With the new administration and a majority in Congress intent on de-funding mass transit, our state’s investment in transit is more important than ever. With a platform that calls mass transit “an inherently local affair that serves only a small portion of the population, concentrated in six big cities,” federal lawmakers are taking aim directly at the transit riders, overwhelmingly low-income people and people of color, who depend on the local bus to get to work, school and the doctor’s office.
Meanwhile, a top priority of California’s Governor and Legislature this year, reflected in SB 1 (Beall) and AB 1 (Frazier), is funding our state’s unmet transportation needs. Public Advocates seeks amendments that will ensure that we not only provide billions of dollars to maintain our roads and freeways, but also fund increased transit service and reduced fares.
On Jan. 30 — the same day we issued a letter with 35 organizations across California asking lawmakers to include $1 billion a year for transit service and bus passes in the funding package — Senators Scott Weiner and Ben Allen authored an op-ed calling for “massive, transformational investments in public transportation.” A week later, we submitted the same letter, now with 80 organizations joining us.
We stand with them in our desire for new spending priorities that do not just “cut ribbons on high-profile transit projects while letting our transit systems overall deteriorate.” Public Advocates will be working hard to win this important budget change during the current legislative session.
In the Bay Area, countywide transportation agencies wield significant power over the use of billions of dollars in transportation funding. These little-known “Congestion Management Agencies” – such as CCTA in Contra Costa County, ACTC in Alameda County, and VTA in Santa Clara County – have influence not only within their individual counties but across the nine-county region, through the adoption of long-range transportation plans and sales tax expenditure plans.
Public Advocates co-coordinates the 6 Wins Network , a coalition of more than 20 grassroots, policy, faith, and labor organizations across the Bay Area focused on targeting and shaping the regional housing and transportation plan called Plan Bay Area. The plan will determine how nearly $300 billion in transportation money will be spent and how the region will house more than 2 million new residents over the next 25 years. Public Advocates and the 6 Wins Network aim to ensure that Plan Bay Area will result in more affordable housing near jobs and transit, robust and affordable local transit service, investment without displacement, healthy and safe communities, access to quality jobs, and greater power for low-income communities of color in local and regional decision-making.
Public Advocates works with statewide and community partners to ensure that investments made using from state Cap-and-Trade revenues reduce greenhouse gas emissions result in affordable, accessible and reliable public transit for low-income riders.