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Federal transit relief: $371 million to metro Atlanta, $448 million total statewide

Federal funding totaling $448 million is to help MARTA and other Georgia transit agencies weather the economic losses related to the coronavirus. Credit: Kelly Jordan

By David Pendered

Metro Atlanta transit agencies are to receive $371 million from the federal coronavirus aid package. It’s part of a total package of $448 million in federal transit assistance headed to Georgia to help offset the economic losses related to response to the cornoavirus, according to the legislation.

Federal funding totaling $448 million is to help MARTA and other Georgia transit agencies weather the economic losses related to the coronavirus. Credit: Kelly Jordan

The money is included in the $25 billion aid package signed into law by President Trump on March 27. Details of funding for local transit entities were made available through documents released April 2 by the Federal Transit Administration.

MARTA may not be the only recipient of funding heading to metro Atlanta. Other potential recipients include transit systems operated by Gwinnett and Cobb counties, and the state’s Xpress bus service. The document cites only “Atlanta” as the urbanized area to receive money and observes that, “designated recipients shall continue to sub-allocate funds … based on a locally determined process.”

The $25 billion is the exact amount requested in a March 23 letter addressed to congressional leaders. MARTA General Manage/CEO Jeffrey Parker and the heads of nine other urban transit systems are listed as signatories. Federal Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said in a statement the money will enable the continued operation of transit service.

“This historic $25 billion in grant funding will ensure our nation’s public transportation systems can continue to provide services to the millions of Americans who depend on them,” Chao said.

The funding is provided through the measure titled, Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act). A copy of the bill – including funding highlights – is available from congress.gov.

The CARE Act provided almost three times the appropriations for each of these programs, compared to the funding provided in the federal fiscal year budget that ends Sept. 30 according to a statement by APTA, the American Public Transportation Association. MARTA is a member of APTA, an organization of transit agencies.

The money is eligible to cover expenses incurred, or to be incurred, to respond to COVID-19 beginning Jan. 20. According to APTA’s report, the money is intended to reimburse transit agencies for operating costs to continue operations, and to compensate for revenue lost for causes related to the coronavirus.

Eligible expenses include the purchase of personal protective equipment, and paid administrative leave for transit operators sent home because of reduction in service, according to APTA.

This is a snapshot of the funding:

  • Atlanta: $370,947,760;
  • Augusta-Richmond County (Ga., S.C.): $8,817,549 million, to include – Georgia, $6,452,633 million, South Carolina, $2,364,916 million, to include –
  • Chattanooga (Tenn., Ga): $11,936,761, to include – Tenn., $9,593,528, Ga.,$2,343,233;
  • Columbus (Ga., Ala.): $9,195,915, to include Ga. $6,987,789, Ala., $2,208,126;
  • Savannah: $10,799,534.

In addition, Georgia’s governor received a total of $49,685,668 to distribute among smaller transit entities. The recipients listed in the legislation are:

  • Albany: $3,896,127;
  • Athens-Clarke County: $9,067,731;
  • Brunswick: $1,984,936;
  • Cartersville: $2,673,035;
  • Dalton: $3,178,138;
  • Gainesville: $5,588,480;
  • Hinesville: $2,196,672
  • Macon: $6,451,295;
  • Rome: $5,456,603;
  • Valdosta: $3,186,716;
  • Warner Robins: 6,005,935.

The legislation distributed the money among transit agencies across the country on a proportional basis. Four program areas are cited: urbanized area grants; rural area grants; state of good repair grants; and growing/high density formula grants.

“We know that many of our nation’s public transportation systems are facing extraordinary challenges and these funds will go a long way to assisting our transit industry partners in battling COVID-19,” FTA Acting Administrator K. Jane Williams said in a statement. “These federal funds will support operating assistance to transit agencies, including those in large urban areas as well as pay transit workers across the country not working because of the public health emergency.”


David Pendered

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow.


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