Bus ridership is way down, leading to budget shortfalls for transit agencies. (Photo by Jeenah Moon/Getty Images)

Public transportation agencies are getting squeezed by higher costs and lower revenues because of the pandemic, and warning they'll have to furlough employees or cut service without more government assistance.

The big picture: The funding squeeze is not just a big city problem. Transportation agencies in rural areas are suffering, too. Without a way for people to get to their jobs, shopping and schools, local economies can't recover.

What they're saying: Transit agencies are seeking $32 billion in federal aid to keep buses and trains running, on top of the $25 billion they already received in March under the initial CARES Act.

  • "This pandemic is more protracted than anyone expected, and this comeback will be longer as well, which is why we need that bridge," said Paul P. Skoutelas, president and CEO of the American Public Transportation Association.
  • It could be years before transit agencies recover, said Andrew C. Aiello, general manager of the Transit Authority of Northern Kentucky, where ridership is down 50%.
  • "Take transportation away and see what happens to the base economy. You’re not going to like it," CEO of Phoenix's Valley Metro system Scott Smith said.

Driving the news: Transportation was left out of the latest $1 trillion stimulus bill proposed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and other GOP leaders this week.

Between the lines: Transit agencies in big cities like Chicago and Houston and rural communities like Salinas, Calif., report a double-whammy is straining their finances:

  • Revenues from fare collections and local sales taxes have collapsed because of lower ridership and the virus' economic impact.
  • Meanwhile, operating costs are up because of extra cleaning and other measures needed to keep employees and passengers safe.

The bottom line: Despite the budget issues, most transit agencies are running close to normal schedules to help essential workers and those who don't have other options get where they need to go during the pandemic.

Go deeper

McConnell announces Senate will adjourn until Sept. 8

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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) announced Thursday that the Senate will not hold any more votes until Sept. 8, though members will remain on 24-hour notice in case a coronavirus stimulus deal is reached.

Why it matters: With millions of Americans unemployed, the Trump administration and Democrats remain hopelessly deadlocked and unlikely to reach a deal any time soon.

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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 9 p.m. ET: 20,755,406 — Total deaths: 752,225— Total recoveries: 12,917,934Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 9 p.m. ET: 5,246,760 — Total deaths: 167,052 — Total recoveries: 1,774,648 — Total tests: 64,831,306Map.
  3. Politics: House Democrats to investigate scientist leading "Operation Warp Speed" vaccine projectMcConnell announces Senate will not hold votes until Sept. 8 unless stimulus deal is reached.
  4. 2020: Biden calls for 3-month national mask mandateBiden and Harris to receive coronavirus briefings 4 times a week.
  5. States: Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp to drop lawsuit over Atlanta's mask mandate.
  6. Business: Why the CARES Act makes 2020 the best year for companies to lose money.
  7. Public health: Fauci's guidance on pre-vaccine coronavirus treatments Cases are falling, but don't get too comfortable.

Trump says he intends to give RNC speech on White House lawn

President Trump speaking to reporters on South Lawn in July. Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images

President Trump told the New York Post on Thursday that he plans to deliver his Republican National Convention speech from the White House lawn, despite bipartisan criticism of the optics and legality of the location.

Why it matters: Previous presidents avoided blurring staged campaign-style events — like party conventions — with official business of governing on the White House premises, per Politico.