Democrats and Republicans in Pennsylvania’s congressional delegation want to give SEPTA at least a $150 million bailout to make up for lost revenues due to the coronavirus outbreak.
In a letter to top congressional leaders on Friday, 11 members of Congress from the state and Philadelphia region called for emergency funding for public transportation systems throughout the state.
They requested an injection of $150 million into SEPTA’s coffers to make up for the significant financial losses that have resulted from steep reductions in ridership since the start of the outbreak. Ridership is down 60% for buses, trolleys, and subways, and 86% for Regional Rail, according to the letter.
“The fiscal impact of the outbreak on SEPTA’s operations will be devastating,” the letter said.
SEPTA had anticipated fare revenues to hit $165 million between March 1 and June 30, according to the letter.
SEPTA officials have been discussing a variety of cost-cutting measures to reduce the impact of the loss of ridership, SEPTA General Manager Leslie Richards wrote in a letter to SEPTA employees.
The cost-cutting measures include a 10% pay cut for Richards and her executive team, effective immediately. SEPTA officials also are considering eliminating overtime, freezing hiring, eliminating marketing efforts, eliminating non-essential employee travel, and additional service reductions on Regional Rail.
SEPTA is not the only public transportation agency in the state that is suffering.
The Port Authority of Allegheny County and the Beaver County Transit Authority are facing financial problems, too, the Congress members wrote in their letter. Specific funding for those agencies was not included in the letter.
The letter said much of the operating funding provided to Pennsylvania transit agencies from the state is generated from state sales taxes and other funding mechanisms, all of which will be “significantly compromised by the broad economic impact of the COVID-19 outbreak, creating extensive financial burdens.”
The American Public Transportation Association already has requested $16 billion in direct financial aid to help the nation’s public transportation agencies offset lost revenue and to ensure reliable service, according to the letter.
“Funding shortfalls of this magnitude jeopardize public transportation service in every corner of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania,” said the letter.
The letter was sent by U.S. Reps. Dwight Evans (D-Philadelphia); Brendan Boyle (D-Philadelphia); Mary Gay Scanlon (D-Delaware County); Madeleine Dean (D-Montgomery County); Conor Lamb (D-Pittsburgh); Mike Doyle (D-Pittsburgh); Lloyd Smucker (R-Lancaster/York); Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Bucks County); Matt Cartwright (D-Lackawanna); Chrissy Houlahan (D-Berks/Chester); and U.S. Sen. Robert Casey (D).
The letter was sent to Speaker of the U.S. House Nancy Pelosi, (D-California); U.S. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, (R-California); U.S. Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, (R-Kentucky); and U.S. Sen. Minority Leader Charles Schumer, (D-New York).