Local option should be an option

Monday, July 12, 2010

The local option debate is a hot topic for transportation providers, mobility advocates, local leaders, the Idaho legislature, and the Governor’s Taskforce for Modernizing Transportation Funding. It’s a topic that is certain to remain at the forefront of the public transportation funding conversation through the next legislative session.

In June, during his State of the City Address, Boise Mayor Dave Bieter, again voiced his support for the local option tax as a way to fund public transportation in the city – calling on the Idaho State Legislature to let the people decide.

Treasure Valley in Motion put forth their own call to action to the Governor’s Taskforce for Modernizing Transportation Funding on Facebook – inviting other mobility advocates and groups to do the same, and inviting Idahoans to share their comments with the taskforce.

CTAI agrees that local option should be an option. Currently, Idaho is one of three states without a dedicated funding source for public transportation. The Public Transportation Subcommittee to the Governor’s Taskforce on Modernizing Transportation Funding is delving into the current public transportation environment in Idaho and evaluating possible funding mechanisms. Their report is due in December. As part of that report, CTAI hopes to see local option tax as one funding mechanism.

Idaho’s public transportation and mobility coordination and planning system, I-way, is built on a local to state model. Local communities are identifying their unique mobility needs, developing strategies around realizing those needs, and submitting their plans to their district and then the state level. Providing options for local communities to fund their strategies is a logical next step.

While CTAI is in support of providing cities the ability to go to the voters, local option isn’t the answer to all of Idaho’s public transportation funding issues. There are a lot of things to consider when looking at funding for improving our public transportation and mobility options. We need to consider urban areas and rural communities. We need to continue to come together to coordinate, develop efficiencies in the system we have, and build partnerships to get where we’d like to be. In addition, we need to have a variety of funding mechanisms to improve public transportation and mobility in Idaho.