Council Urges State Funding to Avoid Transit Fiscal Cliff
Staring down the barrel of at least a $22 billion budget deficit, Gov. Newsom and the Legislature will have some hard choices to make in the coming months as they work to finalize a spending plan. But allowing our public transit systems to plunge over a fiscal cliff is not an option. That was the message the Bay Area Council and dozens of transit agencies and advocates statewide delivered this week in a letter to key legislative leaders who will help steer budget negotiations. The letter came in response to a proposed budget by Gov. Newsom that included no funding for transit operations and a $2 billion cut in transit capital projects. A group of Bay Area and Southern California legislators sent a similar letter arguing for funding.
Agencies are doggedly and steadily recovering riders, with each month better than the last, but still have a way to go to get to pre-pandemic ridership and “farebox” levels. Many transit systems, including BART, are facing the real prospect of fiscal insolvency in the next few years, with massive service cuts, other draconian measures and straight bankruptcy and shutdown. Such a scenario would be devastating to our region’s economy and environment, and would strand thousands of lower-income workers who rely on transit to get to their jobs.
The Council has been working closely with BART and other regional transit and transportation leaders for many months to develop strategies for bringing riders back, including addressing concerns about safety and cleanliness (see our related letter to BART), as well better integrating system operations to prioritize rider convenience, from scheduling and fares to signage. But it will take time and the state must play a vital role in providing funding that can help sustain these systems in the meantime. To engage in the Council’s transportation policy work, please contact Vice President Emily Loper.