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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

KMPO Looking Into Feasibility Of A Regional Public Transportation Authority

The Coeur d'Alene Press today published the article below regarding KMPO's exploration of the possibility of forming a Regional Public Transportation Authority, or RPTA. The Press only publishes it's front page stories on its' website, so I couldn't provide a link but I did manage to get a copy of it.

An RPTA would essentially function like Spokane's Spokane Transit Authority. Read the article and give me your opinion, do you think North Idaho needs a RPTA?

By BRIAN WALKER
Staff writer, Coeur d'Alene Press

POST FALLS — Kootenai County residents could vote in November on creating a local transit authority to address public transportation issues.

The Kootenai Metropolitan Planning Organization, which consists of area cities, the county, highway districts and the Coeur d’Alene Tribe, is in the early stages of considering whether to put a proposal on the ballot.

Staci Lehman, KMPO spokeswoman, said the advantage of forming a regional public transportation authority (RPTA) like Spokane has is that the government agency’s focus is solely on public transportation.

“It doesn’t get bogged down with other stuff,” Lehman said. “This focus allows for better coordination of services, closer monitoring of how federal grant money is spent and a unified effort to secure funding such as through federal and local sources.”

An RPTA also requires more accountability to the public, stakeholders and member jurisdictions, she said.

If the idea is favorable, KMPO will consider a resolution, likely in March, that would be sent to the voters this fall. A simple majority is needed for passage.

The KMPO board recently voted unanimously to create a subcommittee to look into the feasibility of forming an RPTA.

Since Kootenai County doesn’t have a transit authority, different government agencies are responsible for planning, funding and operations regarding public transportation.

“That can cause occasional issues with cooperation, conflicts of interest,” Lehman said.

A loose-knit collaboration between the agencies is how this area currently gets by without a transit authority, Lehman said.

The original recommendation to form a transit authority came from the 2005 Kootenai County Public Transportation Feasibility Study.

“Since then, several projects have come up that have illustrated how it would be much easier to work through one operational fund than several,” Lehman said, citing such examples as bus benches and distributing stimulus funding.

The transit authority would be governed by a board of local elected and appointed officials representing cities, the county, highway districts and the Tribe. It would be funded the same way Panhandle Area Council is now — through the Federal Transit Administration and local match.

The money that PAC gets now for public transportation would be shifted to the transit authority.

Lehman said PAC would still exist, but would focus on its other economic development areas rather than transportation.

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Kootenai Metropolitan Planning Organization (KMPO) is the Metropolitan Planning Organization for Kootenai County, Idaho. Federal law requires urbanized areas with populations exceeding 50,000 people to have an MPO. KMPO was formed in 2003, to provide coordinated transportation planning within Kootenai county for the public, cities, small towns, the county, the state, transit providers, and the Coeur d'Alene tribe.

KMPO's Board of Directors oversees KMPO for Kootenai County, ID. KMPO's Executive Director and Staff are responsible for day-to-day operational and administrative needs.