Transit Agencies Want Your Money

Transit agencies have a simple answer to every problem: you should give them more money. Back when transit ridership was increasing, the transit lobby said the increase was “a clear message to Congress that the citizens of this country want expanded public transit services” and that Congress should pass a “well-funded bill” that “invests in our country’s public transit infrastructure.”

Now that transit ridership is declining, the same transit lobbyists say the solution is more money to entice people back onto the buses and trains. The Toledo Area Regional Transit Authority, whose ridership has been “steadily declining,” wants to trade in the property tax that now earns it $13 million a year for a regional sales tax that will provide $30 million a year. Such a deal!

Santa Cruz Metro, whose buses lost 2 percent of their riders last year, has relied on the city to provide millions of dollars from a reserve fund to keep its system going. Yet officials bristle when people complain that they are not doing a good job of making the agency self sufficient. “We had an incredible year last year of receiving grants,” brags Metro’s CEO. If that is the criterion by which he wants to be judged, the Antiplanner thinks his priorities are misplaced.

Nashville, whose ridiculous Music City Star still carries fewer than 600 round trips per weekday and whose overall transit ridership declined by more than 3 percent last year, laments that its transit isn’t supported by a dedicated fund that would produce revenue whether or not anyone actually rode its buses and trains.

Cascades East Transit is thrilled that the Oregon legislature gave it the authority to ask voters for a dedicated fund. The agency claims to be “the largest transit provider in Oregon,” which is real stretch. What it means is that it has the largest service area, but it only has 66 buses and other vehicles that carried fewer than 2,100 riders a day in 2015. Many transit agencies carry more riders in a day than Cascades carries in a year. Obviously, it needs more money.

However, dedicated funds are not panaceas. New York’s MTA has numerous dedicated funds and Massachusetts dedicates 20 percent of state sales tax revenues to Boston’s MBTA, and both of their systems are in serious trouble. The mantra about dedicated funds is just from agency officials who want more money without being accountable for doing anything useful with that money.

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4 thoughts on “Transit Agencies Want Your Money

  1. prk166


    However, dedicated funds are not panaceas. New York’s MTA has numerous dedicated funds and Massachusetts dedicates 20 percent of state sales tax revenues to Boston’s MBTA, and both of their systems are in serious trouble. The mantra about dedicated funds is just from agency officials who want more money without being accountable for doing anything useful with that money.
    ” ~anti-planner

    I’m curious. Do these funds cover paratransit? If so, how does their per capita / per ride spending on paratransit compare to other systems?

  2. Dave Brough

    Las Vegas wants desperately to spend $700 million on an 8-mile light rail line linking its airport with downtown. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FygqYIQHcdo.
    Who would use it? Practically no one. An airport-commissioned survey revealed that less than 1% of its passengers would use it. No surprise. Like Salt Lake, Denver and other places where they install this stuff, the only real users are airport workers — who would just as soon use a bus.

  3. LazyReader

    Transit agencies want you money….not to invest to provide better service, but to consolidate their growing financial obligations. Every city, county, state looks to a new kind of tax to rescue themselves out of the fiscal grave they dug for themselves. New York state tried it to raise six billion for it’s budget deficit, instead it only got a third of that and compelled the states richest residents such as billionaire Tom Golisano to move himself and his company to Florida. Say the government passes a small 500 million dollar raise to support their government workers. That’s a lot of cash but since the total cost is spread among so many taxpayers they only see a 5 cent tax increase, a nickel. The taxpayer get’s dinged for five measly cents, really has no incentive to be outside all day protesting it. Would you spend all day protesting yelling at the top of your lungs over a nickel a year? That’s why government always grows bigger, whenever there’s a proposal that boosts spending, the group that benefits fights on it’s behalf, meanwhile the taxpayer shrugs the extra nickel…….but those nickels add up. And this explains California’s last decade, a cycle of taxation, spending, taxation, demanding we tighten our belts while their spending splurges. It offers a coming attraction of the future of the US as a whole.

    “It’s impossible to negotiate with the government” No, that quote isn’t attributed to any famous conservative like Newt Gingrich or Ronald Reagan, those were the words of George Meany in 1955, the former president of the AFL-CIO, one of the nations largest labor unions. A man famous enough it warranted being on the Simpsons. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bd8vNJoVwf8
    While the founders of the labor movement viewed unions as a means to get workers more of the profits they help create, the government on the other hand their workers however don’t generate profit. They merely negotiate for more of your tax money. When they “strike” they strike against the taxpayers they’re meant to serve. Franklin Roosevelt considered this unthinkable and intolerable. It also means voters get no final say on public policy anymore. Instead whom they elect, must negotiate with unions. Meany was not alone, up thru the 50s unions agreed….that collective bargaining had no place in government, but starting in Wisconsin in 1959, states began to allow it. Back then it used to be “You go work for the government” the pay sucks but there are perks, you cant get fired and the benefits are generous. Now when you include salary and pension obligations they make 2-3 times the nations median income. The influx of dues and members hanged the tune about unions in the public sector and they spread and encompassed the nations major public roles, teachers, transit, etc. Ultimately no mayor or governor has any real power to stop them, the contract is signed almost immediately upon introduction into office it’s that or risk pissing off the states most powerful political donors. The writings on the wall and we foresaw the effects of a heavy handed government public sector and it’s lack of finances to pay for a growing pool of retiring government workers who still think they can collect six figures from age 50 onward. And the executive branch that signs off on this has no real concern cause they’ll be out of office by the time contracts are up for renegotiation or worse when the liability becomes a burden. Look no further than the little town of Prichard, Alabama a city famous when it’s entire public pension plan went up in smoke. In 2003, the city hired an actuary to analyze and summarize their employees’ pension plan. He warned the city that at the current rate of government expenditure the plan would run out of money by the 2009. Right on schedule in 2009, the town went broke. So the town simply declared bankruptcy and stopped sending pension checks. That was just one little town…..imagine a major city like Los Angeles or New York or CHICAGO *hint hint*, 63 Billion in debt (though the media claims it’s 16 billion, remember their future obligations the media ignores). Imagine a state. Only government could somehow hire a massive workforce, impose a specific value on it despite not producing any GDP to speak of and demand that you the taxpayer would have to pay to give these people basically six figure salaries for decades to come all the while having to take care of yourself.

  4. Sandy Teal

    Why would anybody trust transit agencies, especially with their lives?


    April 22: Forty to sixty kids boarded a train at the Coliseum stop and robbed seven passengers, beating up two;

    June 28: A group of four kids assaulted a passenger and made off with a cell phone at Dublin; and

    June 30: A woman on a train with about a dozen teenagers had her phone snatched by one them before the group got off at the Coliseum stop. Thankfully, a good Samaritan was on hand to retrieve the phone.

    So far, BART has refused to turn over surveillance video for any of these incidents.

    Allen told us the agency issued an explanation for why it is being tight-lipped about the thefts.

    “To release these videos would create a high level of racially insensitive commentary toward the district,” she was told. “And in addition it would create a racial bias in the riders against minorities on the trains.”

    According to a memo distributed to BART Directors, the agency won’t do a press release on the June 30 theft because it was a “petty crime” that would make BART look “crime ridden.” Furthermore, it would “unfairly affect and characterize riders of color, leading to sweeping generalizations in media reports.”

    The memo was from BART Assistant General Manager Kerry Hamill.

    Allen emailed Hamill, “I don’t understand what role the color of one’s skin plays in this issue [of whether to divulge information]. Can you explain?” Hamill responded, “If we were to regularly feed the news media video of crimes on our system that involve minority suspects, particularly when they are minors, we would certainly face questions as to why we were sensationalizing relatively minor crimes and perpetuating false stereotypes in the process.” And added her opinion of the media: “My view is that the media’s real interest in the videos of youth phone snatching incidents isn’t the desire for transparency but rather the pursuit of ratings. They know that video of these events will drive clicks to their websites and viewers to their programs because people are motivated by fear.”

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