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This is the key issue: With so much talk over so-called "shovel-ready" projects, it raised the question whether that phrase meant projects for which actual construction could begin in 60 to 120 days....or....if the funds need to be obligated to a project within that time frame so engineering and construction can begin on a new project.
During its public meetings and in other conversations, the Task Force heard from many Ohioans about the needfor expanded and better public transit, including intercity and intra-city passenger rail service. Task Forcemembers heard from the business traveler who wanted to be able to hop on a train so she can work on her wayto an important meeting. They heard from the senior citizen whose independence was being jeopardizedbecause bus service was limited, and from the father who couldn’t find a job near a transit line and was havedifficulty providing for his family. And they heard from a woman in Northwest Ohio who compared living in a citywithout decent public transit to “living on parole or house arrest except the only thing you have to do wrong isnot have a car.”These and many other Ohioans need public transit. They want more transportation choices – alternatives to theircars and to short flights. And they are worried because too often they have few, if any, travel options.For Ohio, the problem is clear. Transit systems’ ridership is rising. So are costs. Transit systems need operatingsupport now more than ever. But state support for transit is decreasing, in large part because transit doesn’thave a dedicated, predictable funding source.Other than roads and highways, transit is Ohio’s biggest transportation need. Yet relative to highways, transit,particularly buses, has small capital needs. At least in the near term, transit’s most acute need is for operatingsupport to pay for gas, drivers and maintenance. Yet, in these recessionary times, when Ohioans most needaffordable, reliable public transit, many transit systems are being forced to cut back on service.The creation of a dedicated source of funding for public transit, including intercity and intra-city passenger rail,has the opportunity to reshape Ohio’s landscape – both economically and physically. This is why public transithas dominated Ohio’s transportation conversation in recent years.Therefore, the Task Force recommends establishing a dedicated funding source for transit by directing a portionof the new special motor fuel tax to operating support for the state’s transit systems. Initial funding for thatsupport should be on the order of $75 million for the first year but would increase over six years to represent astate share of 25 percent of public transit’s operating expenses and 50 percent of the non-federal match forcapital expenses, which would be drawn from the $400 million of revenue remaining after payment of debtservice. And for this purpose, the Task Force repeats and expands on what it said in its discussion ofRecommendation L, where it called for the state of Ohio to: Through a voter referendum that amends the state constitution – levy a new special motor fuel tax usingthe revenue from that special tax to secure bonds, and making both the proceeds of the bonds and theincreased revenue available to all transportation modes. Target a specific percentage of the proceeds of the bonds and the increased revenue to support publictransit, including both intercity and intra-city passenger rail.An enhanced public transportation network will allow Ohio to reduce various service costs and enhance staterevenues by connecting workers with jobs, and jobs with workers; connecting customers with retailestablishments; connecting students to schools; connecting residents with medical facilities; and allowing ourcommunities to develop in more efficient and sustainable ways. And a dedicated funding source for transit willallow transit systems to plan for the future based on a reliable budget. Without an adequate, reliable fundingsource, transit systems cannot strategically invest, expand and serve their customers.