Friday, December 12, 2008

Our transit funding mechanism is broken

I should just give Thomas Wheatley a hat tip whenever I blog about local news - he always has the goods.  Today's item: when MARTA can have dramatically increased ridership and still be facing a $60 million budget shortfall, then something is wrong with the way that we fund transit.  
I think state funding, as Thomas suggests, would be a start.  I know there are some city planners who read this - any suggestions?  It seems like our public transit systems should be able to function when people need them most, such as economic times when people are trying to save money.  Do we need something that is countercyclical and/or more stable?  Is there anything more stable?

It looks like most other areas use a sales tax, although Portland uses a local payroll tax.  Other options seem to be general budget funds or a vehicle tax.  I think all those tax sources would run into the same problem as our sales tax is having right now.  

Thomas is right that state funding would certainly help things.  He doesn't actually say that, but he implies it.  I can't help but think, however, that if MARTA had state funding, they would budget for that amount of money, and they'd still be $60 million short of their sales tax forecast.  So I feel like we'd have the same problem with state funding.  It would probably be a smaller percentage of the budget that was short, but it'd still be $60 million.  

3 comments:

  1. I hate to be negative but everytime I see Atlanta try to refer to itself as "world-class," I just think of its stunted public transport system, in particular the train portion of the MARTA system.

    Oh no. Atlanta will NEVER be world-class like London, Paris, New York, Singapore, Tokyo, etc, until it has a proper, comprehensive, public transportation system. Be it bus, train, light rail, tram, trolley car -- whatever.

    The city has so much potential, and so many positive attributes. But until people can reach most parts of the city easily by public transport, the city can kiss goodbye any hope of being "world-class."

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  3. i love the irony in that the less people drive/spend on gas, the less transit funding there is to support the increased ridership.


    :(

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