|Courtesy Los Angeles Times.|
Is this déjà vu, or what? Our dear, allegedly green “Governator” — on the front lines fighting global warming — refuses to put the money where his mouth is by terminating $1.4 billion of transit funds in the May revise budget? Oh, right: this also happened last year. So whatever happened to meeting AB 32’s requirements for greenhouse gas emission reduction? I suppose it would be too much to ask that we actually try to provide adequate funding for the transit systems that give commuters an alternative to driving — instead of starving those very same systems of the money they need to operate, let alone improve and expand to accommodate the increased ridership that it is critical we work to achieve? The rising fuel costs that have people flocking to transit and leaving their cars at home are also forcing Caltrain and AC Transit to study yet another set of fare hikes, and eventually, it is the riders who bear the burden of higher fares and slashed service resulting from an apparently chronic itch the Governator has to divert funds from the Public Transportation Account.
Ridership increases demonstrate that Californians are voting with their feet. We are in a perfect storm in which both environmental and economic incentives have converged, encouraging Californians to move in droves away from their vehicles and towards transit — and the Governator decides that this is the opportune moment to severely slash funds? It is utterly nonsensical. The time to capitalize on high gas costs — and to halt any downward cycle of fewer riders, less service, and higher fares — is now. Assembly and Senate subcommittees have recommended different fund allocations that would return $317 million of PTA funds, instead of diverting the $828 million of gas tax revenue away from transit that was proposed in the May revise budget. While our legislators are heckling, please use this as an opportunity to make your voice heard. Transit riders may be in the minority, but we can be loud! In any case, a recent Field Poll shows that 67% of Californians oppose cuts to transit. Even those who ride transit infrequently or not at all can and should show support for maximizing the funds applied to transit this upcoming fiscal year. Contact your legislator. Contact the Governor: by email, by phone (916-445-2841), by fax (916-558-3160), or by snail mail. Raise hell, and urge our elected officials to stop this systematic and nonsensical starvation of California’s public transportation system. Transit desperately needs our investment, not more neglect.