Tuesday, February 28, 2006

A big challenge for public transportation in Idaho

I found out last week that Idaho is one of only two states in the country, Mississippi being the other, that provide no state funding for public transportation and prevents local option taxes for transportation funding. If you add in the fact that the Boise metro area is now larger than 200,000 people, it can no longer use federal funds for operating public transportation (it can still get federal funds to purchase capital equipment). This leads to a very unstable funding source that is solely dependent upon city's general funds. Lack of a stable income source for operations, limits most eligibility for federal capital funds. Thus, without a significant change in Idaho law, the public transportation service in the Boise metro area, and other cities in Idaho, will continue to lower service levels.

Another interesting fact - the Idaho constitution prevents fuel tax and registration fees from being used for public transportation. To change this would require a constitutional amendment - 2/3 of house, 2/3 of senate, and 50+% of voters in the state.

And another - due to the fuel tax cap put in place in 1996, the state funds for highways now has 30% less buying power than it did in 1996, putting all transportation options in the state at higher risk.

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