Transit providers, from TriMet to Tillamook, face unique funding challenges. Some receive funding from local property taxes, some have access to payroll tax revenues in their region, and some rely entirely on the generosity of volunteers. While the nature of these challenges vary, increased support for transit at the State-level will have a big impact across Oregon.
Annual operating funding sources for Selected Oregon Transit Providers
What if the State provided as much support as the Feds?
Every year, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) provides roughly $25 million dollars¹ to Oregon's transit providers (not including TriMet and LTD). The graph above shows the varying degrees to which transit providers across the state rely on this FTA funding. Now imagine how different things might be if the State of Oregon kicked in a similar level of support. Better Transit Oregon used this "what if" to test the benefits that Better Transit could provide to small city, regional, and rural transit providers. While $25 million per year may not be the number our legislators choose, it's a modest and realistic increase that could create tangible results.
What about TriMet and LTD?
TriMet and LTD serve the State's largest cities and are its largest transit providers. Together, they account for over 87%² of Oregon's transit ridership. Unlike other providers, they also get a significant portion of their funding from local payroll taxes. Because TriMet and LTD are so different, Better Transit Oregon used a different approach to test the impacts of Better Transit.
For TriMet and LTD, we used an existing transportation funding proposal from 2015 to test Better Transit impacts. This proposal makes major upgrades to much of the existing service in the Portland metropolitan area while adding new routes and frequency outside traditionally well-served parts of the region. This package would require roughly $70 million annually to be raised through an employee-side payroll tax levy, roughly an 8% increase in their annual budget.
For LTD, Better Transit Oregon assumed a level of State support equal to $7 million per year. This investment would allow LTD to fully implement their Frequent Transit Network (FTN), add crosstown connections, and improve service to rural areas.
Let's put this in perspective...
Including TriMet and LTD, our "what if" rings up at roughly $100 million per year. While that may seem like a lot, it's no match for what many other states are investing. In 2014, the State of Oregon put roughly $8.24 per person toward transit. If the State put an additional $100 million toward transit every year, it would be spending $32.88 per person - enough to put us in the top 25%.
Change from 2014 state Funding per Capita to potential funding with better transit
If this looks like a small change, that's because it is. The increase would only get Oregon back to a pre-recession level of funding, and nothing more. However, this small change is enough to put Oregon's transit providers on solid financial footing and produce tangible benefits for communities across the state - from the Willamette Valley to the Wallowas.
What does this mean in terms of impact?
With Better Transit, all Oregonians could benefit from more transportation options in every part of the state. By providing Oregon's transit providers with a stable source of funding they could increase their service hours by 37%.
This means more buses on the road, and less congestion. It means more people that are able to get to work on time, make it to their medical appointments, and maintain their independence. It means businesses and communities can grow and prosper while they depend on reliable public transportation.
Click below to learn more about the specific benefits that Better Transit can provide.
²Annual Unlinked Passenger Trips, Federal Transit Administration National Transit Database, 2013