The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Transit Administration today announced a total of $25 billion in federal funding allocations to help the nation’s public transportation systems respond to the Coronavirus Disease 2019. Funding is provided through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, signed by President Donald J. Trump on March 27, 2020. Read the FTA news release.
Escambia County is expected to receive over $10.3 million dollars of the (CARES) Act federal funding for capital and operational expenses during COVID-19 for local transit services. Escambia County Area Transit (ECAT) provides service through the fixed-route bus, seasonal Pensacola Beach trolley, University of West Florida (UWF) on-campus trolley and paratransit demand response transportation.
FTA is allocating $25 billion to recipients of urbanized area and rural area formula funds, with $22.7 billion allocated to large and small urban areas and $2.2 billion allocated to rural areas. Funding will be provided at a 100 percent federal share, with no local match required, and will be available to support capital, operating, and other expenses generally eligible under those programs to prevent, prepare for, and respond to COVID-19.
Beginning Monday, April 6, ECAT, to support the county’s efforts to address the COVID-19 virus, will temporarily suspend fare collection for passengers of ECAT bus services. In addition, bus passengers will be instructed to enter and exit through the rear doors only and sit behind the accessibility-reserved seating area. Front-door access will be permitted only for passengers needing the boarding ramp or operator assistance to access the bus. ADA accessible seating space near the front of the bus is reserved for individuals in mobility devices, individuals in need of special assistance and families with children in strollers.
The changes will provide some separation between the operator and the passengers—and between passengers. The changes are being implemented in addition to precautions already implemented by ECAT, including the rigorous and increased sanitizing efforts of every bus on a daily basis.
Escambia County Mass Transit Director Tonya Ellis stated, “In continuing service during this state of emergency, our priority remains the safety and health of our employees and passengers. By eliminating close interactions at bus fareboxes, we can better implement social distancing by avoiding interaction in this high contact area.”
Additional information regarding FTA funding and the CARES Act can be found at: https://www.transit.dot.gov/about/news/coronavirus-aid-relief-and-economic-security-cares-act.
Please call ECAT Customer Service at (850) 595-3228 if you need assistance with a specific route or have additional questions. Updated information will also available on www.goECAT.com.