In Ashland $26 dollars can get you a cheap dinner and a movie. After May 17th that same amount could ensure residents extended access to the Rogue Valley’s Transit system. If passed Measure 151-41 that will appear on next week’s ballot will secure additional funding towards Rogue Valley Transportation District in the form of a five-year property tax levy. The tax would require property owners to pay an additional 13 cents per 1,000 dollars on the assessed value of their house, the equivalent to $26 for every 200,000 dollar home.
“An investment in transportation is an investment in economic development,” said Tonia Moro, Board member of Rogue Valley Transportation District. In response to those who viewed the transit system as inapplicable to their own daily routines she stated “well you don’t use the fire department everyday either […] it’s a service that is important to the community and to you when you do need it.”
Last year a similar levy was voted on and failed, forcing RVTD to discontinue weekend service as well as any service to Ashland past 8pm on weekdays. This has resulted in frequent overcrowding of buses.
According to General Manager Julie Brown they are currently using close to 1 million dollars of reserves a year to keep the level of service they have. “I can only go so long before all those reserves are depleted and we have nothing left,” she said standing in the Front Street Station parking lot in Medford, “We have to make hard decisions and this is one of them.”
If the measure fails a second time RVTD will begin plans to cut its service by 35 percent, according to Brown, the equivalent of two and a half routes.
“Another cut would be devastating to our community,” said Sarah Westover, a former Southern Oregon University student and spokesperson for RVTD’s campaign. Westover, who now resides in Phoenix, relies on the bus service for transportation as she suffers from a seizure disorder that prevents her from driving herself. She is among many other Rogue Valley residents with disabilities who depend on the bus to get them to jobs or community events on a daily basis.
Westover also spoke of the potentially positive impact the transit system has on the the environment pointing to the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. “This whole one person one car attitude we have in our country is not getting us very far.”
So far the campaign has garnered support from 27 different organizations including various environmental and climate groups in the region as well as labor groups such as Southern Oregon Jobs for Justice. RVTD advocates will continue to rally support until Tuesday with the hope that the community will vote its favor.