Win tickets to see the smash hit musical Mamma Mia at the Roanoke Civic Center. Two winners will each receive four tickets!
New funding for bus and rail agencies will preserve existing service and encourage innovations.
Monday, May 13, 2013
Motorists aren’t the only winners under the transportation package passed this year by the General Assembly. Those who ride the bus to work, medical appointments and the grocery store also stand to benefit.
The additional transit funding arrives just in time to avert deep cuts to bus systems serving rural areas, while offering transit agencies of all shapes and sizes the opportunity to compete for incentives aimed at encouraging new innovations and efficiencies.
Thelma Drake, director of the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation, told business leaders at a Roanoke Regional Chamber of Commerce event last week that part of an increase in the sales tax will be earmarked for transit, generating an estimated $66 million in the budget year that begins July 1.
Another $21 million annually would be available for Virginia transit systems if Congress passes a law allowing states to collect sales taxes on online purchases.
The money is sorely needed to absorb new demands from major projects in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads while offering stability for existing bus services around the commonwealth.
The new money also allows state officials to hit the reset button on plans to implement performance measures for transit aid. A preliminary plan rolled out last year that relied heavily on ridership tallies raised concerns that some rural bus systems would lose support. Among the agencies facing cuts were Radford’s fledgling bus service and RADAR, which serves the Roanoke Valley, Martinsville and the counties of Henry, Rockbridge and Alleghany.
All transit agency budgets will be made whole thanks to the transportation package, but new revenues will be tied to performance measures in the early stages of development with help from local government and transit representatives.
It will be tough to identify fair measures that recognize the different but vital missions of rural bus systems serving an aging population, metropolitan light rail lines and campus-oriented transit. But this year’s legislation gives everyone time to create a workable system meeting all of those needs.
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