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Mass transit or other transportation improvements? METRO seeks input to shape November ballot referendum

Mass transit or other transportation improvements? METRO seeks input to shape November ballot referendum

METRO, Houston, skyline, light rail
Courtesy of Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau

How to allocate the millions of dollars received in sales tax revenue has been the topic of dozens of public meetings, private meetings and community engagements, as well as presentations, discussions and public comments to the Metropolitan Transit Authority board over the past several months.

On Thursday, board chairman Gilbert Garcia announced an aggressive schedule for engaging the community, shaping the ballot language and agreeing upon the allocations for METRO's General Mobility Referendum, which must be submitted by the August 20 statutory deadline for inclusion on the November 6 ballot.

Critical to the referendum is whether the General Mobility Payment (funded by 25 percent of a local 1-cent sales tax revenue that goes to METRO, which is diverted to Harris County, Houston and 14 surrounding communities) will remain the same, or be terminated or reduced.

 Critical to the referendum is whether the General Mobility Payment will remain the same, or be terminated or reduced.  

The GMP allocation, which has been in place since a 1988 referendum, is used by those member entities to maintain streets and sidewalks, install traffic control signals, improve drainage and other transportation improvements. 

Capping the percentage — or ending the payments altogether — would improve and expand existing bus service and fast-track METRO's light rail construction (three lines are currently underway).

"We are really putting a lot of effort here into making sure the public has every possible opportunity to weigh in on this," said METRO board member Christof Spieler.

METRO expects to launch a web page specific to the General Mobility Referendum on Monday, where the transit authority will post materials and information, community meeting dates and locations and downloadable spreadsheets for community members to work out plausible scenarios and ideas.

All proposition options will be submitted to METRO president and CEO George Greanias and METRO staff by July 26. They plan to select an proposition option by Aug. 3, although METRO may still elect to postpone the ballot proposition until the following year. 

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