As part of the $2.2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act signed by President Trump on March 27, the federal government has agreed to bail out local public transportation across the country for expenses related to the preparation for and response to COVID-19.
“This historic $25 billion in grant funding will ensure our nation’s public transportation systems can continue to provide services to the millions of Americans who depend on them,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao in a press release on April 2.
Even before the COVID-19 crisis, public transportation ridership had been declining across the country in recent years, according to the American Public Transportation Association. The Dallas and Fort Worth transit systems are no exception.
The $318 million in grant money guaranteed to the DFW area is to reimburse expenses that occurred after January 20, 2020.
According to FTA’s website, capital, operating, and other expenses are eligible for reimbursement. Operating expenses include driver salaries, fuel, personal protective equipment, and cleaning supplies. It also includes administrative leave costs for reductions in force or quarantined employees.
Six entities will directly receive a share of the $318 million FTA grant: Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART), Trinity Metro (Fort Worth), Northeast Transportation Services (NETS), and the cities of Grand Prairie, Mesquite, and Arlington.
The Denton/Lewisville urban area will receive a grant of $23 million.
While local shelter-in-place orders have been in place, DART has acknowledged lower ridership on its routes. Trinity Metro has offered free fares to its users.
The North Central Texas Council of Governments (NCTCOG) will distribute the share of an extra $12 million based on actual expenses to five other smaller transit entities: Community Transit Services in Ellis and Navarro Counties, Span, Inc. in northwest Dallas County and Denton County, STAR Transit, city and county Transportation in Johnson County, and Public Transit Services in Palo Pinto and Parker Counties.
The specific amounts designated to each of these will be determined before the next meeting of the Regional Transportation Council of NCTCOG in May.
The Council approved the grants in a matter of minutes as part of its April consent agenda.
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Kim Roberts is a regional reporter for the Texan in the DFW metroplex area where she has lived for over twenty years. She has a Juris Doctor from Baylor University Law School and a Bachelor's in government from Angelo State University. In her free time, Kim home schools her daughter and coaches high school extemporaneous speaking and apologetics. She has been happily married to her husband for 23 years, has three wonderful children, and two dogs.