By Joshua Stark / Submitted: 05/23/2016
On Friday the Thirteenth, Governor Brown submitted to the Legislature his May revision to the state budget for fiscal year 2016-17. I wish I could say it was our lucky day.
But in this case, “revision” is something of a misnomer. When it comes to transportation funding, and especially for public transportation and biking/walking infrastructure, the Governor’s proposal remained exactly the same: no changes to the budget he proposed in January.
As we explained back then, the Governor’s proposal isn’t terrible – it increases transportation funding and prioritizes road maintenance and new public transportation. However, it still fails to make meaningful improvements for safer walking and biking and more reliable transit operations.
That’s why TransForm and our allies are advocating for substantial, fiscally appropriate investments in biking, walking, and transit operations. We are also pushing to improve fairness and equity in all of our transportation investments by advocating for local hiring provisions and prioritizing investments in disadvantaged communities.
Last week, advocates from around the state came together in Sacramento for a Transportation Equity Summit and Advocacy Day. Here, we made our case for a budget that ensures the kinds of investments to make all our communities safer and provide opportunities for people to get where they need to go on foot, by bike, or on public transportation.
The Governor continues to propose $500 million of the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund for transit capital projects and something he’s calling “Low Carbon Roads.”
We know that building new bus stops, train stations, and rail lines are an important part of the solution to our transportation crisis, but it’s far from the only solution. We need to make sure that transit agencies have the money available to keep the buses and trains running long after they are built. We need investments in the kinds of services that help the over 10 million Californians who do not drive, but still deserve to get around in dignity.
These same investments – in bus service and operations, and biking and walking infrastructure – are also the kinds of investments that reduce our reliance on oil, and reduce our greenhouse gas emissions.
So we will continue to press the Legislature and the Governor to invest $100 million in the Active Transportation Program to help meet the overwhelming demand to make our streets safer for walking and biking, instead of creating a new Low Carbon Roads program that isn’t guaranteed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. And we will continue to advocate for the $400 million the Governor proposes for transit capital to instead be split among capital ($200 million), transit operations ($150 million) and a transit pass program for K-12, community college, and public university students throughout the state ($50 million).
These changes would help make our communities safer, healthier, and cleaner – by funding new crosswalks and bike lanes, making our buses and trains more reliable, and providing affordable transportation choices to students squeezed by tuition increases statewide. What’s more, investments in the ATP, transit passes, and transit operations are surefire strategies to reduce climate pollution, which is exactly what the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund is for.
It’s clear that we can’t wait around for a lucky day to see these changes in the budget – not with the June 15th deadline right around the corner. Legislative budget committees are at work right now, hammering out a final budget deal to send to the Governor in a few weeks.
Speak up now and join our call to do a better job of funding walking, biking, and public transportation operations in the final budget. Contact your legislator today to ensure that all Californians benefit from transportation projects that improve our safety, our health, and our communities.