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Federal Relief Proposals Aren’t Enough to Thwart Some of the Worst Transit Cuts

As Congress debates proposals to give public transit half of what was sought, officials warn of cuts that would gut regional economies.

A transit officer is seen at a closed Federal Triangle Station in Washington, DC. The region’s public transit agency released a plan to close 19 stations, among other cuts, unless federal aid provides some financial relief. 

A transit officer is seen at a closed Federal Triangle Station in Washington, DC. The region’s public transit agency released a plan to close 19 stations, among other cuts, unless federal aid provides some financial relief. 

Photographer: Matt McClain/The Washington Post via Getty Images

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Officials at some of the largest public transit systems in the U.S. say that sweeping cuts to service and staffing are in store if a second federal pandemic relief package does not arrive soon. And the transit aid proposals currently being considered in Congress may not be enough to prevent drastic changes that would be difficult to reverse in several big cities, leaders and advocates say. 

That includes in Congress’s own backyard, where staffers, interns, Capitol Hill service workers and a tiny handful of lawmakers are normally some of the most reliable users of the Washington, D.C., Metro. Now rail ridership on the second-most-used rail transit network in the U.S. is down nearly 90%, and WMATA faces an approximate $500 million budget gap starting in FY 2022.