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Grand River Transit
I think that's rightt: the logic was that capital funding would be provided to municipalities for improved transit, so the tax credit was not needed.

I don't know what would have a bigger impact on user behaviour: better service, or a very visible "discount." Maybe it would depend exactly how the money was spent by each jurisdiction.
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(03-23-2017, 08:21 AM)MidTowner Wrote: I think that's rightt: the logic was that capital funding would be provided to municipalities for improved transit, so the tax credit was not needed.

I don't know what would have a bigger impact on user behaviour: better service, or a very visible "discount." Maybe it would depend exactly how the money was spent by each jurisdiction.

This is a tricky question, I see both sides, well, two sides, not the third.  Providing municipalities money is great, but it's an entirely different policy from discounting transit, which changes people's perception.  People love discounts.  Still, perhaps increased funding could eventually improve service, which we all know is the most effective way to improve ridership.  But it's a long bumpy road.

However, the tax credit wasn't refundable, therefore those who didn't make enough didn't benefit from it.  Worse, those who used tickets because they couldn't afford passes, also don't benefit from it.  A direct subsidy for those who have the most difficulty affording it would probably be a more egalitarian use of money.  Whether it's more effective at increasing use of transit, who knows.


Still, we really should be doing all three.
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I would frankly prefer direct funding of the transit agencies. Which is in effect what we are receiving, as the feds have recently announced all kinds of transit funding.

The tax credit is great for those who (a) have regular enough employment to buy monthly passes, (b) earn enough to pay taxes, and © have the attention to detail to properly fill in relevant parts of their tax forms.

I look at this and think to myself, why are we only giving discounts to those people, and not to everyone who uses the bus?  What makes this set of people more deserving than the rest?
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The one thing that I wonder about is, when council decides that GRT needs a 50% cost recovery ratio, could (in support of fares) the feds decide that direct funding had to be counted on the rider portion of those equations? Say, provide GRT with 5% of its annual costs, but require this to be placed on the rider side of targets? I feel like part of the risk of direct funding is that a council will take it and add it to the council side of the ledger, and use it, effectively, to lower the amount that property tax funds transit, while not changing how much transit fares fund transit, which translates into having "transit funding" support cars, by way of being redistributed across the tax base, the largest share of which is drivers, while doing nothing to improve service or lower transit costs to users.
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(03-23-2017, 10:33 AM)Markster Wrote: I would frankly prefer direct funding of the transit agencies. Which is in effect what we are receiving, as the feds have recently announced all kinds of transit funding.

The tax credit is great for those who (a) have regular enough employment to buy monthly passes, (b) earn enough to pay taxes, and © have the attention to detail to properly fill in relevant parts of their tax forms.

I look at this and think to myself, why are we only giving discounts to those people, and not to everyone who uses the bus?  What makes this set of people more deserving than the rest?

I'm thinking of a funding model whereby every transit agency would receive a federal government subsidy equivalent to, say, 20% of fare revenue would work well.  It's better than a fixed subsidy because (1) it directly subsidizes the fares, whether trip or monthly, and (2) it increases as transit usage increases.

It's nice to dream. Smile
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(03-23-2017, 11:14 AM)tomh009 Wrote:
(03-23-2017, 10:33 AM)Markster Wrote: I would frankly prefer direct funding of the transit agencies. Which is in effect what we are receiving, as the feds have recently announced all kinds of transit funding.

The tax credit is great for those who (a) have regular enough employment to buy monthly passes, (b) earn enough to pay taxes, and © have the attention to detail to properly fill in relevant parts of their tax forms.

I look at this and think to myself, why are we only giving discounts to those people, and not to everyone who uses the bus?  What makes this set of people more deserving than the rest?

I'm thinking of a funding model whereby every transit agency would receive a federal government subsidy equivalent to, say, 20% of fare revenue would work well.  It's better than a fixed subsidy because (1) it directly subsidizes the fares, whether trip or monthly, and (2) it increases as transit usage increases.

It's nice to dream. Smile

Again, this only works if there are conditions attached. If, today, riders pay 50% of GRT costs and regional tax revenues pay 50%, you could have the region decide that now 50% of GRT costs will be riders, 20% will be federal funds, and 30% will be regional tax revenues, meaning that 20% goes back to the general revenues.
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(03-23-2017, 11:38 AM)Viewfromthe42 Wrote:
(03-23-2017, 11:14 AM)tomh009 Wrote: I'm thinking of a funding model whereby every transit agency would receive a federal government subsidy equivalent to, say, 20% of fare revenue would work well.  It's better than a fixed subsidy because (1) it directly subsidizes the fares, whether trip or monthly, and (2) it increases as transit usage increases.

It's nice to dream. Smile

Again, this only works if there are conditions attached. If, today, riders pay 50% of GRT costs and regional tax revenues pay 50%, you could have the region decide that now 50% of GRT costs will be riders, 20% will be federal funds, and 30% will be regional tax revenues, meaning that 20% goes back to the general revenues.

That part is controlled by each city or region, nothing the federal government can dictate.  The city/region can also change the 50% target to 40% or 60%, independent of the federal government.  So the local funding level is really separate from the federal subsidy, and it really doesn't make the federal subsidy model "work" or "not work".
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(03-23-2017, 11:44 AM)tomh009 Wrote:
(03-23-2017, 11:38 AM)Viewfromthe42 Wrote: Again, this only works if there are conditions attached. If, today, riders pay 50% of GRT costs and regional tax revenues pay 50%, you could have the region decide that now 50% of GRT costs will be riders, 20% will be federal funds, and 30% will be regional tax revenues, meaning that 20% goes back to the general revenues.

That part is controlled by each city or region, nothing the federal government can dictate.  The city/region can also change the 50% target to 40% or 60%, independent of the federal government.  So the local funding level is really separate from the federal subsidy, and it really doesn't make the federal subsidy model "work" or "not work".

But it could control it by providing a direct tax subsidy for buying transit passes, like was already happening.  Changing it to be a refundable subsidy, that applied to tickets as well, for example would have made it have broader applications.  In that case, the region/city cannot take that income and apply to to the general revenues.
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(03-23-2017, 12:26 PM)danbrotherston Wrote:
(03-23-2017, 11:44 AM)tomh009 Wrote: That part is controlled by each city or region, nothing the federal government can dictate.  The city/region can also change the 50% target to 40% or 60%, independent of the federal government.  So the local funding level is really separate from the federal subsidy, and it really doesn't make the federal subsidy model "work" or "not work".

But it could control it by providing a direct tax subsidy for buying transit passes, like was already happening.  Changing it to be a refundable subsidy, that applied to tickets as well, for example would have made it have broader applications.  In that case, the region/city cannot take that income and apply to to the general revenues.

The moment it is a tax refund, it means you have to have the full cost up front, and get refunded it after a year, if all receipts are properly kept. This seems simple, and yet is very much a challenge for people. Trying to make it apply to tickets or cash fares would also be too complex and unwieldy. Even if you could make it work, transit agencies could still use this as "slack" in the system, and boost transit fares/fare recovery by whatever appropriate amount to see you pay the same amount after refund as you had paid with no refund.
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(03-23-2017, 01:43 PM)Viewfromthe42 Wrote:
(03-23-2017, 12:26 PM)danbrotherston Wrote: But it could control it by providing a direct tax subsidy for buying transit passes, like was already happening.  Changing it to be a refundable subsidy, that applied to tickets as well, for example would have made it have broader applications.  In that case, the region/city cannot take that income and apply to to the general revenues.

The moment it is a tax refund, it means you have to have the full cost up front, and get refunded it after a year, if all receipts are properly kept. This seems simple, and yet is very much a challenge for people. Trying to make it apply to tickets or cash fares would also be too complex and unwieldy. Even if you could make it work, transit agencies could still use this as "slack" in the system, and boost transit fares/fare recovery by whatever appropriate amount to see you pay the same amount after refund as you had paid with no refund.

They could, but again, because you pay the upfront cost, people wouldn't perceive it this way, people would simply perceive a rate hike.  It's very easy to hide money that comes in direct subsidies, much hard to hide diverting a tax rebate.

In any case, I'm not necessarily suggesting that a tax subsidy is the right choice, especially the previous incarnation, I'm simply objecting to the suggestion that the federal government cannot directly subsidize transit costs.
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When the transit tax credit was introduced, a lot of people (outside of the relatively smaller transit-proponent crowd) decried it as a sop to a minority of people who use transit (who reside mostly in the biggest cities). It's strange for me to now hear complaints that it benefits only people who can afford a pass, or only people with the "attention to detail" to fill out their tax return properly (if a person lacks that attention to detail, it's not too expensive to pay an accountant to do a personal tax return).

Edit: I forgot that it might be a burden for people to keep their receipts until the end of the year. I have to be honest that it's hard for me to understand that as a "challenge," but I can acknowledge that it takes some amount of effort.

It was obviously of most benefit to transit-commuting middle-income earners. Based on speaking to those types of people, though, I think it probably did have some impact. I know I figure most months whether it's better to buy a pass or tickets based on the number of working days in the month and other transit trips I'm likely to take, and I accounted for the credit when I did. I bet other people did likewise and I think that, once someone buys a pass and incremental trips are "free," it's possible to "turn" that person from an occasional to a regular transit user.

Frankly, we need more of these people taking transit. They're more likely to be able to successfully advocate for better transit than are some other types of users (maybe like the people who don't fill out their tax returns properly).

The current government I guess successfully framed it as a question of continuing this tax credit, or increasing direct funding. It probably wasn't. And that doesn't jibe with the argument that there was limited take-up. I'll be curious to see exactly how much the credit cost, and how many people it did benefit.
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(03-23-2017, 12:26 PM)danbrotherston Wrote:
(03-23-2017, 11:44 AM)tomh009 Wrote: That part is controlled by each city or region, nothing the federal government can dictate.  The city/region can also change the 50% target to 40% or 60%, independent of the federal government.  So the local funding level is really separate from the federal subsidy, and it really doesn't make the federal subsidy model "work" or "not work".

But it could control it by providing a direct tax subsidy for buying transit passes, like was already happening.  Changing it to be a refundable subsidy, that applied to tickets as well, for example would have made it have broader applications.  In that case, the region/city cannot take that income and apply to to the general revenues.

The region/city can still reduce (or increase) the money it spends on transit, independent of the form any subsidy.  The really is no constraint on the city or region, unless the federal government were to specify a minimum (local) transit subsidy level in order to qualify for the federal subsidy.  And that minimum could apply to any form of subsidy directly provided to the local government.
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(03-23-2017, 02:50 PM)tomh009 Wrote:
(03-23-2017, 12:26 PM)danbrotherston Wrote: But it could control it by providing a direct tax subsidy for buying transit passes, like was already happening.  Changing it to be a refundable subsidy, that applied to tickets as well, for example would have made it have broader applications.  In that case, the region/city cannot take that income and apply to to the general revenues.

The region/city can still reduce (or increase) the money it spends on transit, independent of the form any subsidy.  The really is no constraint on the city or region, unless the federal government were to specify a minimum (local) transit subsidy level in order to qualify for the federal subsidy.  And that minimum could apply to any form of subsidy directly provided to the local government.

Yes, of course, but it cannot hide the money from the public nearly as easily as it could otherwise.  Public perception is everything.  If rates stay the same, 99% of the population won't bother to look any closer than that even if there's a reduction in the subsidy.  If rates go up, that same 99% won't care that they're getting a tax rebate, they'll still say prices are going up.
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Yes, they could try to hide it.

On the other hand, pass subsidies have other downsides as pointed out by other people on this thread (such as not helping with the single-fare cost).
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To see an analysis about the impact of the public transit tax credit, search for "Policy Forum: The Public
Transit Tax Credit—Ridership and Distributional Impact".

Here is the abstract:
Quote:This article discusses the non-refundable public transit tax credit, which was introduced as a targeted incentive to promote public transit. The author provides an overview of the empirical literature studying the impact of the tax credit and finds that there is no evidence that the credit has had the intended effect on ridership. Since a tax credit not only creates incentives but also transfers income across households, the author also assesses the distributional impact of the tax credit. He finds that it was used disproportionately by taxfilers in wealthy households relative to those in lower-income households, thereby contributing to income inequality. However, in the author’s view, the perceived political value of the tax credit may prevent its abolition despite evidence of its inefficiency.
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