Behind Council’s Advocacy, Bridge Toll Hike Paused
The Bay Area Council was the first and loudest to oppose a proposed $1.50 bridge toll hike that divided the region, failed to address concerns about the fiscal sustainability of current transit operations and would disproportionately impact lower-income motorists. And this week our advocacy was rewarded when state Sen. Scott Wiener announced he was pausing legislation (SB 532) to raise bridge tolls and steer the money to transit agencies that just received $5.1 billion in funding through the state budget.
While the Council has always been a rock-solid champion of public transit and lobbied hard for the state budget funding, we also believe strongly that before we get behind any more funding our transit systems must take a hard look at their operations and finances in the context of commute patterns that changed radically during the pandemic.
In a statement following Sen. Wiener’s announcement, Council CEO Jim Wunderman said: “Reforming and reinventing our transit systems and overall regional transit network to reflect today’s new commute patterns and workplace realities must be our top priority for ensuring they’re positioned to succeed in the future. With the Council’s support, billions of dollars in state and federal funding have been put in place to assist our transit systems and buy them the time they need to reform how they do business.
“Now, we need our transit operators to make the necessary structural changes to bring their operations and budgets in line with both today’s fiscal realities and the tectonic changes that decimated ridership and have kept riders away from our transit systems, including addressing crime, safety and cleanliness,” Wunderman continued. “We can’t continue to fund unsustainable transit operations that aren’t meeting the needs of riders for a safe, convenient and seamless commute. We stand ready to work with our legislators and transit agencies to reimagine transit operations that are critical to keeping our region moving and our economy growing.”
In working to oppose SB 532, the Council rallied other business organizations around the region, won backing from many Bay Area legislators and secured the support of seven Congressional representatives who penned a powerful letter expressing concerns about the bridge toll increase. We have tremendous respect for Sen. Wiener and his leadership, have partnered with him on many bills to address our housing crisis, and look forward to working with him to ensure our vital transit systems survive and thrive. To engage in the Council’s transportation policy work, please contact Vice President Emily Loper.