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Olympia, Wash. – A coalition of transit leaders is calling for the Legislature and Governor Inslee to boost state investment in transit agencies across Washington State as part of any statewide transportation measure. The “Keep Transit Moving!” proposal would help ensure transit remains a viable part of the state’s transportation system, improve mobility, support our state’s economy, and enable communities to meet their current and growing mobility needs for years to come.
“We are beginning to see many discussions around a transportation package in Olympia and it’s critical that transit is a key component,” said Susan Meyer, Chief Executive Officer, Spokane Transit Authority, and Washington State Transit Association President. “Transit connects people to work, education and vital community services. Adding capacity to our state’s transportation system through transit investments, combined with highway and road projects, can be less expensive and more efficient than trying to build our way out of the state’s transportation problems."
Public transit in Washington State is at a crossroads. Passage of statewide initiatives such as I-695 and limited state funding for transit currently leaves Washington’s communities largely dependent on local sales tax revenues that have been hit hard by the recession. The result: service cuts and curtailed transit projects despite increasing demand and population growth.
Transit plays a vital role in our state’s transportation system, yet Washington State funds just two percent, compared to a nationwide average of 22 percent state funding for transit, putting tremendous pressure on local taxpayers and customers. To help fill the gap, local communities have stepped up and now provide as much as 80 percent of transit funding combined with about 18 percent from federal sources, but even this is not enough to sustain service. Without significant new state funding and the ability for local communities to authorize investments, our state’s residents face further dramatic cuts, even though ridership is increasing.
"After more than four years of cost cutting efforts to offset continuing declines in sales tax, Pierce Transit riders now face their second round of significant service cuts," said Lynne Griffith, Pierce Transit CEO. "No public transportation on weekends and limited evening and mid-day service means thousands of Pierce County residents will lose access to jobs. We need reliable funding if transit is going to meet the basic transportation needs of our communities."
The Keep Transit Moving! proposal outlines three key actions the state legislature can take to ensure predictable, sustainable funding for transit in Washington State:
“Snohomish County residents have been gravely affected by the recession,” said Community Transit CEO Joyce Eleanor. “We no longer operate buses on Sundays and both early morning and late night service have been cut. As the economy rebounds it is important that we give people options for getting to work so the economy will keep growing.”
Transit provides reliable ways for people to move around and frees up capacity on our roads for cars and freight. In fact, 40 percent of commuters take transit into downtown Seattle. This is a vital role in our state’s transportation system, yet the state funds just two percent. To fill the gap, local communities have stepped up and now provide about 80 percent of transit funding, but even this is not enough to sustain service.
“In the highly congested Puget Sound region, the partnership between transit agencies and the state is especially critical to keeping our transportation network and statewide economy strong in the face of our growing population and gridlock,” said Sound Transit CEO Joni Earl. “The recession’s 30 percent reduction of funding for Sound Transit 2 expansions has caused us to cut and delay projects, and commuters on some routes face overcrowding with no funding source for relief.”
Paratransit service provided by local agencies in Washington connects people with disabilities to medical appointments and allows them and their families greater independence. Reliable funding is needed in order to meet the anticipated demand as more people age and our population grows.
“As our communities grow and more people turn to transit, this is no time to leave riders standing at the curb,” said King County Metro General Manager Kevin Desmond. “With the congestion reduction tool given us by the legislature set to expire next year, a strong partnership with the state is more critical than ever in helping us meet the travel needs of our residents.”
“Voters understand the value of transit and have strongly supported local transit measures, even during recent hard economic times. The success of a state transportation measure will depend on transit investments being a significant part of the package,” said Paul J. Bachtel, President, Amalgamated Transit Union, Local 587. “We’re ready to roll up our sleeves and work with the state to help keep Washington moving.”
About Keep Transit Moving!
Keep Transit Moving! is an initiative of the Washington State Transit Association, representing the interests of Washington’s 31 public transit agencies and others that believe more transit investment is needed to provide mobility and to improve livability across Washington state. Our vision is a strong partnership between local, state, and federal governments that ensures transit continues to be a viable part of our state’s transportation system.