News & Media
Vol. 7, No. 3July 14, 2009
In This Issue …
- Island County Transit Measure on Aug. 18 Ballot
- Outlook for Mid-Term Elections: Transportation Measures in November 2009
- 2009 Transit Initiatives and Communities Conference: Lessons Learned in Salt Lake City
- Congress Begins Work on a National Surface Transportation Bill
Island County Transit Measure on Aug. 18 Ballot
SALES TAX INCREASE TO PREVENT CUTBACKS
On August 18, voters in Island County, WA will vote on a 0.3 percent sales tax increase to prevent cuts in Island Transit's bus service. Although some routes have already been consolidated, saving $700,000, Island Transit's executive director has warned that a 34-percent service cut, specifically to Saturday service and outlying routes, should be expected if the ballot measure is not approved. The system, which has operated fare-free since its opening in 1987, carried more than 1.1 million passengers in 2008. Implementing fares has been suggested, but the cost of installing a fare collection system has been deemed too high for an already strained budget.
Sales tax receipts have been declining due to the recession from $5.2 million in 2008 to projections of $4.8 million for this year and $4.4 million for 2010. A 0.3 sales tax increase would boost 2010 revenue to $6.6 million. The current local transit sales tax is 0.6 percent. If the measure is approved it will boost the tax to its legal limit of 0.9 percent. The last time the sales tax was increased to support Island Transit was in 2000 when the motor vehicle excise tax was slashed.
Outlook for Mid-Term Elections
TRANSPORTATION MEASURES ON NOV. BALLOT
On November 3, voters in Porter, Lake, LaPorte and St. Joseph counties will be asked if they support the creation of the Northern Indiana Regional Transportation District (NIRTD). If approved, NIRTD could impose an income tax of up to 0.25 percent in each county that joins in order to fund regional bus and commuter rail services.
Also in November, a 0.6-mill transit tax is expected on the ballot in the city of Kalamazoo, MI as the second part of a plan put into place after last November's loss at the ballot box. In May, 63% of voters in Kalamazoo County voters approved 0.4-mill property tax levy to pay for Care-A-Van service and bus routes that would extend beyond the city of Kalamazoo. The tax will generate approximately $3.27 million a year. This second measure will be limited to voters within the city of Kalamazoo and would be expected to raise about $1.06 million annually for Metro Transit within Kalamazoo.
Voters in Lorain County, OH will be asked this November to permanently approve a one half of one percent sales tax that will generate approximately $15 million annually for county services, including transit. The increase, which went into effect on April 1 by an emergency resolution, would be made permanent by voters if approved in November.
2009 Transit Initiatives and Communities Conference
LESSONS LEARNED IN SALT LAKE CITY
The 2009 Transit Initiatives and Communities Conference was recently held in Salt Lake City, Utah. Approximately 100 people from communities around the country came together to share experiences from recent campaigns and discuss ideas for successful upcoming ballot measures. Speakers from transit agencies, consulting firms and academia lead sessions on a variety of topics, from building coalitions to making the case for transit in a tough economy. Presentations from conference sessions are available online and audio files will be posted soon.
Congress Begins Work on National Surface Transportation Bill
OBAMA SUPPORTS 18-MONTH EXTENSION OF CURRENT LAW
In late June, Rep. James Oberstar (D-MN) released the 800-page Surface Transportation Authorization Act of 2009. This came just one day after Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood made it clear that the Obama Administration supports an 18-month extension of current law, which is set to expire in September. The Administration would like to see an extension with a few policy changes, and an immediate cash infusion for the Highway Trust Fund. The Trust Fund is expected to run out of money by August, which will force Congress to deal with the problem before leaving for the month-long August recess. Senate Environment & Public Works Committee Chair Barbara Boxer has stated that she supports the Administration's position on an 18-month extension.
However, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee intends to move forward on the new legislation and attempt to pass it by September's deadline. The Highway and Transit Subcommittee marked up the bill shortly after its release. Republicans offered a dozen amendments during the markup, but by prior agreement with committee leaders all were withdrawn. The subcommittee approved the legislation by voice vote.
A full committee markup is expected before the August recess. Some technical changes to the legislation are possible before the full committee mark. Highlights of the new national surface transportation legislation include:
A National Transportation Strategic Plan, based on long-range highway, transit, and rail plans developed by States and metropolitan regions, to develop intermodal connectivity of the nation's transportation system and identify projects of national significance
Reforms the U.S. Department of Transportation to require intermodal planning and decision-making; ensure that projects are planned and completed in a timely manner; and ensure that DOT programs advance the livability of communities
Creates an Office of Livability that would work to ensure that transportation projects are linked to housing and business development
Expands the scope of the planning processes to require consideration of sustainability, connectivity, and livability; reduction of transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions, and the impacts of climate change
Creates an Undersecretary of Intermodalism that would ensure that agencies responsible for different transportation modes -- including highway, rail and transit -- work together
Provides $50 billion over six years to develop 11 authorized high-speed rail corridors linking major metropolitan regions in the United States
Creates a National Infrastructure Bank
Congress will have to reach an agreement on the timing of reauthorization and how to fund surface transportation past August before they leave town for the August Recess.