Even as revenue plummeted, pandemic-related expenses rose. MARTA stepped up cleaning of transit vehicles and stations, and it installed air filters and other equipment to protect passengers and employees. The agency also paid two rounds of bonuses for frontline and unionized employees.
Though the pandemic is waning as people get vaccinated, MARTA ridership has not recovered. On Tuesday passenger trips on MARTA buses were down 45% from pre-pandemic levels, while train ridership was down 63%.
Nonetheless, MARTA believes ridership will improve. It’s counting on $60.3 million in passenger revenue in 2022. That’s up nearly 37% from $44.1 million this year, but still less than half the passenger revenue it received in 2019.
MARTA CEO Jeffrey Parker praised employees for their performance during the pandemic.
“We pivoted our service to keep people safe, froze vacancies and executed as many projects as we could while people weren’t traveling,” Parker said. “As customers come back, they will find we’ve improved their ride.”
MARTA is counting on $113.4 million in federal pandemic aid to balance the new budget, or 20% of revenue. Sales tax ($263.3 million) is its biggest source of operating revenue, with regular federal transit funding ($73 million) and other revenue accounting for the rest.