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Posted on November 13, 2019 at 2:01 PM by Brooke Kochanski
Did you know that an average daily commute from Greensboro to Winston-Salem and back could cost the typical driver nearly $700 a month in gas, maintenance and insurance?
If that same driver were to take a PART Express bus every day to work, that same commute would cost only $80 per month.
So how is the Piedmont Authority for Regional Transportation (PART) — a not-for-profit government agency — able to offer such remarkable savings and discounts to riders in the Triad? How do we offer more than a dozen PART Express routes, Vanpool discounts and more at such competitive rates?
To answer that question, we have to “peek under the hood” and learn a bit more about how PART is funded. You might first think of the fares we collect for each PART Express or Vanpool ride. That is certainly the most recognizable way that folks pay for our services on a daily basis.
But in reality, the money collected from fares (known in the biz as “Fare Box Recovery”) does not typically account for more than 15-20% of our total budget deficit. In fact, that money typically reduces the amount of State and Federal funds and grants that contribute toward the cost recovery.
Essentially, there are various funding sources available from State and Federal governments that contribute towards funding agencies like PART. But each fund source is specific to a purpose, and they typically require the agency requesting those funds to be able to offer up their own matching funds — to show they’re serious about using that grant money to improve the public services they provide to their communities.
The $2.50 fare we charge for PART Express routes goes a long way towards making sure we’re able to compete for those grant dollars at the local level. Both Federal and State agencies have formula fund programs. Some are a part of an annual budget, and some are competitive grants on an annual basis. For all of these fund sources a local match is needed. If you don’t have the local funds you can’t tap into the federal or state funds.
Our Vanpool program, for example, which helps co-workers from across the Triad save money by commuting together, is made possible through a 50/50 “matched” grant from the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT). These funds are used for the administrative functions to manage the program, and hence; a savings that doesn’t get placed on the end user.
Outside of those bus fare box revenues, the PART agency has three local fund sources as approved by the North Carolina legislature:
The 5% rental fee — what’s known as a “U-Drive-It” tax — takes effect whenever someone rents a vehicle from an Enterprise, Hertz, etc. This kind of tax is common across many states and cities, and in our case, helps form a basis for our overall funding. There are several counties in the PART territorial jurisdiction who have this in place including Guilford, Forsyth, Davidson, Alamance, and Surry Counties.
Another funding source is the assorted fees you see when you have to renew your vehicle registration with DMV every year. These fees can range from $1 up to $8, and while that may not seem like a lot, they go a long way towards helping provide financial stability here at PART. Randolph County currently is the only county who has put this into place with $1 registration fee.
Taken all together, these local fund sources make up the majority of how PART is funded. Thanks to these resources, we are able to apply and receive Federal funds and State funds. In essence, this represents 25% of total revenue with Federal funds, 16% of state funds, and the remaining amount of local funs to operate 16 routes across the Triad. Providing important connections to Winston-Salem, Greensboro, and High Point, not to mention Mount Airy to Lexington to Asheboro and even Chapel Hill.
Although we’re providing the best service we can based on the funds available, we know there is more of a need. Not just for expanding and enhancing PART but for our partner agencies that provide critical connections in their cities. The local dollars leverage the state and federal dollars.
So, what can we do? When PART was created back in 1997, the NC Legislature authorized our organization to have the ability to implement a county-wide sales referendum that would empower the voters to approve a half-cent sales tax in Guilford and Forsyth counties and a quarter-cent sales tax in some of our more rural counties. Although a small portion of these funds would be used by PART to enhance our services, the majority of these local funds would be used to leverage additional federal and state funds; but more importantly used by our local communities to enhance all forms of transportation in their jurisdictions. That includes improving transit for our partner agencies, building sidewalks in our neighborhoods, developing safe routes to school for our children, and more. It’s a decision made by the public. The public's decision for the future.
Have more questions? Feel free to reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org or 336-883-7278!