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Welcome to the Round-up

Our bi-weekly newsletter to keep up with T4America

A special note from our director

To our supporters and members,

Almost overnight, the COVID-19 pandemic has transformed our work and all of our lives. As part of Smart Growth America, we’ve taken steps to ensure the health and safety of our team and halt the spread of the virus by physically closing our offices. Yet the work will go on (virtually) for Transportation for America—and will perhaps become even more important in the days ahead.

Many parts of our economy will be affected, but public transportation is facing massive economic challenges without action from Congress (take action). It is essential that transit continue to operate as many rely on it to get food and medical care. And we will need transit to get back up to full strength quickly when it is time to get back to business (hopefully soon).

We are moving quickly to organize advocates and local leaders (including a letter signed by over 200 elected officials and organizations in only 24 hours) to press on Congress and keep communities from facing the same kind of devastating transit service cuts, fare increases, and job layoffs that we saw a decade ago during the Great Recession. Like a decade ago, there will certainly be calls for an infrastructure economic stimulus at some point, but transit needs operating funds to keep its current system operating, too—and they need it now.

We learned a lot 10 years ago that should be applied during the difficult days ahead and we will continue to need your support. We will be working hard to ensure that any economic stimulus decisions do the most to lift the economy, connect people to jobs, prioritize repair, and make our cities and towns great places to live and work.

We hope that you and your families and friends stay safe in the days ahead.

Beth Osborne


Action you can take

As millions follow their elected leaders’ directions and stay home from work and school, public transportation ridership is plummeting. Combined with increased costs for additional cleaning and with the economy slowing down quickly, transit is facing an economic apocalypse—unless Congress decides to make it a priority in their proposed economic stimulus.

We need you to take action. Tell your members of Congress to support emergency financial assistance for transit agencies.

Three things we're thinking

(1) Coronavirus will have huge impacts on transit systems—here’s how Congress should help: Congress and the president are considering ways to provide much-needed boosts to the economy due to the impacts of the novel coronavirus. But simply pouring money into the existing transportation program as a whole will fail to help the people who rely on transit to access the health care system and will have impacts on transit service that will last for years to come. Read more on our blog > >

(2) Dear governor, our congestion “solutions” have failed: Governors and legislators in state houses across the country have a major role to play in ending the congestion con and spending our money on projects that will actually improve our lives—rather than just temporarily shortening some commutes by 30 seconds until the congestion returns. Help us make that a reality by sending your local officials a message—and check out our webinar on the Congestion Con from earlier this week. Read more about this on our blog >>

(3) What would a Green New Deal for transportation look like? Current federal transportation policy is diametrically opposed to addressing climate change. The Green New Deal framework released a year ago mostly left that fact unchanged. But a new report that T4America contributed to fills in those gaps and gives transportation policy the same visionary makeover to show what we could achieve if our transportation and climate goals were aligned. Read more on our blog > >

Three things we're reading

(1) Coronavirus is taking a big bite out of public transportation ridership in the US (The Verge): Transit ridership is plummeting all over the country as people limit their movement to slow down the spread of COVID-19—which is a good thing. Washington, DC’s transit agency rightfully praised Washingtonians for riding less this week. But revenue from ridership makes up a huge chunk of agencies’ budgets and falling ridership makes emergency funding for transit even more critical. The same day they thanked riders for staying home as asked, Metro also sent a letter to their congressional delegation projecting a $52 million per month deficit. Expect many more stories like this.

(2) A surge in biking to avoid crowded trains in NYC (New York Times): One upside of the recommended social distancing is that more people are biking. New York’s bikeshare system, Citibike, experienced a 60 percent increase in ridership this month, and the city is considering installing temporary bike lanes to meet demand. (Want to join the growing tide of bike riders? Here are some great tips on how to bike safely in spaces where cars are prioritized.) 

(3) Covid-19: What if transit runs out of money? (Human Transit): Transit guru Jarrett Walker does a great job explaining the repercussions of falling ridership due to COVID-19 for transit agencies. If transit agencies continue to lose revenue, they’ll have to cut service, which can keep ridership low even after the pandemic subsides. “Remember, the riders you drive away due to service cuts will stay gone until the service improves again, while those who are just working from home will come back post-crisis if the service is still there,” writes Walker.

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