There has been an hypocrisy underlying the conversation in California concerning transit and sustainability. On the one hand, we talk about curbing sprawl and offsetting climate change; but on the other hand, we also yank the funds that already cash-strapped transit agencies need to operate. This year, AC Transit, which provides fuel-dependent bus service, got a double hit, both from rising fuel prices and from the months-overdue state budget that ultimately deprived the agency of over $15.6 million. To close the funding gap, AC Transit staff had recommended fare increases earlier this year, with the steepest increases borne by some of the most transit-dependent of East Bay residents: the youth, senior, and disabled who use monthly bus passes. The community protested the impending fare increase, and it was in response to that mobilization that the AC Transit Board placed the Measure VV parcel tax on the November ballot. (That’s VV with two V’s, not one W.) If passed, Measure VV would levy a tax of an additional $48 per parcel per year on property owners in the cities that receive AC Transit service, except for Union City and Fremont. The tax would begin on July 1, 2009, and would be collected through June 30, 2019, providing AC Transit with an estimated $14 million annually.
The proceeds from Measure VV will be used to fund operations and maintenance, with expenditures monitored by a citizen oversight committee. This money is necessary to allow AC Transit to maintain its current level of operation without having to penalize its most transit-dependent customers by slashing service and hiking fares. Yes, it’s another tax — but as such, it requires 2/3 approval by voters in order to pass. When the state budget is unkind to transit, sometimes it falls on local taxpayers to tie up the loose ends. So all we can do is ask East Bay voters to find it in their hearts to protect vital transit service by voting Yes on Measure VV.