WETA Awarded $4.9 Million in Emergency Relief Funds
SAN FRANCISCO | February 1, 2021 – The Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) has awarded the San Francisco Bay Area Water Emergency Transportation Authority (WETA) $4.9 million in federal emergency funds from the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2021 (CRRSAA).
The funds, part of a $180 million tranche allocated by MTC on January 27 to help offset lost revenue due to the COVID-19 crisis, will help WETA avoid layoffs of skilled maritime labor, preserve current San Francisco Bay Ferry service levels for essential transbay travel and make resources available to phase in additional service as the region recovers and reopens.
WETA was one of five Bay Area agencies to receive emergency CRRSAA funding this week. MTC will award the remaining $902 million in CRRSAA funds allotted to Bay Area transit agencies in the coming months.
"This funding is a critical bridge to preserve essential ferry service and emergency response capabilities in the short term," said Jim Wunderman, Chair of the WETA Board of Directors. "It’s important to maintain services for the transit dependent riders and essential workers that continue to rely on the service, and it is also critical that resources will be available to increase service for our communities when traffic congestion and ridership demand return. We want to thank MTC and its staff as well as our transit champions in Washington, D.C., led by Speaker Nancy Pelosi, for securing this funding."
The emergency funds will not fully offset continued revenue losses stemming from 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. That high reliance on fare revenue created a major revenue gulf as ridership plummeted during the COVID-19 crisis.
WETA continues to work with transit operators in the Bay Area and beyond to advocate for additional emergency funding to fill the gap and protect the long-term future of essential transit service.
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.