Finding new Transit Funding is a local and statewide concern

Virginia will soon face a severe decline in money necessary for investment in local transit agencies because the state bonds that provided the money will expire starting in 2019. With the end of this funding, there is a projected average revenue shortfall of $130 million annually over the next ten years, starting in 2019.

Most of these funds — typically 80 percent or more annually — are used to meet basic state of good repair needs, like buying buses.

In addition to statewide needs, Hampton Roads needs its own transit funding solution. Both statewide and regional transit are reaching a crisis point.

“We’ve done a lot to cut costs and make the most with what we have. We simply can’t afford a continuing under investment in the region’s core transit system.”
— HRT President and CEO, William Harrell

Today there is no regional dedicated transit funding either for state of good repair or for projects that improve regional connectivity across city boundaries. As for state funding, if historical funding were not available for bus repairs and replacements that are needed between 2019 and 2023, localities served by Hampton Roads Transit would need to identify $12 million annually in new funding just to meet basic state of good repair for buses.

Hampton Roads is a global gateway for commerce that is vitally important to Virginia’s economy. Transit plays an important role regionally, supporting more than 20,300 jobs and $548 million annually in employment income, as well as $93 million in consumer spending across Hampton Roads. Learn more about the economic impacts and benefits of HRT services.

Continuing statewide investment as well as new regional funding will enable the region to:

  • Fix what’s broken or missing in the current system
  • Make targeted improvements that more effectively connect major employment, retail, education, medical, and tourism destinations resulting in a true regional transit system
  • Include new oversight, prioritization, and accountability provisions

In 2016 the General Assembly (HB 1359) established the Transit Capital Project Revenue Advisory Board to examine state transit capital funding needs and identify potential solutions to meet these needs. Its final report comes this month.

“Virginia needs to find a way to maintain a strong commitment to transit in the years ahead or we will pay a steep price in economic losses,” says Jim Spore, President and CEO of ReInvent Hampton Roads and one of the advisory board members.

“The advisory board’s report is a welcome starting point for exploring a solution to Virginia’s transit funding needs,” notes Patricia Woodbury, chairwoman of Hampton Roads Transit’s governing board and a member of the Newport News City Council.

“This affects communities across Virginia,” she added. “The Commonwealth is an important partner with local governments and these investments help leverage federal funding as well.”

Here’s a quick run-down of what we know:

  • Due mostly to the end of bond funding approved by the General Assembly in 2007, there is a projected transit revenue shortfall of $130 million annually over the next ten years starting in 2019.
  • This funding is just to maintain historical levels of investment.
  • 80% of funds are typically used to meet basic state of good repair, like purchasing buses, and the remaining 20% for minor enhancements and some expansion.
  • Virginia’s economy would lose $200 million annually in economic activity if this funding is not replaced. These losses are just related to lost capital investments – there would be additional economic losses across Virginia as daily transit operations are impacted.
  • Virginia needs steady and reliable revenues dedicated to the state transit capital program.
  • A combination of statewide and regional sources should be considered but use of any regional funds should be only for transit needs that improve service across the region.