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Drone footage of downtown Newark during the coronavirus pandemic.

NorthJersey.com

New Jersey’s public transportation systems are eligible to receive up to $1.75 billion in CARES Act funds through the Federal Transit Administration.

That represents about 7% of the $25 billion in federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security funding designated to assist transit agencies experiencing drastically low ridership, increased protective equipment costs and leave expenses for sick employees. New Jersey is home to the largest statewide transportation system in the country, NJ Transit.

“We know that many of our nation’s public transportation systems are facing extraordinary challenges and these funds will go a long way to assisting our transit industry partners in battling COVID-19,” K. Jane Williams, FTA acting administrator, said in an announcement. “These federal funds will support operating assistance to transit agencies, including those in large urban areas, as well as pay transit workers across the country not working because of the public health emergency.”

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The next step will require states eligible for these funds to determine how much each transit agency, including NJ Transit and the Port Authority, which runs PATH, will be allocated. According to letters sent to U.S. lawmakers last month, NJ Transit requested $1.25 billion and the Port Authority said it expected to see $1.9 billion in revenue losses and extra expenses.

Once those amounts are determined, agencies will send in grant applications for different costs or expenses, which have to be approved by the FTA and U.S. Department of Labor, and then seek reimbursement. These reimbursement requests include costs incurred after Jan. 1, 2020, for things like hand sanitizer or other cleaning products, money spent on salaries for cleaners, leave of absences for sick employees and fare box revenue deficits.

Thirty-two NJ Transit employees and 23 Port Authority employees have tested positive for coronavirus, the agencies said.

Fares account for about 40% of NJ Transit’s revenue, which in any given month is around $82.8 million, based on an average of fare box revenue from the last eight months starting in February. These days, however, systemwide ridership is down about 90%. 

The Port Authority does not depend on taxpayer money to operate, relying on usage fees, fares and rentals, in large part, for its revenue streams. After it experienced record-breaking growth recently, the rates of use and volume were down systemwide at its ports, airports, crossings, and PATH, officials said at last month’s board meeting.

The funding formulas are determined, in part, based on urbanized areas and population density in different regions. Here’s the breakdown:

  • Areas with 1 million+ population: $1,599,802,132.
  • Areas with populations between 200,000 and 1 million: $123,030,612.
  • Areas with populations between 50,000 and 199,999: $16,043,208.
  • Rural areas: $13,321,545.
  • Total: $1,752,197,497.

Colleen Wilson covers the Port Authority and NJ Transit for NorthJersey.com. For unlimited access to her work covering the region’s transportation systems and how they affect your commute, please subscribe or activate your digital account today. 

Email: cwilson2@lohud.com Twitter: @colleenallreds 

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