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Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Transit funding may come up soon

My state Rep. Bill Killen tells me that the local option funding measure for transit may be coming before the House Revenue and Tax Committee soon - possibly this Thursday (February 8), and if not then, next week. As I wrote a few days ago, now is the time to contact the Rev & Tax members to express your support for the measure.

Boise-based legislators strongly favor local options authority for public transit. Rep. Branden Durst of District 18 explains two reasons why on his blog:

First, there is vicious storm on the horizon and if we don't act now the citizens of the Treasure Valley will lose out in a major way. This storm is the worsening air quality that will inevitably lead the Treasure Valley to falling into something known as non-attainment. ... Once this happens, the EPA is required to force the offending community to make a plan to fix the problem and get back to attainment status. This is a costly venture and can cause significant negative economic impacts. Not good. Increased access to mass transit, which can help be made possible by local option taxes, will take cars off the road resulting in better air quality.

The second reason I believe the Legislature needs to approve local option taxes ASAP is the long-term nature of capital improvement projects like mass transit. In other words, if we want to have a functioning mass transit system in 2015 we need to start planning and funding it right away. If we are content to plan for today's needs, we will always be a decade behind (have you driven on Eagle Road recently?). It is decisions where the payoff is in the distant future that are always the most difficult for elected officials, but that doesn't make it unworthy of our attention. In fact, I would contend it makes equally if not more necessary. Leaders have to have vision and this is a prime example as to why.

Vision really is the key to this whole debate. Are we going to continue to let things slide until worsening air quality degrades our quality of life and derails economic development? Or do we take proactive measures now to start building a transit system that befits one of the nation's fastest-growing metro areas?

6 comments:

Bikeboy said...

Julie, you ask: Are we going to continue to let things slide until worsening air quality degrades our quality of life...?

Are you suggesting that air quality isn't ALREADY having an impact?

Frankly, I'm amazed if we're still in "attainment." (For those who don't follow the issue closely, we have to attain a certain quality of air, as measured in pollution content, on a certain number of days, or the Feds will cut off federal funding for more roads. Or that's the theory.)

I can't remember a winter when we had so many "yellow" air quality days. I doubt that the kindly requests to "limit driving" have much impact on those days; my informal observation is that there are just as many cars as on any other day.

Sadly, I don't see the federal funding threat as a very big stick. You know that if we missed the mark, our esteemed Congressional Caucus would wring their hands and grease the wheels, and get an exception for the poor taxpaying citizens back in the Treasure Valley, so we can keep laying down more asphalt.

Bikeboy said...

"Yellow or worse" air-quality days in the Boise metro area:
2004 - 48
2005 - 58
2006 - 83 (71 between Jul-Dec)
2007 - 15 so far (38 days into the year)

(And this isn't a debatable point or a theory, like global warming. It's been measured with precision measuring equipment, each of those years.)

wolf21m said...

Bikeboy - The yellow or worse statistic is extremely impactful. Can you post the reference?

Julie in Boise said...

Bikeboy, I didn't realize global warming is "a debatable point or theory," given the climate change report from last week. Heh.

Seriously, though, thanks for those stats. I, too, would appreciate a reference.

Also, I am trying to find out whether local options approval will be on the Rev & Tax agenda tomorrow (Thursday) at 9 a.m. There's a sales and use tax item noted on the calendar, but no details.

Frankly, given the committee's 10-8 decision today to kill Otter's community college district bill, I am not hopeful that local options for transit will fare any better.

Bikeboy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bikeboy said...

Julie, if you think the global warming debate is over, you're only paying attention to one side!

The Wall Street Journal published a piece on 2/5, "the debate is far from settled."

http://www.opinionjournal.com/editorial/feature.html?id=110009625

The jist: "While everyone concedes that the Earth is about a degree Celsius warmer than it was a century ago, the debate continues over the cause and consequences. ... The economic dislocations of ... an abrupt [energy use] policy change could be far more severe than warming itself..."

That is pretty much my sentiment. I'm continuing to listen to all sides in the debate. (And doing what I can to have a small personal "carbon footprint" in the meantime. I'm WAY smaller than Algore! Whether or not we're to blame, it can't hurt to be a good steward to this lovely planet, IMO.)

With regard to those "yellow day" numbers I posted, I got them from a lady named Leah Arnold at Idaho DEQ. (I went looking for them on the website and couldn't find them. She was kind enough to send them to me.)

She said the information is available on the EPA website; I'm trying to figure out how to extract it. A starting point might be:

http://www.epa.gov/air/data/monaqi.html?co~16001~Ada%20Co%2C%20Idaho

... will try to research further.