Wednesday, April 13, 2005
The future of transit funding
This post is for all the policy wonks in the house. . . .everybody say yeeah. OK. So why is transit broke? Four reasons why the 1983 deal doesn't work as well in 2005. 1. Federal operating support dried up. Tax cuts for the rich instead. . . or a Clintonian balanced budget. That hurts a lot. 2. Operating dollars now go to capital debt service because there is a lack of other capital dollars like state bonds to finance debt. 3. Paratransit did not exist in 1983. Now the paratransit budget for the CTA is larger than the deficit (70 million versus 55 million, but I need to double check those figures. 4. Security costs, most of which are typical BS overreactions to 9-11. It's like these security guards at the Capitol who usually sit around doing nothing and a few hours a day do crowd control. And they make schoolkids line up outside to go through the metal detector. Anyway, those are the four cost drivers unanticipated in 1983. The other big problem is that we basically run transit off the sales tax, and the internet and the lack of service sales tax means that our revenues from the traditional brick and mortar sales tax are flat. That is not good long term for expansion. There isn't enough money there. So the future means both a new formula so that suburban Cook doesn't get screwed over and new revenues besides the sales tax, if we want expanded service like the Circle Line or suburb to suburb transit on the STAR line. Procedurally, Chairwoman Hamos asked the Speaker to charge the committee with the task of building a regional consensus with summer and fall hearings all over the six county area and look to pass something big at the end of the 2006 session.