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Eagle Point might get on the bus

Eagle Point Mayor Bob Russell said he is hopeful residents will vote on Nov. 4 to annex the city into the Rogue Valley Transportation District and bring public transit to the community.

After surveying residents last year to determine whether there was an interest in supporting public transportation with a property tax increase, the city decided this was the year to put the question to the ballot.

If passed, Measure 15-130 would fold Eagle Point into RVTD, levying 17.72 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value inside the city, the same rate paid by other property owners in the transportation district.

The property taxes from Eagle Point would raise about $90,000 annually, which would cover only part of the cost of extending transit service to the city, with the rest coming from fares and grants.

If Eagle Point voters decide to join the transit district, they might wind up paying more than 17.72 cents per $1,000, because there's another measure on the ballot — Measure 15-128 — that would increase the RVTD levy by 13 cents per $1,000 for five years. It’s the first increase RVTD has asked for in more than 30 years.

If Measure 15-128 passes, property owners in the district with a house valued at $150,000 would pay $19.50 more a year for a total of $46.08 in RVTD taxes. The current property tax costs $26.58 on a home valued at $150,000.

If the levy and annexation measures both pass, Eagle Point would most likely enjoy evening and Saturday services. If only the annexation measure passes, the city will likely receive only weekday services and reduced route frequency, as the entire district is expected to experience cutbacks if the levy fails.

Registered voters in Eagle Point won’t be allowed to vote on Measure 15-128, because they are currently not a part of the transportation district.

If the annexation measure passes, RVTD will have a year before it will be required to start serving the Eagle Point area.

“I sure hope we have the support for it, the citizens have been talking about it for years around here,” Russell said. “I think it would be good for Eagle Point and good for economic development.”

The city and RVTD completed a joint report in April 2013 outlining the city’s need for public transportation and the district’s ability to meet it.

Outside of possible ridership from commuting workers, most of that need would come from younger and older residents, the study concludes.

The study found that 93 percent of the workers who live inside Eagle Point commute outside the city for work — primarily to Medford — while 75 percent of workers inside the city commute to Eagle Point — primarily from Medford.

Also, Eagle Point’s population of 8,429, which doubled between 2000 and 2007, is expected to triple by 2040.

“The demographics show that there is a population within the city that relies on transit and benefits from transit, and because of the future population growth that’s expected, there will be a continued need to provide fixed-route transit service,” said Paige Townsend, RVTD senior planner. “It’s not a moneymaker for RVTD ... the amount of property tax that would be generated is quite a bit less than what it’s going to cost the district to provide the service. ... Of course, we want it to pass.”

Reach freelance reporter Sam Wheeler at samuelcwheeler@gmail.com.