THE RATIONALITY OF MASS TRANSIT FOR THE TREASURE VALLEY
About once a year frustrated politicians and commuters bring up the need for Mass Transit. The following paper discusses the issue and the applicability for an area like the Treasure Valley.
The first thing we must ask is what would a transit system include, Light Rail (LR), Buses(B), Commuter Vans (CV), High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes all or some? Most of the larger metropolitan areas in the west that have mass transit combine LR, B, and HOV. This paper discusses existing programs, the practicability, financial burden, do they work, what is the cost to develop and what is the cost to operate. We utilize the actual budgets of the four systems most closely located and although larger, comparable in size metro areas to the Treasure Valley.
First: Portland Oregon’s Transit system, “TRIMET”. Here is the link to their 2020 budget. This is a 332 page financial document. You can quickly understand the basics by reviewing the pie chart on pages 24 & 30. The data included is directly from the financial breakdown.
Original construction cost, over $2billion.
Funding is payroll tax 2020 data $411,410,000
Passenger fares $110,100,000
Total grants misc. income $1,370376,758
Total operational income $1,528,880,086
Total cost 2020 $1,528,880,086
Cost over passenger fares $1,418,780,086
Second: Salt Lake City’s TRAX (now UTAX). Here is the link to their 2020 budget. This is a strait forward financial document.
The initial cost over $1.2Billion.
Funding: Sales tax. 2020 total $347,567,000
Income from fares $ 55,182,000
Total grants $578,674,000
Total expense $664,977,000
Passenger total 450,000+-
Cost over passenger fares $609,795,000
Third: Denver’s Regional Transportation District. This is the link to their 2020 budget. This is a complex 252 page document in which you can find pie charts on pages 38 & 39, and the full 2020 budget recommendation on page 40.
Cost to date over $7.8 Billion
Funding: Sales and Use Tax $400,266,000
Grants, etc. $112,428,000.
Income from fares $97,501,000.
Total Income $610,195,000
Total expense $1,366,453,652.
Passenger total 105,388,415
Cost over passenger fares $1,268,952,652
Fourth: Central Puget Sound Regional Transit Authority (Seattle). Here is the link to their 2020 budget. This is a 250 page highly complex and confusing financial document not meant for those uneducated in complex financial statements. There is a pie chart on page 28 which somewhat covers and explains the source of funding followed by a 3 page financial break down on pages 30-32. The final cost of this system was unavailable causing the use of projections and estimates.
Funding: Property and Sales Tax $1,594,925,000
Misc. funding $402,498,000
Income from fares $99,502,000
Total cost 2020 $2,931,760,000
Passenger total 106,000,000
Cost over passenger fares $2,832,258,000
Clearly a mass transit system in not profitable.
Portland passenger fares cover only 7.2% of the cost of the system yearly, in Salt Lake City the fares cover 9% of the cost, in Denver 7.1% and in the Seattle area they cover 3.4% of the total costs.
Things to rationally consider:
At this time, February 2021, the cost to develop a transit system in the Treasure Valley has been estimated to exceed $2 Billion and was estimated to have an annual tax increase of $159,000,000 in 2014.
Ninety Six percent (96.7%) of Idaho’s businesses are small businesses with less than 50 employees which prohibits effective use of mass transit. Mass Transit in the Treasure Valley would only benefit the retail locations and some of the businesses in the Boise area. The cost should be paid by those who benefit from such a system not the Taxpayer.
We need a bus system for those who can’t drive, but do we need large buses that we all see traveling with 1 or 2 people? Also, although under used by only 19% of the drivers, a High Occupancy Vehicle lane for commuters, buses and emergencies should be developed on the interstate.
Ronald M. Harriman 1-31-2021
Chairman of the Concerned Citizens of Canyon County.