Archive for Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Editorial: Renew transit tax

The bus system will be increasingly important in Lawrence, and the sales tax that funds it is reasonable.

August 23, 2017

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The city’s public transit service is critical infrastructure, and Lawrence residents should vote to renew the sales tax dedicated to funding it.

In November, Lawrence voters will be asked whether to renew for another 10 years the 0.55 percent sales tax that provides funding for infrastructure (0.3 percent), the transit service (0.2 percent) and affordable housing (0.05 percent). If it isn’t renewed, the sales tax will expire in 2019.

The special sales tax provides about $4 million of the $9 million required to fund the public transit service. The sales tax makes the city eligible for state and federal matching grants that account for a significant portion of other transit service revenue. Bus fares account for only a fraction — about 6 percent — of transit service revenue.

Riders of the transit service, which includes routes coordinated with the University of Kansas bus service, now make more than 3 million trips annually, transit officials said.

“I think sustainable transit is a vital service for our community, more so than individual cars,” Vice Mayor Stuart Boley said. “I think it’s important for our future. As we increase density, I think transit will be more and more important to people.”

If the sales tax renewal doesn’t pass, the city would have to dramatically scale back its bus operations.

Before the special sales tax was approved in 2008, local funding for transit service came from property taxes. Should the renewal fail, the city could go back to using property tax. Or the city could revise the sales tax proposal and pursue voter approval in 2018.

Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.

Residents could vote “no” on the sales tax as a rejection of more city taxes, given that commissioners voted to increase the city’s property tax rate by 1.25 mill. Residents might also take out their frustration that commissioners still have not identified a site for a transit center hub, which would allow the city to implement a more efficient route system that would save on transit service costs. For four years, the hub has been at its “temporary” location on Seventh Street.

To be sure, there are issues that must be resolved. But overall the current system works well.

The city’s bus service relieves traffic congestion, is environmentally friendly and provides affordable and reliable transportation to residents. The sales tax approved in 2008 has proved to be a consistent and reasonable way to fund the bus service and the tax should be renewed.

Comments

RJ Johnson 1 month, 3 weeks ago

I am voting no!! This nickel and diming the tax payers is getting out of hand.

Gary Stussie 1 month, 3 weeks ago

Today's paper Section D pages 8 - 11 ... list of nearly a thousand homes/properties that will be sold to Douglas County on 5 September auction for unpaid taxes.

Joe Herynk 1 month, 3 weeks ago

If the citizens of Lawrence knew the actual cost per passenger mile for this boondoggle, they would vote no and find a better solution.

Bob Smith 1 month, 3 weeks ago

It's all about MBM (more better money).

David Holroyd 1 month, 3 weeks ago

Smaller buses would be a start.

Now that the street in front of my house is demolished by the buses the route is changed so more streets can be demolished....do I hear STREET REPAIR...No!

What is really a joke is watching the bus go up 11th street from Mississippi to Indiana....a narrow street it is wait till the snow comes.

The routes are a joke!

Increase the sales tax? Where is Stuart Boley on this matter..he wants affordable housing and this sales tax is applied to food and everything else the "poor" people buy.

Joe, they won't vote NO because they are suckers. The better solution is smaller buses,,tighten up the routes...foks migh have to walk to catch one...but it can work.

And a bus hub will be costly and not effective...but it sounds big city and the commisson can brag about it. Mr. Markus can say a hub was built on his resume..

Patrick Wilbur 1 month, 3 weeks ago

The Lawrence Sunset Alliance (please check us out at https://www.facebook.com/groups/11306...) opposes this ballot question. Here are a few facts to keep in mind:

The transit system current has over $5,000,000 in allocated funds. According to the 2008 ballot question the use of funds allow for quite a bit of flexibility - "Additional dedicated resources for the transit system will provide for route enhancements and vehicle and facility improvements. Examples include increased bus service frequency on busy routes and alternative fuel buses"

It is inappropriate to ask voters for a 10-year commitment until a hub plan is developed. Keep in mind the tax does not sunset until 2019. There is still time to solidify a plan for what the city is actually going to do with the funding.

Other potential ways to alleviate taxpayer burden - the funding levels required from any source could be reduced by adjusting the revenue structure or reducing operating costs using a combination of the following: requiring payment for KU Card holders traveling off campus, increasing fares in general, adjusting fares based on length of route to align with costs, renegotiating driver contracts/shifting to salaried drivers, reducing the number of routes, or reducing the frequency of some routes.

We do NOT advocate ending transit service. Our goal is to ensure that there is a legitimate discussion about the implications of extended service and long-term impact before there is a commitment to the city.

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