MTA could miss out on federal aid in the latest coronavirus relief bill

Posted at 11:35 PM, May 20, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-20 23:40:38-04

BALTIMORE — The Central Maryland Transportation Alliance sent a letter to Maryland's Congressional Delegation urging them to ensure MTA will receive federal aid through the latest coronavirus relief bill.

Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the $3 trillion dollar relief package called the Heroes Act, which included about $15 billion for at least 14 different transit agencies. The bill is now moving through the Senate.

Brian O'Malley, the director of CMTA, said the Baltimore area won't receive any money unless the bill is changed.

He said right now, the money is only available for transit agencies in urbanized areas with a population of more than three million people.

“Places that have more Dallas, Detroit, [and] Houston would get the funding even though they have a smaller transit system than we do," said O'Malley.

O’Malley said the funds should be given to the transit agencies based on ridership, not population. He said if that was considered, MTA would be one of the largest transit agencies in the country and would be eligible for aid.

"MTA's ridership is not down as much as you've seen in some other parts of the country, it's down about 50 percent," he said. "It's less revenue coming into the fare box but still hospital workers, people trying to get to groceries stores are depending on it. More so in Baltimore than most cities around the country."

O'Malley also said about 40 percent of current MTA riders are essential workers.

MTA did receive money through the CARES Act, which was the first round of federal stimulus money. The money helped a lot, but the need for assistance is still there, he said.

"This is what pays the salaries of the people who are driving the buses who are driving the trains," O'Malley said detailing some of things the federal dollars could help with. Michael McMillan is the president of the union that represents MTA bus drivers.

He’s also calling on Congress to make sure MTA gets federal aid.

“You can just imagine like if the grocery store workers, cashiers, down to the stock person at those stores can’t get there, hey then you’re local grocery store won’t be able to open,” he said.

Due to the pandemic, MTA has been forced to cut services such as bus routes and the agency also limited ridership due to declining revenue.