September 16, 2020
PHOENIX – As the COVID-19 crisis has persisted, it has dramatically impacted public transportation systems across the country, including Phoenix.
National public transit leaders, including Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego, gathered virtually Tuesday to discuss the critical role public transportation plays in advancing communities and the country.
As the nation’s transit agencies work to maintain essential services while restoring full services, the American Public Transportation Association believes federal support is desperately needed to ensure public transit agencies can survive and help communities recover from the economic fallout of the pandemic.
The industry continues to serve essential employees every day, and the City of Phoenix has avoided layoffs. Yet, without additional emergency funding, many transit agencies in cities nationwide are facing intense budgetary pressure.
“In our community, commuter bus services dropped 90%, local bus ridership 40%, our light rail ridership by 50% and Paratransit transit by 65%,” Gallego said during a Zoom press conference.
Gallego also described the safety precautions Phoenix has implemented for public transit to ensure health and safety for both their employees and riders, including fogging busses three times a week to sanitize them.
The APTA congressional leaders and the administration worked to act quickly to pass at least $32 billion in emergency funding to keep the public transit industry alive.
“We are here to raise the alarm that critical emergency funding is needed to save public transit – that’s not an over statement,” APTA President and CEO Paul Skoutelas.
“Congress must act now in order to save public transportation.”
For Phoenix, major investments are still needed for public transit despite the city already dedicating millions. Gallego particularly would like to see upgrades and safer barriers in busses for lower levels of risk of contracting coronavirus for both drivers and riders.
“In the case of our 113 employees — many have come down with COVID and we could not power Phoenix without them and were thankful 81% have returned to work,” Gallego said.