Mayor Megan Barry’s July 1, 2017, Metro Budget included proposed fare reductions and no-cost transfers for Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) users, making the “self-generated” portion of MTA’s funding a mere 16 percent, with the balance coming from Metro Government at 60 percent, the State at 6 percent and Federal at 19 percent.
In Mayor Barry’s budget for fiscal year 2017-18 adopted by the Metro Council and approved by the MTA Board, effective August 1, 2017, “2nd Ride Transfers” within two hours of initial boarding were eliminated and nearly all other fares were reduced by at least 24 percent and up to as much as 40 percent. The total cost passed on to taxpayers to compensate for just the fee restructuring portion of next year’s MTA budget is $2.75 million.
MTA is the public transportation agency based in Nashville that utilizes buses primarily through Music City Central, a paratransit specialized van service for people with disabilities, the Lebanon-to-Nashville Music City Star commuter rail, the free Music City Circuit and contracted services with the Regional Transit Authority (RTA) for service areas connected to Nashville/Davidson County.
In 2016, MTA reported that of its $73.6 million budgeted operating funding, $16.8 million or 23 percent was self-generated through user fares, advertising and contracted services. While the 2016 actual performance fell short of that goal by $1.4 million, the expectations were lowered 7 percent further for 2017-18.
In Mayor Barry’s 2017-18 budget, the reduced revenues from the fee restructuring program and ridership declines combined with the increases in expenses for health insurance, wages, fringe benefits, workers compensation, fuel costs and expansion of services resulted in a total increase of $7 million to the MTA budget that will come out of Metro revenues.
The $7 million increase in MTA expenses:
- Represents a 16.66 percent increase in the portion funded by Metro from $42 million in 2016-17 to $49 million in 2017-18
- Is after offsets from a $1.3 million increase in Federal grants, a $939,900 decrease in pension costs, and $421,200 in revenues from increased advertising and parking
- Represents a $6.72 or 5.95 percent increase in expenditures per capita to $119.65, up from $112.93 in the 2016-17 budget
The increase in non-user taxpayer subsidies comes at a time when MTA/RTA CEO Steve Bland has been making presentations regarding the expansion of public transportation throughout middle Tennessee as approved by the MTA Board of Directors in the $6 billion nMotion Plan.
Governor Haslam’s IMPROVE Act included provisions for 12 designated counties to levy a surcharge on six local taxes if they were already existing, including option sales tax, business tax, motor vehicle tax, local rental car tax, tourist accommodation/hotel occupancy tax and residential development tax, for the purposes of a transit improvement program.