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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Transit Agencies Facing Cuts

posted by on October 29 at 13:46 PM

As King County Metro is mulling cutbacks to service (and the potential elimination of some voter-approved service upgrades) in the face of declining sales-tax revenues, our neighboring transit system to the south, Pierce Transit, just announced it is cutting 64 positions by laying off 19 employees and 13 contract workers and eliminating 32 unfilled positions. According to the Tacoma News Tribune, the agency says it will try to “keep the cuts from affecting service.” Pierce Transit is also raising fares 25 cents.

And that’s in response to an anticipated $17.5 million deficit—a fraction of what King County Metro is anticipating. According to Metro general manager Kevin Desmond, Metro’s deficit is expected to grow from $83 million in 2009 to $87 million in 2010, dropping to between $60 and $70 million in 2011. Metro plans to make up some of that shortfall by raising fares another 50 cents, but at some point, they, too, are going to have to make cuts. It’ll be a shame if those cuts impact transit service at a time when ridership is as high as it’s ever been on Metro buses and on transit systems nationwide. Throughout the US, public transportation use has risen 32 percent since 1995, with 10.3 billion trips on public transit last year—the highest level in 50 years.

One potential source of funding is the federal government. Transit advocacy groups like the American Public Transportation Association have been lobbying Congress to adopt an economic-stimulus package that includes $8 billion in federal financing for local public-transit agencies. According to APTA, every dollar communities invest in public transit produces $6 in economic returns; every $1 billion the federal government invests in transit, meanwhile, leads to the creation of approximately 35,000 jobs.

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ST has spent about $5 billion so far. $3.5 billion in tax revenue, $500 million in Federal grants, and $1 billion in bond sales proceeds. That should mean it has created 192,500 jobs. Not in your wildest transit wet-dream has ST's spending of billions of dollars come close to being the kind of job creation engine that APTA study suggests it should have been.

Posted by ding dong | October 29, 2008 2:07 PM

@1: Federal money.

Posted by AJ | October 29, 2008 2:35 PM

whats the difference between federal money and state money if the multiplier effect comes down to a dollar period? Is federal money somehow magical?

Posted by Bellevue Ave | October 29, 2008 2:59 PM

Mass transit is not sustainable.

Posted by John Bailo | October 29, 2008 3:04 PM

Regardless of how revenue is collected, I just don't get how King County is teeming with multimillionaires (thanks Microsoft, Nintendo, other high tech), yet county government and its services are in such a deep financial hole.
From what I've read, transit money troubles are not unique to this region. Transit agencies throughout the country are operating under budget deficits.

Posted by Madashell | October 29, 2008 3:04 PM

@5, cause we don't have a state income tax and rich people don't spend money at a rate proportional to their incomes. they have a propensity to save and invest.

would a state income tax be good? Maybe.

Posted by Bellevue Ave | October 29, 2008 3:10 PM

well rather a county income tax, but i'd like to see them try it.

Posted by Bellevue Ave | October 29, 2008 3:16 PM

@6 - actually, rich people have a propensity to save here and spend in other countries.

A transaction tax on assets would work better.

Posted by Will in Seattle | October 29, 2008 4:57 PM

There would have to be a constitutional amendment before even the state could pass an income tax. The county is even more limited in its taxing ability, which it has already used up. That's why they have to cut services. State law does not allow them to raise taxes.

Posted by lorax | October 29, 2008 9:16 PM

@9 - not true. Our state constitution permits a flat one percent income tax with a single basic exemption (e.g. for a personal home or something).

Maybe the Socialist Republicans will propose that, with an exemption for money stolen from the middle class by their party elites.

Posted by Will in Seattle | October 30, 2008 12:48 AM

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