Aug 28, 2020 - Economy & Business

Ray LaHood predicts bipartisan push to aid public transit

Ina Fried and Ray LaHood
Axios' Ina Fried (l) and former Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

Former Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said he expects a bipartisan push in Congress to shore up public transportation during the coronavirus pandemic, as it did for the airlines earlier this year and is under pressure to do again.

The state of play: During an Axios virtual event, LaHood underscored that Americans are using cars, rather than public transit, during COVID-19 pandemic. Public transportation as a result has subsequently seen a massive drop in ridership and revenue along with it.

  • LaHood said "places like Chicago, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, Detroit where they have huge transit, and people really rely on it to get to their workplace, and in many instances to get to the grocery store or doctor's appointment" will be the most in-need.
  • "These transit systems are hurting very, very badly for the fact that they're lacking in farebox resources, they're going to need the help of the federal government," he added.

What to watch: "I believe that this will be an issue that will be taken care of in the next economic stimulus and will be brought forward by members of Congress from all over the country...," Lahood said.

  • "I think most members of Congress recognize that nurses and health care workers and people that have to go to work every day to take care of the patients and the victims of [COVID-19] need good transportation."

LaHood added that Congress should be investing first in traditional forms of transportation, saying that issues regarding bike-shares and ride-shares can be put on the back-burner.

  • "When Congress does help the airlines again, there ought to be help for transit agencies."

Driving the news: U.S. passenger airlines received $25 billion in March to offset lost revenue from lack of travel, especially business travel. The airlines are threatening to furlough close to 50,000 employees this fall, as Congress considers another stimulus package.

Watch the event.

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