Actual good news, you guys!
Yesterday, the City of Portland, TriMet, and the Portland Public School District threw the equivalent of a Hail Mary pass, shifting funding to save the YouthPass, a program many feared dead due to budget cuts.
Instead of running a yellow bus fleet to schools, since 2009, Portland Public Schools has worked with TriMet to offer free bus passes to all students. The passes were funded with $2.55 million a year that came indirectly from the state's Business Energy Tax Credit (BETC). The BETC ran into some scandal over subsidies to wind farms and when the legislature reworked the tax, the money for the YouthPass was lost. The funding was slated to expire at the end of December, leaving many students without a reliable way to get to school. If the free TriMet passes had died, the cost of getting kids to school would have shifted more onto the shoulders of families.
In a plan announced yesterday, the YouthPass funding gap will be covered by $375,000 from TriMet, $75,000 from Portland Public Schools and $225,000 from the City of Portland.
Any way you slice it, putting students on TriMet buses instead of running a separate school fleet of buses is a long-term cost savings. Portland Afoot editor Michael Andersen crunched the numbers on the costs of providing free TriMet bus passes to students versus funding a yellow bus fleet:
•From the state's perspective, the universal YouthPass costs $3.5 million, 20 percent less than limited yellow-bus service: a $700,000 savings.
• From the school district's perspective, the BETC-funded universal YouthPass costs $800,000, 56 percent less than limited yellow-bus service: a $1 million savings.
• From a Portland taxpayer's perspective, the combined cost of the BETC-funded YouthPass program is $4.3 million, 28 percent less than limited yellow-bus service: a $1.7 million savings.