Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with Axios AM/PM. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on the day's biggest business stories

Subscribe to Axios Closer for insights into the day’s business news and trends and why they matter

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Stay on top of the latest market trends

Subscribe to Axios Markets for the latest market trends and economic insights. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sports news worthy of your time

Binge on the stats and stories that drive the sports world with Axios Sports. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tech news worthy of your time

Get our smart take on technology from the Valley and D.C. with Axios Login. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Get the inside stories

Get an insider's guide to the new White House with Axios Sneak Peek. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Denver news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Des Moines news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Twin Cities news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Tampa Bay news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Charlotte news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Nashville news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Nashville newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Columbus news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Columbus newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Dallas news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Dallas newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sign up for Axios NW Arkansas

Stay up-to-date on the most important and interesting stories affecting NW Arkansas, authored by local reporters

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Cities have been trying to persuade residents to return to buses and trains, as transit systems face a financial challenge of a lifetime in the middle of the pandemic. Now state officials are pleading for Washington to act on a stimulus that would help the biggest mass transit systems.

Why it matters: As more people stay put, transit systems are seeing lower levels of fares and tax revenues — blowing a hole in budgets across the country.

Driving the news: "The MTA desperately needs an influx of federal funds or unheard of service cuts and workforce reductions will happen," said New York state's comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said this week.

  • It's the latest renewed call for additional aid, as funds allocated to transit systems in the federal bill passed in March dry up. Congress remains deadlocked over another stimulus.
  • Massachusetts is threatening service cuts for its Boston-area transit system, while officials there nudged Congress last month to step-in to help.
  • The Washington, D.C. Metro system is mulling employee cuts and shortened hours "as hopes for a coronavirus relief bill dim," the Washington Post reported.

Between the lines: The MTA is the poster child for struggling transit systems. It's the largest in the country and saddled with the most debt: $35.4 billion, as of the end of last year.

  • That figure is projected to surge.

The state of play: Fares were already on the decline before the pandemic — a setback for transit systems in New York, San Francisco and Chicago, which are among the most reliant on ridership for funds, according to Moody’s.

  • Direct taxes make up the primary source of funding for other transit systems.

There is another option: a facility set up by the Federal Reserve that allows mass transit systems to borrow money. But they have largely resisted this route.

  • The MTA is the only transit agency that's taken advantage of it.
  • Fed officials have defended the facility as a last-resort option, particularly when it's cheaper to borrow from the public markets.
  • MTA officials have said that they will draw on the facility again before the program ends Dec. 31.

Yes, but: Transit analysts warn that borrowing money may help with cash now, but it will make transit's financial scenarios that much more dire down the line.

  • Baye Larson, a transit analyst at Moody's, compared it to "paying rent with your credit card."
  • The MTA is allowed by law to borrow up to $10 billion. If it did that, one quarter of every dollar the transit system gets would go toward paying down that debt.

What they're saying: "The pandemic has simply wiped out farebox revenue and that won't be replaced by future ridership,” Patrick Luby, a senior municipal strategist at CreditSights, tells Axios.

  • “Borrowing, whether it's from the Fed or anywhere else, to make up for revenues that will never come back just adds to the future debt burden."

Go deeper

Federal Reserve expands lending program for small businesses

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell at a news conference in 2019. Photo: Eric Baradat/AFP via Getty Images

The Federal Reserve said on Friday it would again lower the minimum loan size for its pandemic-era small business program.

Details: Businesses and nonprofits will be able to borrow a minimum of $100,000 from the facility, down from $250,000 — a move that might attract smaller businesses that don't need as hefty of a loan. Since the program launched earlier this year, the minimum loan size has been reduced twice.

Oct 30, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Transportation companies help voters get to the polls

Photo: Wang Ying/Xinhua via Getty Images

Ride-hailing companies and other tech mobility firms are trying to make sure all eligible citizens have an opportunity to vote.

Why it matters: A 2016 Harvard study found 14% of eligible voters cited transportation as a barrier to casting their ballot.

22 mins ago - Health

Aduhelm is bombing

The average list price of Aduhelm is roughly $4,300 per monthly infusion. Photo: Biogen

Biogen sold $300,000 worth of Aduhelm in the third quarter, well below Wall Street's expectations, which prompted analysts at Raymond James to call the Alzheimer's drug "potentially the worst drug launch of all time" amid Biogen's "persistent hyperbole about the drug's purported benefits."

The big picture: Aduhelm's controversial approval and high price tag have shaped the market reaction. Health insurers are hesitant to cover Aduhelm until Medicare makes a decision next year, and doctors aren't embracing the drug either.