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February 16, 2009

Bill would allow new taxes and fees for transportation

820 D/FW AIRPORT — Voters in counties across the Dallas-Fort Worth region could be asked to approve new taxes and fees for roads and commuter rail as soon as spring 2011, according to supporters of a sweeping transportation bill filed Monday.
Dozens of legislators, mayors and other supporters of the so-called Texas Local-Option Transportation Act gathered Monday at Dallas/Fort Worth Airport. One by one, they expressed optimism that the measure would pass during the current legislative session, triggering what likely would be multi-year process of identifying transportation needs in each county and taking the issues to voters.
The bill would allow counties to hold elections and ask voters raise new monies for development of commuter rail lines or to supplement funding for road projects. It’s being pitched as a remedy for North Texas’ chronically under funded gridlock and air pollution problems. “If we don’t have a forward-thinking transportation system, we won’t have economic development in this region 25 years from now,” said state Sen. John Carona, R-Dallas, who filed the Senate version of the bill. The house version is being filed by state Rep. Vicki Truitt, R-Keller.
The bill would allow Tarrant County and other neighboring counties to hold local option elections, asking voters to raise a menu of taxes and fees, within these limits:

  • Higher motor fuels taxes, up to 10 cents per gallon, indexed to increase gradually with a cost of living measure known as the producer price index.
  • An additional fee, known as a “mobility improvement fee” tacked onto car owners’ annual vehicle registration fee, up to $60 a year.
  • Parking fees of up to $1 per hour.
  • An additional vehicle emissions fee of up to $15 a year.
  • Driver’s license fee, up to double the renewal amount — currently $24 for a basic noncommercial license.
  • A new resident impact fee up to $250, paid by car owners registering their vehicles in Texas for the first time.    

Using those funding parameters, each county could customize its own transportation plan to meet road and rail needs. Elections could be called in one of three ways:

  1. By vote of a county commission
  2. By a resolution of cities with a combined population of at least 60 percent of a county.
  3. By a petition signed by at least 10 percent of that county’s voters in the most recent gubernatorial election.

-- Gordon


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James Ouzts

Local Option Transportation Act or LOTA as in LOTA money out of our pockets.

arch anderson

The LOTA plan is another way for the crooks to get our money. All you have to do is look around, cities, countries, state and federal government, that is where you money goes. I say No and I think each citizen should do the same.

Richard Weber, Arlington

What's really sad is this plan that they are pushing is EXTREMELY POOR!!! If you go to the NCTCOG website and look at the information on the rail lines they are planning to have us pay GIGANTIC taxes for less than 20% if the people. If you add the population figure on each of the rail lines it represents 1.2 million people of the 6.5 million of the region. While you are there look at the operations' costs, some of those lines will cost over $8000 in today's dollars per projected 2030 rider. What an outrageous expense to pass on to future citizens.

This plan needs to be reworked, it is so EXTREMELY POOR!!!


You people in Arlington will be begging for public transit any day now. You can find lots of transportation projects that don't make sense initially. If they don't do something, people who are tired of supporting the freeloaders will have to find another way. Maybe paying to park at our stations or different fees for non-member cities will get your attention.

Mike Sivertsen

It is easy to find case studies and articles (see below) that clearly illustrate the grave mistake it would be to expand light rail in North Texas. It is critical that we do not allow our communities to be railroaded into supporting a transportation infrastructure that has become an economic and societal albatross in other cities.
Former Los Angeles County Transportation Commission speaks out against rail (unfortunately he believes in the fiction of man-made global warming)

Transit Is No Solution for Global Warming-Jan 2009
The economic stimulus bill that recently passed the House included $12 billion in spending on public transit.
. . .
Yet, the reality is that transit captured no more than 3 percent of the decline in urban driving. Strong growth rates on an insignificant base produce insignificant increases (barely 1.5 percent of urban travel in the United States is on transit) and outside New York, the number is below 1.0 percent. Record ridership of this kind shouldn't be rewarded with new spending, nor should we fall for the canard that it's an effective way to have an environmental impact.

was appointed to three terms on the Los Angeles County Transportation Commission by the late Mayor Tom Bradley. I came to the Commission as an advocate of transit and urban rail, and indeed, my spontaneous amendment to the 1980 sales tax ordinance produced the fund that made construction of the Long Beach light rail line (the Blue Line) and the Los Angeles to North Hollywood subway (the Red Line) possible. My passion for rail was a belief, not unusual, that it would reduce traffic congestion. I was wrong.

In the years that followed, I regrettably was to learn that both transit and urban rail had been grossly oversold. It has not, anywhere, materially or sustainably reduced traffic congestion. Its cost structure is so out of control that the average mile traveled by a passenger in the United States has risen to about four times as much in public and private expenditure as every mile traveled by car. It wasn’t always so. Before the coming of federal subsidies in the 1970s, transit expenditures per mile traveled were less than that of cars.
. . .
transit faces two barriers to achieving the dream of being a popular, green alternative. The first is the more fundamental. No one is going to forsake their car to get on a bus or train that is not going where they are going. The overwhelming majority of urban trips cannot be made in any reasonable amount of time by transit. Moreover, the trips that can be made take longer. On average, people using transit to commute to work spend twice as much time as those who drive. . . .

None of this is to suggest that transit is not valuable or does not have its place. For many low income citizens, transit is their principal mobility and it is, in my view, appropriate to subsidize their rides. Transit is also indispensible in the high frequency service and high volume traffic that is delivers to a few large downtown areas, such as Manhattan, Brooklyn, Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia, San Francisco and Washington
. . .
But a bit of reality is in order. Transit has its place and it is an important place. But for most people and most trips, there is simply no way that transit can compete in travel time or convenience. Worst of all, its high costs make significant expansion unaffordable

Light-Rail Systems Are a False Promise, Sep 2008
Short article.
"Once built, light-rail systems never live up to their promises, even in places like Portland. Before building light rail, Portland’s bus system carried 9.8 percent of the region’s transit riders to work. Today, thanks to cutbacks in the bus system forced by the high cost of rail, transit carries just 7.6 percent. Nor is rail transit good for the environment. Most U.S. light-rail lines use more energy, per passenger mile, than an SUV."

Light Rail Doesn't Work, Aug 2007
Short article listing reasons why light rail is a bad choice.

The Train Drain: Brookings Institution on Rail Transit in America, Feb 2007
Article summarizing case study by the Brookings Institution, America's oldest public policy think tank. Based in Washington, DC, it is well-respected and generally considered to be moderate-liberal in orientation.

"On average, rail transit systems cover about 40 percent of their operating costs from farebox revenues and none of their capital costs, according to figures in the National Transit Database. That means their net taxpayer subsidy is large. . .

"the authors conclude that rail transit is erroneously believed by the public to be socially desirable, because "supporters have sold [rail systems] as an antidote to the social costs associated with automobile travel, in spite of strong evidence to the contrary." They conclude that, in fact, rail transit is "an increasing drain on social welfare."

Rails Won't Save America, Oct 2008
Case study of the full life cycle cost of rail and adverse societal impact. Rail is large scale infrastructure from an earlier century. It does not offer the convenience, modularity or economic benefits of the automobile.

Rail industry admits that it’s often greener for families to travel by car, Jul 2007
"It can be greener to drive than catch the train, according to a rail industry study which reveals that trains are losing their environmental advantage. Modern diesel-powered trains are so polluting that a family of three or more would be responsible for at least double the carbon dioxide emissions on many routes when travelling by rail compared with driving in a typical medium-sized car. "

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