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Interview with David Crossley

David Crossley

This week I’m going to take an in depth look at the one contentious referendum on the ballot, the Metro referendum. The purpose and the language of the referendum is whether or not to reauthorize the General Mobility Program, in which Metro turns over 25% of its sales tax revenue to Harris County, the city of Houston, and the smaller member cities, for mobility projects, through the year 2025. There is some question about whether the public will understand what the proposition means, which is partly why I’m doing all this. We begin today with David Crossley, who is one of the leading critics of the referendum. Crossley, the President of the non-profit Houston Tomorrow, believes that voting to defeat the referendum, which will result in the cessation of the GMP and thus provide Metro with the full penny of sales tax receipts, is the only way for Metro to finish building the light rail lines that were promised in the 2003 referendum. Here’s our conversation:

David Crossley MP3

You can still find a list of all interviews I did for this primary cycle, plus other related information, on my 2012 Harris County Primary Elections page and my 2012 Texas Primary Elections page, which I now need to update to include fall candidate information. You can also follow this blog by liking its Facebook page.

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  1. sean says:

    “For nearly 35 years, unincorporated Harris County and 15 area cities have taken $2.7 billion from METRO‚Äôs transit tax revenues, successfully preventing the creation of a robust, high-capacity transit system in the service area.”
    * Actually, for nearly 35 years the taxpayers of Harris County and 15 area cities have paid over $11 Billion in sales tax to fund Metro, which averages over $300 Million a year.
    * Additionally, taxpayers, you have most recently funded Metro $900 Million in federal grants.
    * Although Metro also collects fares from bus/park & riders, you subsidize the sold tickets.
    * It’s a known fact that many, many people ride without paying because no one is checking.
    * Beware the “ridership” numbers reported, which included all those free rides paid for by Reliant on game day, by the Ellen show, by whatever promotion is going on. Tickets that otherwise wouldn’t have been sold. Thanks, Reliant.

    What has REALLY successfully prevented the creation of a robust, high-capacity transit system in the service area??
    * Poor leadership, gross mismanagement, grossly wasteful spending, a litany of scandals, a poorly structured financing mechanism, the fact that ramming rail into already-developed commercial and residential areas will ALWAYS be financially untenable, i.e. too expensive to ever, ever pay for itself.

    METRO has prevented Metro from creating a robust transit system. A “NO” vote means Metro gets to keep and continue wasting ALL of your sales tax money, and your federal tax dollars. A “YES” vote means you will actually continue see a fraction of your sales tax money put to good use, on projects you will actually benefit from. NO vote means Metro gets to waste 100% of your sales tax dollars. YES vote means Metro only gets to waste 75% of your sales tax dollars.

    See 2010 posts, still as relevant as ever:

    “Metro has completely abandoned the bus expansion: We have fewer buses and bus riders today than we did in 2003. It also has done absolutely nothing to further the development of any commuter rail lines and has instead gotten in the way of other groups like Harris County when they have tried to initiate some action. The voters in 2003 did not approve just a light rail plan; they approved a comprehensive, multimodal system. Metro, for its own reasons, has abandoned what the voters approved in favor of its own grandiose vision.”

    “There could hardly be a more fitting image for the close of the current Metro administration than the recent photographs for a wrecked Metro buses in front of Metro’s headquarters after having been broad-sided by Metro’s Main Street light rail. The last six years are likely to be remembered as the most ruinous time for public transportation in Houston’s history as Metro has pursued a single-minded obsession to build its version of an at-grade rail system regardless of the cost, both in financial terms and in the degradation of the bus system on which over 100,000 Houstonians rely daily. Fortunately, Mayor Parker has ordered top-to-bottom review of the agency. Here is what that review is likely to find.

    Decline in Ridership. Since 2004, Houston population has grown by over 10% from just over 2 million to 2.25 million. At the same time gas prices rose 47% from $1.81 per gallon to $2.67 per gallon. These two factors should have virtually guaranteed an increase in transit. However, exactly the opposite has occurred as bus boardings dropped almost 24% from 88 million in 2004 to 67 million in 2009. Instead of increasing bus service by 50% as it promised the voters in the 2003 referendum, Metro has slashed bus routes and increased fares by over 50%. Today Metro actually operates 225 fewer buses than it did in 2003. An outside performance audit in 2008 found that on-time performance fell by 29% from 2004 to 2008.

    Financial Disaster. Since 2003, Metro’s sales tax revenues have increased by 43%, rising from $357 million to $512 million. At the
    same time, its fare revenue increased by 41% from $42 million to $60 million by charging an ever dwindling ridership more. Yet, Metro is in the worst financial shape in recent history. At year end 2003 Metro’s current assets exceeded its current liabilities by $125 million. The budget just adopted by the Metro board projects that it will have current accounts deficit of $165 million by the end of this fiscal year, a stunning loss of nearly $300 million in just five years. Over the same period, Metro’s debt has swelled by nearly 50% from $546 million to $816 million.”

  2. […] answer to that, which you can hear in the interview I did with him, would be that with the full penny of Metro’s sales tax going to the agency it […]