PAT in RAD Mix Again

PAT in RAD Mix Again

"The Port Authority presents today as an eligible applicant with significant regional impact and an urgent and unmet need. Fortunately, revenue growth this year allows RAD to respond to this need on a one year basis without detriment to other program areas. Since this may not be the case next year, we urge state and county leaders to continue their efforts to find alternate, reliable transit funding sources." —Regional Asset District final budget for 2013

Last year, the Port Authority (PAT) asked for and received $3 million from the Regional Asset District as an annual grant. The Authority is making the same request again for 2014. While we know that no comprehensive transportation plan came out of the legislative session, and that PAT passed a budget for 2013-14 that is not yet on the Authority’s website, there are competing outlooks over how long PAT should get money from RAD.

The County Executive-who currently appoints all nine members of the Port Authority and 3 of the 7 members of the RAD board-said last August that he did not want the 2013 disbursement to be "…just a one time grant". An op-ed piece soon after argued against that line of thinking, stating the request "…should be a one-time thing". At least one leader in the arts/cultural community expressed reservations about the precedent the request would make, echoing a state senator who raised similar issues when it was decided that RAD would be able to help the Sports and Exhibition Authority (SEA) for a few years while it waited on gaming money.

Like the County Executive argued that he could think of no bigger regional asset than mass transit, the Executive Director of the SEA likewise opined a handful of years earlier that the convention center met "the definition of a regional asset". Yet the SEA no longer gets RAD money as it now gets gaming money-so it was really a temporary regional asset until a new source of revenue came along. Will that be the same for PAT? Recall that in some versions of the state transportation bill that would be more emphasis on local funding, with possible new and higher revenue options. Who knows if that will make it into a new transportation plan should one be debated in the fall. Is it possible that local officials could make the case that the RAD funded PAT without any hardship to other organizations so that, rather than creating new taxes again the Authority should be made a permanent beneficiary?