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SAM needs transportation fans

A free trip to Salem will give locals chances to advocate for local needs


Sandy Area Metro (SAM) does not have governmental affairs staff as TriMet and Clackamas County do, said Sandy Transit Manager Julie Stephens.

She, therefore, depends on others to advocate for transit funding from the government — local residents who use SAM as their only way of getting around, business owners, members of the city’s transit advisory committee and SAM riders such as the disabled and seniors.

The Oregon Transit Association (OTA) organizes an annual advocacy trip to Salem, giving people who would benefit from increased or improved transit services a chance to talk with their legislators about the local needs.

One of the things Stephens wants advocacy for is a dedicated source of state funding for transportation (rather than unpredictable grant funding).

The state has a small fund, Stephens said, for special transportation for those who are disabled or of advanced age. That fund has been shrinking because some of its revenue comes from cigarette taxes and DMV fees, but not from gas taxes.

“One of the things (a dedicated source of state funding) would help us to do,” Stephens said, “is provide a larger match for federal funding.”

That’s necessary, she said, because grant funding for SAM has shrunk at least 15 percent, and she’s looking for any other sources of revenue.

The day of advocacy is coming in about a month, and Stephens wants to schedule people now to participate in the free day in Salem.

The OTA is offering Transit Day at the Capitol from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday, April 10.

All expenses are covered, with SAM providing a bus for the trip, which leaves at 6:30 a.m., and the OTA providing a free continental breakfast in the Capitol at 8 a.m. as well as a free box lunch at noon. The bus is expected to return to Sandy by 4:30 p.m.

Participants in this activity will receive chances to express their opinions about the value of public transit services. They’ll likely have appointments with Rep. Bill Kennemer (R-Oregon City), Rep. Mark Johnson (R-Hood River) and Sen. Chuck Thomsen (R-Hood River).

“Transit Day is on a day when there’s a lot of activity at the Capitol,” Stephens said. “We’ll get to go and watch the House and Senate when they are in session. Watching the government in action is very interesting.”

At the same time, other transit systems around the state will be in Salem advocating for their needs with their legislators.

Stephens called Transit Day a day of education and communication, and she said it was needed.

“Our legislators are part-time,” she said, “and they’re expected to do a tremendous amount of assimilation of (information) from across the state.”

The bus is scheduled to leave from the Sandy Operations Center, 16610 Champion Way, at 6:30 a.m. and return about 4:30 p.m.

For more information and to sign up in advance, which is required, call Stephens at 503-489-0925.