Independent Transit Authority Proposal Continues to Meet Opposition

Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett recently testified before the county’s Transit Task Force to garner support for his proposal to create an Independent Transit Authority (ITA) in the county. County Executive Leggett had previously introduced state legislation (HB 104) during the 2015 Session that would have authorized the County to create the ITA, but had the bill withdrawn after the proposal received significant criticism from the County Council and civic leaders. The proposal continued to face opposition at the ITA meeting held last week.

As reported by the Bethesda Beat,

But Leggett hasn’t given up. At Wednesday night’s meeting, he said the county can’t improve its Ride On bus system, let alone construct a new bus rapid transit system, unless it finds an alternative to funding other than through the existing capital budget process.

Opponents, however, said they’re against the attempt to set up the agency because it would be funded by a transit tax imposed outside the county’s voter-approved charter cap limit.

The cap mandates that the county can’t collect more property tax revenue in a year than the rate of inflation plus the real estate value of new construction, unless all nine council members vote to exceed the limit. In effect, it forces the county to make incremental, if any, property tax increases.

However, Leggett explained that due to the significant upfront construction costs needed to build a bus rapid transit system, it would be more prudent to set up an independent entity focused solely on managing the transit system, which would have a consistent stream of revenue.

County Executive Leggett stated that the only way to fund the project through the county’s existing capital budget process would be to set aside other construction priorities such as school construction projects.