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For spending Metro’s sales tax revenue on transit

A list of contributors almost as long as the University Line will hopefully someday be wrote a Sunday op-ed in favor of giving Metro more money for transit.

I sure hope we get to have all this some day

Unfortunately, not all of the money that we voted for back in 1978 actually goes to provide transit service. A huge sum has been diverted to road building outside of Houston – inducing sprawl that both destroys our heartland and decreases tax revenue for the city of Houston by encouraging business and home buyer flight to the suburbs. Since 1988, a staggering $2.7 billion has been paid to 15 cities and unincorporated Harris County to do road and other nontransit projects, rather than help build our regional transit system.

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Now there is an opportunity to return those funds back to transit projects (such as highly valuable light rail lines), and it comes at a critical moment. Without the use of all of our one-cent transit taxes, the transit system administered by Metro is probably not going to expand any farther – after the current rail line construction is finished. The funds just aren’t there for important projects like the University rail line and the Uptown/Galleria line.

Fully funding transit would mean more of our job centers would be accessible across the region. More of us should be able to reliably use public transit to get to work and to lunch and meetings on time. Without fully funding transit, more unchecked sprawl will continue chewing up more and more of our heartland and more of our money will continue to fly away from our city coffers.

On Thursday, the Metro Board of Directors will decide what to put on the ballot for the November election. Should the money continue to be drained away or not?

We believe it is time to end the drain on the transit revenues and invest now in transit, as originally intended by the voters so long ago – for our heartland, for our tax base, for our future.

I certainly agree with scaling back the General Mobility Program in favor of more transit spending, though I’m open to capping GMP payments instead of discontinuing them. I’m not sure that I would have taken the approach these folks did, which was to emphasize environmental issues in the transit/sprawl tradeoff – I’d probably have talked more about traffic and providing alternatives as a way of coping with it – but that is a valid concern. Metro has apparently decided to delay making a decision about the referendum language until at least next week. In the meantime, I’ve solicited a couple of guest posts that will address the Metro/GMP question in more detail – I believe this is a critical issue for the upcoming election, and I intend to provide as much information about it as I can so we can all make a good decision. Where we would or could be by now if we’d made different choices in the past isn’t something we can affect. It’s where we’re going that matters, and we’d better get that right.

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One Comment

  1. Ross says:

    The road building in the County has done more to promote transit that the billions Metro is wasting on rail. The people who benefit from those road improvements pay the Metro tax, and to divert it all to stupid, yet glamorous, rail projects is asinine. I live inside the loop, and thus far have seen absolutely no benefit from the rail. In fact, it’s destroyed traffic in many places, and made it difficult to get places I need to go.