Ridership on San Diego’s Public Transit System is way down since COVID-19 rode into the county. Meanwhile, funding is way up for the local transit agency, and that is due to the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
Earlier this week, President Donald Trump sent a message on Twitter touting his administration’s contribution of $219.9 million to the San Diego Metropolitan Transit System (MTS) through the government relief fund.
The money is much needed, says Metropolitan Transit System (MTS) spokesperson Rob Schupp.
Last week, an estimated 100,000 people hopped on MTS busses or boarded MTS trolleys, that’s approximately 200,000 less than normal ridership in non-COVID-19 times.
“The pandemic has had a huge impact on our ridership,” said Schupp. “We’re down about 70 percent and that’s incredible and completely unprecedented.”
MTS relies heavily on transit fares to pay for operating expenses. Approximately one-third of its $305 million annual budget is paid for by fare revenues. Another large contributor to the transit agency’s budget; sales tax, which has also drastically decreased since the onslaught of the coronavirus in San Diego County.
But the $219.9 million boost is sure to keep the transit agency in good financial standing. Some of that money has already gone to pay for the $2.8 million in bonuses that MTS gave to workers last month.
“It took away a lot of our worries about how we’re going to operate in the future,” added Schupp. “I think for our employees it was really great news because it meant that we didn’t have to make any layoffs.”
But not all MTS riders were as enthusiastic about the government payout,
“I’m just a little suspicious of it,” said rider Christopher Silva during a June 12 interview. “It just seems like a lot of people take the trolley and I wonder why they would need that specifically for the coronavirus. It seems a little, sort of unnecessary.”
As to how the transit agency plans to spend the money, Schupp says a large part of the money will pay down the deficit from fewer riders. Schupp estimates the deficit for this year will be approximately $30 million. Next year, he said that number will be closer to $100 million.”