The pandemic has created massive gaps in metro funding as ridership suddenly plummeted to extremely low levels. The Funding During COVID-19 Microstudy summarised the financial impacts on metros due to the pandemic. On average, the projected loss of fare revenue for 2020 was 50% across COMET metros, with American metros being most affected.
The financial outlook for 2021 is extremely uncertain and dependent on factors such as the COVID-19 situation itself, the ‘remote revolution’ (impacting not only work but also shopping and other activities), and government policies (including those relating to fares, the environment, subsidies, and other modes). To reduce the financial impact of COVID-19 metros must consider what actions they can take themselves to reduce costs, particularly relating to labour and energy, which are the two largest components of metro costs (on average 80% of annual operating costs).
As nearly all COMET metros will have a deficit in 2020/21, external support for funding needs has become critical. Fortunately, the majority of metros have received additional government funding in 2020. Metros have also benefitted from various financing packages e.g. government furlough schemes, tax reductions, or authorisation to increase debt, while a few metros are looking at alternative funding mechanisms to cover financial gaps.