August 12, 2008
Board of Directors
1401 W Rose Street
Walla Walla, WA 99362
Dear Board Members:
I am writing on behalf of the Walla Walla 2020 Transportation Committee regarding long-term transit planning for the Walla Walla area.
We agree with the statement in RCW 35.95.010 that:
(T)he maintenance and operation of an adequate public transportation system is an absolute necessity and is essential to the economic, industrial and cultural growth, development and prosperity of a municipality and of the state and nation, and to protect the health and welfare of the residents of such municipalities and the public in general.
We would like to thank the Valley Transit Board and Valley Transit General Manager Dick Fondahn for their service and ability to manage the funding of a transportation system that is subject to many factors beyond local control.
We understand that the funding of Valley Transit comes from three general sources: Grants, local sales taxes and fares.
We are concerned that available grants may not be sufficient in the long-term to provide for increases in operating costs necessary to meet the expanded demand for transit services due to growth in our community, rising individual transportation costs, long-term challenges to our economy, and efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions . As you know, both state and federal transportation budgets are being stretched very thinly.
We know that local funding for current Valley Transit services comes from the public transit benefit area, PTBA, through a .3 of 1% sales tax (out of the allowable .9 of 1%). As the board reviews future service needs and costs, including increasing frequency of service and expansion of routes to serve public transit needs of existing neighborhoods and new developments, we encourage you to consider increasing the local sales tax rate as an option to assure VT’s ability to maintain existing services as well as to provide needed upgrades. We understand that this would require a vote within the PTBA, which we would be willing to actively support at an appropriate time.
In addition, should grant shortfalls occur, we encourage the board to consider balancing the budget by enhancing revenue through an increase in the PTBA sales tax rate rather than by cutting critical services. Besides providing a needed alternative to automobile use for a variety of important purposes, access to transit is of course a necessity for those who rely solely on transit for work and other life activities
We believe that increasing transit ridership is the best means to realize the public benefits outlined in RCW 35.95.010, and are willing to work with you to promote increased ridership within the Walla Walla area, and between our area and nearby cities.
Again, we commend you for providing essential, innovative and flexible public transportation options, and offer our support in seeking to further advance the provision of public transit in the Walla Walla region.
Chair, Walla Walla 2020 Transportation Committee