WETA Awarded $13.4 Million in Federal Relief Funds
SAN FRANCISCO | March 30, 2021 – The Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) on Wednesday awarded the San Francisco Bay Area Water Emergency Transportation Authority (WETA) $13.4 million in federal relief funds from the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2021 (CRRSAA).
Part of a $802 million second tranche of CRRSAA funds awarded to Bay Area transit agencies, the relief funds replace revenue WETA has lost during the 2020-21 fiscal year due to the COVID-19 crisis as San Francisco Bay Ferry ridership has cratered.
The relief funds awarded last week will help WETA continue to maintain its highly skilled maritime workforce and ramp up ferry service as the Bay Area re-opens.
“This funding helps address the revenue shortfall caused by reduced ridership due to the COVID-19 crisis,” said Jim Wunderman, Chair of the WETA Board of Directors. “On behalf of our riders, we are extremely grateful to Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the entire Bay Area Congressional delegation for advocating strongly for transit funding in CRRSAA to ensure we remain afloat and ready for recovery.”
While the emergency funds are projected to cover revenue losses through the end of this fiscal year, WETA expects the impacts of the COVID-19 crisis to continue. Prior to the pandemic, San Francisco Bay Ferry had grown into one of the most cost-efficient transit services in the region, with a farebox recovery rate of 69 percent in the 2019 fiscal year. Ridership on regional transit systems is not projected to fully rebound within the next two years due to changed commute patterns, increased use of remote work and other factors.
In March, President Joseph Biden signed the American Rescue Plan (ARP) of 2021, which provides an additional $30 billion in federal public transit relief funding, with $1.7 billion of that expected to come to the Bay Area. WETA is working with MTC to ensure that these funds will be available to build ferry service back better as the region continues to reopen.
In addition to its role as a transit operator, WETA has a legislative mandate to coordinate and provide emergency water transit in case of a disaster or other incident disabling other bay crossings and requiring the mass movement of evacuees or first-responders. No funding is provided to meet this mission, but the mandate does make it imperative for WETA to have trained, ready ferry captains, crews and engineers available. WETA has preserved crewing levels since March 2020 to be ready to spring into action if emergency water transit is required.