Jeff Morales, CALMATTERS
Decades of federal and state transportation policy and funding have focused primarily on the automobile — and the roads and highways needed for us to get around in them. While this focus produced many benefits, it also ignored or created significant problems, such as greenhouse gas emissions, a key driver of climate change. Today, half of all greenhouse gas emissions in California come from transportation.
Agencies and processes have been built to support this focus. Caltrans and regional transportation agencies receive federal and state funds not only to build and maintain, but also to develop highway and road improvements — doing the planning, public engagement, preliminary design, environmental and other work needed to get projects ready. It can take years for major projects to make it through the approvals required before construction can start. Significant resources are dedicated to this annually, and there are statewide structures in place to carry it out. It is necessary work in order to have a pipeline of projects ready to be implemented when funding becomes available.
No parallel system is in place for public transit and rail projects, however.
Much of this structural disconnect flows down from decades of federal policy and funding constraints. For the most part, public transit and rail improvements are a series of one-off projects, with local agencies on the hook to develop and advance them. Unless the governor and Legislature address this, California’s ambitious climate-related goals for increased public transit and rail will not be realized. If the state wants to change the outcomes, then it is vital that it change the processes and funding that produce the outcomes.
Read more at https://calmatters.org/commentary/2022/05/california-needs-to-put-its-money-where-its-mouth-is-on-public-transportation/
Andrew Graham, PRESS DEMOCRAT
As Santa Rosa CityBus seeks to maintain public transit during the ongoing pandemic, student passengers are giving ridership a boost after the city made travel free for students through their senior year of high school.
The program, a one-year pilot, so far seems to be a success, according to transit officials, marking a rare bright spot in a dark time for public transportation.
Overall, the bus system was at 61% of it ridership before the pandemic by the end of November, Yuri Koslen, Santa Rosa City Transit Planner, said in a Dec. 15 interview. The bright spot is that youth ridership exceeded pre-pandemic levels by roughly 20% in October and 27% in November, Koslen said.
Paid for by grants from the Bay Area Air Quality Management District’s Transportation Fund for Clean Air, Santa Rosa began one year of free bus trips for students up to the 12th grade on July 1.
Since then, the hulking blue and silver city buses carried young residents at least 80,000 times from then until Nov. 30. Youth ridership has leveled out at around 20,000 trips a month.
Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/news/santa-rosa-made-city-buses-free-to-students-in-july-the-program-appears-to/
Mallory Moench, SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE
At 3:15 every weekday morning, Richard Burnett leaves his house in Vallejo for the 45-minute walk to the downtown bus station. Two buses and a train later — all run by different agencies, with different schedules and different fares racking up — he’s at his job in San Francisco an hour before clocking in.
Eight working hours later, he turns around and does the whole thing over again. He gets home by 7:30 p.m., eats and goes straight to bed.
“If you live that far, you have to do that sacrifice to make it work,” said Burnett, a customer service representative for a tech company who endures the six-hour commute because he can’t afford both a car and rent. “There’s no time to do anything else.”
Burnett, who advises the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, the Bay Area’s transit coordinating agency, on policies affecting low-income and disabled riders, dreams of express buses to main job centers and fares based on zones that would make traveling cheaper. But that would require what Burnett calls the “fiefdoms” of Bay Area’s 27 transit agencies — encompassing buses, cable cars, trains and ferries that stretch across nine counties — to agree on changes.
The pandemic, which created an existential crisis for Bay Area public transportation, has reignited a long-running debate over how to make the system better and who should control it. Each of the agencies now sets its own fares and schedules. Few other U.S. metropolitan areas have such vast and disjointed transit: Los Angeles County, smaller in size but larger in population, has nearly the same number of agencies, but only one county transportation authority.
Continue reading “Bay Area transit can be a complex, costly ‘nightmare.’ The pandemic might help fix that”