Transit agencies across the country are preparing to receive $30.5 billion in stimulus funds in the coming weeks, thanks to an unprecedented organizing effort by a network of national transit advocates. Transportation Choices and partners across the country united around a #SaveTransit message, targeting congressional delegates with sign-on letters, digital days of action, town halls, forums and media. 

From Atlanta to Los Angeles, the transit investments from the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan will bolster communities by helping restore service cut during the pandemic, ensure jobs for transit workers, and provide essential mobility for essential workers and those who rely on public transportation. 

Here is a breakdown of transit stimulus that will flow to Washington:

  • Transit Relief for Urbanized Areas (to be distributed via Metropolitan Planning Organizations)
    • Seattle – $867,098,422
    • Spokane – $35,978,359
    • Bellingham – $21,226,320
    • Bremerton – $28,254,669
    • Kennewick-Pasco – $20,849,570
    • Longview, WA/OR – $2,223,167
    • Marysville – $6,120,738
    • Mount Vernon – $7,347,458
    • Olympia – $26,055,858
    • Walla Walla – $3,141,303
    • Wenatchee – $7,511,847
    • Yakima – $4,558,037
  • Rural Washington – $14,529,416
  • Paratransit – $540,861
  • Emergency Capital Investment Grants – $200 million for Lynnwood Link and Federal Way Link

How can this money be used?

The transit funds provided under the bill are available for operating expenses related to the response to COVID-19. The majority of the emergency funds can be used for payroll and operations.  The bill also provides $2.21 billion for operating assistance grants to agencies that, because of the pandemic, require additional assistance for operations, personnel, cleaning, sanitization, and debt service payments incurred to maintain operations and avoid layoffs and furloughs. 

The American Rescue Plan also includes a $1.25 billion set aside for projects with Full Funding Grant Agreements who received federal payments in the last two fiscal years, including Lynnwood Link and Federal Way Link.  Under this provision, Sound Transit can expect to receive about $200 million.

The American Public Transportation Association found in an independent economic analysis that $39.3 billion is the amount needed to avoid service cuts and layoffs through summer 2023. Our partners at Transportation for America estimate that the $30 billion provided in the American Rescue Plan will prevent cuts through 2022. In the meantime, we’ll keep fighting for more funding!

Sea change on the Hill

Beyond the benefits of direct stimulus dollars, the national organizing effort has created a fundamental shift in transit advocacy in Washington, D.C. Partners on the Hill called it an “earthshaking change” from the status quo. While transit advocacy has typically included environmental and labor perspectives, this year’s advocacy highlighted rider experiences and impacts to essential workers and communities. In addition, the three stimulus package votes of the last year have included general transit operations funding, which sets a new precedent for transportation funding in D.C. 

We are thrilled to have had the opportunity to organize alongside advocates across the country for the support agencies in Washington need. However, though we are celebrating now, we know that this is one-time injection of funds. We must continue to fight for sustainable, progressive and adequate funding for transit, at the federal level and at home in Washington.

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