Glimmers of Hope for Transit Funding

Courtesy of Flickr User: L.C. Nottaasen

As we have reported in the past, transit funding has been hit hard by the economic downturn and service across the country has declined. Just this month, the Allegany County Port Authority, which serves an area that includes Pittsburg, announced a round of dramatic route cuts and layoffs effective March 27.

Fortunately, there are a few signs of hope, too. Last week, at a joint field hearing of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, the bipartisan gathering was refreshingly open to ideas about expanding financing options for transit projects. Meanwhile, a few hundred miles away in the state capitol, Assemblyman Bob Blumenfield has introduced AB 650, a bill that promises to help California set a path out of its transit funding problems.

The bill, which has early backing from environmental and health groups, including EDF, establishes a task force of smart citizens.   This group will lay out the current state of public transportation in California, what is needed to make the system meet projected demand, how much it would cost and, most importantly, how to consistently fund the system. To get to the answers, the task force will do the usual research and rely on data, reports and system plans already compiled by other agencies and experts, and tap into the brains of some of the state’s best transportation experts. But it will also conduct a series of public hearings around the state that will allow Californians to have a frank conversation about what it will take to support a well-functioning system—especially as the threat of $5-per-gallon gasoline looms. 

Sometimes, when a problem seems insurmountable, stepping back and getting advice from thoughtful people who care is the best way to find a solution.  AB 650 promises to do just that.

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