Ohio Transportation Budget: Progress made, more needed
Posted March 29, 2017 in Press Releases
Increases for public transit vehicle fleets, potholes for operating support
Ohio is making some progress on helping public transit agencies bring their fleet of vehicles to a state of good repair. But deep fiscal potholes remain to be filled to support the day-to-day operations side of the ledger for Ohio’s 61 local public transit systems.
That’s how Ohioans for Transportation Equity – a coalition of groups representing people with disabilities, agencies on aging, environmental groups and other public transportation advocates – is characterizing the end of the debate on Ohio’s new two-year transportation budget and continuing consideration of the state’s main operating budget.
State lawmakers voted today to provide $33 million per year for new transit buses and other infrastructure improvements for the 61 public transit agencies that operate in Ohio. The amount marks a $10 million increase over current annual state capital support levels, as requested by Governor John Kasich.
The Ohio Senate had proposed an additional $30 million for transit rolling stock from the forthcoming Volkswagen Emissions Mitigation Trust Fund. But legislative leaders agreed to withdraw the proposal after the Ohio EPA and Ohio Attorney General objected.
Now, debate will shift to the state’s proposed new operating budget, which includes $7.3 million per year in General Revenue Funds for local transit operations. GRF levels have remained static for several years after peaking at $44 million in 2000.
Tax policy changes in the governor’s proposed operating budget will leave many transit agencies with a net loss in state support. The removal of Medicaid managed care services from the sales tax base takes nearly $40 million a year out of the budgets of eight of the largest local transit agencies that rely on a local countywide sales tax piggybacked on the state sales tax base.
The Governor’s budget proposes one year of transitional aid, but then transit systems fall off the cliff in fiscal year 2019, losing $40 million in local operating funds. In addition, many smaller transit systems may lose supplemental funding from county governments that similarly lose revenue from the sales tax.
According to a 2015 ODOT study, the state needs to start funding public transit at $120 million a year – a sizable increase over the current $7.3 million level.
“Ohio must begin regarding public transit as an integral part – not an afterthought add-on – to a modern, sustainable, affordable, accessible integrated statewide mobility system, meeting the needs of all residents,” said Kathy Foley, member of the Ohioans for Transportation Equity coalition. “This budget improves transit capital funding but leaves transit operating support worse off than under the current state budget. We look forward to the to operating budget debate and making the case to boost public transit funding and replace lost sales tax revenues with a sustainable source of funding.”
For years, Ohio’s state government has underfunded local public transit. According to ODOT’s own Ohio Statewide Transit Needs Study released in 2015:
There is an urgent need to bring local transit vehicle fleets up to a state of good repair:
- $273.5 million ($251.2 million for urban and $22.3 for rural transit systems) in capital funding is needed to bring the current fleet of transit vehicles to state of good repair. Some 900 urban and 275 rural transit vehicles are beyond their useful life yet still in use, according to the study.
- And additional $192.4 million ($164.6 million for urban and $27.8 for rural transit systems) in capital funding is needed to purchase the vehicles and infrastructure necessary to expand transit service to meet current, unmet demand.
Transit agencies are in urgent need of additional operating support to meet current, unmet demand. The ODOT study identified the need for:
- $96.7 million ($47.5 million for urban and $49.2 million for rural transit systems) in additional operating support is needed to meet the current, unmet demand of 37.5 million additional transit trips that existed in 2015, when the study was released. Ohio’s 28 urban and 33 rural local transit systems currently provide 115 million trips per year.
The need for public transportation will increase in the future. Meeting future needs will require increased investment:
By 2025, an additional $562.1 million ($468.8 million for urban and $93.3 million for rural transit systems) will be needed to meet future demand. The study estimated demand in year 2025 to be 140.2 million additional transit trips over the 115 million trips that currently are provided each year in Ohio.
Policy Matters Ohio is a nonprofit, nonpartisan state policy research institute with offices in Cleveland and Columbus.