(Pittsburgh) May 17, 2018 Allegheny County’s Transit Fund, derived from the Drink and Vehicle Rental taxes, has built a $16 million surplus and brings in millions each year beyond what is required to provide the Port Authority’s local match for state funding. While these funds are available for capital projects or service enhancements across the PAT system, construction of the proposed $200 million Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) corridor could exhaust them, especially if requested federal grants are not received, County Controller Chelsa Wagner warns in her latest Taxpayer Alert.
“It would be unfair to many transit riders and local communities to sink the lion’s share of discretionary Transit funds into a project that benefits a limited geographic area. For this reason, I am calling for the $16 million Transit Fund surplus and annual Drink and Car Rental tax revenue beyond the required local match to be used for infrastructure and service enhancements outside the proposed BRT corridor,” Wagner writes in the report.
“The ‘New Pittsburgh’ that is trumpeted by regional boosters and which offers opportunity and benefits to many cannot leave behind those who have paid the bills and supported their communities in tougher times. It is fitting that we rely on our longstanding funding sources to benefit the transit system broadly, even as we use the benefits of regional growth to support aspirational projects like BRT.”
The Drink Tax, a 7 percent sales tax on alcoholic drinks served in bars and restaurants, and the Vehicle Rental Tax, a $2 per day tax on vehicles rented in the County, brought in nearly $48 million in 2017. Drink Tax receipts topped $40 million for the first time since the taxes took effect in 2008. Almost $31 million was required to secure state funding for the Port Authority, about $10 million was allocated to PAT capital projects, and $5.5 million paid debt service on past projects. About $1.5 million was added to the fund balance.