NYC subways, other transit to get $769M more in pandemic aid

R179 subway cars operating on the J line. (MTA New York City Transit) (Courtesy of MTA New York City Transit)

As cities seek to fully reopen, the federal government is boosting funding to several public transit systems straining to win back riders after being crushed by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

President Joe Biden's administration will award $2.2 billion in coronavirus relief money from the American Rescue Plan to 35 financially strapped transit agencies in 18 states, including New York, officials said on Monday. 

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The money would be used to prop up day-to-day operations, including staffing and payroll as well as cleaning and sanitization to limit the spread of illness in public transportation. A federal mask mandate for public transit remains in effect until at least March 18.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority will receive an additional $769 million. In a statement, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul called it a victory.

"The MTA is the lifeblood of the New York City region, and investing in quality, reliable transit service is key to our economic recovery," Hochul said. "This additional $769 million in funding brings the total federal pandemic aid for the MTA to over $15 billion and is a victory for New Yorkers who rely on the system."

The MTA operates New York City's subways and buses, Metro-North Railroad, LIRR, as well as several bridges and tunnels. 

Another $1.5 billion in grants will be made available under Biden's signature infrastructure law — a total of $7.5 billion over five years — for transit agencies to purchase low- or no-emission buses made by U.S. workers and to build bus facilities. That's more than double the combined amount from the previous year.

Vice President Kamala Harris said the nation's transportation sector has reached a "turning point."

"We can clean our air and protect the health of our children," she said. "We can connect all of our communities with affordable, accessible and reliable public transportation. We can address the climate crisis and grow our economy at the same time."

Transit systems have already begun moving in the direction of electric buses. California has committed to all-electric bus fleets by 2040, as well as New York City and Boston. 

With The Associated Press.

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