Tag Archives: public transit

California Good News: Hayward Car-Free Development

During these times of budget strife, good news can be hard to find. After scouring the media, I’ll say that it can be extremely hard to find.  Nonetheless, I was interested in the story of a car-free development proposed in Hayward:

Quarry Village is a proposed 1,000-unit neighborhood that would fill a former quarry near Cal State East Bay and 1 1/2 miles from the Hayward BART Station. It’s the brainchild of Sherman Lewis, a professor emeritus in political science at Cal State East Bay who created a nonprofit organization to promote the idea with local officials, investors and developers.

According to Lewis, 69, people would rent or buy eco-friendly, garage-free homes in the densely built community with interconnected pathways. Residents would receive transit passes with the cost of their home but could pay separately for one of just 100 parking spaces.

A village square would feature a grocery store and other services. Shuttles would ferry passengers to the campus and BART. (SF Chronicle)

The project is a looong way from even getting approval, let alone breaking ground.  However, Lewis has some commitments from potential owners, and the City of Hayward seems to be amenable to the idea of this development. And given its proximity to public transit, this very well could be a feasible project.

If we are to move into a future that responds to the nature of our sensitive environment and the demands of the modern economy, this kind of development will have to become the new suburbia. This project will be an interesting case study as we move forward with sustainable planning.

Incidentally, if you know of something that would be a good fit for my new California Good News features, drop me an email.

Newsom & Garamendi might be the high speed rail governor and BRT congressman

 (Cross posted at Living in the O.)

At the California Democratic Convention a couple weeks ago, Gavin Newsom met with a couple dozen bloggers to talk about his campaign for governor. I was excited going into this meeting, especially since I knew exactly what question I was going to ask. It was the same question that AC Transit Director Joel Young asked at a Newsom town hall in March: what are you going to do about the fact that the state has entirely stripped funding from local transit agencies? You might remember that Newsom basically dodged the question and launched into a speech about how great high speed rail is. So this time, I was determined to get a better answer.

And surprisingly, I was somewhat impressed with his answer. He explained that coming from a city and county, he understands the needs of public transit agencies. While stimulus funds are available for capital projects, none are available to run buses, which is problematic. (Of course, this isn’t entirely true – some funds are being used for operating expenses – but it was nice to hear that he understands the need for operations funding.)

Newsom then said that California is a prosperous state and that it’s all about priorities. Except somehow he managed to skirt by without saying what his priorities are! His comments suggested that he would prioritize public transit, but he never actually committed to this. This was a theme throughout the blogger meeting – Newsom displayed a firm understanding of the issues at hand but managed to not make many specific policy promises.

My favorite line from Newsom about transit issues came not in response to my question but in an answer to Calitics’ David Dayen’s question about prison issues. Newsom said (among other things), “Building prisons is like building highways; within a few years, they’re 90% filled up.” Yes, a major candidate for governor understands that building highways is fruitless because they only generate demand and never fulfill it. Of course, he didn’t promise that he would place a moratorium on new highway construction or do anything else to stop highway expansion.

I left feeling pretty good about Newsom’s answer. Though he didn’t make specific policy promises (except on high speed rail), he at least didn’t entirely dodge my question.

But I became a bit less impressed yesterday, after reading Lieutenant Governor John Garamendi’s post on Calitics about High Occupancy Toll (HOT) lanes and Bus Rapid Transit (BRT). Up until a few weeks ago, Garamendi was running for governor, and if he had stayed in the race, he would have blown Newsom out of the water on transit issues:

While some have raised concerns that HOT lanes give wealthy commuters special access – and this is a criticism I take very seriously – I would argue that broad access and equity in services are best achieved with a package of transportation solutions that includes the expansion of longer distance rapid transit bus service throughout key corridors in East Bay and South Bay counties. The most effective and profitable rapid transit routes reaching more inland regions of the Bay Area will have to be implemented along the proposed HOT lane network to provide a reliable enough commute to convince riders to leave their cars at home. There is nothing rapid about gridlock.

Rapid transit buses, which along city streets allow bus commuters to avoid most traffic lights, have been shown to be popular and effective in the Bay Area and should be considered a low-cost solution in areas where a more speedy public transit commute is desired but rail is impractical. A study of a busy seven-city 14-mile Bay Area route by the Federal Transit Administration determined that the rapid transit line reduced end-to-end travel time by an average of 12 minutes, leading to a 21 percent reduction in time previously spent on local service non-rapid bus lines. Ridership across all areas of the corridor increased by 8.5 percent as a result of the rapid transit line, and most significantly, around 19 percent of rapid transit riders previously used a car for their commute along the corridor, a reduction of around 1,100 auto trips per day.

Garamendi touched on two issues that are near and dear to my heart: taxing drivers to pay for public transit and BRT expansion. If he was still in the race for governor, I’m pretty sure I would have signed up for his campaign immediately after reading this. Though Newsom gets larger public transit issues, it’s clear from this blog post that Garamendi understands the nuances of public transit issues.

But transit advocates don’t have to decide between Garamendi and Newsom. Garamendi has jumped into the race for Ellen Tauscher’s congressional seat in CA-10 and is the fruntrunner in the race. Which means that East Bay residents might soon have a high speed rail governor and BRT congressman.

For an excellent and comprehensive write up of the Newsom bloggers meeting, check out Robert Cruickshank’s post at Calitics.

Regional Rapid Bus Transit Requires HOT Thinking

(Just shocking to see Garamendi use the Bay Area as the example here. Worth a read tho. – promoted by Julia Rosen)

California’s San Francisco Bay Area, a beacon for the world’s most ambitious and entrepreneurial, is in some ways a victim of its own success. Decades of regional growth have created a highway and public transportation infrastructure incapable of meeting the demands of commuters.

As a Contra Costa Times editorial recently explained:

“The worsening traffic congestion in the Bay Area is having an increasingly negative impact on the quality of life in the region. The millions of people who commute to work daily lose valuable time, waste gasoline and add to air pollution. Businesses suffer and new enterprises are discouraged from locating in the area, harming the Bay Area economy.”

The average Bay Area driver spends 39 hours each year stuck in traffic on a regional freeway. Average time spent idling in traffic will rise to 72 hours per year by 2035 if present trends continue. For a host of reasons – including the needless pollution, wasted fuel, and loss of time at work or with family – minimizing congestion should be a priority for regional leaders. And when possible, enticing commuters into a carpooling arrangement or public transportation should be encouraged.

Fortunately, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, the regional transportation authority, with input from Bay Area leaders and activists, has crafted an ambitious regional transit plan: Transportation 2035.

There’s more over the flip…

One important component of the plan is the development of a network of high occupancy toll (HOT) lanes in the Bay Area, allowing carpool lanes to turn a profit by permitting single-and-double-occupancy commuters the ability to use the underutilized lanes for a variable fee dependent on traffic at the moment.

Presently, a hodgepodge of carpool lanes appear and disappear throughout the Bay Area’s highway grid, forcing carpool drivers to merge into often heavily congested stretches, particularly near intersections. Under the Transportation 2035 plan, 500 miles of carpool lanes would be converted to HOT lanes, while 300 additional miles of HOT lanes would be constructed over the next 25 years. This would help create a smoother commute for carpoolers and newly minted HOT drivers, encouraging elevated carpool usage and reducing congestion in normal lanes. For example, HOT lanes in San Diego increased carpool usage by 53 percent, while HOT lanes in Minneapolis reduced the number of drivers reporting congestion delays by 20 percent.

By generating revenues from willing HOT drivers, the region will have a somewhat reliable source of revenue to work on other transit projects. Some local transportation officials have urged setting aside specific revenues for public transit, and that is a concept worth exploring, but regardless of the exact funding distribution, the region’s transportation infrastructure will clearly be strengthened by granting regional control over these HOT revenues.

While some have raised concerns that HOT lanes give wealthy commuters special access – and this is a criticism I take very seriously – I would argue that broad access and equity in services are best achieved with a package of transportation solutions that includes the expansion of longer distance rapid transit bus service throughout key corridors in East Bay and South Bay counties. The most effective and profitable rapid transit routes reaching more inland regions of the Bay Area will have to be implemented along the proposed HOT lane network to provide a reliable enough commute to convince riders to leave their cars at home. There is nothing rapid about gridlock.

Rapid transit buses, which along city streets allow bus commuters to avoid most traffic lights, have been shown to be popular and effective in the Bay Area and should be considered a low-cost solution in areas where a more speedy public transit commute is desired but rail is impractical. A study of a busy seven-city 14-mile Bay Area route by the Federal Transit Administration determined that the rapid transit line reduced end-to-end travel time by an average of 12 minutes, leading to a 21 percent reduction in time previously spent on local service non-rapid bus lines. Ridership across all areas of the corridor increased by 8.5 percent as a result of the rapid transit line, and most significantly, around 19 percent of rapid transit riders previously used a car for their commute along the corridor, a reduction of around 1,100 auto trips per day.

No matter how strained our purse strings, a continued state and federal investment is crucial to shift our society toward a more public transit-friendly future. Perhaps ironically, the HOTtest way to encourage an increase in bus ridership may depend on making it easier to drive to work.

Lieutenant Governor John Garamendi chairs the Commission for Economic Development and is a former Deputy Interior Secretary.

Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates takes transit leadership to the next level

 (Cross posted at Living in the O.)

The Chronicle featured a really inspiring story yesterday about Mayor Tom Bates of Berkeley. Much like I did last year, he decided to give his car up entirely and to walk and bus around town instead:

The 71-year-old mayor is trading in his 2001 Volvo for an AC Transit pass and a sturdy pair of walking shoes.

“I’m trying to reduce my carbon footprint to the absolute minimum,” he said. “I figure, if I really want to go someplace I can just rent a car.”

Bates’ long farewell to the Volvo began about a year ago, when he started walking to work as a way to lose weight and stay in shape. The 18-minute trek from his home in South Berkeley to City Hall was so invigorating he started walking everywhere he could – to Berkeley Bowl, the BART station, city council meetings.

This is a pretty awesome example being set by a mayor. Now I could take this opportunity to rag on Mayor Dellums for being the least green mayor in the Bay Area, since the Chronicle mentioned he’s chauffeured around in a town car that gets 19 miles per gallon, but fortunately, there’s more to commend Bates for.

When it comes to transit, Bates does not just lead by example, but leads legislatively as well. In February, he was the only member of the MTC to vote against using stimulus funds for the wasteful Oakland Airport Connector. He knew that this project was not the best use of MTC funds and could better be used by local transit agencies, like AC Transit and Muni, which have been forced to raise fares and cut service due to shrinking tax revenues and the state cutting funding.

Bates has also been a leader on the Bus Rapid Transit Policy Steering Committee, made up of reps from AC Transit, Berkeley, Oakland, and San Leandro. While Kriss Worthington, Berkeley’s other rep on the committee, has tried his best to tie up the project by making it contingent on unrelated projects, like a universal pass, Bates has tried his best to move the project forward. He is strongly committed to BRT, even though this makes him unpopular with a vocal minority in Berkeley that wants to kill the project.

And now Bates has taken his transit activism into the personal realm by getting rid of his car. I hope his continued committment to transit will inspire others to take up this cause.

Newsom gives lip service to public transit

 (Cross-posted at Living in the O.)

Last night, I went to Gavin Newsom’s town hall at the Rotunda in downtown Oakland. Overall, I wasn’t surprised by the event. He touched on many subjects – health care, education, improving the environment – and his overriding theme for the evening was that while many candidates talk about these issues, he has shown real progress on them. He did fail to mention though that many of the projects he took credit for last night (like universal health care) actually originated in the Board of Supervisors. But that’s pretty typical – he’s a politician and of course is going to take credit for everything he possibly can.

I really appreciated the fact that he took almost an hour of unfiltered questions from the audience. And I could not have been much more pleased when our new AC Transit Director, Joel Young, asked the first question. Joel explained that the state had defunded public transit and asked if Newsom, as governor, would restore public transit funding.

Newsom responded that public transit is so important for the environment and briefly answered, “Yes,” that he would restore the funding. But then instead of explaining why or how, he jumped into a long-winded speech about high speed rail. He started off by saying that he wanted to tell us about a project that he knew not all of us supported because it barely passed. This is a strange thing to say because 63% of Alameda County voters voted in favor of Prop 1A.

He then explained how high speed rail was going to change the state, creating jobs and changing how we thought about and used transportation. He talked about his vision for the “Grand Central Station of the West,” which is what some are calling the Transbay Terminal. Energetically, he explained how this would greatly improve the Bay Area region, making it easy to get from downtown to downtown (Oakland to SF).

And that was it. That was his answer to an AC Transit Director.

Now I’m very supportive of high speed rail (though I think it was a failure to choose the Pacheco alignment over the Altamont alignment), and I endorsed Prop 1A. But high speed rail won’t do us much good if our local transit agencies crumble. Getting from downtown to downtown might be made easier, but most of us don’t live downtown so if AC Transit cuts lines that would get us there, this “Grand Central Station” won’t be much help to us, will it?

As you might have read in the Chronicle yesterday, AC Transit will be voting tomorrow on fare increases, and soon after that will consider service cuts. And it’s not just AC Transit. More than 80 local transit agencies nationwide are facing fare increases and/or service cuts. At the same time, ridership is increasing, in the East Bay, the Bay Area, and beyond.

What I’m looking for in a candidate for governor is someone who not only understands and is committed to the big, sexy transit projects like high speed rail, but for someone who shares the same commitment to funding and improving our local transit agencies. I want to find a candidate who gets excited talking about buses and who understands the need to solve this problem (PDF, via A Better Oakland). Last night, Newsom failed to prove that he is that candidate so, for now, I’ll continue my search.

(If you’d like to read about the other topics Newsom covered, check out a diary at Daily Kos by a friend I sat with last night.)

Protect Bay Area Transit: Stop MTC from Wasting Stimulus Funds

 Cross-posted at Living in the O.

As Robert mentioned in his post this morning, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) will be voting this Wednesday on how to use federal stimulus funds. While they’ve scrapped one of their initial wasteful proposals, the Transbay Terminal train box, they are still proposing to use $70 million for the Oakland Airport Connector. V Smoothe summarized the proposed project and its history last week at OakBook:

BART’s Oakland Airport Connector is a proposed 3.2-mile elevated tramway that would ferry passengers from the Coliseum BART station to the Oakland Airport. Since the agency did not have enough funding to finance the project in full, they began seeking private partners to help build the rail line. All three interested parties dropped out of the project last year, citing concerns about profitability. At the time, BART officials said they would drop plans for the elevated train and begin exploring more affordable ways of providing a reliable connection between the station and the airport, such as dedicated bus lanes.

But then of course Congress passed the stimulus package, and MTC staff proposed to use $70 million of the funds to revive the Oakland Airport Connector project.

Now, I can understand why the Oakland Airport Connector is such a tempting project. I’m going to be taking BART to the airport this Friday evening, and a quicker and more reliable connection would save me a lot of time. The problem with the project as currently proposed is that it’s incredibly expensive, and like so many of BART’s projects, relies on ridership statistics that are entirely unrealistic. (They’re predicting that more people would use this connection than take BART to SFO!)


Another problem, as TransForm explains, is that the Airport Connector is not “shovel ready.” Meanwhile, transit agencies around the Bay Area are struggling, especially since the state has pulled all funding from public transit statewide. These local agencies, including AC Transit, desperately need these funds to continue providing an adequate level of service and to avoid raising fares. Even spread out among the regional transit operators, $70 million would have a huge impact.

The best part is that even if MTC decides not to provide this $70 million to the Oakland Airport Connector, BART already has sufficient funds to solve the problem of slow bus travel from the Coliseum BART station to the Oakland Airport. That solution is Bus Rapid Transit. BRT would take buses out of traffic and shuttle riders quickly and reliably to and from the Oakland Airport. And BRT could be completed in much less time and with far less money than the current proposed connector, shifting the $70 million to where it could make an impact now.

MTC staff seem pretty stuck on this idea so it’s up to us to convince the MTC that the needs of local transit agencies should take precedence over another pie in the sky BART proposal. Here’s what you can do, via TransForm:

Join us on Weds., Feb. 25th at 10am at MTC (101 8th St., across from Lake Merritt BART) in telling the Commissioners to direct new funding to critical public transit needs, not the costly Oakland Airport Connector. It’s important that we coordinate our message for maximum impact. Please let us know if you’re coming and get a copy of talking points by contacting Joel Ramos.

If you can’t make the meeting, email your comments opposing the use of recovery funds for the OAC to John Goodwin at MTC now at [email protected].

Eric at Transbay Blog agrees about the Oakland Airport Connector and provides more background on this project and the MTC’s funding proposal.

Why I’m endorsing Elizabeth Echols for AC Transit Board

 (Cross posted at Living in the O.)

I’m happy to announce that a group of East Bay transit advocates that I am a part of have endorsed Elizabeth Echols for Rebecca Kaplan’s vacated At-Large seat on the AC Transit Board of Directors.

When this seat became vacant, leaders of local transit advocacy organizations came together to decide who we thought was best suited to represent bus riders, bicyclists, and pedestrians on the board. We identified seven applicants and invited them to answer our questionnaire, and interviewed six. Our group includes leaders of Walk Oakland Bike Oakland, Friends of BRT, the No on KK Committee, Alameda Transit Advocates, the City of Oakland Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee, Bicycle-Friendly Berkeley, Livable Berkeley, the East Bay Bicycle Coalition, and TransForm.

Going into this endorsement process, I must admit that I was a bit nervous. Rebecca Kaplan was such an effective board member, and I didn’t know if we’d find someone who could match Rebecca’s experience, knowledge, and energy. I was pleasantly surprised by the answers to our questionnaire from all of the candidates and by the new ideas and vision the candidates demonstrated in our interviews. It’s exciting to see so many qualified candidates vying for a position that is so important to me but often gets overlooked by others.

Ultimately though, Elizabeth Echols stood out among the group of applicants. She has a clear vision for the agency, but is also open to learning more from the transit and bike/ped community.

She also has an absurd amount of experience that makes her particularly well-suited for this position. Her work on the Obama presidential transition team and in the Clinton White House has prepared her for working with the federal government and managing fast-paced projects. Her experience in information technology, particularly in her work as Director of Policy for Google, has led to her focus on technological innovation. Specifically, she plans to improve AC Transit’s online trip planning and enhance real time trip planning for riders via expanded use of bus shelter signs and cell phone alerts.

Beyond what you can find on paper in her resume and endorsement letters, Elizabeth is energetic and clearly committed to moving AC Transit forward. When I was preparing to write this blog post, I thought about my first encounters with Elizabeth. She was the Co-Chair of the Oakland United Democratic Campaign (UDC) in 2008, and the UDC office was always filled with incredible energy and dozens (and on election day, hundreds) of volunteers. Every time I phoned there for Rebecca Kaplan or No on 8, I saw Elizabeth running around, making sure everything was functioning smoothly at the office. I didn’t know her at the time, but I knew immediately that she was someone I wanted to know and someone I’d work with in the future.

Now I’m hoping I’ll get the opportunity to work with her as an AC Transit Board member. If she can bring the energy she brought to the Oakland UDC to AC Transit, the agency will have a bright future.

For more about our endorsement process and a surprisingly detailed overview of all of the SEVENTEEN candidates who applied for the seat, head to A Better Oakland.

And for other takes on why we endorsed Echols, check out Stop, Drop and Roll, John Knox White’s Alameda based blog, the Friends of BRT blog, and A Better Oakland.

California Transit Agencies Need Stimulus Too

As the Congressional battle over Obama’s stimulus heats up, so too is progressive activism over the deliberate underfunding of mass transit. Peter DeFazio, an Oregon Democrat, is leading the charge to redress the problem, as shown in this important discussion with policy geek Rachel Maddow:

DeFazio isn’t just complaining on TV – he is offering an amendment to provide $2 billion in direct aid to local transit agencies that have had to cut service or raise fares – or both – as a result of the economic downturn and state budget problems.

Here in California this problem is especially acute, as Arnold is having success in his effort to defund mass transit. As a result local transit agencies have been hit hard. From the Monterey Bay and SF Bay Areas alone:

* San Benito County Express in Hollister and San Juan Bautista raised fares 33% earlier this year and will reduce service 35% effective on February 1, with some routes eliminated entirely.

* Monterey-Salinas Transit hiked fares 25% this month, though they were able to avoid service cuts. (The fare is now $2.50 per ride.)

* SamTrans in San Mateo County (the Peninsula) will raise fares 17% in February.

* Caltrain increased fares on January 1. Caltrain is the commuter rail service between San Francisco, San Jose, and Gilroy.

These cuts are especially damaging in this economy. Many Californians depend on affordable and available bus service to get to work. When routes are cut or fares increased, many can no longer get to work, and job losses merely increase.

It also makes it more difficult to build a sustainable transportation system, since these cuts can be difficult to restore. It took well over a decade for AC Transit to recover from the service cuts of the early 1990s – and even that progress may be set back without federal assistance.

Transportation for America has a map of the transit cuts being proposed or implemented across America. And they are leading the charge for restoring this funding. DeFazio’s amendment will come before the House Rules Committee tomorrow, and T4America is asking folks to call Chairwoman Louise Slaughter (D-NY) to ask her to send the amendment to the House floor.

California has three Representatives on that committee, and their contact information is as follows:

David Dreier – Republican from 26th District (San Gabriel Valley foothills). Phone numbers: DC office (202) 225-2305, San Dimas office (909) 575-6226, Toll-free (888) 906-2626

Doris Matsui – Democrat from 5th District (Sacramento). Phone numbers: DC office (202) 225-7163, Sacramento office (916) 498-5600

Dennis Cardoza – Democrat from 18th District (Stockton, Modesto, Merced). Phone numbers: DC office (202) 225-6131 or (800) 356-6424, Merced office (209) 383-4455, Modesto office (209) 527-1914, Stockton office (209) 946-0361.

Take Action to Save Transit at the Local, State & Federal Levels

(Cross-posted at Living in the O.)

UPDATE: It looks like the AC Transit Board of Directors may not be voting tomorrow on a fare increase! Instead, they're looking into a putting a parcel tax initiative on the November ballot. So tomorrow at their hearing, they'll likely vote to postpone discussing fare increases until after the November election. (BTW – last time I'm relying on the SF Chronicle as a source.) Also, the Board will be considering sending a letter of opposition to the FTA's proposal on nixing school buses from public transit.

This morning, I sat down on the bus to be greeted by a flyer with red, bold writing, proclaiming:

Rider Alert!
Governor’s Budget Cuts $19 Million from AC Transit.
Phone calls needed to protect your bus service!

So I knew I’d be writing about the need to take action for transit this evening. At the time, I hadn’t realized that transit’s being attacked by all levels of government this week. Luckily, there are three ways you can take action to stop these attacks.

1. LOCAL – Remember last month when I reported on the AC Transit public hearing about fare increases? Well, that was just a hearing to take public comments. This Wednesday, the AC Transit Board of Directors will be discussing the four plans and likely voting to implement one of them. This may be your last chance to speak out against fare hikes – especially the increases for monthly passes. Here’s the hearing info:

AC Transit Board of Directors Meeting
2nd Floor Board Room
1600 Franklin Street, Oakland, CA 94612
Wednesday, June 11, 2008 @ 5:00 p.m.

2. STATE – While AC Transit will almost certainly raise fares, the agency’s not content to sit by while the Governor takes $1.4 billion away from public transit, including $19 million from AC Transit alone. This just doesn’t make sense – at a time when gas prices are rising and commuters are finally realizing it makes sense to take public transit, our state is defunding public transit agencies. AC Transit sent out an email, put out flyers, and is featuring an action alert on their front page. I hope other transit agencies are doing the same. If you care about transit, take 30 seconds to call Governor Schwarzenegger:

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger
(916) 445-2841 (phone)
(916) 558-3160 (fax)
online comment form

It’s simple – just call and say your name and what city you live in. Then, say that you oppose any cuts to public transit funding. Really – it takes 30 seconds so pick up your phone and call now. And if you’re too freaked out about calling, send in a fax or make a comment online.

3. FEDERAL – Thanks to OaklandNews, I found out that the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) is trying to prohibit public transit agencies from offering special bus routes to school. I had to read the article twice because it was just so hard for me to believe. I know the Bush administration FTA hasn’t been too friendly to transit, but this is outrageous! Ostensibly, the FTA is trying to protect private school bus companies (in other words, just like with everything else, they want to privatize, privatize, privatize). Congresswoman Barbara Lee is standing up to the FTA about this proposal, and she could use the support of others to urge the FTA to back off from forcing students to walk or forcing parents to shell out even more gas money to drive their kids to school. The Education Report tells us how to chime in:

Want to give the feds feedback on the proposal? You can submit a comment online at: http://www.regulations.gov, or fax it to: 202-493-2251. The proposal is listed under Docket No. FTA-2008-0015.

Well, that’s it for now on the transportation front. Hopefully next time I’ll have some better news, but for now, don’t sulk – take action!

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.