ATLANTA — MARTA has joined other large transit agencies around the country in asking Congress for at least $16 billion to help offset the impact of coronavirus on its bottom line.
Officials with the agency cite both a huge decline in ridership and the rising cost of cleaning supplies.
“Ridership is down significantly, by 40% to 60%,” MARTA General Manager and CEO Jeff Parker said. “Businesses are closed, and people are staying home and not spending money. With decreased farebox and sales tax revenue, we will be unable to sustain full bus, rail and paratransit service for those customers who rely on us.”
During the Great Recession just more than a decade ago, MARTA was forced to eliminate more than half of its bus service, and train arrivals grew to 30 minutes apart at certain times of day.
“MARTA is strongly urging Congress to provide additional money for immediate operational and cleaning assistance to ensure we can keep providing this essential service,” Parker said.
MARTA and the other transit systems will have to get in line for federal assistance. Gov. Brian Kemp and 21 other governors sent a letter to congressional leaders on Monday asking for block grants to help states cover the costs of dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.
MARTA has kept bus and rail service going during the crisis, aware that some low-income riders have no other means of transportation to jobs, grocery stores, medical services and child care. The agency has been thoroughly cleaning and sanitizing transit vehicles and encouraging passengers to maintain a distance of at least six feet from others to reduce the spread of the virus.