services and Metrolink. L.A. Metro’s board of directors is tasked with dispersing the funds across all agencies.

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L.A. Metro CEO Phil Washington spoke during a live-streamed media briefing Tuesday, noting that the agency expects a $1.8 billion shortfall over the next two fiscal years. He said the agency appreciates the federal dollars received so far, “but we need more in order to keep our county and the city of Los Angeles moving.”

Before the pandemic, L.A. Metro was averaging 1.2 million passenger boardings per day on its system, according to Washington. Right now, ridership is about 550,000 per day “and climbing,” he said, though the agency has projected it could take two years for ridership to return to pre-pandemic levels.

And Metro is in the midst of a massive expansion to nearly double its transit system, funded mostly through sales tax revenue. Roughly half of Metro's annual budget comes from sales tax.

“We have our work cut out for us and we need help from Congress,” Washington said. “We're building, but our loss of sales tax revenue is severely hampering our ability to keep people employed … building the infrastructure for this country.”

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