Future Allocation Of Metro's General Mobility Funds
This fall there will likely be a referendum on the ballot regarding the future allocation of METRO's
sales tax revenue. Currently 25% of METRO's 1 cent sales tax revenue is directed to a General Mobility
Program that goes to participating area cities and Harris County to fund various transportation projects
that are predominately non-transit related.
The General Mobility Program typically funds construction and maintenance of projects such as: streets
and roadways, bridge and grade separations, traffic signals, streetlights, drainage improvements, and some
sidewalks and hike and bike trails.
There is considerable concern among many constituencies that continued diversion of METRO sales tax revenue from transit related projects will mean a significant delay in the construction of Houston's planned light rail system, bus improvements, and other transit projects. Reportedly METRO will likely adopt specific ballot language for a November referendum in early August, and will conduct a series of public meetings during July. There has been some discussion that METRO might offer a compromise measure that would continue the General Mobility Program, but cap contributions to participating cities and Harris County at 2014 levels, and direct additional revenue over 2014 levels to transit projects.
The Houston Sierra Club, as an advocate for public transit, fuel efficient transportation options, and better land use transportation infrastructure, would like to see better funding for transit in the region. Below is the statement presented on behalf of the Houston Sierra Club to the METRO Board at a June 18 public meeting.
Statement for Houston Sierra Club to METRO Board:
"The following comments are offered on behalf of the Houston Sierra Club in reference to the future allocation of METRO sales tax money.
The Houston Sierra Club has long advocated that Houston build a comprehensive and effective transit network that offers citizens a real transportation alternative to the automobile. An effective transit network will serve all segments of the community, including the young, the old, and those that cannot or prefer not to rely on automobiles, or brave Houston freeways.
For a city its size, Houston lags behind other major cities in building this transit infrastructure. It is vitally important that Houston build out the currently proposed light rail network as quickly as possible and look to further transit expansions, including commuter rail. The sooner that Houston can build out a sufficient transit network, the sooner Houston can start realizing the full benefits. These benefits would include easing traffic congestion in core areas, development of more pedestrian friendly districts, an increased tax base in transit served areas, and improved air quality. Therefore we prefer that the full METRO sales tax revenue be directed to projects that are directly transit related or enhance transit access.
Houston already has a vast system of roadways and freeways. Money has been poured into this roadway network for decades. Many of these roadway projects have caused significant environmental impacts by invading remaining natural areas, negatively impacting city parks and neighborhoods, adding to polluted rain water run off, and adding to noise and air quality problems. Now it is time to adjust priorities and spend our transit dollars on real transit projects. It is time to grow our transit infrastructure to meet the future needs of the region. It is time to let transit infrastructure catch up to road infrastructure.
The Houston Sierra Club is very concerned that transit projects receive adequate future funding. We are very concerned that continued diversion of METRO sales tax revenue will significantly delay light rail construction, and future transit expansion. We believe that it is critical that Houston not lose momentum in developing its future transit infrastructure."
By Frank Blake