09/29 Press Release: Transit Workers Need Better Protection From COVID-19

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     NEW STUDY: Without Emergency Federal Aid, Transit Cuts Threaten to Slash Access to 142,000 Jobs and Strand Nearly 400,000 People Across Philadelphia 

Black and Latino residents would be impacted more than White residents


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 29, 2020


Contact: Yasha Zarrinkelk, Transit Coalition Organizer of Transit Forward Philadelphia (949) 874-8745



As emergency funding from the CARES Act runs out, transit cuts averaging 40 percent across major U.S. regions would result in more than 3 million people and 1.4 million jobs losing access to frequent transit, according to an analysis released today by TransitCenter and the Center for Neighborhood Technology. The study finds that in the Philadelphia region, more than 396,000 people would lose access to frequent transit near their home, and nearly 142,000 would lose access to frequent transit near their workplace. 

In Philadelphia, transit is a lifeline for first responders and hundreds of thousands of other residents to commute to work. "Stranded" examines data across 9 U.S. regions covering: Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Cincinnati, Denver, Miami, New York City, Philadelphia and Seattle. The report finds that in the Philadelphia region, 34,072 households that do not own a private vehicle would lose access to the type of transit that is their only way to get to jobs, healthcare, and other essential services. These households include second and third shift workers on the frontlines of battling COVID-19, and span a range of transit typologies and political affiliations. 

Black, Latino and other people of color would be disproportionately impacted by transit cuts. Black residents make up 20% of the region, but 44% of those who would lose access to frequent full-day service. Non-white and Hispanic residents make up 37% of the region, but 65% of those who would lose access to frequent full-day service.

The pandemic has battered public finances and eroded transit ridership, hammering transit agency budgets even as millions of Americans continue to ride buses and trains for essential trips. Transit agencies are asking for $32 billion in federal relief funding to keep their services running in light of these impacts. Negotiations between Congress and the White House over the next COVID relief package are ongoing, and it is unclear whether public transit will be included.  Without it, transit leaders in several cities have warned that they may need to cut service by 40 percent. The analysis models what those cuts would mean for service frequency in Philadelphia if peak service (service between 7-9 am and 4-6 pm) was reduced by 50 percent while off-peak service was reduced by 30 percent.

“A cut in service would increase the time I need to get to work by at least 20 minutes,” said Jackie Williams, 67, who rides SEPTA every day to get to work, meetings, grocery shopping and to visit friends and relatives. “I moved to Philly because of increased opportunity and extensive public transportation. Having reliable transportation has given me peace of mind and helped me to feel safe as I move around the city.”

"Public transportation is a public good that millions of Americans—including many essential workers—rely on every day to get to work, healthcare, grocery stores, and other important services. Yet Congress is letting this public good crumble," said Beth Osborne, director of Transportation for America. "COVID-19 is putting unprecedented financial stress on transit agencies to the point where transit will not return to full service when this pandemic subsides. If we want the economy to recover then we need people who can work to be able to get to work. Congress needs to step up and pass the $32 billion in emergency relief that public transportation needs to survive this crisis.

"Without more emergency aid, the fiscal crisis will force transit agencies to make deep service cuts. Our analysis shows this would have profound impacts,” said TransitCenter Director of Research Steven Higashide. "Millions of people would lose access to high-quality transit near their home and workplace. Late-night commuters trying to get to essential jobs would be stranded. And, as has happened so often in this pandemic, the blow would fall most heavily on Black riders and communities of color.”

TransitCenter is a foundation that works to improve public transit in cities across the U.S. They provide technical assistance to transit agencies, conduct research and analysis, work on advocacy campaigns and write some grants. Contact: Ben Fried, [email protected], 347 675 5592.