There are many things that a local government provides to its citizens. Parks, roads, and public schools all come to mind, but in my opinion, public transit is one of the most appreciated services that our local government in Los Alamos provides to our community.
Specifically, the Los Alamos Atomic City Transit (ACT) system has really brought parts of the community here together like no other system has done before. Los Alamos County consists of two geographically separated communities: the town site and White Rock. Having public transportation between these two areas has allowed children and adults who prefer not to drive or who are unable to drive to take advantage of the amenities in each community. The circulator bus also helps invigorate the downtown, and those commuting to the laboratory from outlying parts of the region can rely on an alternate form of transportation.
Additionally, public transportation benefits all segments of society. Elderly individuals who no longer drive have a way to get out of the house safely and comfortably, and remain integrated in our community while living independently. Children have a safe and reliable way to visit friends, the library or participate in other after-school activities. Lower-wage workers have an affordable way to get to work, which broadens the labor pool. Public transit really is a service for us all.
What many people don’t realize is that the ACT gets financial support from the North Central Regional Transit District (NCRTD) through a regional transit gross receipts tax. When looking at the numbers, this means that in 2019, approximately $1,466,600 is allocated from NCRTD to fund Los Alamos Atomic City Transit, which is 30% of the overall Atomic City Transit budget. The issue at hand today is that this gross receipts tax is up for reauthorization on Election Day, November 6. If the reauthorization is not successful, this support, as well as that allocated by the NCRTD to other transit systems across Northern New Mexico, will be decimated.
It is not an exaggeration that the regional transit gross receipts tax is critical to keeping the NCRTD running. If this issue does not pass, I believe that transit throughout the region, the “Blue Bus” as well as all the other regional transit systems would find it financially impossible to continue to provide the level of service available currently. They may even cease to exist entirely, which would be a devastating blow to Northern New Mexico as a whole.
I have been a County Councilor for the last seven years and have seen local transit use become an absolute integral part of our community. In 2017, the NCRTD celebrated a record-year in terms of ridership, with a 6.1% increase over the previous year—illustrating just how treasured this service really is. It connects us to other communities, allows commuters to get to work, and gives children and the elderly the same access as everyone else. I would encourage everyone to join me in voting YES for the reauthorization of funding for NCRTD this November as we show our support for this invaluable community service. Voting yes will not increase your taxes.
David Izraelevitz is currently Chair of the Los Alamos County Council. However, the views expressed in this column are solely his own.