Grant Twp. News You Can Use: How Much a Low Cost Ride Really Costs Taxpayers

February 3, 2020

In December the Clare County Board of Commissioners entertained and passed a resolution, which allowed Clare County Transit to place a millage before voters on the March 10th Presidential Primary. As you will see here Transit doesn’t need the money, the two tenths of a mill will generate about $200,000.

What is more disappointing, Commissioners made the decision without any financial documents to justify the millage request. Since Commissioners weren’t provided the information or absently didn’t ask, we will do that here. So we requested from Transit Corporation, a private 501c3 Non Profit Corporation some financial documents. Some were paid for and some obtained from MDOT reports.

Why weren’t Commissioners provided this? They didn’t ask. It’s like driving a new car home and forgetting to ask how much it cost.

Many rural transit systems are having a hard time, this stems from some very obvious facts, efficiency of operation or lack of it is one key ingredient. It is impossible to provide economical taxi service with a $150,000 bus at seven miles per gallon; the following figures expose this. In 2014 the cost per mile to operate a bus was at $2.76, the cost in 2018 increased slightly to $2.88. Remember, MDOT encourages inefficiency within Transit operations. The cost per passenger in 2014 was $14.94 and increased to $ 16.31 in 2018. Using an average highest fare charged per passenger at $3 we find taxpayer subsidies per ride at $13.31. Transit doesn’t need the money they just need to learn efficiency and riders need to contribute more. A small increase in fares would fund one or two new efficient vehicles each year.

Let’s look at where Transit gets operating revenue; in 2014, federal funding was $191,107, state funding was $688,530, local funding was $320, 295, and fares generated $321,939. In 2018, federal funding was at $284,657, state funding was $629,736, local was $500,763 and fares generated $132,307.

Revenue totals in 2014 were $1,521,871 and 2018 amounts were $1,547,463.

Transit had 32 vehicles in 2014 and in 2018 had 26. Here is the passenger ridership trend; in 2014 there were 117,300 total rides and it has decreased by nearly 20% to 93,735 in 2018.

So while the ridership trend continues to decrease, inefficiency worsens. The need for additional subsidy revenue increases or so we are told.

Each year Transit carries a cash balance position in excess of $970,000. With the added millage increase (to be determined) and its share diverted from 7c County road funds in 2020 its taxpayer subsidy will increase south of $240,000 each year.

Here is the part that is most insulting to Townships. A couple of years ago the 7c Clare County Local Task Group responsible for distribution of 7c Transportation funding made a decision. That decision was to make a cut to Transits share of this funding source. At that time Townships were ramping up their share of County local road funding.

Townships due to that reason and to make sure the maximum amount of road funding was applied to road work strongly supported this measure. Clare County Transit, MDOT, Federal Highway Administration and Transit Association went off the deep end. Ultimately Townships were told, “Townships don’t matter”, “and our position was illegal”. So after a lot of throwing chairs Transit got its way and Townships didn’t matter. Last August the 7c Clare County Task Group restored the original funding with an increase from this road funding source to $40,000. Roads took a back seat and Transit got their funding.

Now that’s not a lot of money you may say, but it will gravel one mile of eligible roadway. Chip and seal over one mile of eligible surfaced road and allow the Road Commission to free up other funding for local roads.

At that level it also equals $400,000 over a 10 year period. Siphoning road funding is another reason roads don’t get fixed and transfers a larger funding requirement to Townships, the “other” source of road funding.

The Transit millage could be approved by voters at the March 10th Election, but that is a given. Turnout will be very low which easily assures passage. Meanwhile, inefficiency and a larger subsidy for driving empty busses will flourish. Local taxpayers will be saddled with an increasing share of high cost transportation.

The County Commissioners, forgetting they need to fix their own house, were fooled and as we’ve pointed out failed to seek the facts. If they read this they know what should have been asked before deciding to allow the measure on the ballot. Voters decide on March 10, 2020, an off season election with less than a 20% turnout. It’s easier than ever to vote, just don’t forget.

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2 Responses to Grant Twp. News You Can Use: How Much a Low Cost Ride Really Costs Taxpayers

  1. Claire Reply

    February 3, 2020 at 6:46 pm

    Thank you..Your articles are very informative

  2. Christina Reply

    February 5, 2020 at 8:21 pm

    These rides are provided to the elderly, disabled, or those who are too poor to own a car. People need this service to get to medical appointments, dialysis, jobs, social services, grocery stores, food pantries, and other places. The government also subsidizes those who are fortunate to own and operate vehicles by paying for their roads (the gas tax doesn’t cover the costs). I hope the author never winds up unable to drive, unable to afford a for-profit taxi ride, and without charitable friends and family with the time and will to take him where he needs to go. Transit provides a safety net to keep non-driving folks healthy, fed and working.

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