Thursday, January 24, 2013

State Transit Funding Campaign Started

By Martin Munguia, Public Information Officer
The Washington State Transit Association, which represents the state's 31 transit agencies in Olympia, has kicked off a Keep Transit Moving! campaign to get more state transit funding.

A news release features quotes from agency directors across the state, including Community Transit, Metro, Pierce Transit, Sound Transit and the Spokane Transit Authority. The release states three ways the state can better invest in transit:
  • Provide up to $400 million per year for 10 years in new state investment in transit (or a minimum of 25 percent of any new state funding package) distributed directly to the state’s 31 public transit agencies to meet local and regional priorities.
  • Authorize additional financial capacity for new locally-approved transit funding including motor vehicle excise tax, vehicle license fees, and/or extension and expansion of the Congestion Reduction Charge.
  • Maintain the state’s current transit funding that provides for critical regional and rural mobility, vanpool, special needs and commute trip reduction grant programs.
Before Initiative 695, the state motor vehicle excise tax provided Community Transit and other transit agencies with about 30 percent of their total funding. After the legislature did away with the MVET in 2000, state funding has dropped to about 2 percent for transit agencies, and much of that is through the competitive Regional Mobility Grant program, so it is not guaranteed money.

Community Transit is one of the few transit agencies at its legislated maximum for sales tax authority, so there is no way to get more funding without state authority. While the agency had to cut 37 percent of its bus service to weather the recession, finances are stable going into 2013 and there are no plans for further cuts. However, restoration of Sunday service and other service expansion will not happen unless significant new funding comes in.

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