Tag Archives: public transportation

BART Workers Go Back to Work

Negotiations will resume with 30-day contract extension

by Brian Leubitz

It isn’t the deal that either side wanted, but the BART workers and management agreed to a 30 day contract extension that will put the system back in service by 3pm today:

Shortly before 11 p.m. Thursday, representatives from BART and the two unions that went on strike Monday announced that workers will go back to their jobs and trains will begin rolling by 3 p.m. Friday. BART will continue to run its bus service Friday morning.

The decision came at the request of state Labor Secretary Marty Morgenstern and state mediators.

Regular train service to 400,000 daily riders in the Bay Area will operate during the monthlong extension, officials said. But the contract dispute is far from over. When asked how many contract issues remain to be resolved, Morgenstern could only chuckle.

“I don’t have that much time,” he said.(SF Chronicle)

The state could have imposed a 60 day cooling off period, but the net result would have been a strike around Labor Day week. What the four and a half day strike will mean for the negotiation is still unclear, as it seems that no side really won a great PR victory.

Arnold Again Tries to Kill California Public Transportation

I hate when history repeats itself. This year’s May Revise budget proposal has some ugly similarities with last year’s, particularly when it comes to public transportation cuts. In May 2007 Arnold proposed a $1.3 billion cut to mass transit. Ultimately $700 million was slashed, bringing to a halt transit projects around the state designed to help commuters get out of their cars and avoid the crippling impact of soaring gas prices.

Now, Arnold is proposing to raid public transportation funds again, to avoid tax increases. John Laird’s budget overview makes clear that Arnold intends to cut over $400 million from state assistance to local public transit. This is an act of madness, as Californians are crying out for alternatives to the car. Ridership on local transit systems is soaring, but these systems are also being squeezed financially by rising fuel costs – especially diesel costs (which here in Monterey are just under $5 per gallon).

These proposed cuts are going to make it difficult for local systems to maintain their current levels of service, and will certainly make it hard for them to expand service to meet rising demand. It’s hard to escape the conclusion that Arnold wants to drive commuters back into their cars.

Almost exactly a year ago I denounced Arnold’s proposed cuts and, sadly, the words are as true now as they were in 2007:

Underneath the green veneer, Arnold is still the same conservative Republican who seeks to destroy the environment. What explains Arnold’s desire to destroy public transportation? It’s two interrelated factors. The first is that Arnold simply is not an environmentalist. He is fixated on the automobile as a form of transportation. He thinks more freeways are the solution, not more public transportation. The screaming demand of millions of Californians for public transit don’t register with him.

The second is that Arnold is in the pockets of Big Oil. They have donated well over a million dollars to his various funds since November 2006, even though he isn’t eligible for re-election in 2010. As their gouging of Californians continues, the oil companies know that a backlash is coming. They want to prevent that at all costs, want to ensure that they hold the line in California lest they set a trend for the rest of the nation.

If Arnold destroys California’s public transit systems, Californians will not have any alternative but to pay the exorbitant costs at the pump. The middle class will sink further into financial ruin.

Arnold’s public transportation cuts are a catastrophic disaster for the state of California. Not only will they make global warming worse, not only will they make our environment more polluted, more prone to fire, and mired deeper in drought, but his cuts will ruin family budgets, eventually causing lost jobs and further destroying the state’s middle class.

Gas was at $3.50 when I wrote that. We’re now at $4 and climbing fast. Arnold’s attack on public transportation is nothing short of an attack on the California economy and on the wallets of every Californian. It is the height of hypocrisy to claim to protect those wallets by not raising taxes and to then force voters to shell out more money in gas purchases. Higher taxes would help lower the cost of transportation for Californians, growing the economy and leaving more green in family budgets at the end of the month.

Arnold’s budget is flawed in many respects. This seems one of the most obvious – and one of the easiest targets for a counterattack.

Berkeley Initiative Could Endanger Future Transit Projects

(Cross posted at Living in the O.) 

I’ve written before about why Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) is a great transit and environmental solution. AC Transit’s BRT project may be being held up by the Berkeley City Council and Planning Commission, but we’re making headway on that front, and I’m cautiously optimistic that the City will ultimately vote to move BRT forward.

Unfortunately, there’s a very vocal minority of Berkeley neighborhood activists and merchants that want to prevent bus riders from San Leandro, Oakland and Berkeley from benefiting from faster transit. They must be worried that the City will soon recognize the environmental and community benefits of this project, so some of the opponents have decided to circumvent the council and go straight to the voters.

On March 19th, Dean Metzger and Bruce Kaplan of Berkeley filed a request for a ballot title and initiative summary for an anti-BRT initiative (PDF) that they presumably hope to get on the November ballot. This is just a first step, and who knows if they’ll be able to gather enough signatures to get on the ballot, but the initiative is bad news for the East Bay. It’s also just bad policy.

From the Findings and Purpose section:

The purpose of this measure is to enable the people of the City of Berkeley, by majority vote, to decide whether City streets or portions thereof shall be converted to transit-only or HOV/bus-only lanes, prior to dedication of such lanes.

Regardless of any issues one may have with AC Transit’s current BRT proposal, this is just bad planning. This initiative would mean that anytime the City wanted to convert lanes to transit-only lanes, the decision would have to be made by the Berkeley electorate. Even if the dedicated bus lane only extended one block into Berkeley from Oakland or another neighboring city, Berkeley residents would have the final say. Projects could be held up for months or even years if an election wasn’t approaching (I don’t see the city holding special elections for this issue).

But it gets worse…

When a change [in land use or transportation] is modest or uncontroversial, it is appropriate to rely on elected representatives to make these decisions, but if the change is significant or potentially harmful, the citizens should have the opportunity to decide their own future directly through the ballot.

This is just ludicrous. To me, this reads that the filers believe that deciding on dedicated bus lanes is the only land use decision that is “significant or potentially harmful” to the city. Does this mean that building permitting decisions are insignificant? How about zoning decisions? If Metzger and Kaplan have so little trust in their elected officials to make good planning decisions, why not strip the Planning Commission of all of its rights and duties and conduct all planning decisions by ballot initiative?

Normally, I’d just shrug something like this off – after all, the vocal minority of NIMBYs that controls much of Berkeley politics is one of the main reasons I moved to Oakland (well, that and the exorbitant rents). But this initiative would effect the entire East Bay, holding up transportation upgrades that are sorely needed. If we’re ever going to lure a significant portion of the population out of their cars, we need to invest in transportation and ultimately accept significant changes to our lifestyles. One might think that this environmentally friendly issue is something that “liberal” Berkeley would support, but that remains to be seen. Whether this initiative makes it to the ballot and whether it passes has the potential to show the true colors of Berkeley residents.

To: kos Re: Arnold Schwarzenegger R-CA

(cross-posted from dailykos)

People (myself included) are giving you a lot of crap in the comments of your post about the Republican wonder Arnold Schwarzenegger.  In it you suggest that Arnold is governing like a Democrat (though an imperfect one), which merits praise.  May I suggest to you that Arnold is simply getting closer to governing the way he ran and that it is sharply contrasted to his 2005 “year of reform”, skewing people’s perceptions.  He is not now, nor will he ever be a Democrat.  Arnold is a moderate Republican and is governing like one.  There are serious differences between what a Democrat would do in office and what Arnold does.

What I want to do is go on a subject by subject basis and get at the heart of what is going on when it comes to his supposed social liberalism, fiscal conservative and environmental progressive governing style.

Let me state up front that since moving to California two years ago, I have written thousands of blog posts on Arnold Schwarzenegger.  This governor loves to say one thing and do another.  His public statements rarely match up with his actions.  I talk about Arnold’s governing philosophy in terms of software versions, since it switches all too often.  He has actually stuck to one version in the last year and a half, something that kos picks up on.

Health Care
The governor is living up to his campaign promises and has pushed forward a health care plan.  I am glad that he has made it a priority, though the Democrats long have been leading on this issue and it is one of the top issues on the minds of the California electorate.  That said there are clear differences between Arnold and the Democrats.

The mainstream Democratic health care policy in California is SB 840, a single payer plan.  It was passed through the legislature last year, but was vetoed by Arnold.  He has pledged to do the same this year.  The Democrats do not have the votes to override him.

In order to pass health care reform, under the reign of Arnold, it must stick within the current private health insurance sector.  He has pushed forward his own plan that has been pretty ripped to shreds by all sides.  Not only that, but he has failed to find a single legislator to carry it forward as actual legislation.  Politically, it would need to be introduced by a Republican and that simply will not happen.  The Republican legislators are far to the right of Arnold on this issue.  His plan is quite business friendly, with an unworkably low percentage of pay roll tax designated for health care.  It is what one would expect from a pro-business moderate Republican, no matter the state.

This has been the hot topic in the past few weeks, following the revised budget he submitted to the legislature.  No Democrat would have ever proposed the type of cuts Arnold is promoting.  It is “mean-spirited” and completely unacceptable.  Arnold has proposed cuts to aid for the aged, blind, disabled, children and poor.  He has proposed illegally funneling money out of the public transportation budget, just weeks after he was promoting public transit as a response to the bridge collapse in the Bay.

He is also promoting selling off or long-term lease of state assets for short-term gains.  The ultimate goal of these proposals is to free up cash to be able to pay down the state’s debt early.  That would free up the state to be able to issue another round of infrastructure bonds.  Arnold really, really wants to build two new dams.  Selling EdFund and leasing the lottery for 40 years would make it easier for Arnold to borrow more money on the state credit card, which he supposedly cut up back in 2003.

More generally, Arnold has taken the Norquist pledge.  He will not raise taxes.  California has a structural budget deficit.  Either you have to cut spending (like he did on the most vulnerable this year) or raise taxes to close that gap.  He has lucked out in recent years, with the state taking in more revenue than expected, allowing him to take a hope and pray approach to budgeting.  Arnold has failed to make any hard decisions and actually fix this problem.  Thus far the Legislature has shown little willingness in addressing the structural reasons for this deficit.  Arnold is being a coward on the budget, intentionally pushing cuts he knows the Democrats will not stand for, simultaneously sucking up to the Republicans.

For more on Arnold and the budget see my past 10 posts in the last two week.

Arnold has done a great job slathering on the green paint, despite his fairly pedestrian environmental record.  He only scored a 50% on LCV’s scorecard last year, despite all of the hype and public statements.  Arnold has aggressively promoted some environmentally progressive efforts, while simultaneously undermining the implementation.

It has been useful to have a high-profile Republican talking about global warming, ostracizing those who continue to deny its existence.  But a Democrat would have signed the bill to clean up the LA Ports and a Democrat would not have tried to pass off a cap-and-trade bill as a no cap one.

In five years California will be spending more money on our prison system than our state university system.  Our prison system is a disaster and verging on total judicial takeover.  A federal receiver already has full control of the prison health care system.  Arnold’s solution is to throw more money at the problem, and build 53,000 new beds.  He has completely failed to take on his party’s get tough on crime mentality that has put us in this situation in the first place.

Public transportation
The other week an highway interchange collapsed and Arnold’s solution was to promote public transportation.  A few weeks later he introduces a budget that would pull $1.3 billion out of the transportation fund to go to other gaps in the budget.  The Legislative Analyst has indicated that his cuts to transportation may well be unconstitutional.  He is completely hypocritical.  He has talked about supporting high speed rail, but has consistently pushed it off to the side.  It is due to be on the ballot next year, but he has indicated that he would slough it off for another year.  His rhetoric does not match his actions.


Let me go back to Arnold’s overall performance.  He started off strong when first elected, then went way off course in 2005.  He is now back to governing as he promised, but tackling large issues and actually getting a few things accomplished in the past year.  However, he has never disavowed the basic philosophy behind the anti-teacher, nurses, cops and firefighter year of reform agenda.  That Arnold is just lurking beneath the surface.  He has a much better team in place, pushing him to focus on the issue that get him the most kudos, rather than his more conservative leanings.  He is talking like a progressive, governing like a moderate Republican and yet I can’t trust him further than I can throw him (which is admittedly not very far).

Arnold’s biggest motivation is attention.  He wants to do big things that get him lots of magazine covers.  He talks in a way that brings laudatory praise and wants to cement his own legacy.  The details matter less than getting something done.  The Democrats in the legislature have taken full advantage of this attitude.  They, as kos notes, have been pleased by his willingness to deal and ostracize the Republican legislature to as kos says “an irrelevant sideshow”.  The legislature has been more productive as a result.

We will see a real test of this dynamic in the next several months as they work towards a budget.  The two Democratic leaders, the two Republican leaders and Arnold (aka the Big 5) will be holed up hammering out a compromise.  The 2/3rds requirement means that the Republican legislators must be a party to the discussions.  If Arnold has so soured his relationship within his own party, then he is not particularly useful. 

It is much better to have Arnold working within his own party, rather than switch parties.  That is true from a public relations front as well.  Having a Republican talking about universal health care (even if his proposal isn’t very good), combating global warming (even if he tries to undercut it with signing statements) and high speed rail (even if he never puts it on the ballot) is useful to move the public debate.

Then of course, we should talk about his future ambitions.  There is no reason to clap loudly for Arnold, if it further advances his election prospects for future offices.  Barbara Boxer is preparing herself for a Arnold challenge.  While I am not convinced he would actually be happy in the Senate, it is still a real possibility.

So praise Arnold for his rhetoric, clap loudly when the legislature actually passes something, but don’t tell me that Arnold is a Democrat.  He is a Republican and has no desire to switch parties, nor the record to support such a switch.