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TAXES: Transit agencies should have plan to turn a profit

Letter by Douglas V. Ellis, Covington on July 10, 2012 at 12:36 pm with 28 Comments »
July 10, 2012 12:36 pm

In today’s weak economy, why are the citizens of the Puget Sound region not holding our politicians accountable for out-of-control spending which leads to more regressive taxes?

A good example is our regional mass transit system. Currently serving the Puget Sound we have Pierce Transit, Metro, Community Transit and Sound Transit. All of these agencies overlap routes and require huge infusions of dollars to stay in business. Where do the dollars come from? Yes, us taxpayers. For every dollar these agencies generate from fares, how much do these fares offset our tax burden?

Consider this. As a private business, I go to my local banker and seek a loan for operation, maintenance and new capitalization for ABC Public Transit, but cannot generate a business plan for the next five to 10 years that shows I will be making a profit and able to service the loan based on simple business practices. No lender will float a loan knowing the odds are against them to ever cover the investment.

Which of these four local transit agencies have a business plan that shows they will turn a profit and no longer require regressive taxpayer support to continue funding businesses that are currently black holes financially?

This is but one example of out-of-control spending.

Leave a comment Comments → 28
  1. Only way transit agencies can turn a profit nation-wide, let alone in Washington is to charge passengers $20-$40 fares.

  2. BigSwingingRichard says:

    BORG: They already charge you $20-$40 from their portion of the sales tax rate. This proposal is to increase amount you are already paying for transit.

    An alternative to continually increasing taxes, would be to force the transit system to lower costs, reduce salaries, overhead, and reduce the number of routes, sell off some busses, in other words, act like business.

  3. 3 cents per $10.00 wouldn’t be catergorized a large sales increase.

  4. Routes have been reduced; over 100 employees have been fired; transit properties have been sold, I.e. transit land sold to U.W of Tacoma; 40 plus buses have been sold to auction.

  5. commoncents says:

    by golly, I think the poster is on to something. Let’s make EVERY public works entity profitable. Every single division must turn a profit and we will do it with user fees. Yikes, it’s going to stink going up and down I-5 with a toll booth at every exit but hey…it’s what the small minded populace wants.

    Oh, and those permits that people are thinking about applying for? they just quintupled in price.

    Don’t even begin to think about how police and fire are going to charge.

  6. My solution: unlicensed jitneys. Lima Peru had some of the best (worst?) I’d hop on, not knowing what direction it was going, pay a few coins and hop off any place the vehicle was stopped for some reason (if I could squirm my way out of the mass of bodies). Remove all safety precautions, let as many passengers load up an old SUV or VW bus or minivan as they can cram in, and let the public transit system become one more part of our infrasttructure that we have let become thrid world. (Except for the rich who can buy cars and pay for limos, shittles and other forms of unsubsidized transit.)

  7. Let’s make the Pentagon have to make a profit! Gee…that makes a lot of sense!

  8. Excuse me, “shuttles”. No word play was intended. Sorry.

  9. nonstopjoe says:

    When the U.S. invaded Iraq the plan presented to the public was once Iraq was conquered the U.S. would be reimbursed with proceeds from the sale of Iraqi oil. What is the total of reimbursements to date, and how much of the war expense remains to be paid out of the oil proceeds?

  10. Didn’t the Iraqi’s award US oil companies contracts?

  11. Ortingmom says:

    Let’s start having the homeless pull Rickshaws

  12. Ortingmom…to many hills in Tacoma, didn’t you see that Seinfeld episode???

  13. aislander says:

    How much money has been diverted to the idiot’s fantasy of light rail?

  14. PuyallupAdjunct says:

    Nearly all of these agencies have enough money when you account for the subsidies. New funding should fist come from improved effiencies not taxes. If the user fees aren’t large enough that is an indication of decreased community need for that service. If the general need is falling the appropriate choice is still what level of subsidy is appropriate, not how much to tax non-users. If larger subsidies are appropriate, you search for funds through other programs efficiencies. More money, in the aggregate, is not warranted.

  15. ” If the user fees aren’t large enough that is an indication of decreased community need for that service.”

    Transit nation-wide fits this definition; to include medicare/mediacade/social security/etc…….

  16. “If the general need is falling the appropriate choice is still what level of subsidy is appropriate, not how much to tax non-users. ”

    I have no kids/grandkids in school, yet I’m paying taxes for other kids. I’ve never had to call the fire department, yet I’m paying their salary. I’ve never had to call the police……..etc………

  17. The main routes do not lose a significant amount of money, and subsidizing them can be argued as an economic benefit.

    It is the charity rides for the handicap and elderly that cost the taxpayer big bucks.

    Let’s be honest with the debate here. Also, going back to private vs public, in the private sector the overlapping transportation firms would likely merge to achieve economy of scale, reduce admin costs, etc. Not something out of reach for the public sector.

  18. LeePHill says:

    “An alternative to continually increasing taxes, would be to force the transit system to lower costs, reduce salaries, overhead, and reduce the number of routes, sell off some busses, in other words, act like business.”

    Maybe we can offshore some jobs, too. Provide a less quality product and sell it at Walmart.

  19. LeePHill says:

    The people complaining about this are the same ones that complain about bridge tolls

  20. commoncents says:

    Look, we can argue until the cows come how about the necessity for new money and efficiencies from within. I think everyone would agree that they (transit entities) need to look for and find efficiencies before coming from the taxpayers. The argument comes up with whether enough has been done to that end and then if there is an actual need for the service. There are valid arguments on both sides which is why this is an issue. Easily resolved if we all agreed, right?

    However, the letter is about asking the transit companies to turn a profit – which is rediculous at best. There are certain services that are provided at a subsidy because it benefits the community rather than being fully user fee funded. Transit is one of those.

  21. commoncents says:

    CT7 – I would agree that merging and such would provide a benefit but wouldn’t that lead to taxation and representation issues? I would imagine that Snohomish County would not want to be taxed to maintain suburban routes in Pierce County.

  22. CT7, ask your church if they can provide “charity rides” for people with disabilities who cannot use regular public transit with a one-day notice and get people to appointments on time. Maybe if all churches would do that without discriminating and without turning anyone away who meets current qualifications, we wouldn’t need special transit shuttles.

    Whatn is your solution? Is it like the far-right’s solution to everything that concerns the poor and elderly or people with disabiliities – just to let them stay at home and rot, let them die if they don’t have insurance, keep them out of sight. Life would be so much easier and prettier for the rest of the people in our society if we did that, wouldn’t it?

  23. MyBandito says:

    By the nature of the beast, public agencies are not profit generating entities. They were never meant to be. Their costs are paid by taxes and fees. The combination of taxes and fees make these services available to the public for a more affordable user fee than if they were only available through private, for profit, companies.

    Maybe you message should have been more about efficiency than profit.

  24. sandblower says:

    We need more government subsidized mass transit, not less. A carbon tax would be a good start.

  25. Tuddo- is it or is it not taxpayer funded charity?

    How did the elderly and handicap survive before the govt takeover of family, charity, community?

  26. alindasue says:

    CT7 said, “How did the elderly and handicap survive before the govt takeover of family, charity, community?”

    If you are talking about the days before low cost public transportation options…

    Our society had a different dynamic then. Doctors made house calls. Extended families lived together or at least close, so family support and transportation was more readily available. The number of people without family support was small enough that churches and charities could handle the load of supporting them.

    Community… transit services would fall under “community” support, wouldn’t it. You speak of “govt takeover” as is if the government is separate from the community, but it’s not. WE are the community and the people from our community (on a small local club scale or on a nation-wide scale) that we elect to represent our us are the government. It is hard to have one without the other.

  27. alindasue, thanks for the great response.

    Many people with disabilities didn’t survive in the old days because we did not have technology to keep them alive. If you became paralyzed from the neck down, you quickly died from bed sores without antibiotics and proper care.

    As a citizen, I feel it is part of the responsibility of “we the people” to create infrastructure so that all people, not just a chosen few, can have life, liberty and be able to pursue happiness.

    In the contemporary world, access to transportation is a necessary part of that, so we build public roads and other supports to allow people to move freely. Not just the rich that can afford expensive vans and lifts, but all people.

    Do you think everyone should live on private streets, funded by the property owner, travel on toll roads and not public highways, and, if you have no cash to buy a sgtreet, or pay a toll, stay at home and not access the community around you?

  28. Borg,
    I’m confused, are you praising are condemning the reductions?

    LPH – ‘An alternative’ = privatization.

    MyBandito – Bravo – running organizations and agencies as for profit organization is the single biggest reason Heath Insurance is so pricy.

    One thing I have noticed about the left and right.

    The Left views things from the group perspective.

    The right always looks at things from the I/Me perspective.

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