Mayor Bob’s update on bus funding

Just now getting to my weekend e-mails, and I see this one from Bob Coble:

I wanted to give you an update from the City County RTA Committee that met at City Hall last Thursday. City Council members include me, EW Cromartie, and Kirkman Finlay. Belinda Gergel also joined us. County Council members include Damon Jeter, Val Hutchinson, and Joyce Dickerson. Chairman Joe McEachern also attended. The Greater Columbia Chamber of Commerce and other groups also were in attendance. The first meeting had four presentations from staff on a variety of background issues. Joe Cronin of the County gave an excellent overview of how our RTA compares to peer cities. I believe that all the Committee members strongly agree on two fundamental points. First that transit is an essential public service that is critical for those who depend on bus service to get to their job and the doctor; an essential environmental tool to prevent non-attainment status and become a green community; and is vital to continuing economic development. Secondly, that the County and the City have the capacity to provide funding currently and it would be unacceptable not to do so.

Frannie Heizer, as the attorney for the RTA, presented the current legal options for funding. She made the following points: First, a sales tax referendum could not be held until November 2010 (Richland County Council could call the referendum now for 2010). Secondly, Frannie believes that the use of hospitality tax for transit would require a change of state law in the 2009 Legislative Session. The County has asked for an Attorney General’s Opinion to see if hospitality tax could be used now without a change in state law. Thirdly, neither City nor County property tax can be used without a referendum and then property tax would be limited by the cap on milage. Fourth, the mass transit fee by the County and the vehicle registration fee by the City and County are available now (both fees are different legally but to the taxpayer are paid in the same way and the same amount). 

When we establish a funding plan, other issues that were discussed included the need for other governments and partners to participate in funding the RTA; doing a comprehensive operations analysis; and changing the RTA organizational structure to have advisory members for those governments that are not providing money to the system.

The next meeting will be Friday November 14th at 9:30 am at the RTA headquarters on Lucius Road. We are inviting three members from the Lexington County Council to participate.

Thanks. I will keep you updated.

15 thoughts on “Mayor Bob’s update on bus funding

  1. Lee Muller

    Frannie Heizer is the attorney for the Bus Scam.
    What a surprise!
    At least she is not representing them while still on City Council, unlike some of the other members, who do business with the city.

  2. p.m.

    It is amazing how Mayor Bob can clear something up and reassure everybody without me having one single clue what he’s talking about.
    His sales tax-hospitality tax-property tax-cap on milage-mass transit fee-vehicle registration fee paragraph is a masterpiece of obfuscation.
    The political gene is an astounding thing.

  3. p.m.

    Oops. That’s millage, not milage. Freudian slip when you’re talking about buses, wouldn’t you say?
    By the way, I bought gas tonight for $2.09/gallon. Anybody want to give George Bush credit?
    Of course not. But when it was $4, that was all W’s fault, weren’t it?

  4. Phillip

    PM, let’s hear three cheers for George W. Bush. Gas falls to a price that was unheard of before mid-2005 and we’re supposed to cheer. Yippee. Gas was $1.46 a gallon when W took office.

  5. zeke

    BIG SURPRISE! LETS USE THE HOSPITALITY OR PREPARED FOODS TAXES TO FUND THIS TAXPAYER GIVEAWAY! The general public, 95% of which will never use the bus system, should not be extorted or cooerced into paying for another socialist feel good project! Yes, a bus/train system can be usefull, but, it must provide enough revenue from fares to sustain it’s operations! Simple solution! If it costs $12 million to operate, if ther are 5000 round trips or 10000 one way trips per day, you charge $3.50 one way or $7.00 round trip! That would be $12,775,000 leaving $775,000 for repairs, upgrades and replacements! THE MOST IMPORTANT THING, NO UNION FOR WORKERS, PERIOD!

  6. Thomas

    No transportation system is without taxpayer subsidy. Roads, airports, or transit.
    I guess we should get rid of all road and airport funding and make users pay for the true cost, too. Otherwise it would be a taxpayer giveaway.

  7. p.m.

    Phillip, I don’t think you had your sarcasm meter turned on when you read my post, but mine was functioning when I saw yours.
    Nevertheless, I need for you to explain how the president controls gasoline prices. I’d be particularly interested in what a president can do to control Chinese demand for gasoline and hurricane winds speeds.

  8. beetrave

    I love how “socialism” has become the new buzzword. By Zeke’s standards, the biggest socialist project in the Midlands would be the highways between downtown and the suburbs. As soon as we make I-20, I-26, I-77, and Hwy 277 into toll roads that allow users to “pay their own way,” we can ask the bus system to pay for itself based solely on fares.
    …But I forgot, middle-class and wealthy people are entitled to line up for every subsidy out there, visible & invisible. It’s this kind of silliness that shows why, at least in the south, quite a bit of “libertarian” and “small-government” talk are thin veils for racism and class warfare against poor and working people.

  9. Lee Muller

    If you see any racism, it is Obama and his ilk telling blacks that they are owed reparations, and a lifetime of support from working white people.
    Believe it or not, there are lots of black people who work hard and want to keep their money out of the hands of lazy people, black, white, yellow or brown.
    Why can’t the busses make a profit, or at least pay their own way?
    All we taxpayers expect from a bus system is for it to be run with some intelligence and efficiency. The Columbia busses are run in a haphazard and careless manner, without regard to providing service. They run empty all day, a jobs program for the drivers and administrators, who cannot even provide data on the riders.
    Last year alone, Mayor Coble and the council threw away $500,000 on a study, which yielded no information on demographics and routes, so its recommendations are baseless.

  10. beetrave

    Lee, thanks for not reading my post. But I’ll say it again. The buses can’t make a profit for the same reason interstate highways can’t: a funding structure based wholly on user fees would never generate enough support to maintain the entire system. It is a sad fact of living in a modern nation with a high standard of living that we all have to pay for things we don’t use.
    That said, I agree with you that the buses are not managed well. (My main complaint is that too many routes run through the Transit Center and can’t get you directly from Point A to Point B. They’ll never get people out of their cars with little chopped-up bus routes that can’t even get you across downtown without switching buses.) But that’s not your point, is it?
    And by the way:
    “If you see any racism, it is Obama and his ilk telling blacks that they are owed reparations, and a lifetime of support from working white people.”
    >> When did Obama say this?

  11. Lee Muller

    As a consulting engineer with a lot of experience in transportation systems, I happen to KNOW the transit systems could be run much better than they are. We cannot just accept the excuse that some business enterprises are never going to be profitable, as if that were a reason to subsidize their few customers with tax money from 10,000 times as many non-customers.
    I used to ride the bus to work from my home in Shandon to my office downtown, instead of wearing out my Mercedes and parking it in the roasting sun. Back then, lots of business people rode the bus.
    The bus system stopped caring about customers as long as they could keep going back to City Council for more money, without any accountability.

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