This Friday, the METRO Board will vote to determine the ballot choice (language will be on Aug 17) for the November 6th Referendum regarding the General Mobility Program (GMP). After reviewing the six current proposals, we at BetterHouston urge you to support the ballot proposal drafted by Christof Spieler.
Mr. Spieler’s proposal is a compromise that best serves the current and future residents of the Metro service area. . Most importantly, it calls for finishing the four light rail lines promised in the 2003 referendum. It creates a partnership between Metro and the City to begin construction – soon – on the critical University line that will link Greenway Plaza to the system and make it possible to connect to Uptown/Galleria, thus creating a system of the region’s biggest job centers.
In the short term, the proposal maintains current levels of bus service and continues GMP transportation funding for seven years so that jurisdictions have sufficient time to identify other mobility funding sources. At that time, it calls for another vote. The proposal allocates sales tax revenue in a fair way based on contribution, which is not currently the case.
In addition to meeting current transportation needs, Mr. Spieler’s proposal ensures immediate transit expansion. Dr. Stephen Klineberg’s Houston Area Survey shows that 55% of Harris County residents want this transit tax to be used only for transit. Mr. Spieler’s proposal will meet demands for transit by significantly increasing METRO’s bonding authority, which can be leveraged as the “local match” for Federal Transit Administration (FTA) grants.
Over thirty U.S. cities (including Dallas, Phoenix, and Denver) are building world-class transit systems. Houston and Harris County continue to lag behind these cities’ transit investments. By 2014, the GMP will have siphoned $2.7 billion from local transit – funds which could have been leveraged for a total of $5.4 billion. Without the one quarter of the one cent sales tax dedicated to transit, Houston will continue to fall farther behind.
Mr. Spieler’s proposal goes beyond transit. The proposal will support economic growth by creating predictability in the marketplace and increasing access to the region’s largest job centers, including Greenway Plaza, Uptown to Downtown, and the Texas Medical Center. Cities like Portland and New Orleans have demonstrated that a $100 million investment in rail can result in $1 billion in extensive real estate development. In Houston, property values along the Main Street rail line have increased by 63%, while they have only increase by 37% in the City as a whole.
Lastly, the proposal includes a built-in safeguard. Should the November referendum fail, the General Mobility Program (GMP) funding will cease, and all 25% of the one cent sales tax will be held in an escrow account until voters pass a referendum on future transit expansion and General Mobility. The proposal also defers long-term decisions about the future of transit in the City until another referendum in 2019.
In order to compete economically as a world class city, Houston needs a world-class transit system. Mr. Spieler’s proposal is the only compromise that creates a strong transportation network providing safe, affordable, and reliable transportation choices for all travelers. Vote for Mr. Spieler’s proposal to support the region’s future economic prosperity.
Full Story: To Mayor Parker, Judge Emmett, and the 9 METRO Board Members
Source: Better Houston, August 8, 2012