Mica Transpo Bill Would Have Dire Impact on California Transit

The federal transportation bill by Rep. John Mica would focus on the federal highway system, not sustainable transportation.

Public transit programs in California could take a $468 million annual hit under the proposed transportation bill unveiled last week by Rep. John Mica (R-FL). The Mica plan would also potentially result in the loss of 17,565 annual jobs, according to an analysis [pdf] by Transportation for America. Overall, T4A predicts the scaled-down bill would result in a 37 percent reduction in federal investments in public transportation when compared to current levels.

“What you will see, more than likely, is transit agencies taking what money they have available for operations and shifting some of that over into making up that federal cut for the capital expenses,” said Ryan Wiggins, the T4A Southern California field representative. “What they might be forced to do is a combination of fare increases, and/or service cuts.”

“This is the federal government not investing in our infrastructure. That’s what it is,” said Randy Rentschler, a spokesperson for the Metropolitan Transportation Commission. “I think there are some elements to it that are positive, but often what matters most is the money, and the money is clearly inadequate.”

In San Francisco, SFMTA spokesperson Paul Rose said Muni would be forced to defer or delay some major capital investment projects, including work on the Central Subway, Van Ness BRT, the replacement of trolley coach and motor coach vehicles, and an upgrade of rail and overhead line infrastructure. It would also force the agency to “defer fleet rehabilitation of motor coach and historic fleet vehicles which will impact service due to lack of available vehicles” and delay the scheduled replacement of 35 paratransit vans, along with other projects.

The bill would also eliminate any federal guarantee for bicycle and pedestrian programs. Wiggins said T4A fears that money which typically comes from federal transportation enhancement funds would all be funneled to big infrastructure projects, and bike and ped programs would get neglected by state transportation agencies.

Dave Snyder, the executive director of the California Bicycle Coalition, was more optimistic, considering the strong advocacy for biking and walking in the state.

“We have some work to do in California to make sure that the kinds of projects that were funded out of enhancements continue to get funded but I’m confident that in most areas of California, anyway, we can maintain that level of funding, if not increase it, thanks to the growing support for this kind of stuff,” he said.

Senator Barbara Boxer, who sits on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, has vowed to fight the proposed cuts, and is offering her own proposal.