When Governor Brown called for a Special Session on Transportation a few weeks ago it was to find a way to increase the funding to repair streets, bridges and freeways – prompting transit advocates to call for a more balanced approach that would also consider the needs of transit. Transit remains woefully underfunded in California: One recent study found that by 2020 the revenue available for transit will cover just a third of the capital needs and fall 20% short of meeting operating needs. The state hasn’t done a dedicated transportation funding program since Proposition 111 in 1990 (which increased the gas tax to 18 cents/gallon), and the most recent temporary fix was Proposition 1B in 2006, a $20 billion bond that dedicated 25% to transit. At the same time the state has set ambitious goals for requiring reductions in GHG emissions and petroleum use – both of which require more transit since the majority of GHG emissions come from cars and trucks (40% of the statewide GHG total).
“How are we to reach Governor Brown's goals of reducing GHGs 40% below 1990 levels by 2030 and reducing petroleum use by 50% if robust transit systems are not part of the equation?” asks Move LA Executive Director Denny Zane. “Increasing funding for transit is especially important now that we have set these goals, and it's important not only for regions that have legacy systems but also for regions that are expanding or building new systems -- we need to feed this momentum."
Denny joined state Senator Ben Allen and Assemblymembers Adrin Nazarian and Richard Bloom, and transit advocates Ryan Wiggins from TransForm and Hilary Norton from FAST, at a press conference at the Palms Station on the Expo Line today (Friday) to call for increased transit funding from the state, using some of the 40% in Cap & Trade revenues not yet allocated to specific programs. Currently, transit is funded by Cap & Trade dollars through 2 programs: the Low Carbon Transit Operations Program (LCTOP) and the Transit and Intercity Rail Capital Program (TIRCP). In fiscal year 2015-2016 these 2 programs are expected to receive $300 million in funding.
Two bills that will be discussed at the press conference, SBX1 8 (Senator Jerry Hill, San Mateo) and ABX1 7 (Assemblymember Adrin Nazarian, Van Nuys), would dedicate another 5% of the unallocated 40% to the LCTOP and another 10% to the TIRCP.
Also under discussion were 2 bills that would increase the incremental sales tax rate on diesel fuel, which is currently 9.25%, of which 4.75% is dedicated to the Public Transportation Account to be split 50/50 between Caltrans (for intercity rail and administration) and the State Transit Assistance program or STA. STA funding is allocated to transit operators and regional transportation planning agencies on a formula basis (population and local revenue that supports an operator's transit services including farebox revenue and local sales taxes).
SBX1 7 (Senator Ben Allen, Santa Monica) and ABX1 8 (Assemblymembers Richard Bloom, Santa Monica, and David Chiu, San Francisco) would triple the incremental sales tax rate on diesel fuel from 1.75% to 5.25% and dedicate those revenues to the STA program. Funding would be distributed to all transit agencies via existing formulas to use for capital or operations.