The board of Rock Region Metro,
formerly the Central Arkansas Transit System, voted today to ask the Pulaski County Quorum Court to call a referendum on a quarter-cent sales tax that would provide dedicated funding to the public transportation agency. The tax would be voted on March 1, 2016. at the same time as the primary elections.
"It's time to act as a group, to say let's go forward," board chairman Allie Freeman
said before the unanimous decision.
A quarter cent is the statutory tax limit for public transportation agencies. Rock Region Director Jarod Varner
said it would produce $18 million a year that, in addition to the $12.5 million kicked in by Little Rock, North Little Rock, Pulaski County, Sherwood and Maumelle every year plus ridership revenues, grants and contracts, and transform the system.
The vote today is the culmination of the board's Move Central Arkansas
proposal. With tax revenues and city contributions, Rock Region could add buses, add routes and decrease wait times. It would be able to modify its old-fashioned hub-and-spoke system creating, for example, a cross-town bus route in North Little Rock so that people who work on one side of the city could commute to their homes on the opposite side without having to go to the Travel Station in Little Rock first. Rock Region also wants to put in Bus Rapid Transit routes for express travelers and community shuttles.
The dedicated funding would also allow the public transportation agency to budget for future transit plans, which would be incorporated into Metroplan's
Imagine Central Arkansas long-term plans. The state Highway and Transportation Department
has said one reason its proposal to widen Interstate 30 does not include public transportation considerations is that Rock Region plans are not part of Imagine Central Arkansas.
The decision to ask for the sales tax comes at a time when "the community is seeking alternatives" to expanding highways as a way to handle transportation needs, Varner said.
The Quorum Court will hold an agenda meeting tomorrow night, when it will vote on whether to take up the proposal at its Nov. 24 meeting.