In my blurb yesterday, I mentioned a “Plan B”, whereby in the event that the state legislature fails to allow the people of King County to vote on a countywide MVET for maintaining county roads and Metro service, the county could use existing legal authority to refer an alternative revenue package to voters for those purposes. Staff and elected officials at King County have deflected most questions about any such plan, preferring (understandably) to focus their messaging on the legislature, but nevertheless, I think it’s worth transit advocates discussing the options in the open.

Fortunately, it is not necessary to pore over the text of the RCW to see what options are out there. In 2011, staff at the state legislature compiled an updated report describing every source of local-government revenue intended to fund land or sea transportation. The document is 22 pages long, and includes a summary table on the last two pages. The “Plan B” most people are referring to is the idea of forming a countywide Transportation Benefit District (or, perhaps, a TBD that includes a large subset of the county area, presumably the parts which enjoy fixed-route service), and referring some combination of a flat vehicle licensing fee and a TBD sales tax to voters, in lieu of an MVET.

The authority for doing this is discussed on document page 118 of this report. There are a raft of tax options available to TBDs, including property taxes and road tolling, but the only ones which appear to be workable, and which could provide sustainable levels of funding for bus operations, are the sales tax and VLFs. With a vote of the people, King County could levy a 0.2% sales tax and a $100 VLF for Metro and county routes, although the $100 VLF is subject to a “stacking” provision which limits the total TBD VLF to $100 in the event that a vehicle is registered in an area covered by multiple TBDs. I don’t know offhand how the revenue is allocated in that case.

Other sources of revenue I’ve batted around informally with county staff are the county gas tax (document page 119) and county HOV/commuter rail MVET (document page 115). I’ve been told that the county gas tax (which would only be available to address paving issues with county roads, not bus operations) would not raise enough money to be worth going to the ballot for, and the HOV/commuter rail authority is not available for bus operations. Notably, there appears to no way to pay for ongoing Metro operations with property tax, or any other progressive tax.

66 Replies to “Washington’s Transportation Local Options”

  1. How would the revenue raised in Plan B, assuming $100 VLF and 0.2% sales tax, compare to the revenue raised if the legislature enabled Plan A to go to the voters and it passed?

    1. A 0.2% sales tax would raise approximately $77 million if had been implemented this year. This is based on the current 0.9% raising a forecasted $346.8 million this year. Anyone can feel free to correct or add to this…

      1. The MVET, assuming a full 100 per registered car would be of roughly the same magnitude. King County pop is about 2 million, Statewide is about 7 million, and there were about 3 million registered vehicles in Washington in 2009. Assuming there hasn’t been much change in the number of registered vehicles, and per capita car ownership is level accross the state, that’s about 86 million.

      2. Ballpark, then, we’d need .1% combined with a $50 VLF to eliminate the shortfall, and even more to expand service. That’s a heavy lift compared with a more progressive MVET.

  2. Many places around the US have found that it is politically advantageous to manage transportation funding with a separate agency that transit operators and other entities would have to answer to. it would eliminate the appearance that transit operating agencies just want more money to pay drivers or grow their empire. It would eliminate the confusing elements of King County Metro vs Sound Transit to the public (admittedly there if one agency is building a new subway yet the other one doesn’t have enough money to operate service). It would encourage local jurisdictions to better demonstrate benefits to transit when seeking transportation funding. Without such a structural oversight approach, these “battles” for funding are going to repeatedly occur and the public will increasingly be less and less likely to support them.

    To that end, this document seems self-serving seeking more money but not offering up strategies to engender better public support.

    1. I don’t really want the capital budget of Sound Transit raided to provide operating funds to Community Transit, Metro Transit, or Pierce Transit. I think such a thing would be foolish in the long run and eating our seed corn.
      Similarly I don’t really want people from elsewhere in the state telling Central Puget Sound how they should run their transit agencies or what project priorities should be.

  3. I’d like to see a statewide direct transfer of state funds into transit.

    I mean, after all, the following counties pay into the state coffers instead of drain:

    San Juan
    King
    Skagit
    Kittas
    Whatcom
    Snohomish

    The last I checked King, Skagit, Whatcom and Snohomish have mass transit systems in need of state assistance. So too does Pierce.

    My concern about local options comes down to this: Two votes for transit, one vote for roads. Now I’m not anti-road but this smells of bullying by the road bullies.

    1. Wow, so King County is basically paying for the rest of the state. Yet somehow most of the rest of the state seems to think the state’s budget problems are due to King County being a bunch of freeloaders.

      Maybe we should break off with San Juan, Skagit, Kittas, Whatcom, and Snohomish and form a new state.

  4. Bruce, thanks for posting that staff report (and making this post). Earlier today I had been slogging through the RCW trying to understand TBDs. It was slow and time-consuming… and I’m a lawyer.

    1. Thanks :-) Yeah, it’s pretty inscrutable stuff, and it’s important to get the facts out there, regarding what is or is not possible under current law.

  5. Serious question for you, Bruce. And for King County Metro Transit employees, both union and non-represented:

    If a friendly state legislator were to ask you what changes you would make in the operation of the transit system to achieve real efficiency in return for State help- not just gestures for show- what would you tell them?

    Mark Dublin

    1. I would tell them point-blank many, many cuts and eliminations have been made.

      Pierce Transit is on life support.
      Both Community Transit and Island Transit have no Sunday service.
      The Tri-County Connectors depend on state help to protect the Northwest Washington economy
      King County METRO has made efficiencies and hiked fares.

      We could get rid of Sounder North with few whimpers but that isn’t state funded.

      We could and should get rid of sales tax on transportation construction projects – but that’s only construction, not operation.

      1. You can tell them whatever you want, but nobody representing any district outside of King County gives a shit about the state of transit in King County. All they will do is try to use the issue as leverage to get even more of our tax dollars sent to other parts of the state. Until the political makeup of the legislature drastically changes, we should forget about plan A. The options remaining are either plan B or massive service cuts. Plan B is what we should be focusing on.

  6. There are a raft of tax options available to TBDs, including property taxes and road tolling, but the only ones which appear to be workable, and which could provide sustainable levels of funding for bus operations, are the sales tax and VLFs.

    If you are going to write an article like this, then perhaps you could tell us why an option like a property tax, which absolutely makes sense and is the only rational way to fund transit, would not be selected?

    1. Because the property tax is weirdly structured. For the first year of the tax, it can be used for anything, then only used to repay general obligation bonds. Basically, it can be used to build capital projects, but selling bonds as a way to fund operations and then using a property tax levy to pay them off would be insane.

      1. Makes sense to me.

        The good thing is that you can budget your costs up front (which would be typically high for a large capitally intensive project) and then be able to meet that obligation longer term with the bonds as a buffer.

      2. So, essentially property tax makes sense for transit infrastructure, but not for operational funds.

      3. In what what does it “make sense” for one and not the other.

        Really for an article that starts off as an analysis, it seems to then dovetail into a preordained conclusion.

        Property taxes are absolutely the right way to fund almost everything that government does as the benefits of good government accrue directly to those who own property.

        Better transit means more value to property is is near or whose owners and renters use transit. Hence they should pay proportionally.

      4. I’m with John on this one. It is our tax structure that is insane. We don’t have an income tax, gas taxes are only supposed to be used for roads, property taxes involve bonds, etc.

        Well, let’s ignore the stupid limitations and just do it. A property tax would mean issuing a bunch of bonds. This is not bad at all, considering our economy. Basically, King County is growing faster than the country as a whole. Issuing bonds makes a lot of sense. Bond rates are low. We always pay our debts. We should issue these bonds and simply pay the small percentage on them. It is more progressive and pretty good financial management in general. If King County was a company, would it issue bonds? Hell yes! Folks would buy them up at a very low rate and we would invest the money at great advantage. Everybody wins.

      5. I should mention that Washington State has a long history of this sort of thing. We passed school levy after levy knowing the money went to basic maintenance (e. g. paying teachers) instead of extra, capital based projects. Of course, people sued them over the issue (twice, if I’m not mistaken) but that is another story.*

        Could we do the same sort of thing for funding transit? I don’t know the legal ramifications, but I would like to hear them. Even a rotating set of bonds (every year for the next five years) sounds good to me.

        * I was one of the plaintiffs in that original 1977 lawsuit as a teenager in the Seattle public schools.

      6. Pretty sure it’s an either-or. Either we issue GO bonds for capital purposes and collect the tax until they’re retired, or we levy an one-year Maintenance & Operations tax.

      7. So in Washington State, it isn’t legal for counties to just levy whatever property taxes they like and spend them on whatever they like more-or-less?

        That’s… unusual. In most states, counties have plenary authority over property taxes and can do whatever they like with them.

      8. “I’m with John on this one. It is our tax structure that is insane. We don’t have an income tax, gas taxes are only supposed to be used for roads, property taxes involve bonds, etc.”

        Sounds pretty insane to me from the other side of the country, where we’ve had an income tax since 1919.

    2. A property tax can be used. Just a regular property tax levy lid lift.

      You don’t need to use a TBD to use property tax.

      1. But wait – wouldn’t the limitations about only paying back bonds after the first year still apply? (Which is crazy even assuming they’re for capital projects – how few capital projects are really completed in one year?)

      2. Note that I used the wrong rate in my analysis, and Seattle has even less authority remaining than I thought.

        King County has a little more, but without a TBD they’d have to levy countywide. And I’m not sure we want to preclude use of that authority for any of the other important purposes in order to only partially fill the hole.

  7. Turn Metro into a TBD? Oh, just what I want, for Metro to become Pierce Transit. If they don’t want to serve North Bend or Enumclaw, they can just starve them of their transit service until they take the Buckley-Bonney Lake, any-other-city-south-or-east-of-Puyallup action and happily live without transit, making an unrepairable scar against transit (can someone say, east Pierce?), not to mention that instead of being a part of the county government, transit will officially, truly become a second-class citizen of the local government. From the point of view of the senate, it becomes “less important” to consider the needs of transit, and gives Tom and Eyman excuses (unfair excuses, but excuses nontheless) to blow off transit as they play in their eastern Washington sandbox.

    Now I would almost suspect that this is what the senate was trying to push Metro to do all along. Then they could finally give transit riders the finger without looking like total jerks. Yikes, that’s scary to think about.

    I guess Metro has to do what is has to do, but be careful, Metro.

    1. I’m beginning to think the deal with Olympia should be to :

      a) Restore state funding to transit so we do not have to fight these battles separately and have the kind of sickening us-versus-them, rural-versus-urban fights at the kitchen table to get what we can out of Owe-mpia.

      b) Shift all transit funding to TBDs and let countywide transit agencies decide what to do since Olympia will have washed their hands of transit. In return, certain counties can just vote no on giving our tax dollars to roads of moocher counties. Swaths of said donor counties can also lobby to quash state aid for ferries for moocher counties like Kitsap…

      I can just see Curtis King have problems swallowing his Yakima steak. Good.

  8. The conclusion you come to here isn’t correct. It’s only true of the revenue sources *intended* for transportation. A transit levy using a standard property tax would not be limited in scope or time.

    1. I think this is one of the many cases where having a lawyer as part of the blog would be really handy — especially if the lawyer knew what the state, counties and other jurisdictions can actually do with regards to funding. I’m not doubting you, specifically, Ben, but I would like to hear this from someone who practices law (and that someone should probably be writing the article). We have beau coup engineering talent on this board, as well as great geographic/public planning knowledge but I’m not sure about legal expertise. Then again, lawyers like to be paid when they work, so finding someone to do this might be tricky …

      1. It’s not as simple as having a lawyer — you need a lawyer who is really an expert in this stuff. I am a lawyer, but the section of the RCW relating to property tax is outside of my area of expertise and is extremely difficult to parse. Tax law is hard whether you are at the federal, state, or local level, and it would be very helpful to have a specialist around.

      2. Yep, you do. Is this the old “don’t believe Ben” thing again? When has that ever panned out?

      3. David, I won’t deny that tax law is incredibly complex. My aunt made her career by being an expert on the state’s leasehold excise tax.
        At the same time Ben is smart and has a lot of contacts in the community. I’m certain that when Ben says he’s talked to lawyers, he has, and those lawyers are ones who have expertise in the relevant tax law.

  9. Theoretical questions:

    1) What constitutional changes it would take to transfer revenue burdens of operating expenses of everything from transit to education to a currently constitutionally illegal income tax system?

    2) How do we calculate what a 1% across-the-board income tax would raise in this State if paid by anyone and everyone who is required to pay federal income tax ?

    In lieu of a *completely theoretical* income tax, it sounds like property taxes are the most progressive and lucrative taxes we have. But it seems to be getting to the point where we almost have to charge a renters tax on top of that just to fund the operation of anything around here.

  10. I’m not sure why you have discarded tolling as an option for TBD’s. For example, what if you were to form a TBD that tolled the SR 99 approaches to downtown (not the tunnel, which is all the state is authorized to do)? If you tolled the approaches instead of the tunnel, you would make more money with lower toll rates, which could then be applied to transit service or rail planning in the NW and SW corridors. Once people pay the toll they would no longer have a rationale to divert to city streets, and downtown portals and streets would be less congested.

    Tolling the tunnel is old thinking – where tolls fund capital projects; new thinking would be to use tolls to manage the transportation system, in which case tolling the approaches makes more sense than tolling the tunnel.

  11. Everyone here realizes that forming a new district (TBD) is creating another government agency, right?
    That’s why citizens create PTBA’s,(Public Transportation Benefit Areas) such as Metro. We have two such agencies overlapping one another in King County now, so creating a 3rd is nothing short of ‘Gimmick Funding’ to bolster what Metro and Sound Transit should be doing on their own dimes.

  12. I’ve said this before – the biggest challenge to local transit funding is the instability of the sales tax, not the amount it collects. Every time local transit agencies have gone out for increases over the past 15 years or so, a recession has wiped away the gains and promised improvements. Before Tim Eyman did his damage to transit and ferries by eliminating the MVET, it provided some counter-cyclical stability.

    But the other factor was creation of Sound Transit – that caused capital programs at local transit agencies to be cut significant;y, with ST taking on more of the capital funding rule. And the thing about capital spending (at least in the old days before every dollar was bonded) was that it can serve as ballast in the budget during recessions – the pain in deferring capital expenses for a couple of years is far less than cutting operating routes and jobs. ST has lost theoretically billions (extending revenue forecasts over thirty years) but has not had to keep its operation in constant crisis mode.

    I’m not advocating for a particular solution, but more for some strategic thought about how to structure taxes, organizations, budgets and plans to provide stability, not just more revenue leading to the next crisis and broken promises when the economy hiccups again. For example, don’t consider more sales taxes if a more stable property tax is available, and devote much of it to capital spending in good times, and all to operations in recessions.

    1. Which Metro capital programs were reduced after ST? Metro never had much in the way of capital programs, just building some early park n rides, a couple minimalist transit centers, and the DSTT. The bus routes were pretty much unchanged for a decade before ST arrived.

      1. Replacing buses is a capital expense. Upgrading bus stops is a capital expense. Small stuff compared to building freeway interchanges, but still…

      2. Metro had a significant capital program, including park and rides, transit centers, etc. Northgate Transit Center, Bellevue Transit Center and many smaller ones all over the county were a significant expense, as were freeway flyer stops. The base expansion program was also huge during Metro’s early years, replacing the old Seattle Transit bases and expanding service into the suburbs; it’s far smaller now – largely paid for and driven by ST expansion needs.

        I should have mentioned that the feds used to subsidize local transit much more heavily (80% for capital 50% for operating – which is why we were always encouraged to find capital projects to charge to when I worked there), which provided much more stable funding overall. When I studied comparative transit funding in different states for a consulting contract, I saw that states that relied on local funding sources were far better funded than those relying on state funds – but state and federal sources are far more stable and reliable. There needs to be some balance there.

      3. I think the cuts in Federal aid to Metro and the loss of MVET revenue have more to do with the reduction in capital spending by Metro than Sound Transit does. Sound Transit didn’t transfer any of the existing taxes supporting Metro to itself, nor did it say “gimme your capex budget”.
        Sound Transit did provide another way to pay for some of those capital expenditures, but that just means we’ve suffered less than we would have as Metro’s operating budget has displaced its capital budget.

    2. I agree with your solution Rob, but have to cry foul on how ‘poor’ our local transit agencies are. Skip the Niles narrative if you wish, but look at both Fig 1 and 2, prepared by the State of Washington’s Transit Office. These are not bad times for transit in general, unless you hold them accountable for increasing ridership by only 45% in 20 years (slightly more than population growth), while increasing their funding levels by 260% in King County alone.
      http://www.effectivetransportation.org/Niles%20To%20State%20Senate,%20Transportation,%20Oct%202013.pdf
      In the same period mode share between autos and transit remained virtually unchanged. Work trips rose from 8% to 10%, while non-work trips only rose from 3% to 4%. Autos still account for 82% of all trips.
      Transit needs to do much better than marginal growth rates to command the respect of average taxpayers expecting good value for their dollars. Right now, not so much.

      1. I think that’s my point; transit agencies have more funding than ever overall, but the level of funding is up and down wildly with the economy. When things are good, transit is desperate for more funds to provide new service; when it’s bad they are cutting runs and jobs. My point is to pay attention to the foundation first – finding a way to make funding stable and reliable has got to be the highest funding priority in the long run.

      2. Did you even look at the graphs? Aside from some dips, that recovered quickly, it’s pretty much a steep climb upwards. Hell, even my 260% number above was adjusted for inflation (red line), with the only growth due to population increases (from 1.5 to 2 mil. over the 20 years).
        Where’s the beef?

      3. Sorry, Mic, you can’t use modeshare statistics of transit averaged across the entire state to argue that King County Metro is a boondoggle. We’re talking about King County Metro here and it’s King County that matters.

        And, really it’s not even the entirety of King County, but the areas where bus service is concentrated to. Like downtown Seattle, which has a transit modeshare of over 40%.

      4. asdf: That was data from PSRC for King County, not the entire state. Seattle CBD in the peak hour at 40% is commendable, but cherry picking one great number to represent how transit in general in King Co has been doing for the last 20 years is disingenuous. Seattles CBD is a very small segment of all trips taken in the county, and all the pols can do is point to that number and demand more service for downtown business interests from the rest of the region.
        Sorry to burst your bubble.

  13. As we all know, Metro isn’t particularly interested in raising fares. This makes sense, because they’ve raised fares many times in the past few years, and our fares are comparable to those in other cities with much better service.

    Except…

    Most other cities have a very different fare structure than Metro. Here’s how Metro’s fares work:

    – Off-peak, all buses charge the same fare.
    – During peak, you pay an extra quarter for traveling within 1 zone, and $0.75 extra (total) for longer trips

    Here’s how fares work virtually everywhere else:

    – Every bus route has the same fare at all times.
    – Local buses charge a simple, base fare.
    – Express buses charge a substantially higher fare (at least 2x the base), which is calculated based on the distance that the bus travels.

    It seems like this would be a perfect opportunity for Metro to revisit its fare structure to work more like the above. My proposal is pretty simple. The base fare is $2.25. If a bus runs only during peak hours, then the fare is $4.50, double the base fare. (There may be a few exceptions for “scheduled deadheads”, and for short in-city coverage routes that don’t really qualify as expresses.)

    First, there would be operational savings, since each bus route has a single fare structure 24/7, and because no one would ever need to wait for the ORCA reader to change between 1 and 2 zones.

    Second, this would reduce confusion, since no one would have to try to predict whether a given bus trip is going to be peak or not.

    Third, this would actually represent a fare *reduction* for peak trips on local buses; this is a tiny amount of foregone revenue, but it would be a welcome change for groups like the TRU.

    Fourth, and most importantly, this would raise a whole pile of revenue, extracted primarily from people who can easily afford it.

    (And of course, this change has a side benefit: it encourages people to take the local instead of the express, to the extent that they don’t feel that saving a few minutes is worth a couple of dollars. So over time, this will make all-day buses relatively more productive, and peak expresses relatively less productive, and so we’ll get more of the former and fewer of the latter.)

    I may do a back-of-the-envelope calculation to see how much money this would bring in. I’m curious to hear if Metro has considered something like this. Obviously, it would need approval from the county council, but this seems like the kind of thing that folks like Reagan Dunn would lap up — after all, it’s all about making “freeloaders” pay their fare share.

    1. I agree in principle that some long-distance peak express buses should charge higher fares – especially buses that routinely run half-empty (e.g. ST 592) or buses that duplicate Sounder (e.g. 159). For shorter distances, though, I have to disagree.

      The reason is that, like it or not, you have a large flux of people commuting towards downtown in the morning and leaving downtown in the evening. Each bus can only hold so many people, so one way or another, you have to run extra buses in the peak direction to carry everyone. Which leads to the choice of boosting peak frequency of the local route or creating a peak-only express route that overlays it. However, since the express route is, by definition, faster, than the local route, placing these extra peak trips in the express route actually reduces operating costs, as long as the express buses are sufficiently full.

      For these reasons, the peak network along the I-90 corridor doesn’t bother me so much – as long as the 214’s, 218’s, or whatever are running full, converting these buses into 554’s, would reduce customer satisfaction and increase operating expenses. Similar for why the 510 and 511 are separate during peak, but combined into the 512 off-peak – paying for the extra gas and driver time for every Everett bus to stop in Lynnwood along the way would be pointless.

      On the other hand, routes like the 592 feel like an abomination. The Sounder has plenty of capacity for 592 riders, as was recently extended to Lakewood at considerable cost. The 592 is essential a whole new route that duplicates Sounder and provides no needed additional capacity, all to save people making incredibly long commutes a few minutes, assuming there isn’t a wreck on I-5.

      1. So, I think the 554 and the corresponding express buses are a very special case. Likewise for the 510/511/512/513. These are situations where Metro/ST are intentionally using service hours that would otherwise be spent on all-day service, and using them to pay for express buses. The all-day option either has reduced frequency (554), or doesn’t exist at all (512). In that case, I think it definitely makes sense to charge the standard fare for these buses.

        Conversely, I think we both agree that routes like the 143 should cost more than they do.

        For routes like the 15/17/18, I think it’s an interesting question. On the one hand, it’s true that the 15 is probably more cost-effective to run than putting extra trips on the D (especially because Metro doesn’t have an unlimited supply of Wienermobiles). On the other hand, charging a higher price for the 15 is classic price discrimination. The average rider of the 15, in all likelihood, is willing to pay more to ride the bus than the average rider of the D. By billing the 15 as “premium service” with a premium price, Metro can milk some extra money from these less price-sensitive riders.

        Even if you exclude buses like the 15 and the 510 and the 218, I still think there are plenty of buses that would qualify for the higher fare. Just look for all the destinations that don’t have all-day service, but do have peak express service, and those are the buses to charge extra for.

      2. Yes – I can certainly think of plenty of routes that should be charging a premium fare, but do not. Some examples that come to mind include:
        – 422 (Stanwood – way too long of a commute to deserve its own special bus)
        – 592 (DuPont – similar to the above, also duplicates Sounder that we just spent a ton of money extending to Lakewood)
        – 595 (Gig Harbor – again, it’s just too far to be going all the way to Seattle)
        – 586 (Why do UW commuters all the way in Tacoma deserve a downtown bypass, while UW commuters from south Seattle do not)
        – 197, 205 (Same as 586)
        – 157/158/159 (Kent, duplicates Sounder)
        – 304 (Richmond Beach)
        – 215 (North Bend, 30+ mile deadhead required for every service trip)

        Many of these routes, of course, are either not under Metro’s control or are slated for elimination with the 17% cuts.

        15, 17, 18, my opinion is that as long as they are full, they should charge only the standard fare, as it is cheaper to operate these buses than to operate additional D-line trips during the peak. However, if we’re talking about buses that are only half full but people insist on being available anyway, then, yes, a premium fare that covers most of the cost of operating these routes would make sense.

      3. Part of the point is the choice commuters who make up the majority of the morning and evening express ridership can afford to pay more than the transit dependent rider. Especially since so many commuter transit passes are subsidized by employers. It is also the one time of day when transit has any sort of pricing power.
        Seattle is not some unique little snowflake. There is no reason a fare structure that works in the rest of the country can’t work here.

      4. I have long thought peak expresses should have a higher fare. But as Alex says, it gets messy now that some of them are no longer just from one residential neighborhood in Kingsgate or Auburn to downtown.

      5. Things to think about:
        1) Do you want express routes to turn into rides for the well-off, with lower-income people being forced onto adjacent local routes, with possibly additional transfers, resulting in a trip that takes 2-3 times as long.
        2) It becomes politically harder to truncate milk runs with transfers to express routes if those express routes charge a higher fare than local routes.
        3) Given that you need additional peak trips anyway, it is cheaper operationally to make the extra trips express because faster speed means less gas, wear+tear, and paid driver time per trip.
        4) For commute trips to downtown, people may be willing to pay a bit more. But for trips almost anywhere else, if you start charging more for bus fares than the equivalent cost of gas, people will say “screw it” and just drive. Especially lower-income car owners who may not have the luxury of paying any premium on the daily commute in exchange for the ability to read, text, etc. during the trip. Even if wear+tear on the car makes the bus come out economically ahead, for people living paycheck to paycheck, the daily difference between $3.24 in gas vs. a $5 round trip bus fare matters a lot more than the potential for a $500 car repair bill months or years into the future.

        5) The more expensive a monthly pass becomes, the less employers will be willing to subsidize it. This is especially true for small businesses.

  14. Why can’t the VLF be based on the value of the vehicle like the MVET?

    I’m thinking of the effect of a flat fee VLF of $100 or even $50 on people who are low income.

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