BY ANTONIO MAGGIORE
Los Alamos County Councilor
Having grown up in Los Alamos, I can remember when we did not have public transit in Los Alamos County—let alone a well-functioning regional system like the North Central Regional Transit District (RTD or the Blue Bus)—and as a kid, my community was smaller because of the lack of transit. While White Rock and Los Alamos are nearby, I was not always afforded the option of easily traveling back and forth between the two communities on my own to visit friends, explore events, or immerse myself in the community.
Now, our youth have that opportunity to get more involved in the community by utilizing public transit, which takes a burden off the shoulders of parents. Instead of shuttling their children around, they can take advantage of free, safe, and convenient public transit to enhance the opportunities available to their children. Our children benefit from having an increased freedom of mobility and the ability to forge stronger friendships beyond just their neighborhood boundaries.
Our youth are not the only ones who benefit from public transit, however. A healthy and strong public transit system like NCRTD is a foundational element to a functional society. It breaks down boundaries and provides access to opportunity for all—including those who cannot afford a personal vehicle, students, those with disabilities, the elderly, and others. We have an incredible transit system in the Blue Bus, and such a system is truly vital in a rural area like northern New Mexico. Without such transit, it is incredibly easy for people to become isolated from doctor’s appointments, jobs, school, and events.
This issue is of utmost importance to all of Northern New Mexico this November. In the upcoming election, it is imperative that we all vote “yes” to reauthorize the tax to fund NCRTD. A “yes” vote does not increase your taxes; instead, it keeps the current tax—1/8 of a cent—in place. This is a very small tax. Yet, that 1/8 of a cent provides an incredible amount of goodwill and connects our communities with those around us. This tax strengthens our regional ties, as well as provides access to opportunity for all members of our communities.
As a Councilor, I have heard some misconceptions tossed around about the reauthorization. Some fear that reauthorizing the tax would keep it in place if, for some reason years down the road the NCRTD stopped operations. This is a myth. The tax increment is there only as long as the NCRTD is there. However, with that in mind, it should be noted that the NCRTD is an extremely strong and financially sound organization. I am proud to serve on the NCRTD Board, finance committee and on their environmental and sustainability committee. The organization is top-notch, and they undergo yearly audits and regularly win government accounting awards, as well as national recognition as a standout transit organization.
NCRTD is an amazing asset to our communities, as well as a well-run organization. They are dedicated to each of the communities they serve, spanning a service area of over 10,000 square miles. The NCRTD is a model of what public transit should be, and securing this tax in November is vital to the ability of the organization to plan for the future and to continue to grow and expand their services to better benefit all of Northern New Mexico.