South Metro Area Regional Transit (SMART) collects $1.2 million compared to $184 million for TriMet

PMG FILE PHOTO - South Metro Area Regional Transit received a grant from the federal government to help pay for expenses during the pandemic.

WILSONVILLE — The U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Transit Administration is doling out $1.2 million in grant money to South Metro Area Regional Transit (SMART), Wilsonville's transit operator, as part of the CARES Act, a federal bill to provide relief to entities impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The department announced the decision Wednesday, May 20.

"We know many of our nation's public transportation systems are facing extraordinary challenges, and these funds will go a long way to assisting our transit industry partners in battling COVID-19," said FTA Acting Administrator K. Jane Williams in a news release.

"These federal funds will support operating assistance to transit agencies of all sizes providing essential travel and supporting transit workers across the country who are unable to work because of the public health emergency," she said.

The money will go toward operating costs, administration, maintenance and other things, according to the news release.

"It's going to be extremely helpful as we continue to battle the pandemic," SMART Director Dwight Brashear said.

Brashear said ridership was down by as much as 75% during the pandemic, but it has rebounded a bit lately. Overall, he said SMART is doing OK financially.

"We're in good shape compared to other small agencies," Brashear said. "There's no threat of anything right now. But I'm watching that burn rate."

By comparison, TriMet, the biggest transportation provider in the Portland metro area, will receive $184 million. The news release indicated that SMART could end up receiving more money in the future. Brashear said the money distributed regionally is based on a formula that includes population served and that he was involved in the process.

"Everything is relative. We don't have a lot of the costs that TriMet has," Brashear said.

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