COVID-19

COVID-19 could stress mass transit budgets

Justin Ho Mar 16, 2020
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Ridership is down during the coronavirus. Johannes Eisele/AFP via Getty Images
COVID-19

COVID-19 could stress mass transit budgets

Justin Ho Mar 16, 2020
Ridership is down during the coronavirus. Johannes Eisele/AFP via Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
COPY

As companies encourage employees to work from home, big cities across the country are reporting severe drops in public transit ridership.

One day last week, a million fewer New Yorkers rode the subway compared to a year ago, a 20% drop. If it keeps up, mass transit systems across the country could be facing budget crises.

Depending on the city, fares provide anywhere from 15% to 50% of a transit system’s income.

Ben Fried at the nonprofit TransitCenter said public transit budgets are typically balanced on a knife’s edge.

“Any sort of shock threatens to tip them into the red, and that can result in service cuts,” Fried said. Also, less frequent repairs. Buses might break down more often.

“It is something that will have to be accounted for in rescue packages as part of the coronavirus response,” he said.

The San Francisco Bay Area’s transit system says it’s losing $500,000 a day in lost fares.

Baruch Feigenbaum, assistant director of Transportation Policy at the Reason Foundation, said the federal government did step in after 9/11 and the 2008 financial crisis.

“You also had some states and some cities stepping up and spending more money,” he said. “Or in fact just borrowing money.”

Still, he said, government aid can only help so much for systems that have already experienced years of declining ridership. 

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

Millions of Americans are unemployed, but businesses say they are having trouble hiring. Why?

This economic crisis is unusual compared to traditional recessions, according to Daniel Zhao, senior economist with Glassdoor. “Many workers are still sitting out of the labor force because of health concerns or child care needs, and that makes it tough to find workers regardless of what you’re doing with wages or benefits,” Zhao said. “An extra dollar an hour isn’t going to make a cashier with preexisting conditions feel that it’s safe to return to work.” This can be seen in the restaurant industry: Some workers have quit or are reluctant to apply because of COVID-19 concerns, low pay, meager benefits and the stress that comes with a fast-paced, demanding job. Restaurants have been willing to offer signing bonuses and temporary wage increases. One McDonald’s is even paying people $50 just to interview.

Could waiving patents increase the global supply of COVID-19 vaccines?

India and South Africa have introduced a proposal to temporarily suspend patents on COVID-19 vaccines. Backers of the plan say it would increase the supply of vaccines around the world by allowing more countries to produce them. Skeptics say it’s not that simple. There’s now enough supply in the U.S that any adult who wants a shot should be able to get one soon. That reality is years away for most other countries. More than 100 countries have backed the proposal to temporarily waive COVID-19 vaccine patents. The U.S isn’t one of them, but the White House has said it’s considering the idea.

Can businesses deny you entry if you don’t have a vaccine passport?

As more Americans get vaccinated against COVID-19 and the economy begins reopening, some businesses are requiring proof of vaccination to enter their premises. The concept of a vaccine passport has raised ethical questions about data privacy and potential discrimination against the unvaccinated. However, legal experts say businesses have the right to deny entrance to those who can’t show proof.

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