March 25th, Gov. Inslee is expected to sign the expansive Move Ahead Washington transportation package and Ben Franklin Transit could get a lot of funding.

Besides banning the sale of new gas-powered light-duty cars and trucks etc. in our state after 2030, the plan sets aside 17 billion dollars for public transit over the next 16 years.

BFT could get as much as $3.75 million per year.

According to budget officials, BFT's share of the public transit money could be anywhere from $50 to $70 million, meaning (if you split the difference at $60 million) they could receive about $3.75 million over the next 16 years.

Two requirements or strings are attached. One, by October, BFT must come up with a free fare plan for riders 18-and under, and Two, they must maintain their sales tax authority.

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The way BFT is set up, it's allowed by the county to receive revenue from sales taxes to help operate. Over the years, a number of groups have been critical of funding for BFT when you look at ridership vs. taxes-income.  Last November, the Washington Policy Center said data supported County Commissioners wanting to cut back on the sales tax rate given to BFT, citing ridership numbers.

According to the WPC report:

"An updated WPC analysis found more troubling performance data, showing significant losses in ridership through 2017, while BFT officials increased operating expenses by 20 percent and sales tax revenue collections increased by 44 percent.

The latest data shows BFT ridership decreased 43 percent from 2009 to 2019. COVID exacerbated this trend, and ridership plummeted further by 48 percent between 2019 and 2020."

While no specifics are available yet as to what that new revenue would be used for, it's likely some of it would be used to create the free fare program for riders 18 and under.

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