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So Far, Stimulus Is Leaving Mass Transit Behind

Ridership has dropped off steeply because of the virus, but advocates say the industry’s survival is crucial to fighting climate change.

A commuter wears a protective face mask while riding on a subway train in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Monday, March 16, 2020. 

A commuter wears a protective face mask while riding on a subway train in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Monday, March 16, 2020. 

Photographer: Sarah Silbiger/Bloomberg
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As the U.S. government signals its willingness to come to the aid of airline and cruise industries wounded by the novel coronavirus, another transportation sector is desperate to signal its distress to federal lawmakers. And the case for support rests, in part, on climate change.

Mass-transit systems across the country are taking a violent financial hit from Covid-19. That’s because these systems are largely dependent on fees from riders which are, of course, way down. New York City’s Metropolitan Transit Authority, the nation’s largest public transit system, reports that ridership fell 60% on subways and as much as 90% on commuter trains. Washington, D.C. says its mass transit lost 100,000 riders in the course of a week. In San Francisco, rail ridership on Bay Area Rapid Transit was also down 90% as of Tuesday.