12 August 2005

[metro_transit] Portlander hearts C-Tran!

A few iterations back, in this post, I outlined as much as I could find out about the service changes coming to C-Tran (the Clark County Washington public transportation district) as a result of sharply reduced funding and an upcoming proposition which, I imagine, is very much still up in the air.

Today, in my agora inbox, I found the following, from "Jason in Portland"

Hi, I'm glad to know I'm not the only person in Portland interested in Clark County, Washington's transit system!
Yes for jobs, yes for C-Tran!
That last line (yes for jobs, yes for C-Tran) seems a rallying cry.

Jason has a website here. He is an impassioned fan of C-Tran, even though he is a Portland resident. He has a very personal feeling about the future of C-Tran and transit fans ought to support him, I think.

Four stars. Sam-Bob says "Check it out!"

It's important to know what will happen in September if C-Tran doesn't get what it says it needs. It's on its knees right now. And not only will the service area and frequency be cut back sharply, late evening buses will end, as well as all weekend service.

I'm one who believes that, even if I don't take transit, I benefit indirectly from having it there. Transit's not a perfect solution, but it's better than not having it at all. Acquaintances from other towns usually give me rave reviews of our vibrant yet flawed TriMet. And MAX is just plain cool (in a few years, I'll be near a three-line nexus).

So, hey, Vancouver, here's something you guys probably can't understand-Portlanders who like and care about you...sincerely.

How cool is that?

Jason goes on the list.


Jim said...

why did they cut funding, low ridership?

Samuel John Klein Portlandiensis said...

Actually, no. C-Tran lost funding due to the demise of a time-honored Washington tax stalwart: vehicle excise taxes.

For a very long time in Washington the cost to get vehicle tabs was determined by taking a percentage-between 10 and 15 percent, I think it was-of the car's retail value. As you might imagine, it gets spendy, and fast.

It was also proving to be a regulatory headache, especially in a larger border town like Vancouver. Oregon's vehicle tags have usually been about $45/2 years. Naturally, enterprising 'Couverites looking to save money and were fortunate enough to have assoicates or a work address on the Portland side would simply register thier home address as thier Oregon work address, pay Salem the tag fee, and bingo!

Washington no doubt lost a great deal of revenue, but it did keep Washington state troopers busy at the border.

Now, in 2001, they had a bit of tax revolt up there and repealed the excise tax. That excise tax went primarily to roads and transit. C-Tran took it in the knees. They've been trying to climb back and make do ever since.

As far as I know, C-Tran is reasonably popular in the 'Couve.

Jim said...

the explanation on the sample ballot is better than that long explanation on the c-tran site, the average voter will simply care about what it will cost him or her

Samuel John Klein Portlandiensis said...

You make a good point, Jim.

The idea, of course, is to put a fair and concise summary on the ballot, and the citizen should have done something to study the issue before going to the polls.

Naturally, today's electoral climate makes this at least impractical, what with people just sloggin' it through every day just trying to get by and people placing media spots designed to manufacture opinion rather than actually inform. So when the voter gets down to the ballot and sees the price-and when it comes to taxes, that's where it'll hit ya-they get sticker shock. Add to that the local "price-of-everything/value-of-nothing" tax rebels we seem to be chronically afflicted with, who are simply wonderful at making info-free media ads, and it's a wonder that any tax measure ever wins in these parts.

There's at least one citizens group on this one, though, so at least everybody isn't drinking the anti-tax kool-aid.

Jim said...

will the school tax being on the same ballot help or hurt?

Samuel John Klein Portlandiensis said...

Well, Jim, at this point I'm afraid my ignorance of some Washington events will start showing.

Washington taxes its residents differently that Oregon does. In Washington you have sales taxes but not an income tax, and Oregon is, as you may have heard, only one of five US States that have no sales tax, but we do have an income tax.

Moreover, though I believe that both states use property taxes to support schools, I think Washington does it differently. Due to this monstrosity called Measure 5 that was passed here back in the '90s, property taxes were capped (good thing) but the state now distrubutes all school revenue (horrid thing, getting worse all the time). I think that Washington's school property taxes go strictly local, but I'm not sure.

That's just a roundabout way of saying I'm not 100% aware of the way they do things north of the river, but I'm willing to guess. Anyway!

The C-Tran tax initiative coming up increases sales taxes. Those affect a different sort of constituency than does the property tax. Everyone pays sales tax, but the increase is a rather small percentage increase. Not everyone pays a property tax, at least not directly. An increase in the sales tax increases everyone's cost of living, directly.

The two need not be seen as competing, as far as I can see. If 'Couverites see the value returned as worth the increase, then it'll pass; moreso for transit, that everyone pays for every day.

Jason the Portland C-Tran fan said...

Hi, it's me again. Thanks for the kind words... I almost thought my original comment would be deleted as a bit of sly self-promotion.
I came across this site when I searched for "C-Tran" on Yahoo (looking to see where my own site came up - it was #34), and the original post at the time was #9, IIRC.
The thing I really like about this ballot measure is it looks like the money would really go to fund bus service - not salaries for expensive administrators, or get swallowed up for some other expense.
C-Tran has been able to get federal funding for new buses, and new yet-to-be-built transit centers (7th St. in Downtown Vancouver will be replaced, as I understand; and they might have to move out of Vancouver Mall) - however, that money can only be used for that particular purpose, they can't say they'll buy new buses and use it for something else.
I could go on and on... but, I guess that's why I have my own website... :)