Facts show public transit is not underfunded
Erica Barnett from Publicola, who ignored the release of my original report until the Transportation Choices Coalition (TCC) responded to it, plugs the TCC rebuttal in her own post. Despite the obvious mistakes made by TCC, she buys their rebuttal, and adds a few of her own.
The facts continue to show public transit is not underfunded in Washington State.
In 2010, the 31 public transit agencies provided 212 million passenger trips, or about 582,000 trips per day. The federal government estimates households typically perform an average of 9.5 person trips per day. Washington state has 2.51 million households, which translates to an estimated 24 million person trips per day across the state. This means the 31 public transit agencies’ total market share is only about 2.4% of all daily person trip demand.
TCC and Barnett want to cherry pick their own numbers by isolating only commuting trips only in Seattle. Doing this only represents a fraction of the total person-trip-demand across the state and grossly overestimates transit’s actual mode share, which remains under 3%. Incidentally, the Puget Sound Regional Council also estimates regional mode share for transit is about 3% and in fact PSRC officials go further in their Transportation 2040 plan to show transit mode share will only increase to about 5%, despite spending billions more on transit expansion.
In 2010, the 31 public transit agencies collected $1.23 billion in sales taxes. The state collected about $1.21 billion in gas taxes in 2010. This means public transit agencies collected more in sales tax revenue than the entire state collected in gas tax revenue. In fact, public transit’s sales tax revenue has grown 150% in the last ten years, from $484 million in 2001 to $1.23 billion in 2010.
Barnett also claims I did not take inflation into account. Obviously, she did not read my report where I wrote: “Inflation over the same time period only accounts for 23% of this growth. This means sales tax revenue for public transit agencies in Washington state has grown about 6.5 times faster than inflation over the last decade.”
Washington Policy Center supports public transit, especially to serve people with disabilities or those living in dense urban areas. But creating a state level funding source by raising taxes and fees paid by drivers to subsidize other travel modes is unfair and siphons away revenue that should instead fund roads to reduce traffic congestion and improve safety. This is especially true when you consider public transit funding is already more than $2 billion per year but only serves 2.4% of all trips.
All transportation taxes and fees paid by drivers should be used for highway purposes only. That is only fair. Alternative travel modes should be funded by their own users (which reduces the public subsidy) or through local options that apply to the general public, like sales taxes.
Read the full study here: