How can governments raise sufficient funds to expand and improve public transportation?

The American Public Transportation Association’s main job is to advocate for public transit across the United States and Canada, from big agencies like the MTA in New York City to small fleets in rural and suburban communities, and everything in between. 

Paul Skoutelas, president and CEO of APTA, which has 1,500 member organizations, said the industry was hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic, which is affecting the way that funding and improvements are approached. Ridership on rail systems was down 90 percent, and on bus systems was down 70 percent. Both rider fares and tax dollars fund public transit systems, and both revenue sources have been affected by the struggling economy.

A $25 billion stimulus in March helped the industry, but more is needed to help stabilize the industry and improve ridership rates, Skoutelas said.

Prior to the pandemic, he said, ridership rates were on the rise.

“I have no doubt that in due time we will begin to bring back those riders,” he said. “It’s going to take a bit of time—it could take a couple of years or more—that we will be back on that trajectory. I believe if we put in place the right policies and investment, we’ll see great growth in transit and our communities will come to rely on transit even more than they do today.” 

—Katelyn Weisbrod

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