BART Letter to Bay Area Delegation on Special Legislative Session
July 21, 2015
Bay Area State Delegation
Re: Special legislative session on financing transportation infrastructure
Members of the Bay Area State Delegation:
The Governor’s call for a special legislative session to “enact permanent and sustainable funding for repair and maintenance to our state’s transportation and critical infrastructure” provides a great opportunity for needed action on the state’s broad transportation infrastructure. An important synergy exists here. Better roads enhance transit bus trips and provide greater access to other public transit modes. Public transit helps reduce congestion on our highways and protects taxpayers’ investments by getting drivers off our roads.
The San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District (BART) encourages the Legislature to take advantage of this opportunity to produce a multi-faceted state proposal that broadly addresses both our state highway and transit revenue needs.
As you know, BART’s capacity challenge continues to grow in the Bay Area as the typical weekday ridership now moves beyond 423,000 – or as many people as now drive across the Bay Bridge. BART removes more than 150,000 cars from Bay Area freeways daily, and our riders save 280,000 gallons of gas, keeping over 4.95 million pounds of carbon emissions from entering the atmosphere each day.
Because BART’s 43-year old system has a significant capital shortfall totaling $4.8 billion, this year the BART Board of Directors prioritized legislative goals to (1) support Cap & Trade funding for transit and (2) protect existing and seek new state transit funding. In this context, the BART Board strongly encourages the Legislature to propose, and for the Governor to approve, a legislative package which does not limit infrastructure financing opportunities to a narrow interpretation of transportation as streets and road rehabilitation. We urge you to consider the following options in this special legislative session:
• Cap & Trade funding programs should not be reallocated:
As the state’s Cap & Trade program matures with additional revenue coming from auction sales, pressure may arise to use this funding source to assist in funding road and highway maintenance improvements, as some legislators have suggested. With dramatic unmet transit funding needs, BART would oppose such an action.
• Additional Cap & Trade funding is needed for transit: State funding for transit capital and operations is inadequate for the existing need. At this time, when broad transportation funding options can be discussed, BART agrees with Senator Hill (San Mateo) and other legislators that suggest that the Transit and Intercity Rail Capital Project should at least be doubled from its 10 percent allocation level of Cap & Trade funds to 20 percent. As a member of the California Transit Association BART agrees with its call for the Legislature to seriously consider (1) doubling the Low Carbon Transportation Program from its 5 percent of the Cap & Trade revenues to 10% through the existing State Transit Act (STA) formula, and (2) increase the sales tax rate on diesel fuel which would also be distributed through the STA formula on an annual basis to transit agencies.
• Reduce Greenhouse Gases (GHG) where appropriate: As the state continues to implement stricter goals to reduce GHGs, it is important, where appropriate and applicable, that funding requires a commitment to reduce GHGs.
• Prioritize Complete Streets when roads are “fixed”: The best time and most cost-effective way to retrofit existing roadways to accommodate safety, access and mobility needs of non-drivers is when road maintenance is undertaken. Walking, biking or seeking access to transit service helps reduce GHG. During this special session, BART requests, especially in urban areas, that the adoption of “Active Transportation” projects seriously be considered as a condition of new funding for road and highway improvements.
• Enhance local transportation finance opportunities: State legislators at this important time can assist local governments and transit agencies who seek a greater local funding contribution by supporting ACA 4 (Frazier). This constitutional amendment would allow local governments and transit agencies to more easily achieve voter approval for new taxes that could finance state of good repair needs. As we seek now to fix our roads with additional fees and/or taxes at the state level, ACA 4 should be included in any mix of new funding options sent to the Governor for his approval.
Thank you for your ongoing support for the state’s Cap & Trade funding programs. This critical program is now poised to help make up for some of the past years of state transit funding depletion. Hopefully, this special session will allow you and other California legislators to fix our roads and highways in a broad creative way that helps achieve our environmental goals and includes additional transit funding as part of the solution to modernize our state’s transportation infrastructure.
Thomas M. Blalock, P.E.
Speaker of the Assembly
Senate President Pro tem
California Transit Association
BART Board of Directors