Legislators, transit backers present urgent call for public transit funding

Legislature’s Special Session on Transportation must include public transit funding to ensure an integrated transportation system that keeps LA moving (Thinkstock).
Legislature’s Special Session on Transportation must include public transit funding to ensure an integrated transportation system that keeps LA moving (Thinkstock).
Legislature’s Special Session on Transportation must include public transit funding to ensure an integrated transportation system that keeps LA moving (Thinkstock).

There’s a coalition of legislators and key transit stakeholders burgeoning to call for over $900 million annually for critically needed public transit funding in California.

State Senator Ben Allen and Assemblymembers Adrin Nazarian and Richard Bloom joined officials from the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) and key regional transit advocates want hundreds of millions of dollars to flow to L.A. County to help expand public transit options and maintain the existing transit system in a state of good repair.

Governor Brown has called for a Special Session on Transportation that focuses on increasing funding to repair streets, bridges, and freeways.  Legislators and public transit advocates Friday called for the inclusion of public transit funding as part of the Special Session.

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“We strongly urge the Legislature and the Governor to make mass transit funding a priority this upcoming special session,” stated Senator Ben Allen.  “Our proposals will invest nearly $900 million annually into mass transit projects across the state; creating close to 50,000 jobs.”

Assemblymember Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica) also said improving existing transit infrastructure would be an essential step in reducing California’s greenhouse gas emissions.

“I am pleased to jointly author this measure that will ensure funding for transit operators and planning agencies to make repairs, maintain existing facilities and increase fuel-efficiency,” he added. “If California is going to meet its 2020 goals, it is vital our transit infrastructures are working at peak efficiency.”

Since 1985, Los Angeles County has seen a spike of over 1.7 million new registered motor vehicles; resulting in the LA region ranking the worst in gridlock nationwide. According 2014 Inrix Traffic Scorecard, Angelinos waste an average of 64 hours per year stuck in traffic.

The state’s transit infrastructure faces a funding shortfall of approximately $72 billion over the next decade. Transit is the “pressure relief valve” for roads and highways, which can no longer be easily expanded.  Transit must be included in the mix of multi-modal transportation funding solutions to keep L.A. moving.

Senator Allen, Assemblymember Nazarian and Bloom joined with Legislators and transit advocates from the San Francisco Bay Area, who held a press conference today echoing the urgent call for the passage of a mass transit funding package in the upcoming Special Session on Transportation.

SBX 1 7 and ABX 1 8 Diesel Sales Tax

Increasing the diesel fuel tax from 1.75 percent to 5.25 percent will raise an additional $300 million for the State Transit Assistance (STA) program.  The funding will be distributed to all transit agencies via the existing funding formula.  Los Angeles would receive an estimated $85 million annually for mass transit projects.

SBX 1 8 and ABX 1 7 Cap and Trade

Cap and Trade funding is available for public transit projects through two programs – the Low Carbon Operations Program (LCTOP) and the Transit and Intercity Rail Capital Program (TIRCP).  The bill adjusts the funding percentage of these two programs.  TIRCP would increase from 10 percent to 20 percent, resulting in an additional $200 million per year.  LCTOP would increase from 5 percent to 10 percent, resulting in additional $100 million per year for the program.

Currently, Cap and Trade funding provides only $300 for local mass transit projects.  SBX 1 8 and ABX 1 7 doubles the funding for local mass transit projects to $600 million annually to help cities better connect and expand mass transit options; ensuring commuting by light-rail or subway is as convenient as driving.

Legislators and advocates all stressed that only a balanced approach to repairing our roads and investing in mass transit projects will accomplish the Governor’s goals of reducing greenhouse gases, ensuring safe well maintained roads and bridges, and creating tens-of-thousands of jobs.