Mayor Hales: Keep Portland Youth Pass!
This petition had 2,297 supporters
Despite this statement Mayor Hales made about keeping YouthPass...
"We have to do it. Where the revenue comes from to pay for it, whether it’s going to the philanthropic sector at the foundations, what public funds we use, I don’t know. … Having the students using the transit system and developing the habits of citizenship based upon using transit is wonderful, and we should never lose it. We’ve got to keep that program."
The Willamette Week reported today, January 30th, Hales is cutting funding to some essential Portland programs, a two of them are going to be devastating to Portland's youth. Hales has already cut funding ($395,000) for the nonprofit Worksystems Inc., which funds summer teen internships and job-training programs. He also plans to cut YouthPass.
WW reports Hales dreading the cuts to come. “It’s the student TriMet pass,” he says, referring to the bus passes for Portland Public Schools high-school students that Adams worked out a deal to keep last summer. “I know the value of that YouthPass, and I respected Sam for fighting for it. It’s going to be really painful.” (http://www.wweek.com/portland/article-20211-return_of_chucky.html)
If Charlie Hales has supported YouthPass and claims it's going to be painful, then why won't he fight as hard as former Mayor Sam Adams to keep YouthPass? Why is it even on the chopping block?
As explained by Portland Afoot, "YouthPass emerged as a state-funded program under Adams’ predecessor Tom Potter, who was looking for cost-effective ways to reduce high school dropout rates. Portland Public Schools then became one of several urban districts in the state to use the state’s Business Energy Tax Credit to support student transit passes.
Then, in 2011, state legislators decided that even though the state would subsidize Portland Public Schools if it used expensive yellow buses to move its students, it was unwilling to subsidize PPS’s lower-cost, higher-benefit TriMet pass program.
Even as Adams twisted TriMet’s arm to support YouthPass through June 2013, the then-mayor’s staff didn’t describe it as a long-term funding solution; the city’s YouthPass money this year had been left over from a one-time budget to improve Southwest Moody Street."
Here are some more relevant facts about YouthPass, courtesy of Portland Afoot...
History of the program:
Until December 2011, YouthPass was funded by the state's Business Energy Tax Credit. (Another $800,000 came from PPS, 70% of which was reimbursed by state taxpayers. But that was the approximate cost that PPS would be required to bear if YouthPass didn't exist.) In spring 2011, Oregon's legislature decided to remove the program from eligibility for the tax credit. At the time, only a small group of teens on the Multnomah Youth Commission, supported by the office of Mayor Sam Adams, was lobbying the legislature to continue funding YouthPass.
By comparison, the state continues to reimburse schools that offer yellow-bus service for 70% of their yellow-bus expenses.
In late 2011, Mayor Adams's office negotiated a stopgap deal between the city, TriMet and Portland Public Schools to continue YouthPass through June 2012 using a combination of the three agencies' funds.
YouthPass is, by all accounts, a cheaper and more versatile alternative to yellow-bus service in urban areas. Unlike yellow bus service, however, it's unsupported by state taxpayers, so the entire cost of funding the service falls at the local level.
$2.5 million less than limited yellow-bus service
The state of Oregon requires school districts to provide transportation to low-income high school students who attend their neighborhood schools and live at least 1.5 miles away, according to PPS Director of Transportation Andy Leibenguth. In April 2011, Leibenguth said the number of students meeting these criteria was "2,500 to 3,000."
If PPS, like most Oregon school districts, maintained its own yellow bus fleet, the annual cost would be $5.2 million, according to a January 2012 waiver application from PPS. The state would then be obligated to pick up 70 percent of that cost, or $3.6 million a year, with Portland Public Schools covering the other $1.6 million.
TriMet estimates that its own cost of providing the service is $2.7 million, entirely from reduced fare sales. (A 2011 study of the cost of the service found that TriMet's additional operating cost due to student ridership was negligible; in 2012, TriMet spokeswoman Mary Fetsch said the actual cost is "a couple hundred thousand" dollars for extra buses.) PPS pays TriMet $800,000 annually to offset that cost (of which 70%, $560,000, comes from the state), leaving a $1.9 million loss to TriMet due to the program. During spring 2012, TriMet and the City of Portland agreed to continue the program by splitting that cost.
For Portland Public Schools, Leibenguth said, "it would cost more to provide the yellow-bus transportation for fewer kids."
Cutting YouthPass hurts the access to reliable and comprehensive transportation for the youth of Portland. How is this even being considered?
Mayor Hales, we respectfully ask that you fight to find the money to keep YouthPass.
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