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Friday, 11 June 2004

AC Transit Cuts

California's new, um, governor ran on a platform of cutting taxes. Yay low taxes. We can all keep the money we would have paid to register our new Hummers. Yay. Um, but there's a bit of a problem. No money left for everything. So we'll cut public transportation. Only poor people don't have cars and they don't vote. Or they can take advantage of the new low car registration fees and buy themselves Hummers! It's like having your own bus.

My girlfriend, though, is not happy about this as she is one of those carless types. Yes, one of the things that I like about San Francisco, Oakland and Berkeley is that you don't need a car to get around. Cola does not even have a driver's liscence. Somehow, though, she knows more about car engines and how they work than I do. Anyway. The AC Transit Press Release thingee has a sample letter to send to the Governor and a link to find your local assembly member. Click on "find my district" on the left. Even if you are not a Californian, you can contact the governor. The smog from California's cars warms the whole globe. Cutting public transit is penny wise and pound foolish. Less transit means more cars on the road. This means more air pollution, which means global enviromental catastrophe, higher rates of asthma, which increase public health costs, greater wear and tear on the roads, which inscreases road repair costs, and it creates difficulty for low income people or carless people getting to and from work, which increases the unemplyment rate, which increases public assitance costs. Really, the smartest economic choice for California would be to hike car registeration fees tremendously and make all public transit free while extending it's reach and hours. This would cut pollution, cut traffic and make it easier for people to get to work. Every hour that somebody spends commuting is a non-monotized, zero-production work hour. It's a tax on the worker and on the economy. So then the economy of California would rebound from the recession. Asthma rates would decline. The state would suddenly be awash in funds again. Maybe we could use them to fix the schools or fund the arts or something.

Here's the Sample Letter:

MMDD, 2004
Dear Governor Schwarzenegger:

I am writing to urge you to exempt AC Transit from the ERAF shift you proposed in the May budget revision. 230,000 East Bay residents rely on AC Transit every day to get to school, work, retail and recreation sites and medical appointments. Many of these people have no other transportation alternatives. AC Transit provides essential service to our East Bay community.

Your proposal places a disproportionate amount of the burden of the statewide ERAF shift (9%) on the shoulders of Bay Area transit riders.

AC Transit has faced severe budget cuts over the past three years and has taken prudent measures to respond to the economic challenges. It has made significant reductions in expenditures and personnel, deferred capital expenditures and increased fares. AC Transit has already cut 10% of its service in response to the current budget crisis. The additional revenue reductions that you have proposed via an ERAF shift - $20 million for AC Transit - will result in further personnel layoffs and service reductions, decimating critical services by forcing the elimination of routes, many of which are essential for school children, senior citizens, and workers.

As a consequence of your proposal AC Transit would lose 8% of its budget and have to cut the equivalent of all of its weekend or all of its school service (AC Transit carries 60,000 school children daily).

I urge you to reconsider the burden you have placed on AC Transit and all of those who depend on AC Transit every day, and to continue to exempt transit districts from the ERAF shift.

Sincerely,
 
cc: Legislative Delegation:
Senator Liz Figueroa
Senator Don Perata
Senator Tom Torlakson
Assembly Member Joe Canciamilla
Assembly Member Wilma Chan
Assembly Member Ellen Corbett
Assembly Member John Dutra
Assembly Member Loni Hancock

update

I just wanted to note that the bay area voted overwhelmingly against the recall and did not vote for the governator, which might be why East Bay transit is facing disproportionate budget cuts. Just an aside.

8 comments:

Timanna said...

Cola knows about cars because she took auto shop, if memory serves. She was deemed "Handy Canadian" for her aptitude at such things.

Les said...

you are correct.

goat said...

i was against a blanket car registration fee hike. i think it should be sliding scale, and i don't mean like the current sliding scale based on the age of the car. it should have more to do with the type of car and its sticker value, and SUVs should be taxed into the ground. you own a hummer? oh man, you'd better have to fork over a couple limbs to register that. beemer? fork over ten percent of the value of the car, yo.

on the other end of the scale - you own a pickup you use to take your supplies and commute from your outer suburb to your contractor job in downtown SF (where you can't afford to live) building starbucks for rich people? you shouldn't have to pay much. there are working poor and blue-collar workers who need to drive cars/trucks. skilled workers like electricians and plumbers, for instance, have no choice, especially if they're commuting into a city from afar - and it seems like most working class or lower middle class folk can't afford to live where they work in a lot of cities in this country.

imho, mass transit in the bay area is not very good. which is why more money needs to be poured into it, not less (well, duh). there need to be more bus lines and bart needs to extend farther than it does now (much farther). this seems evident.

fuels are the big problem, though. if i were supreme dictator of the world, i would concentrate first on fuels. laws should immediately be passed requiring all new car/truck engines to be hybrids and progressively outlawing traditional engines, and tons of money needs to poured into coming up ASAP with something cleaner than the hybrid (but which doesn't have the disadvantages of current fully-electric engines). i mean from what i understand there is more than one promising option, and goddamn it the r&d need to be properly pushed (yeah, that's about to happen.) america's such a big country that it seems best to start with the root of the problem - car engines. i can't imagine that there will ever be a way to get rid of the car, so we need to make the best cars we can.

somehow i think the house of saud (and by extension the house of bush) would object.

Les said...

cleaner than the hybrid? BIODIESEL!!

also, diesel (and biodiesel) hybrids are way way way more efficient than gasoline hybrids. that's why euro hybrids are diesel.

Anonymous said...

car registration based on type of car seems like a good idea on the surface. except it wont ever fly as there are always exceptions to rules of why people neeed their SUV/van etc etc. not saying that i'm not for it, i am....just that it's too bad it's one of those things that won't ever get considered.

totally agree w/ the mass transit issue. i wish we could have better mass transit. bur density is an issue. don't you think that w/o good density mass transit doesn't quite work? except of course for some reason people always wnat to buy a house rather than an apt or a condo. and you've got the nimbys. Sometimes we give neighborhood too much say. why can' t we have underground metros that goes all over SF? It's small enough city for that. But imagine digging through exising neighborhoods, that would never fly.

smurfette

Anonymous said...

i would also add that i'd take AC transit if it makes sense. But it doesn't. The buses are way too slow for my commute and $$ wise it doesn't make sense. My parking permit is pre-tax. Which means that aftertax I only pay $10 more, if that, between a parking permit and a bus pass. (Plus AC transit is never on time). Given the choice, I'll pick a parking permit. Until they start taxing people and start subsiding public transit, it doesn't make financial sense for a lot of people, given the ease of the car. It's just gotta be comparable.

smurfette

Anonymous said...

yeah. that's the problem with bart, too. if you have a parking option it's cheaper to drive, even with gas and bridge toll figured in.

public transit only makes sense in higher density areas. if you live in the boonies it would take too much effort to run buses to people. but we have enough people in the bay area to support a good transit system. i think part of the problem is that people in this state are waaaay too tied ot thier cars. even if the public transit was perfect people would still insist on taking their cars everywhere.

.cola.

Anonymous said...

I quite agree. That's one thing immigrants always say about america, we drive everywhere. Well, maybe except new york? It's a mindset kind of thing. Everyone around you do it, so you do it. Though I imagine that would change if we *did* have a good transit system.

When I went back to Taiwan, I didn't think twice about walking 10+ minutes in order to get to a bus stop or get to the metro. I hated walking down the 4-5 blocks to my local bookstore when I lived in Emeryville. Even though things really are very close in Emeryville. Perhaps it's partly due to the weather, but part of it is the mindset. The same 4-5 blocks just seem so much farther in the US for some obscure reason.

They're talking about more transit taxes right? I'm very hazy on the details. But it seems like people in the bay area pass lots of those taxes for transit improvmenet and then during the budget crisis the state takes money from it? Is that true?

smurfette