Jeramey Jannene

Milwaukee Area Receives $62 Million in COVID-19 Mass Transit Aid

MCTS will receive over $50 million from allocation

By - Apr 17th, 2020 03:35 pm
Essential trips only on MCTS buses. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Essential trips only on MCTS buses. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

The Federal Transit Administration announced $25 billion in mass transit grants Friday as systems across the country have been decimated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Over $53 million dollars of that allocation could end supporting the Milwaukee County Transit System (MCTS).

MCTS has seen its ridership fall by over 70 percent according to Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele, but still has a nearly full fleet of buses on the road with no revenue coming in.

The system eliminated fares on March 28th to allow riders to board using the rear door and protect drivers. The county instituted a 10-rider per-bus maximum last week to protect riders, which required the system to restore a full schedule to most of its routes.

The federal support comes from the $2.1 trillion CARES Act stimulus package.

Based on a federal funding formula that provides for annual aid allocations, the four-county Milwaukee area will receive $62.36 million from the CARES Act.

“We know that many of our nation’s public transportation systems are facing extraordinary challenges and these funds will go a long way to assisting our transit industry partners in battling COVID-19,” said FTA Acting Administrator K. Jane Williams. “These federal funds will support operating assistance to transit agencies, including those in large urban areas as well as pay transit workers across the country not working because of the public health emergency.”

The funds will be divided between Milwaukee, Waukesha, Ozaukee and Washington counties said Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission (SEWRPC) Executive Director Kevin Muhs. The metropolitan planning organization oversees the funding allocations for the region.

“We are still determining how to split the money up,” he told Urban Milwaukee in an interview. The funds are awarded by the federal government and divided by the transit systems based on the amount of service provided by each entity.

Based on a February SEWRPC report on how the annual federal allocation was divided in 2020, MCTS received almost 91 percent of the $21.5 million allocated to the region. The Milwaukee County entity will see more under the stimulus package.

MCTS officials told Urban Milwaukee they anticipate receiving at least 85 percent ($53 million) of the CARES Act allocation.

MCTS has a $159.9 million budget in 2020. It was projected to recover 22.8 percent of its fixed-route costs from rider fares.

The funds support fixed-route, paratransit and shared-ride taxi systems operated in each of the counties.

Will The Hop, Milwaukee’s streetcar system, get any of the funds? Muhs said that is still being discussed. The City of Milwaukee was scheduled to start getting federal aid through the allocation program in 2021.

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Categories: Health, Transportation

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