Use the Transit Tax for Transit

David Crossley wrote an excellent editorial yesterday, which you can find here. His key point: 25% of the Houston region’s Transit Tax is diverted to highway projects, plus a very large percentage of METRO’s capital budget (outside of the 25% diversion of funds) has to be used to expand, improve, and otherwise rebuild streets that METRO operates major transit on. That’s not just the light-rail streets, it also includes a number of major bus streets (such as the roads coming into downtown via the Spur in midtown).

As Minister Robert Muhammad said in a 2009 blog post, “The public transportation system of Harris County has been looted for the past 21 years by the City and county to the tune of $2.5 billion. Let me be explicit, 25% of public transit revenue from the one cent public transit sales tax has gone for street, drainage, and landscaping projects. This is NOT what voters established Metro to do when it was created in 1978.”

Muhammad also pointed out that the $2.5 billion could have been used to leverage another $2.5 billion in federal money over the years, so more than $5 billion has been lost that could have already produced the expansion of transit system we need.

This kind of stuff is just ridiculous, and it’s got to stop.


Posted: Wednesday, April 11th, 2012 at 8:39 am
Categories: move
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3 Comments

  1. My personal opinion, and statistics back this up, is that in most US cities including Houston, buses move the most people, the most cost effectively. Nearly all Metro riders are bus riders. Metro has prudently used capital improvement funds to allow for better bus transit. It is the buses, especially Park&Ride and the HOV lanes which they utilize that have maintained the generally broad support for Metro. It also is an engineering fact that a moderately loaded bus creates wear and tear on the road several hundred times greater than a car. Thus it goes without saying that some metro funds should go to the maintenance of the city streets on which the buses run. Part of street construction and maintenence is drainage and landscaping. I am sorry, there is just no looting there.

  2. In terms of boardings per route mile, MetroRail not only beats the top half-dozen Metro bus lines added together, it also has the highest ridership of any single transit line between Chicago and the West Coast.

    Even the biggest buses are lightweights compared to 18-wheelers. Crossley is correct: Metro are subsidizing their competition. Building roads instead of streets in cities, otherwise known as stroads, is not what voters approved when Metro was put to the ballot.

  3. I remember when former Mayor Lanier said that he would use the money from Metro to work on Houston streets and take the money that would have been spent on streets to expand Houston police. Other cities are not required to spend their Metro loot on streets. Houston and the other local cities in the Metro service area already collect sales taxes and property taxes to fund their municipal services and do not share this money with Metro.

    I believe that spending our ENTIRE Metro sales tax on transit is crucial for the future of the City of Houston and the greater Houston-Galveston region. I want the University and Uptown Light Rail Transit lines built as quickly as possible and our local bus service restructured on a frequent north-south and east-west grid network to connect to our LRT system and beyond. Then I want the rest of the light rail system built and a Regional Commuter Rail system system from Houston to the surrounding area beyond the Metro service area in at least 6 directions.

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