Bay Area transit agencies in danger of failing without funding from Congress

Transit agencies in the Bay Area and across the country are saying without help from Congress they are in danger of failing.

Those agencies are asking Congress for $32 billion in aid, which they say is the minimum to keep trains and buses in service. Transit officials said without that funding, the nation's economic recovery will stall. 

Public transportation agencies around the Bay Area, along with their counterparts across the country say they have been devastated economically by COVID-19. They are joining with democratic lawmakers in saying that without an infusion of cash they're in danger of failing.

Riders, like UC Berkeley student Lucas Meier rely on mass transit. 

"This summer I'm interning at a food justice non-profit and rely on BART to get there two days a week," said Meier. "And I also rely on BART for all other travel not in biking or walking distance as well. And if classes were being held in-person I'd be taking BART to school too."

BART General Manager Bob Powers said his agency is ready to serve the public but needs funding to be included in the next relief bill to help fill the gaps left by the precipitous drop in ridership since the pandemic.

Transit agencies say it's critical not just to their health, but the overall economic health of the nation.

"We need Congress to act now," said Powers. "There is an urgent need. You know, at its core the economy cannot and it will not recover without transit."

Officials point out that many transit agencies have been running, albeit at a reduced capacity, through the pandemic to get essential workers to and from their jobs.

Congressman Jerry Nadler was on that call with transit agencies Wednesday morning and said he's urging his counterparts on both sides of the aisle to come up with $32 billion. 

"That's the minimum we need,' said Nadler. "We're being very conservative. But the fact is, the mass transit cannot survive without at least that kind of money. I anticipate that as the pandemic goes further, that it's not cured very quickly, we'll probably need more money."

Senator Chuck Schumer is one of the senators working on hammering out that agreement, on the call today he said both sides are still very far apart. 

There is no word on when that next relief package will be on its way or if that $32 billion in funding for transit will be included.