BoCC races to hammer out Transit Tax Agreement before election

At the eleventh hour, the BoCC is still working through important issues on the transit plan - including whether Chapel Hill Transit (CHT) can use the new sales tax funds for existing service. Under the current agreement, they cannot.  This is of particular concern given CHT's reliance on UNC funds and routing.  The current plan does not allow CHT to use sales tax funds to change their routes to fill in possible gaps created by changes in UNC''s routes.

Its hard to understand why this is coming up for the first time -but at least people may finally start talking about how the transit plan impacts CHT and the bus system that everyone loves.   Its especially difficult to understand why the county is so anxious to give control over transit to TTA. 

Great report by Chapelboro's Elizabeth Friend 

The video of the meeting is a worth a look



I don't think the statement "the county is so anxious to give control over transit to TTA" is exactly a fair one. At last night's meeting, the county attorney and the attorney for TTA both clearly stated that each of three partners (TTA, DCHCMPO and Orange County) will all have to agree on every decision, i.e. no "material" decisions can be made without the approval of the commissioners and essentially no decisions can be made without the approval of the manager. This basically means that the commissioners can veto any funding decision they don't like.I think the commissioners are acting wisely here. They are recognizing that we live in an extremely regional place. The fact of the matter is that many people who work in Orange County live elsewhere, and many people who live Orange County work elsewhere. There's a need to think about the big picture and work with our neighbors and regional transit providers. Otherwise service will be ineffective.Also, several commissioners pushed last night (I'm thinking specifically of Jacobs and Pelissier) to include DCHCMPO as a signatory to agreement so that the towns of Chapel Hill and Carrboro would have a greater say in how the plan is implemented (since neither the TTA board or the County Commission has representation from town governments).

I just want to say I agree with Jeff's analysis here. My main complaint is that Commissioners should have approved the ballot initiative and had this conversation a long time ago. 

TTA had control from the start.   Once the tax is levied - all the money goes to and through TTA.  With the current supplantation rules,  Chapel Hill cannot use funds to fill in routes that UNC eliminates as they reroute the buses to serve their own form of regionalization, Bonnie Hauser

This is a regional plan with a regional governing board with a structure that requires that decisions on spending and priorities within a county be approved by the county board of commissioners. The county is also choosing to require MPO approval of significant changes, which means the Chapel Hill and Carrboro town boards will also have a place at the table. Durham stuck its neck out on the regional plan in 2011 and the voters there approved it 60.2-39.8%.  If Orange approves then it is a two county plan, and hopefully Wake will vote in 2013 or 2014. The regional components include for Durham and Orange bus service and light rail between the major employment and destination centers (UNC/UNC Hospitals and Duke/Duke Hospital/NCCU). The light rail will only be built if there is federal and state funding. If not then the Orange component will solely be increased bus service within the county and Durham-Orange regional bus service as well as bus rapid transit on MLK Blvd.  In either case expanded bus service will come within the first two years, and light rail is 5-10 years down the road. There seems to be some fear that if Wake does not participate then this will somehow slow down Orange and Durham. The opposite would be the case.  Durham is set to fund its share of both Durham to Chapel Hill light rail and Durham to Raleigh(Garner) commuter rail.  The current three county planning is for the commuter rail to come first. If Wake never bought in then more Durham funds would be available for Durham-Chapel Hill rail links early on. Basically, all money stays within a county or pays the the county's share of regional service, that is the purpose of the county by county approval of the financial/service plan.  The only money in the plan that really goes outside the county is that Wake County is likely to pay for several miles of commuter rail service as far as RTP in Durham County since a majority of RTP employees commute from Wake. I am not sure what the fear of TTA is.  Again, this is a regional plan for regional service with a regional governing board. If persons just want more bus service in Chapel Hill/Carrboro, push for a property tax increase. Chapel Hill (1974) and Carrboro (1976) voters approved by wide margins a 10 cent property tax and the two towns are only using half the authorization.

Gerry,No one "just wants more bus service" for CH Transit. Chapel Hill and Carrboro are fully committed to regional transit and have been for many many years.The Orange County Transit Plan which the towns have endorsed allocates a certain proportion of the local share of the tax to CH Transit. The concern expressed by Jim Ward on behalf of the Transit Partners is that, to the extent possible under the governing legislation, those funds should be spent on priorities determined by the Partners and not by some external agency that  is not familiar with the particulars of operating the most successful transit system in the state.That is why, as you say, the inclusion of the MPO was essential, providing, as it does, direct participation to Chapel Hill and Carrboro. -Dan 

Dan I was responding to the original poster -- I understand your position completely. There do appear to be people who "just want more bus service"


Under the actual legislation the statutory nonsupplant clause is purely in $$ (not in bus hours per route) and does not stop a local entity from shifting service between transit needs as long as the $$$ spending floor is still met.

Thanks Gerry! Great summary!

The transit plan grants more than $2.9 million (6000 bus hours annually for 5 years) to Chapel Hill Transit to support existing local service. Although the plan is primarily intended to provide new service, the idea of making more revenue available to support existing service is neither being raised "at the eleventh hour" nor "coming up for the first time." These discussions have been underway throughout the development of the plan and the implementation agreement. The parties should be able to resolve this remaining issue, despite the narrative you're trying to construct in opposition to the transit referendum.Your assertion that the plan will "give control over transit to TTA" is just bizarre. As Gerry notes, because this is a regional plan, TTA will play an important (and state-mandated) role in managing funding disbursements and coordinating collaborations among the various players, including our elected officials. However, the transit plan and the implementation agreement describe the allocation of funds to the transit providers, spell out the responsibilities of the parties and providers, and preserve the roles of the providers in decisions about routes and service improvements.

The county is not "giving up control" of existing transit to TTA.  The regional tax legislation provides that TTA will be the management agency for the regional system. Chapel Hill Transit is not disbanded, and the town boards of Chapel Hill and Carrboro will still be free to expand local bus service by increasing property taxes if they so choose.  Expanded LOCAL AND REGIONAL bus service and inter-county rail service will be funded by the regional sales tax . If Orange County approves the tax then it is a regional two county sales tax with a special district governed by TTA, and as explained by my other post the regional service outline requires county commissioner approval as well as significant changes under the interlocal agreement. If one does not want a regional management agency but wants more bus service, then push the county and towns to increase property taxes to do that. Oh and in addition, the $7 per vehicle vehicle registration fee that the legislation authorizes the county to levy as part of the plan will be distributed directly to the towns and county to use for transit without requiring this expenditure to be run through TTA. Chapel Hill and Carrboro's per capita share of the registration fee will be budgeted directly by the town boards


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