Albuquerque “Leaders” Haven’t Given up on Streetcar

Councilor Isaac Benton created a task force and stacked it with his friends and supporters of the streetcar. Recently, the task force released its recommendations. Not surprisingly, they recommend continuing the 1/4 cent gross receipts tax that is up for renewal at the end of 2009. Also, given Benton’s bent towards control of development and personal mobility, he urges more financial support for transit. Lastly, while his task force supports the idea of the streetcar, they naturally view additional funding (more tax hikes and subsidies) as essential in order to move the project forward. Specific recommendations are below:

By a unanimous vote, the Task Force recommended continuation of the gross receipts tax for transportation, set to expire at the end of 2009. This tax will provide continued funding to maintain, improve, and repair city roads and to help maintain and operate the ABQ Ride transit system. The recommendation to continue the tax, which generates approximately $38 million annually, is tied to new comprehensive policy recommendations for each of the tax’s five programs: road maintenance, road rehabilitation, road deficiencies, trails & bikeways, and transit. A central focus of the Task Force’s recommendations is increasing capacity of the city’s existing street
system by improving efficiency and flexibility for private vehicles, transit, pedestrians, and bicyclists.

The report also contains a recommendation about how the tax should be allocated in the future. “One of the most important recommendations from the Task Force is to increase Transit’s share of the tax from 20% to 36%,”
said Councilor Benton. “More and more people are using ABQ Ride every day. We must respond to the citywide demand for transit that has resulted from $3- and $4-dollar-a-gallon gas.”

On the question of the modern streetcar, a two-thirds majority of the Task Force supported the concept, further analysis, and development of the streetcar. However, it would limit such use of the tax to a maximum of 14%
of the total proceeds, and only if leveraged on a 3:1 basis with other sources. These could include State and/or Federal support, private sponsorships, and a Tax Increment Development District.

The report, once introduced at Monday’s Council meeting, will be referred to the Finance and Government Operations Committee, which could hear the report as early as their October 15th meeting.