Using reasoning that would make any Democrat proud, the headline for the November 17, 2016 issue of The Kentucky Enquirer read “Region’s Transit Agency Longingly Eyes Tax Levy.” Cincinnati’s bus system has a “$109.1 million budget (which) came with a cry for help from the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority (SORTA), which cast its 2017 budget as a stripped-down, stop-gap effort that illustrates the need for a tax hike on next year’s ballot.”1
The stop-gap budget to address next year’s projected shortfall of $1.3 million included the deferring of capital expenses for a bus fleet which has sixty-three vehicles past their 12-year useful life.
The article described SORTA’s plight coming as a result of “changes in where people live and work.” Ridership has dropped along with fare revenue. Therefore, they are suggesting that something must be done with the city’s earning tax even though that is where about half of the system’s revenue comes from?
Just a moment. Only one-third of the budget comes from fares. While the article did not mention it, it’s safe to assume that advertising provides the rest of SORTA’s revenue.
So, why is the city’s earning tax providing more for more of the transit budget than fares do? Perhaps we could start with the fact that fares haven’t been raised in seven years!
But, could it be that fares are exorbitant? Below is a chart of fares from SORTA’s site:
– $1.75 Within City of Cincinnati (Zone 1)
– $2.65 Hamilton County, outside City limits, plus Rt. 23X (Zone 2)
– $3.00 Harrison, Ohio (52X)
– $3.50 Butler County (Zone 4)
– $3.75 Clermont County (Rts. 28, 29X, 82X)
– $4.25 Warren County (Zone 5, Rts. 71X, 71)
– $0.50 cents Rt. 85 Riverfront parking shuttle
– $0.85 when using a TANK [Transit Authority of Northern Kentucky] monthly pass or transfer (boarding at Government Square only)
The answer is a resounding “no” to the possibility of exorbitant fares, especially in view of the 2016 IRS allowance for mileage is 54 cents for business mile, 19 cents for medical or moving purposes and 14 cents when deducting in the service of charitable organizations. For example, the distance between Cincinnati and Harrison is approximately twenty-three miles.2 At 54 cents per mile, a fare of $12.42 would be a break-even proposition for riders.
Raising fares would be a very reasonable starting point. SORTA should curb its “longing look” at the unfair solution of a tax increase until it raises fares some to put more of the responsibilty on those who actually use the system.
1 – From the previously mentioned article by Jeremy Fugleberg.