Transit: So Popular it Needs to be Subsidized

Michigan Proposal 1 spends an extra $116 million on mass transit

A Detroit Department of Transportation bus operates in the city.

The May 5 Michigan sales tax ballot measure, which if approved by voters will trigger a $2 billion net tax increase, would add $116 million to current state mass transit spending, mostly subsidies to local bus agencies.

A recent MLive article describes the views of some people who support or oppose spending more on buses. The article quotes a proponent described as “an urban millennial” who takes pictures of people on the buses he rides.

“It’s not just to show that we have 40 people on the bus. It's to show that we have 40 less cars on the road that are causing wear and tear,” said Josh Leffingwell, vice-chair of the Grand Rapids Vital Streets Oversight Commission.

The piece also quotes a professional transit advocate:

The “big empty bus” argument is a myth, according to Clark Harder, executive director of the Michigan Public Transit Association. “If I had a nickel for every time somebody has said that to me, I would have been retired a long time ago,” Harder told lawmakers last week.

On the other side, one tax increase opponent tells MLive that transit advocates helped kill a 2007 bill that would have required fares paid by bus riders to cover at least 20 percent of the cost. MLive notes, “Among the state's largest bus systems, passenger fares typically account for between 13 percent and 18 percent of the funding for operating expenses, according to federal reports. Most funding comes from local millages, general funds and the state.”

ForTheRecord says: Public transit: So popular that 80 to 90 percent of the costs have to be picked up by taxpayers.

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