As the Town of Oro Valley continues to negotiate with the Regional Transportation Authority to take over the Coyote Run Transit System, a recent court ruling could eliminate the need for further discussions.
On Sept. 2, the U.S. District Court in Arizona ruled that the State Legislature did not have the authority in 2008 to pass House Bill 2012, which eliminated transportation assistance funding to communities throughout the state.
The bill was passed in an effort to balance the 2009 budget, but the court ruled it was illegal to take the $51 million from the transportation fund over the last two years.
Oro Valley’s Coyote Run Transit System has struggled to stay in operation since the state cut the funding, leaving the town responsible for spending $330,000 annually to keep the program in operation.
The town council has been negotiating with the RTA to turn over the transit program to the regional operations, but has been met with opposition from Coyote Run users and residents.
Councilman Steve Solomon said despite the court’s ruling, the council will continue working with the RTA.
“No one knows if it will have an effect on any community outside of Phoenix,” said Solomon, who serves on a subcommittee with Councilman Lou Waters to research transit service options. “For now, it does appear to be a victory, but no one knows if the ruling will be upheld or if we will benefit. We will continue making plans just as we have been.”
While the court ruling is expected to be appealed, there is a question as to whether any other community will be reimbursed outside of Phoenix.
The transportation fund is part of a state implementation plan, as required by the Clean Air Act, to meet the national ambient air quality standards.
Maricopa County, and more specifically, the Phoenix metro area, has failed to meet clean air standards. The current court ruling only applies to Maricopa County, since it is the only region that includes a Clean Air Act court order.
Public interest attorney Joy Herr Cardillo, of Arizona Center for Law in the Public Interest, fought the state for taking the transit funding.
Democratic lawmakers now say the battle must focus on all funding being reimbursed to every Arizona community.
For now, Solomon has said Coyote Run will continue operating. No council vote is expected until at least February of next year.
Public meetings regarding the issue will be held some time in October.