The U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Transit Administration awarded BART a $330.8 million COVID-19 relief grant Thursday under the American Rescue Plan.
The grant is intended to assist BART’s maintenance of service levels and staffing in future fiscal years as ridership slowly returns to pre-pandemic numbers, according to BART spokesperson Anna Duckworth in an email. During the pandemic, transit systems have played a “crucial role” in getting Americans to their jobs and vaccination appointments, according to a DOT press release, which is part of the reason for the grant.
BART also received $377 million in previous funding from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, or CARES Act. Additionally, BART was allocated $103.7 million and $274 million in the first and second batches of the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act, respectively.
Duckworth added BART is also using $368 million in emergency funding, including funding from the American Rescue Plan and the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act, to balance its annual budget.
“BART continues to rely on emergency federal support in the wake of the pandemic’s impact on ridership,” Duckworth noted in the email.
The funds for BART are part of more than $30 billion allocated to public transportation within the American Rescue Plan, the press release added.
The plan further allocates $2.2 billion for future pandemic relief transit needs, which will be granted later this year, according to the press release.
Darrell Owens, vice president of the East Bay Transit Riders Union, said in an email that while the funds are important, they are not “well targeted.”
Specifically, Owens noted that while funding BART is necessary, the East Bay’s bus systems also need funding.
Owens added one issue that comes with federal transit funding is that it is “heavily oriented” toward “capital projects” such as new construction. At the same time, he said, operational costs such as those for buses and payment for day-to-day drivers are not funded by the federal government.
He also hopes additional bus transit funding will come soon. Restoring dwindling service and keeping transit fares as low as possible or free of charge are the East Bay Transit Riders Union’s “priority number 1,” Owens said.
“AC Transit can roll out nicer, zero emission buses while at the same time lose lines in Berkeley on the weekends,” Owens said in the email.“One time funding is inferior to consistent operational funding.”