Sales Tax or Demand?

The scenario: City A contributes the most tax revenue in a transit agency’s service area, but receives less service than City B, which contributes a smaller amount of tax revenue.

Is this fair?

Here in the Tri-Cities, which is served by Ben Franklin Transit, sales tax contributions are highly varied among the cities. For example, the amounts of sales tax collected by each city in July 2011:

  • Kennewick (pop. 73,917) – $1,163,782
  • Pasco (pop. 59,781) – $733,792
  • Richland (pop. 48,058) – $814,435
  • West Richland (pop. 11,811) – $ 58,102
  • Benton City (pop. 3,038) – $26,476
  • Prosser (pop. 5,714) – $95,654
*Finley is not included, as it is not officially a municipality, but rather a CDP, and it only has a demand-response service in lieu of fixed-route.
To break it down further, I’ll use the average resident contribution of each city and compare it with the total weekly (Monday-Saturday) local service hours on fixed-route service for each city.
  • Kennewick – $15.75/520 hours
  • Pasco – $12.27/392.5 hours
  • Richland – $16.94/443.5 hours
*This time, West Richland is excluded because it is only served by Routes 110 and 120, both which are intercity. Benton City and Prosser are also excluded, as they both only have one route accessible to residents (without a transfer that is), Route 170. Seeing as how a good chunk of Route 170’s service hours are spent on the freeway, it’d be unfair to use that time in this evaluation.
Does this make much sense? Maybe a little, but not really. And that’s the point. It’s unfair to penalize a city in a multi-city transit operation for “not contributing enough” money to pay for the service. (Don’t even get me started on the 40-20-20 in Seattle…) While in most situations, the city contributing the most money tends to be the one with the most rider demand, Ben Franklin Transit has a unique situation as the city contributing the least (among the three main cities) is the one with the most demand. Though I don’t have specific rider numbers on a route by route basis (something I’m working on obtaining though), it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that Pasco generates the highest amount of riders in the system. As I talked about in the last post, there’s a pretty good reason for this.
I bring this subject up as I ponder my little “personal project” of a BFT revamp. It all comes down to the small petty details for ways to increase service and efficiency, but this is just my thoughts on the subject for today. Like always, Twitter me up or comment below.
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