The Maricopa City Council approved an application for federal transit funds Feb. 6. But those funds are just part of the budget puzzle for city transportation.
COMET Ridership (trips per year)
June 2013: 2,695
June 2014: 2,714
June 2015: 3,142
June 2016: 4,814
January-December 2017: 6,739
Development Services Director Martin Scribner said the Section 5311 grant from the Federal Transit Administration is something the city applies for every two years. By continuing to do so, the FTA remains informed about the goals of the city, making it more likely to continue to receive the funds, which make up more than half of the transportation department’s budget.
For the next two fiscal years combined (2018-20), the proposed budget for the City of Maricopa Express Transit (COMET) is just under $924,000. Of that, $579,000 is from federal funds, leaving $344,366 to be paid locally.
That is where the recently passed Pinal Regional Transportation Authority could come into play. The plan provides $1 million annually to transit systems in the county. Though it has not been determined how much would come to Maricopa, it could be applied to offset COMET’s hit to the city budget.
The RTA may go into effect in April, but there is an active lawsuit by the Goldwater Institute attempting to stop it. However, there is not an injunction in place.
If the half-cent sales tax goes into effect and pays out money to transportation and transit projects for a year, and then the court rules against the RTA, Councilmember Marvin Brown questioned whether the used funds would be expected to be returned.
Mayor Christian Price said the tax collection will proceed if there is no injunction. He said there are a number of theories and “potential variances” at hand if a court rules in favor of the Goldwater Institute after money has been collected.
As for COMET, the city is hoping to use a combination of federal funds and funds from the RTA tax to purchase six more bus stop shelters to cover all 11 current stops on the scheduled route and have one as a reserve.