WASHINGTON, D.C. (NEXSTAR) — All across the country, public transit systems continue to see few, if any, riders because of the pandemic.
But even as many trains and buses remain largely empty, the U.S. Department of Transportation is doling out money to help cities invest in public transportation.
An empty seat on the bus isn’t hard to find these days and Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said that makes it the perfect time for cities to invest in their public transit.
“And we need to be preparing for a return in passengers, in commuters,” Chao said.
On Tuesday, the DOT announced grants totaling more than $460 million for 96 projects across 49 states, with a focus on metro and rural bus services.
“This is actually a good time to think about, and do something about, maintenance, repair, rehabilitation,” Chao said.
Areas set to receive the grants include Bloomington, Indiana; Dayton, Ohio; Hillsborough County, Florida; and Charleston, South Carolina.
“There’s a cost benefit analysis,” Chao said. “We look at the cost of a project, how the community will leverage that.”
Some of these projects were in danger of being eliminated as cities struggle with massive budget shortfalls because of the pandemic.
And Chao said the requests for money were greater than what the DOT could provide.
“We’re giving out about $464 million. there was more than 1-point, over a billion dollars in requests and applications,” she said.
Chao said the money will be used to shore up aging infrastructure or support efforts at innovation, like cities with electric buses.
“And so some of this money is being used to erect or establish charging stations,” she added.
Officials said grant funds can only be used for the intended projects and can’t be redistributed by local governments.