Friday, January 4, 2013

Six Year Plan = Not Enough Funding

Community Transit has released is draft six-year Transit Development Plan, 2013-18 for public comment. The plan updates the agency's forecasts for financial revenues and service levels in the near-term future. Because the impacts of the recession greatly changed the outlook for the agency, the six-year plan has had major updates each of the past three years.

The new report repeats last year's assertion that strong economic recovery is not on the horizon, and sales tax revenues will not grow to the point that any significant service will be added in the next six years.

As the report points out, any modest revenue margins above costs that the agency sees in the near future will be spent on backlogged facilities and maintenance projects that were delayed when all available funding was put toward service. Reserves also need to be replenished to be ready for the next downturn.

In the midst of this dire forecast, the agency is putting forth a goal to increase ridership by 25 percent - to 12 million annual boardings by 2017. Transit demand is growing faster than the economy is recovering, and the agency will be looking at various ways to get more people on our buses. Replacing old 60-footers with new Double Talls is one way. A state Regional Mobility Grant request was ranked 5th out of 27 projects by the WSDOT, but awaits legislative approval. That grant would be used as a local match to federal capital funding to buy 17 Double Talls at no expense to the agency.

But the bottom line in the report is that the gap between service needs and service delivered is growing in Snohomish County each year. As the state legislature convenes next week with K-12 education funding on its mind, Community Transit - as well as Pierce Transit, Metro and other transit agencies in the state - will make the case for new transit funding. Whether it is a statewide funding solution or a local option that each agency can take to its voters, new funding is only way that Community Transit can begin to significantly meet its community's service demands.

Read the report, follow the legislative session and join the conversation.

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