Thursday, March 25, 2010

Agency Still Seeking Funding

Community Transit is still pursuing every avenue for additional funding to fill the budget deficit in 2010 and 2011 and potentially offset the service cuts planned for June.

CEO Joyce Eleanor met with our representatives in the U.S. Congress last week and made the case for federal aid for bus service. Typically, federal funding goes to capital projects such as bus replacements or transit facilities, but not service to riders. While the agency will continue to need capital funding to replace its aging buses, Eleanor asked for special consideration for money that could be used to operate transit service in light of the planned suspension of Sunday service that will take effect June 13.

The message seemed well received, but officials and their staff expressed frustration that there is not a funding mechanism (i.e. legislation) for them to simply add this funding request. Unless a federal Jobs bill that includes infrastructure investment is revived, there may be little chance for a federal funding solution to the current Community Transit budget woes.

In conversations that Eleanor had with U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood (read his blog) and key federal officials, they agreed that it would be good to provide temporary operating assistance for transit service. Transit agencies across the state and nation are facing challenges similar to those at Community Transit.

On the state front, while a transit funding bill died in the House during the regular session, language to authorize a temporary vehicle license fee for transit operations is still being floated in the special session. Rep. Marko Liias of Mukilteo has been leading this effort. Legislators are wrangling over language for a final state budget, and it’s possible that the transit funding language could make its way into the final budget.

Community Transit will continue to monitor the possibility of state funding from Olympia.

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