WTA is coming to the taxpayers for more money. In their words, they say they need the increase to “maintain the existing amount of bus service or expand service.” My belief is that WTA is overspending it’s public funding right now, so I’d certainly hate to see them expand their overspending.
WTA is not self supporting by a country mile and I see no indication that they are trying to move that direction. Whether you use WTA or not, tax payers cover roughly 90% of WTA’s revenue, while actual riders only cover 10% for a service that they use. For perspective, consider that the even the often maligned Lummi Island Ferry collects fares which cover half of their expenses. WTA’s financing strategy is outrageously out of balance.
Expanding WTA service will only cost taxpayers more money because the routes with the highest ridership and therefore, most effective use of taxpayers money are already covered. Additional routes will have less ridership and therefore be the most heavily subsidized routes. WTA should be favoring the most ridden routes if they truly wish to both serve the public and be good stewards of our taxpayer dollars.
Our state and federal tax dollars also help prop up WTA. That’s right. While rider fares account for only about $2-$3 million per year towards operating expenses, we taxpayers are kicking in another $20 million or so for expenses and we are also paying another 5-6 million in state and federal taxes for capital projects like new buses and transit stations.
WTA is not an essential service in the same respect as Fire, Police, Medical. I’d say that for the elderly and disabled, WTA’s Para Transit is leaning that direction, but in general though, not having bus service poses no threat to our immediate well being and there is no 911 option to have a bus dispatched to your home. Yes, as much as WTA and many of their supporters would like us to believe, there are other ways to get around. Scooter, friends, family, taxi, biking, walking and let’s face it, your car. For many in Whatcom County a car in the driveway is way more essential than a bus that passes a mile away from your home.
WTA is not servicing the average person in Whatcom County. Recently WTA conducted a survey which was to “measure the satisfaction of the general public and riders with services.” Yet the Herald article covering the survey failed to mention that half of the “general public” they surveyed live in Bellingham and almost half the riders of WTA were found to be WWU students. If more money is to be sought for operating costs, WTA should look to those who are using their service.
WTA doesn’t have any publically stated goal of reducing their financial burden on the average Whatcom resident and they have no track record. So, in a time when we are all taking a critical look at how we are spending our limited resources, WTA is asking us to dig into our pockets and pull out a 33% increase for them.
I am in no way opposed to WTA nor public transit systems in general, but my intention is to vote NO to this measure on April 27.
link to WTA budgets