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Edited and proofed this transportation advocacy manual on tight deadline for Transform (formerly Transportation and Land Use Coalition).

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  1. 1. The Transportation and Land Use Coalition is a partnership of over 90groups working for a sustainable and socially just Bay Area. We envision aregion with healthy, walkable communities that provide all residents withtransportation choices and affordable housing. The coalition analyzescounty and regional policies, works with community groups to developalternatives, and coordinates grassroots campaigns.© Transportation and Land Use Coalition (TALC), 2004Transportation Equity and Community HealthAccess Now! is part of TALC’s “Transportation Equity and CommunityHealth” (TEACH) project. The project’s goal is to ensure that low-incomeand people-of-color communities have a strong voice in transportationdecisions, so that investments support better access, equity, and commu-nity health. As part of TEACH, TALC offers: • Free copies of this guide in English and Spanish. • Training on how to win transportation improvements. • Technical Assistance to help groups prepare effective campaigns. • Website with additional tools: • For non-English speakers, Training and Technical Assistance in Spanish and translation for Training in other languages.For details see p.78. Request these services with the order form at the back.Support for this GuideThis guide was made possible through an Environmental Justice PlanningGrant provided by the California Department of Transportation, as wellas support from The San Francisco Foundation and the Evelyn and WalterHaas Jr. Fund. Printing was provided by AC Transit’s union print shop.Disclaimer: The contents of this guide reflect the views of the author, whois responsible for the facts and accuracy of the data presented herein. Thecontents do not necessarily reflect the official views or policies of the Stateof California or the Federal Highway Administration. This guide does notconstitute a standard, specification, or regulation.
  2. 2. Table of ContentsChapter 1 Winning Transportation Justice for Your Community . . 2Chapter 2 Overcoming Roadblocks to Transportation Justice. . . . . 8Chapter 3 Getting What You Want: An Index to the Issues . . . . . 15 Transit Improvements…17 Safety and Access While Walking and Bicycling…23 Smart Growth and Affordable Housing…27 Safe Transportation for Children…30 Reducing the Cost of Transportation…35Chapter 4 Transportation Decision Makers: Who’s Who and What They Do . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 40 Transit Agencies (AC Transit, Muni, BART, etc.)…41 County Congestion Management Agencies…50 Metropolitan Transportation Commission…57 Local Government (Cities and Counties)…67 State Government…71 Federal Government…75Appendix A Key Contacts. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 78Appendix B Online Resources . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 81Appendix C Useful Publications . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 83Appendix D Acronym Decoder . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 86
  3. 3. CHAPTER 1Winning Transportation Justice for Your CommunityJ obs out of reach, missed health appointments, stu- dents unable to get to nightclasses. These problems all have transit cuts, fare hikes, and unsafe streets threaten her ability to keep her job, limit her social life, take away money she needs for her edu-a common cause: transportation cation, and increase her chance ofbarriers. Often these are the result injury or death while walking (seeof decades of opposite page).transportation “If we always do The rootsand growth deci- what we’ve always done, of inadequatesions that failed transportation we will always getto adequately lie in the deci-involve the what we’ve always gotten.” sions madepeople with the – Rev. Andre Shumake, Pastor without a stronggreatest needs. North Richmond Missionary voice from low-In study after Baptist Church and member income com-study – whether of TALC Board of Directors munities andtrying to assess communities ofwhy low-income parents cannot color.reach childcare or get to job in- But it doesn’t have to be thisterviews – inadequate transporta- way.tion is identified as one of the topobstacles to self-sufficiency and a Communitiesbetter life. Making Change In the Bay Area, hundreds Throughout the Bay Area andof thousands of people live in across the country, low-incomehouseholds without a car, and communities and communities ofover a million more share one car color are organizing and gettingamong several adults. For these educated to demand the trans-families, public transit, walking portation they need. This grow-and bicycling are critical lifelines. ing movement is demanding anFor Lorraine Navarro in San Jose, continued on page 4
  4. 4. CHAPTER 1 WINNING TRANSPORTATION JUSTICE FOR YOUR COMMUNITY 3Lorraine NavarroLorraine is a student at San Jose But in the last three years, theCity College. Active in La Raza Valley Transportation Authority hasStudent Alliance and as a repeatedly raised fares andvolunteer helping recent cut service. At the sameimmigrants understand time, the agency is spend-their civil rights, she also ing over $170 million justholds down a full-time job for studies of extendingat the Oak Ridge Mall. BART to San Jose. Only 23 years old, These cuts meanLorraine is a 15-year Lorraine can’t take theveteran of San Jose’s buses. She bus home from work. She has tofinds herself taking the bus even constantly improvise on gettingfor short trips because she has had to work in order to keep her job.several near misses with cars while Fare hikes mean she will soon bewalking across San Jose’s wide spending more than $700 per yearstreets. for worse transit service.Shandra MooreWhen her job at a local chronic transportationvideo game store couldn’t problems.offer enough hours to pay The communitythe rent, Shandra Moore rose up and demandedknew she needed a better a change. North Rich-job.1 But jobs are scarce in mond NeighborhoodNorth Richmond, where House, which runs theunemployment is three Career Center, led thetimes the Bay Area average. effort. Now, buses run more often The community is work- and later at night, and a new ex-ing hard for change: the new press bus links residents to jobs inCareer Center has computers and Marin County.phones where residents can apply With these transit im-for jobs. provements, Shandra got But until recently, buses a stable job selling paint atstopped at 7 p.m. Many residents a large store in San Rafael.couldn’t hold jobs because of continued on page 41. Not her real name.
  5. 5. 4 ACCESS NOW! …continued from page 2 route and many others through equal share of the benefits of the an additional $1 toll on Bay Area transportation system, asserting a bridges. And because the package strong role in the decision-making supported its needs, the com- process, and getting organized at munity became part of a strong the local, regional, and national regional coalition that helped win levels. passage of the measure by 56% of This is the growing movement the voters. for transportation justice. Unfortunately, these success In North Richmond, com- stories are still the exception. munity advocates have succeeded in expanding the frequency and Transportation Injustice hours of bus service. This allowed Many people-of-color and low- Shandra Moore (see p.3) to get – income families live in communi- and keep – a better job. But every ties where they are shut off from year, Shandra’s bus route has been opportunities, and the situation is vulnerable to the budget ax. Only getting worse. In the recent reces- continuing community support sion, bus routes have been slashed has kept the line running. and fares have skyrocketed. So the community fought for long-term change: they won inclusion of the route in Regional Measure 2, a 2004 ballot measure that permanently funds Shandra’s …continued from p.3 Longer hours, a key commu- nity demand, make all the dif- ference. Her shift sometimes starts at 7 a.m. or ends at 11:30 p.m. “I couldn’t keep this job, or even have gone to the interview, without the #42 and the #376,” Shandra says of the lines the community fought for.
  6. 6. CHAPTER 1 WINNING TRANSPORTATION JUSTICE FOR YOUR COMMUNITY 5 When transit budgets get Access Now!tight, the first services to go are How can we get many more com-often night and weekend services. munities actively involved? HowBuses may not be full then, but can we win a better life for familiesthey are a critical lifeline for every- and communities across the Bayone on them. Area? How can we make success Transportation and city plan- stories like Shandra’s the rule, notning agencies have also done too the exception?little to make the streets safe. These are the questions thatWhen they pay more attention to motivated the Transportationmoving cars than to providing safe and Land Use Coalition (TALC)places to walk or bicycle, the cost to write this guide and to offeris people’s lives. Low-income resi- training and technical assistancedents, African-Americans, to communities across theand Latinos walk ay Area.more than whites The Access Now!and higher-in- guide and tools arecome residents, designed to helpso they are more low-income com-likely to be hit by munities of colora car and killed or get more involvedhospitalized.2 in transportation At the same decisions. Strategic,time, low-income an cused involvementpeople-of-color communi- can flex untapped politi-ties are more likely to be home to cal power and help transportationheavily used freeways. Proximity agencies to understand what theseto these roads has been shown to communities really need.cause higher rates of cancer and This guide can help you winother health problems.3 local improvements and show you In sum, low-income commu- how to join others working at thenities and communities of color county and regional level to ensureare more likely to bear the burden all of our communities have access,and less likely to benefit from the now.transportation system as a whole.2. According to studies based on data from California Department of Health Services and others cited in TALC’s Roadblocks to Health, Chapter 5.3. “L.A.’s toxic freeways,” Los Angeles Times, September 27, 2003.
  7. 7. 6 ACCESS NOW! Who Should How to Use this Guide Use this Guide? Chapter 2, “Overcoming Road- Are you a member or leader of blocks,” offers a general overview a community group in the Bay of transportation justice issues. It Area? outlines some of the reasons the Do you have constituents who transportation system fails low- face transportation problems, but income communities and com- you’re not sure where to start to munities of color. It also proposes win improvements? four ways to overcome these road- If so, this guide is for you. blocks. Start here for an introduc- Complex decision-making tion to transportation justice. processes, dozens of agencies, and Chapter 3, “Getting What long timelines: all these obstacles You Want,” looks at 19 of the most make it hard to know how to in- requested transportation improve- fluence transportation decisions. ments mentioned in TALC’s sur- But this guide, combined veys of community leaders. Each with other Access Now! tools (p.7), entry describes the desired change, can help you overcome these ob- potential obstacles to winning it, stacles. You can hold your elected which agency to start with and officials and agencies what to ask. If you know accountable t you want, but meeting yo ’re not sure how to community it, start here. transportatio Chapter 3 also needs. tells you how to figure out if there are special funding pro- grams to sup- port the change you want and how to lobby for re money.
  8. 8. CHAPTER 1 WINNING TRANSPORTATION JUSTICE FOR YOUR COMMUNITY 7 Chapter 4, “Transportation Other Access Now! ToolsDecision Makers,” describes each Learn more by using other toolsagency that makes transportation developed by TALC.decisions, what the agency does,and who makes the decisions. Training andIt also describes key opportuni- Technical Assistanceties to win changes: look for the Training and technical assistance symbol for ways to are available to leaders in the Baymake a difference. If you know Area’s low-income and people-of-which agency you’re trying to color communities. See the “Keyinfluence and you need to learn Contacts” appendix (p.78) formore about them, start here. details. For more help, Chapter 4 alsolists community and advocacy Instant Advocategroups that have experience influ- The online “Instant Advocate Tool-encing these agencies. You can ask kit” has a wealth of well-organizedthem for advice or help to win the information. Tools include casechanges you need. studies, model ordinances, cost and impact estimates, implementation techniques, and contact informa- tion. The IA Toolkit is online at: In this guide, look for the IA symbol to show when you might want to refer to the toolkit. Useful Resources Key Contacts, Online Resources, Useful Publications, and an Acro- nym Decoder are included as ap- pendices at the end of this guide. The Access Now! website also includes a Glossary and ex- tended versions of the appendices:
  9. 9. CHAPTER 2Overcoming Roadblocks to Transportation JusticeW inning transportation on freeways. It is no accident that justice will not be easy. the county transportation agencies This chapter starts are called “Congestion Manage-by explaining four roadblocks to ment Agencies.”transportation justice: The big-ticket solutions that! Excessive focus on congestion agencies propose – widening free- relief ways, extending suburban com-! Restrictions on existing money muter trains, even express buses! Flashy projects grab the new $$ – aim at relieving the burden of! Complexity deters community congestion for people commut- participation ing long distances from suburban Later in this chapter (p.11) homes to work. These long-dis-you will find four ways in which tance commuters are more likelycommunity groups are breaking than the population as a wholedown these roadblocks. For refer- to be white and have higher in-ences to in-depth discussions of comes.these issues, see the Useful Publi- But only one in four trips incations appendix (p.83). the Bay Area are from home to work.4 Most trips are for shop-Excessive Focus on ping, child care, school, and otherCongestion Relief everyday necessities. These tripsWhen elected officials and trans- tend to be shorter and are moreportation agencies talk about a likely to occur on evenings andtransportation crisis, they often weekends, outside the peak com-mean increased traffic congestion muting hours. People’s increasing in- ability to make these trips needs to be understood as a transportation crisis on a par with the problems of commuters stuck in traffic.4. MTC, 2000 Base Year Validation of Travel Demand Models, May 2004.
  10. 10. CHAPTER 2 OVERCOMING ROADBLOCKS TO TRANSPORTATION JUSTICE 9Restrictions on bus service more frequently or forExisting Money longer hours, fixing potholes, orThis excessive focus on congestion repairing broken sidewalks.relief is made worse by restrictions Because of these constraints, iton transportation money. Many is crucial for community groups toof the largest funding sources can seize opportunities to define howonly be used for “capital” expenses, new sources of money will be spentusually new highway or train proj- (see “Focus on New Money,” p.11).ects. (See “Funding Jargon 101” It is also critical to hold agenciesbelow for definitions of capital, accountable when they proposemaintenance, and operations.) new projects. Groups can demandThese constraints are especially that agencies do not spend moneytrue of funding from state and building new projects until therefederal agencies. is long-term funding available to Yet for low-income and peo- operate and maintain them.ple-of-color communities, opera-tions and maintenance are often Flashy Projectsthe most pressing needs: running Grab the New $$ Unfortunately, when politicians set priorities for transportation Funding Jargon 101 money, too often they choose Capital projects: building a flashy new projects instead of the new road, train track, or side- most cost-effective ones (“cost ef- walk; or buying transit ve- fectiveness” is the benefit gained hicles or some other tangible for each dollar of investment). item with a long usable life. At the same time, agencies often Maintenance: patching pot- overestimate the benefits and un- holes, maintaining buses derestimate the costs of these mega- and tracks, and keeping the projects, and do not have enough system in good shape so it money to run the projects once doesn’t require more expen- they are built. Two prime examples sive repairs down the line. are the recently completed BART Operations: buying fuel, pay- extension to San Francisco Inter- ing bus drivers and other national Airport (SFO, see sidebar expenses that keep the system p.10) and the proposed extension of running every day. BART to San Jose (p.45).
  11. 11. 10 ACCESS NOW! This problem hurts low-income and maintain the new service, agen- and people-of-color communities cies have to tap into their existing in two ways. First, these glamorous budgets. That often means they projects often use money that could have to cut service and raise fares, have been used for projects that hurting the communities that are would provide more transporta- most in need. tion to more people. Second, when there isn’t enough money to operate Complexity Deters Community Participation Who Wins, Who Loses: Too often, transportation agencies the BART-SFO Fiasco make policy and investment deci- Transportation powerbrokers sions with inadequate influence by were exuberant about a regional low-income residents and people agreement in 1988 that prom- of color. Transportation decision- ised to bring BART to SFO. making processes are complex, with They confidently predicted long timelines and many agencies high ridership on this eight- involved at different points. mile, $1.7 billion extension. Lack of understanding about Transit officials even predicted how transportation decisions are the line would make money. made, and by what agencies, is a SamTrans (the bus agency for significant barrier to participating San Mateo County) agreed to effectively in transportation deci- be financially responsible for sion-making. operating the line. Agencies have a responsibil- But the finished extension, ity to improve their outreach ef- which opened in 2003, gets less forts. Many have understood this than half the expected ridership responsibility and are starting to and cost 80% more than initial reach out more than they have estimates, even accounting for done before. But conducting more higher costs due to inflation.5 and more meetings won’t help if The predicted surpluses have community groups don’t increase turned to deficits, and Sam- their own capacity to understand, Trans is faced with paying mil- analyze, and affect transportation lions more than expected. As a decisions. result, bus riders in San Mateo That’s where this guide comes may face drastic cuts. in. 5. Based on final project costs contained in FTA, Annual Report on New Starts 2003, and original cost estimates contained in MTC’s Resolution 1876.
  12. 12. CHAPTER 2 OVERCOMING ROADBLOCKS TO TRANSPORTATION JUSTICE 11Breaking This guide will help youThrough Roadblocks understand the role of differentOvercoming these roadblocks re- transportation agencies and thequires four main strategies: relationships between them. It will! Get educated and organized also help you figure out where to! Focus on new money start in demanding a change.! Advocate for cost-effectiveness To go deeper, you can call! Demand mobility for all TALC for technical assistance (p.78). For some issues, you canGet Educated and Organized also turn to reports by TALC andThe first step to winning trans- other groups who analyze issuesportation justice is to get educated from a transportation justice per-and organized. There are three ba- spective (p.83).sic steps to take: There are many other resourc-! Develop realistic recommenda- es and groups that can help you tions or alternatives to agency get your community organized. proposals. See the “Key Advocacy Groups”! Identify articulate speakers who section for each agency listed in can tell a compelling story about Chapter 4. your community’s needs.! Back up your demands with Focus on New Money strong public support (letters, For years, transportation has con- postcards, showing up at meet- sistently rated as a top concern for ings, etc.) and work to get media Bay Area residents.6 These polls attention. guarantee that elected officials will continue to propose billions of dollars in new transportation initiatives. Community groups must actively participate in – and lead – the campaigns to influence these spending plans. Many of these initiatives re- quire voter approval, usually by a two-thirds vote. Transportation agencies will pay attention to6. Bay Area Council’s “Bay Area Poll,” 1996 through 2002.
  13. 13. 12 ACCESS NOW! community groups that can turn out the vote. And if your members have been involved in shaping the plan, they are far more likely to campaign and vote for it when it ap- pears on the ballot. These new funding progr typically have fewer restricti than existing funds on how t can be spent. This means can win the changes you need most, such as more reliable service or safer streets for pede ans and bicyclists. These 20- to 30-year spend plans often provide only a portion quently helps coordinate county of the money each project needs. and regional efforts and can This forces agencies to direct their provide technical assistance even discretionary money – sometimes if it is not actively involved in a for decades to come – to these campaign (p.78). same projects in order to complete them. Advocate for Key opportunities include: Cost-Effectiveness ! County sales taxes (p.51) Focusing on cost-effectiveness is ! Regional and local gas tax in- not only good public policy, it is creases (p.47, 62, 69) good for your community. If an ! Vehicle registration fees (p.73) agency chooses more cost-effec- ! Others, such as the federal trans- tive projects, it can provide more portation bill (p.75) service to more people for the These plans are often devel- same (or lower!) cost. Often, these oped at the county or regional improvements can happen sooner, level, where you are most likely to since it may take less time to secure be successful if you work in part- funding for the project (see “Cost- nership with other like-minded Effectiveness in Action” on the community groups. TALC fre- next page for an example).
  14. 14. CHAPTER 2 OVERCOMING ROADBLOCKS TO TRANSPORTATION JUSTICE 13 Further, improvements to the Cost-Effectiveness inexisting system, including many of Action: AC Chooses BRTthe changes environmental justice In 2001, AC Transit was com-communities need most, usually pleting a Major Investmentgive “more bang for the buck” than Study (MIS, p.44) comparingthe mega-projects often proposed options for improving servicefor higher-income communities. in Berkeley, Oakland, and San Cost-effectiveness measures, Leandro.such as “cost per new rider” or The MIS found that a new“cost per trip,” are most easily ap- Bus Rapid Transit (BRT, p.19)plied to comparisons of different line with a dedicated bus laneways to expand mass transit. It is would be far more cost-effectivemore difficult to compare costs than light rail. BRT could startand benefits with highway projects running years earlier, wouldor other changes. serve about the same number of Look for these measures when passengers with the same qual-transportation agencies make ity of service, and would costplans. And ask questions if the $550 million less. The MIS costnumbers aren’t available. figures meant that for the same Of course, cost-effectiveness cost, AC Transit could buildis not the only criterion agen- three BRT corridors instead ofcies should use. For example, only one light rail line.late-night and weekend transit is And since BRT improve-crucial to many people and needs ments can be implemented into be kept – or put in place – even stages, residents can start toif it isn’t as cost-effective as com- enjoy the benefits sooner, beforemute-time service. But in general, the agency collects funding forfocusing on cost-effectiveness is a the whole project. When com-good way to make sure the needs munity groups saw that BRTof environmental justice commu- would offer the same quality asnities are fully considered. light rail, come online sooner, If you need help applying and have the potential to coverthis approach to your situation, more area, they demanded thecall TALC for technical assistance more cost-effective option; AC(p.78). Transit chose to implement BRT.
  15. 15. 14 ACCESS NOW! Demand Mobility for All Transportation planning often focuses on auto congestion and long-distance commutes. But more than one-third of Bay Area residents do not own or operate a vehicle: mostly low-income fami- lies, children, seniors, and people with disabilities. To make sure that agencies pay more attention to these people’s needs, you can point out how they are currently being underserved. By 2020, the percentage of Bay transportation agencies fully fund Area residents over 65 is expected the Lifeline Transportation Net- to nearly double, to over 17% of work (LTN, p.58). Funding the the region’s population. Without a LTN could bring more frequent transportation system that is con- bus service and other improve- venient, reliable, and affordable, ments on well-used routes and many older people are unable to go support creative programs such about their daily activities or make as child-care shuttles. You can also it to medical appointments. insist that transportation agencies For low-income families who put safety first by investing in cannot afford a car, public transit projects that protect people when can be a lifeline to jobs, childcare, they walk or bicycle. You can ask healthcare, and other crucial ser- for fair funding for programs that vices. Social service agencies have specifically serve youth, seniors, found that inadequate transpor- and people with disabilities. tation is one of the top three The next chapter tells you how barriers to the transition from to demand – and win – changes welfare to work. like these. Your community can win changes to meet these needs. For example, you can demand that
  16. 16. CHAPTER 3Getting What You WantAn Index to the IssuesT his chapter explores the 19 transportation improvements men- tioned most frequently by leaders in low-income communities and communities of color, based on two surveys of communityleaders and feedback received on initial drafts of this guide. The 19 im-provements are divided into five major categories:Transit Improvements . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17 More bus service on existing routes, and new routes…18 Quicker buses on urban streets: Bus Rapid Transit…19 Special transit for the elderly and disabled: paratransit…20 Bus shelters…21 Better transit information…22Safety and Access While Walking and Bicycling . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 23 Pedestrian safety…24 Bicycle lanes and other bicycle facilities…25 Making transit areas safe and attractive…26Smart Growth and Affordable Housing . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 27 More affordable housing near transit…28 Specific plans for transit-oriented development…29Safe Transportation for Children . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 30 Safe walking and bicycling routes to schools…31 Free/discount transit fares for low-income students…32 Child-care transportation shuttles…33 School buses…34Reducing the Cost of Transportation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 35 How to stop excessive fare hikes…36 Car-sharing in your community…37 Getting your employer to help pay for your commute…37 Auto assistance program for low-income families…38 Guaranteed ride home…39
  17. 17. 16 ACCESS NOW! How to Use this Issue Index For each of these 19 improve- information. Many entries have ments, a detailed entry helps to greater detail in TALC’s Instant identify the different types of Advocate Toolkit. Just look for change you can win. Each entry this symbol: . The IA Toolkit includes: includes a wealth of case studies, ! A brief description of the type model ordinances, cost and im- of improvement and major chal- pact estimates, implementation lenges you might face. techniques, and contact infor- ! The agency to contact first, as mation. It is available online at well as questions you may want to ask (full descriptions of each What’s Not Here. This guide agency are in Chapter 4). does not focus on projects that ! Ways to win local and long- are mostly designed for long-dis- term change. tance commuting, such as BART Here are some of the types of extensions, commuter rail, major changes you can demand: highway or road projects, and new ! Low-cost changes your agency ferry lines. If your community could do right away. is trying to win a major capital ! Existing funding programs your project, you’ll need to know more agency could apply for. about the detailed processes they ! Most likely sources of new long- go through, from first studies to term funding. implementation. See TALC’s Ac- ! The most important local, coun- cess Now! website for a description ty, and regional plans where you of the main steps, and feel free to can advocate for the change you call TALC for technical assistance. want. ABCs of Transportation. ! Policy changes that would make Acronyms used in this section it easier to win these improve- are spelled out in the Acronym ments. Decoder appendix (p.86). These These entries are intention- terms and other transportation ally brief, showing you how to get jargon are described in more started on winning these improve- detail in the online Glossary on ments. Most entries also include a TALC’s Access Now! website: reference for finding more detailed
  18. 18. CHAPTER 3 GETTING WHAT YOU WANT 17 Transit Improvements R esidents of low-income and people-of-color communities consistently identify improve- ments to public transit – particularly buses – as their top transportation need. Low-income resi- dents and people of color are much more likely than the general public to ride and depend on public tran- sit. For example, 70% of bus riders in Santa Clara County are people of color and 59% make less than $35,000 per year.77. Santa Clara VTA, 2000 On-Board Survey.
  19. 19. 18 ACCESS NOW! More Bus Service on Existing Routes, and New Routes To run buses more frequently, for longer hours on evenings and weekends, or to start new routes, your transit agency will need to secure additional operating funds. This type of money is often hard to find, which is why it is so important to demand operating funds as part of new funding plans. Without new operating funds, your agency will have to make other trade- offs (reduce other service or raise fares) to make these changes. Start with… Your transit agency: Ask if the routes you want im- proved meet MTC’s Lifeline Transportation Network (LTN) guidelines (p.58) and are in a Community-Based Transportation Plan (p.54). Ask how much funding would be needed to make the changes. Win long-term Urge your transit agency to apply for special programs change… to increase service, such as MTC’s Low Income Flexible Transportation funding program (LIFT, p.58). Win new transit operating funds from county transpor- tation sales taxes (p.51), a regional gas tax or vehicle reg- istration fee (p.62 or 73), or increases in MTC’s Lifeline Transportation program (p.58) through the Regional Transportation Plan (RTP, p.60). See the Lifeline Transit Guidelines tool for how to ensure MTC’s Lifeline Transportation Network will define and fund needed transit improvements, and how to get a Community-Based Transportation Plan com- pleted in your area.
  20. 20. CHAPTER 3 GETTING WHAT YOU WANT 19Quicker Buses on Urban Streets: Bus Rapid TransitOne problem with riding the bus is that buses are often slow or late becauseof time wasted stuck in traffic. Bus Rapid Transit (or BRT) is a series ofchanges that allows “rubber-tire transit” (buses) to closely emulate what welove about rail, but at a much lower cost and with much more flexibility.Dedicated bus lanes, “smart” traffic lights that stay green for an approach-ing bus, and real-time arrival information make BRT faster and morereliable. New transit stations, boarding platforms, and electronic ticketingmake BRT more convenient. And state-of-the art, low- and zero-emission buses offer a more comfortable ride and less pollution. Muni, AC Transit, and Santa Clara VTA all have plans for some form of BRT (see p.13 for a description of AC Transit’s decision to try BRT).Start with… AC Transit, Muni, or VTA: Contact them or TALC to ask how to support BRT in your neighborhood. Other large bus transit agencies: Contact them to encourage them to consider BRT improvements along high-traffic corridors.Win long-term Support funding for BRT in county transportation saleschange… taxes (p.51), a regional gas tax (p.62), or the RTP (p.60). Demand that your Congestion Management Agency (CMA) fund BRT initiatives in their Countywide Transportation Plan (p.55). A transit district gas tax (p.47) would be ideally suited for funding BRT improvements. For a comprehensive overview of BRT, including case studies and cost estimates for proposed Bay Area BRT routes, see TALC’s report: Revolutionizing Bay Area Transit…on a Budget (p.83 for TALC’s reports).
  21. 21. 20 ACCESS NOW! Special Transit for the Elderly and Disabled: Paratransit All transit agencies are required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to provide equivalent transit services for people whose disabil- ity makes it impossible to use public transit. Transit agencies often pay other companies or subcontractors to provide paratransit service, which is often referred to as “ADA-mandated” paratransit. In addition, numer- ous social service agencies and cities provide a variety of “non-mandated” paratransit for seniors or specific types of clients. Major is- sues frequently include ADA eligibility, fares, same-day versus advance schedul- ing, and coordination among different agencies. With the aging of the Bay Area’s population, paratransit is likely to become more and more important. Start with… Your transit agency (for ADA-mandated service): Although a subcontractor may handle day-to-day op- erations, your local transit agency is ultimately respon- sible for policies. Ask for the staff member in charge of paratransit or get in touch with community members of the agency’s advisory committee that addresses issues for seniors and persons with disabilities (p.48). Win long-term See MTC’s ADA Paratransit Resource Guide for change… more information on ADA paratransit requirements and who provides which services. It is available from the MTC-ABAG library (p.84). Win new operating funds for your paratransit operator. Likely sources include county transportation sales taxes (p.51) or a regional gas tax (p.62). Win changes in state policy to allow transit agencies to provide Non-Emergency Medical Transportation and receive reimbursements from Medi-Cal. Contact TALC for more details on this opportunity.
  22. 22. CHAPTER 3 GETTING WHAT YOU WANT 21Bus SheltersShelters can provide schedule and route information, protect riders fromrain and sun, and make it safer to wait for the bus. Transit agencies usuallycontract with a private company that installs and maintains the shelters,often for free, in return for the right to sell advertising on them. Since theyare installed on city sidewalks, the city – not your transit agency – makesthe final decision about whether to install them and where.Start with… Your transit agency: ask when they plan to install shel- ters in your neighborhood, and what you can do to help make it happen. You may need to demonstrate com- munity support for bus shelters or convince your city to support them.Win long-term If your city or transit agency resists installing buschange… shelters, contact groups who have won them in other areas (see Key Advocacy Groups that Influence Transit Agencies, p.49). You may also contact staff in areas that recently installed shelters (such as AC Transit or the cit- ies of Oakland and Berkeley).
  23. 23. 22 ACCESS NOW! Better Transit Information Transit agencies provide information on routes and sched- ules over the phone (dial 511) and online ( Some agencies go a step further, providing real-time information about when the next bus is coming. Some Muni, AC Transit, and Emery Go Round bus lines have electronic signs at bus stops, indicating how many minutes until the next bus arrives. Information is also available online at and on some cell phones and wireless devices. Start with… Your transit agency: ask when they plan to put elec- tronic real-time information signs on your routes. Win long-term Encourage them to apply for funding from Regional change… Measure 2 for real-time transit information. Support increased funding for transit information. Likely sources include the Regional Transportation Plan (p.60) and county transportation sales taxes (p.51).
  24. 24. CHAPTER 3 GETTING WHAT YOU WANT 23Safety and Access While Walking and BicyclingI n California, more than 20% of the people killed in traffic are on foot or a bicycle. Yet efforts to make streets safer for people who walk and bicycle receiveonly a small fraction of transportation funding, even ofthe funds specifically intended for traffic safety. Manyhealth departments are working on making it safer towalk and bicycle because of concerns over obesity, as wellas for safety reasons. Programs that fund these improve-ments go by many names: non-motorized transportation,Safe Routes to School, Transportation Enhancements,Safe Routes to Transit, Transportation for Livable Com-munities, and others.
  25. 25. 24 ACCESS NOW! Pedestrian Safety Since so many streets are designed specifically to speed car traffic, it takes more than just a crosswalk and a walk signal to make them safe and invit- ing for pedestrians. Your neighborhood could have bet- ter lighting, wider sidewalks, “bulb-outs” to shorten crosswalks at busy intersections, benches, shelters, and many other improvements. It takes engineering, edu- cation, and enforcement to slow cars and make walk- ing safer and more pleasant. A comprehensive review in Europe found that traffic injuries fell by more than 50% in neighborhoods where traffic calming had been implemented. Start with… Your city: Contact the transportation planner or en- gineer who deals with pedestrian safety and ask if the city is already planning to make the changes you want. Encourage the city to apply for state and regional funds (p.67). Win long-term Convince your city to develop and implement a city- change… wide Pedestrian Safety Plan (p.67). For an example, contact the Oakland Pedestrian Safety Project about their city’s plan at (510) 238-7049. See the Pedestrian Infrastructure Campaigns and Traffic Calming tools.
  26. 26. CHAPTER 3 GETTING WHAT YOU WANT 25Bicycle Lanes and Other Bicycle FacilitiesIn the Bay Area, over a quarter of the trips people make are no more thana mile and a half long, which is a short bike ride.8 But many people arediscouraged from getting on a bike because of unsafe streets, inadequatebike facilities, and a lack of respect from motorists. All counties, and somecities, have bicycle plans that list needed improvements, and a growingnumber of funding programs are available to pay for them.Start with… Your city/county: Ask the bicycle planner if the changes you want are in their bicycle plan, and what you can do to make sure they are built soon. Encourage them to apply for state and regional funds (p.67). Also see p.67 for what to do if your city/county doesn’t have a plan or if your desired changes aren’t in the plan.Win long-term Make sure MTC’s Regional Bike Plan includes regionalchange… projects from your city or county bike plan, and that MTC allocates sufficient funding through the RTP (p.60). Win continued funding for Safe Routes to School pro- grams at the state level (p.72), in your county sales tax (p.51), or in reauthorization of the federal transporta- tion bill (p.75). Win new funding for bicycle access and safety. Likely sources include county transportation sales taxes (p.51), a regional gas tax (p.62), or other new funding sources. See the Safe Routes to Transit, Bike Infrastructure Campaigns, Bike to Work Day, and Bike Stations tools.8. MTC, 2000 Base Year Validation of Travel Demand Models, May 2004.
  27. 27. 26 ACCESS NOW! Making Transit Areas Safe and Attractive Better lighting, wider sidewalks, clearly marked crosswalks, and shelter from the sun or rain are examples of what transportation planners call “streetscape improvements.” There is a growing amount of funding avail- able to support these and other efforts to make transit stops, stations, and downtown areas safer and more convenient. Start with… Your city/county: Encourage your city/county to ap- ply for Transportation for Livable Communities funds (TLC, p.61). These funds can pay for an inclusive community planning process as well as for specific im- provements. Also ask if there is a Specific Plan for the area, which may include plans for these improvements (p.68). Win long-term Win increased funding for the regional TLC and Safe change… Routes to Transit programs in the RTP (p.60) or a re- gional gas tax (p.62). Win increased funding for similar local programs. Likely funding sources include county transportation sales taxes (p.51) or other new money. See the Transportation for Livable Communities tool.
  28. 28. CHAPTER 3 27 Smart Growth andAffordable HousingW hen communities have homes, jobs, and services near each other, it is easier for everyone to get around. While thisguide focuses on transportation issues, smartgrowth and affordable housing can reduce theneed for transportation by bringing services andpeople closer together.
  29. 29. 28 ACCESS NOW! More Affordable Housing Near Transit Skyrocketing housing costs continue to drive more and more low-income families to distant suburbs to find homes they can afford. These changes not only displace residents and tear apart existing communities, but sprawling suburbs also eat up family budgets by forcing families to have a car for every adult. The logical solution is to build more affordable hous- ing close to public transit. Start with… Your city/county: If there are proposals to build new housing near transit, support them and ask your city/ county to apply for MTC’s Housing Incentive Program (HIP) funds that provide a bonus for affordable hous- ing (p.61). Win long-term Demand that your county CMA create a countywide change… HIP program, as San Mateo’s CMA has done (see tool below for details). Win more funding for HIP in the RTP (p.60). If your county is considering a sales tax, win funds for a county-level HIP program or push for a multipurpose tax that funds affordable housing (p.52). For ideas on other local policy changes, such as in- clusionary zoning, contact affordable housing advo- cates such as the Non-Profit Housing Association of Northern California at (415) 989-8160 or www.non See the Housing Incentives Program and Inclusionary
  30. 30. CHAPTER 3 GETTING WHAT YOU WANT 29Specific Plans for Transit-Oriented DevelopmentThe Bay Area has hundreds of existing and planned rail stations and majorbus stops that present opportunities for new transit-oriented development(TOD). Without community input, development could lead to gentrifica-tion and displacement. Instead, the community and local government canjointly develop a Specific Plan for the kind of development they want, andyour community’s real needs can be identified and included up front.Start with… Your city/county and/or transit agency: Ask them to work with you to complete a Specific Plan around a train/BART station or major bus stop in your neigh- borhood (p.68).Win long-term Demand that MTC and major transit agencies requirechange… smart growth and affordable housing around new sta- tions as part of major expansions of public transit. Contact TALC for the current status of these efforts. Win funding for Specific Plans in the RTP (p.60). For more information on Specific Plans and other tools to promote infill development, see Smart Infill: Creating More Livable Communities in the Bay Area, published by Greenbelt Alliance: (415) 543-6771 or See the Infill Opportunity Zones tool for one way to support more transit-oriented develop- ment.
  31. 31. 30 ACCESS NOW! Safe Transportation for Children W alking, bicycling, or riding a school bus used to be the main ways most children got around. But dangerous traffic and suburban sprawl have pushed three- quarters of the state’s children into the back seat of a car.9 And for families who can’t afford a car, rising bus fares, cuts in city bus service, and disappearing school buses are increasing the cost and difficulty of getting to school and other ac- tivities. Some youth advocates, health agencies, and others are fighting back, pushing for a re- newed focus on safe transportation for children. 9. CA Department of Transportation, “2000-2001 California Statewide Household Travel Survey,” cited in STPP, TALC and LIF, Can’t Get There from Here, 2003.
  32. 32. CHAPTER 3 GETTING WHAT YOU WANT 31Safe Walking and Bicycling Routes to SchoolsWith childhood obesity on the rise, children need to integrate more walk-ing and bicycling into their everyday lives. While half of all school chil-dren walked or biked to school 30 years ago, only about 10% do today.10California’s Safe Routes to Schools (SR2S) program emphasizes a “3Es”approach combining engineering, education, and enforcement.Start with… Your school district or city: Ask them to start a SR2S project at your neighborhood school, and secure fund- ing for safe crossings, traffic calming, and street im- provements. There are also special programs to teach safety skills or escort children to school. You can help organize a Walk to School day or other activities: call (888) 393-0353 or visit long-term Win continued funding for the state Safe Routes tochange… School program (p.72). Demand that your CMA start a countywide SR2S pro- gram, as the Marin County CMA did. Win new money for SR2S-type activities. Likely sources include county sales taxes (p.51) or the Bicycle and Pedestrian program in the RTP (p.60). See the Safe Routes to School tool or visit for Marin County’s program.10. U.S. DOT, 1972, and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2000, cited in TALC, Roadblocks to Health, 2002.
  33. 33. 32 ACCESS NOW! Free/Discount Transit Fares for Low-income Students When AC Transit offered a free bus pass for low-income students, af- ter-school programs reported a sharp rise in participation and students reported being more able to get to after-school jobs. Although most tran- sit agencies have some discount for children, low-income families with several children still have difficulty paying transit fares at the end of the month. To provide free passes or larger discounts, your transit agency will need to secure additional operating funds. Start with… Your transit agency: Ask how much funding would be needed to support free or discount passes for low-in- come children. Your school district or county Social Service Agency: Ask them to provide transit passes or tickets for students who qualify for free or reduced-cost lunches, or for stu- dents who are on public assistance. Win long-term Get your transit agency to apply for special funds change… to support free/discount passes, such as MTC’s LIFT (p.58). Win new operating funds for your transit agency, ear- marked for this purpose. Likely sources include county transportation sales taxes (p.51), increases in MTC’s Lifeline Transportation program (p.58) through the ), and future state legislation (contact TALC for more information). See the Low-Income Youth Transit Pass and University Transit Pass tools.
  34. 34. CHAPTER 3 GETTING WHAT YOU WANT 33Child-Care Transportation ShuttlesTransporting kids to child care on transit can greatly lengthen and compli-cate trips. For parents who depend on transit, the morning often goes likethis: catch one bus to take the three-year-old to preschool; catch anotherbus to take the six-year-old to kindergarten; catch a third bus to go towork. It can take two hours or more, if everything runs on time.Some agencies have started special child-care shuttles to close the gaps– and some are free. As of September 2004, programs exist in ContraCosta and Santa Clara counties and in the City of Alameda.Start with… Your county Social Service Agency: Ask them to design a child-care shuttle program and apply for special grants such as MTC’s LIFT program (p.58).Win long-term Win new funding for programs that can fund this typechange… of service. Focus on increasing funds for MTC’s Lifeline Transportation program (p.58) through the RTP (p.60) and on county transportation sales taxes (p.51). See the Childcare Transportation Shuttles tool.
  35. 35. 34 ACCESS NOW! School Buses School buses are the safest way to get to school. But more and more school districts are reducing their busing programs or charging hundreds of dol- lars for students to get on the bus. Even worse, California has the oldest, most-polluting fleet in the nation. This is because California does not require schools to provide school buses, and the state reimburses most districts for less than half the cost of the transportation that they do pro- vide. In many districts, school buses come out of the same budget as textbooks and teachers’ salaries. Recognizing that automobile school drop- offs are a significant cause of morning traf- fic congestion, some areas have initiated programs to help students get to school. Start with… Your school district: If it still provides yellow school buses, lobby them to improve service and invest in cleaner buses. If students ride public transit to school, as in many ur- ban areas, see the Free/Discount Transit Fares for Low- income Students entry (p.32). Your county CMA: Ask them to support transportation to school, as Marin County and Contra Costa County have done (p.79-80 for contact info). Win long-term Join statewide groups in lobbying to maintain and change… expand school bus programs by funding them through traditional state and local transportation funding sourc- es, rather than from the education budget. Contact TALC about how to get involved. For more information, see Can’t Get There From Here: The Declining Independent Mobility of California’s Children and Youth, a report published jointly by the Surface Transportation Policy Project, Latino Issues Forum, and TALC (p.83 for the TALC library).
  36. 36. CHAPTER 3 GETTING WHAT YOU WANT 35 Reducing the Cost of Transportation N ot surprisingly, reducing the cost of transportation consistently ranks as one of the top transportation improve- ments needed by low-income communities. For low-income families who must own vehicles, transportation costs are second only to housing in the family budget. Low-income car owners spend nearly 20% of their budget on transportation, a larger share than their wealthier neighbors.11 This section outlines some ways to keep the costs down, for both taking transit and driving.11. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Consumer Expenditure Survey,” 1999-2001.
  37. 37. 36 ACCESS NOW! How to Stop Excessive Fare Hikes Transit agencies and low-income families often have the same problem: tight budgets. As inflation raises the costs of keeping the system running, agencies need to raise fares to balance their budgets. Sometimes, unex- pected drops in revenue bring on a crisis. But sometimes an agency may propose an excessive fare hike to balance the books – or worse, to help pay for expensive new projects. Start with… Your transit agency: A big public outcry is needed to stop fare hikes once they are proposed. Always get ac- curate information about why the agency is proposing the fare hikes in the first place. Be prepared to ask for technical assistance in scrutinizing the agency’s budget (p.49 and 78 for who can help). See Influencing Service Cuts and Fare Hikes in Chapter 4 for more information (p.45). Win long-term Win new transit operating funds for your transit agency. change… Likely sources include county transportation sales taxes (p.51) and a regional gas tax (p.62). Organize your community to elect (or get appointed) board members who actually ride the bus or the train. See the Promote Transit Fare Equity tool.
  38. 38. CHAPTER 3 GETTING WHAT YOU WANT 37Car-sharing in Your CommunityThe high cost of car ownership makes it an unworkable choice for manylow-income families. Car-sharing programs can be a way for families toget the flexibility of access to a reliable car when they need it, without thehigh costs. As of August 2004, City CarShare had over 80 cars at 40 loca-tions in San Francisco and in the East Bay. Regional Measure 2, passed inMarch 2004, has funding available to start new locations.Start with… City CarShare: or (415) 995- 8588. Ask if it has cars available in your neighborhood or plans to expand there. Also ask how to apply for a CalWORKS discount for low-income families. Your city/county: Ask a transportation planner to help start car-sharing in your neighborhood.Win long-term Win new funding for programs that can fund this ser-change… vice. Focus on increasing funds for MTC’s Lifeline Transportation program (p.58) through the RTP (p.60). See the Car-Sharing tool.Getting Your Employer to Help Pay for Your CommuteMany large employers offer special programs to help their employees usetransit, carpools, or other alternate ways to get to work. Some of these pro-grams, such as Commuter Check, reduce taxes for workers and employersalike. Through EcoPass programs, some large employers in Santa ClaraCounty and the City of Berkeley give free transit passes to all employees.Start with… Your employer’s personnel department: Ask if your company participates in Commuter Check, EcoPass, or other similar programs. If not, use the tools below to see if they are eligible.Win long-term See the Commuter Choice, Parking Cashout andchange… Employee Transit Pass (EcoPass) tools.
  39. 39. 38 ACCESS NOW! Auto Assistance Program for Low-Income Families For some families, especially in rural and suburban areas, access to a car can be a vital link to jobs and services. Several Bay Area counties have started programs that reduce the cost of car ownership for low-income families. Most programs are run by county Social Service Agencies. Start with… Your county Social Service Agency: Ask if it has a pro- gram. If not, it may be able to start one. The agency may be able to use welfare funds, known as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) or apply for a LIFT grant (p.58). Win long-term To be successful, car ownership programs must go be- change… yond helping families buy a car, and deal with is- sues such as insurance, repairs, license and registra- tion. For more information, see Shifting Into Gear, a guide to low-income car-ownership programs by the National Economic Development Law Center ( Win new funding for programs that can fund this type of service. Focus on increasing funds for MTC’s Lifeline Transportation program (p.58) through the RTP (p.60).
  40. 40. CHAPTER 3 GETTING WHAT YOU WANT 39Guaranteed Ride HomeMost Bay Area counties have a Guaranteed Ride Home (GRH) programto provide a free ride home from work – in a taxi or rental car – whenunexpected circumstances arise. Eligibility varies, but usually includesCalWORKs recipients and employees at large companies. Some programsallow stops to pick up children.Start with… Your county CMA: Ask who your county’s GRH provider is and whether your clients or community members are already covered. To expand coverage, your GRH provider may be able to apply for a grant from LIFT (p.58) or other sources. Your county Social Service Agency: Ask if it can help ensure that low-income families are eligible.Win long-term Win new funding for programs that can help, such aschange… MTC’s Lifeline Transportation program (p.58) in the RTP (p.60) and ride-sharing in county sales taxes (p.51). See the Guaranteed Ride Home tool.
  41. 41. CHAPTER 4Transportation Decision MakersWho’s Who and What They DoT ransportation decision- making is complex. No Agencies in this Chapter one-stop shop, no single Transit Agencies . . . . . . . . . . 41agency, will address all your trans-portation needs. County Congestion To win the changes you need, Management Agencies. . . . 50you have to know who has the Metropolitan Transportationpower to grant your demands. Commission (MTC) . . . . . . . . 57 A good rule of thumb is thatthe smaller the impact of a deci- Local Governmentsion, the more likely it is that it (Cities and Counties) . . . . . . 67can be dealt with at a local level State Government . . . . . . . . 71– by your transit agency, city orcounty. A local agency’s ability to Federal Government . . . . . . 75make changes is often constrainedby higher levels of government. This chapter describes the A note on jargon and acro-agencies that control transporta- nyms: Transportation decision-tion decisions. making is filled with jargon and For each agency, this chapter acronyms, and even this guideexplains: can’t avoid them. But you can cut! What it does. through them.! Key opportunities to win change. All acronyms used in this! Decision makers and how to section are spelled out in the contact them. Acronym Decoder appendix! Key advocacy groups that influ- (p.86). For details and defini- ence the agency. tions of other transportation! How to get more information. jargon, see the online Glossary on TALC’s Access Now! website:
  42. 42. CHAPTER 4 TRANSPORTATION DECISION MAKERS 41Transit Agencies (Muni, AC Transit, BART, etc.)T he Bay Area has more what fares to charge and what type than two dozen transit of vehicles to use. These choices, agencies running buses, however, are constrained by howtrains, and ferries. The graph be- much funding – and of what typelow lists the ten largest agencies – agencies receive from local, state,– which together carry 98% of the and federal sources, and by the de-Bay Area’s transit riders and serve cisions of the cities in which they92% of the population in the Bay operate.Area’s low-income communities In addition, all transit agenciesand communities of color. are required to provide equivalent Transit agencies decide when, service for people with disabilitieswhere, and how often to run their (p.20).buses, trains, and ferries, as well as Ten Largest Bay Area Transit Agencies Carry 98% of All Transit Riders SF Muni BART AC Transit Santa Clara VTA SamTrans Golden Gate Caltrain County Connection Vallejo Transit Santa Rosa CityBus Remaining Agencies 0 50 100 150 200 250 Annual Passengers (in millions) Source: MTC, Statistical Summary of Bay Area Transit Operators, 2003.
  43. 43. 42 ACCESS NOW! Sources of Funding, and Restrictions on that Money Most federal and state transpor- Not only is it hard to find tation money can only be used operating funds, but the existing for capital expenses (see Funding funding for transit operations Jargon 101, p.9). But most tran- is also unstable. Most public sit service improvements, such funding for transit operations as more frequent service, longer depends on sales tax revenues hours, new routes, and lower fares, (see the chart below), which are require additional operating funds. notoriously volatile. Santa Clara Operating money is what keeps County’s Valley Transportation buses and trains moving every Authority (VTA) saw its sales day, and transit agencies usu- tax revenues go up by 28% from ally use their money to operate as 1999 to 2001, then down by much service as possible. Without 31% from 2001 to 2003. These new funds, there is rarely any sur- big ups and downs are a major plus available to improve service cause of periodic service cuts and without making tradeoffs. fare hikes. Most Public Funding for Transit Operations Comes from Sales Taxes State (STA) Sales Taxes12 4% 59% Federal 4% AC Transit & BART Property Taxes 5% San Francisco’s Budget Other 16% 13% Source: MTC, Statistical Summary of Bay Area Transit Operators, 2003. 12. About half of the “Sales Taxes” category comes from county sales taxes, the other half mostly from Transportation Development Act (TDA) funds from ¼-cent sales taxes in all counties, AB1107 funds from a ½-cent sales tax in Alameda, Contra Costa, and San Francisco counties, and perma- nent ½-cent sales taxes for transit operations in San Mateo and Santa Clara counties.
  44. 44. CHAPTER 4 TRANSPORTATION DECISION MAKERS 43 The difficulty in finding op- Communitieserating money and the instability Making Changeof existing funding make it very In 1997, community leaders inimportant to seize opportunities North Richmond saw that theto secure more stable sources of combination of welfare reformoperating revenue such as bridge efforts and poor transit accesstolls, property taxes, or gas taxes. to jobs would spell disaster. Some large transit agencies Buses only served the edge ofhave secured money from more the neighborhood, ran infre-stable revenue sources. quently, and stopped at 7 p.m. For example, San Francisco Several community groupscovers most of Muni’s operating came together to jointly de-budget through the city’s general mand changes from AC Tran-fund and parking/traffic budgets. sit, the local bus agency.By contrast, no other major city To its credit, AC Transitin the region provides significant responded quickly, organizingtransit funding. four meetings with North Rich- AC Transit and BART both mond residents. The result washave property and parcel taxes. a proposed new route – the 376Golden Gate Transit gets a large – to fill gaps in existing service.part of its budget from bridge tolls. For several months, AC TransitAnd Regional Measure 2, passed funded the service out of itsby Bay Area voters in March 2004, budget surplus. The agency andwill provide more money for community then worked to-transit operations throughout the gether to secure ongoing fund-region from higher bridge tolls. ing from other sources. For more detailed information Not only did North Rich-on sources and types of funding, mond get a new bus route, theconsult the Statistical Summary community also won politicaland Moving Costs documents de- power. In 2000, Joe Wallace, ascribed in the Useful Publications leader in the campaign for theappendix (p.84). new bus route, won election to the AC Transit Board of Directors!
  45. 45. 44 ACCESS NOW! Key Opportunities to Win Change Win New Money The best way to win major changes from your transit agency is to win new money that provides new op- erating funds and requires agencies to implement new service. See Chapter 2 (p.11) for an overview. The following are key funding opportunities: county transportation sales taxes (p.51), local and regional gas tax increases (p.47, 62, 69), vehicle registration Pay Attention to Major fees (p.73), and the federal trans- Investment Studies portation bill (p.75). Larger transit agencies sometimes conduct studies on how to signifi- Help Develop Community- cantly improve service in a particu- Based Transportation Plans lar area or along a particular cor- These plans identify detailed ridor. This is often called a Major improvements for low-income Investment Study (MIS), and is a communities and describe ways terrific opportunity to influence to get those improvements up and the agency’s plans for expansion. running. Funded by MTC, they For example, AC Transit con- are cooperative efforts by a transit ducted an MIS from 1999-2001 agency, the county Congestion to consider how to improve service Management Agency, and local on the most heavily used lines in community groups. Oakland, Berkeley, and San Lean- For details, see p.54 in the sec- dro. See p.13 for the outcome of tion on county Congestion Man- this process. agement Agencies. Call your transit agency’s plan- ning staff and ask to be notified if they conduct an MIS or planning study in your area.
  46. 46. CHAPTER 4 TRANSPORTATION DECISION MAKERS 45Influencing Service Cuts construction of a capital project orand Fare Hikes by issuing bonds to borrow againstSooner or later, every transit agen- future runs a budget deficit and callspublic hearings to propose cutting Transportationservice, raising fares, or both. The Injustice in San Josedeficit often results from an eco- The Santa Clara VTA has putnomic downturn that has reduced such a high priority on bring-sales tax revenues, or from higher ing BART to San Jose that itoperating costs. Occasionally, an appears willing to sacrifice aadjustment to account for infla- major portion of its bus system.tion is needed when fares have not VTA has no funding to operatebeen raised for long periods. As de- the proposed BART extension,scribed on p.9, getting new sources so BART asked for a guaranteeof operating funds can be very dif- that trains would actually beficult, especially on short notice. able to run even if VTA cannot By the time an agency con- raise new funds. VTA signedducts hearings on service cuts or an agreement that would givefare hikes, it is often too late to BART $50 million per year ofavoid changes entirely. There may future Transportation Develop-be little the agency can do beyond ment Act (TDA) funds. Thisrearranging which routes get cut or money is currently being usedwhich fares get raised. Sometimes to operate VTA’s local transitan agency can avoid service cuts using its reserves, raising new Citing a drop in projectedfunds, or making system opera- revenues, VTA has not onlytions more efficient. reduced funding for transit Sometimes, the deficit may operations from their 2000come about in part because the Measure A sales tax, but alsoagency prioritizes new projects at has increased the amount setthe expense of maintaining current aside for the BART extensionservice (for an example, see side- by $1.2 billion.13bar). In this situation, the agency Since 2000, VTA has raisedmay be able to avoid some or all of fares and cut service threethe proposed cuts by delaying the times.13. In 2001, VTA adopted a policy of reducing the portion of its Measure A funds allocated to tran- sit operations funds, commensurate with the projected reduction in future sales tax revenue. For BART, however, VTA has increased projected spending from $2 billion projected in the original
  47. 47. 46 ACCESS NOW! Get your transit agency’s documents about the proposed changes. You may need technical assistance in scrutinizing agency budgets to figure out why there are pro- posed service changes (see Key Advocacy Groups, p.49 and the Key Con- tacts appendix, p.78). Ana- lyzing budget documents can help you decide what alterna- tives, if any, to suggest. Analyze proposed service cuts and route changes to make sure that low-income commu- nities are not disproportionately affected. Agencies often eliminate try to raise new revenue. For exam- night and weekend service first, ple, AC Transit successfully passed because ridership is generally a parcel tax in 2002, raising $7.5 lower. You can point out, how- million per year for five years. This ever, that these riders often have is helping the agency limit the no alternatives. service cuts they otherwise would Examine fare hikes to analyze have had to make. how much fares have gone up Unfortunately, the depen- over the last five or 10 years, and dence on volatile sales taxes means compare that to the inflation rate that periodic service increases and to see whether the fare increases cuts are likely to continue. This is are excessive. You can also consult why it is crucial to increase fund- with key advocacy groups, includ- ing for transit operations from ing transit labor unions, about stable revenue sources and to insist the potential to make the system that proposed transit expansions more efficient. have separate and secure sources of Finally, transit agencies that operating funds. are in severe financial trouble can tax measure (passed in 2000) to a total of $3.2 billion ($2.4 billion for capital costs and $800 million for bond financing) as of 2004.
  48. 48. CHAPTER 4 TRANSPORTATION DECISION MAKERS 47Pass a Transit District 1980 for a 1¢ per gallon gas tax toor County Gas Tax support mass transit, but decidedTransportation user fees make the against implementing it becausemost direct connection between of uncertainty over whether a two-the people using the roads and thirds majority vote was required.improving the transportation sys- To TALC’s knowledge, no agencytem. A little-known section of the has recently considered attemptingstate’s tax code allows a county or to pass such a tax.transit district to ask voters for a A local gas tax could be a stable1¢ per gallon gas tax to support funding source that would be well-mass transit. The money may only suited to pay for Bus Rapid Transitbe used for capital expenses, spe- (BRT) improvements (p.19) or thecifically to plan, build, purchase, maintenance of local streets andand/or maintain rail lines, bus roads. A 1¢ per gallon tax wouldlanes, transit stations, and transit cost the average driver only aboutvehicles. This authority is separate $6 per year.from MTC’s ability to ask voters to Contact TALC, your transitapprove a regional gas tax (p.62). district, or your elected county However, no local agency officials to express your interest inin California has a gas tax. San helping to pass a local gas tax.Francisco won voter approval in Detailed Information About Your Transit Agency ! For detailed information on sources of funding and performance measures for each transit agency, see the Statistical Summary de- scribed in the Useful Publications appendix (p.84). ! Your agency’s Short Range Transit Plan (SRTP) can be a helpful source of background information on its financial condition, current ridership, and other measures, as well as its plans for improving ser- vice. SRTPs are updated every two years and typically project 5-10 years into the future. To see a copy of your transit agency’s SRTP, contact the agency or the MTC-ABAG library (p.84).