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Posts from the "Clean TEA" Category

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California Cities Need A Predictable Fund For Transit Operations

train.jpgPhoto by George Donnelly, via Flickr
When the State Transit Assistance (STA) fund was zeroed out to pass the budget a couple of months ago, the already dire situation for transit operators in California became much worse.  In the Bay Area, AC Transit raised fares, the MTA has been considering budget cuts and fare hikes, and BART will likely do the same if its board can get to the discussion at the next meeting. 

While these temporary solutions will balance the spreadsheets for this year, the state's commitment to transit operations for the next five years will be a pittance and operators will continue to suffer.  Unless advocates can get on the same page and build a comprehensive coalition to call for more funding, elected officials like Governor Schwarzenegger will get away with pitching themselves as green politicians and then sabotaging one of the best ways to make our mobility more sustainable.

Unfortunately, advocates are not unified in their call for a commitment to transit.  Several hundred people have turned out at meetings about funding cuts, but those same numbers have not made it to Sacramento to lobby legislators for an affirmative change. Some of the groups will be spending their resources lobbying Washington for changes to the transportation act rather than dealing with the troubled situation at the state level.

"For me, part of it will be where the biggest opportunities are for organizing. There is some possibility for major transitions at the federal level," said CALPIRG's Emily Rusch, cautioning that transit constituency wasn't strong enough at the state level. "It will take some time before we can find more money from legislators or at the ballot."

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Regional Transportation Funding Problems Keep Getting Bigger

In a sobering revision of the 25-year Regional Transportation Plan (RTP) at yesterday's Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) meeting, MTC staff explained that the elimination of the State Transit Assistance (STA) fund and much lower than expected sales-tax revenues forced the planning body to significantly revise down its projections for operational spending and expansion projects (PDF). The MTC revised down expected revenues by $8 billion (even despite over $3 billion in expected stimulus funds) and announced that BART's extension to San Jose is running a cool $1.5 billion over budget.

Most operators anticipated the crunch brought on by the elimination of the STA fund and have adjusted as best as possible, with AC Transit already raising fares and the MTA discussing a fare hike, service cuts, and additional hiring freezes.   The $4.5 billion in lower sales-tax revenues (TDA funds in transpo-speak), will make transit operations even more difficult. 

The Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) in Santa Clara County and SamTrans in San Mateo County will see some of the worst hits proportionate to their size.  The first graph below shows the overall expected operational deficits over 25 years, assuming current conditions with no positive change in STA or TDA funding over that period:

Operating_Shortfall.jpgLight blue is shortfalls for the major operators prior to the new TDA and STA forecasts made available yesterday.  Red is the current expected shortfall, should there be no change to expected revenues.

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AARP Joins Campaign to Reform National Transportation Policy

AARP_bike.jpgPhoto: AARP
AARP announced today that it will join the Transportation for America campaign to advocate for a "broad restructuring" of national transportation policy. In a letter sent to Congressional leaders last week [PDF], AARP said that it is "working to enable older adults to live independently in their homes and communities throughout their lifespan, and transportation is critical to maintaining the community connections that make that possible."

Forty million Americans over the age of 50 belong to the organization, which is increasingly focused on the next federal transportation bill. "America is aging rapidly and transportation policy and spending must acknowledge this demographic shift," said AARP's Nancy Leamond in a press statement. "The upcoming transportation authorization can help the nation prepare both for its graying years and a greener future by making roads safer for drivers of all ages and also offering more user friendly options for pedestrians and transit users."

AARP's publications have been turning an eye toward the benefits of reducing car dependence and making streets safer for older Americans. Recent articles in the AARP Bulletin have examined Safe Streets for Seniors programs and the need to invest stimulus funds in infrastructure for walking, biking, and transit. An ongoing collaboration with Project for Public Spaces produced a series of three books about how citizens can improve their streets.