Transit Agencies Increasingly Dependent on Federal Funding

Transit agencies nationwide are taking in less farebox revenue, with agencies recovering, on average, just 12.8 cents for every dollar they spent on operations in 2021, down from 32.3 cents in 2019.

According to an article in The Center Square by Elyse Apel, Tom Gantert, and Brett Rowland, “Once the pandemic hit, transit operational costs increased while passengers abandoned public transportation for various reasons – including fear of COVID-19, working from home and having some transportation shut down.” Many transit agencies also eliminated fares in an effort to assist low-income riders and encourage more people to use public transportation.

The federal government allocated $71.7 billion to transit in four Covid-19 relief packages. This was a significant shift from pre-pandemic years: in 2019, federal funding made up 7.1 percent of transit operating expenses. In 2021, federal dollars funded 36.2 percent of operations. “The National Transit Authority stated 852 transit agencies across the U.S. spent $13.1 billion in federal pandemic relief funds mostly on operational expenses in 2021, a 95% increase from the previous year.”