RNC week: Axios' chief technology correspondent Ina Fried hosted a conversation on the future of how people get around in the era of COVID-19, featuring former Secretary of Transportation and co-chair of Building America's Future Ray LaHood, Commissioner of the Chicago Department of Transportation Gia Biagi and League of Cities CEO Clarence Anthony.

Ray LaHood discussed how the efforts to create more sustainable public transit have stalled with COVID-19, and called on the federal government to financially support existing transit systems.

  • On the need for the financial support: "Just as the federal government stepped up for the airlines...there will have to be a huge influx of federal resources in order to sustain transit systems until they can get back to some sort of sort of normalcy in terms of ridership."

Gia Biagi highlighted how COVID-19 has shifted people's mindset about what city streets can look like with fewer cars, and unpacked the existing inequities in Chicago's public transportation system.

  • How micromobility can supplement existing transit in Chicago: "What we're trying to do is connect the dots with micromobility and investments in the actual infrastructure. [Where we're seeing a need] also overlaps where we've seen the effects of structural racism and disinvestment that are fundamentally policy choices that have been made for many years."

Clarence Anthony discussed transit equity in cities, and the need for federal and state support to ensure that people have equal access to public transportation.

  • "What is our role as city leaders? It is to make sure that the equity is brought into the policy and the process and that we demand that all of those services — like ride share and public services — are brought to all communities in an equal way."

Axios VP of Events Kristin Burkhalter hosted a View from the Top segment with Lyft Chief Policy Officer Anthony Foxx, and discussed Lyft's role in the transportation ecosystem and how they're contributing to racial justice efforts.

  • On Lyft's relationship to public transit: "We feel like we're part of the ecosystem. We've never wanted to overtake public transit because we believe public transit is an essential service that only the public can do."

Thank you Lyft for sponsoring this event.

Go deeper

Ray LaHood predicts bipartisan push to aid public transit

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.

Chicago official: COVID-19 allows for transit innovation

Axios' Ina Fried (l) and Chicago Transportation Commissioner Gia Biagi. Photo: Axios

The lull in transit use during COVID-19 has given officials room to experiment with public transportation for all communities, Chicago's transportation commissioner, Gia Biagi, said at an Axios event on Friday.

The big picture: Americans have shied away from public transportation during the coronavirus pandemic. But Biagi argues that declines in ridership provide a window to innovation that wouldn't otherwise be available.

National League of Cities: Airline cuts to small-town routes is a "devastation"

Axios' Ina Fried (l) and National League of Cities CEO Clarence Anthony. Photo: Axios

Airlines service cuts to small cities could dramatically affect connectivity for Americans, National League of Cities CEO and Executive Director Clarence Anthony said during an Axios virtual event on Friday. "It is a devastation,' he said.

What's happening: American Airlines last week announced plans to suspend service to 15 small cities once federal coronavirus aid for airlines runs out in October, per CNBC. American was the only airline servicing nine of the affected airports.