Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Group Considers Transit Funding Option

Last week I held a public work session to explore a plan proposed by the Council’s Working Group on Infrastructure Financing that would allow the County to raise up to $75 million annually by assessing employers a $250 excise tax on employee parking spaces. Revenues would be dedicated to financing transit.

A parking excise tax not only would provide a stable and long-term revenue source, the Working Group’s October 2007 report says the tax “may contribute to achieving other County goals to reduce demand for single occupancy vehicle travel (by encouraging carpools or transit) and to maintain air quality standards.”

I am well aware of the fiscal uncertainty faced by our residents and businesses, and I also know that we have several big ticket transit plans on the table that we need to be prepared to deliver. I held the work session in light of the recent announcement by Maryland Transportation Secretary John D. Porcari that $1.1 billion in transportation projects will be deferred over the next six years to compensate for a revenue shortfall.

Montgomery County’s two planned priority transit projects, the Purple Line (an east-west route that would connect the Bethesda and New Carrollton Metrorail stations) and the Corridor Cities Transitway (a north-south route that would extend from the Shady Grove Metrorail station to beyond Clarksburg), were slashed by $25 million (19 percent) and $42.5 million (47 percent), respectively, over the next six years. The proposed excise tax could help to get these projects back on track.

I recognize that these are difficult economic times for everyone, and I appreciate the thorough consideration given to the proposal. Based on input from the work session, I do not plan to pursue the parking excise tax at this time.

Still, serious needs for both roadway and transit funding remain, especially as the State’s contribution to transportation is shrinking. Some folks have suggested that we can’t afford the cost of the projects, but we really can’t afford a future that leaves employees and businesses paralyzed by gridlock. That’s why I am committed to continue trying to address these core community needs. Do you have a good idea for financing infrastructure? Let me know.


Anonymous said...

How would this work for small customer-oriented businesses. Most of their parking would be for customers but a varying number of them may be used by employees. I do not see how you would determine the correct number. Or you may be intending to push companies to do away with customer parking too. That seems like a possible problem.

The Montgomery Green Democrats said...

Your proposal dovetails VERY nicely with the environmental goal of reducing impervious surfaces.

If it doesn't get too difficult to manage, reduced taxes might be levied on parking surfaces that are permeable (gravel, porous concrete, or newer grass grid installations).

On a related issue, wooded property reduces water runoff even more than gravel or grass and provides other benefits (cooling, erosion control, soil generation, habitat, wind breaks, aesthetic appeal, etc.). Perhaps future property tax increases can be levied only on non-wooded areas giving people more incentive to keep these increasingly rare forested areas intact.

Preserving these remaining islands of natural ambiance enhances the property value of land around them and thus will increase revenue of the taxes that are already levied. Everyone wants forests, but no one wants to OWN them. A revised tax structure might provide the incentive to keep them as they are, which helps us all.

Hopefully your study can be made into policy. I understand the fight may be difficult.

--Bill Jacobs
President, Montgomery Green Democrats

Anonymous said...

The best way to get these transit incentives back on track is to get all your council members to say NO to the Intercounty Connector. Studies show it will waste at least $3 Billion of our taxpayer money. Just a 10th of that money could go back to paying off the deficit in education in the county, and imagine how much that would help to jump start the Bicounty Transitway (Purple Line) and other public transit initiatives. Stop the Intercounty Connector now. We need no more highways. What we need is a better public transit infrustructure. Kuala Lumpur built a monorail system that took no right of way, with a third world budget under budget, serves 10 times as many people as DC, and in 5 years. We can learn something from a country whose per capital GDP is only $7000.