Posts filed under ‘Funding’
Motor fuel tax revenue, which accounts for the largest share of state transportation funding (about 46 percent in the 2011/2013 biennium), is declining.
Without a revenue stream that can defend current and future needs for maintenance and operations, preservation, safety improvements, and congestion-relief projects for state highways and ferries, the quality of Washington’s transportation system will decline.
Between 2007 and 2023, Washington State fuel tax revenues are projected to fall by more than $5 billion.
With the exception of tolls and ferry fares, transportation tax and fee rates are set by state law and require legislative action.
The 18th amendment, approved in 1944, requires motor vehicle fuel taxes and vehicle registration fees to be used exclusively for highway purposes. The Legislature has imposed additional restriction on the use of most transportation revenue.
Increased Fuel Efficiency Leads to Lower Motor Fuel Tax Collection
Fuel economy will likely continue to improve under the federal government’s policy goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase fuel economy to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. The U.S. Department of Transportation and EPA are implementing the first phase of these standards, which already improved fuel economy in 2010, and will raise fuel efficiency from 22.6 mpg (2010) to 35.5 mpg by 2016.
Improved fuel efficiency reduces air pollution, CO2 emissions, our nation’s dependence on foreign oil, and has the potential for creating new jobs around emerging technologies. It will also, however, continue to decrease state revenue from motor fuel taxes.
The Commission’s proposal has five key elements:
- General Fare Increase: A 2.5 percent general fare increase is proposed to take effect Oct. 1, 2011 and an additional 3 percent general fare increase is proposed to take effect May 1, 2012. The May 2012 increase is intended to replace the need for an increase in October 2012.
- Vehicle size category changes: The proposal creates a new size category for cars less than 14 feet, with the fare to eventually be 70 percent of the standard vehicle fare. This new fare category intends to encourage small car use to maximize ferry deck space. This change will be phased in over three years, starting with the fare set at 90 percent of the standard vehicle fare on October 1, 2011, and then set at 80 percent of the standard vehicle fare on May 1, 2012, and finally set at 70 percent of the standard vehicle fare in 2013. Also under the proposal, the standard vehicle size is redefined as 14-22 feet – currently, the maximum length for a standard vehicle is 20 feet.
- The annual bicycle permit is eliminated and passengers paying with monthly passes, multi-ride cards, or, an ORCA ePurse will be allowed to bring bicycles on board without additional charge. In the San Juan Islands, only passengers using multi-ride cards would be exempt from the bicycle surcharge.
- A fuel surcharge mechanism is put in place as a way to pay for unexpected spikes in fuel prices not funded under the current budget. Under the proposal, fuel costs must exceed the currently-funded average fuel price of $3.86 per gallon by 2.5 percent to activate the surcharge. This means Washington State Ferry’s (WSF) fuel prices would have to increase to at least $4.08 per gallon to activate the surcharge. WSF will review fuel costs on a quarterly basis and, depending on fuel prices at the time of the review, the surcharge may be applied, removed or adjusted higher or lower. The proposal caps the maximum surcharge amount at 10 percent. Any changes to the surcharge will require a 30 day advanced notice to customers.
- A system-wide capital surcharge of 25 cents per fare is added. The surcharge is required by law and is dedicated to funding WSF vessel replacement. The 25 cent surcharge will be assessed on every ticket issued, whether a one-way or roundtrip fare. Multi-ride and monthly passes will reflect the total per-ticket price.
- Bainbridge Island: Tuesday, August 2, from 6:30 – 8:30 p.m. at the Bainbridge Island Commons
- Bremerton: Wednesday, August 3, from 6:30 – 8:30 p.m. at the Kitsap Conference Center
- Port Orchard: Thursday, August 4, from 6:30 – 8:30 p.m. at John Sedgwick Middle School
The Commission will hold a final hearing in Seattle on Wednesday, August 24 at 1 p.m. at the Puget Sound Regional Council located at 1011 Western Ave., Suite 500 in Seattle. The Commission will take public comment and expects to adopt its final fare schedule at this hearing.
To comment by email, write to: firstname.lastname@example.org. Address postal mail to Tariff Proposal, WA State Transportation Commission, PO Box 47308, Olympia, WA 98504-7308.
Earlier this week, the Transportation Commission received a tariff proposal from Washington State Ferries that includes fare increases, revised vehicle categories, and some other changes. The Commission will publish the proposal and hold meetings in late July and early August to solicit public comment.
The 2011-12 fare proposal contains a 2.5% general fare increase effective Oct. 1, 2011 and a 3% general fare increase effective May 1, 2012. The proposed May increase is intended to replace the need for an increase on Oct. 1, 2012 and will generate more funding.
The proposed vehicle size category changes creates a new size category for cars under 14 feet and gives them a discounted fare, which will be phased in over three years. The standard vehicle size is redefined as 14-22 feet (current max. length is 20 feet). Motorcycles will pay the “under 14 feet” fare (current motorcycle surcharge will be eliminated). The vehicle category and pricing changes ahould be revenue neutral when complete by October 2013. The proposal also would eliminate the bike annual permit and allow bikers with a multi-ride card or monthly pass (except in the San Juans) to bring bicycles without charge.
The proposal includes a formula-based fuel surcharge that is triggered by fuel costs exceeding by 2.5% what is funded in the WSF budget. It also includes a legislatively directed systemwide capital surcharge of 25 cents per fare.
The Commission will be holding public outreach meetings the last week of July and first week of August at the following locations:
• San Juan Islands – interisland boat and Friday Harbor
• Vashon Island
• Bainbridge Island
• Port Orchard
The final hearing will be in Seattle on August 23rd. Specific times and locations for the meetings are yet to be determined and will be posted when set.
As we’ve previously discussed, preservation of the transportation system is absolutely crucial, and the most critical preservation policy need is additional funding to maintain the life, safety, and utility of the existing transportation asset base. But it’s easy enough to identify the problem – the more difficult challenge going forward is how to achieve a solution.
As part of WTP 2030, the Commission has developed Preliminary Action Plans that identify the necessary steps and actions to initiate key strategies in the context of time: near‐term (initiate actions between 2011-2017) and longer-term (initiate actions between 2017-2030).
Imagine life in Washington State without our transportation systems. Those who don’t regularly use public transportation might think they can live without it, but the state transportation systems are much more than buses and ferries. Our statewide transportation network includes roadways and airports, too. We are all dependent on a healthy, stable transportation system for our day to day life.
That is why the preservation of the capital assets of the statewide transportation network is the most critical need currently facing the state. Additional revenue and new mechanisms for funding are needed.
WTP 2030 is a transitional plan, crafted at the beginning of a new era. The next four years are likely to see broad changes and policy transitions. Federal transportation policy is evolving, as are environmental and economic policies that will influence the direction of transportation and funding investments. This Plan will set the stage for many conversations and decisions still to come in future years.
Four strategic drivers inform this Plan: these are key influences that reflect the current political, policy and economic environment within which this Plan was developed:
- Transportation Policy should Support and Reinforce Other State Policy Objectives. A strategic transportation policy plan must embrace goals, principles, and policies that support broad policy outcomes for the state, beyond the transportation system. Fostering economic development, supporting healthy communities, reducing energy consumption, and addressing climate change are all broad policy outcomes influencing WTP 2030.
- The Relationship between Land Use and Transportation is Key. The transportation system is a direct reflection of the way in which land is developed and used. The movement of people and goods changes in relation to residential, commercial, industrial, and other land uses; the land use provides the reason for movement and the why for travel. The availability of transportation often influences development and land use plans. WTP 2030 acknowledges this critical relationship and recommends strengthening linkages between desired outcomes in both land use development and the transportation system.
Transportation is at the beginning of a new era that brings both great challenges and opportunities that will have an impact on how people travel and how goods move over the next twenty years. Although we have invested a lot in transportation projects over the years, we know that much more investment is needed.WTP 2030 is intended to be a practical Policy Plan – one that directly addresses the challenges and opportunities facing the state’s policy makers and provides them with solutions and a path forward.
WTP 2030 is grounded in the following three Foundational Themes - the big ideas that matter most.
Theme #1: The State’s Transportation System Needs to Work as an Integrated Network, Effectively Connecting Across Modes and Jurisdictions
A fundamental goal of the statewide transportation system over the next 20 years must be to work towards achieving system connectivity and integration. The system includes modes (aviation, rail, roads, trails, waterways), facilities (airports, ferry terminals, bus shelters, rest areas, information technology systems, weigh stations, etc.) and services (aviation fuel, charters, emergency response, traffic alerts, traffic cameras) that are owned, operated or managed by transportation providers in both the private and public sector. As part of this objective, we must focus on moving people and goods in the most efficient and cost effective manner, with system connectivity serving as a critical factor in investment decision-making.
The Transportation Commission wants to learn about your transportation priorities and ideas. As part of the WTP 2030 outreach process, the Commission will hold 5 Listening Sessions around the state in the month of September.
September 9, Vancouver
WSDOT Headquarters, 11018 NE 51st Circle (9am – noon)
September 14, Yakima
Harman Center, 101 North 65th Avenue (9am – noon)
September 23, Spokane
Downtown Spokane Library, 906 W Main Avenue (1pm-4pm)
September 29, Everett
Everett Transit Station, 3201 Smith Avenue, 4th Floor (9am – noon)
September 30, Bremerton
Norm Dicks Government Center, 345 6th Street (9am – noon)
The objectives of the Listening Sessions are to:
- Actively engage the public and solicit input from across the state to help shape WTP 2030 – the state’s 20-year plan for transportation
- Learn about regional and local perspectives on transportation system needs, challenges and opportunities to further inform the plan
If you cannot make it to a Listening Session, please use the online public input tool to tell us about the transportation issues and priorities that are important to you. Comments will be accepted through October 15, 2010. You can also provide comment by email (email@example.com) or by mail (P.O. Box 47308, Olympia, WA 98504-7308).
Comments on the plan are welcome and encouraged on this blog. Let us know what you think.
The Washington State Transportation Commission (Commission) has released a draft of the Washington Transportation Plan (WTP 2030) for public review and comment. The Commission led the development of WTP 2030 with ongoing engagement and input from a diverse Advisory Group and other partners throughout the state. You can view the draft plan on the Commission’s website.
WTP 2030 sets a 20-year course for Washington State’s transportation system. It identifies long-term funding shortfalls, service needs, and system-wide challenges along with recommended solutions and approaches aimed at moving the state’s transportation network into the future. Once finalized, the plan will be submitted to the Governor and the 2011 Legislature.
The Commission’s website also features an online public input tool that gives you the opportunity to comment on transportation issues and priorities as well as comment on specific portions of the plan. Comments will be accepted through October 15, 2010. You can also provide comment by e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Even though transit ridership is up, as previously discussed, revenues are down, which leaves jurisdictions challenged to figure out other ways to achieve funding.
One obvious route is to try to get voters to approve a tax increase for more transportation funding – not an easy task.
In Whatcom County, the Whatcom Transportation Authority (WTA) put a measure on the ballot in April 2010 for residents to vote on a two-tenths of one percent sales tax increase to maintain and improve public transportation services. Ridership in Whatcom County has been absolutely booming recently, (an increase of 52% between 2006 and 2009) and the county was tapping into reserve funds to support the increase.
The measure was narrowly defeated, however, by 930 votes or 1.8 percent. As a result, the WTA says it will have to reduce and/or cut service, almost immediately.
In Skagit County in 2008, the story was different. After ridership increased 24 percent between January and July of 2008, compared to the same period in 2007, voters approved a .2 % sales tax increase, and as a result Skagit Transit was able to expand service hours and add routes. They also upped fares to help cover operation expenses.
One idea proposed by the Seattle Transit Blog last year was to sell more advertising in Metro stops and on transfers to help raise revenue for the bus system.
An article written by Christopher B. Leinberger on the Atlantic’s website about the potential of privately funded rail lines prompted Sarah Goodyear, a blogger at Streetsblog.net to ask “Could private developers be the key to developing the nation’s transit infrastructure?“
What do you think? Have you heard of any unique or unexpected ways that other states or counties are funding transit? What are some innovative solutions you might propose?