Montgomery County Transit Authority
The Action Committee for Transit supports the creation of a county transit authority with an exclusive focus on delivering transit services, funded by fares and a transit tax determined by majority vote of the County Council. This serves three purposes:
- First, it creates a framework for bringing Bus Rapid Transit to the county.
- Second, it makes transportation planning more democratic by setting budget priorities by majority vote.
- Third, it enables Ride-On to make bus service changes that pay for themselves with added fare revenue, without the need for a budget amendment.
However, we believe that the proposed legislation needs changes in order to accomplish this goal. The two primary amendments needed are to remove parking districts from the scope of the authority and to remove “parking” and “motor vehicles” from the definition of transit. Improved transparency and oversight are also desirable, although we have no specific recommendations in that area. Rather than pass the bill as currently drafted, the General Assembly should convene all interest groups to come up with a better piece of legislation.
Our concern about the parking districts is based on the county’s recent experience with garage construction. The parking districts own very valuable real estate now used as parking lots. This land is much better used for mixed-use development, and the county has made the correct choice to actively pursue such development. The way this has been done, however, has created two problems (discussed in detail in two attached articles):
- The county keeps building very expensive garages even when there is plenty of empty parking nearby, creating large deficits that require taxpayer bailouts.
- The transactions are opaque. They are innately complex, and beyond that the county has declined to release basic information about their terms.
Our second issue with the drafting of this bill is the inclusion of “motor vehicles” in addition to buses in the definition of “transit.” This dilutes the purpose of the bill. It also creates a potential for future misuse of the authority’s powers, such as condemnation of land for road widenings.
We urge the delegation to bring interest groups together to draft a revised bill that focuses exclusively on bus and rail transit.