San Diego MTS facing $133.5 million anticipated loss from pandemic, pulls November ballot measure

April 17, 2020
The San Diego MTS Board updated the financial impact COVID-19 will have on the system, shelved the planned Elevate SD 2020 ballot measure and approved a $100-million capital program at its meeting.

The San Diego Metropolitan Transit System (MTS) anticipates the COVID-19 pandemic will result in $133.5 million in losses and the MTS Board approved a Fiscal Year 2020 budget amendment to account for the loss of revenue.  

San Diego MTS estimates it will lose $33.5 million to COVID-19 during FY 2020. In FY 2021, San Diego MTS anticipates the loss of revenue to be $100 million, which includes anticipated fare revenue loss of $30-$50 million and a decrease in tax revenue of $13.5 - $23 million. Additionally, San Diego MTS anticipates other operating income could drop by approximately $7 million.

The transit provider should be eligible to receive $220 million in funding relief provided by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act that was signed into law at the end of March and designed to help agencies shoulder the financial burden associated with combating and recovering from the novel coronavirus.

In another move related to the pandemic, the San Diego MTS Board of Directors postponed its Elevate SD 2020 effort to develop a transit-only revenue measure for the November 2020 ballot.

“The day will come when we can ask voters for additional revenue for the expanded transit system San Diego deserves. That day is not going to come in 2020,” said MTS Board Chair Nathan Fletcher. “Right now, MTS needs to be focused on providing the essential service of transit. Then we will focus on the rebuilding effort and getting residents back to work and school.”

The board also approved a $100 million budget for its FY 2021 Capital Improvement Program (CIP), which includes bus and trolley procurements and rail maintenance.

Capital project highlights include:

  • $26 million in additional funding toward 47 new low-floor trolleys to be procured in two phases through 2025;
  • $33 million to be used toward 69 Compressed Natural Gas buses;
  • $12.5 million for new electric bus chargers and the operation of pilot program;
  • $10.9 million in state of good repair work on the MTS rail network; and
  • $5 million in funding for a new electric bus service between Otay Mesa and Iris Avenue Transit Centers.

“The MTS CIP is an important road map for planning and funding assets for San Diego’s transit system. And having more than $100 million to allocate in CIP funds is very healthy for an agency our size. This includes new trolleys and buses, new transit facilities and improvements to existing ones, technology improvements and more,” said MTS CEO Paul Jablonski. “MTS is committed to providing the best rider experience as possible and the CIP helps us achieve this goal.”

About the Author

Mischa Wanek-Libman | Group Editorial Director

Mischa Wanek-Libman serves as editor in chief of Mass Transit magazine and group editorial director of the Infrastructure and Aviation Group at Endeavor Business Media. She is responsible for developing and maintaining the editorial direction of the group and is based in the western suburbs of Chicago.

Wanek-Libman has spent more than 20 years covering transportation issues including construction projects and engineering challenges for various commuter railroads and transit agencies. She has been recognized for editorial excellence through her individual work, as well as for collaborative content. 

She is an active member of the American Public Transportation Association's Marketing and Communications Committee and serves as a Board Observer on the National Railroad Construction and Maintenance Association (NRC) Board of Directors.  

She is a graduate of Drake University, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism and Mass Communication with a major in magazine journalism and a minor in business management.