The cost of not funding public transportation

Posted on February 16, 2011 by Alex Roman - Also by this author

Last week, Proposition 1 in Lakewood, Wash., which would have raised a sales tax by three-tenths of 1 percentage point to help pay for bus service, was defeated 56 percent to 44 percent. As a result, Pierce Transit is set to recommend a reduction of services by 20 percent in October and another 15 percent early next year, to help shore up its budget issues, according to a News Tribune report.

If passed, Proposition 1 would have raised $30 million a year to further subsidize the public transit system; however, the agency is now set to meet at the end of February to discuss how to reduce service from 618,000 hours a year to about 401,000 hours.

The reduction plan, which has been unveiled and discussed at numerous public meetings, includes changed routes, some discontinued routes, longer waits between buses, shorter service hours and the discontinuation of some special-event services.

The defeat of the bill this week, ended a long, bitter battle between advocates and opponents, and brings up another painfully obvious fact: with more federal support of public transportation, agencies around the nation wouldn't have to struggle to provide services for a still steadily growing ridership base.

The argument for more federal support also brings up the fact that we still have no plan in place to fund a new authorization bill. The simple answer seems to be the raising of the gas tax, which is unpopular on both sides of the aisle as one party is intent on cutting spending while the other is trying all it can to invest in the future.

Although raising taxes is an unpopular solution, raising the gas tax also seems to be the only solution. So, what is your gut feeling on whether that will ever happen? And, if it doesn't happen, what are some thoughts you have to help transit agencies around the nation that are slowly inching toward facing a doomsday-like scenario with their budgets?

In case you missed it...

Read our METRO blog, which asks if America can remain a super power without high-speed rail here.


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