Thursday, August 20, 2009

More bad news from East of the Mountains

On Tuesday, we linked to an editorial from the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin about the local transit agency, Valley Transit, facing 25% service cuts.

Here's a link to a couple of articles originally published in the Tri-City Herald about service cuts and fare increases planned for Ben-Franklin Transit, the local agency serving Benton and Franklin counties.

As Andrew mentioned the other day, agencies around the state, not just King County Metro, are facing profound cuts in service at a time when ridership has been trending upward and when our state has committed itself to reducing greenhouse gas emissions from its number one source, transportation. Some agencies, including Ben Franklin and Walla Walla have remaining sales tax capacity that voters could approve (the state caps sales tax for transit at .09%, many of the medium and smaller transit systems are collecting .06%). However, in several areas, especially border counties like Walla Walla and Clark (C-tran), additional sales tax increases are not politically realistic.

These realities raise the question, yet again, when will the governor and state legislature step up and start treating public transportation like a meaningful part of the state's transportation network? Bus and rail transit can play a huge role in increasing people's mobility, thereby allowing the state's population and economy to grow in a sustainable manner. And for a lot less money than it will cost to meet that demand through new highway lane miles. But to do so, transit needs some combination of increased local funding options and direct state funding. Both require action from the legislature. Olympia, the ball is in your court.

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